ALL eyes will be on the horizon when a flotilla of wooden boats sails into Rhyll next weekend to kick off the first and only Rhyll Wooden Boat Festival.
It’s been a case of all hands on deck as locals prepare for Rhyll’s contribution to the 150th anniversary celebrations of European settlement on Phillip Island.
Judy Lawrence has led a band of Rhyll residents and keen sailors in the planning and development of the weekend activities.
She says the first weekend in March was chosen because the tides will be right for the flotilla of boats to sail into Rhyll. The boats are scheduled to arrive at various times between noon on Friday and 10am on Saturday.
While about 15 of the boats will dock at the Rhyll jetty, many of the bigger boats will have to anchor at sea in deeper water.
Two classic wooden ferries, the Spina and Sea Eagle, will take passengers for joy rides around the bay throughout the weekend, and the Rhyll Yacht Club will host a sailing regatta with the Cowes and Newhaven yacht clubs.
Until he started organising the boat displays for the festival, Frank Maiolo had no idea how many locals were passionately interested in boats, boating life and history.
“Boating and all the local maritime activity was responsible for the Island’s economy and supported so many families who made a living from the ocean and the land.”
Visitors will have the opportunity to witness the history of the island one boat at a time.
Many of the boats on display were built on the island - many designed by the Lacco family - while others were built in Europe and were sailed to Phillip Island.
“They all continue to display the art and skill of the builder that would be a challenge to replicate today,” Frank says.
He says that after so many decades of life on the water, each boat has its own colourful history. Many have a commercial fishing history, some have undergone authentic restorations with great respect to the original builder. One of the boats was refloated and restored after sinking, which is hard to believe when you see its pristine condition today.
While the boats are the star attraction, the festival includes much more. Work by local artists features in the “Really Rhyll Art Exhibition” at the Rhyll Hall, and the work of local primary school children is on show at the Rhyll Yacht Club. Cheryl Overton has been working with these schools during the past year, in conjunction with some of the Really Rhyll artists, with amazing results.
The aim was for a family-friendly, low-cost festival that could be enjoyed by a wide cross-section of the community. Another community volunteer, Jim Kiley, has been talking with local businesses and community members about sponsorships.
A children’s zone promises all kinds of adventures, including a pirate trail. A food and craft market will tantalise the taste-buds with local produce and locally made goods. The talented local seamstresses have been making boomerang bags with the RWBF logo, a practical keepsake of this very special event.
Judy wants the festival to be all-inclusive; from Friday afternoon, teams of young people will join in the special workshops to build a canoe. Model boats will also feature during the weekend, on land and on the water.
Local historian John Jansson is compiling a multimedia showcase of Rhyll’s maritime history which will include the film made by the award-winning documentary filmmaker Jakeb Anhvu who was artist in residence last May. I have been told that John has a surprise in store for festival goers.
Jim and Sandra have been organising displays of classic cars, vintage caravans, old Holdens and old tractors at Rhyll Park , with the official judging and a people’s choice award taking place on Sunday.
Music will feature throughout the weekend with a great line-up of live bands. On Saturday night Tamworth award winners The Davidson Brothers will perform at a gala dinner with support from the local Bass Coast Pickers. The Rhyll Phillip Island Angling Club will serve drinks and provide festival information.
Visit www.rwbf.com.au for information and to buy tickets to the dinner.