Sailing Story - Huon Pine, Tasmanian Timbers - Tasmanian Forest

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    Huon Pine - Tasmanian Timbers

Huon Pine   (Dacrydium franklinii)
    Huon Pine is found only in Tasmania and since the invasion of Europeans has been the most sought after timber for boatbuilding.

    Major rivers in the south-west were explored for the Huon Pine in the 1800’s and convicts were used to retrieve it.
    It is now very rare and of course difficult to acquire. Only recovery of old logs is permitted via licences given to a fortunate few.

    The oldest trees found are generally around 3,000 years old, but one tree has been carbon dated at 10,000 years old and still growing, placing the species amongst the longest living organisms on earth.

    Huon Pine only increases its girth by approximately 12cm in 100 years! It's qualities are soft and easy to work with, it has low shrinkage, is light in weight and is almost immune to rot due to its unique "eugenol" oil content.

    Today it is mainly used by craft workers but due to its qualities, many boats built early last century are still in service today and therefore Huon is still highly prized in traditional restoration work.

    The Gannett is one of these vessels and she is featured in another story.
Celery Top Pine   (phyllocladus aspleniifolius)

Celery Top, named for its distinct celery type foliage, is a Tasmanian native conifer and is best known as a hard and durable timber.

It is slow growing giving it hardness, strength and density, therefore making it suitable for boatbuilding.

Like Huon, it is found in the west of Tasmania and can live for up to 900 years and reaches heights of 40 metres.

    In the early days it was used for railway sleepers and stair treads. For boats it is still regarded as one of the best decking timbers available.

King Billy Pine   (athrotaxis)

King Billy is a medium sized tree also endemic to Tasmania.

The timber is soft, fine textured with straight grain, works easily and has low shrinkage. It is light weight, its oils are preserving and it is also prized for boat work.

They are slow growing and can live for 1000 years but are susceptible to bushfires and do not regenerate well.

    The timber was mostly prized as dinghy planking because of its light weight and it is easily steamed into the tight curves that are required.

    Since the 1970’s King Billy has also lent itself as an ideal material for strip planking, an example of this is a modern launch we saw at the wooden boat festival in Hobart which was built in the 90’s by a local Tasmanian in his shed in southern Tasmania.

The Future of Boatbuilding Timber

    Each of these timbers along with many other Tasmanian species lend themselves to different uses in the structure of a wooden boat, depending on their individual integrity.

    Unfortunately there are many areas in Tasmania which are under threat of logging but hopefully through efforts made by many Tasmanians, including the Wilderness Society and The Tasmanian Greens, these too will become protected for us to enjoy.

    Many people are calling for changes in logging practices to save our wilderness. The alternative to clear felling for woodchip is selective logging which allows for the forests to remain and would provide a lasting supply of these priceless timbers.

    This was the way it was done for generations and was sustainable but with the advent of big corporations and the domination of woodchipping, these good old practices have nearly disappeared.

    In our Sailing Story of Thailand we include the hunt for timber for the restoration of the 110 year old timber yacht "Cariad". It has proved to us that worldwide boatbuilding timber supplies are depleting at an almost unrecoverable rate.