Viking-inspired craft no ordinary wooden boat

This article was originally published on ABC and written by Marc Eiden

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For Ballarat carpenter Phil Meaney, the idea of building a rowboat was triggered four years ago when he visited the Wooden Boat Centre in Franklin, Tasmania and watched a boat being constructed by hand.

Inspired to learn the craft for himself, Phil headed back to the centre last year to attend a two-month clinker boat construction course. 
At the end of the course, and living in a tent to save on accommodation costs, Phil’s rowboat Norma was almost complete.

The final step was to bring Norma home to Ballarat and take her for a paddle in Lake Wendouree.

“I’m terribly proud of it, and I sort of don’t mind skiting a little because I just put so much passion into it, and a fair chunk of my life. I just love it,” Phil said.

BUILT TO LAST
Norma is an 11 foot 4 inch rowboat designed by legendary Tasmanian wooden boatbuilder and teacher Adrian Dean. It is clinker-built, which means it uses the same style as the Vikings used for their boats.

It is made predominantly from Huon pine, King Billy pine and celery top pine.
“No trees have been cut down. People have donated timbers to the boat centre so they could build boats in the traditional style,” Phil said.

“They are arguably the three best boat building timbers on the planet. Now also the rarest.”

The timber in the boat has become even rarer due to the bushfires that have ravaged through Tasmania's World Heritage areas.

“A lot of the King Billy pine forests have apparently been destroyed and there is only a limited resource. There is no point in having a plantation as this stuff takes a thousand years to grow,” Phil said.

A ROWBOAT NAMED NORMA
Phil named his boat Norma as a tribute to his mother who passed away a few years ago. 
A broach she wore is now embedded in a sign fixed to the back of the boat.

FLOATING DOWN THE RIVER
This year Phil plans to take Norma back to Tasmania for a paddle up the Gordon River. 
In April Norma will be on full display as part of a wooden boat show at the National Maritime Museum.
“It’s a dream come true. I can’t describe how content and happy I feel about doing what I’ve done,” he said.