Wooden Boat Festival Geelong date 10th - 12th March, 2018

Speaker Profiles

The Wooden Boat Festival Theatre is a popular attraction that features a range of guest speakers on a variety of topics. Below you will find information and details on the guest speakers for the 2018 Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong. 

The Theatre will be located inside the Victorian Sailing School. Details on the days and times for each speaker/presentation will be published here when available. 



“Seeing the Land from an Aboriginal Canoe”

Followed by

Q&A with Dr Fred Cahir, Federation University

The Video

The Aboriginal bark canoe was in demand in regional Victoria in the 1800s. Explorers and drovers, gold miners and settlers used Aboriginal ferrying and boat building services.    Some have argued that the waterways skills of Aboriginal Australians were integral to the early economic viability of the state.

This short documentary film explores the little known contribution Aboriginal people made in colonial times by guiding people and stock across the river systems of Victoria.

(Documentary film, Jary Nemo (director), Lucinda Horrocks and Jary Nemo (producers), Wind & Sky Productions, 2015.)

Dr Fred Chair

Dr Cahir is an associate professor in Aboriginal studies and the Aboriginal studies coordinator and Australian history ‘higher degree by research’ coordinator at Federation University.

His Masters and PhD focused on local Victorian Aboriginal history. His research interests include: Victorian Aboriginal history; Central Victoria Aboriginal history; Australian frontier history; Aboriginal heritage tourism history; Traditional Aboriginal knowledge; Toponyms [Place names].


(Image: Courtesy Culture Victoria)





 with Stuart Dickson

Patternmaker” is a timber boat built by Stuart over a 20 year period in his backyard in Geelong. Stuart will take us through the origins of his desire to build a boat, his choice of materials, method and provide insights into how he did this in an economical and dedicated way.

Stuart’s light-hearted presentation is illustrated with many photos and will appeal to anyone interested in boat building in a general sense as well as to timber boat enthusiasts.

Stuart has been sailing since 1986 and is currently Vice Commodore of the Royal Geelong Yacht Club and has been Chairman of the Wooden Boat Festival since its inception in 2005.



“The Boy who captured Geelong’s shipping history”

Marie Nunan, local oral historian, will speak on the Geelong Heritage Centre’s W. G. Volum Collection of over 1700 maritime books and 20,000 photographs of 20th century ships that were collected by this young boy from Geelong.

It has important historical relevance to Geelong as it reflects not only Geelong’s maritime heritage but the Volum family’s noteworthy influence since the city’s beginnings.  Many residents would be familiar with Volum Brewery.

Marie’s talk will be non-technical and will interest those who wish to gain more understanding of the maritime past of Geelong and how the passion of one boy has lead to a collection that is considered to be of great national significance.



Robert Ayliffe – Kit Boat Building 

Robert Ayliffe has made a life career out of building, sailing, proving and now developing modern wooden sailing boats.  

Key to his success was the early uptake of the pioneering Australian owned Bote Cote Epoxy  low toxicity resins and glues, their pioneering remarkable water based Polyurethane Aquacote Paint and their life time Cop R Bote Antifoul systems. 

These products, by effective sealing, liberated the remarkable engineering properties plywood from the hazard of rot and high maintenance. As such, an armada of often gorgeous looking, extremely durable boats have been built and developed in  partnerships with expatriate Australian Iain Oughtred, American Phil Bolger and Canadian designer Bruce Kirby. The result has been a resurgence of amateur and professional wooden boat building and restoration, the fruits of which are now seen in large numbers at every Wooden Boat show in Australia.

While many owners do get caught in the macho vortex of the racing scene, most use of Robert’s clients prefer the boats  that don’t require a crew of gorillas to ‘go sailing’, and when they do go sailing, they go easily, safely and very often single handed.  Because they can.

Robert’s larger sailing boats do not have keels.  Many of the conservative yacht clubs consider keels , particularly ballasted keels, to be ‘traditional’ and essential for cruising.  In reality, keels have only been around for the past 200 years or so.

Robert considers them death traps, has bet his life on proving it, sailing his 7M 300mm draft NIS 7 to Hobart and return in 2007, and will be happy to discuss and perhaps even demonstrate his reasoning and experience at the Festival.  

Robert and his wife, Ali are deeply involved with the burgeoning world-wide and world -hanging, St Ayles Skiff Community Rowing movement, with 30 of the Iain Oughtred-designed boats now either on the water or building in Australia and New Zealand now.  Their ‘Stray Dog Boat Works’ is the Australian and New Zealand Agent for Iain’s range of designs and increasingly popular kit production.  They are also responsible for the stunningly successful range of Bruce Kirby’s Norwalk Islands Sharpies, a business gifted to Robert by his friend Bruce in 2005.  

Geelong sailor, engineer, friend and long time Norwalk Islands Sharpie enthusiast Mike Jansen is now partner in developing the stunning Mk 3 revamp of the ‘NIS’ range of kits and prebuilt boats, NIS 5.8, NIS 7M, NIS 8M, NIS 9.4M, NIS 10.5M and NIS13M, along with the free-standing  carbon rigs common to the range.

Robert and Mike will be doing a broad presentation relating to kit boats using the Oughtred and the Mk3 NIS range to illustrate what can be done these days and will have a Q & A to finish. They will also be available throughout the Festival at (or through) the Bote Cote display tent.  

Robert and the Bote Cote team will also be running the legendary, perhaps even gladiatorial, ‘Bote Cote Epoxy Quick-and-Dirty Boat Building’ program, pioneered at the 2016 Wooden Boat Festival of Geelong.