Amateur Boatbuilding Awards return to the Dutch Wooden Boat Festival

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Photograph: Bert van Baar

ABBA Revival

We’re delighted to hear the Dutch Wooden Boat Festival will once again hold a WaterCraft-inspired Amateur Boatbuilding Award at this year’s event in Den Helder, Netherlands from 2-3 July. 

This is the fifth time the Dutch awards have been organised, following the model of WaterCraft’s Amateur Boat Building Awards (ABBA) which celebrated excellence in home boatbuilding and were a regular feature at the much-missed Beale Park Boat Show.

As Dutch Wooden Boat Festival (DWBF) organiser, boatbuilder and owner of De Bootbouwschool Bert van Baar explains, the awards are open to non-professional builders who’ve built their boats in wood or plywood, whether to their own design, from plans or from a kit. Boats entered for the award are assessed with consideration for construction type and complexity, the boatbuilder’s experience and craftsmanship, materials used and where the build took place, whether in a basic shelter in the garden or inside a fully equipped workshop. From the participating boats, three boats will be nominated for an award and exhibited at the festival. 

Photograph: Bert van Baar

This year for the first time the DWBF will be held in Willemsoord, Den Helder’s historic naval dockyard. Now a museum harbour showcasing historic vessels and maritime crafts, the location is the perfect backdrop for a weekend of wooden boats. Jutter Havendagen ‘Harbour Days’ will be taking place at the dockyard during the festival, with crafts, music, street artists, storytellers and shanty singers as well as boat tours and museum attractions. 

In the Scheepstimmerwerf Willemsoord workshop – where De Bootbouwschool is located – there will be demonstrations of boatbuilding and spar-making. Bert celebrated 20 years at the Bootbouwschool earlier this year and is something of a walking advert for a career in wooden boatbuilding. “I’ve enjoyed every day of it! Best choice I ever made.” His next course will run in October, building a 15’ (4.5m) epoxy/ply round bilged sail and oar Paul Gartside design:

Photograph: Bert van Baar

This year’s festival will see a wide variety of wooden boats, ranging from a 40’ (12m) schooner to an 8’ (2.4m) dinghy, with a currach and a repurposed lifeboat in between. An unusual guest of honour is a 16’4’’ (5m) VOC werkboot, a ‘wooden’ boat traditionally planked in waste plastic! “I’ve asked her to come and lie next to the oak version of the same boat, just to show the contrast,” Bert explains.

For a full list of boats and more about this year’s festival, head to

Photograph: Bert van Baar