Franklin, snuggled into the banks of the Huon River about 50 kilometres south of Hobart, is a tiny town with a giant reputation in the world of wooden boat building. It is also surrounded by some of Tasmania’s oldest farms.
Franklin is a village of historic homes, modern cafes and a tiny wooden goal. Its epicentre is a large tin shed where all things wood meet water. And today, our visit includes a sail on board the wooden Dutch sailing vessel, the Yukon, which boasts almost as much history as Franklin and is, for aficionados of large sails propelling large boats, heaven on ocean.
I was here for the food. But more on that later.
The Yukon, built in 1930, came into the hands of Australian shipwright David Nash in Denmark, the original home of the ketch-rigged fishing trawler. Nash was negotiating to buy her in the 1990s when she sank. That scuttled negotiations until Nash made a new offer – one case of beer – which was accepted. He rescued the Yukon, and then rebuilt her, replacing everything above the waterline bar the ship’s wheel.
Having sailed the seas of the nothern hemisphere with her, Nash and his Danish wife, Ea Lassen, headed to south to Tasmania, and here the Yukon calls home.
It is also where Matthew Evans and Sadie Chrestman – Mr and Mrs Gourmet Farmer – enter the story. They also moved south, from the treacherous and wild terrains of Sydney’s restaurant scene, to discover new lands and a place to grow and produce farm food.
Evans’ early discoveries of Tasmania were shared via the Gourmet Farmer television series that showed farm life as well as local cheese making, cow milking and the art of forever-fence building. He showcased the best of scenery and produce that is now famously brand Tasmania.
While he was in front of the camera, Chrestman was behind the scenes, a former big-city girl feeding animals, cutting firewood, having a baby and helping establish their business, Fat Pig Farm.
Today, as we board the vessel, the theme is Fat Pig Farm Afloat. Food to go at its best. The calm waters of the Huon River are the perfect location, even with a testy wind that’s gusty one minute and gone the next.
Once on board and seated, we are provided with an overview of the ship’s layout along with a warm welcome from Chrestman while she hands out a smashing smashed strawberry gin welcome drink. She also instructs us on the lunching arrangements, which include picnic hampers containing fare designed to be comfortably consumed while afloat.
When our lunch hamper arrives, we are told that everything in it comes from Fat Pig Farm. The hamper itself is more a small tin wash tub than a picnic basket, complete with rope handles and name tags, and turns out to be the perfect way to manoeuvre food whilst seated on a boat. Inside, lined with brown paper, sit two stacked tins with little jars and compartments, tiffin-like or bento-style, depending on your family’s food past. The first of the two layers offers a selection of meats, cheeses, vegetables and dips accompanied by a generous bread stick. The hampers are meant to be shares, but there is more than enough food for two to tear into.
Another round of drinks comes by, this time a tupelo (a gewürztraminer, riesling and pinot gris blend) from the Tasmanian Stargazer label, which was matched nicely with a torn chunk of excellent bread and farm-produced butter so bright it smiled in the sun.
We ate generous servings of daintily sliced beef and thick slices of ham that put most Christmas versions to shame. No shiny or oily exterior – the texture was velvety soft and slightly smoky in flavour.
The bottom layer of our tin picnic presented a still life of baby zucchinis and mint, little goose fat-cooked potatoes, fermented carrots and the option of another equally good Tasmanian pinot. An offering of farm-produced condiments was offered along with a jar of herb flowers.
All the while, David Nash, our ship captain and owner, steers and provides an excellent commentary of the surrounds, including the nearby Egg Islands known to the locals as Snake Island, buy my attention wanders as a dessert tray heads my way. Little jars of farm-grown sweet and tart green rhubarb in a delicate custard are an excellent way to finish the meal.
We disembark a happy group.
Fat Pig Farm*
0432 082 631
Moored at the jetty adjacent to the Franklin Wooden Boat Centre.
0498 578 535
*Due coronavirus restrictions, some venues and events may not be running as usual.
To learn more, contact businesses directly.