TIMBER is what floats this artisan's boat, writes SARAH HUDSON
We live in a cheap disposable world. Toasters last a year or two, the fridge maybe a decade.
And as for technology, there's an insatiable appetite for the next new piece of stuff.
But James Frecheville is the exception to this rule.
James is one of those peculiar subset of humans who - despite the time, heart-ache and cost - is determined to make a product that lasts for centuries. And his customers cannot get enough of it.
From his workshop, overlooking the Gippsland Lakes at Paynesville, James makes boats.
Not any old put-put, but grand wooden ones that cost a packet and can take two years to build, from sourcing rare recycled timbers to installing specially designed engines, to the vintage paintwork.
He says he's so dedicated to the tradition he's prepared to do it for love, not money.
"That's the name of this game, we take a cut, it's just the nature of the business," James says.
"We could do 40 hours of work and if we charge 30 hours that's good.
"I'm a lucky man. I get to play with boats - that appeals to my creative side.
"And people who buy from us want something a bit different. They don't want to have a Holden Commodore like everyone else. They want a wooden boat that they don't own, but have stewardship over. It's maintaining history.
"I'm a purveyor of dreams. That's what people come to me for - they dream of a classic wooden boat."
On his workshop wall there's a board plastered with photos of his dream creations: a 28ft (8.5m) mahogany speedboat, based on a 1924 design; a 30ft (9.1m) motor cruiser with design specifications that "took six months with the designer to refine"; a restoration of a 1960 Revia, an "Italian Cadillac".
James estimates the most expensive boat he's built was a $350,000 speedboat, but he also makes dinghies and humble row boats for a few thousand dollars.
At the pricey end, he goes to great lengths to source timber.
A boat hoisted in his shipyard is made from New Zealand kauri, sourced from a former wool shed.
In all his boats he uses centuries-old traditions combined with modern electrical mechanics and engineering - although he doesn't cover such areas as upholstery or welding.
He says his customer base is small but zealous. "It's a limited market for wooden boats. People have got to want one and wait maybe years," he says. "You can write a cheque and go boating tomorrow in a polyester thing.
"But those modern fibreglass boats have no soul. You have no affinity with them. It's nothing."
James has applied the same offbeat approach to his business to his own life.
While he grew up in Melbourne, he has been a sailor all his life and today owns a restored 1937 racing yacht.
As a young man he built a boat, self-taught from years of fixing and tinkering with his own boats, and sailed it from Fremantle to Darwin, then Indonesia and the Solomons, where he met his wife, English-born Carol.
Then, in the mid-'80s, the couple departed on their greatest journey: almost five years sailing from Australia to the UK, using a "compass, sextant and clock".
"Satellite navigation was in its infancy, so we just used what Cook had. To see how deep the water was we used a lump of lead on a string."
Arriving in the UK he worked on the Thames, learning classic traditional boat building.
The couple returned to Australia, pitching a tent in Paynesville 22 years ago where James was determined to establish a business in his trade.
In 1994 he opened Frecheville Boat Builders workshop.
He agrees that to be a traditional boat builder requires a degree of insanity.
"If you aren't mad about boats, you can't work in this industry, because it's hard, dirty and challenging, not an easy artisan trade to be in."
- Frecheville Heaney Boat builders, Paynesville, fhboats.com.au