Halvorsen: a revered name in boats

Article from Afloat Magazine. May 2006 By Gregory Blaxell* On 28 July 1930, the Halvorsens became Australian citizens. But it was also the time of the Great Depression and business was very slow. Each strand of the Halvorsens business operated but things were tight. One innovation was the building and operating of a sleek speedboat named Kangaroo that took joy riders for a high-speed spin around the harbour. With Carl at the wheel, the speedboat did brisk business from Watsons Bay, then Balmoral Beach and on the opening of the Harbour Bridge, from Farm Cove. This tourist attraction tided them over during the worst of the Depression. Business began to pick up in 1934 and by this time the name Halvorsen was synonymous with quality boat building. A new, extended boat shed was built in 1935 at Neutral Bay. Many famous boats were built there including a sleek yacht built in their spare time by Lars three sons, Bjarne, Magnus and Trygve. They called their racer Enterprise. Lars became ill in 1936 and was diagnosed with osteomyelitis. He died on 5 October 1936 aged 49. Two of the younger Halvorsen brothers, Magnus and Trygve left the firm in the 1960s to start their own boat building business. Bjarne had already left in the 1940s. Thus Harold and Carl, assisted in the design area by Harvey, carried on the business of Lars Halvorsen Sons at Ryde and Bobbin Head. By this time, Carl managed the Bobbin Head facility.The last of the great wooden boats, launched in 1976 at Ryde, was Emma, designed by Harvey Halvorsen. The shed at Ryde began winding down from that time and by 1979, work had ceased there. In 1980, the Ryde yard was sold to Royal Australian Navy and Harold and Harvey joined Carl at Bobbin Head. In 1975, Lars Halvorsen Sons entered into a joint venture with a Hong Kong company. The new company, Kong & Halvorsen Marine & Engineering Company Limited was based in Hong Kong and between 1975-1990 built boats under the Island Gypsy name. In 1980, with new partners, the company began building boats in Shekou, a port in mainland China. The company constructed boats to Halvorsen designs. The fi nished boats were sent to Hong Kong to be checked and then exported to buyers. Mark Halvoresn (Harveys son) managed the Hong Kong operation from the mid 1980s and still runs the overseas division. Mention has been made of the sailing prowess of Magnus and Trygve Halvorsen, but Harold and Carl were also excellent sailors and both excelled in their chosen class. They concentrated more on harbour sailing rather than offshore sailing, but they designed and built the very successful Dragon and 5.5m class boats. Carl was also instrumental in refurbishing Kathleen Gillett that became the Norwegian governments gift to Australian for the 1988 bicentenary celebrations. The restoration took three years and when she was finished she sailed to Sydney to her new home at the Australian Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour. Carl was made a Knight, First Class, of the Royal Order of Merit, the highest honour that the King of Norway can bestow. This was not only for his restoration of Kathleen Gillett but also his work as a director of Lars Halvorsen Sons, his contribution to sailing in Norway and Australia and for his promoting of Norwegian-Australian relations. Harold Halvorsen continued to work at Bobbin Head beyond his 90th birthday in April 2000 but died at home in November of that year. The fleet of Halvorsen cruisers that operated so successfully from Bobbin Head was retired in 2003. However, there is a very active Halvorsen Club made up of owners of Halvorsenbuilt wooden boats. Words from its Commodore seem to sum up why these boats are so loved and sought after. They got the lines right  they looked good from every angle and it usually followed that they performed well too, he said. The quality and integrity never varied. The standard of finish and fittings was unsurpassed  glistening teak, maple and mahogany panelling, French-polished interiors, custom made metalwork were all a cut above the rest. NB: Article from Afloat Magazine. http://www.afloat.com.au/afloat-magazine/archive/2006_May2006_HalvorsenareverednameinboatsPart2.htm Much of the information in this article has come from Wooden Boats, Iron Men: The Halvorsen Story by Randi Svensen (Sydney, Halstead Press/ Australian National Maritime Museum, 2004) and has been supplemented by discussions/correspondence with Harvey and Mark Halvorsen, Magnus and Neil Halvorsen and Mrs Leti Halvorsen. * Gregory Blaxell is an historian and author. He has been boating offshore and in the harbour for more than 25 years. His latest book is The River: Sydney Cove to Parramatta.