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Dreamboats &

WORKBOATS

The HALVORSEN STORY

THIS PAGE: LEFT: Freya sailing in the 1965 Admiral's Cup. Photograph by Beken of Cowes.

Reproduced courtesy Beken.

OPPOSITE PAGE: LEFT: Cover of Halvorsen Holiday brochure, 1960s. Reproduced courtesy

Halvorsen Boats Pty Ltd

RIGHT: The Halvorsen family in Sydney, 1927. Back row: Harold, Carl, Bjarne. Middle row: Elnor, Bergithe, Margit, Lars, Magnus. Front: Trygve. Photographer Hall Studio. Reproduced courtesy Halvorsen family

RIGHT: Halvorsen boat display at the Royal Easter Show, 1949. ANMM Collection. Reproduced courtesy Halvorsen family

This Norwegian­Australian family of boatbuilders and champion sailors had a passion for boating that has touched the lives of many Australians. Penny Cuthbert, curator of the museum's exhibition on this subject, explains how the Halvorsen name has left its mark on Australian boating.

WHILE DEVELOPING this exhibition I was fascinated by the story that emerges of a family's struggle to keep their livelihood going during both boom times and depression. Neither Lars Halvorsen ­ who led his family to take up boatbuilding in Australia ­ nor his

brokerage and recreational boating. The exhibition uses original plans, production books, boatbuilding tools, photographs, ship models, mementos and archival film to build up a picture of three generations of this family and their passion for boats and the sea.

`If you can build a boat you can build anything.' Lars Halvorsen

sons were formally schooled shipwrights, yet the talent for boatbuilding and design that passed from father to sons can be appreciated today through surviving plans and photographs ­ and through the broad range of Halvorsen boats that have now become so highly sought-after as collectable classics. Lars Halvorsen (1887­1936) laid the foundations of an enterprise that under the management of his sons diversified from their core business of boatbuilding into commercial fishing, tourism,

Norway to Australia

If you can build a boat you can build anything. Lars Halvorsen In the case of the Halvorsen family this homespun philosophy has extended to building businesses ­ and lives ­ in Norway, South Africa and Australia. The tradition of boatbuilding in this family can be traced to Halvor Andersen (1829­1906), a farmer who built small wooden rowboats and fishing boats in the winter and taught his son Lars the basics

of boatbuilding. From 1906 Lars journeyed to America to gain valuable experience working in shipyards in New York, Connecticut and Long Island. In 1909 he returned to Norway to marry his betrothed, Bergithe Klemmetsen, and establish the Helle Baatbyggeri, a boatyard modelled on modern American production lines, at Helle on the Nid River. The family grew steadily with Harold, Carl, Elnor, Bjarne and Magnus born between 1910 and 1918, and the youngest children Trygve and Margit born in 1920 and 1922. A devout man, Lars also served as a lay preacher in his local community. During World War I the yard thrived as Norway's neutrality ensured a steady stream of orders, but the following years brought hardship as work dwindled. To keep his yard open Lars built the three-masted cargo schooner Nidelv. Unable to sell it, Lars operated the ship himself in partnership with Lars Knudsen, a ship's chandler based in Wales. Owing to a shortage of funds

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Lars cancelled the insurance ­ a decision that was to have devastating consequences for the family. The schooner was wrecked on its next voyage, in 1921, resulting in fi nancial ruin for Lars, his family and fi nancial backers. With little chance of rebuilding the family's fortunes in Norway Lars chose to move the family and business abroad. Leaving Bergithe and his children, Lars sailed for South Africa to look for work in 1922 while his wife, awaiting the birth of her youngest child, fi nalised the boatyard's affairs. The family was reunited in Cape Town in

Australia. In 1924 Lars sailed to Sydney, followed shortly by his eldest son Harold ­ a move that would offer Lars the chance at last to start a boatbuilding business with his sons. Once more Bergithe faced financial hardship as she packed up the family home, and for a time they lived in a shed and a tent in the seaside village of Fish Hoek about 30 km from Cape Town. By the time the family was reunited once more in Sydney Lars was hard at work on his first commission, the yacht Sirius. Working 80-hour weeks from a shed in the Sydney suburb of Drummoyne, Lars and Harold finished the yacht in five

site with its own slipways and moorings at Neutral Bay in 1927. It was the luxury cruiser Miramar II, built for Stuart Doyle (Commodore of the Royal Motor Yacht Club) in 1930, that cemented the growing Halvorsen reputation among Sydney boatbuilders and owners. By 1934 all five sons were working at the boatyard, and Lars's vision of a family business was fully realised. Lars advertised regularly in Australian Motor Boat and Yachting Monthly and the activities of his boatyard were regularly reported in the magazine's boating column `Round Slip and Yard'. A Halvorsen V-bottom speed boat was exhibited at the 1932 Aquatic Show and Sports Display, Sydney's first boat show, and the motor cruisers Iolanthe and Pollyanna were displayed at the Royal Easter Show in 1933 and 1934. During the depression years of the early 1930s when orders for boats were slow, the family survived on ticket sales from joy rides in their motor launch Kangaroo. An account book displayed in the museum's exhibition records 13,000 ticket sales for their 1931­32 season. After Lars Halvorsen's death in 1936 the family business was registered as Lars Halvorsen Sons Pty Ltd, with eldest son Harold as chief designer and managing director and other family members appointed as directors. In 1938 a 1.62-hectare site was purchased at Ryde on the Parramatta River and boatbuilding operations were relocated there just as another world war was

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looming. The new yard included a 0.5hectare boatshed, marine engineers shop, chrome-plating division, plumbing works, pattern shop, joiners shop and six slipways. The old Neutral Bay yard continued to operate as a maintenance and supply depot. This made the Halvorsens self-sufficient and one of a handful of private boatbuilders which could accommodate large defence contracts. At the height of wartime production there were over 350 staff working for the Halvorsens. In all, 237 boats were built during the war including patrol boats, seaplane tenders, air-sea rescue boats, fast supply boats, torpedo recovery

fishing in 1944, building and operating fishing trawlers off the NSW coast and opening fish shops in Kings Cross and Rose Bay. This was part of a longer-term strategy that recognised the need to diversify when war production came to an end. Proposed hire fleet and harbour tourism ventures put on hold during World War II were realised towards the end of the war. A site was acquired at Bobbin Head on Sydney's Broken Bay in 1945 as a base for a hire fleet and maintenance business. A reduced postwar staff at Ryde was soon busy building hire boats and fishing boats at a rapid rate. Not all these postwar

LEFT TO RIGHT: Halvorsens' second Sydney premises, Neutral Bay 1927. 39-foot (11.88 m) diesel tugboat Vixen built in 1938 for Sydney Ferries Ltd. The hireboat business at Bobbin Head brought many celebrity visitors; film director Alfred Hitchcock visited in 1960.

Reproduced courtesy Halvorsen Boats Pty Ltd and the Halvorsen family

The military boats were acclaimed for their seaworthiness and performance, and represent a little-appreciated facet of the Halvorsen output

1923. Here Lars established a reputation for designing and building elegant yachts and sound fishing boats. As business was slow he postponed his plan to run a family business with his sons and instead went into partnership with a rival boatbuilder, forming Louw and Halvorsen. With Lars at the boatyard and the older children in school, Bergithe was isolated at home with the younger children and struggled with ill health, homesickness and learning English. Unhappy with their life in Cape Town, Lars and Bergithe took the advice of neighbours and looked for a fresh start in

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Carl met with Hollywood celebrities and boating enthusiasts, taking actors Bob Hope and Humphrey Bogart for cruises on Tooronga

vessels, towing skids and the large, fast Fairmile patrol boats. The Halvorsens also contributed to the war effort though the Volunteer Coastal Patrol. Carl and Trygve joined the VCP and 16 stylish Halvorsen-built motor cruisers, known as `the Hollywood Fleet', were requisitioned for service between 1938 and 1942. On the night of 31 May 1942 the Halvorsen-built motor cruisers Sea Mist, Steady Hour and Toomeree were involved in the fight against three Japanese midget submarines attacking Sydney Harbour. The family ventured into commercial

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the world' only a small number of Halvorsen boats were sold overseas. But back home, by the mid-1950s, the Halvorsen hire fleet had grown to 150 boats including open launches, rowing skiffs and motor cruisers ranging from 21­30 feet (6.4­9.1 m). In the late 1950s a line of grand, 36-foot (10.97 m) cruisers was added. At the time it was the largest private hire fleet of its kind in the world.

months. Carl, the second-born, also helped his father and brother after school and on weekends. As all the Halvorsen boys reached 14 they joined their father at work in the boatyard, learning the skills of boatbuilding on the job. Straddling two cultures, the family spoke Norwegian at home and English at work and socially.

ventures were successful. Hoping to repeat their earlier success with harbour rides in Kangaroo, Harbour Tours Pty Ltd was established in 1947 to operate the high-speed motor boat Harbour Express. Bad weather and a poor first season meant the boat was soon sold. The future was to lie in a `drive-yourself' hire boat business. In 1949 the Halvorsens exported the deluxe motor cruiser Tooronga to test the lucrative United States market. Carl, who accompanied the boat, met with Hollywood celebrities and boating enthusiasts, taking actors Bob Hope and Humphrey Bogart for cruises on Tooronga. Despite hopes of `taking on

Halvorsens under sail

Beyond the boatyard the Halvorsen brothers distinguished themselves in competitive sailing. In the 1930s they crewed in harbour races organised by the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club. When sailing resumed after World War II the Halvorsens were soon associated with success in ocean racing. Brothers Trygve and Magnus built and entered their own yacht, Saga, in the second Sydney­ Hobart yacht race in 1946. They were narrowly beaten by the race's handicap winner Christina, designed and built by their late father Lars. The two brothers' subsequent yachts Peer Gynt, Solveig and Anitra made their marks in Sydney­

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Building the business in peace-time and war

New orders for boats meant larger premises and Lars moved the fledgling business to a rented yard at Careening Cove in 1925, and then to a permanent

Hobart annals before the brothers made sailing history with their three consecutive Sydney­Hobart handicap wins in Freya in 1963, 1964 and 1965. Magnus competed in 30 Sydney­Hobarts between 1946 and 1982. The brothers won four Trans-Tasman races between 1948 and 1961 in their yachts Peer Gynt, Solveig and Norla, and went on to compete in Australia's first Admiral's Cup and America's Cup in Freya and Gretel respectively. They also competed in the Southern Cross, TransPacific and other races. Carl Halvorsen has distinguished himself in the 5.5 class winning the Australian championship in 1967, 1982 and 1991, and is still sailing competitively this year at age 93. This impressive sailing record has been recognised with national and international awards.

is seen in the white timber hulls, flared topsides, clean lines and harmonious proportions of the deluxe motorcruisers, and as well in the integrity of the more humble hire and work boats [see accompanying story The Halvorsen style.] The boats are now collectors' items among wooden boat enthusiasts. Through their hire fleet the Halvorsens introduced countless people to the fun of recreational boating on Sydney's beautiful Pittwater, Broken Bay and Hawkesbury River. While this boatbuilding family came to regard themselves as staunch Australians, they never lost sight of their Norwegian cultural roots. Family members were active in charitable, religious, social and sporting activities supporting Norwegians in Australia. Their achievements won friendships and recognition at the highest levels of Norwegian government and society. Our exhibition Dreamboats & Workboats ­ the Halvorsen story owes much to the support and generosity of the Halvorsen family as well as the Halvorsen Club, former and current Halvorsen employees and customers who have shared their

memories or offered material for display. The first and largest donation on which the exhibition draws was the Lars and Harold Halvorsen Collection, gifted by fourth-generation boatbuilder Harvey Halvorsen in 2002 in memory of his father and grandfather. This complements individual donations made by Carl, Magnus and Trygve Halvorsen. These make ANMM the major repository of this boatbuilding dynasty's history. Together with items borrowed especially for the exhibition, these collections help to explain how the Halvorsen name has left its mark on Australian boating and Australian lives. The exhibition will be on display 1 July 2006­27 May 2007. In 2004 the museum was the co-publisher of Wooden Boats, Iron Men ­ The Halvorsen Story by Randi Svensen, (Halstead Press & Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney 2004). The book is on sale at The Store. Its author Randi Svensen, granddaughter of Lars Halvorsen and mother of a fi fth generation of family boatbuilders, will speak about Halvorsen history at the museum on 3 August 2006 (see public program pages 26­27).

The Halvorsen Style

What made the Halvorsen style so appealing? Among other things it was understanding, respect and enjoyment of the sea, writes David Payne, the museum's project officer for the Australian Register of Historic Vessels.

The Halvorsen legacy

Through war and peacetime the Halvorsens have contributed to Australian boating by their commitment to building superblycrafted boats and participating in a wide range of commercial and sporting pursuits. A distinctive Halvorsen style

TO LOOK at a Halvorsen craft is to see the essence of a classic boat from the mid-20th century. It's a vessel with a sense of refined harmony and elegance, where nothing seems out of place, where everything about the style is balanced, and the structure is appropriate to the function. The three generations of Halvorsen family designers all maintained this classic approach in a wide variety of types of vessel. Self-taught, their schooling came from being apprenticed to the boatbuilding trade from an early

They set the highest standards and lead design trends in Australia, keeping abreast of international developments while retaining local building methods and materials. Motor launches and power craft are the dominant type with which this name is associated. The Halvorsen style is apparent from the early days. A white, raised-deck hull contrasts with varnished cabin sides and trim. The elegant sheer lines that flow aft from the generously flared bow run to an understated tumblehome transom. An

client, or a simple hire boat for their popular fleet. It is no surprise to see all this repeated in the ocean racing yachts created by Magnus and Trygve, noteworthy for their sturdy and seaworthy Scandinavian double-ended hull form. The transition from Solveig to Freya ­ Sydney­Hobart race winners ­ is a case study of a considered approach to development where their own pragmatic thoughts guided the process from boat to boat. It is apparent too in the firm's working craft such as the Pacific Islands mission boats with their high bows and lovely elliptical sterns. Even the tugboats have an upright and purposeful look, but they still catch the eye as something a bit special with their tall wheelhouse toward mid-ships, aft of a classic skylight and boldly placed vents. The Halvorsen family's long association with the sea brought understanding, respect and enjoyment of its varied moods, and the boats acknowledge this with their seaworthy shape and construction, and a modest, stately appearance. In a Halvorsen, the elements of structure, function and form are blended and resolved to the satisfaction of all three.

In a Halvorsen the elements of structure, function and form are blended and resolved

age, propelled by a desire to excel. This practical background coupled with an eye for a graceful shape allowed them to create a hull with the right lines and volume to suit the purpose. Scantlings for the craft were then tailored to suit the hull's size and intended operation. For the Halvorsens, the evolution from a classic 1930s launch to the modern 1970s power boat was a gradual process of small changes reflecting the trends of the intervening decades, while remaining faithful to established boundaries of seaworthiness, quality and craftmanship. expanse of window area and a covered open cockpit aft take full advantage of the sunny climate. That's a Halvorsen. Within these hallmarks ­ the bones of the concept ­ is an attention to detail whereby the many angles, lines and curves of the structure and fitout are always pleasing to the eye. Nothing is awkward or obtrusive. There is good sense to any transition of the lines; they come to an ordered conclusion. This was always apparent whether it was a complex bridge-deck or flyingdeck luxury launch for a demanding

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