The official splashdown of three iconic Halvorsen timber motor yachts, returning to water after three years of meticulous restoration works.
An important part of Australian boat building history, Halvorsen boats have been a common sight on waterways around the country for close to 100 years.
Lars Halvorsen Sons is considered one of the most famous names in Australian marine engineering.
Lars, the son of Halvor Anderson, a Norwegian farmer and boat builder, arrived in Australia in 1924. With his sons, Lars built a successful boatbuilding and repair business, launching their first boat, Sirius at Drummoyne, before setting up shop in Neutral Bay and then Ryde.
Over the decades, they built 1,299 craft and made the Halvorsen name an Australian byword for quality and style.
Russell Salisbury, Shipwright and owner of Russell Marine Maintenance, oversaw the restoration of these majestic motor yachts: MY Memory, MY Anna and his own vessel, MY Glenorie – a mammoth task spanning three years, due in part to the pandemic.
“It was a coincidence, really, that all three boats came to be in our shed at The Boat Works,” he explains.
“I found Glenorie at a Marina, near Runaway Bay in 2020, and she was just days away from sinking. Cole and Abby, who own Memory, were married in 2020, but because of the pandemic, couldn’t travel for their honeymoon, so they bought a classic timber boat and set about restoring her.
“John has owned Anna for about 25 years, and decided it was time to refurbish her. All the factors came together – time, budget, skills and passion. We worked together on them and shared the journey.”
The boutique marine businesses at The Boat Works have earned a reputation for quality shipwright and vessel maintenance service and timber refinishing works, from small repairs through to major project management.
The scope of works included replacing the steering, installing new cabin tops and full roof fabrication, intricate refinishing and respray works, resealing windows, tap and sink fixtures restored, new diesel engines, new interiors and superb upholstery, teak duckboards, and much more.
Trades involved include Russell Marine Maintenance, 143 Boat Building, Kingfisher Cruisers, Choice Stainless, Craft Coverings, Moreton Bay Boat Works and Spraytech Marine.
For Russell, who grew up boating on the Gold Coast in all kinds of craft, the appeal of the Halvorsen is both aesthetic and historic.
“I’ve always loved timber boats. There’s something enduring and calming about them. The craftsmanship, the clever design and simplicity of operation.
“For people who understand the allure, it’s about the voyage, not the destination. They have a special hull shape that means they are never going to go fast. They’re a day cruiser or weekender and cruise along at about 8 knots – and they’re ideal for the canals and the Broadwater.”
Memory is fitted with a Bukh 48hp diesel engine, while Glenorie is powered by a 30hp Yanmar diesel engine and Anna is fitted with a 60hp motor.
“Halvorsen’s are a part of Australian boating history and appeal to every demographic – from people who grew up enjoying them to younger generations who like the retro lines.”
Cole and Abby, who are now the proud parents of little Knox, just 18 months old, found their Halvorsen 25, Memory, on Lake Macquarie.
“We got married in 2020, just before the lockdowns,” Cole recalls. “Abby grew up on them in Pittwater in Sydney, and she really pushed to get the boat. We were quite naïve and didn’t really know what lay ahead. But thankfully, we had Russell’s guidance, every step of the way.”
Cole, an electrician by trade and now working as a furniture maker with his own business called Frankly, all by Hand, was eager to learn.
“Russell was a very generous teacher. We learned a lot from him,” he says. “He was working on Glenorie and was a step or two ahead of us, so it was great to copy the techniques. He really knows his stuff.”
Now their Halvorsen is back in the water, Cole, Abby and Knox are enjoying time on board, cruising the Broadwater.
“We are being quite selfish about time on board,” Cole states. “It’s just the three of us for weekends, or we could go out for up to a week. It’s all about family.”
Another couple, Matt and Skye, who only recently bought their Halvorsen 25, ‘Oongarra’, say they were inspired by the finish and quality of the three Halvorsen’s when they saw them at their send-off ceremony last week.
As Skye explains, “We bought Oongara online at a Greys auction. She was in Pittwater, NSW and we had her transported and delivered by truck up to The Boat Works, we’ve only had her for six weeks.”
Initially, Skye was not overly enthusiastic about the idea of restoring what she first viewed as “an old timber boat”.
“Matt bought it as a project for me, but I couldn’t really see why we would want a 73-year-old boat. But now that I’m working on her, many hours a day, it’s evolved from wanting to know why to having a deeper understanding the history, the rarity of these timber boats and how beautiful they can be.
“After seeing the three Halvorsens return to water, I can see the potential now. I’m totally dedicated!”
Skye will undertake the restoration with the guidance and support from onsite Shipwright 143 Boat Building, Ryan Thacker.
Ryan and his team of qualified Shipwrights from 143 Boat Building have practically rebuilt numerous timber vessels along with extensive repairs and maintenance onboard fibreglass vessels. They are currently undertaking an extensive refurbishment on a Halvorsen 26 cruiser ‘Lunera’ (ex ‘Una’).
Skye chose The Boat Works for Phase 1 of works aboard Oongarra, which involves sanding back and preparing the hull ahead of fibreglassing and repainting. The petrol motor has already been replaced with a 43hp Kubota diesel engine.
“The boat has very good bones and is structurally sound. The plan is to get her back on the water so we can use her while we’re doing the refit. She’ll make the perfect boat for our family of six to enjoy the canals and Broadwater.”
As to the schedule and anticipated completion date, Skye only laughs and replies, “How long is a piece of string?
“It depends on how far we take it. I’m aiming to get it done in 12 months. It’s a labour of love, but we are being careful with the budget. For the next four weeks, we’ve roped in all our friends to help sand and other jobs.”
Also on display at the launch of the Halvorsen Trilogy was the impeccably restored Halvorsen 44, ‘Septima’, which is for sale through Alexander Marine.
“There is nothing like a classic timber boat for attracting attention,” says Russell, who is the authorised agent for the Grand Banks and Palm Beach brands of motor yachts under the GB Marine Group.
“People reminisce about their childhood, growing up on similar boats. Looking around on launch day, seeing all the families there and people from all walks of life, it was very heartening. It made all the effort worthwhile.”