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Today is the 100th birthday of one of the museum’s oldest friends – in several senses. Happy birthday to Carl Halvorsen, of the famous Halvorsen boatbuilding dynasty.

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Luxury yacht, Hiawatha 1938. ANMM Lars and Harold Halvorsen Collection

The Halvorsen name is best known for the elegant pleasure cruisers that the family designed and built in their Sydney boatyards, and for the fleet of Halvorsen hire boats that operated on Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River for many decades, providing happy holiday memories for countless families.

Carl Halvorsen was born on 9 July 1912 in Helle, Norway, into a line of shipwrights and seafarers. He migrated to Australia 1924 with his father Lars, mother Bergithe, four brothers and two sisters. All of them went to work in the family boatbuilding business that would become synonymous with quality and style, producing countless yachts, cruisers and work boats over many decades, including hundreds of military craft during WW2.

Archive photo of Carl Halvorsen with goup of glamorous ladies on board a luxury cruiser

Carl Halvorsen famously marketed his luxury motor cruisers to Hollywood celebrities in the USA. ANMM Lars and Harold Halvorsen Collection

Carl’s working life was spent with the firm, including a period marketing its luxury motor cruisers to Hollywood celebrities in the USA. He married Glenagh Brown and enjoyed a long happy family life with their daughter Verity. At the age of 76 he hand-crafted the masts and spars for the museum’s historic yacht Kathleen Gillett, a Norwegian design that was in the first-ever Sydney Hobart race in 1945, and was restored as Norway’s Bicentennial Gift to Australia in 1988. Carl was a successful yacht racer who skippered 5.5s well into his 90s, after winning RPAYC’s Division 1 series aged 89.

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Plan cruiser, Pollyanna 1933. ANMM Lars and Harold Halvorsen Collection

This great Norwegian boatbuilding family’s heritage – and that of its centenarian, Carl Halvorsen – is preserved at the museum in the Lars and Harold Halvorsen Collection, named after Carl’s father and elder brother. This collection contains a treasure trove of design drawings and photographs of the family’s enormous Australian output, as well as shipwright tools and other memorabilia. The family story was told in our 2004-05 museum exhibition Dream Boats and Work Boats – the Halvorsen Story.

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Carl Halvorsen (right) with his siblings at opening of Halvorsen exhibition, 2004

– Jeffrey Mellefont, Publications manager


Jeffrey Mellefont

Jeffrey Mellefont was a founding staff member of the Australian National Maritime Museum from 1987, and was the editor of its quarterly journal Signals. On retiring in 2014 he was appointed honorary research associate. Formerly a mariner, navigator, marine journalist and photographer, he has a lifelong research interest in Indonesian and Asian maritime history.

Posted in: Vessels