Home' Afloat : AFLOAT Sep 2014 Contents 54 AFLOAT.com.au September 2014
In July 2012, I had the pleasure of writing
a piece for Afloat to commemorate
the 100th birthday of my uncle, Carl
Halvorsen. Now I have the sad duty to
note his recent passing.
Carl Halvorsen was born in the
southern Norwegian town of Helle on 9
July 1912, the son of boatbuilder, Lars, and
his wife Bergithe. Carl enjoyed an idyllic
childhood, fishing in summer and skiing
in winter. In 1922, however, economic
setbacks forced his father to move the
family to South Africa. Two years later,
the Halvorsens settled in Sydney.
In 1928 the young Carl Halvorsen was
showing a talent for woodwork. He’d left
school at 14 to work with his father and
elder brother, Harold, in the boatyard Lars
had established upon migrating to Sydney
in 1924 and when Lars began producing
the increasingly popular Bermuda rig
masts Carl, aged only 16, was entrusted
with fashioning a 71-foot (21.6m) mast
for Harold Nossiter’s magnificent yacht,
Utiekah II – by hand, using an axe, an adze
and a plane.
Fifty years later, at the age of 76, Carl
built new spars for the Australian National
Maritime Museum’s historic ketch Kathleen
Gillett, also by hand. The restoration of
Kathleen – which had been built for the
Australian pioneer yachtsman, Jack Earl
and was a veteran of the first Sydney-
Hobart yacht race – was funded by the
Norwegian government as its Bicentenary
gift to Australia.
On the day of Kathleen’s handover in
1991, King Harald of Norway awarded Carl
the ‘Knight First Class of the Royal Order of
Merit’, the citation stating that the award
was for his efforts in the restoration of
Kathleen Gillett; for his help in establishing a
home for state wards in Sydney, ‘ Trollheim’;
for his contribution to sailing in Australia
and Norway; and for his services to tourism
as a long-time councillor of the Australian
In 1936, having established his name
in Sydney’s boatbuilding industry and
now with all his five sons in the business,
Lars died of osteomyelitis of the spine,
aged only 49. The family then formed
Lars Halvorsen Sons Pty Ltd, and soon
expanded from their Neutral Bay yard,
building a state-of-the-art facility on the
Parramatta River at Ryde.
While the family enterprise was by then
well-known for the elegant luxury motor
yachts they designed and built, World War
II saw the production of more than 250
boats for the Allied forces. Some of these
sturdily built craft are still afloat 70 years
later. Carl’s duties included test-driving the
boats – a job he relished – and he joined
the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol.
Just before the war Carl met the love of
his life, Glenagh Brown, and they married
in 1939. To complete the family, a daughter,
Verity, was born in 1945. Carl’s marriage
was a long and joyous one, until Glenagh’s
death in 1997.
After the war, Carl became marketing
director of Lars Halvorsen Sons, as it
expanded to Bobbin Head and the iconic
business of renting out a fleet of the
family’s practical and attractive timber
cruisers on the Hawkesbury and Broken
Bay. As marketing director, Carl was seen
with visiting international celebrities such
as Alfred Hitchcock, Burl Ives, John Mills,
Ernest Borgnine and Ronnie Barker.
In 1949, he travelled to Los Angeles
with the 60-foot (18.28m) luxury motor
cruiser Tooronga to try the lucrative US
market. Tooronga’s fine lines and quality
workmanship attracted attention, and Carl
found himself socialising with Hollywood
stars, including Humphrey Bogart and
Competitive sailing was Carl’s passion.
In the early years in Sydney, Lars and the
boys built the little sloop Maud, in which
Carl and his brother Harold soon won their
first sailing gold medal with the Sydney
Amateur Sailing Club.
Then, after a decade of racing Dragons,
Carl’s long career racing Halvorsen-built
5.5 -Metre yachts began in 1967 when he
won the Australian Championship on
Botany Bay in Crest. This was followed by
Australian championships in 1982 and
1991 in Skagerak.
At the age of 80, he represented
Australia in the 1993 Hanko 5.5 -Metre
World Championships. In the Royal Prince
Alfred Yacht Club’s 2001-02 Division 1
series, Carl – then aged 89 – won first place
on Skagerak. He raced her well into his 90s.
Carl was an office-holder of the Royal
Sydney Yacht Squadron from 1958 to 1983
and was appointed a life member in 1981.
He raced with the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht
Club from the late 1960s and funded its
Carl Halvorsen Scholarship, established
to encourage young people into the sport.
Along with brothers Magnus and Trygve,
he was awarded the 2000 Australian
Carl passed away peacefully on 8 July
2014, one day shy of his 102nd birthday,
his beloved daughter Verity by his side.
Carl was one of life’s true gentlemen and
his unfailing good humour was legendary.
h Randi Svensen
Carl and Glenagh.
Carl with Bob Hope on board Tooronga in
Los Angeles, 1949.
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