The Halvorsen Fleet


The first international challenger to win a race in the America’s Cup was thes Alan Payne designed, Halvorsen built Gretel. Commissioned by Sir Frank Packer, she was launched on 19 February 1962 and put the Australian yachting scene on the map. “Gretel” will lead the fleet with the general manager of Halvorsen boats Mr. Trevor Gowland at the helm.


Launched in January 1937 she is a 19 1/2 m² Norwegian racing yacht built by Lars Halvorsen so that Harold could join the Sydney Amateurs. He is now the oldest member.  “Maud” has been specially shipped from Adelaide for the cavalcade.


“Lady Luck” is a 22 m² Norwegian class launched on 29 August 1931. A similar yacht was built by Lars in Cape Town as his first job there. She was proudly owned by a Sydney enthusiast.


First launched in 1948, the 21s were the smaller sister to the already established 25 foot standard cruiser which had set a design precedent for the Halvorsen hire fleet. 11 were built between 1948 and 1950, four destined for the Bobbin head fleet, and all powered by the venerable Morris Vedette petrol engine, which Halvorsen’s had the agency for.


These cruisers formed the backbone of the original hire fleet, following the 50 rowing skiffs and 50 18 foot open launches built for Bobbin head in late 1945. 56 25 foot standard cruisers were built between March 1946 and September 1952, 16 for hire and the balance for private buyers. All were Morris powered.


Christmas 1965 saw the launch of the Harvey Halvorsen designed 25 foot, available as either a “Dolphin” with an enclosed cabin or a “Fisherman” with an open layout. Of the 11 built, seven were Fishermen and most were powered by the Chrysler 210 hp V driver engine or the lay flat Chrysler Spacesaver 145 hp. Flybridges were often added without diminishing the lines or the performance.


1 foot can make a world of difference in boats, and the new 26 foot cruiser launched on 26 June 1954 offered a separate head and shower, dinette, improved vision and styling. They prove to be the most popular of the hire cruisers with 30 on the fleet many being bought back from private buyers by Halvorsen’s. 38 were built, some with stylised window treatments, and four remain as hire cruisers today.


24 of these boats were built from October 1949 to December 1955 with 18 designed for Bobbin Head. Like their sister ships these cruisers offered classic styling, solid construction and intelligent layouts and considering some of the amazing nautical manoeuvres that some have endured are testimony to the great Halvorsen reputation.


Clinker built, and in several versions and sizes including 21 foot 23 foot 24 to 32 foot and 36 foot with Chrysler petrol engines, these were fast planning hulls and well-known on Sydney waterways. Sometimes referred to as the “Matthew Flinders” class, several accompanied “Gretel”to the United States as tenders.


“Jasmin” originally a “Mar-Jon II” is a twin engined custom designed cruiser that features a raised deck, planing hull with traditional lines. It was launched in December 1962.


This was the first of the Harvey Halvorsen designs and was a great success after the September 1964 release. A double diagonal construction method offered great strength and the usual Chrysler V8 engine options provided performance well in excess of 30 kn. 24 were built, many with flying bridges, and three in the open cabin sports fishermen layout. Following the supply of two 26 foot boats to the New South Wales water police, the 32 foot Vikings became favoured police boats with five being delivered.


First launched in July 1948 these elegant cruisers were the amalgamation of many previous design concepts and were the second in the range of standard cruisers offered by Halvorsens. The first 19 were designed for private buyers, virtually all twin Morris Navigators and later with Chrysler Crowns. Ten 36s were on the hire fleet with the “Tooronga” launched in April 1957 being the first. She, “Sirius”, “Enterprise” and “Peer Gynt” are still on the fleet today.


Many custom-built cruisers evolved from the standard range, notably the 44 foot “Septima” built for the Nicholas family famous for Aspro tablets. Launched in March 1961 she is twin GM diesel powered and included a standard flying bridge. The 38 foot “Endeavour”, launched in March 1970 became the very famous flagship of the Bobbin head fleet and her stylised cabin displays the influences of the Viking range.


This legendary multipurpose boat, designed by Harold Halvorsen was delivered to the Australian Army and Navy, United States Army and the Royal Netherlands Navy. 127 were built either with twin Chrysler petrol engines or single Grey diesels, and used as seaplane tenders torpedo recovery vessels and general patrol work. Many survived their wartime exploits and have been restored. These boats were highly praised by their crews for their solid construction and excellent sea keeping ability.


Harvey Halvorsen considers his wartime efforts to be his greatest achievement. Whilst most of these vessels are not in the cavalcade today, the Ryde factory was a significant production facility for a variety of boats up to 112 foot. Most of the pleasure cruisers above 40 foot were requisitioned by the Armed Forces, however Harold’s famous 38s and 62s along with trawlers, tugs, seaplane tenders and rescue craft designed by him, provided a very much-needed addition to the Pacific Fleet. With a new factory, a skilled staff of over 350 people, and Harold’s drive and determination, the wartime boats were built to a high standard at a rate that is hard to imagine today. When the visiting “USS Chicago” urgently required a new 30 foot pinnace, the factory supplied a new boat, fully equipped, painted and motoring down the river in an amazing 10 days. Quite a feat by any standards.


14 of these highly successful cruisers were delivered from May 1965 until 1973. (Another two 42 foot versions were also built along similar lines.) The very famous water police boats “Alert” and “Nemesis” were responsible for the rescue of hundreds of people in distress, and for their amazing performance in almost any seas. This led to a great association with the water police and a great respect from the public. Consequently this Harvey Halvorsen designed boat has always been highly sought after and all the boats are now fully restored to a high standard.


From the original lolanthe of 1933, the Bridge deck cruiser has always been associated with Halvorsens and most people agree that Harold Halvorsen perfected the style. They represented the ultimate in style, speed and luxury and are now highly prized possessions. Today we present the following cruisers:

38 foot “Lyndall II”, originally the “Sea Elf”, launched in March, 1934 for Claude Fay she has been well known on Sydney Harbour and was extensively refitted in 1988.

40 foot “Kweena”, a pre-war Bridge deck cruiser

47 foot “Ku-ring-gai”, launched in 1952 as “Sieglinde” powered by twin Chrysler Crowns. Magnificently restored and now diesel powered, she is arguably one of the best traditional Halvorsens afloat.

50 foot “Silver Arrow” launched on 31 October 1936, was active in the war effort serving in New Guinea and then being refitted by Halvorsens in February 1946

50 foot “Nicky O’Dea”, another “Sieglinde” followed similar lines to the 47 foot and this boat was well known when owned by Sydney identity Jack Rooklyn and named after a famous Chicago gangster.

47 foot “Louise”, a post-war cruiser, subsequently modified in magnificent condition.

50 foot “Spirit of Norway” launched on 4 December 1947 as “Minoqua”. An American Indian woman’s name, she was ordered with a fixed hardtop roof which easily distinguishes her from the other Bridge deck cruisers.

54 foot “Walahnee II” was the last Bridge deck cruiser built by Halvorsen’s, launched on 26 March 1962 for Mr. Clyde Forbes. She is powered by twin Gardner 6LX diesels and was built with a covered cockpit. Broader in the beam and with a raked stem she was the embodiment of all Halvorsen traditional designs.

60 foot “Tooronga” was the first boat exported to the United States on spec and left Sydney on 25 June 1949 bound for Newport Beach, California. Accompanied by Carl Halvorsen she attracted great interest particularly among the Hollywood community. Bob Hope, Humphrey Bogart and Hogey Carmichael were amongst those impressed by Tooronga. The eventual buyer was so impressed upon seeing Carl Halvorsen across the dining room at the Newport Yacht Club; he placed a cheque on a silver tray and asked the steward to deliver it across the room. The keys followed by return tray and the sale was concluded. “Tooronga” was bought by yachtsman Iain Murray in 1997 and shipped back to Australia where she was totally refitted, including a redesigned aft cabin area, more suitable for day cruising.

65 foot “Silver Cloud” was the third Halvorsen built for JAS Bruce, all bearing that now famous name. Launched in 1939 she served heroically during the war, being one of three vessels that chased and sank the Japanese midget submarines in Sydney Harbour. She survived the war but suffered a major engine room fire whilst laid up at the Balmoral Naval Station. Halvorsen’s bought her from the Commonwealth Government in 1945 for £700 and rebuilt her to pristine condition. Formerly owned by our club commodore, Derek Freeman she is easily recognised on Sydney Harbour.


43 foot “Sinabada” was built by Halvorsen’s for leading Sydney motor dealer Sir Frederick Sutton, also a keen fisherman, she is powered by Mercruiser petrol engines and easily achieved over 20 kn. Launched in March 1964 she remained in the Sutton family until 1997.

44 foot “Nooroo II” was launched on 20 June 1966 to a Harvey Halvorsen design, and became famous taking charters on Sydney Harbour. The VIP guests were legion and she starred in the TV series Riptide. She has entertained Prince Charles and fished her way up and down the coast of Australia. She is powered by two huge Fiat diesels and is one of the finest and most handsome of the modern Halvorsens.

The 48 foot “Aquitania”, was one of the last boat built at Ryde, powered by twin Cummin turbodiesels she can also exceed 20 kn. Never really used for fishing her original owners spent most weekends aboard in air-conditioned luxury. Always immaculate and one of a kind.

57 foot “Sinana”, was delivered to Sir Frederick Sutton on 15 March 1972 and has been crew maintained ever since. With 1000 hp of V 12 Detroit diesel power she easily speeds to fishing grounds with supreme comfort. An enlarged version of “Nooroo II” and following classic game fishing lines “Sinana” is greatly admired


Following the American terminology for large cruisers the:

48 foot “Palmyra” launched on 2 August 1973 as “Coolong” for a leading Sydney businessman and long-standing Halvorsen customer Mr. Fred Harvie. With a similar hull to “Aquitania” but in a flush deck configuration she was built for entertaining and performance rather than maximum accommodation. Twin turbo Cummins V8’s combined with a lightweight hull give her powerful and effortless performance and deep sea capabilities.

65 foot “Silver Cloud II” and “Vector” launched in 1968 as the pair “Kanahoee” and “Banyandah”and each built for the two O’Neill Bros of Hymix Concrete. The hull design by Harvey Halvorsen was originally used for the “Attunga” of 1966, of Bass Strait oil rig crew boat. Highly successful in all weathers Attunga was to have sisterships built and they would have proceeded had helicopters not become available for crew transport. Hence the 65 became more famous as a luxury cruiser. Another three in various lengths to 72 foot were exported to America. “Silver Cloud” is owned by club commodore Derek Freeman.

90 foot “Emma” became the undisputed flagship of the Halvorsen fleet, after her launch on 12 June 1976 for Mr. Arthur Nelson. She was without doubt the most impressive cruiser in Australia and certainly turned more than a few heads were travelling at her full speed of 25 kn. Twin V 12 MTU diesels give a combined horsepower of 2700 hp and very few large cruisers would take on in a race. 24 years later she still looks modern and beautiful and her original owner still pampers her. She was the last big boat built at Ryde.