Billy Barnett, Master Shipwright of Sydney Harbour

It seems that some skills take more than a lifetime to gain – they have to be inherited, in the blood. This is certainly the case with many boat builders and none more so than Bill Barnett, one of Sydney Harbour’s finest wooden boat builders and the man who designed, built and raced his 18-footer Myra Too to glory in 1951.

The Australian National Maritime Museum has recently been assisting with a project to build a replica of Barnett’s Myra Too, however the success of this yacht in Barnett’s expert hands forms only a small chapter in a life full of achievement on and off the water.

Bill Barnett, crew member of the 1967 America’s Cup challenger DAME PATTIE, c 1967. Copyright. ANMM Collection Gift from Graeme Andrews

Bill Barnett, crew member of the 1967 America’s Cup challenger DAME PATTIE, c 1967. Copyright. ANMM Collection Gift from Graeme Andrews

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Get up close and personal with over 70 classic & wooden boats

This weekend is a fantastic event in the museum’s calendar – the Classic & Wooden Boat Festival 2012. More than 70 privately owned classic boats will gather in Darling Harbour, including over a dozen Halvorsen cruisers! Here is a selection of vessels that will be on show:

The Captain’s Barge is the only remaining cabined example of its type in Australia. Built in England in 1945, the boat has an innovative construction involving double-mahogany planks, copper-nailed with a linseed-oiled canvas layer between, and has been restored by Sydney Harbour Federation Trust volunteers.

Gretel II – America’s Cup challenger in both 1970 and 1971. Gretel II, designed by Alan Payne, was the last wooden 12-Metre class yacht to be built and was generally considered faster than Intrepid in the 1970 series. She was modified in 1977 and refitted in 2009 in her current configuration as a cruiser racer with a minimalist interior fitout.

Read more about Gretel II on the museum’s Register of Historic Vessels database.

Hurrica V is a 1924 English gentleman’s classic sailing yacht born in the Edwardian era, remembered for its embrace of glamour and classic designs. Now restored and reborn with renewed respect for that elegance, she has proven to be a bona fide yacht with a double-crossing of the notorious Bass Strait to Hobart. Hurrica V will feature in the upcoming Baz Luhrmann film The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Read more about Hurrica V (on the museum’s Register of Historic Vessels database).

Silver Cloud was first built in 1939. She was part of the ‘Hollywood Fleet’ that patrolled Sydney Harbour during WWII. In 2010 she was entered onto the ANMM Register of Historic Vessels. After a four-year renovation Silver Cloud resumes her place as the ‘grande dame’ of classic boating.

Read more about Silver Cloud on the museum’s Register of Historic Vessels database.

Protex is a typical early-20th-century small motor boat built to operate in Australia’s harbours and inland waterways. She was used to transport goods and personnel to ships and waterfront establishments, and to ferry staff from the Palmolive factory at Balmain to various city wharves.

Read more about Protex on the museum’s Register of Historic Vessels database.

A full list of vessels on display at the Classic & Wooden Boat Festival can be seen on our website.

Classic & Wooden Boat Festival 2012 – live music line-up

The Classic & Wooden Boat Festival takes place this weekend, Friday 12 October to Sunday 14 October and has a great line-up of entertainment and activities for all the family to enjoy, including a fantastic live music line-up.

With a special guest appearance from ARIA award winner Clare Bowditch, performing songs from her new album The Winter I Chose Happiness. Tickets are on sale now for just $20 via our website. There are also various other live music acts over the course of the weekend.

The festival will also, of course, feature over 70 classic boats and incorporate maritime crafts and competitions such as Quick and Dirty boat building and race, deck hands line throwing, best dressed boat and caulk a seam competition.

For the full program and to book visit our website.

Happy 100th birthday Carl Halvorsen

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