17/06/2010 - 00:00

Halvorsen a pleasure to craft

17/06/2010 - 00:00


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Glenn Bettridge has put his heart and soul into the restoration of some spectacular historic vessels.

Halvorsen a pleasure to craft

HAVING spent almost three decades and plenty of cash restoring two world-class wooden vessels to their former glory, independent mining machinery supplier Glenn Bettridge has decided to have a break from maritime projects.

During the day, Mr Bettridge runs his private mining supply company, Indmac Equipment, sourcing late-model machinery and products from around the globe for both surface and underground mining markets locally and overseas.

The business sells about 40 units, each valued between $500,000 and $1 million, each year.

But away from work he spends much of his time resurrecting famed Halvorsen wooden ships, often referred to as pleasure craft, originally made by the Halvorsen family north of Sydney since the early 1900s.

“They’re one of the most famous wooden boat builders in the world and they have a great history,” Mr Bettridge tells Business Class.

Originally from the eastern states, Mr Bettridge says it was during his early days sailing wooden boats in Queensland and New South Wales that he became enamoured with the timber watercraft.

“I love the classics and the style and workmanship that went into them because there’s not too many wooden boats that get built these days and there’s very few people that can maintain them properly,” he says.

“They’re irreplaceable boats, they’re like a piece of art that floats.”

His first Halverson purchase was almost 30 years ago, in 1983, ‘Avonita’, a Halvorsen 40-footer, which was owned by the Ahern family.

Over the next 10 years Mr Betteridge restored Avonita to its former glory before selling it.

His current Halvorsen was built in 1939 and is called ‘Hiawatha’, named after the mythical American Indian featured in the famous poem The Song of Hiawatha written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

“WA Newspapers owned Hiawatha, they had her for over 40 years and decided that they didn’t require it anymore, so they gave me the opportunity to buy Hiawatha,” Mr Betteridge says.

“We did a deal with the managing director as they wanted it to go to a good home and they knew I was into wooden boats and would take good care of it.”

That was in 1993 and since then he has invested a substantial amount of money restoring Hiawatha with the help of shipwright, Ian Weaver.

“She’s almost finished to my standard, it’s getting close,” he says.

“You can’t replicate them and no-one would build a boat today like Hiawatha; it’d cost you $1.5 million to build one like that at least, and that’s if you can get the timber and the right materials and the right craft.

“We’ve had quite a few people say they would own it if we sell it, but it’s not for sale.”

Mr Bettridge says the vessel’s log books, which date back to the 1950s, indicate it played host to royalty (including the late Lord Louis Mountbatten), prime ministers, visiting dignitaries, local and interstate premiers, actors, models (Elle MacPherson among them) and Western Australia’s business elite.

“Alan Bond owned it at one stage when he owned WA Newspapers,” he says.

Hiawatha also spent time as a Navy Patrol boat during World War II, scouring local waters for enemy submarines.

Despite his obvious affection for the craft and the restoration work itself, Mr Bettridge has no intention of taking on a refurbishment challenge of a similar magnitude.

"That's been enough, so I won't be doing it again," he says.



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