One of my first memories is hiking with my dad, (I was about 3 years old and I could barely make it), along a small creek bed as he searched for the right shape of yew tree which he would cut and shape into the stem of a beautiful wooden rowboat he was building . My interest in boats and things nautical therefore started young so it’s logical to start my personal history with a nautical perspective.
I was lucky. I grew up on a small farm at Wilson Creek, north of Vancouver on the south coast of British Columbia. My father could pretty much do whatever he put his hand to. Build a house, barns, beautiful wooden rowboats or even a radio receiver, all from scratch. Even though he died when I was young He set an impressionable example. My mother knew all of the local trees, plants and fauna. We spent a lot of time out in nature hiking and fishing. Mom loved nature and this got instilled in me. In the 50s and early 60s surrounded by loggers and fishermenI I aligned a lot to their ‘old school’ ways and particularly their work ethics. However I also related to the turn on tune in and drop out meme that became popular in the late 60s..
Discovering sailing as a lifestyle after reading a boot by Will Dawsen called ‘Ahoy There” at around age 15. I became fascinated with voyaging under sail and exploring the world . It also appeared to come with an impressive low-cost lifestyle, once you had a capable boat that is. I read all the cruising books I could find. Tangvald, Hiscock, Pye, Slocum, Smeaton,Tillman, Tams, Villiers, Robinson, and many more . In the meantime while wondering how to establish this lifestyle I built a hot little 17′ speedboat and enjoyed some fast times on the water. However fast power boating rapidly lost it’s thrill because I found simply ripping along at 40 Knots is actually pretty boring. Luckily, just as the time came to make some serious life choices I discovered multihull sailboats and a potential way to get one
A couple of friends, Bill Kristofferson and Nick Shownwolf were both just starting to build offshore cruising trimarans to cruise on themselves, so I helped them work on building their boats. I quite quickly determined I had enough of the necessary skill levels needed and a few months later started building my own 37’ trimaran that I named ”Freya” after my dog. She was built in cold molded thin fir plywood over yellow cedar framing. I built the hulls in our barn at Wilson Creek and joined them up, completing the boat in the front yard in full view of the Sunshine Coast Highway. That turned into meeting a lot of people. Thousands of Vietnam draft resistors were migrating onto the area. I pretty much met all of them. Building Freya was a definite learning process. Before Freya was completed I had acquired and read about three feet of boat construction and design books and joined the Amateur Yacht Research Society in England. Freya took over two years to construct. She was launched in the summer 69. I quit my job, moved aboard and headed off sailing and exploring the BC coast.
I got into still photography buying a SLR 35mm camera, a Pentax S1,and a few lenses. I learned to play guitar which was another excellent way to meet new friends. Once I was living afloat there was time to read, philosophize, and simply relax and enjoy life. Living on a comfortable sailboat with virtually no expenses cruising costs were minimal and the wind is free.
Although great for coastal curising “Freya” was not offshore capable . I wanted to sail across oceans. So in 1972 at Myrtle Point, south of the the town of Westview, I built and launched my second tri, the first Kismet 31 and designed by Bill Kristifferson. After sailing this tri around the coast for a couple of years I decided that at 31’ LOA “Windspeed” was a bit small for me as I’m 6’5” tall. So in ‘74 while working as a shipwright at Silva Bay Shipyards I built another one of Bill’s designs, and also the first, a Kismet 37, which I named “Kyst”. I loved the name and so did many of my girl crews although the letters in the name Kyst were also an an acronym that served me well… ‘keep your ship together”.
I sailed Kyst south to San Diego then to Mexico and across to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, lingering a few months before sailing north to Hawaii and back to Victoria, BC. This was about 9,000 miles of sailing and Kyst made about 145 miles per day on average. Pretty good time for a boat with only an outboard used to get in and out of harbours. Also this was before GPS and navigation was done using accurate time, a sextant and a compass. The vyage was highly successful I met many great fellow cruisers and natives living in the various ports of call.
By now I had a skill level that was highly developed and it was easy finding employment. I had a reputation as a highly qualified shipwright. In those days shipwrights, if they had acquired the skills, worked in wood, steel, aluminum and fiberglass. We lofted boats, built them, installed engines, all electricals, fuel runs, and hydraulics. Learning and expanding skill sets is a lot of fun and my technical library grew steadily larger.
In 1977 I built yet another trimaran, my fourth, on speculation, a 38′ tri, also cold molded wood construction, at the old Victoria Shipyard on Kingston St. in Victoria. This was a co-design with Bill. It was sold to a couple , Henry and Linda Van Unen, who named it “Kyote” They sailed it offshore a couple of times to both the South Pacific and the Caribbean and back to BC. It’s now into it’s fourth owner and still going strong.
While anchored aboard Kyst in Kwahai harbour on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1976 I tried windsurfing and really liked it. As a result back in Victoria in 1978 I founded “Airos” a windsurfer manufacturing company, Windsurfing was a lot of fun. As well as designing boards and rigs I was able to get really proficient at the sport and worked with injection molded plastics and rotocasting the boards.We produced a few thousand boards. I sold out to my partners in 1981.
I met my wife and business partner Marie Hutchinson about this time. We shared and appreciated many of the same views and values and stuck together. Also at this time I had been working on another tri design for some time and 1981 I built “Physis” a 47’ tri that launched in 1982. I still own Physis and it is in great condition. Windspeed, Kyst and Kyote are also still going strong and actively sailing although Freya was broken up several years ago.
Marie and I founded a company called “Coastal Seahomes Inc”. We assembled a great crew of about 15 tradesmen and workers that were really wonderful to work with. Over the next few years we designed and built, over 36 custom vessels ranging from live aboard diesel powered houseboats, innovative barge homes, power yachts and sailboats.
An interesting project was the building of a full sized 65′ replica of the 12 meter racing sailing yacht “Australia II” that was featured at Expo 86 in Vancouver BC. The project involved working with with the original Australia II designer Ben Lexan and the client was the Government of Western Australia. We completed the entire project in 90 days.
When I was a boy we always had a great rowing boat. We would row for miles often out to the White Islets where there was excellent cod fishing. We would row troll for salmon, ccasionally getting caught in some nasty wind and waves. This was exciting and a lot of fun. So in 1984 a friend, Fred Beadle brought in a beautiful old damaged Whitehall rowboat for repairs. I fell in love with the Whitehall and appreciated what a great design heritage Whitehalls had . We considered manufacturing them as it looked to be simpler and less complicated than the much larger larger craft we were building. Beautiful, clean, human powered boats with no oily footprint. We reviewed several sets of lines from Mystic seaport selected a size that looked perfect and lofted it out. We built a wooden lapstrake planked model out of red ceder and then pulled a mold off it so we could produce it in fiberglass. This was the first Whitehall Spirit® 14 rowing boat. The original 100 or so were fixed seat models but soon we incorporated slide seat sculling technology into these “All Water” rowing boats. this turns a Whitehall rowing boat into an exercise and fitness machine that performs like a “Mountain Bike of the Sea”. Sales of these boats took off right away and in 1987 Marie and I founded a new company called Whitehall Reproductions Canada Ltd. better know by it’s trade name of ‘Whitehall Rowing & Sail’. The Whitehall Spirit® line of rowing, sculling and sailing boats plus related gear has grown a lot over the past 25 plus years. It includes many models including the Whitehall Spirit® Tyee 14 and the Westcoast 11.6 Many thousands of these boats have been produced since the first ones back in 1985.
In 2007 in response to demand from our cliental for less expensive all water sculling boats we designed and started producing the world’s first thermo- formed copolymer rowing sculls, the Solo 14 and the Tango 17. These boats are built utilizing ultra tough thermal plastic and are less expensive than the hand built fiberglass teak and bronze Classics. They are virtually unsinkable and maintenance free.
Whitehall’s offices, and manufacturing facilities are located at 85 Dallas Rd. in Victoria BC. Whitehall markets worldwide and there are happy owners in all corners of the planet. People are welcome to drop in for a visit and check out the many models on display in our showroom.
For the past dozen years Marie has developed her skills at Jin Shin Jyutsu also called JSJ, this is an ancient healing art that is very effective for improving peoples health in many ways. She has a small practice in Victoria. Marie was a midwife before I met her and her passion has always been about health, healing, nutrition and mindful- ness.We still work together managing Whitehall and our other companies.
In 2010 we founded the Whitehall Spirit® Rowing Club of Victoria, an “All Water” rowing club. Our goal was to make the sport of rowing more affordable and available for most people. To virtually eliminate operating overheads we designed a software program that handled booking boats, membership fees and even tracks club activity without the need for employees while providing affordable access to top quality rowing experience. We actively market, sell, produce and install this as a complete business package of boats, docks and operating software. We installed one that is in operation now in California and others are planned for the Carribean and Europe.
Our latest project has been to develop a brand new product called the Oar Board™ Fit-on-Top Rowing Unit that converts a stand-up-paddle-board into a single scull rowing boat. Because it is much more affordable this revolutionary sculling unit makes rowing more available to all. The Oar Board™ is built to our usual high standards to perform and last. While I did much of the design work the heavy lifting on this project was done by my close friend and Whitehall’s production manager Colin Rolls.
When Marie and I founded Whitehall Rowing & Sail, some 25 years ago our goal was to provide products designed and built to the highest standards for our clients personal and family pleasure . The Oar Board™ SUP rower is yet another one.
Now my design work is done in various 3D CAD design programs working with program specialists or by myself. Parts are cut either by hand or with a CNC machine. My library is the size of a wall and includes a lot of software manuals For the past ten years an ongoing project has been the development of another trimaran design the Aune 64 Expedition Model, the end product of a massive amout of real world experience. I’m looking forward to building this model in the not too distant future either for myself or a qualified customer. This trimaran is a state of the art motor-sailor that raises the bar in terms of design concept, functionality and overall capability.
The nautical influences of my life run deep as does my love of water, nature and a deeper understanding of all things. Anyone is welcome to look over and enjoy my website or to visit my facebook page. If you try to connect with me I will do my best to get back to you. Harold@HaroldAune.ca