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 for a beautiful rowboat he was building . An interest in boats and all things marine began then.
I was lucky, growing up on a small farm at Wilson Creek, just north of Vancouver on the south coast of British Columbia. My dad 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. Unfortunately he died when I was just a teenager however he set an impressionable example. My mother knew all of the local trees, plants and fauna and we spent a lot of time together out in nature hiking and fishing. Mom’s love of nature got instilled in me. Back in the 50s and early 60s surrounded by loggers and fishermenI entrained their ‘old school’ ways and work ethics. However I also related to the turn on, tune in and drop out meme that became popular in the late 60s.
At around age 15 I discovered sailing as a potential lifestyle after reading a book by Will Dawson titled ‘Ahoy There”, . I was fascinated with the concept of 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 get an ocean cruiser together. I built a hot little 17′ speedboat and enjoyed some fast times on the water. However fast power boating rapidly lost it’s thrill and 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 with and so I helped them build their boats. I quickly determined I had enough of the necessary skills and a few months later started building my own 37’ trimaran. I named her ”Freya” after my dog. She was built in cold mould style construction with marine grade 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. Hundreds of Vietnam draft resistors were migrating onto the area and I pretty much met all of them. Building Freya was a definite learning process. Freya took over two years to construct. Before Freya was launched I had acquired and avidly read about three feet of boat construction and design books and had joined the Amateur Yacht Research Society in England. 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 using a SLR 35mm camera, a Pentax S1,and a few lenses. I learned to play guitar, another great way to meet new friends. Once I was finally living afloat there was time to read, philosophize, and simply relax and enjoy life. Living on a comfortable sailboat with virtually no expenses was a blast. Cruising costs were minimal and the wind, as always, is free.
Although great for coastal cruising “Freya” was not offshore capable . I wanted to sail across oceans. So in 1972 at Myrtle Point, south of the the town of Westview near Powell River, I built and launched my second tri, the first Kismet 31 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 on Gabriola Island, I built another one of Bill’s designs, a Kismet 37, which I named “Kyst”. I loved the name and so did all 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 south to Mexico and then west across to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. I lingered in the South Pacific 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 voyage was highly successful. I met many great fellow cruisers and also natives and expats living in the various ports of call.
By now I had a skill level that was highly developed, finding employment was easy. 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 many new boats, built them, installed engines, electricals, fuel runs, hydraulics and other systems.. Learning and expanding skill sets is fun and mentally rewarding. My technical library grew steadily larger.
In 1977 I built yet another trimaran, my fourth, on speculation, a 38′ tri, in cold molded wood construction, at the old Victoria Shipyard on Kingston St. in Victoria’s beautiful harbour. This was a co-design with Bill. I sold it to Henry and Linda Van Unen, who named it “Kyote”. They sailed it offshore a couple of times to both the South Pacific and then to 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 , after building a couple of my own design of windsurfer prototypes I founded “Airos” a windsurfer manufacturing company, Windsurfing was a ton of fun. As well as designing the boards and rigs I was able to get quite proficient at the sport. I worked with designing injection moulded plastic parts and the process of rotocasting the boards.We eventually produced a few thousand boards. Disagreements with my partners made decide to sell my shares in the company in 1981. A timely move as North American economics turned a bit sour shortly thereafter.
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 a tri design of my own for some time. In 1981 I built “Physis” a 47’ design that launched in 1982. I still own Physis and it is in great condition. Windspeed, Kyst and Kyote are also still going strong, all still actively sailing, although Freya was broken up several years ago.
After completing Physis, 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. I would row for miles often out to the White Islets where there was excellent cod fishing, or row troll for salmon, ccasionally getting caught in some nasty wind and waves. This was exciting and a lot of fun. So in 1984 when 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 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 my website or visit my facebook page. If you try to connect with me I will do my best to get back to you. Harold@HaroldAune.ca