In an era when mergers and corporate take-overs have made family boatbuilding yards an endangered species around the world, the Halvorsens maintain a history stretching back 130 years. Traditional methods and experience have been handed down through five generations of the family. Even now, with costs demanding mass production in fibreglass, timber still features prominently in their repertoire. The Island Gypsy range, and now the Solos, are significant for the dominance of wood used throughout the interiors, as linings for bulkheads and floors, and construction of fittings and furniture.
The Halvorsen boatbuilding facilities are presently based in Hong Kong and mainland China, where four yards are producing the Island Gypsy and Solo range of trawler style passage makers for the recreational market. High demand for their commercial boats was straining the production from Halvorsen Marine (formerly Kong & Halvorsen) so the company looked to expand into other yards. That opportunity came when Taiwan-based naval architect Howard Chen expressed interest in opening a yard in China and a new company known as Jet-Tern Marine was established.
Meanwhile Mark Halvorsen took control of distribution via another new company known as International Yacht Distributors. The first pleasureboats are trawler-style passage makers from the drawing board of Harvey Halvorsen. The first – a 43 – has been very quickly followed by a stretched 47, with a 58-footer not too distant.
A reworked Island Gypsy the Solo is not – Harvey created a new boat from the keel up. Looking for a vessel that was comfortable, stable and capable of long term live-aboard conditions, he produced a semi-displacement hull with round-bilge sections for’ard, flattening out into a hard chine line at the transom. With a big deep keel incorporating lead ballast, the intention was to reduce the characteristic trawler roll and produce a more comfortable motion. With so many of these boats being sold to Americans who love living aboard and taking long trips, this is a vital aspect. So too is the space and facilities provided for the intended usage. For example, here is a manufacturer who knows the importance of providing fiddles for benches and tables. No matter how stable a boat may be, these raised lips save so much in cleaning up and broken galley and table wares.
The Solo 47 we tested – based at Halvorsen’s Marina at Bobbin Head in Sydney – was the first Solo not to have gone to an American buyer. And as you board the craft it’s not hard to see why this boat is so popular in the US. The aft cockpit is not enormous and there are wide side decks, high gunwales and sturdy handrails leading readily to the foredeck, pilothouse or to the flybridge. However, it’s the internal configuration that’s the real bonus. The central galley is a knockout. It is superbly set out and equipped, being built for on-board living with every conceivable accessory and plenty of space to work. This “kitchen”, as in many homes, will be the centrepiece of the saloon around which guests chat and enjoy a snack and a few drinks. The nearby lounge is another place to sit back and relax while the autopilot takes control. There is even a “watch commander’s” berth tucked behind that lounge. Stairs either side of the galley lead to the pilothouse or down to the twin cabin/twin bathroom accommodation.
The planning of the accommodation emphasises the cruising intents. The bow stateroom is enormous, with a large island berth and ample hanging and storage space. The ensuite is just as decadent and has the luxury of a bath. The second cabin has twin over/under berths and this can double as secondary storage for longer trips if only a couple are living aboard. Folding doors allow the cabin to be opened up to the communal companionway; with laundry facilities located at the base of the stairs, this extra space is a bonus.
Also tucked back aft is the door to the engineroom, and once inside I found one of the neatest and workable arrangements I’ve seen for some time. Admittedly there is only one engine, but there is a lot of other equipment for air conditioning, 9.5hp generator, hot water, water and fuel tanks, and everything is just so well planned.
Every attempt has been made to not only make service and maintenance easy, but regular on-going checks by the owner a simple chore. The extent of insulation is outstanding as well, its effectiveness evident from the low noise levels in any of the cabins or the saloon deck immediately above.
Power for the 47 is provided by a single Cummins 6BT5.9M1 continuous duty 220hp diesel engine. This engine is de-rated from the 270 model and will propel the Solo all day long at a 9-9.5 knots at 2100rpm. For a genuine bluewater machine, speed is irrelevant. That 9 knots is done with exceptional ease, while at 1000rpm the Solo makes 5.5 knots. Though it is very manoeuvrable under the influence of the single prop, a bow thruster enables the boat to be put where you want it.
Being designed for passage making and live-aboard cruising, the Solo has just about every conceivable piece of equipment you could want. Around $900,000 will get you a fully equipped Solo with all the trimmings.