Christian Jensen

Nationality: Norwegian
Years: 1870 – 1949

Christian Jensen is considered to be among Norway’s top builders of wooden boats, and his production included everything from pleasure boats to ice-cutters.

Jensen was connected to Vollen in Asker throughout his life, an area with deep roots in the ship-building and sailing industries, and he began to take a great interest in boats and sailing in his early years. After spending a few years at sea he took up a position as an apprentice under the well-known pleasure boat builder. Søren Gudmundsen in Vollen. He displayed considerable talent as a craftsman and a builder, and became a master of his craft in 1893.

Norwegian sailing sport came to the forefront toward the end of the 1800s. The sailing brothers Ernst Anton and Gustav Adolf Sinding had close ties to Gudmundsen. The latter was head teacher at the Kristiania School of Technology, and after becoming aware of Jensen’s special talents, Sinding persuaded him to educate himself further, first at the Royal School of Art and Technology, with a further three years as Sinding’s personal student. In 1897 and 1898 Jensen took two sabbaticals, one of which was with a stipend, to leading British and German yacht builders. He used this theoretical and practical training to start his own pleasure boat yard at Vollen in 1899.

It wasn’t long before the orders started coming in. There was a big market for regatta and pleasure sail boats, and Jensen soon became well-known for his solid construction skills at a time when increasing demand for speed had been at the expense of quality. At first he built boats according to drawings made by other, well-known designers, but he was soon delivering boats based on his own plans, where good sailing ability was combined with first class craftsmanship

In 1905 Johan Anker, was Norway’s top pleasure boat-builder and during the early 1900s he was Jensen’s partner. This was a fusion of Anker’s ideas and artistry and Jensen’s exacting compilations and craftsmanship. Anker & Jensen A/S became one of the leading yards in Europe, building a long line of top-of-the-line sailing boats for Norwegian and foreign clients. This quality can be confirmed by the fact that many of these boats still exist.

Jensen left the firm in 1915 and founded a new yard, Christian Jensen’s Shipyard, the following year. This was located at the former Arnestad located in Vollen. He built a few more pleasure boats, also designing a number of others, but his focus was now on larger more commercial boats. The first was Roald Amundsen’s polar vessel, Maud, which was completed in the autumn of 1917. Amundsen wanted a shallower ship then Fram, but with the same load capacity. Jensen was both designer and builder on the project and Maud was able to meet all of Amundsen’s requirements. Jensen also delivered the famous seal hunting craft known as Veslekari and a couple of motor cargo ships, but a poor market at the start of the 1920s lead to a change in the business from building and over to repair work. In later years he also worked as a technical consultant for Soon Yard. In total, Jensen was responsible for the delivery of more than 400 small and large high-quality craft.

Roald Amundsen and Christian Jensen in the boatyard of Vollen, Oslofjorden.Boatbuilder Christian Jensen with Roald Amundsen at the boatyard in Vollen. New built Polarship Maud rigged and ready to leave Vollen in the spring of 1917

Even after they parted company, Jensen and Anker held a mutual respect for each other. Toward the end of the 1930s Anker again wanted Jensen to take over the old yard, but Jensen felt he must decline the offer. He was, however, active in the designing and construction of ships up to the end.

Christian Jensen was a retiring man who shunned publicity, but he did like to retell stories of his time spent with our great polar explorers. In a eulogy published in the magazine Seilas Halfdan Hansen wrote among other things “Jensen’s entire demeanor exuded goodness and honesty, and one was always uplifted after spending time in his company (…) Jensen was also very generous – particularly to his employees and the local inhabitants. He was also a devout Christian.”

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