Ola H. Nerhus, (1840-1931) was one of Norway’s most famous builders of small trading boats, jachts and Galleasses. His fame, and that of the boats he built, led to the honorific “Hardanger Jacht” a name synonymous with immensely strong, swift sailing, small trading boats. The best of these boats were built at the Nerhuson shipyard in Ølve, Hardanger, Norway.
Ola grew up in the centuries old shipbuilding traditions of Ølve. Very young he was apprenticed as a carpenter of the small yards in Ølve a location famous for its shipbuilding from before the 1600’s. In 1863 he founded his own shipyard at the seaside on Nerhus farm in Ølve, he was then 23 years old.
“He soon built an unrivaled reputation for strong well formed ships and high quality workmanship rapidly becoming a demanded shipbuilder and was the responsible model builder and surveyor for many of the most prominent “yard locations” in this region of Norway”. In 1876/77 Ola had 7 vessel under construction: 3 at Nerhus yard in Ølve, 1 at Onarheim in Tysnes, 1 at Malkenes, 1 in Strandebarm Kvam, and 1 in Varaldsøy.
From historical documents we find: “there is reason to believe that most of the Hardanger yachts sailed by the men of Tysnes were designed and built by Ola H. Nerhus”. (Tysnes had quite a large fleet at that time).
During his lifetime Ola Nerhus built over 100 such boats. Several of which still survive today. Considering these boats traded in some of the world’s roughest seas for over 100 years this is a true testimonial to his skills and experience.
Ola H. Nerhus built ships from 1863 to 1906 when his son Jens continued the tradition by building another 76 vessels on the same location in Ølve. In 1950 Jens`s son, Olav continued the tradition. The last ship was delivered from the Nerhus in 1963.
According to Lars Nerhus a maritime historian and great grandson of Ola Nerhus, who still has Vega’s original half model and body plan, “”VEGA” was well known as a great ship. She was a (true) Hardanger yacht, (Originally) rigged up with one mast and with that typical hull-form and heart shaped stern”. “I was always told that “Vega” was the best and strongest yacht he (Ola Nerhus) ever built”!
Ola also built the historical vessel “MATHILDE”, restored by Hardanger Fartøyvernsenter in Norheimsund in 1984-89