Vale: Kan Walker - Boat Builder

Reprinted from the Bluebird Newsletter Winter 2008

Vale Kan Walker 9/2/26 - 8/5/08

Kan Walker was a wonderful friend to me, especially over the last six or seven years. Kan finally succumbed to cancer on 9 May, bringing a great loss to many. I first met Kan in 1968 soon after buying my first vehicle. I had been helping various people plaster their ferro yachts and news of Kan's advances seemed worth investigating. There I found a man passionate about his work, showing me a sample of thin ferro cement test plank and how strong and flexible it was. I made several trips to Geelong to see his works. Kan became even more well known when he started production of his redesigned H28 in fibreglass, producing around 100 of these. This led to production of a 38-foot cruising yacht to his own design called Bird of the Islands. Unfortunately the economy at this time (1980) went against yacht sales and Kan ceased production after making only two of these yachts. Kan and his wife, Elizabeth, cruised the east coast of Australia in one of them.

I came in more close contact with Kan and Elizabeth in 2001 when I was in the early stages of building our home on the Gippsland Lakes. Kan and Elizabeth were cruising the Lakes on their last and most innovative 37-foot aluminium yacht 'Eli-Khan'. I soon learned that Kan was passionate about building generally, having built 12 houses himself as well as 168 yachts totalling 1100 tons. Our friendship grew as he helped me with my house building project, and I him to a small degree with the last house he built; again his own design, in Paynesville and at age 76. Kan sailed with me on my Bluebird 'Paramour' on several occasions, as did I on 'Eli-Khan'. The last trip we did together was sailing 'Eli-Khan' to Geelong from Paynesville in March 2007 when Kan was 81. We took it in turns to hand-steer two hours each watch until we had to shelter from south westerly winds behind Cape Woollami for two nights. Kan and I spent an enjoyable day hiking over to Newhaven and San Remo for lunch and back again. I remember the many times we stopped to make scratchings in the sand as Kan enthusiastically attempted to explain some of his many design innovations. Most of you will remember meeting Kan and Elizabeth as they attended several of our Presentation Nights. It was of course Kan who produced the beautiful scaled model of a Bluebird for Norm and Jean Price. Kan was so very free with his time and enjoyed sharing his knowledge and experience. He become almost like a father to me and has influenced my life in many ways.

Ivan Knight