The history of the boats
In 1906, Ole Øvstedal set off on his maiden voyage with MS Gjende, beginning the history of passenger travel by motor boat on lake Gjende. Since then a total of five boats have carried passengers on Gjende, and there has been an Øvstedal at the helm of all of them.
The first boat carried 28 passengers and was built by Ole himself at Gjendeosen. Ole started off as a rower, and according to the 1905 travel handbook for Gudbrandsdalen, the fare for being rowed to Gjendebu was 3.20 kroner. If you were in a hurry, you could hire two rowers, but then the price would be 6 kroner.
Ole Øvstedal soon got to know Vågåfjellet well and it occurred to him that the increasing numbers coming to Gjende could form the basis for a new business. He employed his own carpentry skills to build the boat and quays. All the equipment and materials that were needed were brought through Sjodalen in the winter by horse. The boatbuilders of Gudbrandsdalen did not have the expertise needed for this work, so Ole brought in people from his home area of Tresfjord.
It took three summers to build the first boat. For the first few years, the boat went when it was needed and carried both passengers and goods, and now and then even cattle. In 1911, the fare was NOK 2.75. A round-trip ticket was NOK 4.
Harald Øvstedal (centre) on Gjende I
In 1931, Harald Øvstedal (centre) took over the operation of the Gjende boats, and continued until well into the 1960s, when son Kåre took over. This photograph was taken before the first boat was renovated and extended in 1930.
Gjende I, now with a cabin built on.
By the 1930s, passenger numbers had increased and MS Gjende became too small. In 1930, workmen were engaged to extend the boat by two metres. This increased the capacity to 35 persons. The old engine was also replaced and a cabin was built. They even added a WC – with hand pump.
The Gjende boat became more and more important for people who worked along Gjende. Everything became easier when goods and equipment could be transported by boat. Gjendesheim gradually developed into a local hub, with buses and trucks and increasing numbers of tourists. This photograph was taken towards the end of boat number 1’s useful life around 1955.
Gjende boat number 2 was launched on 17 June 1956. 50 years had passed since Ole Øvstedal had launched the first boat. By now there was a motor road to Gjendesheim through Sjodalen and the road over the Valdresflya pass had opened the year before. M/B Gjende was registered for 64 passengers. This meant that capacity had almost doubled. The old boat was still used for transporting animals until 1960. M/B Gjende was built to Harald Øvstedal’s order by the Skorgenes yard at Vestnes. During the 1960s the summer traffic increased and capacity was once again tight. In 1969, the boat was extended to take 84 passengers. By now, Kåre Øvstedal had taken over. After completing its service on Gjende, M/B Gjende took on a new lease of life on lake Lodalsvatnet in Kjenndalen under the name M/B Kjenndal.
Gjende III was built at Vestnes by Ås Mekaniske Verksted and arrived at Gjendeosen on 6 July 1982. 100 passengers could now be carried, and the boat also had a fixed crane. This was a great improvement for the boat’s carriage of goods. Gjende III was sold by season 2016.
Gjende IV was bought in 1991 and was registered for 48 passengers. There was so much demand for transport to Memurubu that it was necessary to purchase another boat. This had been built in Sweden in 1968 and had been in use there as a passenger vessel before it came to Haugesund.
Gjendine, built in 1990, was bought from Rødne in our jubilee year 2006. Until then, it had been in service in the Stavanger area, as a school transport and for sightseeing in Lysefjorden. At that time, its name was Clipperskyss. This is a fast boat with room for 80 passengers. Gjendine came to us in 2006. It replaced Gjende IV and is one of the two boats operating scheduled services on Gjende today.
In 2017, a brand new catamaran was set in traffic at lake Gjende. The boat makes 19,9 knot and carries 97 passengers. The boats was transported over land from the west coast in three parts and assembled at lake Gjende 1000 meters above sea level.
Kåre Johan Øvstedal (1944-2016) was third generation captain at Gjendebåten. Every summer and autumn thorughout his life, he ferried hikers into the heart of Jotunheimen.
At Kåre Johans birthday, June 13th 2017, the new boat at Gjende was baptized in his name. In this way, Kåre Johan will continue to sail lake Gjende for many years to come – to the joy of new generations of hikers and us that loved him.