Fun Times in Boats, Blocks, & Business
Fun Times in Boats, Blocks, & Business is the story of how the Harken brothers started a business in a rundown garage, then grew Harken Incorporated into the industry leader in performance sailing hardware — all while having fun doing it.
Their journey began in Indonesia at the start of WWII. When the Japanese imprisoned their father, Mrs. Harken escaped with Peter and Olaf to Australia, and eventually made her way with the boys to San Francisco. After surviving four long years in a brutal prisoner-of-war camp in the jungles of Sumatra, Mr. Harken was reunited with his family and eventually took a job in the Philippines. There Peter and Olaf grew to adulthood, making lasting friends along the way and getting into all sorts of mischief.
The boys returned to the United States for their education, Peter attending the University of Wisconsin, and Olaf attending Georgia Tech. Olaf continued on to Officer Candidate School and became a naval officer. On the destroyer USS Forster he survived the ferocious North Pacific storms as part of the DEW line, pulled pranks on the Soviets, and witnessed the hilarious mayhem that ensued when the Japanese navy returned to Pearl Harbor.
After leaving the Navy, Olaf joined Peter in forming a company to make sailboats designed to withstand the rigors of college sailing clubs. Outfitting the sailboats with little to no money, Peter created the famous Harken ball-bearing blocks. Hugely successful, the blocks revolutionized the sailing hardware industry and became the preferred block of the best sailors in the world. The secret to Peter and Olaf’s success, they say, was making friends and having a lot of laughs along the way.