Greetings, all you people out there in blogland, it's me, The Finisher, and I've just returned from The Mystic Seaport and the Viking Dragon Ship, the largest Viking ship sailing in modern times. Firstly I must say, rather embarrassingly, that this was my first trip to the outdoor museum since fifth grade when I went as part of a field trip. You can forget about the little gems all around you when they're practically in your backyard. It was a beautiful fall day today and there was quite a crowd, but I got a sneak preview of what was to come as I overheard one of the crew members of The Draken Harald Harfarge, Karolina talking about her journey with two of the members of the museum. The word she said best summed up the experience was, "cold". There is no below deck on the ship, save for the head and the crew take turns sleeping in tent on the deck. She talked of constant salt spray from the freezing water as they tried to navigate around icebergs. The cold and the wet meant that it was impractical to change out of their weather gear, and the only bit of regular hygiene they got to enjoy was brushing their teeth.
When I got onboard our guide Thomas, explained that the ship was not a replica modeled after an historic vessel that had been discovered, because none of this size had ever been found. Instead it was a reproduction using known building techniques to produce one of the kind of greatships alluded to in the sagas. It is a 25 beam boat, 115 ft long, with 79 ft mast and sail of 2800 square ft of silk. The massive sail is raised with a winch, which takes 10 people to operate and 20 minutes to raise to full height. This is not a light sail ship, in situations where wind power is not available, it is equipped with 50 oars that would theoretically be rowed by two men each, though the current crew is more like 24 eager experimental archelogists, holed up on 4 bunks in the tent. But it can't be that bad, can it? As I passed by the meager galley, what do I see but a plastic crate filled with some of my favorite condiments such as Sriracha and maple syrup, and also some smoked fish roe stuff, which is not my cup of tea. There was that bit luxury, but then I heard they tore through two sails on their trip, on second thought, it would take that and the promise of a hot cup of coco afterward to get me out there.
The Ship's Galley
Thomas tells us that at top speed the ship can do 14 knots under sail and about 2 knots with oars and describes it as very seaworthy and flexible. Like all Viking ships this one sits high on the water, with an 8 ft draft, so it can move inland on rivers and be run aground. The dragon on the prow is a status symbol much like the hood ornament on your Jaguar, well not exactly. It was meant to declare to the world that the ship belonged to a king or chieftain, in fact Harald Harfarge means "Harold Fair Hair" the ship is named after the first king of Norway who was said to have a few of these sort of dragon ships in his fleet. In addition to the dragon head there were other fine examples of woodworking around, carved knotwork, runes and two ravens.
Thomas said the ravens were a nod to the vikings of yesteryear. They were the messengers of Odin and may have served a navigational purpose as well. It is said that Raven-Floki, took three ravens with him when he set out for Iceland, when one of them didn't return he knew he wasn't far off. Where the Vikings would have sailed by the stars and, perhaps the sunstone which could show the direction of the sun through the fog. For more on how the ancient Vikings navigated their seas http://sciencenordic.com/how-vikings-navigated-world.
The Draken Harald Harfarge is equipped with modern navigational equipment. With which it has followed in the steps of Lief Ericson across the Atlantic. Starting from their homeport of Haugesund Norway they sailed to the Shetland Islands, to the Faroe Islands, then to Iceland, on to Greenland then to Newfoundland Canada, believed to be the legendary "Vinland" mentioned in the sagas. From there they sailed into the Great Lakes and back out the Hudson River and finally here to the Mystic Seaport. An epic voyage to be sure. So go see it while it's here. It's where the Charles W. Morgan usually is, Chas. Is in for repairs.
The Charles W. Morgan in Dry Dock.
See the Draken before it sails away.
Yours Truly, The Finisher
*Joshua Prescott is the lead knot tyer for the manila mat room, his nickname of the 'finisher' comes from his original role in checking and finishing our bracelets and coasters. He is a valued member of the team and a friend. This is his first blog article, please let him know what you think, and please visit the Mystic Seaport to see the boat for yourself. Josh has his own art studio, Prescott Studios