The first few weeks of the semester, I took part in the Roskilde Viking Museum Viking ship sailing. The first time I sailed on a 1913 Nordic fishing vessel reconstruction with my host grandfather and host cousin. Most of the viking ships that Roskilde has, have square sails that use a boom on top, this reconstruction had two diagonal booms. This allowed us to trim the sails to “Butterfly” which is both booms extended away from the mast, in a gorgeous way.

Oar locks on the Viking ship

A week later I got to sail on a true viking reconstruction of a ferrying boat that held 16 oars, but we only sailed with eight. It was great to see how the sails work as everything is done by hand. The sail is hoisted by hand and is only kept in place by a wooden block around the mast that is held with friction. It was intriguing to experience rowing with four to a side. I was in the bow and thus got to have three people in front of me for me to watch. The rhythm was fantastic; down, pull, up, reset, down, pull, up, reset. The oar locks are interesting though as it is just an angle block that the square of the oar sits into and you press against the wooden block to generate power. I had my oar slip out of it multiple times before I got the correct form of just pulling in one line with little rocking.

That Sunday, I got the chance to sail on the reconstruction of the cargo ferry viking ship that held 16 tons in ballast, but could only row with four oars. Because of high winds in the forecast, we created a smaller sail by tying the reef knots on both the top and bottom. My job during the trip was to help with tacking, which meant untying and retying the bowline very quickly and then pulling it tight to create the correct curve in the sail. My first few times I tried it I sucked, too slow, too fast, not enough curve, etc. By the end, I felt very comfortable doing it.

Last Saturday was a “sad day” for the Viking Ship Museum, all of the larger viking ships had to be moved to land. How does one move a long wooden boat from the water to land almost two meters above? One: a lot of work to lessen the weight including removing the mast, all the rigging, the sail, the oars, all of the ballast (between 1 ton and 16 tons), and all of the interior planking. Two: setting wooden planks about 8 feet apart and slathering the tops with ox fat to get them nice and slippery. Three: get 20 people pulling a rope to lift the boat along the wood planks, and then switching to pushing the boat across the wood. (This last step was much easier than I would have thought. We all started at 9am with breakfast and a safety meeting and by 1 pm, 5 out of the seven boats being moved were out of the water and set up on land. It took almost an addition 90 minutes to move the 30 meter long “Sun Stallion” onto land, a process which involved a tow truck being the lifting weight to get the boat on land while 50 people helped support the sides of the boat so it wouldn’t tip. By 4pm, the last boats were up on land with all the coverings to protect them from the wintery climate.

Supporting the ship as it comes out of the water

I am looking forward to next semester when the boats go back in the water once the weather warms back up.

Published by Josiah

I am a 21 year old studying architecture and applied mathematics at Cal Poly in SLO. I am spending a full school year abroad in Copenhagen studying architecture at DIS

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