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Boating Published: Aug 7, 2008 - 2:40:53 PM

WoodenBoat Magazine editor participates in Viking voyage

By Press Release

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While the word's attention shifts to athletic events in Beijing later this week, another kind of endurance trial is taking place on a Viking ship in the North Sea, off the coast of Denmark. In a few short days, the 61 person crew of the Sea Stallion of Glendalough will be welcomed to her home port of Roskilde, by the Queen of Denmark supported by a cheering crowd of over 10,000 Danes. What they've accomplished is nothing short of a marvel - rowing and sailing from Dublin, Ireland to Roskilde, Denmark in a few short weeks, alternatively battling strong seas and light airs in their quest to complete the second round of an ancient Viking sea exploration voyage from Roskilde to Dublin and back.

WoodenBoat magazine's Senior Editor Tom Jackson joined a pool of 200 applicants for the chance to be a part of this journey, and is now one of the 61-crew members aboard the "Sea Stallion from Glendalough." Painstakingly built by the Roskilde Museum in Denmark from original lines reconstructed from actual intentionally scuttled ships in Roskilde harbor, the 98 foot replica ship is the largest of five reconstructed by the Museum. The ship is currently completing the second leg of a journey begun last summer from Roskilde, Denmark to Dublin, Ireland. The current trip, from Dublin back to Roskilde, is six weeks in duration, and is considered a full-scale "living archaeology experiment" designed to gather technical data on the boat's sea-handling abilities, as well as information on how a crew manages to work together and survive under extreme weather conditions in an open hulled ship. Hoping to dispel the cliché of Vikings as pirates, these voyages embrace the belief that they were, rather, sea explorers as well as expert boatbuilders.

Vikings built the original Sea Stallion, called Skuldelev 2, in 1042 A.D. near Dublin, Ireland. "Sea Stallion from Glendalough" is a reconstruction of this ship, excavated as a wreck from the bottom of the Roskilde Fjord in 1962. Thousands of hours of meticulous research and labor have brought it to its current navigable state. It has made several stops along the Irish and English coast in its homeward journey to Denmark, and its highly anticipated arrival date is August 9th. Thousands of spectators (including the Queen of Denmark) are expected to welcome the Sea Stallion to its homeport. The longest stretch of the journey was the challenging crossing of the North Sea, filled with hard sailing and gusts of gale force winds.

One of the biggest challenges of the journey has been keeping warm and dry. Here is an excerpt from an email recently received from Tom, describing their passage from Wicklow to Torqay:

"We were making probably 10 knots in these heavy wind and sea conditions, the ship just driving, driving through the seas, pounding into the waves forward despite the sharpness of her hull. The rain came hard, which was bad enough, but the worst was that just as you started to feel your eyes close and sleep come on, a boarding sea would come over the rail and leave you miserably wet, with a cold slap in the face. I took eight or ten of these myself, maybe more. After a while, you just don't care anymore, and it doesn't come as a surprise anymore, either. After a while, you just learn how to turn your back to it, and never let your hood come down."

While this sounds like a particularly daunting experience, Tom has also marveled at the wonderful crew camaraderie (most of whom are from Denmark and Ireland) and the incredible enthusiasm surrounding the voyage from both participants and onlookers. He observes:

"While we were gently sailing the coast, we enjoyed the ride. We raided the chocolate, grabbed peanuts and fruit, the Scottish kid Fergus broke out his flute, and all was good cheer once more. French military jets flew over in salute several times, and fishing boats came by. The ship, again, was just romping through the seas, and the miseries of the day before were nearly forgotten."

Watch for a longer narrative of Tom's trip in WoodenBoat magazine in early 2009.

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