The Draken Harald set sail from Norway on April 26th, a full two days after its originally intended departure, due to weather conditions.
Within the first 24 hours at sea, one of the standing rigg snaps (a mast shroud) and must be replaced. Mast shrouds are involved in holding the mast upright, rigged as they are to bilaterally exert tension along the height of the mast. A weakness in the riggs compromises the stability of the mast.
Under the command of Captain Björn Ahlander, the ship makes an unexpected stop in Lerwick, in the Shetlands. The shrouds are untied, the electronic equipment strung to the mast has to be carefully disconnected and the mast is lifted from the boat with the help of a crane.
On April 30th, three days after its unplanned stop in Lerwick, the Draken sets sail again, headed for the Iceland.
After a rough crossing from the Shetlands to the Faroes, the ship docks in Torshavn on May 2nd. Although the captain and crew are eager to carry on with their journey, less than favourable sea conditions force the ship to remain harboured. The captain declares, “The North Sea, in a storm, is not a healthy place. For any ship.”
After some delays in the Faroe Islands, the ship sets sail again and arrives in Reykjavik on May 10th to a welcoming crowd. At this point, it will have taken the Draken Harald 16 days to sail from its home port of Haugesund, Norway to Iceland (a delay of 9 days from its planned arrival, originally anticipated for May 1st). Under favorable seafaring conditions, the crossing from Norway to Iceland could take as little as 7 days.
With modern day technologies, weather systems are now trackable and wind conditions are predictable. This helps captain Ahlander plan, stay or modify his course.
The Vikings of old did not have such luxuries, and, at times, found doom on their sea voyages. Such demise is recounted in the colonizing of Greenland’s eastern settlement (present day Narsarsuaq), then under the dominion of Erik the Red (circa 985 AD). Of the 25 ships that set sail , only 14 made the crossing. The 11 missing ships (filled with entire families and their belongings) were suspected to have either sunk or sailed back to their port of origin.
On May 16th, the Draken sets sail toward Greenland, through a blue haze blanketing the sea. The route will be long on open waters (an estimated 6 days depending on wind and weather conditions).
On May 21st, the ship docks in sunny (but cold!) Qaqortoq, in Greenland, a full day ahead of schedule. Rounding cape Farewell (Kap Farvel), the southern tip of Greenland, the crew is greeted with the majestic sight of icebergs drifting along.
So far the Draken has accomplished most of its transatlantic journey, with its next stop planned in St Anthony, Newfoundland, Canada. The port is near l’Anse-aux-Meadows, the location of the Viking settlement established by Leif Erikson and his crew, a 1000 years ago.
To the men and women who live the dream of sailing the seas as their ancestors once did, we salute their tenacity, hard work and resilience, being faced as they are with the risks of the journey. They embody the strength and determination behind human endeavours and the endless curiosity of the mind, eager to discover what lays beyond the stretches of the horizon.