Canada · Inspiration · Sailing · Vikings

Aboard the Draken

When the Draken was moored in Quebec City last week, I decided to take a 3-hour road trip to see the Viking ship for myself. The thing is, sometimes, it’s all about timing.

And this time, my timing was off.

The night before leaving, I heard from the Draken’s media team that the ship was set to leave the day I was planning to arrive in the province’s capital, with no further confirmed stops in Quebec.

Strike 1. 

I felt somewhat deflated. Immersed as I have been covering the Draken’s crossing from Norway, I just could not imagine missing the ship by a few hours.

As it turns out, the Viking longship was in Montreal yesterday, June 20th, 2016.

I was febrile! I had a chance to see it. Again.

I managed to free myself from some obligations, shuffled my schedule around ( and that of a few people’s) AND made it to Old Montreal.

Getting to the Old Port, I could see the tall mast and its red vane shifting in the wind. I was giddy. I must’ve been smiling a lot.  My cheeks were hurting.

And there it was. Sleek, minimalist, efficient and pragmatic. Viking estheticism, precision and perfection at its best. It was the Draken Harald, moored in the very town I grew up in.

I hurried along, smile stamped in place. I had to mentally pinch myself a couple of times to make sure I was NOT dreaming ( or daydreaming as I too often do).

What a beauty it was.

What struck me, as I got closer, was to see how narrow the ship is and how low the gunwale sits above the water level.

Now was time to get up close and personal.

I hurried to the bridge that leads to the ship, inwardly rejoicing at the absence of a line up.

They say that when something is too good to be true…

Well. That explained it:

Ok. Strike 2. 

No worries, I tell myself, and I didn’t left my mood shift.  At least I was standing within 20 feet of the ship. 

That’s not bad. But that’s not nearly as good as I want it to be.

After ironing out some details with the port authorities, the Draken opened ship today, June 21st, for 4 hours, instead of its usual 2.

Aboard the Draken.

There was an hour-long wait to get on board.

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As we waited, a local sailmaker, Gil Bourhis, made repairs to the massive main sheet.

Swarming the deck were dozens of people, all eager to ask crew members about the ship, its construction, life on board and the crossing from Norway.  Few of the crew were part of the original team and most had only just begun on the Draken this past week.

As I stood at the stern, the ship appeared to be wide, sturdy and imposing.

I could not help but run my hand over the thick hemp ropes, sticky, rough and stiff, heavily coiled and rampant over the deck.  There was the faint, comforting smell of pine wafting in the hot air.  It filled the senses, ubiquitous and  ever present.

Another striking feature of the Draken was the quality of the woodwork and the ship’s craftsmanship. It is an ode to perfection with impeccable joinery and an endless attention to detail.

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Joinery

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Nails in planks at the bow
 

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Gunwale carvings

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Hidden detail
When we got on board, I overhead a crewman mention that Captain Björn Ahlander would not be present today.

Oh well, I thought.  Too badReally.

Until I bumped into him at the bow.

I got my pen and my favorite book on Vikings ready (The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth) and Captain Ahlander was gracious enough to sign my copy.

The Captain is a humble man, kind with his time, and filled with welcoming words.  I told him I’ve been blogging about the Draken’s adventures since April and that meeting him was an honour.  He chuckled and seemed surprised to hear this.

Today was well worth the wait.

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The opportunity to board the Draken was amazing. Thanks are in order to the ship’s dedicated team.

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