Thursday, September 10, 2009

Finding Valgerda

One evening while I was rowing up the Wishkah River, I passed a kayaker paddling downstream. On his fiberglass kayak he had fashioned a pretty good likeness of a horse's head out of Bondo. The figurehead was not very large, but it made a big impression on me. I wanted a figurehead on my boat! Of course it would not be a horse, but a Norse dragon. I had taken up carving to augment my woodworking skills about a year earlier, so found a suitable dragon design, some Alaska yellow cedar and started carving.

It didn't take me long to realize that a dragon head would look a little silly on a Chamberlain dory and since I felt the need for a larger boat I looked to the descendants of Viking vessels for a design.

I am impressed with the designs of Iain Oughtred and for a long time I thought his Ness Yawl was the boat for me. It was about the right length and had a Nordic heritage, by way of the Shetland Islands, but I found myself more and more drawn to it's predecessor, the faering. Oughtred, at the time, also had a faering, Elf, in his design catalog, but at 15 feet it was too small for my purposes, so I kept looking.

I remember the thrill I felt when I discovered Valgerda, a design by John Atkin. Here was the boat I was looking for! In the early 1950s Atkin spotted a faering that had been imported from Norway and took the lines off the boat to use as the basis of his July 1952 design. William and John Atkin used the design as one of their monthly articles in MoToR BoatinG magazine. Her Viking heritage is apparent at first glance -- the graceful sheer and double ends that sweep skyward ending in long stems. She's long and low in the mid sections, just made for rowing.

In June 1992 Mike O'Brien featured Valgerda on the cover of the second issue of Boat Design Quarterly. He said of the design, "Valgerda (is) a nearly perfect Hardangersjekte.... The hull design for the handsome jekte (Norwegian for this type of boat) should be credited to generations of builders along the shores of the Hardangers fjord, Norway. We're told that these double-enders enjoy a reputation for hard work and possess rough-water capability comparable to our peapods and Sea Bright Skiffs."

O'Brien had experence with this design beyond just looking a lines on paper. He rowed a boat built to these plans. Of it he said, "Between strokes, Valgerda's considerable momentum could have carried her into the middle of next week. She loved rough water and had sense enough to mush through the small waves and ride over the big ones. Rowing this boat was pure joy -- or would have been if the builder hadn't installed a centerboard trunk."

This was my boat! A dragon figurehead would look just right on her. I ordered the plans from Mrs. Atkin.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your encouragement. I have moved my Dark Secret blog to a new location. It is posted in the last update at the previous location.