Saturday, September 5, 2009

How it all started

I honestly can't remember when I decided to build a faering. A faering is a double-ended boat that is a direct descendant of the type of small boats used by Vikings. The word faering comes from the Norwegian word færing (Old Norse feræringr) that literally means “four-ing,”and refers to the number of oars. The small boats found with the nineth-century Gokstad ship resemble boats still used in Norway and testify to a boat-building tradition more than a thousand years old.

More to the point, they are beautiful. The kind of boat you can't walk away from without turning around for one last look. They are also amazingly seaworthy ranking with some of the best designs in the world for seakeeping ability, speed and versatility. Since the Norwegians have been building and using them for all these centuries they must have a lot going for them. Furthermore, they have had plenty of time to work the bugs out.

I've known about this type of boat for at least 30 years even though they are rare in the Pacific Northwest where I live. About 20 years ago I saw an advertisement in the local sailing magazine by a builder in the Tacoma area who specialized in building faerings. I thought then how beautiful they were and how well they fit in Northwest waters, which are so much like Norway's fjords.

One of the formative movies of my youth was The Vikings with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis. Douglas not only stared in the movie, but it was his production company that produced it in 1959. Both he and the director insisted on authenticity in everything right down to the Viking horses they borrowed from a Norwegian zoo. You won't see any horned helmets in this film. One of the amazing things about the picture are the ships: They built three replica Viking longships or dragon ships for the movie that were authentic in every detail. They also built a smaller vessel that Tony Curtis uses to escape from Kirk Douglas. That boat was a little big to be classified as a faering, but it did have four oars. There is, however, a faering in the movie that is almost exactly like the one I'm building. Kirk Douglas uses it to row out to the longship anchored in the fjord where Morgana (the love interest of both Douglas and Curtis) is held prisoner. The boat is 18 feet long, or so, and behaves like the fine lady of the sea she was meant to be in spite of Douglas's character being very drunk and rowing standing up.

My fascination with Vikings started when I was four or five years old. My grandmother, who is of Danish descent, had a beautiful Viking ship made in Copenhagen out of iron. She told me it was a replica of the ship that Lief Erickson sailed to discover Greenland. It was heavy and, fortunately, almost indestructible. The ship was proudly displayed on top of the piano and was one of my grandmother's most treasured objects. I remember on several occasions her letting me sail the ship on the living room carpet for what seemed like hours. I was in heaven. With out a doubt, it was my favorite toy while I lived with her for the first five years of my life. And for years after when we would visit one of the things I looked forward to, almost as much as her cooking, was playing with the Viking ship.

No comments:

Post a Comment