Epic Sail

by wjw on August 5, 2016


Behold the Harald Hårfagr, or Harald Fairhair for you Anglophones.  This is the  “largest Viking ship built in modern times“— they are careful not to call it a “replica” because it’s not built to the plan of any historical vessel.  It’s arrived in North America after an epic five-week transit of the Atlantic, followed by an equally-epic struggle against U.S. Coast Guard regulations, which require any foreign vessel traversing the Great Lakes to hire a Great Lakes pilot, at a cost of $350,000 or more.  (Clearly I’ve missed my calling— I’d really like to make that kind of money for a month’s work, and have all the winter months off!)

Since the Harald was built by a bunch of enthusiasts in Norway and not a government, they didn’t have that kind of money, but thanks to a generous public and a timely donation from the Sons of Norway, they’ve made it as far as Green Bay, WI, where I am as I write this.  The only port they’ll miss is Duluth, which is a pity, because Duluth is more Norwegian than lot of towns in Norway, as I discovered when I was there last summer.  (The Finns may have outnumbered the Norwegians in that area, but they built a lot fewer monuments to themselves.)

I’ve worked hard this summer, finishing a novel, teaching Taos Toolbox, and looking after Kathy subsequent to her knee replacement, and now I’ve decided to take a few days off and have fun, and to me “fun” has something to do with boats.  So here I am in Green Bay, enjoying the Tall Ships Challenge.

IMG_3628This is the Spanish galleon Andalucía leading the small flotilla.  She’s by far the biggest ship in the fleet, 170 feet long and 500 tons.  As it happens, I am right now writing a scene taking place on a galleon, making this a timely bit of research.

Behind Andalucía is the US Brig Niagara, whose decisive action in the Battle of Lake Erie is depicted on one of my book covers.


Following Niagara is the War of 1812 privateer schooner Pride of Baltimore.  This type of vessel was known as the Baltimore Clipper, and were the most successful privateers of all time.  (More on the PoB later.)

So far I’ve only got to sail on one of the fleet, the two-masted schooner When and If, designed by the legendary John Alden at the behest of the equally legendary General George S. Patton, Jr.  It was Patton’s intention to sail around in the world, when the war was over, and if he survived.

IMG_3662It’s a lovely yare little vessel, built of teak— I wonder how much a teak-built vessel would cost nowadays?— and was handled very well by her young, enthusiastic, friendly crew.  It is now owned by New York vintner Doug Hazlitt, but my guess is the crew would like to buy her and take her on that long-delayed round-the-world cruise.  If you’ve got a few million dollars to spare, could you help the nice people out, please?

I’ll be aboard Niagara tonight for a fireworks cruise, and tomorrow I’ll board the Great Lakes schooner Appledore.  Other voyages as opportunity arises, but I’ll be home by Sunday night, working on that galleon scene.

Terry August 5, 2016 at 6:27 pm

Boy, does that look fun!

Chris Bauer August 6, 2016 at 6:20 am

Looks incredible. Bon voyage!

Susan Beaty August 6, 2016 at 2:00 pm

I hadn’t realized the Pride of Baltimore II was out of town; I’m seldom in the part of the harbor where she docks. Is the Tall Ships Challenge a race? There’s a Great Schooner Race on the Chesapeake Bay every year that some folks I know have been involved with in the past, but I stick with our sloop.

John F. MacMichael August 6, 2016 at 3:28 pm

“…to me “fun” has something to do with boats.”

As the Water Rat said to the Mole: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing–absolutely nothing–half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

wjw August 8, 2016 at 8:30 pm

Susan, the Tall Ships Challenge isn’t a race, and I don’t know why it’s called a “challenge,” because it doesn’t seem any more of a challenge than any other tall ships rally.

It’s a challenge because they say it is, basically.

wjw August 9, 2016 at 1:27 am

Spoke too soon. It turns out there were a few races, including Baltimore Clipper vs. Viking Ship.


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post:

Contact Us | Terms of User | Trademarks | Privacy Statement

Copyright © 2010 WJW. All Rights Reserved.