Saturday, May 4, 2013

Gyrfalcon: News From the Long Ship Company


To learn more about the merry band of the Longboat company click on this link

Its Spring, and in Maryland Spring means the start of the turning out in force of the Maryland Vikings. No they are not a professional sports team unless boat building, boat sailing and rowing in non races, and consuming vast quantities of mead, ale, and mutton (or burgers and beer,what ya got?) counts as sport. No these are Viking Vikings who do what Viking do, cavort about in strange head gear, build incredibly small, but incredibly  seaworthy craft and row and sail them about in search of a good time. But like Captain Jack Sparrow they regard the Viking "rule book" as "more of a list of suggestions" and occasionally simply buy a museum surplus boat, leaving more time for consuming vast quantities of mead and ale ( or whatever ya got). They do have one really strange custom that is clearly a modification from ancient Viking practices. Once in while they pack up a smaller boat, some tents, and skilled women folk and head out to a Chesapeake Bay area park. There for the sake of the education of the next generation the women demonstrate the womanly Viking arts (virtually all skills required for living except looting and pillaging). The men demonstrate the Viking skills of consuming vast quantities of mead, ale, and mutton ( or whatever ya got), talk about the boat, and occasionally remind everyone of the important contribution of Viking men to the otherwise female run Viking society, namely roving, looting, and pillaging and bringing the accumulated loot home to hearth and kin.

 Gawd! I always wanted to be a Viking! For years I lived full time in Maryland but had my nose to the grindstone from 4: AM to 7: PM most of the time leaving very little time for traditional looting and pillaging. Then I had to go home to Louisiana for a protracted stay, which was OK in winter. But spring comes and alas the looting and pillaging goes on without me. I said it last year when I missed fitting out season. "The Long Boat Company, they have an effect on me like wilderness. I may not be able to get in the longboat often, but I have to know it is out there somewhere for the good of my soul! That last great free maritime society on earth where men can be men, and women are more or less, kinda sorta, OK with it." Below is William's description of the Gyrfalcon, the long ship Company's portable boat and pictures from one of this Spring's events. From now through October there is no better place to be on earth than in the Chesapeake country; home of the last free  ranging Vikings! If God has better place in these seasons he kept it for himself!

Photo from the LongShip Company WebSite

The GYRFALCON was built in about 1980 by a maritime museum in Beaufort, North Carolina, as a class project for their wooden boat school.  It’s 22 feet long, built from plans drawn of an archaeological find in Gokstead, Norway, dated to the 9th Century.  The original was found buried alongside a 79 foot warship.  In that context, it was a dinghy or tender for the larger ship. However, the same type of boat would have been used all over Scandinavia as a family boat, to fish, carry produce to market, or row across the fjord to borrow a cup of sugar from Aunt Helga.  The original was quarter split oak with iron clinch nails.  The museum couldn’t get real oak planks that wide any more, so they substituted marine plywood.  They also used copper rivets, similar to those available from Tandy Leather.  The plywood is lighter than oak, so this boat needs at least two people on board to ballast it down so that it’s stable.  With two to four people aboard, it handles well under oars or sail.  After they finished building it, the museum tried a “how many clowns can you stuff into a Volkswagon” experiment.  I think they got about 9 people on board without shipping water over the gunwales.  The Longship Company bought it in 1982, after the museum had it on display for a few years and needed space for other things.
 The Gryfalcon under oars, photo from the Longship Company web site. We apologize that not only were we unable to get the recent photos of the recent spring event up on the various browsers but the the pictures that were on Google Chrome disappeared after less than 24 hours. We've provided some photos from the Longship Company's web site We love the very idea of the Longship company but we would be remiss if we didn't mention that they do have some serious purposes in the way of historical research and building traditional viking craft. If you need to know that a Viking troop is alive and well and living in Maryland the serious efforts of the tribe could use and do appreciate donations. To learn all about America's Vikings click on

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