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A Viking Adventure

James Howard

Golden Hind IV
Albin Vega
June 19th, 2016

Today I spend the day packing my gear bag… Clothes, under gear, shirts, socks, deck shoes, boots… Still slightly in shock that I got the long awaited email.

A year ago, I heard of this amazing project originating in Norway. A country on the other side of the globe. A 115 ft Viking ship has been built and is preparing for an expedition across the Atlantic. Stopping in Iceland, Greenland and eventually on to Canada, with a transit through the St.Lawrence, then through the Great Lakes and on to New York.

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As any sail junkie would, I jumped at the chance to sail aboard this vessel. They were looking for applicants, people who would be willing to put everything on hold; to be a part of history, as the first truly Norwegian viking ship transited Canadian waters in hundreds of years.

I held my breath and filled in the application. I jotted down my credentials: sailed the Pacific – check; circumnavigated Vancouver Island in my ‘vega’ – check; etc. Then I stopped and thought… These men and women who are building this ship with traditional tools to original specs are pouring their passion into this vessel. So more than credentials and sailing stats, they want to see more. I condensed my experience and filled the paper with what sailing means to me. Setting the sails, the feeling only a mariner knows as the wind fills the canvas. The light thump as the sails pull tight and the rig pulls the ship forward. The hundreds of nights spent laying under the stars, swinging on the anchor after a long day on the wind. The taught skin, the wet socks, the salt on the lips in a gale. Where a sailor is at peace and others may be wary.

Weeks turned to months, months turned through a new year. Life is busy and my own plans progressing to set my sails south in the Golden Hind IV. Until the call came. A sweet Norwegian lass made contact. They read my application and felt what I wrote. Out of over 4,000 applications worldwide, they chose a solo sailor from the west coast of Canada to sail the leg from Quebec City to Chicago. “Are you still interested?” they asked.  My whole body reacted: YES! How could I say no? The route will visit Quebec City; Toronto; transit the St. Lawrence; Fairport Harbor, Ohio; Bay City, Michigan to Chicago, Illinois. Not to mention sailing through cities like Montreal and Detroit! Now the logistics: shut everything down here, get the pets looked after. I am a working man so I need to book a month and a half off. Thanks to my work for being supportive!

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This leg of their expedition hits all the Tall Ship festivals. To transit the channels through these cities, accompanied by galleons and other square rigger tall ships, will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A far cry from sailing my Albin Vega through the West Coast Canadian coastline. with my four legged first mate, Duke.

I am humbled by the chance, which Draken Harald Hårfagre has given me. This organization is fulfilling a dream this sailor has carried for so many years. And what better way to watch the Canada Day fireworks in Toronto than from the deck of a Viking ship?! Or my 43rd birthday, sailing Lake Huron! This really is what sailing is about for me. Challenging myself while making friends with like-minded people from other corners of the globe. Spinning yarns of sailing the seas so foreign to me. And as a side thought, I have clocked thousands of nautical miles on salt water, but zero on fresh!

If you are not familiar with the Draken Harald Hårfagre Expedition, watch this video.

I look forward to sharing this experience with you all! So, stay tuned.

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