“When you tell people you sail a Viking ship in your spare time, you tend to gain a little bit more respect from them …”
Michaell Svendsen (31), comes from Birkerød in Northern Sjælland. He is currently studying finance in Copenhagen. In his spare time he enjoys canoeing, camping, hiking and foraging. His love of the outdoors has pushed him to overcome his fear of drowning and sail, not once but twice, with Denmark’s largest Viking longship.
2016 was your second voyage with the Sea Stallion, what made you return? It’s an awesome adventure with many interesting people to meet, share experiences and converse with. You get to socialise with people from different backgrounds, age groups, cultures that you wouldn’t otherwise get to associate with and I think that helps you grow as a human being. I’ve always been interested in the Vikings, my Mom used to read the old Sagas to me when he was a little boy. Even when I played with Lego it was Historical Lego.
Are there any speical moments from the voyage that stand out? When we were passing Moon’s Klint and I was sitting in the lofting watching the sunset. The night was opening in front of us, Moon is the darkest place in Denmark with very little light pollution, so you can see the most stars. We experienced a magical sunset with the sound of the waves against the ship. I found it to be almost a spiritual experience.
You like spending time outdoors, had you sailed before? When I was at boarding school I sailed for a week – I was sea sick the entire time! I never really wanted to sail after that. Then when I saw that the Sea Stallion needed crew I decided to give myself that experience; to sail for a week and see if I’d like it. I loved every minute of it.
I still remember the first time we got into strong wind and we had to reef the sail, I found myself hanging off the side of the ship tying knots and had a complete adrenaline rush; I never felt so alive. Then suddenly the sail became tight and everything became quiet and then everyone sat down and started drinking coffee and eating biscuits.
There is so much physical work involved, if you don’t put the work in, you don’t fit in. Everyone is there to contribute and you get to see what other people are capable of, it’s an interesting social experiment. You can see people’s limits, which is interesting. You start to get a feel of what people are made of; what they are and aren’t capable of. If they are the type of person who will take initiative to carry out a task or wait for someone to ask them?
If you had no previous sailing experience I imagine there must have been some challenges? Keeping a level head. There are a lot of opinions about what should and shouldn’t be done. Personally I don’t have the experience. What tests me most is when people who aren’t in command have opinions about how the sail should be set or where we should go. I learned to pee off the boat this year. Shitting on board wasn’t easy and being surrounded by people while I had to use the toilet. That really pushed my boundaries, after I overcame that obstacle I was very proud of myself.
Sleeping in the midship section on the night sails was tough; it was really cold at night. If it’s raining heavily then there’s nowhere to hide. But that hardcore aspect is part of the experience. The women don’t complain, they just put up with it. It’s an extreme experience which goes back to learning about yourself; how much you can take, constantly challenging your own boundaries in a safe environment. As you push yourself, you feel proud with what you achieve.
Do you have a favourite destination that you sailed to with the Sea Stallion? What’s really wonderful is that you have the rare opportunity to visit small islands and harbours that are difficult to access if you don’t have a boat. Last year we went to a rock in western Sweden and spent the night there. This year we went to the tiny island of Fejo which is beautiful and in Røsnæs we hitched a ride with a really old man in his late 80s who was almost completely deaf and drove very slowly with his left indicator on the whole time, that was hilarious!
Has it made you look at Denmark in a different way? It has enabled me to meet people from different places and see Denmark in a geographically different way. It also has given me a deeper understanding of my own heritage.
Has it helped you gain a better understanding of the Vikings? When you tell people you sail in viking ship in your spare time, you gain a little bit more respect from them! You get to experience how tough it is sailing on a Viking ship. Today, we have help and modern navigation. What did the Vikings do? I imagine they had to be VERY prepared. It would be interesting to spend a week sailing only with the provisions the Vikings had.
What would you like to do next with the Sea Stallion? I would really like to try sailing further afield. I’ve always had a fear of drowning, that was one of the reasons I shied from sailing before. It could be interesting to sail with the boat on a longer journey, for example to the Mediterrean.
If you think you have what it takes to sail the high seas on a reconstructed Viking longship, the dates have now been finalised for the Sea Stallion’s summer voyage, leaving Roskilde on the 14th July and returning on the 5th August 2017.
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