Danish for beginners: sorry, eyeblinks, bicycles and cow turns

It’s time we spoke about speaking, as in communication, as in the fact that everyone on The Sea Stallion speaks Danish when they sail. The first time I sailed in 2015 I had studied some Swedish and German before. So I thought, this shouldn’t be too difficult since they all come from the same branch effectively. Sure even a certain percentage of English comes from Norse, the language of the Vikings. I was very much mistaken.

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After Icelandic, I’d say Danish is the most difficult of all the Nordic languages. Many forgeigners who move here prefer to survive on English unless they’re intent on staying for the long term, in which case they eventually give in, availing of the State’s generous free Danish courses for foreigners. The Swedes and Norwegians are understood by the Danes but have huge difficulty understanding the Danes when they reply, especially when it comes to numbers. Something about counting in multiples of 20 way back when people sold herrings on a stick in batches of 20. For one of Europe’s most liberal nations the Danes sure are sticklers for tradition! I recently overheard a Dane giving a Norwegian their phone number, after about three attempts they just reverted to English. I’ve seen Swedish tourists speak English to the Danes, which really is insane as they’re languages are more or less different dialects of the same tongue … if you go back a few centuries.

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A passing cyclist in Hou, Eastern Jutland 2015

It has now been 12 months since I moved to Copenhagen. So far, I’ve attended six months of Danish classes, that’s 207 hours, and you know what I discovered today? The word “Beklager” (‘bi-clay-er’: sounds like … “brick layer” but without the “r”) which means sorry. I came upon it while sifting through various posts online about learning Danish, trying to understand why I had no anxieties about sailing a 30m long Viking Ship but was sick to my stomach when I tried to order a coffee in Danish. We didn’t learn “Beklager” in class, we learned “Undsklyd”, which literally translates as ‘Unfault’, the equivalent of ‘Pardon’ or ‘Excuse me’. Infact we didn’t learn to ask, ‘How are you?’, until week 8 of beginners Danish. Why is this? Because my teahcer explained, it’s complicated – apparently for a Dane to ask you, “Hvordan går det?”, you’re either terminally ill or it’s the first time they’ve seen you in years.

It’s not that the Danish, as a nation, are impolite, far from it! A common way of asking for a coffee in Danish is to say “Må jeg bede om en kaffe tak”, which translates as, ‘May I pray for a coffee thanks. And there are many different ways of saying thank you, “Mange tak” ‘Many thanks’, “Tak skal du have”, ‘Thanks shall you have,’ and my favourite, as an Irish woman who takes gratuities to a whole new level, “Tusind tak”… ‘A thousand thanks’, or ‘Thanks a million’ as we like to say in Ireland not when someone saves us from drowning but when they hold the door open for us. Back in 2015, my first sailing buddy, Emil, tricked me into saying, “Tusind laks” really quickly instead. That means, ‘A thousand salmon’. Which, if said fast enough, people didn’t notice or else they were too polite to correct the dear Irish girl who was trying to master their linguistic Mount Everest of a language. My current favourite phrase is “Om et øjeblik”,  which literally means ‘In an eye blink’ – English equivalent … ‘In a moment’.

So back to the coffee conversation. You see, I like my coffee and that’s my chance to practice with strangers, the next hurdle though if they do understand is when they answer back in Danish and you don’t understand what they’ve said! Because there’s a million different ways of saying things and they have different accents, and they speak really fast, mumbling and swallowing half of their words, ESPECIALLY in Copenhagen!! There were actually a number of complaints made recently to DR, the Danish broadcasting company because the Danes themselves couldn’t understand actors because they were mumbling so much.

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Known as “Bestemor” or ‘Grandmother’ bikes, these are pedalled by all ages and sexes with the basic function of getting from A to B in one of Europe’s flatest capitals

You see the key to being cool in Copenhagen is to appear to not make any effort. Not just with the way you, or rather don’t bother to, pronounce things, but also the way you look and what kind of bike you ride – I’ve never seen so many bikes that look like they were driven over by a tank after being fished out of a canal – buckled wheels and rusty chains are a thing here!

Apparently half of the bikes in Copenhagen are stolen, which is about the only thing that seems to be acceptable to steal here. You can leave your child asleep outside on the street in its pram or your Mac Book and iPhone unattended in a public library and nobody is going to touch your things. The level of trust is incredible, just not when it comes to bicycles. Apparently many Danes have admitted, on occasions, to grabbing the closest set of wheels when trying to bike home after necking back a slab or two of Tuborg of a Saturday night. Last weekend a friend told me a bike doesn’t last longer than two or three years in Copenhagen.

I had a conversation with a Canadian hairdresser last week who told me that the women in Copenhagen generally preferred to walk out of the hairdresser’s with wet hair rather than a coiffered blow dry. I’ve actually done this for years, but felt bad after he said it, I let him blow dry it and went straight home and re-washed it and let it dry naturally. But you see, we’re too afraid to just be honest and say, ‘That’s fine thanks you can leave it at that’. Maybe it’s not about looking like you haven’t made an effort but being less self-conscious and at ease with what beauty nature has given you.

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A tandom racer

So, you see it’s not just the incredibly difficult pronounciation and the Shakespearean-like word order you have to master when learning Danish. You need to know the subtle nouances, cultural references, regional accents and constantly shifting adjectives, which apparently the Danes often mispell themselves. Mastering the written language is not the difficult part, it’s practicing the spoken that is the tricky one, especially since most people have almost perfect English and are more than happy to practice it. They’re also not used to hearing forgeigners speak Danish – only 6 million people speak it in the world, there are almost twice as many people learing Irish on Duolingo than Danish (only aroun 5% of people in Ireland use it on a daily basis). Native English speakers hear different pronounciations of English everyday. It’s difficult to motivate yourself to practice Danish because you will sound like an idiot at the beginning and the conversation will be forced and only go so far, and there’s always the safety net of English to revert back to. An Irish friend who’s been living here for over 20 years said it took her three years to become fluent in Danish, cultivating friendships were more important to her, the ironic things is now her Danish business partner has very little English, so it all comes eventually. Patience and perserverence is the key.

But then there’s the archaeologist in me who is fascinated by the layers in Danish, the stratigraphy and the linguistic evolution of the language. Many of the German words in Danish, (apperently up to 50% of the language), are old German words, which I recently realised when Swiss friends were visiting that in many ways Danish has more similarities to Swiss German. Then there’s the Norse words and the French and the English of course – it leaves you scratching your head wondering who uttered the words in the first place … were they Viking, Saxon or Norman?

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The odd thing is that I understand more Danish at Sea than on land. You see, I never sailed before so most of the sailing vocabulary I have collected on the water I couldn’t translate into my mother tongue. Every time I set foot on one of the wooden boats in Roskilde Fjord I’m at home, and the beautiful thing is that I’m beginning to notice the different accents of the people I sail with. I’m surrounded by conservations about all kinds of things, 80% of which I don’t understand. However, when an order like “Vi kovende” or ‘We cow turn!’ is yelled by the skipper, I get ready to turn the sail. (I probably should explain that this is when the ship turns by sailng with the wind, because allegedly cows turn their backsides to the wind when it blows – you learn a new thing everyday!)

The phrase I learned in Danish class wasn’t, “Hvordan går det?”, ‘How are you?’ It was, “Hvorfor kommede du til Danmark?” or ‘Why did you come to Denmark?’. My answer was not for love nor a job but … “For at sejle et Vikingeskib” … to sail a Viking ship.

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Christine, Frederikke and myself, Kattegat 2016

Meet the crew: Michaell

“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.

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Michaell building a camp fire at Rosnæs

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.

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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.

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Michaell and childhood friend Rasmus getting into the Viking spirit after a day at sea

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?

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Michaell and Christian tightening the shroud pin in the midship

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.

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Lasse teaching Michael the art of peeing off a Viking longship

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Michaell on toilet cleaning duties at Fyn

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!

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A fire on the beach at Røsnæs

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Michaell, Jophiel and Pernille attempting to identify some wild flowers from a rock outcrop in Western Sweden

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.

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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.

For more information please contact: havhingsten@live.dk

Meet the Crew: Annemette

 “Sailing is like an orchestra, with the skipper as the conductor, we must pay attention to each other”

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Annemette learning the ropes, holding the Brace whilst sailing past the famous 17km long bridge known as The Great Belt Bridge or ‘Storebæltsbroen’ that connects the Danish islands of  Zealand and Funen

Annemette Brix lives in Værløse, a suburb outside Copenhagen located on the edge of Farum Lake, where she works as a kindergarten teacher. Last summer she joined the Sea Stallion crew for two training sails before embarking for the first week of our summer voyage. She was positioned in the Agterskib, or Aftership (the rear of the boat).

Pronounced “Anna Meta”, this lady’s smile and infectious laughter has lifted me and I’m sure a lot of other crew members through many a tired moment. Last summer’s cruise around her native Denmark was Annemette’s first experience on board a Viking longship and she threw herself head first into all the tasks. Proving that size really doesn’t matter and that the most important trait you can bring to The Sea Stallion is a willingness to listen and learn. And EVERYONE has an opinion on what is the best way to do this and that; from setting up the toilet to attaching the sail to the yard, to which knot to use etc. So to a novice sailor, all of it can be slightly overwhelming. However, Annemette took it all in her stride, relishing every moment of her maiden voyage on board.

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Rowing can be quite a workout both physically and mentally, the most effective way of gaining speed is by rowing in tackt, i.e. at the same rythm. Which requires complete silence and a lot of focus.

Did you have any expectations before the summer cruise? I didn’t really know what to expect. But it totally blew my mind, so much so that I was on a high for a month afterwards.

As a new crew member, how did you get on with the rest of the crew? In such a short time I found I really bonded with my fellow crew members. There was so much laughter, they really are a great band of people. I found it really easy to connect with people, it wasn’t like at parties when you sit around making small talk. We just delved straight into things, the tasks bond people and it’s nice to feel useful to others.

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The famous blue, yellow and red colours that adorn the Sea Stallion were inspired by contemporary depictions of Viking Ships from the Bayeux Tapestries

You had no previous sailing experience, so what were the main challenges you encountered? Firstly, learning the maritime language. Even though there are certain advantages to being small in such cramped conditions, I did sometimes wish I was physically stronger. I sailed for only a week, however I still found it both mentally and physically exhausting. Partly because I had not yet learned the importance of resting whenever possible; something interesting was happening all the time and I didn’t want to miss out. There seemed to be so many to new things to take in, which was quite overwhelming.

You sailed to many different locations, were there any that stood out from the rest and why? Skuldelev harbour was emotional, it was the first place we stayed in and the location where the original ship, Skuldelev II, that the Sea Stallion was inspired by had been discovered. It was like bringing the boat home. The harbour was really small and shallow, but still the ship fit perfectly. That was an emotional day and I was experiencing things in a whole new way which left me with a very strong experience. When we finally reached the open sea in Kattegat and the ship reached its full potential, that was great fun. I also really enjoyed sailing along the coats of Zealand and seeing the land where I’ve lived all my life from a whole new perspective.

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The first evening of the summer voyage at Skuldelev Harbour

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Skuldelev Harbour

Will you sail again this year? Definitely yes, and hopefully for longer! Looking back I realised that I was completely present for the entire week, that made the experience highly therapeutic.

Have you always been interested in history? Yes, I’ve always been a history nerd. I’ve always  loved historic novels set in the past. When I was young I wanted to be an archaeologist. I think my dream job would be to work in Lejre as an interpretor, bringing the place to life.

So, has last year’s voyage given you any fresh insight into the Vikings? As regards sailing, I realised that they would have needed a steady crew to sail. The boats were probably sailed by very close knit communities, by men and women that had grown up together with very strong bonds. I think communictation would have been very important. Sailing is like an orchestra, with the skipper as the conductor, we must pay attention to each other.

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Annemette, 4th from right with the Agterskib crew

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.

For more information please contact: havhingsten@live.dk

The highs and lows of sailing with the Sea Stallion

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Karen standing in the aft ship on this summer’s sail in Kattegat

When you sail on a thirty meter Viking warship you are faced with many challenges both physical, social and indeed emotional. During these stressful periods how do you get time to yourself on a boat with a crew of over sixty? Karen Grønbæk Andersen has been sailing with the Sea Stallion since 2008, this summer she was second mate to the Skipper. Here she reveals the highs and lows of the Sea Stallion are not just on the waves it rides but also in the crew it carries.

“It was my first Night on the Sea Stallion. I’d sailed with all the other boats in the harbour at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, but never the Sea Stallion …

I went over to Lowestoft in England with this anticipation of us going out into the North Sea and it would be the hardest thing we’d ever done and it would be the most challenging situation I could ever put myself into and then we ended up waiting for 10 days before going out because there was no wind.

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Lookout watching the sun rise from the fore ship

And then we FINALLY got out to sea and I FINALLY got to sail on the Sea Stallion! On that first night I was on shift from 8pm to 12am and then I slept from 4am to 8am. I was mostly on look out and we were just diving out into the North Sea with no other ships visible and no light pollution. Just stars. You cannot describe that, I felt  such intense joy of finally being out there of finally doing this and challenging myself in this way. The camaraderie experienced with the others in the 10 days of waiting added to this joy. I went to sleep at midnight and I had worried before sailing with the Sea Stallion whether I’d be able to sleep or not. But it was not a problem, I just felt so at ease and so much at home and so calm with the sound of the waves and the movement of the boat and the hushed whispering of the people around me; it’s incredible the way that the whole ship goes quiet even though there are so many people. And then there was this ringing sound which turned out to be the wind chime that hung at the top of the stem. I didn’t know what it was at the time. I later found out when I was on lookout on the shift starting at 4 am,  it was magnificent to experience both the sundown, and the sunset from the stem of the boat as it rolled up and down upon the waves. I felt more free and joyful than I’d been for many years.

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The golden wind chime which stands at the stern of the ship, it also acts as a weather vane and is inspired by Norse engravings.

So that was my first night on the Sea Stallion. On that same voyage but on the other extreme end of the emotional spectrum when we sailed from Den Helder in Holland to Glyngøre in Denmark, we had been out at sea for 2 and a half days, on the second night we had experienced a thunder storm and the wind was picking up quickly so we had to reef the sheet a lot. They had forecast 30mm of rain within an hour and none of us believed them but it did, it really really did! I was emptying my sea boots every half hour and they would be full water. We had the sea survival suits on because the weather was bad. I was on the same shift working from 8pm-12am. When I went to bed at midnight I was completely drenched in sweat, because inside those rubber suits you can’t breath and we were working for so many hours. So, when I lay down I just got cold and I got tired because we had been out at sea for 2 days at that point. I didn’t have the energy to get up and put on dry clothes, at some point at about 2.30am I sat on the oars and was told I said, “I’m wet, I’m cold and I need other clothes.”

Then I just hung down and didn’t do anything. I had gone so far into hypothermia that I wasn’t functioning at all. So my ship mates helped me change into some dry clothes and and then I went under the covers again, but because we were all wet the covers were soaking wet and we got rained down on again. So I didn’t sleep at all. The next day it rained all day. I remember which day it was, it was the day we accidently cast the anchor while sailing at full speed at 8-9 knots and, we had to cut it off. That whole day I was so totally wrecked I just cried and cried;  I missed my boyfriend and I missed home and I missed being alone. I was hurting and I was mad and frustrated with the situation and the so-called “safety” gear that had gotten me so wet.

I was in the fore ship with twenty other people. We had erected a small tent to the stem so I went beyond it and went on look out and cried and cried because I was so exhausted. After that experience which was a real low, we talked about ways of being alone on a boat with over sixty people and we spoke about how sometimes it might be an indication that we need to be left alone when we look out to the side.

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Lasse taking some time to himself holding the midterskøde or middle sheet rope which holds the central lower part of the sail, while sailing through Østersund near Copenhagen this summer

I used that once on our voyage when we sailed this summer. One day where my body was totally wrecked after a night sail mostly because I had been holding the rudder for hours. My whole body was hurting and I couldn’t do anything. I was extremely tired, I couldn’t even close my hands. I was so angry – if there’s one thing I can’t handle about myself is when my body puts boundaries on me. I was extremely mad and I just really needed to be alone and not for everybody to be coming up asking me, “How are you doing? Can I do anything for you?” It was impossible to hide! Looking back on it I love when people do that on the Sea Stallion but when you are confronted with this helplessness that you can’t do anything about people constantly tell you, “I wish I could do something for you.” So I went to the place right between the foreship and the midship on the oars on the lee side and I just sat there looking out on the water crying. That’s what I needed.”

It’s not all plain sailing on the Sea Stallion, however the highs must out weigh the lows if so many of our crew members return to face more challenges and experience the thrills of sailing on such a unique boat.

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Karen, throwing a rope to the ship as it leaves the harbour of Lynæs

Meet the crew: Flemming

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Flemming Bornholt Hansson, 50

He is from one of the most beautiful places in Denmark , a small island in the north called Bornholm and always has a big smile for me. Flemming is a true “Bornholmer”; he speaks with a distinctive accent and always with great passion about his home. Despite his attachment to the place, he’s managed to tear himself away each summer for the last two years to sail with the Sea Stallion. He can usually be found in the foreship, where the swell of the waves can be quite unforgiving for those who suffer from sea sickness, however this is also where some of the best views can be enjoyed.

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Looking back at the view of the Sea Stallion from the look out point in the foreship

Origin and Etymology of foreship:

Middle English forship, foreship, from Old English forscip, from for-, fore- fore- + scip ship —In danish, we call it the  foreskib. See any similarity? There are many cross overs between english and scandinavian languages for nautial terms. Even in Gaelic, there are some terms asociated with ship building that come from the old norse (Viking) words. The connection between the “North Men” and the societies that were highly impressed by their impecably  designed sailing vessels is undeniable.

 

Flemming is a man of many talents, he enjoys crafting things with his hands, from turning buttons made of horn, to customising motor cycle engines. He describes himself as “an entrepreneur” or “inventor”. However, I see him as an artist, in the true meaning of the word.

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Flemming and Einar enjoying the magnificent views from the lighthouse at Røsnæs

How did you first hear about the Sea Stallion?  I was in Roskilde visiting relatives, we went to the Viking Ship Museum and that’s where I first saw the ship. When I went home to Bornholm I began researching the boat on the internet to see how I could get involved and possibly sail with it. I then applied to the guild and  was accepted. Previous to my first sail with the boat I had no sailing experience, I love to drive fast cars and motorbikes, this seemed like the kind of sea faring vessel that would suit me! I especially enjoy sailing in choppy seas with strong winds.

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Rowing in the foreship

Did you already have an interest in the Vikings?  Yes, I have always had an interest in Viking culture, however now I can appreciate much more all the effort that went into ship building, selecting trees, cutting them down; designing and working together to build these magnificent vessels took a lot of skill and organisation. Imagine what it looked like when hundreds of these ships were sailing together, imagine how many hours were involved in their production. It just shows how evolved their society was.

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The open air concert at Røsnæs

Which experiences from this year’s voyage have stood out for you?  The night sailing was very special, there is something very unique about sleeping below the stars in an open ship with so many others. When we silently sailed under the Størbæltbruen and the full moon it was pretty specular. The open air concert at Rønæs was also an evening to remember, there was a wonderful atmosphere amongst the crew and then this stunning sunset, I was nearly brought to tears!

What are the challenges for you?  The sailing get’s easier the more time you spend on the boat, I just want to keep learning, there is so much to learn about the winds alone.

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Flemming, experiencing the aftship

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the crew: Kathrine

 

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Kathrine Noes Sørenson, 33

Kathrine has been sailing with the Sea Stallion for the last four summers. One of the reasons she keeps coming back is because all the memories of Denmark’s beautiful coastlines in the summer help keep her warm during the long winter months. She’s well nown for her distinctive laugh that is postively addictive and can often be heard on the ship.

Kathrine’s interest in history is not just a hobby, she works as an education officer with the Western Sjælland Museum. While sailing she can usually be found in the midship looking after the food provisions, ensuring no one will go hungry.

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Kathrine and Thilde practicing thier knots or ‘knobs’ in Danish

What is your favourite task in the midship? I like looking after the mid sheet rope, which involves working with other crew members, mostly through eye contact, to optimise the the use of the sail.

What are some of the aspect you like about sailing with the Sea Stallion? I love the social aspect, there is a unique sense of communication on the ship, and how we all work in unison to sail this beautiful boat. Here, it seems your background is of no importance, and when we reach land after a long day, I like nothing more than relaxing, laughing and enjoying  everyone’s company.

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Kathrine watching Michael build a bonfire during the sunset on the beach at Rønæs

Is there an experience that stands out for you from this summer’s voyage? Yes, it would have to have been our overnight stay at the small harbour of Røsnæs. There, for just one short overnight stay, our crew of sixty-five created a little community at this empty harbour. We brought a small civilisation alive where there was none and the locals made us feel so welcome.

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Sunset at Rønæs

It can’t all be “plain sailing”, what are the things that you find challenging with a boat like the Sea Stallion? Sailing is not something that comes intuitively with me, I can see it in others but I have different strengths; I’ve had to work hard to read the wind and pick up the various sailing techniques. I do enjoy living it rough though you also get to live out your tomboy persona. It makes a nice change from my daily life where I need to be really organised. Here, I’m able to switch off and adopt a far more relaxed approach while still using some of my working life skills.

Has your view of the Vikings been altered by your experiences? As a historian, this experience has brought history alive for me; I have so much more respect for the Vikings and can now appreciate just how challenging their lives were and how clever they were in being able to overcome so many difficulties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the crew: Andreas

 

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Andreas having a rest in the sun on the summer voyage in 2015

Andreas Linnert, 40

After sailing for three seasons with the Sea Stallion, Andreas Linnert has a newfound respect for the Vikings and how advanced their boat building skills were, which almost makes one thousand years seem like not that long ago.

“The Sea Stallion sails as good, if not better, than a modern glass fibre boat”

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The Sea Stallion sailing on the waters at Storstrøm before reaching Vordingborg

When he’s not sailing Viking boats, as well as being a co-founder of a small independent hostel in Copenhagen, Andreas works as a consultant on EU procurement law.

How did you get involved with the Sea Stallion?  “Three years ago I met a friend of a friend who told me how amazing it was. Then when I was made redundant from my job, I decided to take some time off and do all of the things I enjoyed. Coincidentally, this friend called me at this time and invited me to sail with the ship.”

How was your first experience with the ship?  “First, we sailed inside Roskilde fjord. The ship appeared awkward and difficult to steer, after sailing modern boats it seemed complicated and a lot of hassle. However, once we sailed out of the fjord and into the open sea at Kattegat, I began to see the ship sailing at its optimal performance. At sunset, we sailed in  Hellevaderø towards Sweden. There were big waves and a steady wind which carried us at a speed of 9 knots. I was surprised at how comfortable it was to sail the ship at that speed. It proved to me that the boat was designed for sailing long distances on vast oceans; the Sea Stallion sails as good, if not better, than a modern glass fibre boat. It’s a fast and fun ship.”

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Watching the tact oar (first oar) to keep pace while rowing in the midship

For the second year in a row you have been given the role of midship room foreman. What are some of the challenges of that position? “Firstly there needs to be a balance between experienced and inexperienced crew members; it’s important that people gain a good understanding of the ship as a whole. Secondly, it’s the lead volunteer’s responsibility to make the experience fun for everybody. As midship foreman, I need to look after the needs of twenty crew members. It can be difficult to keep everyone happy as people want different things, for example some people might like to get up early, while others might prefer to have a few beers in the evening and stay up late. There will always be complications.”

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With three seasons of sailing with the Sea Stallion under your belt, are you more aware of the challenges involved in its organisation?  “One of the things I’ve learned is that sixty people cannot be ruled by one person. Sometimes, because of the three room divisions, it can seem like we are sailing three ships and not one. So, communication between the foreship, midship and aft is very important, when that balance is struck it feels like we are sailing in a more united way. A little competition on the boat can be healthy, to a point!

The crew are essentially ambassadors for the ship and the Viking Ship Museum who funded its construction. So it’s very important to maintain a good public image, especially when sailing into harbours when the public greets us.”

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Andreas (2nd right) and the midship crew July, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Crew: Frederikke

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Outside the Black House at Sejerø

Frederikke Mundus, 23

With a name like ‘Mundus’ which translates as ‘world’ in latin, at such a young age, Frederikke has indeed got the world at her finger tips. Originally from Karise south of Copenhagen, she now studies History and Danish language at Roskilde University, spending her summer months working as a tour guide with the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde and sailing with the Sea Stallion. This is her second year sailing with the ship.

How did you get involved with the Sea Stallion? “I was working at the museum and bumped into Søren the Skipper from the boat. We chatted for a while and then he suggested I join the boat guild and come sailing with them. He said he could use someone like me on the boat, I thought he was joking!”

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Lending a helping hand, Frederikke has an impressive collection of vintage woolen Scandinavian sweaters

Have you sailed before? “Yes, but only with small  skifs or ‘jolles‘in Danish, they’re 5 meters long and can carry up to 6 people. I also enjoy other water sports like kayaking and canoeing”.

What was the initial attraction to sail with the Sea Stallion? “Initially it was to experience sailing a great Viking war ship, with my interest in history and sailing it seemed like a perfect opportunity. However, what brought me back this year were the people. Through the Sea Stallion I’ve been introduced to a lot of people I wouldn’t normally meet in my everyday life. We’re like a big family; all different ages with different interests and yet we all take great care of each other. You form close bonds with people even after just one week of sailing. This is undoubtedly one of the strongest aspects of sailing with the Sea Stallion; there’s room for EVERYONE”.

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Christine, Frederikke and myself perched on the side of the ship

Are there any experiences that stand out for you from this year’s voyage? “The night sail, I wanted to be woken up to see the sunrise. I love those quiet times before dawn when most people are sleeping and you just sit a listen to the sounds of this huge wooden ship and its mast creaking and flexing, the sound of the sail billowing in the wind and of the rolling waves against the boat”.

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Lunctime or ‘frukost’, Andreas and Frederikke prepare open sandwiches for the mid ship crew in sweltering heat.

What are some of the challenges you encounter while sailing? ” Sometimes it’s hard to keep positive and in good humour, especially when you’re over tired. This type of sailing is  definitely not for those who may suffer from “people sickness”. But, still there’s always someone there to encourage you. There’s a Jutland expression:

‘Et slap på skulderen’.

Which is a very Jutland thing, to quietly pat someone on the shoulder for encouragement, without saying anything.

For the duration of the sail you seem to forget about your life back home, you’re cut off from the world. The ship is your world. Sometimes it’s difficult to show your true self when you are surrounded by so many, and without your possessions or nice clothes, however, this aspect helps to make us all feel equal”.

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Frederikke braiding my hair on last year’s voyage

Meet the Crew: Palle

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Palle Brogaard, 61

With over forty years of experience at sea, Palle is one of the most seasoned sailors on the Sea Stallion. As First Mate, you’ll find him at the very back of the aft ship or the ‘Løfting’ as it is called in Danish. Which is where he, along with a small group navigates the ship’s journey. 

How long have you been sailing with the Sea Stallion? “Five years now.”

When did you began your life at sea? “I was twenty years old when I started sailing professionally. I’ve had many jobs at sea, as a fisherman, on cargo ships, car ferries and also in navigation.”

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What makes the Sea Stallion so special? “The social aspect is very atmospheric. Everyone has a talent; you can eavesdrop on any conversation and listen to various discussions on all kinds of interesting topics, all happening simultaneously. All of these people are being carried by this beautiful ancient wooden ship. For such a simple sail, there are so many possibilities for improving its speed. It’s also very nice to see Danish waters and visit small harbours and islands.

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Palle catching up on some downtime in the Løfting of the Sea Stallion at the small harbour of Skuledev north of Roskilde Fjord.

What are some of the challenges of your role as first mate? “We try to impart our experience on others, but perhaps the biggest challenge is trying to keep over sixty people happy! We are constantly trying to find new places to visit nobody has been to before, it’s important that they leave having had a special experience. For many this is their summer vacation”.

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Palle (back right) with the other Løfting crew members. Søren, the Skipper (rear left, on horn) Morten (front left) map in hand and Torben (front right), soaking up the experience.

After a moment of gazing up at the Sea Stallion’s massive 112 m sq sail Palle turned to me with a twinkle in his eye.

“There is a story I once heard at sea about an old fisherman who spent his summer months fishing on the Scottish coasts. After saying good bye to his family, as he left the cosy Danish harbour of his hometown, he would open his window and yell,

‘Now I look forward to having some privacy … !’

That is something that is hard to come by on the Sea Stallion!”

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Waiting for the stars to make an appearance at Brorfelde Obsevatory in Southern Sjælland.

 

 

 

Meet the Crew: Annibeth Sigga

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Annibeth Sigga Noron Strømsten, 53

Annibeth was born on the Faroe Islands, she has been living in Denmark most of her life. This is her first time sailing with the Sea Stallion. However, she has sailed before where she took part in a lady’s sailing race in Jyllinge, north of Roskilde. Her interests include history and sailing and enjoys the social aspect of sailing with so many people in such a tight space.

Any challenges? “Surprisingly, having to stick to the routine of 3 square meals a day. I am used to preparing food for myself whenever I’m hungry.”

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Highlights of this trip? “Two, swimming from the boat to the coast near the Storstrømsbruen, and our night sail under Storebæltsbruen. I also enjoyed our short stop at Helsingborg, Sweden. It was nice to hear the language; I lived in Sweden for 7 years. This year I sailed for the entire three weeks, next year I’d like to divide my vacation between sailing with the Sea Stallion and visiting the Faroe Islands.”

What are the differences between sailing on a modern sail boat and a Viking reconstruction? “Even modern sail boats are more luxurious with all the modern conveniences I enjoy both types of sailing.”

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A refreshing dip after rowing in sweltering heat next to Storstrømbruen (the ‘Large Stream Bridge’) in Southern Sjealland.