The wind plays in Claus Laage-Thomsen’s grey hair as he stands on the landing stage in Ramsgate, four metres below the upper edge of the quay, eating his breakfast, porridge with müsli.
“Mm”, says the man who has eaten porridge every morning since the Sea Stallion departed from Dublin on 29 July. “I love porridge,” he says optimistically. You would never have guessed that he will be sailing his absolutely last trip on the Sea Stallion in an hour. A four-year love affair with the Sea Stallion is now almost over.
Claus is one of the few people who was on the Sea Stallion’s first cautious expeditions with sailing trials on the fjord in 2005, the voyage to Norway in 2006, the experimental voyage to Dublin in 2007 – and now he is leaving halfway through this year’s voyage home from Dublin. He is one of the people who have sailed the greatest distance with the Sea Stallion.
As planned, 16 new hands will join the ship in Lowestoft and 16 will leave. Not everyone can spare the six weeks it takes to sail home from Dublin. Work or family call many home. For Claus it is out of consideration for his family that he has decided to stop halfway through this year.
“I must make do with half a voyage this year. I am going to meet up with my family in Normandy for our summer holiday. Now I have taxed them enough. I would like to continue with the Sea Stallion,” says Claus, ”but the decision was taken a long time ago.
“Sailing with the Sea Stallion is fundamentally enormous fun and exciting. I really like getting to know a lot of new people. But the craftsmanship, the seamanship, they are my great interest. For 25 years I have sailed with the guild for the Viking Ship Museum’s first reconstruction, Roar Ege.
“You can always learn more on an experimental voyage like this one. I help develop new methods for optimising the sailing. I hope I will come home with some improved sailing skills that I can use on the Roar Ege.
“I have also discovered that there’s a little adventurer in me. I’m not very adventurous by nature, but there must be something hidden in me as I can feel it getting out when I’m out on the ocean.
“It’s been quite fantastic for me to get out of Danish waters, where I have pottered around with Viking ships for many years. Standing looking out over the Atlantic knowing that America ison the other side fascinates me. Meeting the large forces of nature also makes an impression. The same applies to the new ports and new coasts that rise up out of the sea, and the cliffs.”
It is well known the current 59-strong crew lives extremely close together. That has also left its mark on Claus:
“Actually, throughout my life I have grown accustomed to being very close to many people. But the Sea Stallion makes its own very hard demands because we are incredibly close together. Here I can feel that once in a while I must take a couple of paces backwards and try to create some personal space around me. So I sit alone somewhere. You have to do that, because no-one can be ‘on’ all the time.
“I would also like to use this opportunity to say ‘thanks for good comradeship’ to the rest of the crew and also for their helpfulness and our working collaboration. These are the things that have borne this project along. We have lifted in unison and everyone has felt that we’ve been part of a whole,” says Claus Laage-Thomsen.