Rudder and tackle - The steering element

In the Viking Age, the rudder on ships and boats sat on the starboard side (the name deriving from styrbord, the Norse term the boards (planks) in the side where you steer the boat, hence, steering-board). This gave rise to some challenges, one of which was the shape of the rudder; the other was the manner in which the rudder could be attached to the ship. 

In archaeological contexts, it is rare to find a ship with the rudder still in position, yet luckily, this was the case with the Norwegian Viking ships from Gokstad and Oseberg. Unfortunately, no trace of the rudder was found during the excavation of the Gislinge boat. 

There have been several loose finds of rudders from the Viking Age. We have not yet decided exactly which type of rudder we will copy for the new Gislinge boat. 

The side rudder was almost as effective as the sternpost-mounted rudder. The sternpost-mounted rudder is first ‘discovered’ on Nordic ships later in the Middle Ages. Exactly how the side rudder was attached to the hull, especially on the larger ships, was an issue that was first resolved after reconstructions of the larger ships were built and test-sailed with a side rudder. Hemp rope was not strong enough to withstand the pressure because the hemp fibres were broken down by the water that continually washed over the ropes while sailing. This problem was solved after we began to use birch withies to attach the rudder. 

Keel and stemKeel and stemKeel and stemStrakesFramesFramesBitesBitesOar locksOar locksRudder and tackle

Explore the boat’s hull. Click on the grey areas to read more about the hull’s construction.