The vikings were skilled sailors
The men at sea were very skilled and knew how to navigate when crossing the seas. They were also quite good at teamwork which was needed in order to keep their big ships sailing.
In this section you can read about how they managed to navigate and who was aboard.
Sail and trim
Most people can easily understand that a sailboat can sail downwind. Any artefact that can float is able to do this. In simple terms, the wind pushes the sail and drives the boat forwards.
But how can sailing boats sail forwards with the wind coming from the side or even obliquely from the front? In order to understand this we have to look at the form of the sail.
Nature and sense navigation
The term “navigation by sense”, or intuitive navigation, suggests that navigation is something, which anyone can do intuitively, but it is of course something, which can and must be learnt, being passed down from generation to generation.
The most used sense is that of sight. Most Vikings’ travels by water took place along coasts and on rivers and streams. Visual observation, combined with knowledge of what they saw, was all that was required.
Instrument navigation in the Viking Age?
It is almost impossible for modern humans to imagine that it is possible to make long voyages over the open sea without some form of navigation instrument. But although some implements are known from the Viking era that may have acted as navigation instruments, we cannot be sure that the Vikings used anything except their senses to find their way.
The Viking Age crew
We don't know much about the crew on board the war ships in the Viking Age.
The written sources contain little evidence of organisation and hierarchy on board and only the Norwegian laws from the Middle Age contains detailed descriptions of the long ship crew.
Thanks to the museums many trial voyages, we do however know a lot about the Vking Ships crew of the present.
The Sea Stallion crew consists of 90 men and women in all ages. But only 60 - 62 of these crew members are on board when sailing. Half way into the voyage, approximately 25 crew members go home and 25 new once take their place.
A small group of crew members are on a waiting list and are ready to go on board if anaything should happen to the ones sailing.