Boat builder

The Sea Stallion of Glendalough is a replica. This means that the ship is an interpretation of how the original Skuldelev 2-ship could have looked when it was built 1000 years ago.

The building of the longship's hull was the largest task both 1000 years ago and today. The man-hours are distributed as follows:

  • Master shipbuilder: 500 hours
  • Stem smith: 1000 hours
  • Boat builders: 10,000 hours
  • Woodmen and assistants: 14,000 hours
  • Workers fitting rivets: 1000 hours

In the Viking Age this work could probably be done in about seven months. Further to this came the production of tar, rope, sail, dyes etc. In comparison, it took the Viking Ship Museum's boat builders four years (2000-2004) to build the Sea Stallion. The Museum used the same number of man-hours but these were distributed among fewer men and over a longer period of time because the Sea Stallion had to be built according to the plan of the original ship, using the same types of wood, employing the same methods and using copies of the Vikings' tools.

After excavation all the various parts of the ship were surveyed. These measurements formed the basis for a cardboard replica, which was made in order to find the correct shape of the Skuldelev 2 ship. The boatbuilders also used these measurements as basis for building the Sea Stallion so that all the details were copied exactly.

The boat builders also had to find the right materials – including wood of the same size and strength as in the Viking Age. The materials were, for example, oak for the planks, willow for the treenails, pine for the mast, yard and oars, lime for the shields, pine roots for making tar and hemp for ropes.

Further to this, various tools found in Denmark and abroad were studied together with illustrations of boat builders at work, such as those seen on the Bayeux Tapestry. On the basis of these, the boat builders made replica tools for use when building the Sea Stallion.

Boat builders on board the Sea Stallion

Today, two boat builders will take part in the voyages made by the Sea Stallion. They are the ship's helmsmen – they take turns sitting by the rudder and steering the ship – but they are also participating in order to observe the ship.

The purpose of the voyage to Dublin is to test whether the ship has been correctly constructed, whether it is strong enough to withstand such a long voyage and whether it has the navigational qualities expected of ships in the Viking Age.

Therefore, the boat builders will keep a log. Here they will state whether the ship is sailing as expected, whether there are problems with hull, sail or ropes, whether there are things that could have been different and whether things have broken on the way.

It is easy to imagine how ships in the Viking Age could suffer serious damage, such as a broken rudder or a hole in the hull, and the same could happen to the Sea Stallion. It is therefore necessary for the boat builders to check the ship regularly in order to see if there are things needing repair.


The voyages of recent years have had the purpose of training the crew, as well as testing the ship reconstruction. During the expedition to Norway in 2006 the boat builders learnt, for example, that the ship flexes in rough weather. A few treenails started to work their way out and had to be hammered into place, and during winter the ship also had to be braced and made less flexible.

On the voyage to Dublin it was the rudder and the rudder strap that was weak and snaped. Therefore, it is necessary for the boat builders to take with then – in addition to their tools – an extra rudder, extra shroud pins (wooden locks for the rope running from the mast to the two sides of the ship) and extra treenails, as well as wood for repairs. And it is also essential to be able to mend the sail or make new rope if the rigging breaks.

Fact: The boat builder's diary will be sent back to the Viking Ship Museum and used for research purposes.

Af: Louise Kæmpe Henriksen