The joy of expectation

Published 27th Jun 2008

Senior Editor Tom Jackson shares his thoughts on his forthcoming voyage on board the Sea Stallion from Glendalough.

My final preparations for the Sea Stallion voyage have left me but a little time to think about the voyage itself, but now I am able to sit for just a few contemplative minutes. The preparations are very much like - but also not at all like - preparing for an ocean yacht race, such as the Newport-to-Bermuda Race. But with the added complications of exposure to the elements, occasionally without relief, the preparations are, I believe, even more exacting.

I am the Senior Editor with WoodenBoat magazine in the United States, and in this position I have had some wonderful experiences. I believe the Sea Stallion voyage will certainly be one of them. I have always had a keen interest in maritime history, boatbuilding, nautical archaeology, and sailing, so the voyage will be of interest to me from every conceivable viewpoint. I believe that photographs of the Nordic boats, the small boats discovered with the Gokstad ship in particular, are what made me a boatbuilder to begin with. That interest led me naturally to an appreciation of ancient hull forms and construction techniques. For WoodenBoat years ago, I wrote an article about ship timber joints from various times in history, building full-scale or nearly full-scale replicas of each of the joints. It was a most enjoyable article!

It is one thing to study ships, learn from them, view them in really fine museum displays like those at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, but I think it will be quite another thing to live on board for an extended period. (I'll be on board for the whole voyage.) Even as I prepare my gear for the trip, I find myself thinking about how the original crew would have been equipped, how they would have been organized, how they would have communicated ahead of time, what skills of leadership developed. During my time at the safety training in Roskilde in May, I came to a very solid trust in the skipper, Carsten Hvid, and the crew. By the time you've been in the water for some time with people you don't know, the team-building process has already begun. I came away with great confidence in the leadership and the crew - one of the absolute necessities for going to sea with anyone on any boat, whether yacht or jolle.

I am very eager to come to know the boatbuilders during the voyage, as well. I will be watching very closely the sailhandling techniques, but also the working of the hull. These are experiences that cannot be learned or fully appreciated from an exhibit of archaeological remains, no matter how beautifully and professionally done. That, I suppose, is a fair summation of the underlying philosophy of the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. I haven't been everywhere in the world, but of the places I have been, very few compare to this museum. Not to be forgotten are the publications the museum produces - and I can't wait for the forthcoming volume regarding the lessons learned from the museum replica ships. I am very proud and pleased to be part of the Sea Stallion return voyage, and to make a contribution, however slight, to that effort.

Created by Tom Jackson, Senior Editor, WoodenBoat magazine