We live in a bubble on the Sea Stallion – a goldfish bowl cut off from the world around us. An occasional newspaper slips on board and goes the rounds, but people only skim it. Mobile phone calls home are sporadic and mostly about ourselves. For six weeks of our lives, the skipper’s briefing, the weather forecast, the watch change, and the day’s menu loom larger than world news, the garden, the bank account, and dentist’s appointments – more important than much else that life at home offers. So it is difficult to go outside, break the bubble and go back to reality – especially in the middle of the voyage. It is hard to be really “there” and concentrate on everyday banalities and the TV news – thoughts wander and almost stick to the computer where logbooks, diaries and navigation data are studied intensely, with a mixture of envy, dismay, enthusiasm and pride. When we leave the ship, tears form in our eyes and we miss it immediately. When we climb on board again, it’s hard to hide the smile. We are back in our element!
But soon it will be over. We have spent our last night on the Sea Stallion, and had our last meal on board. Now we have only the last 25 nautical miles to go, through the Isefjord and Roskilde Fjord. The experiment will end – the last cases of seasickness will be measured, the last coordinates and course headings will be sent. Soon we will reach the culmination of many years’ of development and planning, investigations and experimental archaeological research. Soon the whole experience will be examined, evaluated and thought over. Both for the Viking Ship Museum and for the volunteer crew, the achievement has been in a class by itself – a project and adventure made possible because everybody concerned has been driven by idealism, will and hope.
For many people, a long project like this seems impossible, but for the museum and the crew, who have believed in its success all the time, through thick and thin, the project has been at the centre of things over the last four years. For the crew, it has become natural to be on board, and it is only when the sunset throws its orange light out on the horizon, when dolphins dance around the rudder or hundreds of enthusiastic people welcome us in harbour that we remember how lucky we are.
Only in Den Helder in Holland did we meet the same idealism, will, pride and hope as our own project is based on – the same deep interest in ship building and square-rig sailing. There, volunteer boat builders were building a brigantine for “fair transport” of “fair trade” goods and products. They had what looked like an impossible project – an old iron hull from WWII that needed covering with wooden planks, a hull without mast, rig or sail, never mind internal structures for mess rooms or cabins. But you could see the spark in their eyes and their stories brought the ship alive for us. Perhaps because we have been in their shoes, been through the start phase, the building phase, and when it all looks a mess, we could understand their idea, see what was fantastic about the empty hull and the plans.
The ship is called Tres Hombres and will hopefully be finished within the next six months. Then they hope to sail with delicacies and “fair trade” goods on various routes between Europe and the rest of the world – also with inexperienced ship assistants who will have to learn the art of sailing a brigantine. We shared a few pleasant hours taking with these fellow “nerds” about the details. It was great to find a project on our way home that could put ours in perspective.
Coming home to Denmark has been overwhelming and unbelievable. We have been met with wonderful hospitality, interest and friendliness. Now are in Kongsøre at the Navy’s Special Forces base and imagining what awaits us in Roskilde on Saturday.