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This Viking-era vessel took 10 logs, 600 rivets and 2,000 hours for 2 CT shipbuilders to complete

Exact replica of a Viking work boat in Stony Creek, Connecticut. As it would have been constructed one thousand years ago.
Mike Zaritheny
Stony Creek Museum
Exact replica of a Viking work boat in Stony Creek, Connecticut. As it would have been constructed one thousand years ago.

For the past couple of years in the town of Branford, two shipwrights have been building a full-scale reproduction of a Viking Age fishing vessel. The 12th century replica recently launched from Stony Creek and will be used to take military veterans out sailing.

The 26-foot boat launched from rail tracks at Bradley and Waters Marine Railway into Long Island Sound.

Dozens of people showed up on a cloudy Saturday morning for the launch. The graceful peapod shaped wooden boat with low-sweeping hull lines and a high bow and stern carried a single slender mast with a square sail furled for the launch.

The Viking boat was commissioned by Charles Dalgleish, a retired U.S. Army Colonel who runs a Virginia-based nonprofit that develops programs for veterans. Dalgleish says the idea to build the Scandinavian work boat came from a veteran with mild PTSD.

“And one day he just says, ‘I’m building a viking boat, something to do.’ He’s a carpenter, but not a boat builder,” Dalgleish said. “So, he starts to build this boat and we all pitch in and help him. We start to buy books on Viking boats and research and we’re doing it all wrong.”

So, they ended up contacting the Mystic Seaport Museum where they heard about two shipwrights who’d been involved in a restoration project there. The two shipbuilders are among a handful of shipwrights in the country experienced in traditional Viking shipbuilding.

“They said, ‘We know Matthew Barnes, who trained in Denmark at the Viking Ship Museum.’ He was also the lead shipwright on the restoration of the Mayflower II,” Dalgleish said. “And Matthew and his business partner Tucker, they’re like, 'I never thought I’d get to build another Viking boat.' But here we are.”

Matthew Barnes and Tucker Yaro met while working together in Mystic. They now co-own Leetes Island Boatworks in Guilford. Yaro was also the captain for the Amistad ship, a replica of the 19th-century two-masted schooner used to educate Connecticut school children about a group of African captives' fight for freedom.

The two shipwrights are dedicated to preserving the old artisan craft of boat-building. This Viking boat is an exact copy of a Viking boat that was found in Denmark. Barnes says it was built using centuries-old techniques.

“We bought 10 oak logs. We cleaved them, hewed them down and we forged all the rivets, about 600 rivets were made for the boat,” Barnes said. “There’s a lot of learning on this too with the forging. None of us are really blacksmiths, so we learned the forging ourselves. I had to make a bunch of tools just to even do the project, because a lot of this is not commercially available.”

During the launch ceremony, Yaro briefly reflected on the 2,000 hours of work that it took to build the vessel.

“When we had that pile of a dozen oak logs, we got them up in Massachusetts,” Yaro said. “And Matt said, ‘We’re going to make a boat out of this,' I said, all right.”

Then the Viking boat, christened the Saeulfr, meaning Sea wolf in old Norse, headed off to Maryland where it will be used to take veterans out sailing.

Lori Connecticut Public's Morning Edition host.
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