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Vikings ashore in Hermanus

The SV “Midgard Herron,” a replica Viking longboat, arrived at Hermanus Harbour at midnight on Tuesday morning.

The crew of 12 of the Midagard left Struisbaai Harbour on Monday afternoon. Later this week they will sail to Hout Bay and then around to Table Bay.

Suzanne Williams, the boatswain, yesterday beamed from ear to ear, saying the Midgard Herron handled wonderfully well. “We sailed her, we rowed her, we motored her and we towed her.” Williams said she and the crew had about 2½ m swells from Struisbaai. “She just lifts up and settles down, if there’s a wave from the side or a bow wave, the water pressures she makes push the oncoming waves away. She’s a remarkably dry boat.”

Williams is responsible for all aspects of the boat, such as maintenance, and she sees to anchoring and mooring, supervises deck operations, helps people on and off board, looks after everyone on board and keeps a lookout out for small boats. “Everything that’s not directly related to sailing or navigating is my responsibility,” Williams said. She is also responsible for connecting the square sail, attaching it at just the right moment.

Williams explained the boat is divided into different rooms, with each crew member assigned a room. “We have the bow room, in which only I am allowed because the mast and the spar are the dangerous part. Then there’s the midship area, with four rooms, and behind that is the captain’s station.”

Williams said she and the crew will sail again in June because the Midgard is being shipped to Oslo. The crew will return to their homes over the next three weeks before setting sail again in Oslo in June.

Erden Eruç, a 14 Guinness World Record holder, has been described by Williams as a legend. He said: “Yes, I completed the first solo circumnavigation by human power and became the first person to row across three oceans, and in the process I registered 14 Guinness World Records. I have a sense of what the sea can throw at us, and am not taking this expedition lightly.” Eruç is also a licensed captain and sailing instructor, and for all crew members the boat remains an ongoing learning tool. He said they are fortunate to have Nick Heygate, an experienced skipper who knows the coastline, “and so far it’s all working well.”

Eruç explained the Midgard Heron is an authentic design and an ancient method of building vessels. “So she’s throwing us some curve balls,” he said. “Those of us who are used to modern boats will have to readjust our expectations of hull integrity, for example.”

This boat, he said, is designed to take up some water. “She needs to sit in the water and soak it up a bit to become watertight.”

The ultimate goal of the expedition is to start a conversation about sustainability and to change the minds of folk about restoring, regenerating and replacing everything we have destroyed to give our grandchildren a better place to live. Eruç said they want to highlight working solutions they come across on their path and become a clearing house for offering sustainable solutions.

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