The best laid plans of Vikings – can be beaten by the North Sea

The image above is a cropped version of Christian Krohg’s painting, Leif Eriksson discovers America [in the Norwegian National Gallery in Oslo] may well reflect the kind of sea conditions met in the North Sea by the Viking ship built in Tarbert and named Freydis – the name of Leif the Lucky’s sister.

Leif may well have been the first Norse explorer to discover America, back in 1000 AD, but the modern day viking ship, Freydis, built in Tarbert in Kintyre, didn’t manage to make it across the North Sea to the Tønsberg’s Viking Festival, which ran from 9th to 13th September and at which she was to be a guest of great interest.


The North Sea decided to give Freydis a bad time – with her crew and those of her two support vessels, having to turn back and return to the Caledonian Canal , spending last weekend at Fort Augustus, where they engaged in some opportunist promotional activities for Argyll – and let some hardies have ago at rowing Freydis.

The support boats for Freydis on this doughty trip were Phil Robertson’s St Claire [Phil built Freydis in 2014]; and Mallemok, with her owner, Hans Kok, the inspiration behind the Tarbert Viking Festival which celebrated its second birthday in 2015.


Making their way on down the Canal, the fleet was spotted by the skilled lens of Martin Briscoe, while they were berthed [Freydis rafted up with St Claire] at Banavie near Corpach whee the Canal descends Neptune’s Staircase to Loch Linnhe.

They were gone from their today, 16th September, according to Martin Briscoe; and should be back in Tarbert – via the Crinan Canal -by the weekend, certain to be appreciative of a warm welcome home.

Freydis was a colourful character. In The Saga of the Greenlanders, she is seen as evil and treacherous; while in The Saga of Eric the Red [the Greenlander and father of Leif the Lucky] she is hugely courageous in her fight against the natives of Vinland. As with most people, what was written about her depended on which side were the sympathies of the writer.

On the aborted voyage, the support boats carried members of the international crew – sailors from Britain, Denmark, Holland, Ireland and Switzerland – when they were not rowing Freydis.


The fleet left Tarbert on 14th August and, ears ringing with the shouts of well wishers, set off the the canals – Crinan and Caledonia – to Inverness and then into the North Sea for what would have been a three-day, 300 Nautical Mile passage to Tønsberg.

It has still been a whale of an adventure.

Note: The image of Chistian Krohg’s Leif Eriksson discovers America is in the public domain, licensed under Wikipedia Commons. The photographs accompanying the text of the article – of Freydis and her supporting boats, St Claire, alongside which she is seen berthed at Banavie; and Mallemok – are reproduced here by kind permission of their author, Martin Briscoe.

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