The Draken set sail from Haugesund, Norway, crossing the North Atlantic in a two month voyage this spring, stopping in the Faroe Islands, Reykjavik, Iceland and Qaqortoq, Greenland, before arriving in L’Anse aux Meadows, N.L. In North America the Draken is part of the Tall Ships Challenge Great Lakes 2016 race series, a tall ship race through all five Great Lakes with port appearances in cities throughout the United States and Canada with her closest appearance to us as goes through the American Locks.
This vessel, a great Viking dragon ship is one hundred and fourteen feet of crafted oak, twenty-seven feet on the beam, displacing eighty tons, and with a thirty-two hundred square foot red sail is magnificent. Her crew of 33 works in shifts, rotating between four hours of sleep and four hours of work – sleeping in a shelter on deck. There are no quarters below decks.
Norway’s leading experts in traditional boat building and the square sail developed and built of the ship using archaeological material including Old Norse literature, visual representations of Viking ships,old sailing records, purchasing lists, reports, and more.
Despite sailing through storms on the North Atlantic it appears that the voyage is now stalled. The Great Lakes Pilotage Authorities originally stated that the ship would not be required to obtain pilotage because “…Foreign ships of less than 35 meters in overall length are not subject to compulsory pilotage in the Great Lakes Region”.
That changed when it was discovered that “when entering the St Lawrence Seaway, that the ship is required a pilot at all times while at sea with no possibility of reduction in cost. The cost for the pilotage, if the ship were to participate in the schedule for Tall Ships Challenge Great Lakes 2016, is well over 400 000 USD.” ~ from Draken Harald Hårfagre press release.
“We are required a pilot as soon as we leave the dock with the cost of 400 USD per hour, the rate as a commercial freight ship. It is very disappointing, the people in the harbors around the lakes are expecting us and we have been warmly welcomed in every port we have visited, it is a pity if we can not pursue this expedition.” says Captain Björn Ahlander.
Despite this crushing information Captain Björn Ahlander will sail to Bay City explaining, “There is not room in our budget to go futher west into the Great Lakes, but we can not let the people in Bay City down. The Tall Ships Celebration in Bay City is just days away and the planning is in it’s final stages, it would be great disappointment for us and more importantly to the people we already committed to.”
The expedition made it clear, “We want to point out that our project does not blame the pilots, we are aware of the need for pilots in the Great Lakes, it is the cost of the pilotage we can not bear.”
Many people are disappointed that the Draken will not be able to sail all of the Great Lakes. A petition to Rear Admiral June Ryan has been setup on Change.org asking for an exemption for the Draken with nearly 9,000 signatures at this time. There are two campaigns on GoFundMe with all funds going to the Draken Harald Hårfagre irregardless of her being able to continue sailing past Bay City, Michigan. If the Draken can continue, she would be in the SSM Locks prior to her sailing to Duluth for August 18th, and when she leaves Duluth.