ESSEX, Mass. (AP) — Cape Ann’s fleet of vintage row and sail vessels has a new addition, one that hearkens back to mists of Viking heritage forged in the fjords of western Norway.
The Polaris, a 37-foot reconstruction of an original Viking coastal fishing vessel dating to 1030 A.D., has made its way across country to the Essex Shipbuilding Museum from its birthing boat yard on Fidalgo Bay in Anacortes, Washington.
The plan, according to owner Stuart Boyd, is to berth the Polaris this summer at Maritime Gloucester, where it will be available from early June on for short public rowing trips, private charters and corporate team-building outings throughout the inshore waters of Cape Ann.
“We want to be an inspiration for small groups working together and having fun at the same time,” said Boyd, whose company is named Norsvald after the ancient Norse word for “power from within.”
Boats such as Polaris were used for fishing in coastal waters and trading along the Baltic Sea and western Atlantic Ocean, Boyd said Friday, one day after the protective shrink wrap came off Polaris to make way for finishing touches before her journey to Gloucester.
“It’s amazing to think that 1,000 years ago, they were using boats exactly like this one to fish for the same fish we fish for here,” he said.
The vessel, with its strikingly elevated and curved bow and stern lines so recognizable in Norse craft, has a white oak frame and yellow cedar planking. It will accommodate 14 long oars and has a small, square sail.
“Our boat builder was a master at finding beautiful wood,” said Boyd, a native of Northern Ireland who now lives in Hamilton and Beverly.
Boyd said the inspiration for embarking on the reconstruction of the Viking vessel arrived when he traveled to Denmark several years ago and happened upon a Copenhagen ship museum with several recovered ancient Viking boats within its galleries.
At the time, he was working in consumer electronics. So much for consumer electronics. While he still does some consulting work, most of his time over the past five years has been spent building the boat to the exact design as one he saw in Copenhagen.
“Her construction is as authentic as we could make her,” he said. “And the Coast Guard was involved throughout the whole process to make sure we adhered to the necessary safety measures.”
Work on Polaris began in earnest in May 2015. She was launched last November and hauled across country by Landstar System in a journey that took about five days.
“They had never transported anything like this before and they took extraordinary precautions,” Boyd said. “They did a great job.”
Polaris can accommodate up to 12 passengers, but Boyd said the plan is to begin conservatively, with about six passengers and up to three crew members. Similar original Viking vessels, he said, featured a crew of 14 to 16 sailors or fishermen.
The boat represents Boyd’s first foray into boat-building and clearly he’s caught the bug. He’s already planning the reconstruction of a second vessel that would remain on the West Coast.
The exercise of reconstructing the ancient vessel, he said, gave him a much greater appreciation for the detailed work of ancient Viking shipwrights. He lauded their accomplished engineering skills and their ability to do spot-on tree/wood age analysis to supply perfect materials to match the boat’s design.
Several people have asked him why he chose to haul Polaris back to Cape Ann.
“Well, first of all, this is where I live,” Boyd said. “I also think Cape Ann is one of the most beautiful spots in the world. I think she’ll be right at home here.”
The shipbuilding museum has scheduled a June 2 event celebrating the arrival and completion of Polaris and then it’s on to Maritime Gloucester on Harbor Loop — preferably by oar and sail.
Boyd said he’s already had plenty of volunteers to help with her maiden voyage.
“I even had one guy tell me he’s actually a Sicilian Viking,” Boyd said.
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