Sebbe Als

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Sebbe Als
Sebbe Als under sail, September 2006
History
"Dannebrog"
(Denmark)
Laid down: 1968
Launched: 1969
Homeport: Augustenborg, Denmark
Status: In use
General characteristics
Class and type: Viking ship, Snekke
Displacement: 3,5 tons
Length: LOA: 17,5 m
Beam: 2.5 m
Draught: 0.6 m loaded
Propulsion: Sail & oars
Speed: 12 kt (22 km/h)
Complement: min. 11, max 30

Sebbe Als is a replica of a Viking ship, Skuldelev wreck no. 5. She is the oldest sailing 'fiver' in Denmark.

Construction[edit]

Hull drawing of Sebbe Als.

A sailing trip with the Imme Gram and the then newly found Skuldelev wrecks became the inspiration for the creation of Sebbe Als.

She was built by a group of local volunteers, a large group of which were the local Scouts of Augustenborg, and was launched in 1969.

The drawings were the first crude drawings, coming from the Skuldelev archaeological dig. The archaeologists were very keen on having an accurate replica, as the finished ship would provide invaluable information about the Viking ships in general.

She was built with copies of the original tools, mainly adzes, manufactured by the local blacksmith after Viking age finds.

There was not a local shipyard with sufficient room, so she was built in a loaned building, in the then-existing Augustenborg Lumber Yard. Here she was also stored for the winter. When the lumber yard was closed, and a new yacht harbour built in its place, a naust (a traditional Norwegian boathouse) was built about half a nautical mile from the harbour, on the south coast of the firth. Every winter Sebbe Als is pulled into the naust for storage and maintenance. This is quite a task, as everything is done by hand. She can be hauled up by 20-25 people, but more are better.

Sebbe is square-rigged, meaning that she has a big, roughly square sail hung under a yard. A square sail is the simplest way of creating a large sail area on a relatively low mast. During unfavourable winds, or manoeuvering in harbour or other confined spaces, she has propulsion in the form of oars.

Ownership[edit]

The Naust of Sebbe Als.

Sebbe Als is owned by "Vikingeskibslaget Sebbe Als" ("The Sebbe Als Viking Ship Guild"), which is a self-owned association. The members are distributed all over Denmark as well as in neighboring countries and in the United States. It is not unusual for members from Aalborg, Copenhagen or Odense to arrive for a sailing trip, or to do some maintenance, and the American members, with links to Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, make it to the annual launching and for sailing whenever possible.

Most of the maintenance and repair work is done in 'work weekends' during the winter.

The Guild also owns a smaller Viking ship - or, correctly, a Fareoe boat - the Ottar Als, that is used for training, or simply for pleasure.

A small GRP boat with an outboard engine, Fie Als, is used as safety- and tugboat on longer trips, or trips with an unskilled crew. Fie is generally not used as pleasure craft. The awareness of the environmental impact is rather high in the Guild.

The Guild is currently accepting new members. No previous maritime training is needed, only willingness to learn.

Experiments[edit]

The wreck of Skuldelev no. 5 was so well preserved, that wear marks from the original rig could be found. Sebbes mast and rig was reconstructed from these marks, but it was still necessary to experiment to clarify many of the details. As a result, Sebbe now has a 45 m² square sail with only the top yard, and the steering oar has an angle of approx. 25° instead of the vertical position originally planned.

Following the experiments, the shipbuilders of the Viking age have earned much respect. Sebbe Als is not very good at tacking, at the best of times she goes only 45 degrees to the wind, but the speed is impressive, as she is approximately twice as fast as the original calculations indicated. She can easily run 12 knots (22 km/h) on a half wind. A motivated crew can row her to about 6 knots (11 km/h), and it is faster to row her straight against the wind than tacking. Sailing her at high speed has a definite 'fighter plane' feel.

Many of the experiences gained from the use of Sebbe Als has proved useful in the construction and handling of other replicas, including Havhingsten fra Glendalough ("Sea Stallion from Glendalough").

The type of ship is so unusual nowadays, that the Danish Maritime Authority - with great respect for the ship - has set special rules for crew and equipment. As an example, despite the low tonnage of the ship, the ship's master must at least hold a license as Yacht Master 3rd. class, and the ship must have a crew of at least 11. The rules are revised every few years.

Use[edit]

Every year Sebbe Als undertakes a summer cruise, usually of 1 – 3 weeks duration, and has traveled along most of the Danish and north German coasts. Smaller sailing trips happen in accordance with the choice of the Guild's members, whenever a crew with skipper can be assembled. When the weather allows, every Thursday at 1700 a training trip starts from Augustenborg dam: if there are 3 to 10 people, Ottar is used, if 11 or more, Sebbe.

Very often the ship is used for a quiet evening trip, for the purpose of a small picnic and a good time with other Guild members. On these trips, usually the ship is anchored in front of Augustenborg Castle. Now and again it has happened that these trips have occurred simultaneously with a musical performance at the Castle, for example, by Eric Clapton or Roger Waters.

The longest sailing trip went from Hedeby (Haithabu - a trading city from the Viking age) in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany to Kaupang (another Viking age trading city) in the Oslo Firth, Norway. The trip was made in order to put an old Viking saga to the test. A Viking skipper claimed to have made the trip in just 5 days and 5 nights (120 hours). In the summer of 1972 Sebbe Als and her crew did the trip in 114 hours, and proved the veracity of the old saga.

The longest travel went to United States - she participated in the bicentennial celebrations in 1976, mainly sailing on the Hudson River at New York City as a guest of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, the folk singer Pete Seeger and the Clearwater organization. The event could be seen as cheating - Sebbe did not cross the Atlantic under sail, but as deck cargo on a modern ship. The crew traveled by air.

She and her crew are often used as actors in film or TV productions about the Viking age.

External links[edit]