THE LARGEST Viking replica longship in the world was diverted to Lerwick Harbour late on Friday after her mast snapped in strong northerly winds to the south east of Shetland.
The 114-foot Draken Harald had been making her way across the North Sea having set off from Haugesund in Norway on Wednesday.
Captain Björn Ahlander told Shetland News that the longship had been making good progress towards Orkney when a big wave hit, causing the mast to suddenly break and go overboard.
“We had been out for three days, everything went smooth and fine and the ship was sailing good,” he said.
“We were quite happy and looking forward to going ashore when suddenly yesterday morning, about 10.30am, a bigger wave struck in combination with the wind pressure, the mast went off very quickly and went overboard.”
Nobody was injured and Captain Ahlander said there was very little drama as the crew were all well trained in how to cope with such a situation: “Everything was calm and we did exactly the things you should do in accidents like this.”
The ship contacted Shetland Coastguard to explain what had happened and that no assistance was required. Captain Ahlander turned on the ship’s engines and changed course for Lerwick and, with the wind behind them, they arrived at around midnight between Friday and Saturday.
A number of boat-loving Shetlanders have been down to Albert Wharf to admire the distinctive longship’s fine workmanship.
“Of course people are disappointed that the ship is stopped for the moment, but we see what’s happened and we’re happy that no one was hurt,” Captain Ahlander said.
“We’ve been treated very good by the harbour control, and also from Shetland Coastguard – they have been very nice. We were in contact with them and told them we were able to handle the ship by ourselves, but they would be informed if something should happen.”
He said it was likely the incident would alter the longship’s plans for the rest of this summer, and he has given the 30-strong international crew a couple of days off in Lerwick while the situation is assessed.
In addition to visiting Shetland and Orkney, the ship had been planning to visit Dublin, Liverpool and the Isle of Man this summer.
“If possible we’re going to get the mast and continue with the trip, but I’m not sure whether we’ll manage that,” Captain Ahlander added.
“We haven’t decided if it’s possible to get the mast here or to go back to Norway by engine. It’s the weekend now and no firms are open, so we can’t make any decisions before we have contacted everybody.
“The crew is happy, they are free today. We’re going to a restaurant tonight and everybody feels good.”
Built between 2012 and 2012, the Draken Harald Haragre was named after King Harald Fairhair, the first Norwegian king, who reigned between 872 and 930.