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Rowing a Viking Longship
Vikings always row their ships? Did their row our after our out at sea
when there were no wind? How did they row? Could anybody row a vikingship?
Were do you have your drums?
In this article I shall try to awnser these questions. I will also try to describe the technique on how to row a Vikingship.
I would like to start by saying that
almost anybody could row a Viking longship. You do´nt need strength.
You need mostly technique and X between you rowers. I have under my
journeys seen many strange ways of rowing a ship. It is very easy to
think that you should row like you row a modern boat. It is the construction
of the longship that gives the technique on how to row.
Oh!! Is it that difficult, is probably what you think now. But NO! It is just what it is'nt. It is much easier than rowing a normal boat, just as long as you understand how and why you have to row this way. The youngest kid that I have seen rowing a longship were just five years old and the oldest 82 years old. Both of them did an excellent rowing.
The first on board is that you´ll
be put at a rowingspot and a chest to sit on. The row leader and some
crew members delivers oars, first to the starboard and then to the portside
rowers. On given order lowers the starboard rowers their oars (without
hurting anyone). The oar puts from inside the ship into the oar hole.
Then the portside rowers have done the same is the ship ready to get
rowed. The leader gives the command "All - Row". Everybody
takes ONE stroke with their oar. The leader waits until everybody has
taken their stroke, until he once again says "And - Row",
The leader slowly raises the stroke. No, we us no drums. It's not needed.
The rowers hold the stroke after a few strokes of oars just by looking
at the first rower. The leader do'nt need to give the stroke. This is
what we call silent rowing. That is important if you want to take the
enemy by surprise. From now on the leader only gives steering commands.
You take the stroke of oars like this: You start with the oar in the "Basic position". That means the oar between 1 to 1,5 inch from your stomach and the blade a bit above the water. When the leader gives the starts command e.g "All Rowers -", you move the oar handle forwards to the "Start position". When the leader follows his command with "- Row", you take a short but steady stroke with your oar and move it back to the "Basic position". The short stroke is to not get stuck with the oar. The steady stroke gives the ship its speed. It is important to take the stroke this way. It makes rowing easier. The most important is to take the oar back to the basic position after the stroke of oars. Why? Well, otherwise you wount be able to keep stroke when speed increases. After half a seconds rest, take the next stroke.
The plank with the oar holes in is the
secont strongest plank on board. It should take up all rotary movements
during rowing. Furthermore, the plank must not break if one oar gets
stuck in the water during rowing. The diameter of the oar hole is fit
to a maximum suitable stroke of oars and for maximum speed at rowing.
In the edge of the oar hole, there is a notch made for the oar blade
to slide in. Otherwise should the oar blade be to wide to be able to
be put into sea through the hole from the inside. When not rowing there
is a hatch in front of the oar hole. That is to stop the waves from
washing through the holes. There are 16 oar holes at each side on the
Gokstad ship. The ship is kalled a "sixteen sessa" (a ship
with sixteen oars on each side). A Vikingships size is often defined
that way (not by its length).
The rowers often sat on chests in Viking Longships. The chests makes more space in the ship at sailing. Thay kan be put on suitable places on board the ship when not needed for rowing. It is very important that the chests have the right hight. The oars may smash into your knees if the chest is to high. Still uoy have to sit comfortable when rowing.
The shape of the oars is very important.
They should be smooth but still strong. They must have exact the right
balance to make the rowing comfortable. In the Gokstad ship the archeologists
have found perfect oars for Vikingships. Many replicas of other ships
have copied those oars. They are made of spruce to be light and strong
enough. It is important that the spruce has grown slowly so the wood
fibre is very tight. The shape of the oar makes the balance. The oar
is thicker by the handle then by the blade. The length of the oars are
important as well. If you sit in front of the ship, you sit higher.
That meens that you have to have longer oar then those who sit in the
middle. Where the oar gets its contact against the oar plank, is it
strengthend with a leather piece. The leather seam works as a target
on wich the rower can judge the rotation of the oar blade. The oar blade
must point up, otherwise will the oar get stuck in the water. Wrong
pointing may krack the oar.
What is the result by this rowing technique?
Ofcourse they did'nt row long time. Maybe only an our at a time. It was better to sail, and i'm shore they sailed mostly. Not even at calm is there any use to row unless you're near a harbour.
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