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Maritime Activities

Boat Burial
A boat burial display at a show in Sherwood Forest

As we set out to portray the life and times of an island community, one where the movement of goods and people was far easier by sea than by the terrible roads, we have long felt that it would be entirely inappropriate to do so without owning and operating a range of craft. We bought our first vessel in 1991 and have amassed a huge degree of expertise and experience in handling and managing these often recalcitrant open hulled craft.

In the last twenty odd years, our vessels have seen service in all British coastal waters and various lakes and rivers throughout England. Three forty-seven foot GRP vessels form the core of the fleet. Built in the Isle of Man for the Jorvik Viking Centre in the late 1980s, the Society purchased them from JVC some years ago. We have added to them over the years, and we now have a much larger fleet which includes some smaller vessels, which are easier to transport and hence are often seen at events the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.

The keen eyed television watcher might recognise many of our boats from shows such as:

As static exhibits, they have been shown at The Matthew Centre in Bristol, several times at the National Waterways Museum in Gloucester, the Chatham Historic Dockyard, the Yorkshire Museum of Farming, the Kendal Museum and other similar establishments.

We currently have seven vessels in store and we try to keep at least three in commission at all times. They are all stored at our permanent site near Canterbury in Kent. We have two wooden smallcraft, each about twenty feet long. They are visually different from each other, are capable of sailing but more frequently rowed. They often form the basis of our very popular – and award winning – fishing diorama beach scene at events. They are mounted on a double deck road trailer and easily moved around the country.

Next, our largest wooden replica in commission is The Bear, a 32′ (9-10m) generic period vessel in larch on oak. It is an impressive, workable ship replica and again, comes on its own especially-commissioned road trailer. It can be slipped without difficulty and is in frequent use.

The Detling Waterfront 2013
The Bear and two other boats were the centrepiece of a Saxon port diorama spectacular in 2013 near the village of Detling in Kent – © Malcolm Butler 2013
All at sea
All at sea – © Regia Anglorum

Finally, we have three 47′ (14-15m) “GRP” flotation hulls (the hull shape is based upon the Skuldelev Wreck Three find from Roskilde Fjord) which are remarkably like wooden hulls at short range. One appeared in Outlander, has been larch clad internally and was used on the Tyne in Gateshead for the September 2014 Great North Run celebration. Another is undergoing long-term renovation and alteration. The third could be pressed in to service with some work.

At nearly fifty feet long, they are the biggest vessels of their type in the UK but can only be transported by articulated lorry, something in which we are very experienced.

Therefore, we can offer what is probably the largest fleet of vessels of this kind in private hands in a thousand years!

Overview of boats by type
Boat Type Length Beam Suitable for Transportation
Bear Byrding 33′ (11m) 8′ (2.4m) Warship or cargo ship
(8 – 15 crew)
(6 – 10 oarsmen)
Salmon; Valhalla; Heron Karv 47′ (14.35m) 8′10″ (2.7m) Warship or cargo ship
(9 – 18 crew)
(6 – 12 oarsmen)
Flatbed trailer, with tractor
Squirrel; Rat Færing 20′ (6m) Ferry or fishing boat
(1 – 3 crew)
Wolf (scrapped) Snekkja 50′ (16m) No longer available
Black Tern (decommissioned) Færing No longer available
Further details
Boat Weight (minus crew) Draught (in ballast) Air draught Height Width clearance with oars Rigging stats
Bear 2t (unballasted)
≈2½t (ballasted)
2′ (0.6m);
3′ (0.96m) with steering board
20′ (6m) with mast up;
6′3″ (2m) with mast stowed
22′ (6.6m) keel to mast tip;
8′3″ (2.6m) keel to top of stem/stern
20′ (6m) Yard length;
290′² (27m²) Sail area
Heron 2½t approx 2′8″ (0.8m);
4′8″ (1.4m) with stearing board
27′ (8.25m) 4′4″ (1.3m) Gunwale at mid-point;
9′10″ (3m) Prow height
32′ (10m);
13′2″ (4m) Oar length
24′ (7.3m) Mast length;
16′ (4.9m) Spar length
Salmon 2½t approx 2′8″ (0.8m);
4′8″ (1.4m) with stearing board
27′ (8.25m) 4′4″ (1.3m) Gunwale at mid-point;
9′10″ (3m) Prow height
32′ (10m);
13′2″ (4m) Oar length
24′ (7.3m) Mast length;
16′ (4.9m) Spar length
Valhalla 2½t approx 2′8″ (0.8m);
4′8″ (1.4m) with stearing board
27′ (8.25m) 4′4″ (1.3m) Gunwale at mid-point;
9′10″ (3m) Prow height
32′ (10m);
13′2″ (4m) Oar length
24′ (7.3m) Mast length;
16′ (4.9m) Spar length
Launching requirements
Boat Transportation Slipway launch Crane launch
Bear On trailer, towed behind a suitable vehicle. Length of boat ontrailer is 36′ (12m).
Rule of thumb: if an articulated lorry can get there, so can the Bear.
4 crew required at launch. Slipway must be at least 10′ (3m) wide and have a solid roadway to at least 4′ (1.2m) to enable the boat to leave the trailer. Contact us and crane company to discuss requirements.
Heron; Salmon; Valhalla Flatbed trailer, with tractor Not usually possible Contact us and crane company to discuss requirements.
Squirrel; Rat On trailer, towed behind a suitable vehicle. N/A

So far I have covered the obvious things we can provide for your event – however we offer a lot more that just that. Next you'll discover how we can make your life easier with our experience and our one-stop approach to events.

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