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Maritime Activities

A viking looks out to sea
A viking looks out to sea – © Mike South 2017

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. They have appeared in a number of films and TV series, a sub-set of which is:

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 has appeared in Game of Thrones and Vikings, done promo work in the Pool of London and materially added to several other TV and film presentations. It can be slipped without difficulty and is in frequent use.

Preparing the fleet for filming Loading a GRP for transport
The Wolf, The Bear and two GRPs being prepared for filming the BBC Documentary The Last Battle of the Vikings – © Malcolm Butler 2013
One of our GRPs being loaded onto a low-loader for transport – © Kim Siddorn

Our largest wooden vessel is The Wolf, a fifty foot hull. It is not in commission, but film-makers may be interested in it as a prop or as the basis for conversion etc. Only half of this ship is accessible, as it is in the process of becoming a permanent boat burial exhibit.

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 a total of seven ship and boat replicas, 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′ (14m) 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 Snekkja 50′ (16m)
(part buried)
Boat burial Immobile
Further details
Boat Weight (minus crew) Draught (in ballast) Air draught Height Yard length Sail area
Bear 2t (unballasted)
≈2½t (ballasted)
2′ (0.6m)
3′ (0.96m) with steering oar
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) 290′² (27m²)
Wolf N/A N/A N/A No yard No sail
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
Wolf Immobile. Can only be used on location.


The Bear bears down on an archer
The Bear bears down on an archer – © Lauren Roberts 2016

We recommend Rutland Water, about thirty miles due east of Leicester. It is the largest man made body of water in the UK and an excellent, workable location with an uncluttered range of angles that gives the impression of being at sea and various creeks and inlets where a raiding party might come ashore.

From a practical point of view, the lake has its own power boats and safety crews, an excellent café where the staff are used to damp, cold people and serve big stews and other food. There is ample parking for the largest vehicles.

If you would prefer something on dry land then why not consider the estate Wychurst, our own permanent site in Kent. Let's go there now…

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