Havorn i Austerveg
Havorn on the way east
Havorn i Austerveg (Havorn on the way east) is a joint venture between the owners of Havorn, Kystlaget Viken (the coastal association Viken) and Natur og Ungdom (the youth wing of the Norwegian society for the protection of the environment). The goat is a journey of cultural history and environmental policies along the old routes travelled by the vikings from Oslo in the Baltic Sea, through Russia to Istanbul, Miklagard of viking times. The ship is 50 feet and constructed in oak on the basis of drawings of the Gokstad ship. The undersigned is one of the four people who built, and today own, the ship.
The first part of the voyage was completed in the summer of 1991 without any great mishaps. The planning of this years voyage is well under way. It will take in the whole length of the voyage from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
The goal of the venture is to further knowledge about the contact between the Scandinavians, the Arabs and the Slav people 1000 years ago. In particular, the difficulties associated with the technique of hauling a boat up rivers and occasionally across land between rivers will be given special attention. But current problems such as the degradation of Nature and the environment in the areas we visit will also be in focus.
A third main goal is to further international cooperation. Along the route we will seek to develop contacts with cultural and environmental organizations. This is necessary in order to carry out the voyage. In a wider perspective it will contribute to integrate the republics in the former Soviet Union into the new Europe. The voyage in itself will be a symbol of this integration process.
The planning of the voyage was dramatically accelerated at the end of April 91 when it became known that a Russian group had been working on plans for an identical voyage. During a meeting in Oslo an agreement was worked out between Havorn i Austerveg and Trans-Europa-Nevo-Viking, in which the two equal partners committed themselves to cooperate in carrying out the voyage. The agreement is to last for one year at a time.
After this, postponing the voyage for one year was out of the question. Departure from Oslo was fixed to June 30 1991, and the goal was to reach Novgorod, where the ship was to be put into winter storage until the following year. The Russian boat still under construction, was not finished in time. Havorn had an extensive programme fixed for 1991 and left according to plan on June 30.
One big challenge was how to handle the vessel with a crew which changed during the journey. The instruction was carried out on board by 3-4 skilled people with experience from sailing a square-rig. Around 2/3 of the crew were Norwegians, but altogether 6 nationalities were represented. Each participant paid Nkr 120,- a day to sleep on deck and eat the food he/she prepared himself/herself.
On the stretch from Stavern to Copenhagen we had headwind, which gave us little time. Since we had a tight programme with calls at places agreed in advance, we often had to sail around the clock
On Gotland we visited Krampmackforeningen which in 1985-86 made a voyage from the Baltic to the Black Sea and Istanbul with their 8.5 metre (around 28 feet) long viking ship. At the time it was impossible to travel on Russian territory so the voyage went through Poland.
We allowed ourselves time enough for a trial run with Krampmacken which has a type of reconstruction of the rig depicted on Gotlandssteinene (the Gotland stones). This rig makes tacking impossible. The members of the society admitted to having brought with them a reserve sail, a norrlandssegel (a sail used in one of the counties of Sweden), which turned out very useful on their expedition.
Another highlight of cultural history during the journey was our visit to Bjorko in the lake Malaren. This is the site of the viking town of Birka. At present archaeologists are carrying out an extensive mapping of the way of life here at the height of the viking era in the ninth century.
The lap from Sweden to Estland and then on to Leningrad was as well prepared as was possible with such a short time limit. We had tinned food to last for around two weeks and water enough for a week when we left Stockholm. All participants had visas for the journey Tallinn-Leningrad-Novgorod. Through the Norwegian Embassy in Moscow an application had been lodged to be allowed to sail to our destination, Novgorod, but no answer had been received at the point of our departure from Scandinavia.
However, when we arrived at the Estonian island of Saarama we were refused port of entry and requested to proceed directly to the capital Tallinn. This was a disappointment, not least for our Estonian contacts who had planned a sightseeing tour of the island. Saarema, or Oysysla as it was known in Norse times, has an interesting history with Scandinavian settlements from the time of the vikings and close contact with the countries to the west. It is also an area of outstanding natural beauty.
After arriving in Tallinn we tried to get safe conduct to Narwa Joesu, the closest port to the Ecotopia festival. Ecotopia 91 was an international environmental festival which we had planned to visit with our environmentally friendly mode of transport and a contingent of Norwegian participants. Our disappointment was therefore great when we were refused entry in any other port than Leningrad.
It seemed as if we experienced the last spasms of the mighty Soviet Union during the first three weeks of August While in Tallinn the full-rigged ship Scrlandet was due to call there under the skipper Ants Lepson. We had word about the time she was due, and set out to meet her while still under sail. Yet again we were interrupted by the security apparatus, who not only fired off warning shots to stop us, but also sent one of their patrol vessels after us and brutally forced us back to the harbour.
After several discussions with our friends from the Estonian Maritime Museum as intermediaries, we were made to understand that all movement in the harbour had to be cleared with the Coast Guard Authorities well in advance, and under no circumstances could we go as far as we had intended. In actual fact, we were locked in the harbour until the rest of the crew arrived and we could set out for Leningrad.
We had a superb voyage with the wind behind us into the Gulf of Finland. In just under two days we had covered the distance from Tallinn to Leningrad. Here we saw for the first time the boat belonging to the Russian group, Nevo.
Our application to be allowed to travel up to Novgorod was refused without any further explanation. Any intentions we may have had about appealing against the decision, however, were soon forgotten. The day after, Monday August 19, dawned with a coup detat and calls for protests. It became clear that we could not know which authorities were in charge. We decided to return to a harbour in the West Tuesday morning we left Leningrad in a hurry while the strikes were starting to take effect. Even before we arrived in Finnish waters it transpired that the coup had failed.
On the way we got in touch with the Maritime History Museum in Helsinki, who expressed interest in having the boat in storage on their property. Thanks to a great deal of help from employees at the museum, we managed to get Havorn on dry land and prepared for the winter. The season had come to a dramatic, but happy end.
This years voyage
After last years voyage a seminar was held where all the participants had an opportunity to discuss their experiences. On the whole people seemed very well pleased with the project.
This years lap will be 2-3 weeks longer than planned. Starting in Helsinki also makes it possible to chose another route to Istanbul. The earliest trade route was most probably via Leningrad (now St.Petersburg), over Ladoga and Novgorod, but later on the shorter route to Dnjepr, from Riga up the river Daugava became more important. This later route is also a possible route for us. Last but not least it makes it possible to sail all the way to the Caspian Sea on the Volga and by way of a canal on to the Black Sea. The rigours awaiting us in having to cross rapids of more than four knots in many places, and haul the boat from the river across land, must be set against the time available to us, a little less than three months.
Entry permits for individuals are less of a problem. Who in the end can grant permission for the boat to enter is impossible to say yet The republics of the former Soviet Union are gaining independence one after the other, and will thus be able to have jurisdiction over traffic on their own territory. The voyage for this year, that is, the second lap, starts according to plans June 15 1992.