Here's a dispatch from Tom Jackson, WoodenBoat's senior editor, who is on assignment with the crew of HAVHINGSTEN FRA GLENDALOUGH--a viking ship replica currently sailing from Ireland to Denmark:
We've been in ´Portsmouth for a couple of days of very active time, getting the ship prepared for further time at sea and giving the crew time well deserved ashore. After leaving Torquay, we had a lovely sail downwind along the very dramatic coast, entering the Solent well after dark. We had reefed to slow down so that we'd hit the current right, and then we came to anchor at about 3 a.m., staying there until 6:30 to come in with a favorable current. Portsmouth has been a fun place to stop, with a very good reception and plenty of time to visit the VICTORY and MARY ROSE. I went to the MARY ROSE exhibit, which is difficult to see of course because the shp is still being sprayed extensively with polyethylene glycol, with my friend Anders Ahlgren, an engineer in the VASA museum in Stockholm. We talked a long while about the chemical and structral problems the VASA has had, and how the MARY ROSE has benefitted from the VASA's experience. There are many such people in this ship, with very interesting backgrounds and experiences.
The Danes have a tremendous consensus approach to doing things, to the point that a herd of people walking around town will wait until everyone agrees on which pub to go to before going in. If one person says the music is too loud, all will keep walking to another one, then survey the group to see whether this one will work. This approach is very interesting, but it can be frustrating when you're on board, I guess because I'm used to a different way.
On the management of the sail, the midship watch has 16 people, all of whom are in on the work no matter what time of day we reef or set sail. There's not very much order in how this works -- everybody just gets up and grabs a line to get things going. We have four brailing lines on the sail, plus two clew brails. That's six people, minimum, for that task. Someone has to be in charge of the midsheet and the 'priors,' and then everyone else goes to the foot of the sail to make off the reef lines. There are heavy reef nettles in the corners of the sail and in the center, and two lighter ones on the quarters. People just go in wherever they can, and i certainly can be chaotic. I think there should be better assignments on these things, becase in the dark, under stress, after days at sea, that kind of order can make things go a great deal easier. After you've spent time on racing yachts, it can be a little disconcerting to see this kind of casual approach. I've talked about it a bit with people in my watch, but I've been reluctant to get too involved. As I mentioned to someone last night, when I complete this voyage, I'll be gone and off to somthing else, but these people have a longterm commitment to the ship and to the crew, and also to the institution.
At the same time, the Danes are very encouraging of new ideas and of discussion -- they like to have thoughts out there and hash them out with each other. I guess one discovery I hvae made is that it really isn't possible to do a voyage like this as a semi+detached observer; I really have to be a participant in the fullest. I think this role is unique in the media relations the ship has had, and I'm very grateful to the ship and the crew for having me along. Quite a little society has developed among the crew, and no doubt there are a great many longterm frendships to come out of it.
So tomorrow we leave Portsmouth, with what promises to be a fair wind and a favorable current. We're one third through the voyage in terms of miles and in terms of time, so I suppose that means we're right on schedule. In this next segment, we´'ll see a long passage, probably making time for Ramsgate or Lowestoft, and I can see how eager the Danes are to be back in their home waters. The long passage across the North Sea will be the climax of the trip, it's clear. We'll have about five days of sailing, and by that time the effciencies of the crew should all have settled down.
I'll write again as soon as I can.