This was the unusual email that we all received yesterday - causing a flurry of excitement, tinged with ancient memories of more fearful times in the North: "The Vikings are coming!"
And at about 3 pm a long, deceptively narrow and primitive-looking boat slid out of the mists into Loch Scresort, heading towards our small harbour and carrying 32 "Vikings" - the Swedish, Norwegian and American crew of the Drakan Harald Harfagre (Dragon Harald Fairhair).
No scary Vikings these, but still mostly blonde, tall and scarily tough - these men and women had completed hundreds of nautical miles on the Drakan's maiden European voyage, sleeping under the stars, rain or cloud (their single tent was only big enough for eight at a time), manning a huge ship built to hold a hundred men and women on exactly the same lines as their Viking forebears would have built it 1,000 years ago. (That's the theory; for the first time researchers have concluded that the Vikings would have been not only capable of building, but really did build, such massive vessels.) But instead of one hundred crew, they have just thirty-two men and women - the weight of the other sixty-eight is made up for by GPS and other navigation equipment.
Finally they docked at our slipway and the brave crew made their way on to Rum not to pillage and destroy, but for showers ("You have showers??!! We can use them?? Where are they???"), toilets, a tour of the castle - but most impressively, allowed us to come on board and view life on the ship. They got to tour our home - but we felt extra lucky to be allowed to tour theirs!
Somehow, the boat felt different to a modern boat, even boats that are wood too and have a shallow draught; it just felt, I don't know, creakier? Perhaps because everything on it was so solid-looking; the black, resin-sticky ropes, the enormous shaft to wind the main ropes for the single square sail, the thick, beautifully carved planks that had been bent into shape to form the boat's sides; each "rib" of the hull having to be formed, again, from a single trunk of wood; the boat's makers were not only scientifically but aesthetically precise. It is a beautiful boat and as we gazed across the side at the distant castle, we felt the call of the sea and envied, a little, the adventure these people were embarking on. As we gazed, a surreal time-shifting moment occurred; another sailing ship veered into view out of the mists - the Bessie Ellen, built in 1904 but looking to our romantic eyes as if she could have sailed out of the 18th century...
|Bessie Ellen and the Drakan Harald in a timewarp! (Although I'm not sure Vikings would have voted for an independent Scotland...)|
|Vikings having fun|
|Shelter - only put up when they are in dock|