Sailing the Sutton Hoo ship

Kukri

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I was lucky enough to be press ganged into joining the crew of the “Sae Wylfing” once.

It was great fun sailing her and we charged up and down the upper reaches of the Deben in fine style. I’ve been convinced that the original was a sailing ship ever since.

Just now whilst looking for something else I found the original paper written by her owners. I thought others might like it too:

The sailing characteristics of Saxon ships - Persée


317D623A-C629-4108-81CE-E005F757211B.png
 
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Rum Run

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in 2008 at the Brest Festival I had the very interesting experience of rowing and sailing on a replica Viking ship which looked very much like that. It moved through the water very easily and under sail (broad reach) seemed to accelerate quickly and twist it's way through the chop. The proper crew were students from a teacher training college in Norway, IIRC, I was just a sixpenny sick. The 20€ fee went to the crew's beer and food fund and having bumped into them later that night in town they needed all the contributions they could get. We agreed that the French don't drink like north Europeans !
 

AntarcticPilot

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I was lucky enough to be press ganged into joining the crew of the “Sae Wylfing” once.

It was great fun sailing her and we charged up and down the upper reaches of the Deben in fine style. I’ve been convinced that the original was a sailing ship ever since.

Just now whilst looking for something else I found the original paper written by her owners. I thought others might like it too:

The sailing characteristics of Saxon ships - Persée


View attachment 109708
Looks lovely, but there was no evidence of any mast or sailing equipment in the grave (I just checked in "Burial Ground of Kings"); I think the replica must have had a pretty substantial step for the mast, and there was no evidence of it in the grave - it would have been in the area where the grave goods were found. Further, I understand that there was only a slight keel - basically a thicker plank, not a beam on edge. The evidence is that she was primarily a rowing vessel. Comparing her with a Viking ship is misleading; the construction was different, and of course, she was 400 years earlier! She's in the same lineage as a Viking ship, but the Viking ship represents several hundred years of evolution
 

Laminar Flow

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2018 we did a circuit of the Baltic and during which we stopped over at Roskilde where we visited the Viking ship museum. They have an enormous amount of information on these ships gained from extensive archeological finds as well as from building and the ongoing build of numerous replicas at the site. Some of the ships displayed may be boarded and inspected and the museum offers sailing experiences on authentic replicas in the sound.

One of the more memorable bits of information that stuck with me was the estimated speed for Viking war fleets, where fleet speed is dictated by the slowest vessel. Apparently, the "slowest" average speed was thought to be 10kts!!
 

Kukri

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Looks lovely, but there was no evidence of any mast or sailing equipment in the grave (I just checked in "Burial Ground of Kings"); I think the replica must have had a pretty substantial step for the mast, and there was no evidence of it in the grave - it would have been in the area where the grave goods were found. Further, I understand that there was only a slight keel - basically a thicker plank, not a beam on edge. The evidence is that she was primarily a rowing vessel. Comparing her with a Viking ship is misleading; the construction was different, and of course, she was 400 years earlier! She's in the same lineage as a Viking ship, but the Viking ship represents several hundred years of evolution
The counter argument, set out in the paper, is that the ship isn’t “rowing boat shaped” - she has flat floors and considerable beam, neither of which you want in a rowing boat, with almost no parallel side, and with additional framing in way of the steering oar position.

In these respects, she is like the slightly smaller Gokstad and Oseberg Viking ships used in burials and completely unlike the much older (c.320 AD) Nydam ship:

FC1952A6-8C46-4C66-82CA-8DBEBEF05DC2.jpeg
The Sutton Hoo ship:
7622C453-EEA8-4149-87CB-84837821AEBB.png
( I recall that the replica was hard work to row! Much, much nicer when sailing, and in smooth water would even work to windward!)

I’ve not been to Oseberg, but I have been to Gokstad. The burial mound is at sea level. In fact the fjord has silted and you can’t see water from the site now.

The East Angles seem to have had a liking for using headlands as burial sites, and Sutton Hoo is eighty feet above sea level. I think that, before hauling a ship up the incline, you would want to take all unnecessary weight out!

The chronology looks a bit like this:

Nydam ship: c. 320 AD (dendrochronology)

Sutton Hoo ship: built c. 600 AD and buried 620 AD (coins in grave goods)

Oseberg Ship: built c. 800 AD, buried c. 834AD

Gokstad ship: timber felled c. 890 (dendrochronology)
 
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Badvisor

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Tomahawk's right - it contributes nothing to the bottom line. In fact all of this archaeology and history malarkey is no practical use; why are we wasting public money on it? Close down all the history and humanities departments of the universities - that would save millions that we could invest in accountancy!
 

Kukri

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All very interesting, but to what purpose?
Is it any more than a. very nice job for people who get paid indulging their hobby at public expense?
Sorry - but - what public expense?

Mrs Pretty employed Basil Brown at her own expense and gave the entire discovery to the nation after she had been awarded ownership of it by a Coroner’s Court which concluded that it was not “Treasure Trove”.

The Sutton Hoo estate was left to the National Trust, who are not part of the Government any more than the RNLI or the RSPCA are.

The half size replica was privately researched and built.

The full size replica is being crowdfunded and built by volunteers.

Please point out to us the “public expense”.

What you have here is the opposite of “public expense”. What you have is public spiritedness and public service, along with a good deal of happy enthusiasm.

Try getting out of bed on the other side?
 
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Laminar Flow

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All very interesting, but to what purpose?
Is it any more than a. very nice job for people who get paid indulging their hobby at public expense?
Where to start?
First, the insight that our ancestors where not a bunch of numb-headed morons, but a people who through a process of trial and error, keen observation and sober analysis where capable of designing and building a complex, timelessly beautiful machine that, in terms of performance, can well match our computer assisted creations molded in "frozen snot" (as Mr. Herreshoff would be inclined to say).

On a technical level, the remarkable fact that a very small increase in salient keel, from 2cm to 4cm can reduce leeway in a shallow draft vessel by 80%. Furthermore the demonstration how the development of form stability through subtle changes in hull shape aided the development of sail as a power source as well as the astonishing performance capabilities of low aspect foils in the form of a square sail.

In cultural terms, the resurrection of what has to be the archetypal form of a ship, as echoed in ancient Swedish petroglyphs, on Myconeean pottery or on the walls of Egyptian tombs is significant. For sculptural beauty alone, never mind it's historic importance, such a thing is as valid of recreation as a Bach cantata or the restoration of a Gothic Cathedral.

Regarding all the schemes our governments have come up with to squander public funds, this most surely is not one of them. I pity the modern, penny pinching barbarian, cast loose from his roots and adrift on a sea of digital trash with no physical connection to a real world. It is one thing to read about the past, it is quite another to touch it, feel it and to explore it with all one's senses.
 
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johnalison

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I am not very good with history, which rejected me at school, but I think that your best point is about being in touch with the real world. This means, to me, taking an interest is history, nature, science, and what were called the fine arts. Today's ephemeral life with little but sport and TV soaps to occupy people is too close to a Brave New World of ersatz experience for me, and it alarms me that so many people are prepared to accept it. The few worthies who do things like bee-keeping or wild water swimming are at least living real lives.

The ship recreation I suppose comes under the heading of experimental archaeology. I think that this is a controversial topic among academics, but it has revealed an enormous amount about the past, and given the rest of us a lot of fun.
 

penfold

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I'm reminded of a book I read by a chap who masterminded the construction of a replica of the Argo in Greece, which was then rowed to Georgia and back. Asking why objectively rather misses the point. The plans were drawn by Colin Mudie.

There is a replica of the first Scottish sea-going steamship on a plinth in Greenock; it was put there by the council after it took part in the bunfight to celebrate 150 years since the original was launched, the passing of time, the predation of scottish weather on a wooden boat out of its natural habitat and council neglect mean she is rotten as a peach. The council say they don't have the money to build another, but do have £500k for a vulgar bit of modern art to 'celebrate' shipbuilding heritage. I think a rebuild or rehull of the replica would celebrate that heritage rather better, as would leaving it in the water and operating it rather than putting it on a plinth, which would also have the useful byproduct of reducing the chance of it rotting away again quite so quickly. There are still boatbuilders on the Clyde, just about; if offered money and a contract to build a replica the work might produce trainee boatbuilders as well as a boat, whereas the modern art will just get spraypainted by neds and s**t on by seagulls.
 

Leighb

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Interesting thread, particularly as our new residence is in the same building as “The Long Shed” where the replica vessel is to be constructed. They are hoping to get the keel laid in the next week or so having already constructed the steel “strongback” on which the keel will be laid.
I was somewhat entertained to read in Friday’s EADT article that “The Sutton Hoo longship which inspired the Netflix film The Dig, is being carefully restored from scratch after it was buried more than 1400 years ago” . My italics. It was otherwise an interesting article.
 

Aquaboy

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errrr so the Saxons used a steel strong back when they laid the keel !!
 

Leighb

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errrr so the Saxons used a steel strong back when they laid the keel !!
I assume you are joking? The team reconstructing it are, I suppose, trying to make sure they get the shape right, they are not replicating the original construction methods, which can only be guessed at anyway.
 

rgarside

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P6280140.jpeg
This is the mast step of the replica that was left in the Shetlands when the crew decided not to continue their trip to the new world. It's onshore at Haroldswick.
 

penfold

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What is it with putting wooden boats on plinths? Do people like looking at rotting hulks? They did the same with Gypsy Moth IV, Cutty Sark and Carrick/City of Adelaide, it never ends well.
 
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Aquaboy

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I assume you are joking? The team reconstructing it are, I suppose, trying to make sure they get the shape right, they are not replicating the original construction methods, which can only be guessed at anyway.
Yes and no if I'm honest.... judging from the way the thread has gone, (surprisingly in my opinion) and the question really about the value of the project .
It will be great to see the craft built and on the water and that can only be a good thing for Woodbridge. If how ever we are trying to gain a historical understanding of the craft it would be far better to build it on the saltings on the bank opposite the long shed with traditional tools.
 

johnalison

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What is it with putting wooden boats on plinths? Do people like looking at rotting hulks? They did the same with Gypsy Moth IV, Cutty Sark and Carrick/City of Adelaide, it never ends well.
I have just noticed this. It seems that putting a boat out of harm's way only to rot is common. This lifeboat was built by Forrestt's before they moved to Wivenhoe. I photographed it in Skanör, souther Sweden in 2002. There were gaps starting to develop between the planks of the then recently-restored boat.
'02 (118).jpg
 
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