The rudder is shaped like an airplane wing.


Viking Sailing new Ideas by Peter Sjolander
Table of contents.
rudder
shields
oars-as-outrigger
Oar Sails
Ship cover
Mast
Two Sails
256 Diamond sails
Sailing blind
Navigation
Viking Watch
snow Sailing
Winterize a Viking ship
Oar harness

I was delighted to learn that a modern Viking ship had sunk while sailing at ten knots. The skipper said the ship seemed to trip over it's own bow wake. This was great news for me because I have held the firm conviction for many years that we don't know how to rig and sail a Viking ship. The fact that this ship sunk meant to me that the skipper might be having those thoughts also.

rudder


The Viking rudder started me down the path of my current theory. The key element about the Viking rudder is that it is shaped like an airplane wing. This means that the lift and drag just balance where it is placed on the ship. This was important because this allowed me to assume that the Vikings understood the concept of lift and drag. With this assumption I went looking for other possible uses of lift in the design of the Viking rigging. What I came up with I discovered while paddling my canoe. If you hit the water fast and hard at a glancing angle with a canoe paddle you can get a lift imparted from the paddle to the canoe. Of course with only one paddle in my canoe all I get is the canoe rocking. However it made me think that if the Vikings had the oars braced out thru the oar holes at just the right angle the oars would act just like my paddle. That is the forward motion of the ship would push up against the oar paddles and cause the whole ship to lift out of the water just a little bit. I liked this idea.

shields


My next task was to find some artifact with which to brace the oars with so as to keep them at just the right angle. I figured they had to be strong and there had to be lots of them, that is one for each oar. What filled the bill was the shields with the holes in the center. I had never been comfortable with shields with holes in the center. It had always seemed silly for a shield to have a hole in the center. However if the shields were used as oar braces while under sail then it made perfect sense to have shields with a hole in the center.

oars-as-outrigger


I saw some Viking shields with holes in the center. These holes looked the same size as the oar holes. My theory has these shields with holes in the center being used as the brace for the oars-as-outrigger.
The thing we have today that will give you some idea of the force generated by the oars-as-outriggers is a water ski. A good way to think of the lift generated by each oar is each oar is like a man out on the end of the oar lifting with all his might. Since this lift is leveraged three man's height from the keel it makes a very effective righting force.

Oar Sails


Skipping down the face of a wave.. I have been looking for additional sources of power for the Viking Ships for some time. The Sagas said the Vikings could make their own wind. One possibility of this statement is that it was a joke about farts. The other possibility is that the Vikings could make their own wind because their ships were designed to use other sources of power on the open sea.
Wave power is a great source of additional power for the Vikings to use. The up and down motion that causes people to get sea sick has so much power it can raise a 100,000 pound ship up 20 feet in a mater of seconds. The trick off course is to design a ship that can make use of this fantastic source of power. My theory is that the Vikings figured out a way to turn this tremendous source of up and down motion into forward motion. Surfers are one example that we have today of turning the upward motion of a wave into forward motion. My theory is that the Vikings used this same idea, that is they surfed down the face of the waves. The trick from surfing is to get enough speed so that the surf board will plane down the face of the wave. Modern sailing ships under certain conditions surf down the face of waves. My theory is that the Vikings used the oars as sailing outriggers to make the ship plane easier.
My theory then uses these same oars as tie down points for oar sails. These oar sails function would be to catch air on the downward motion and thus cause the ship to have even less wetted surface. This would further help the surfing action of the Viking ship. I believe that in this way the Viking ship could be made to skip down the face of the wave with only it's oars and keel touching the water.
Waves have another power in addition to the up and down motion. This is a current towards the crest of the wave. It seams that water in a wave has a current towards the crest. This is due to the nature of waves. The water circulated down and then up again as a wave passes by. With ingenious design a ship could also use this current as a source of power. In general to use this source of power, the ship needs to be in contact with the water on the way up the back of the wave. Then lift out of the water coming down the face of the wave.
The wind can be made to seem to blow stronger if it is concentrated. I don't have any ideas how to do that yet.

Ship cover


The size of the sails on the rune stones of Viking ships seems very small. The mast found with the Oseberg also seems very short by modern standards.
I have always wondered at the fact that the Viking ship had no cabin. It is shown as just an open boat. When the Oseberg was found there were three other boats found with it. I believe these boats were lashed on the deck upside down and provided a cabin roof.
Modern tests
A person from Minnesota built a Viking ship just like the Vikings used, but when he tried to get a Norwegian captain to sail the ship to Norway the captain said it needed three changes before he was willing to sail it to Norway. He said it needed more keel, more ballast and more mast. From my point of view this was very important information. This captain told us that we were missing some very important parts of a safe sailing ship. He came up with his solutions and now I am going to tell you other ways to get the same three effects without changing the design of the Viking ship.
The first problem was not enough keel. My solution to this problem is the oars as outriggers. This will act just like extra keel but will not change the design of the Viking ship keel.
The second problem was not enough ballast. My solution to this problem is the other three boats found with the Oseberg. I turn them upside down and lash them to the deck. They are just the right size for the biggest one to fit between the mast and the back, the second biggest to fit between the mast and the front the smallest would fit on either side on the oar racks. Another reason for ballast is to keep the ship from heeling so much, on my design the oars as outriggers would help this problem also.

Mast


The third problem is not enough mast. My solution to this problem is more and different sail. Let me explain in detail. One design aspect of the Viking ships depicted on the rune stones was the cross hatching marks on the sails. I believe these cross hatching to be a design element. Each of these cross hatches is a little self contained sail. The only thing we have today in the modern world that will give you some idea of what I am talking about is modern stunt kites.

Two Sails


On the Oseberg was found two cross booms. On my design I use these two booms mounted one below the other from the mast to hold four sails. The sails are mounted in such a way that from the front the sails look like two "A"s one inside the other. The top "A" is tied at the bottom to the neck of the oars-as-out-riggers. The lower "A" is tied to the oar holes. Each one of these four large sails is made up of many smaller sails that are similar to modern stunt kites.

256 Diamond sails


There is an added advantage to this design. When there many small sails the ship can tack very quickly with just the rudder. This design also gets rid of a nagging problem which is that there has never been found where the sails were tied down. This design gets around that problem.

Sailing blind


When sailing in bad visibility the smaller ships were put out in front tied to a long rope. These smaller sailing ships would be used the way a blind man uses a cane. The smallest one would sail out in front. If this little boat ran into anything it's captain could make the rope go slack. The next biggest boat would notice the slack rope and turn away from the danger.

Navigation


On the Oseberg was found two round stone grinding wheels.
On my design these two stone wheels are gyroscopes and use for navigation. The first stone would be free mounted in such a way that it's center hole would always point at the north star.
The second stone would be free mounted in such a way that it's center hole would point at the sun. Even when the sun was on the other side of the earth. The first stone would be used like a compass always pointing north. The second stone would be used to tell both the local time of day but also the latitude. The Vikings also keep an Oslo time with a meter stick to mark the seconds so that with these three devices the Vikings could know which way was north even with no visibility. They could know latitude by seeing the angle of the sun stone. They could calculate longitude by the difference between the local time read from the sun stone and the Oslo time counted on the watch by the meter stick. Sunstone an article in Sky & Telescope.

Viking Watch



The Viking time keeper
One of the ways that the Vikings could have been such good navigators is if they had a way to keep time. I have spent much thought on this issue and have come up with the conclusion that the pieces would have to be so simple that we of the modern age would not be able to tell it was a time keeper.
Following this idea I have devised a person powered time keeper. It has one basic part, a pendulum. In this case a stick about as long as my arm from elbow to finger tip. This pendulum would have a pivot point a short way down from the top. The power for the swing would be provided by the person holding the pendulum. This pendulum would be cut and tested to give a very regular modern day second.
I tried making this pendulum and within a few hours had a fair time keeper. I used a metal screw in the bottom to adjust the length of the swing. I also wrote a ten line basic program to help me tune the swing to a second. I will Email this program to anyone who wants to build a Viking Watch.
The next part of the time keeper I had to devise was the Second counter. Sixty seconds was the number I was looking for. I came up with thirty seconds in the following manner. Lets say the fingers of one hand count for one each. Then say that the fingers of the other hand count for one hand of the other hand. Both hand full gives a count of thirty. For me that was close to sixty. To get to sixty I added another person to aid in the time keeping. This person helped the first person by adding an additional thirty to the count.
So now I could time the seconds with a person powered pendulum. I could count to a sixty second minute with two people and their twenty fingers. I had yet to figure the rest of the counting. A clock face would work. The time keeper would move the hand one minute each time all four hands got full.
Where did the clock face come from. Or for that matter where did the modern second come from. Here is my idea. The Vikings knew that in one year the moon was full twelve times. Thus any thing that went in a circle could be divided into twelve parts. The Vikings knew that the year was divided into 360+ days. Thus anything that went in a circle could be divided into 360 parts. In this case there seemed to be a magic connection between the two ways of counting. That is thirty. Now thirty is the number you get with your two full hands when counting fives on one hand and ones on the other. It is also what you get when you divide 360 by 12.
Now I felt that the Vikings would want a pendulum that was a convenient size. Something you could attach to you belt like a sword. I had thought at first that the length might turn out to be a meter or yard, but it did not. I also thought that the Viking second would be gotten by taking 12 times 30 times 30. That seemed like the most straight forward result. The resulting pendulum was much too long. About 8 times too long. That is 8 as in 2 times 2 times 2. Now I had always wondered about the word second meaning time and the word second meaning 2nd. And here I was with all these twos. So I gave each two to a different factor and got 12 times 2 times 30 times 2 times 30 times 2 or 24 * 60 * 60 that we have today.
When I started building time pendulums, my first one was a meter long. Its period was a second and a half. Then I built one that was two seconds long, but it was taller than me. Not easy to carry around. I finally gave in and built a pendulum a second long. It was a very convenient size and could be carried on the belt. I still like the meter long one the best but I couldn't make the numbers come together.

snow Sailing


I read an article in Scientific American written in 1972. About Viking Trade routes in Europe. One line in that article has stuck with me. It goes something like this. "The Vikings moved about the frozen snow covered lakes and meadows of Europe as if on the open sea."
Many years latter I was reading about a new sport of wind surfing on snow. The author claimed he had never experienced such freedom in the snow. Because for the first time he had two sources of power instead of only one. These two sources of power were wind and gravity. He had always had gravity.
Now my idea is that the Vikings had three sources of power. Gravity, wind, and reindeer. With their oars braced out like outriggers, they would be able to be pulled by reindeer up frozen rivers and snow covered meadows. Then when the reindeer had pulled them to the top of a mountain pass they would have the biggest toboggan in history. They could steer to a certain extent by weight shift.

Winterize a Viking ship


Here is what I think the Viking did with their ship for the winter. First in the fall I think they made them have neutral buoyancy and then let them down a rope to 300 meters of sea water. Then let them hang there over night. This would serve to give the boats a high salt water content and kill and loosen all critters big and small.
Next they would pull them out of the water and turn them over so as to make a roof over their winter barracks. There are rock walls, just the right height and shaped like ships, all over scandinavia. And the formations suggest modern military barracks layout. Often in river deltas.
Next you keep a warm wet fire burning all winter long to keep the wood moist. This would also serve to "smoke" the wood on the inside of the ship. The outside of the ship may then have been covered with moist salt sand to keep the outside of the ship moist. And on top of that a nice thick layer of sod to keep the sand from getting blown away.

Oar harness


I have come up with an oar harness that will allow Viking sailors to be more efficient rowers. It will allow a rower to leave his post without taking out his oar. Thus a rower can take a break or change sides of the boat without any danger of his oar fowling other oars. A skipper can move a rower from one side of the ship to the other to balance the total strength of each side of rowers. The oar harness makes a very simple way to use very inexperienced people as rowers and get good work out of them.
The design of the oar harness is as follows. Each oar on a side is lashed to the one in front of it and lashed to the one in back of it. This lashing is very specific. Here is how it is taught. Using two people. One just stands with his arms straight out in front of him. He is two oars. The other person takes a piece of rope as long as he is tall and makes a loop in one end. He then lays this rope over the two arm of his partner. The center of the rope is at the nose of the partner. Now loop the rope around each arm two times. Now tie the two ends of the rope together. The knot should end up right in the center between the two arms. The rope allows the arms to turn and move together. This same technique is used with the oars. The difference is that there are more than two oars. The rope from the third oar is interwoven with the rope from the first oar just like folded hands. This keeps the rope from moving up or down the oar. The purpose of the harness is to keep all the oars moving in unison. Thus an oar with no one tending it will go thru the motions just like it had a rower pulling it. This harness allows all rowers to pull just as hard as they can and still not overtake the person in front or in back of them. Without the oar harness the rowers can only pull as fast as the weakest rower. With the harness the rowers have no limit on how hard they can pull. One very strong rower and two empty oars on one side can be complimented by three weak rowers on the other.

The ends.
The ends need to be spring loaded in such a way that the oars can move through their normal stroke and feather on the back stroke. The spring I have chosen is the longbow. One for each end. The longbow has about the right weight and pull length for the draw and tightness needed. Two sixty pound longbows will make the oar harness taught and suspend all the oars just above the surface of the water when the oars are left untended.
A pulley would be lashed to the center of the bow string. This pulley would have the rope from the last oar go though it. This pulley is necessary so that the oars may feather while out of the water on the backstroke. The rope from the pulley to the bow string may be of any length. This is determined by where the bow is placed so as not to be in the way of other activity.
This harness may also explain why the Viking oars are so much fatter near the handle than modern oars. The fatness is to make the oars balance right at the oar hole. Using this oar harness a single man may row all the oars of a Viking ship from a spot near the front or back of the ship where the oar handles are near each other. Needless to say the wind would have to be dead calm or it would blow the underpowered boat at it's whim. In the same fashion, any number of men may row at a time. Making the continuous rowing of a Viking ship not such a drudgery as we have always thought. The Viking ship would always look like it was fully maned even when it only had a crew of five or ten.