The Marriage Proposal
The Rush To Build The Best Ship
" When you paid the fee to enter the contest you agreed to the terms I clearly laid out at the Moot. To change the rules now would be unfair to those who have already left ! " he told them angrily.
Several of the contestants tried to withdraw and asked for their money back, but Turið flatly refused.
" As my husband has already stated. You knew the rules when you entered. Now you must live with your decisions ! " she scolded them as if they were her children.
Throughout the Faroe Islands timbers were quickly felled, and split into the correct size planks. These were then attached to the ribs of the ship using iron rivets and roves. Oar ports were cut into the planks at the right height to give the oars the correct angle for proper rowing, and the rudders were carefully attached to the starboard side of the ships. The women gathered up wool and moss, which the men mixed with pine tar. This waterproofing material was then stuffed in between the overlapping planks to seal the ship from leaking. Once these ships were in the salt water for a period of time the planks would swell further sealing them from leakage. The women also helped in the making of the sails and ropes which completed the outfitting of the vessels.
Each ship was from a general design, dating all the way back to the earliest ship building times in the Jutland area, but each had a slightly different shape, and they were all of various lengths. And all used either a Knarr or a Longship as the template for their designs. Two of the deciding factors as to whether to build a small or a large vessel were usually the need for sturdiness, and seaworthiness, and of course time. Many who opted for smaller Knarr type vessels feared the rough waters around the island settled by Eirik the Red where they had to stop to pick up their coin.
Another factor that led some of the contestants to make their ships smaller was if they could find or afford to enlist enough men to act as rowers. Many of the would be husbands of Tóra decided on smaller vessels when they came to realize just how much it would cost to pay these seamen to sail to Iceland and back with them. Even the smallest of ships would cost the contestants a small fortune to enlist these men. All hoped, however, that a marriage to the daughter of the Chieftain of Skúvoy would pay off in the future.
The ships were all built using the tried and tested construction method known as clinker building, which simply meant that each plank overlapped the one under it all the way to the top of the ship. This gave the ship both strength, and despite it's odd look, greater speed through the ocean by displacing less water as it plowed ahead.
Two men who decided not to save money in the construction of their Long Ships were Laf Ossursson, and Heinrekr the Saxon. Laf, who was a friend and an ally of Tróndur í Gøtu, had long admired the daughter of Chieftain Brestisson. Due to his affiliation with Tróndur, and his reluctance to fully convert to Christianity, Laf had never bothered to ask for Tóra's hand in marriage. At the urging of Tróndur, however, and with the thought that Sigmundur could not possibly turn down the match if he won, Laf had entered the race, and with the help of his friend he expected to win.
Heinrekr the Saxon was not well known in the Faroe Islands. It was believed that he came from Saxony, but Heinrekr was a private man who had little to say, and who had his own friends and allies. What was known about this big brutish man was that he did not like to be cheated, and he had already made several Faroe Islanders regret dishonoring him. He also did not like to lose, and along with his friends poured money and great effort into building what he felt would be the best ship.
Tróndur í Gøtu, who would do almost anything to annoy or anger his long time enemy, was more than happy to help Laf build, and man his vessel. He wanted to sail to Iceland with his friend as well, but felt it was more important for him to stay in the Faroe Islands to protect his property, and to keep and eye on the Chieftain from Skúvoy.
Tóra, however, did not care about alliances, revenge, or even love for that matter. She was a wise and very practical woman, who had watched each of her would be husbands carefully as the twenty three men paid for the right to enter the contest. In her mind only one man would be a proper husband for the daughter of a chieftain. And that was the Norwegian Eyvindr Einarrson. For he was the son of Einar, a minor chieftain in southern Norway, who owned a large tract of farm land in West Agder. Eyvindr was wealthy, powerful, and with a small army of his own he had aspirations of becoming a Jarl in Norway.
Sigmundur Brestisson did not care what anyone wanted ! He had already decided to change the tide in his favor. He sent Valbrandr, whose father had been a good friend and ally of his father, to Iceland in February to make sure that his man, Dirk IV of Frisia won and that one way or another all of the others failed. The chieftain, of course, simply told everyone that Valbrandr was going to Iceland to give Eirik the Red the coins that would be awarded to the contestants when they arrived to prove they had actually made the trip to Iceland. What no one but Sigmundur knew, however, was that Dirk IV had already been given one of the coins and would not have to stop in Iceland at all !
- End Chapter 4
- Next : Chapter 5 : " Let The Contest Begin ! "
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.