Viking ship replica needs funding to get to Chicago
They've come from the land of the ice and snow, but for you to see them this summer they're going to need your dough.
The Draken Harald Hårfagre from Norway, a newly built replica of the Viking ship era, was expected to be a part of Chicago's Tall Ships exhibition July 27-31 at Navy Pier.
But entering U.S. waters from Canadian waters last week, the crew ran into an unforeseen regulatory issue that's threatening the rest of their scheduled stops throughout the Great Lakes.
Unlike in Canada, the dragon-headed ship built to mimic the Viking seafaring technology of 1,000 years ago is considered a commercial vessel by U.S. standards.
The ship has a captain, but U.S. regulations require it to have a navigational pilot as well -- an unanticipated expense that adds an estimated $430,000 to its travel budget.
Until it does, the ship is stuck in Bay City, Michigan -- its first port of call after the problem arose.
Volunteers from throughout the Chicago area's Scandinavian community have been preparing a reception for the crew of 33 on their anticipated arrival. The reception is meant to raise money to pay for the crew's accommodations in Chicago.
Now, however, that fundraiser is twinned with a Minneapolis-based Sons of Norway foundation to raise money for the Draken's pilot fees.
As quickly as Friday afternoon, $25,481 of the $430,000 goal had been pledged.
"We definitely need help on this, but it's moving in the right direction," said Mette Bowen, a Norwegian native and Lake Forest resident who has led the organizing of the July 27 reception at Navy Pier.
"Sons of Norway and the Draken have an agreement. As long as the money keeps coming in, the Draken will keep moving forward."
The donation website for the Sons of Norway's efforts is at sonsofnorway.com/draken.
As for her own local efforts to organize the reception, Bowen said she doesn't know exactly when a final decision will be made on whether the ship -- whose name means Dragon Harald Fairhair in English, after the first king of Norway -- will sail to Chicago.
But Sarah Blank, the spokeswoman for the ship, believes it can't be any later than Monday when the Draken must leave Bay City -- in one direction or the other.
"We have this wonderful initiative from Sons of Norway," Blank said. "But we have to have a decision made by Monday, otherwise we won't make it to Chicago anyway."
The estimated pilot fee for the ship's journey is based on the average rate of $400 per hour for a pilot's services.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it doesn't have the authority to waive the pilot requirement and only an act of Congress could do so.
Bowen said the decision was quickly made not to challenge the regulation or the pilots' union but to try to raise the money required.
The Draken's scheduled visit to Chicago is also hoped to raise awareness and money for the restoration and permanent display of an authentic Viking ship replica now stored in West suburban Geneva that was sailed to Chicago from Norway for The World's Columbian Exposition in 1893.
That ship, named The Viking, was built according to the same dimensions as an authentic 1,000-year-old ship discovered in a king's burial mound on a Norwegian farm, said Dave Nordin of Naperville, a member of the Friends of the Viking Ship nonprofit group.
The Viking is 78 feet long and 17 feet wide. The Draken, at 115 feet long and 26 feet wide, is not based on the dimensions of any historical ship but was constructed according to the very same building techniques, Nordin said.
In fact, the master builder of the Draken, Gunnar Eldjarn, has visited The Viking at its current resting place at Good Templar Park in Geneva to consult on the restoration, Nordin said.
"He knows this ship intimately," he said of Eldjarn.
In fact, Eldjarn is scheduled to be a guest at the Navy Pier reception from approximately 6 to 8 p.m. July 27. It's the only stop on the Draken's scheduled North American tour that he's planned to be at.