Cricket headed to Colorado a few minutes after we decked the Loper boat, and the next morning Pat and I flew to Maine to build a faering at WoodenBoat School. Jay Smith, our instructor, said the faering, which means a four-oared boat, was perhaps the Datsun pickup truck of a thousand years ago in Norway. It was the knockabout carry-all transport boat that you couldn’t really live without. They still make them in Norway, still do it by eye, and they still look exactly the same. Why change a good thing?

We set up our fortresses in the campground. Turns out it’s a good thing we used the raised platforms. For most of the next two weeks we got torrential rains, flattening my tent a few times. Luckily there’s a drier in the Farmhouse a few hundred yards away.

We cut out fore and aft stems, then cut a keel to match.



Lovely white oak grain, no?


Then we made some primitive scarphs joints to fasten them together.

We used big forged iron spikes and rivets and little else to put the beast together. The blacksmith that makes them sounds like quite a character. Jay quotes him, “I’m a Finn. And I’m a berserker. Don’t f*#k with me.”

Prow in the foreground, Farmhouse with student lodging in the background. It’s warm and dry in the Farmhouse. Why are we camping?

Oak knees that Jay harvested for the project. The two big ones closest are for frames in the bow and stern. The other four are oarlocks.

Jay’s world of Viking tools.

The caulking yarn is made from the long, wiry guard hairs of some strange sheep in England. Wild stuff.


Fastening on the garboards.

The caulking string gets soaked in a mix of linseed oil and pine tar, then laid in a small groove in the planking.


Gene Shaw was our wonderful assistant. We couldn’t have done it without him.

Then we begin shaping and putting on the strakes, five per side, all steam bent and force-fit.

Jay telling us tales of Norse boatbuilding heritage.

Gene gave a wonderful demonstration of his woodcut printing process one evening. Holy smokes, what an artist.


It rained a lot and blew hard from odd directions. Directions I did not have my tent suitably braced for. Back to the drier.

The WoodenBoat Magazine offices, up on the hill, on a foggy morning.

Iron rivets are a lot more work than copper ones, and a whole lot noisier.




My friend and sailing coach Jane coaxed us out to Naskeag Point to watch the sunset.

It was so pretty we forgot the tide was rising. Oops.

Cutting in the gain for the next strake.







I got the idea to make a pair of oars for the faering. Viking oars are as strange as Viking oarlocks. Huge triangular-ish upper looms tapering to a thin spoon blade. But it kept me out of everyone else’s way for two days. Here is one of them with the oak oarlock I shaped.

We finally topped out and Jay showed us how to cut the sheer line down with a broad axe. Yikes.

We got her done enough to float. A wee bear came by one morning during the build, so the boat got christened Lille Bjorn, which is little bear in Norwegian.

It was a treat to see her on the water. All of a sudden, instead of a daunting series of tasks to do, we could see the boat for what it was. Mighty pretty.