THE VOYAGE OF ODIN’S RAVEN by Nigel Wood – 23.9.20

Report by John Slater

Hurrah! Back in the theatre of Peel’s Centenary for a spanking start to our indoor season following very enjoyable outdoor adventures.

The evening was billed as, “An illustrated talk on the epic journey in 1979 from Norway to Peel, to mark the Manx Millenium, by crew member, Nigel Wood,” What an adventure, what a presentation, what a speaker!

The President of Tynwald asked for suggestions for a special event to mark the Millenium. Robin Bigland came up with the idea of building a replica Viking boat and sail it to the Island from Norway. This was seized upon and the boat was built in Norway in the traditional manner and fitted out as it would have been at the time.

Now for the crew – an incredible 400 men applied and these were whittled down to 75 based upon criteria such as age, fitness and, ideally, sailing experience. Training was in the hands of Major Shane Lucas, Special Boat Service. He is also well known as a highly- talented woodcarver as works in the cathedral testify.

Numbers were further reduced to 25 for intensive training. Shane made it clear from the outset that they would be wet, cold and tired. They swam in the sea daily and had to walk in circles around Shane as he stood, chest high in cold sea. What a man! Once at sea, conditions would be even worse with bad weather and darkness. Not surprisingly, only 12 were deemed fit enough for the final cut. This was going to be a 2000 mile voyage!

We saw photo’s of the boat being built using original techniques to ensure flexibility of the hull to ride waves. The name selected from a competition was Odin’s Raven. Do see the actual boat in the House of Manannan.

They had a great send off from Norway. Magnus Magnusson was aboard for a while with a t.v .film crew. They had been invited by the King of Norway to the palace to celebrate the Norwegian’s national day. A huge crowd waved them off from Trondheim, but not before each crewman had hammered a nail into the figurehead. This was the tradition before a voyage.

There were no modern navigational aids, just a primitive compass and the heavens. Oil rigs helped with positioning and one even sent food out to them in an inflatable. Shetlands, Orkneys, Lewis, Skye and a whisky distillery in Isla all featured. Very necessary after a near-terminal capsize in a filming session.

With amazing precision, crew with oars and sail arrived in Peel on the 4th July, Tynwald Day, accompanied by H.M.S. Mohawk, a huge crowd and as a bonus, H.M. The Queen and a blessing from the Lord Bishop.

This was an exceptional presentation by an exceptional man!

Next meeting, Wednesday, 21st October, 7.30 pm, Centenary Centre – Peter Cannell reveals the role of Women in the Civil War.