After months of planning and an epic cross-country journey, Polaris finally set sail on Atlantic waters on June 2nd out of the Essex Shipbuilding Museum.
The day started out hot and sunny, as the final touches were being added to the boat. Elsewhere it was all hands on deck, setting up the bar, craft table, raffle, and our very own Norsvald swag table! Inside the Waterline Center, we hung pictures showing details of how Polaris was built as well as photos of some of the actual trees from which were harvested frames and planking.
Even before we finished setting up, people started trickling into the shipyard. We were surprised as more and more people kept arriving; one guest said, “Who is going to pass up the opportunity to see a real Viking boat in Massachusetts?"
The clouds started rolling in as we got closer to launch but the rain held off mercifully as volunteers from the crowd offered to hold the boat steady and help lower the boat off its blocks on to wooden rollers. Who knows how many ships in Essex had been launched with the help of these rollers and in this time-honored fashion?
Right before we were ready to launch, our Viking expert Dennis Kane, dressed appropriately, read a passionate Norse inspired proclamation from aboard Polaris to celebrate her launching and wish her success. Just as Miranda Boyd sprinkled Aqua Vite over the bow (gentler than breaking a bottle) sprinkles of rain provided a very dramatic backdrop for Dennis's powerful blessing.
Volunteers, including many of our friends and family, formed two groups to holding Polaris by her rails, a third group hauling on a long safety line in dramatic tug-of-war fashion. There was added drama as one of the lines came loose - a nerve-wracking moment for those close enough to see and hear what was going on. However, neither this nor the rain deterred us, and after readjusting the lines all it took was a bit of pushing and coaxing for Polaris to be gently lowered into the Essex River.
Polaris! Unfurl your sail and bend your oars; the sea rises to meet you! Onward!, through salt and spray, once more to ride the waves !- Dennis Kane
All the effort that went into building Polaris and planning her journey was all worth it for the excitement of Polaris gently gracing the Essex river. Floating around nearby the launch slipway we were able to raise her mast and turning around after a short row down river we turned around under sail we provided an unforgettable sight for the remaining spectators.
We are thankful that our special guests, skipper Arista Holden was able to travel from Maine to be with us; and master boat builder, Jay Smith traveled all the way from Washington state. Both of them being at the launch meant so much to us and ensured a successful day.
We especially want to thank the Essex Shipbuilding Museum Board, Staff and Volunteer crew whose brains and brawn applied to planning, setting up facilities and choreographing the launch, made Polaris’s stay in Essex welcome and the successful launch day possible!
There was more besides launching a Viking boat! The museum set up an activity station with knot tying, coloring, and small wooden boat kits – all of which were a big hit with the kids. A raffle highlighting prizes from local artists and businesses (including Norsvald) was on offer. The crowd enjoyed beer, wine, and snacks all while taking in the beauty of the Essex River. Some kids even got to experience the beauty up close as they took a quick swim!
Overall, it was a wonderful day and the Norsvald crew wishes to thank everyone in our community who came out to support us as we quite literally launched into a new chapter for our business!
We especially want to thank the Essex Shipbuilding Museum Board, Staff and Volunteer crew whose brains and brawn applied to planning, setting up facilities and choreographing the launch, made Polaris’s stay in Essex welcome and the successful launch day possible.
What is next for us?
In the days since launching Polaris on the Essex River, she has made her way to her new, permanent home at Maritime Gloucester. Watch for an upcoming post about our maiden trip! We are thankful to finally be in our new home on the North Shore and excited for what is to come!
In the coming weeks we will be training our crew and perfecting Polaris’s operations before we start chartering excursions later in the summer. Please contact us If you would like to book a trip with us.
Photos courtesy of Scott Ryder and Len Burgess