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Time Periods => Middle Ages => Vikings! => Topic started by: VikingSam on July 07, 2009, 12:15:20 PM
This weekend the iron men of Skjaldborg and I took Yrsa to the Platte River in the Omaha, Nebraska area. We launched at North Bend and rowed, floated, and portaged her approximately 40 river miles to the Two Rivers campground west of Omaha.
The crew consisted of John Chadwell, Chris Andrews, Develon Pluckett, Derek Bowman, and I.
Our total crew weight was approximately 1000 lbs, Yrsa weighs 600 lbs dry, and the cargo aboard probably amounted to less than two hundred additional lbs.
The weights are important because of the characteristics of the Platte River. The Platte is a very shallow, sandy bottomed river with a winding, changing channel that is not controlled by dredging and such. The water level varies from around five feet in the deeper channel to a few inches passing over the intermittent sand bars.
This river trip soon became a team building, Iron Man, event! We did our first portage over the sand berms within the first five minutes of the trip. What we were doing was trying to travel down the river in a straight line and we just kept hitting sand after sand berm. Our first lesson learned is that this is a very tiring way to travel in a viking ship. :)
We stopped and assessed and quickly saw that what we were going to have to do was of course travel the winding channel where the water was deep enough to stay in the boat and row. The question was how to know where the channel was. We began trying to "read" the water based on color and "texture", or how it moved and rippled as it passed over underwater terrain and objects. We found that you could identify the channel as a slightly more glassy, darker, faster moving water if you looked carefully and an airboat had not passed by recently!
Airboats are the only vessels that we saw on this river due to its lack of depth and nearly every riverside residence had an airboat parked on the river. The residents were very surprised by, pleased with, and supportive of having a viking vessel on the river. It was the U.S. Independance Day and there were many people on the river celebrating. We had great fun blowing viking horns towards the residents and they often answered with the air horns off of their airboats. This lifted our spirits at some key points where we were nearing exhaustion and needed a pick-me-up. ;)
Develon very quickly showed that he was exceptionally adept at being the navigator. Standing in the prow he was able to watch the water and give commands to the rowers who soon became synchronized in their rowing. Yrsa began to move through the channel with amazing agility, quick responses, and sharp and accurate turns and manuevers. Confidence in ourselves and eachother began to grow and solidify.
Before you get the idea that the trip then turned into a simple float trip, let me again describe this river. The channel or sometimes multiple channels, turn back on themselves at angles nearly impossible to follow in a current. Channels would suddenly disappear into a wide, flat sand table only inches deep. Multiple channels split by islands and sand bars swirled in all directions suddenly where you had to make a split second decision which one to try and follow. We didn't always make the correct choices. ;)
We found that to navigate Yrsa with the full crew aboard we needed water approximately "knee deep", so as we felt the sand on the keel, Develon in the front and I in the rear would jump overboard and Dev would pull while I pushed. By removing the approximately 500 pounds of the two of us and having the rowers continue to row we could often pass over the sand bar without stopping. If the sand bar was more substantial and the water shallowed quicker then we thought, one or two of the other rowers would then jump overboard to push as well. Sometimes the sand came up so fast that we would come to a dead stop on it. Then we would all unload, determine the best route to a deeper channel and portage Yrsa over the sand. We did this for many tens of yards for every mile of travel.
It was very tiring and tested our strength, endurance, and most of all our will. I know that I and the rest of the crew had our moments where we began to think that we would never make it to the end of the trip. I remember at one point being stranded on a sand bank where we could not budge the Yrsa forward another inch. We could not see a channel anywhere to head towards. We were all very tired. Someone piped up and asked, "So what do we do?", to which was answered, "We go on." All nodded and we went on. That pretty much sums it up right there. :)
We began the trip at 9:30 in the morning and arrived at the banks of the campground under the light of the fireworks being fired off from the shores. It lit the way for the last several miles of the trip which were in near total darkness. We tied up to the bank and worked Yrsa up on a sand bar to load on the trailer at 11:15 pm. Our celebratory party was short-lived and amounted to a few drinks around the fire pit as we dried off and warmed up before heading off to get some well deserved sleep.
I had a great time, much better than the first River Raid last year when I went down the Missouri River alone for 53 miles. This trip was just as physically challenging as last year, maybe more so. But it was much more satisfying to go through the trials with comrades.
Additional information for those still interested:
We saw many bald eagles, many beaver, and several deer on the river.
We had to take down Yrsa's head and tail to pass under two of the very low railroad bridges.
We ran up sideways onto a tree in the river once; no damage was done.
We stepped on turtles, catfish, and a vertebrae of some type of mammel while portaging. Animated jumps and shouts accompanied these events.
Headlong spills were taken into the river by crewmen while portaging to the amusement of the rest of the crew.
Sand filled the hems of the pants legs and trousers were removed to ease the exiting and entering of the crewmen from the ship. It was a personal choice as to whether to wear shorts or go "commando" under the tunic.
Cat-calls from the shore did invite "mooning" by crewmen on occasion. :)
Here is a bit of video from John of us on the Platte on Saturday.
I love that he used "stupid things to do" as a tag line! LOL
Also, the first part is taken right at the beginning of the trip. You can
notice the change in the tone in the later video as we were getting tired
and frustration was building. The last scene is probably about half way
through the trip as we realized that we were probably going to be arriving
at our destination in the dark. Dev has now taken his post at the prow and
is guiding us through the maze of channels. Beautiful river and scenery for
some tired vikings. :)
We are going to meet up again this next weekend and are leaning towards meeting at the Manawa Lake for some sailing. Link is here: