They should have been on this one.
End of July, it's hot, muggy, and threatening thunderstorms. I drove down myself in the Mighty Van Fearaf, sucking enough fossil fuels to fuel a small country. I braved the horrors of 695 ( I loathe 695, I detest urban areas, Fearaf refuses to do more than 55 and Marylanders near urban areas refuse to do less than 90). The Longship Company assembles at the crack of noon (it's Sunday, some Vikings actually have to appear in church). We have nine crew (it worked for Frodo); Captain Atli Who Started It All (tall, lean, brilliant, plays with superheated iron), Captain Leonard The Silent (looks, perhaps, a bit like Captain Jack, minus the dreads; and is far more on an even keel), Son of Bork the Mighty (who causes the ship to list mightily), Son of Atli, two Friends of Son of Atli: a Brawny Biker Guy (replete with tatoos and helmet bumper stickers best not repeated in PG company), and The Dashing Young Man in the Captain Jack Headscarf. With Son of Bork are a slender, intellectual Vegetarian Anarchist and a cheerful, adventurous Hobbit Girl.
And me. I once spent six days on the other Viking ship, (Fyrdraca) on the Potomac, running out of water, being buzzed by jet fighters (Quantico was practicing blowing things up at the time), and freaking the tourists as our black, dragon-prowed ship materialized out of black night backed by lightning and green bioluminescence. I spent a lot of time in living history knocking guys upside the head with broadswords, which may explain why I'm still single. You could not have cast a movie better if you'd tried. I don't even think Gilligan's Island had such a motely crew. Or is that motley?
We set out (the Three Who Came On Bikes had commandeered a great deal of beer, which they were willing to share. Wisely, the captain limited the amount consumed.) We filled two-litre soda bottles with water from the marina's spigot (avoiding the bird poo) and stuffed them into Bork Bags arrayed upon the gunnels. We stowed gear under thwarts, stashed a sufficient number of life vests and floaty cushions (all stamped with the warning: "do not wear on back"... yes this would cause you to float face down when you fall overboard, unconcious). We set forth, under oars (we spend a lot of time under oars, which explains why I can row better than I can sail), headed for the Patuxent. We toiled south against wind and current, inched past Molly's Leg (no longer leg-shaped, due to Global Climate Change and the nature of the sandy Chesapeake, which is to erode). The idea was to crawl out into the Patuxent, raise the sail and blow magnificently back downwind into the marina. We have discovered that Viking ships do not sail close to the wind; they like the wind abaft the beam. In other words, on our butts.
Hard-a-starboard a great black cloud of doom loomed over the bar. As all good sailors do, we pay great attention to things looming on the far horizon; they usually arrive on top of us much faster, and much fiercer than we expect.
"Is that lightning?"
Indeed it was. On captain's orders, we heaved the boat around. Heaving a forty foot Viking longship around is much different from spinning the wheel and revving the engine of a yacht. We have, occasionally, turned around on the thwarts (rowing benches) and rowed backwards, the other pointy end going forward. Coming about involves things like...
"Port side, hold water!"
"Starboard side, give way!"
"Port side, backwater!"
"Starboard side, frontwater!"
"Port side, stop looking like an epileptic centipede!" (ok, I know that's not PC)
"Starboard side, do something else, do it really fast..."
I took a few minutes. We finally got the other other pointy end pointed at land. The nearest land was not our dock, a good twenty minute row up the creek, with or without paddles. And since we had a large lightning rod in the middle of the boat, it seemed like a good idea to head for something closer than our slip. We aimed for the nearest public place with a dock, the bar. They're used to us, to having a wooden Viking ship tied up alongside the shining white day sailers and fishing boats. We straggled in, heaving gear bags, an armful of charts, PFDs, and one Viking axe. Biker Guy stood at the bar wielding the axe. It didn't help us get faster service.
There was a shift change coming up, and rain pouring down. We were eventually shuttled upstairs where we watched our giant canoe fill up with water and ordered lots more beer and stuff. The Vegetarian managed to aquire two hefty plates of actual vegetables (smashed potatoes sort of count) while the rest of us ate crab soup and burgers. I (Flexitarian that I am) tried to find something resembling a vegetable too, and was nearly successful. Atli maintains that Omnivores have the best chance of success and survival in any new environment, because they can eat anything. A discussion began about how bacon counted as a vegetable. Other discussions of an intellectual nature ensued. Probably not much like the actual discussions Vikings would have had. I burned some memory card trying to shoot the soggy ship past a nifty tattered flag blowing from the deck of the bar, and watching it fill up with water.
After a couple of hours, the clouds lightened enough for us to make a run for it. We bailed the boat and manned the oars. I manned the tiller, and upon Captain Atli's request, tried to remember the commands to get us away from the dock without running over any other boats, or leaving our figurehead on someone's trawler. We passed a boat tied up at the dock, a nice sort of boat, one you could wander from port to port in; across its stern was the name Millennium Falcon. Having had a beat up Ford Falcon of that name once, I was amused, though this boat was far shinier and newer than Han Solo's ship, and probably couldn't make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.
Confronted with the maze that is the marina and the channel (filled with people driving things with engines) I repeated the ancient bit of sea wisdom: "red-right-returning" and succesfully steered Sae Hrafn in a straight line back to the dock, despite Brawny Biker Guy being on one side of the ship, and Veggie Guy (half his size) on the other.
It was successful voyage, nobody drowned. The sky remained calm. Thor had given up and gone home.