Nothing stops viking mauraders, except red tape

The Norwegian longship Draken Harald Håfarge, seen here in an English port in 2014. (PHOTO: Andrew, Flickr CC)

The Norwegian longship Draken Harald Hårfagre, seen here in an English port in 2014. (PHOTO: Andrew, Flickr CC)

By now, many of you may have heard of the woes facing the Norwegian replica longship (aka, viking ship) Draken Harald Hårfagre as it makes its way into the Great Lakes.

This ship sails around the world doing exhibitions, and now sails the Great Lakes as part of a tour of historical tall masted sailing ships. This tour was to culminate with the Duluth Tall Ships Festival Aug. 18-21.

Unfortunately, the Draken Harald has been snagged by something real vikings never had to worry about: paperwork and a complex regulatory environment.

International ships longer than 35 meters are required to employ an official pilot to navigate through some of the narrow or tricky passes along the Great Lakes system. The Norwegian ship left port in Europe believing it was just short enough to avoid the requirement, but the U.S. Coast Guard insisted they were just over 35 meters. The pilot costs about $9,100 per day, which means it would take more than $400,000 for the Draken Harald to complete its tour as planned.

Though the ship’s owner and crew have managed to raise more than $60,000 along the way, there is doubt they can raise the full $400,000 to get all the way to Duluth.

It seems logical that the Coast Guard might be willing to bend on this, given the cultural significance of the ship and the events it plans to visit. But they have not, and say they won’t make an exception … even for a wooden viking ship.

So after almost 1,000 years, it appears we’ve finally figured out how to stop the onslaught of viking marauders: arcane, absolutist shipping regulations enforced by berserker clerks willing to carry their red “Denied” stamp with them to the eternal battles of Valhalla.

And it is without further adieu that I share an editorial cartoon by my nine-year-old son Douglas (or Doug W.B. as he has come to sign his artwork). Doug and I were talking about this story. I said “can you imagine a viking standing in line to get some paperwork filed?” and he came up with the cartoon below, including the one-liner, all on his own. It’s his professional debut! I couldn’t be prouder.

Cartoon by Douglas W. Brown for

Cartoon by Doug W. B. for

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