Viking boat successfully takes to the waters of Mission Bay
How to launch a Viking ship to sea (or bay)? With mead, and wishes of blessings from Norse gods, and lots of hoopla, of course.
For decades, Thomas Kottmeier has been driven by one obsession: to build a wooden replica Viking ship.
He thought about it, studied, practiced, talked about it with his family at dinners, and found instructions for creating a smaller version of an eighth-century Norwegian sail and oar boat.
And then: He built it.
Those last three words, of course, could never really do justice to Kottmeier’s years-long journey.
How, after retiring in 2018, he came in “like Swedish clockwork” at 9 a.m. sharp every day, said Karl Miethke, 61, of Vista, who watched Kottmeier, who is of Swedish descent, begin to construct the boat at a cultural nonprofit that provided space for the project. That was in early 2020, and the nonprofit was the Sons of Norway Lodge in Vista.
How the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world, and with it, his Viking dream. More than a few times, he almost gave up.
How friends rallied and helped: his companion in shipbuilding, Ivar Schoenmeyr, hammered in more than a thousand copper rivets and used his engineer’s mind to solve problems. Bradley Jensen, a lawyer, drafted up a liability waiver for the boat’s passengers with a Viking twist. (No pillaging.)
Kottmeier decided to name the ship the “Sleipnir,” after a mythical Norse horse.
On Sunday, the big moment came. Was the Sleipnir seaworthy?
A little before noon, under a blustery sky that seemed lent from Sweden or Norway for the occasion, Kottmeier and a joyful bunch of Scandinavians, Viking impersonators, sailors, children, fellow dreamers and intrigued onlookers met up at the De Anza Cove boat launch ramp in Mission Bay for the boat’s maiden voyage.
But first, the boat needed to be christened.
“In the name of Odin, we name you Sleipnir,” his two granddaughters said in unison and poured fragrant mead over the boat.
Then launch it did: With a little pushing and a little pulling, the 33-foot Sleipnir, made of cedar, fir and white oak, rolled off of the ramp and floated.
Some people cheered as the boat took to the water and rowers started guiding it toward a nearby dock.
After releasing the boat into the bay from the back of a rental truck, Kottmeier walked quickly to the dock, to take it all in from 200 feet away.
“She looks so small now,” Kottmeier said.
The boat did seem smaller, from that distance. But something else was grand: the community that had gathered on beach.
What started as Kottmeier’s personal project ended up meaning a lot to a lot of different people.
To some, his is a story of perseverance: clinging to a goal, even when a pandemic and a global shut down tried to tell him no.
To Lachlan Oliver, his stepson, it’s a story of living out one’s dream.
“There’s a certain childlike innocence about him,” Oliver said.
To some, it was about unfinished projects waiting in the garage.
“I love seeing someone complete a project, because I have so many unfinished projects,” said Emmy Davis, of Vista.
For Kottmeier, Sunday marked both an ending and a beginning. The construction part is over. Now he has plans in 2024 to sail it in Sweden, and other adventures await.