Rigging the Vasa

20 04 2009

On Thursday and Friday, the 12-13 March, the students of the Maritime Archaeology Programme were given a two day seminar in rigging sailing vessels. All the way from Sweden came Vasa’s rigging expert, sea captain Olof Pipping, and along with him was a 1:10 model of the top deck and masts of the Vasa ship.

Olof & the model

Olof & the model

Even though the replica was only 1:10, this did not make the model small by any means, seeing that the Vasa’s actual size was 69 metres long and 52.5 metres high and with a tonnage of ca. 1,200 tonnes. It was a warship built for the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus and was supposed to be one of the pride ships in the Swedish navy. Instead the ship sank only minutes into its maiden voyage 10 August 1628.

Students at work

Students at work

We concentrated on raising the main mast and the main topmast situated amidships and then we dressed these with sails. Accuracy was a must to be able to direct the pieces of timber and yards in-between all the different lines and poles already standing. We also quickly learned the importance of teamwork and obeying to the captain orders. It was definitely a new experience to see how one can actually rig a large sailing ship only using rope and a variety of different tackles. Even though we “only” raised the masts and sails on the model, Olof assured us that rigging the actual Vasa was done in the same way, with little extra aids.

Students at work

Students at work

During the course of the two days of rigging, the lower part of the main mast was ready for launching and as a special treat we were also shown what it would be like to sail the Vasa. With the time taken to rig the model, one can only imagine the amount of work it must have taken to rig the actual ship, with the top of the mast of the Vasa rising to 52 m over the ship’s keel. At the end of the day this is a great way of learning and a good alternative to reading articles alone.

Students at work

Students at work

You can also find a video of our rigging seminar here!

Marja-Liisa Petrelius Grue


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