The world’s largest Viking ship won’t sail to Duluth after all.
The Norwegian ship, which came up short of money, will make the tall ship festival in Green Bay, Wis., its last stop rather than Duluth, according to a statement released Thursday on the ship’s website.
The Draken Harald Hårfagre, which set sail from Norway in April, ran into problems last month when its sponsors learned that it needed $430,000 to pay pilots to guide the vessel through the Great Lakes. The Draken thought it was exempt from the rule that requires pilots on all foreign vessels navigating the U.S. Great Lakes. Its crew was following a Canadian law that allowed vessels its size to sail without a pilot.
Just when the Draken’s crew thought it would have to abandon its plans to sail the Great Lakes, the Sons of Norway, an international organization based in Minneapolis, came to the rescue and raised about $119,000. That money, along with a reduction in pilot fees to $250,000, allowed the Norwegian ship to sail to Chicago for the July tall ship festival there and now to Green Bay, where its weekend festival begins Friday.
The Draken arrived in Green Bay Thursday afternoon.
“We are so happy and grateful we made it all the way from Norway, across the North Atlantic Ocean, through the St. Lawrence Seaway and into the Great Lakes; it has been a modern Viking voyage,” the statement said. “The ship and her crew navigated through the rough seas, ice, extreme temperatures and all the storms along the way. We couldn’t be more proud of this accomplishment.”
But it was “very sad not to sail all the way to Duluth,” where Scandinavian-American communities have been deeply involved in promoting the ship, the statement said.
Scratching the Draken from the Duluth festival is a disappointment for organizers there, but “it’s circumstances beyond our control,” said Craig Samborski, executive producer for the Duluth festival and those on the West and East coasts. The Duluth festival is Aug. 18-21.
“[The Draken] certainly is an important part of the event, but they are one piece in a very, very large event,” he said. “We still have eight other stunning ships coming, the world’s largest rubber duck, 170 authentic art vendors, entertainment going eight hours a day of the event and some of Duluth’s finest food and craft beers to offer.”
Ship no-shows are “par for the course,” Samborski said. “We always factor in that some ships aren’t going to make it,” he said. In 2013, two ships didn’t arrive.
Besides raising more than $119,000 from more than 1,000 donors, the Sons of Norway had an additional $20,000 that would have been available if the Draken dropped anchor in Duluth.
But it appeared the $20,000 wouldn’t have been enough to completely finance the trip to Duluth, said Eivind Heiberg, Sons of Norway chief executive.
The organization ended its fundraising efforts after the Draken announced Thursday it wouldn’t sail to Minnesota.
“There certainly are people who are disappointed that the ship isn’t going to make it to Duluth,” Heiberg said. “But the fact that Sons of Norway was able to play a role in getting the ship to Chicago and then Green Bay is wonderful so that so many more people had the chance to experience the ship.”
Norwegians are passionate about their heritage and culture, Heiberg said. Some of the donations came from people who already saw the ship in Bay City, Mich. “They wanted others to have the same experience,” he said. “They were paying it forward. That’s truly heartwarming.”
The ship’s crew said it will replan its route out of the Great Lakes. The Draken is still expected to visit New York in the middle of September.