The world’s largest Viking ship has raised enough money to continue its journey to Chicago, after more than a week of worry that it would have to turn around and head home to Norway.
But the fate of the Draken Harald Hårfagre’s scheduled stops at tall ships festivals in Green Bay and Duluth was still uncertain.
A fundraising effort launched late last week by the local Sons of Norway has raised more than $56,000, enough to allow it to sail to Chicago, where it will be part of Pepsi Tall Ships Chicago 2016.
The Draken ran into rough waters last week when it learned that it needed to come up with $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. The Draken was following a Canadian law that allowed vessels its size to sail without a pilot.
The news threatened to sink the remainder of the voyage that began in Norway in April and included stops in Iceland, Greenland and several cities in Canada and the United States.
“We are so grateful for all the people engaging in our efforts to continue our expedition in the Great Lakes,” the crew said in a news release, noting “the struggle is not yet over.”
The Draken, with an oak hull and a 3,200-square-foot sail, departed Bay City, Mich., Wednesday and is sailing to Chicago “as fast as possible in order to use as few pilot hours as possible,” the release said.
“We’ve had an overwhelming response,” said Eivind Heiberg, CEO of the Minneapolis cultural organization. “We hope we will be able to get it to Green Bay and Duluth.”
Thousands around the country have followed the Draken’s voyage and posted well wishes on the ship’s Facebook page and on the Sons of Norway site.
“People have been looking forward to this year’s Tall Ships Festival for a long time and it promises to be a great event showcasing some of the most unique ships still sailing,” wrote U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., who is co-chair the Friends of Norway Caucus. “It would be a great disappointment if the Draken is unable to make it to Duluth, but it has been great to see so many community leaders coming together to do everything possible to get the Draken to the festival.”
Heiberg said he was thankful for all those who have joined “the mission to preserve the heritage and culture of Norway.” But he added that Sons of Norway is continuing to raise money to help the Draken complete its Great Lakes tour.