Sharon DelVento
Sharon DelVento

    I heard that the great Viking long ship that has traveled all the way to the United States from Norway is getting socked with a surprise $400,000 fee, to pay for the equally unexpected U.S. Coast Guard requirement that a special “Great Lakes” pilot be hired for the occasion. 

This is due to what amounts to a communication blunder. The crew are not real Vikings. (Come to think of it, it’s too bad they’re not. They could just pillage their way to Duluth. We would deserve it, at this point.) They are not a commercial ship, they are not carrying any cargo but themselves, they are not selling any merchandise, they are just performing one of the most extraordinary feats of seamanship in our lifetime, and trying to get to Chicago first, and then to Duluth for the Tall Ships Festival, which runs Aug. 18-21, and all they’re getting is grief. From us. I am embarrassed. I am ashamed. This is a new high in asininity. Emphasis on the “ass.” Do all the Tall Ships get hit with this fee too? What a racket.

These guys have been sailing since April 24, putting in at various ports, and made it all the way across the Atlantic in a replica of a Viking long ship that was “built to re-create the transatlantic crossing made by explorer Leif Eriksson more than a thousand years ago … with techniques from archaeological findings, using old boatbuilding traditions … [It] features an oak hull and a 3,200-square-foot sail [and] … carries a crew of 32 men and women” (Star Tribune on-line article by Tim Harlow, “World’s largest Viking ship, headed to Duluth, needs to pay $400K or turn around”, July 13, 2016). You can also read the CBC News article, “Norwegian replica of Viking ship sails into $400K in unexpected expenses”, by Hillary Johnstone, July 13, 2016.

As of my writing, they are now stuck because some anal-retentive wants to apply some rule to what is pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Of all the times an exception ought to be made, this is it. Is this how we treat our friends?

If you are even remotely computer literate, please check out the Draken Harald Hårfagre on Youtube. I hear that the Sons of Norway are trying to step up to the plate to raise money for them to continue on (www.sonsofnorway.com/draken). The deadline date to sign an online petition to get the fee waived was July 17, but it never hurts to check on-line and see what else is happening.

I cannot believe the stupidity of all this, but I should not be surprised. One of my “favorite” bureaucracy tales came from one of Vesterheim’s magazines (article by Blaine Hedberg, 2004, Vol. 2, No. 2): the tale of the arrival of the “Sloopers” on the Restauration on October 12, 1825. These poor Norwegians - Quakers and Haugeans mostly (i.e., not people rolling in cash) - had over-loaded their boat with people. Turned out, welcome to America, there was a fine of $3,150 for carrying too much “people-weight” per ton of “ship-weight,” a fine which, of course, they did not have the money to pay. So U.S. Customs seized the ship and jailed the captain.

Enough money was raised by friends and supporters to get him out on bail, but eventually the case had to be kicked all the way up to President John Quincy Adams, who granted an official pardon on Nov. 15, and probably went home to his wife and said, “Honey, get a load of this. I cannot believe the kind of stuff they come to me with.” 

Anybody got an “in” with President Obama? It might give him a laugh, if nothing else, after dealing with a slaughter of police in Texas, a massacre in France, and an attempted coup in Turkey.

Ye gods. I hope this will be resolved before you see this article, but common sense does not seem to be the prevalent trend these days in any other aspect of our lives, why should this be any different?