Like larger Norse ships of the era, the Gyrfalcon is of lap-strake construction, and has a side-mounted steering board. The original Gokstad faering probably did not have a mast, although a slightly larger boat from the same find had a mast step (the reinforced base/socket structure on top of the keel that accepts the bottom of the mast), indicating that masts were used on vessels in this size range during the medieval period. Thus, Mr. Scofield modified the faering design to include one. With a mast of only ten feet, it is possible to step the mast, rig her and sail her with three people. However, like the Sae Hrafn, she qualifies as a Class A (Div. II) tallship. It is possible to row her in the classic rowboat manner with only one person on board, but she is much easier to control uder oars with the steering board down and a person at the tiller. Although, it is possible to row her with four rowers, each manning one oar, that is somewhat cramped and awkward. Two rowers, a helmsman, and an additional person in the bow for balance, makes for the most efficient operation of the vessel. We have learned that the placement of the mast on the Gyrfalcon impairs her operation under oars, so we unstep the mast when she is going to be used solely for rowing and not for sailing.
The Gyrfalcon is small enough to transport easily, and the Longship Company frequently takes her overland to demonstrations and events. Most often, members of the Company are in attendance dressed in Viking costume, to tell people about the history of the Gyrfalcon and the history of the Gokstadt faering boat; provide information about Vikings, their history, colonization, living conditions, every day life; explain how longships fit into that history; use the faering boat to illustrate the rigging and other aspects of medieval ships; and answer whatever questions the public may have.
During the winter the Gyrfalcon undergoes whatever maintenance is required, including sanding and re-varnishing if need be. Her various parts and equipment are checked, and repaired if necessary. These activities generally take place at work sessions during the months the Sae Hrafn is out of the water, and when either Gyrfalcon is more critically in need of work than the Sae Hrafn, or the weather does not permit work on the Sae Hrafn. Although we try to carry out as much of the maintenance as possible in the off-season, sometimes urgent or critical repairs on Gyrfalcon are done during the sailing season. Whenever such work is done, it is carried out by members, who are occasionally joined by other interested persons from the local boating and maritime history communities, and/or visitors who are interested in understanding more about the construction and maintenance of medieval-style lap-strake vessels.
We have received several requests for plans for the Gyrfalcon. We do not have plans but I suggest looking at some of the sites on the web links page (on the main menu) for more information. You could also contact the museum in Beaufort.
We do not recommend trying to scale down plans of a large boat unless you have extensive experience.
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