During the spring, summer and fall months, weather and other scheduled events allowing, the Sae Hrafn is taken out on voyages twice a month (we try to schedule one Sunday and one Saturday voyage). Saturday voyages are usually begun at 10:00am, Sunday voyages usually start at around noon. There are occasional multi-day voyages but those are indicated ahead of time.
The ship is made ready for the voyage (e.g. bailing, bending sail(s) tightening any loose rigging, mounting the figurehead and tail, loading ship's gear (including PFDs) from the dock box, personal gear, etc.). When the ship is ready to leave dock, the rules of the voyage are read and commands are reviewed and explained to any newcomers, members' guests, or new members in the crew. (If an experienced crew member can be spared from ship preparation, a quick on-shore course in commands and rowing may be given to such first-timers while the preparations are under way.)
Whenever possible, practical, and safe to do so, we operate under sail -- though the gods do sometimes decree that we will row against the wind ... both ways...and occasionally, if we have really angered them, also against the tides... Docking and similar maneuvers are performed under oar power. All members and, if along as part of the crew, guests, who are physically able to are expected to row. Even if there is a full crew of regular members, guests will be given the opportunity to row unless conditions or special requirements such as for filming, require a full compliment of experienced rowers. Rowers are shifted from port to starboard sides (with a break) in a regular pattern, usually 40 minutes on and 20 minutes off for each of the three rowing watches. Non-rowers, or those off watch, may be lookouts, steersmen/steerswomen handling the helm, preparing the rigging for sailing, keeping the log, serving as Bilgemaster, rehydrating themselves, etc.
The purpose of these voyages is to research the techniques of square-sail ships and how they differ in handling from modern sail ships. Additionally it is to teach the rigging of a Viking longshipand similar vessels, the handling of such square-sailed vessel, the handling of the ship under oars, rowing commands, seamanship, modern and Viking era nautical terminology, and European history from late Classical times to the end of the Viking era, and to enhance awareness of such history and technology in the general public. In addition to standard operation of the ship, we also use it to conduct archaeology by experiment; testing various equipment and techniques to support or refute theories about the many aspects of such ships and their operation for which definitive information is lacking. We also have fun observing nature up close from our environmentally friendly and unobtrusive (at least to the wildlife, to which a dragonship is just a big piece of strangely shaped wood) vessel; learning the more recent history of the immediate area of our voyages; talking to locals, as well as sometimes to boaters from distant ports; getting photographed; learning about nautical history of more recent eras; discussing tangential (or sometimes totally unrelated) points of history and technology; and singing (usually 18th - 20th century) rowing songs.
Upon return to dock, the ship is secured and gear is offloaded; personal gear first, followed by ship's gear which is stowed in the dock box. Sometimes the crew and guests will then meet at a local restaurant to discuss the voyage, sights seen, things learned, and ask more detailed questions.
The Gyrfalcon is used either in independent voyage operations in sheltered waters, or occasionally as an afterboat (dinghy/tender) for the ship. As an afterboat she can ferry as many as 4 persons ashore on each trip, with the fifth rowing back to the ship. She has also been used to scout out ahead of the ship in shallow waters, and on water and provision runs when inconvenient or impractical to take the ship for such purposes. Because of her light weight and shallow draft, the Gyrfalcon is ideal for riverine operations, and short portages can be done by either carrying her or sledging her along on her keel. She is not, however, suitable for long distances solo voyages, or for overnight voyages, due to her very limited stowage space and low, narrow thwarts. When trailered to a launch site, her trailer remains dry while four or more crew hand her into the water or recover her and lift her onto the trailer cradle.
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