OCEAN CITY — Residents and visitors to the resort in late August will have the rare opportunity to see a replica centuries-old Viking ship in Ocean City during an eight-day visit.
Three times in the last four years, the replica tall ship El Galeon Andalucia visited Ocean City in August, delighting hundreds as it entered the Inlet and cruised carefully through the narrow Route 50 drawbridge to its temporary home along the bulkhead between 3rd and 4th streets. This year, however, Ocean City will get a visitor of a different sort when the replica Viking ship Draken Harald Harfagre makes an eight-day stop in the resort as part of a larger east coast tour.
The Draken, as it is simply called, is an exact replica of the type of ocean-going vessel the Vikings sailed across the Atlantic when they discovered the New World centuries ago. It measures 150 feet long, which is shorter than El Galeon, which came in at around 170 feet. Perhaps its most striking feature, however, is its massive red sail, which is suspended from a mast that is 79-feet tall, or more than the ship’s length.
The Draken is scheduled to arrive in Ocean City on Aug. 22 under full sail as it passes across the resort’s coastline before coming through the Inlet and passing through the drawbridge to its temporary home. The Draken will depart Ocean City on Aug. 29 after an eight-day stay.
“The plan is for the Draken to unfurl the sail and sail across the beach front before coming in,” Special Events Director Frank Miller told the Mayor and Council on Monday. “It will be open for tours and receptions from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. for eight days. The plan includes a party on Aug. 29 before the Draken’s evening departure through the Inlet under the bright lights from Harrison’s Harborwatch.”
The Draken is a replica of the same ocean-going sailing vessels the Vikings built dating back centuries during a period from around 750 A.D. to 1100 A.D. Miller explained the Draken was built to the same specifications and using the same technology as the Vikings used during the era. It features the same ornate designs as the original including the head and tail of a dragon at either end and intricate carvings and other design features throughout the vessel. Miller called the Draken the “space shuttle of its era.”
While getting El Galeon through the Inlet and through the narrow drawbridge was almost always a dicey operation with shallow water and changing tides, no complications are expected with the arrival of the Draken.
“There should be no issues for this vessel to get in and out,” said Miller. “It draws about six-and-a-half feet, so it should be good on low tide and high tide.”
Miller explained the plan includes a reception when the Draken arrives on Aug. 22 including a tour by local elected officials and other dignitaries. For the next eight days, visitors and residents will have the opportunity to tour the vessel, meet the captain and crew and learn more about its weighty history.
In the municipal park adjacent to the vessel’s mooring along the bulkhead between 3rd and 4th streets will be the Draken Village, a festival of sorts featuring vendors, food and beverages, interactive displays and other opportunities for residents and visitors to see the vessel up close and learn about its history. Although the details have not yet been worked out, the plan also includes lectures and the screening of a documentary about the Draken, perhaps at the Performing Arts Center.
Miller explained the Draken’s visit would follow a similar operational and financial structure as that of the Spanish galleon’s visits in the past. The town’s estimated overall expenses related to the ship’s visit would come in around $9,650 and include utility services at the dock, marketing and advertising, lodging for the captain and crew and trash removal, for example. The estimated revenue from the ship’s visit is $11,600 including tour ticket sales and various parties and receptions.
The difference, or about $2,000 according to the estimates, would be returned to the Draken’s parent company, Viking Kings Inc., as a donation. Tickets for the tours would be $12 for adults and $6 for kids, which is roughly what the El Galeon tour tickets cost. The revenue estimates are based on estimated daily visitor numbers of around 560, which is what El Galeon drew in its first visit to Ocean City. Overall, the expenses and revenue on the town’s side are expected to cancel each other out, according to Miller.
“The goal of the revenue-share plan is to cover the town’s expenses incurred for a net-zero budget,” he said. “The benefit is it will be a value-added attraction with some draw, potentially bringing new patrons to Ocean City.”
Council Secretary Mary Knight said the Draken’s visitor numbers could exceed those of El Galeon, which drew anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 during its three different stops in Ocean City.
“I think it will bring more people because of the village and everything else going on,” she said. “There is that whole educational component.”
Mayor Rick Meehan was especially pleased with the proposed dates for the visit in late August when the summer season is winding down.
“There are a couple of differences,” he said. “I don’t think that galeon was here this late in the season. It’s a nice time of the season for this.”
Construction began on the Draken Harald Harfagre in 2010 and it has become the largest Viking ship ever built in modern times. The great dragon ship is named for after Harald Harfagre, the king who united Norway into one kingdom. It was built using archaeological knowledge of found ships, old boatbuilding traditions in Norway and the legends of Viking ships from the Norse sagas.