Our Ships - Ravnen History

Where and when it was built
Built in Ivar Johnson's Roxborough, Philadelphia basement in six sections, the parade float that became the Ravnen (it hadn't been named until that point) was assembled on Herbert Gullberg's front yard in Rose Tree, Pennsylvania.

It was displayed as a float in October of 1974. After Leif Ericson Day of that year, much discussion took place and it was decided to turn the float into a boat. Work commenced during the winter of 1975 and the float Ravnen was christened in a pond in Media, PA.

Constructed of hardboard, plywood and mahogany underlayment, held together with about 1,800 t-nuts and bolts, she was coated in fiberglass on the outside and in the bilges. She was 26' long, 6' wide and had a 3' draft. Her sail was designed with red and white stripes and it was decided to have a spread-eagled Raven put on the sail to honor the birds that were used for navigation in the Viking's time. (The Norseman's sail is a similar design.) That sail soon became a familiar sight on Marsh Creek Reservoir in Eagle, PA and the Schulykill River in Philadelphia.

The Ravnen's great "claim to fame" was during a race that was arranged by Herb Gullberg against the Volvo-Penta's 100 year old unnamed Viking ship that was used for their publicity. Of course the Raven and her crew won the race (1/2 mile rowing, 1 mile sailing) by a 1/4 mile! A subsequent race against a crew from the Markland Mercenary Militia's Longships Co. in their 35' Gyrfalcon was a close loss, mainly due to their knowledge of local water conditions in Annapolis. Many blisters regretted that loss!

As time progressed, the Ravnen took part in Leif Ericson Day celebrations every year, sailing down the Schulykill on October 9th! She also took part in a Tall Ships celebration in 1984 on the Delaware River, but not having an engine to propel her against the currents and tides on the Delaware made that its last time on the "big river". She was kept on inland rivers and lakes after that. It took six rowers working their tails off and a fair breeze to keep us in the line of Tall Ships! After we had settled in Penn's Landing, several of the Captains of larger ships came over to look at and congratulate us for taking part in the event.

Where did the Ravnen go?
In the 1990's, when the organization decided to no longer use the Ravnen due to hull damage and rot, they put an ad in the local papers offering it for sale. A child in the suburban Philadelphia area decided to purchase the ship (with her parent's help) to use as a playground in her back yard. In fact, the mother of this child wrote a fictional book based on this experience! (See the book "Yo! Vikings" on our Merchandise page or in our printable catalog). Unfortunately, the Ravnen is no longer around.