Resurrecting the Historic Vessel Vega

For over 100 years VEGA carried limestone, bricks, pig iron and cement through some of the world’s roughest seas. Built for the North Sea and certified for Arctic trade, VEGA became famous for her strength and ability to carry loads other boats her size could not.

By the spring of 1982 Vega lay abandoned in deplorable condition alongside a quay in Stockholm. With what remained of her rigging in tatters and half full of water she desperately needed a miracle to save her. Her salvation came in the form of Dennis Ören who had skippered several Baltic sailing vessels before discovering Vega.

As a small boy, Dennis dreamed of sailing around the world by himself.  Seeing in Vega a chance to make that dream come true between 1983 and 1995 he undertook to restore Vega at Bergshamra shipyard, close to Stockholm.

The work, done entirely from the old solid oak stock cut with special permission from the Swedish Forestry Department, proved long and arduous for Dennis, whose available time and money were severely limited.  (reference found here) (Shipyard website here)

During those difficult years, Dennis continued to nurture his dream of sailing Vega around the world, by himself. Vega would be the largest traditional wooden sailing ship to undertake a solo circumnavigation. Dennis, the first Scandinavian to embark on such endeavour.

In 1993 Dennis Ören met Ben van Bronckhorst, the founder of Globetree Foundation. ( Ben liked the idea of solo sailing around the world and saw the potential for Globetree to play an important part which would benefit the Globetree programs for children. After long, often involved, conversations, Globetree and Dennis Ören joined forces to completely restore and equip Vega from the keel up.

Restoring the hull to a seaworthy state took two more years of skilled input, money and hard-won sponsorship. But, by September 1995, Vega of Bergkvara was in all respects a new ship, built and rigged in the traditional manner. For her long voyage, Globetree equipped her with innovative satellite communication, a computer and a digital camera to automatically maintain contact with the home base in Sweden. Those transmissions would go out 24/7 over the Globetree website as what we now call reality TV. Children and classes all over the world could access the live video and track Vega’s progress in their Blue Wave logbooks.

Classes maintaining a Logbook sent a Bottle containing a message on Vega’s voyage. Those bottles would be set adrift at different places along Vega’s route, the exact time and location sent back to the class who sent it. The first bottles came onboard Vega during her farewell trip along Sweden’s coast, in June 1995.

Registered by the World Speed Record Council in Falmouth for a non-stop, voyage around the world, on the 28th of October 1995, accompanied by Findus the ship’s cat, Dennis began his adventure from Falmouth, UK. He planned to sail along Africa, round the Cape of Good Hope then proceed to Australia, New Zealand and onwards. After so many years of preparation, when Vega finally sailed many people cheered.

Communication problems began as soon as Vega left the harbour. Not even the telephone worked as Vega made her way across the Bay of Biscay. After two days Dennis came through for a few minutes by phone to report this technical problem. Pleased with the way Vega managed heavy storms without difficulty he called her “a real queen at sea”.

Dennis’s ended his dream in the Canary Islands. There he hauled Vega out onshore where she sat abandoned until 2001. Suffering from years of neglect and needing lots of maintenance she was still sound when Meggi and I purchased her from Dennis in late 2001. My next post will deal with Vega’s second restoration.

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