Historic Vessel Vega, Richards Bay, South Africa - January 2002
Historic Vessel Vega, Richards Bay, South Africa – January 2002

The Confusing Origin of Historic Vessel Vega

When we purchased the historic vessel, Vega, in 2001 she came to us without a history so, we began searching. The further we dig into the origins of our beautiful craft the more puzzling her ancestry became. We soon discovered two identical vessels from the same period both with similar histories. Some evidence pointed to Norwegian ancestry. Other information indicated Swedish origins. In old photographs the vessels both appeared identical.

Vega around the turn of the century in Norway
Vega around the turn of the century in Norway
Vega, 1964, in Sweden
Vega, 1964, in Sweden

One solid foundation of evidence points to Norwegian shipwright Ola Nerhus designing and building Vega in 1892 at his yard in Olve, Hardanger. Other historical documents claim Vega built-in 1909 by Swedish shipbuilder Alfred Olsson at the South shipyard in Bergkvara. In both cases, the client was Johan Karlsson owner of a Degerhamn cement factory. Did Mr Karlsson perhaps build two identical vessels in different places for business reasons? Each new piece of information brought more unanswered questions. Many of which we still have no answer for.

Lars Nerhus

Many elements in the history of Vega are beyond dispute. She was the famous Vega af Bergkvara from at least 1909 until we purchased her in 2001. On the other hand, Lars Nerhus owns a painting of Vega done by his grandfather in 1898; the same year a half model still in his possession won an award for design innovations at the Great Exhibition in Oslo. Trying to reconcile those indisputable facts would have Solomon scratching his head.

We contacted everyone we could think of in an effort to solve the puzzle. More information came back confirming what we already knew without establishing an answer to the key question. Were both boats one in the same, or were they separate vessels?

Half model of Vega

In 2008 a naval historian from Sweden answered a query we posted on one of the nautical history sites. His comment provided the missing key. When in 1905 the union between Norway and Sweden dissolved boats built in Norway for Swedish owners, or vis-a-versa, could not be repatriated. Shipowners promptly created several devious schemes to circumvent the new rules. Perhaps therein resides the solution to our mystery. My next post will further explore the history of Vega.

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