Vesselbuilding in Ølve, Kvinnherad
Vesselbuilding in Ølve, Kvinnherad

Was the Historic vessel Vega Born in Norway?

Some say in early 1891 Johan Karlsson, owner of a cement factory in Bergkvara, Sweden commissioned Norwegian shipbuilder Ola H. Nerhus to build a sail-powered cargo boat to carry limestone for his quarry in Sweden. That story claims he employed Captain Nils Vågan as his intermediary. Another source claims the vessel was built for and owned by Captain Vagan. Jakt or jakten is a generic name for small slop rigged cargo boats.

Ola H. Nerhus (1840 - 1931)
Ola H. Nerhus (1840 – 1931)

Outstanding among Norwegian ships of the time were those of Ola H. Nerhus who designed the finest jakts on Hardanger fiord, a place where the tradition of building strong swift sailing vessels was first established in the late 1400s.

Unknown Jakt in Hardanger-fjord
Unknown Jakt in Hardanger-fjord

According to Lars Nerhus, great-grandson of Ola Nerhus and himself a boat builder, “By 1891 Ola Nerhus had an unrivalled reputation for strong well-formed ships and high-quality workmanship. His designs were so successful he became a demanded shipbuilder, model maker and surveyor for most of the prominent “yards ” in this region of Norway.” 

Jakt Vega built in 1882 by Ola H. Nerhus in Ølve in Kvinnherad.
Jakt Vega built in 1882 by Ola H. Nerhus in Ølve in Kvinnherad.
Jakt Bravo built in 1886 by Ola H. Nerhus in Stekka / Tørvikbygd i Hardanger.
Jakt Bravo built in 1886 by Ola H. Nerhus in Stekka / Tørvikbygd i Hardanger.
Jakt Mathilde,  built by Ole H. Nerhus in Kvinnherad, and was launched in 1884. Mathilde was completely restored in 1989 by the Hardanger Maritime Centre.
Jakt Mathilde, built by Ole H. Nerhus in Kvinnherad, and was launched in 1884. Mathilde was completely restored in 1989 by the Hardanger Maritime Centre.

Designed from the beginning to carry heavy concentrated loads and for trade in the Arctic, Vega is the only Hardanger Jacht to have all oak keel and frames. 
Even before Vega touched the water her ability to carry special “heavy” cargos, and Arctic certification attracted clients wanting to employ her. Carlsson, seeing a profit from leaving her in Norway, asked Ola Nerhus to manage Vega in the Norwegian trade.

Lars Nerhus displays 1898 painting of historic vessel Vega

From her launching in the spring of 1892 until 1905-6 Jens Nerhus, the oldest son of Ola Nerhus, skippered Vega. In the winter of 1898, the same year Vega’s half model won an award for excellence at The Great Exhibition in Oslo, Jens Nerhus painted a portrait of his beloved Vega with her flags flying.

To quote Lars Nerhus, “When I was very young my grandfather would tell me wonderful tales of his sailing days. The boat he loved to remember most was always the Vega. He would tell me stories of her famous voyages loaded with very heavy cargo other bigger jagts feared to carry.” My next post will explore the claim Vega began life in Sweden.

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