"We're going to Norway! Wait a minute - do we have any charts for Norwegian waters?"
Such was the response on the car carrier I crewed in the summer of 2005, as our normal route was delivering cars between the US eastern seaboard and western Europe. Nobody aboard had ever sailed to Scandinavia, and as it turned out we didn't have charts for Norway; there was a mad scramble at our port in Bremerhaven, Germany, to pick up the right charts there.
Heading through the North Sea and then up the coast of Norway, we traced the routes Viking invaders had sailed, and once in the morning mist, a 19th century tall ship emerged - Germany's entry in today's tall ship fleet. But were we going back in time as we headed north? Was Eric the Red just over the horizon? Would we see one of the long lost cousins of the Nordic Spirit approaching us?
We sailed up the long fiord to Trondheim, and I searched the dock for Viking warriors, with no luck. But the ruins of an ancient fort glowered in the harbor, a reminder that the days of long swords and stories of Odin and Loki around the fire at night were not so far off. Moreover, at night the gentle hills of the town were lit with warm yellow lights, and for all the world it looked like piles of gold, and that trolls would be coming out at any minute.
We slipped our moorings at Trondheim and steered back down the fiord. But with every ship that appeared, approaching us through the distance, I peered through the mists and wondered, could it be? Could it be the Nordic Spirit, a once and future Viking boat, transcending time and space?
Wendy Joseph sailed tall ships and cargo ships worldwide in the Merchant Marine, is a published poet and produced playwright, and currently lives near the shores of Lake Washington.