Gazing Yonder from the Prow of Thy Longship, and Other Ways to Look Busy When Thy Boss Is Coming ‘Round
Don’t get caught slacking between raids
Whilst outsiders may think of raiding and pillaging as an exciting, action-packed career, the truth of the matter is most of the job involves long, boring days sitting on a ship waiting for the next raid.
What’s worse, many commanders expect their Vikings to be busy ‘round the clock, even when there’s nothing to do but float around biding tyme until plunderable land appears on the horizon. Sure, one may pick up an oar and start rowing, since there’s always more rowing to do. But ‘tis much preferable to slack off and look busy instead of tiring one’s arms with such trivialities.
If thou finds thyself on such a voyage and thou just does not feel like rowing anymore, herein be some ways to look busy when thy boss comes ‘round.
Gaze Yonder from the Prow of Thy Longship
Dost thou spy land ahead? Or mayhaps an enemy vessel? It doth not matter as long as thou manages to look busy when thy boss arrives at the prow. Never mind that it was Guðmundur’s turn to gaze yonder; gazing yonder is a team effort.
Say “I’m in a Meeting”
What is a meeting? Nobody really knows, but it sounds important. Thy boss wouldn’t dare interrupt something so important as a meeting, would he?
Ask Questions About the Upcoming Raid
Obviously, the plan is simply to go ashore in a berserk frenzy and kill and plunder everything in thy path like it always is. But asking thy boss about plans for the upcoming raid will make it sound like thou art genuinely invested in the ship’s mission.
Lots of Maps
Scatter many maps around thy rowing station to make it appear as if you’re plotting a lucrative course to new raiding grounds. It usually makes thee look busy even though thou hast no idea how to read.
Walk Around with an Oar
Make an active effort to look busy by conspicuously walking around the ship with an oar in thy hand. For added effect, when thy boss walks by splash a bit of sea water on thy face to look sweaty and say something like, “I been rowin’ three days straight, aye.”
Any captives on board from the last raid are goode candidates. Maybe they were trying to escape? Maybe they were stealing mead from mead cask? You don’t really need to justify the “why” behind stabbing them so long as thou does it with style and bills it appropriately on thy tyme card.
Addendum: Longship Food
There’s not much room on a longship. They were built for speed with a shallow draft, leaving not much space below decks for storage.
A voyage could last many days, and they had dozens of mouths to feed. The video below says a single longship could hold up to 100 people, but I think that’s on the extreme high end. It seems that most longships had between 13 and 30 rowing benches with 2 rowers per bench, so between 26 and 60 people on board.
So what did they eat, and where did they store it?
Most of the evidence comes from Sagas, archaeology, and assumptions about what they could have eaten. Most likely they ate typical Viking foods:
Meat and fish preserved in salt or air
Flat bread and biscuits
A favorite was probably Tørrfisk, or Stockfish, cod that’s air dried in the cold Norwegian winter air. Because of the way it’s dried, Tørrfisk can last for years. Apparently it’s popular in modern Nigeria and Italy, too.
There was likely limited storage space for all this. Parts of the ship might have removable planks with some space underneath. For longer expeditions, they could use a specially designed cargo ship called a knarr to store extra supplies. But for the most part, especially on smaller longships, a lot of the storage space was probably just under their benches, or possibly in each individual’s personal chest.
They wouldn’t necessarily need their food to last for years. The trip from Scandinavia to England was three or four days, and many journeys were probably much shorter. So plan for, say, three days to England, one or two days of pillaging, and three days back, and they’d need their food to last about a week for a raid on England.
Of course, they could always plunder supplies when they got there, or along the way. Some of the Rus’ attacks on Constantinople seem to have lasted for weeks, or even months, so they likely either plundered the countryside for food, or else were resupplied from a base in their own territory.
When it comes to food, one way or another they figured it out. Going to the bathroom while packed into a longship with 50 of your closest friends for a week is another matter.