The Norwegian Viking ship that's taking its Great Lakes tour of tall ships festivals one stop at a time as it closely monitors an ability to fund its trip left Bay City, Mich., on Wednesday bound for Chicago.
The Draken Harald Hårfagre (or Fairhair) is scheduled to be in Duluth for the tall ships festival on Aug. 18-21.
The official website for the Draken Harald showed the vessel having left early in the day, traveling up the western shore of Lake Huron on its way to Lake Michigan. The five-day Chicago festival begins July 27 on the famous Navy Pier. The replica viking ship is scheduled to stop in Green Bay after that.
Online fundraising efforts have surpassed $60,000 in an effort to support the pilotage costs associated with the ship's months long voyage across the Great Lakes. The Sons of Norway Foundation has raised $57,000, while a quartet of Go Fund Me sites have added more than $5,000 to the mix.
The crew of a Norwegian viking ship has been sweating out an uncertain fate since early in the month, when it learned it would be responsible to have a local pilot on board to help guide the ship through the lakes. All commercial vessels entering North American waters require pilots. On the coasts, pilots are required from coastal buoys inward. On the Great Lakes, the U.S. and Canadian governments require a pilot to travel aboard a foreign vessel throughout its journey.
Prior to departing Norway last winter, the crew of the Draken Harald had studied its first voyage to the United States and Canada and believed the ship was a half-meter short of the 35-meter minimum cutoff length for ships that must hire pilots, and therefore exempt from having to pay. But the U.S. Coast Guard disagreed, requiring pilotage of the boat as it reached Lake Ontario. At pilotage rates of roughly $9,100 per day, it's been a difficult proposition for the Draken Harald. The ship's leadership has been committed to completing its schedule provided it can continue to raise money on the fly.
At sea throughout the day, the crew of the Draken Harald was unavailable for comment.