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Norwegian Viking ship won't make it to Tall Ships Duluth

The crew of the Draken Harald Hårfagre sails the replica Viking ship on Lake Michigan Monday Aug. 1, 2016. (Photo courtesy of the Draken Harald Hårfagre)

It appears the saga of a Norwegian Viking ship's visit to the Great Lakes this summer will end without a stop in Duluth.

A statement posted Thursday on the website of the Draken Harald Hårfagre — which has found itself in ongoing turmoil over the cost of pilots required by U.S. law for foreign ships of its size on the Great Lakes — said it will go no farther than a tall ships festival this weekend in Green Bay.

The replica Viking vessel had been slated to be a part of Tall Ships Duluth, to be held Aug.18-21 — but that meant an additional 800 miles of travel, and pilotage costs, beyond Green Bay.

"We are very sad not to sail all the way to Duluth; it is one of the stops where the Scandinavian communities (have) been the strongest and most involved with promoting and engaging in our ship from the very beginning, and it is a disappointment not to be able to sail all the way," the statement read.

Draken Harald Hårfagre representatives said they consulted with the Superior-based Western Great Lakes Pilots Association, and found that the estimated pilotage costs for the entire trip would be about $250,000 — a big drop from the initial estimate that was in excess of $400,000.

But "even with this significant reduction in cost, we have not been able to raise enough funds to complete our entire expedition," they said.

All the money raised so far — including through a fundraising campaign by the Sons of Norway — will go toward costs already incurred, the ship's statement reported.

"Draken Harald Hårfagre and Sons of Norway deeply appreciate the strong outpouring of support and contributions that put wind in the Draken's sails for several ports and would like to thank all donors who invested in the Draken's journey," the statement read.

After this weekend's event in Green Bay, the ship will set a course to exit the Great Lakes.

"We have had the most amazing time sailing this expedition, meeting all the people and visiting all these places," Draken Harald Hårfagre Capt. Björn Ahlander said in a news release.

Pilotage law has been in place on the Great Lakes since 1960, and requires that foreign vessels welcome aboard local pilots to help guide ships and non-recreational sailing vessels through unfamiliar waters.

Representatives of the Draken Harald Hårfagre have said that before the ship left Norway, its operators worked to understand both American and Canadian rules regulating the Great Lakes — even flying to Canada before the expedition to gain further understanding.

They said they thought they would be exempt from the rules — and the pilotage fees. But something changed after the ship entered the St. Lawrence Seaway and the boat was told to take on a pilot somewhere between Quebec City and Toronto.

Tall Ships Duluth executive producer Craig Samborski said organizers are disappointed that the Draken Harald Hårfagre won't be attending the festival in Duluth.

"Our team at Tall Ships Duluth and the Duluth community did everything in our power to assist the ship in coming to Duluth, but the circumstances leading to the ship's decision were out of our control," Samborski said in a statement.

Although the Draken Harald Hårfagre was "an important part of the event," Samborski said Tall Ships Duluth attendees still will be able to see other attractions including the El Galeon Andalucia from Spain, a replica of the massive 16th- and 17th-century ships that were designed to explore trade routes around the world; the World's Largest Rubber Duck; Gen. George S. Patton's private schooner, the When and If; US Brig Niagara; Pride of Baltimore II; Appledore V; the Denis Sullivan; and the Mist of Avalon, in addition to art vendors, entertainment, food and craft beer.