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Historic Vega Still Afloat After 100 Years

By James Donahue

When the 150-foot sailing ship Vega was launched at Norway in 1892, her builder, Ola H. Nerhaus boasted that the ship was the best and strongest wooden hulled vessel he ever built. He also boasted that he believed the Vega was a "lucky ship." After over a century at sea the Vega remains afloat even today, a historical classic among the tall ships.

The ship was especially designed to carry heavy loads of building material like concrete, bricks, stone and iron in the arctic waters of the Baltic for a cement factory owned by Johan Carlsson in Dagerhamn, Sweden. The vessel’s frame and keel were made of solid oak.

At the time the Vega was built Sweden and Norway were operating as a single government, and the Norway shipyard was producing a fleet of vessels for owners in both countries. But there was a nasty split between the two nations in 1905 when Vega was moored in Sweden. Because of political issues, Norwegian built ships were prohibited from being either exported or imported to Sweden.

Carlsson devised a clever plan to circumvent the silly political feud and keep Vega sailing. His brother-in-law, Alfred Olsen, owned a new shipyard in Bergkvara, Germany. So Vega was loaded with a cargo for Bergkvara. After unloading the ship was brought to the Bergkvara shipyard where it was partly torn apart. Then they said, "with a nudge and a wink," the German inspectors condemned Vega and declared it a total loss.

By the following spring Vega emerged from the shipyard as a rebuilt and modified ship and even equipped with steam power. The new Vega of Berkvara was then legally accepted by the Swedish register of shipping.

Operating under the Swedish flag, Vega operated successfully for the next 80 years, hauling building material and even heavy machine and ship's engines all over the Baltic Sea. The ship went through various upgrades, with her rigging sometimes changing. And it was said the Vega sometimes traveled to North America, the Caribbean, Mediterranean and West Africa.

Vega was found in 2002 abandoned and deteriorating in the Canary Islands. The old ship was purchased by Captain Shane Granger and Meggi Macoun, who have been involved in a complete restoration and putting the ship through a complete refit. Since the old ship was put back to sea in 2009, it has been busy carrying medical teams and supplies and other materials to isolated island communities of Eastern Indonesia. Because of its small size it can slip in and out of island harbors where the larger steamships cannot go.

Support for Vega comes from volunteer crew members, private interests and copanies that provide the farm, medical and educational supplies and pay for the ship's yearly operating costs.

For more information about this amazing ship and the work it is doing to to