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San Marcos man's Viking ship takes to the water of Mission Bay for maiden voyage

What do you do once you’ve finished building a Viking ship by hand? You take it out to sea, of course. That’s exactly what one North County man did and KPBS North County reporter Alexander Nguyen was there.<br/>

What do you do once you’ve finished building a Viking ship by hand? You take it out to sea, of course. Or — in this case — Mission Bay.

And that's what San Marcos resident Tom Kottmeier did Sunday. It was a yearslong passion of his, which started when he retired in 2018.

“Why did I build the ship in the first place? Well, I'll be brief — 20 years ago, I was living in Vancouver, BC. And I've been a lifelong sailor. I've always sailed," he said. "And I heard about a group of Scandinavians at the Scandinavian Community Center who were building a Viking ship. So, I said, 'What? I got to find out about this!' So I got involved.”


He grew so enamored with that ship that when he retired, he decided to build a ship of his own based on the plans from that boat, which was a replica of the Gokstad — a Viking ship unearthed from an ancient burial mound.

On Sunday, with lots of fanfare, a Viking "horde," a small gathering and a blessing from the Nordic god Odin, Kottmeier's boat took to the water — but not without some last-minute fixes.

“We’re a little nervous. It’s the first time,” said Ivar Schoenmeyr, Kottmeier's partner-in-crime. "We have never used the rudder. We want to know how the ship behaves. And becomes comfortable with that.”

Alexander Nguyen
Tom Kottmeier, his friend Ivar Schoenmeyr, and a group of Viking re-enactors rowed his hand-built Viking ship around Mission Bay, March 13, 2023.

With a push away from the small dock at De Anza Cove, the ship — named Sleipnir, after Odin's eight-legged horse — took off with a raiding party of Viking reenactors. In addition to the usual release of liability waiver, they all had to forswear off any pillaging on the trip.

There was no sailing on Sunday because De Anza Cove was too small a space, so instead, the reenactors rowed around the bay.

After the initial trip, Kottmeier said it was everything he hoped it would be.

"Is this really real? Am I standing on my ship?" he said.

Jeremiah Volk, who brought his two young sons along, was one of the people on the maiden voyage. He says it was an experience to connect him with his Viking roots.

"It was really cool to re-create the history and feel a connection to it, and trying to understand what it was like for people back before," he said.

Up next for Kottmeier, sailing the ship in Sweden, but that's "next year ... '24," he said.