A handmade replica of the Viking is formed in the San Diego area

Some carpentry enthusiasts spend their retirement years building bird houses, furniture, or crates. Tom Kotmayer had bigger plans.

The 76-year-old San Marcos resident spent most of the past 2.5 years building a replica of a 33-foot Viking ship.

Now in the final stages of construction in the courtyard of Vista, the Kotmayer wooden ship was inspired by the famous Gokstad, a true Viking paddle boat excavated in 1880 from an ancient Norwegian tomb. Originally built around 750, the Gokstad was a 78-foot, 100-person wooden boat used for Viking raids.

Kotmayer is a Swede with a lifelong passion for boating and a deep admiration for Viking culture. His dream is to sail his ship, called Sleipnir, in honor of the Scandinavian god Odin, a magical octopus, in 2024 via the Swedish Gotha Canal to the port of Stockholm.

Kotmayer, on the right, is working on his boat with his friend Ivar Schonmayer.

(Charlie Neumann / San Diego Union-Tribune)

To the question of what he likes most in navigation, Kotmayer answers: “Everything”:

“It simply came to our notice then. “You are under the wind,” he said during a shipbuilding break on Tuesday. “Sailors say the best thing about boating is when you turn off the engine. In that case, you use the winds to move. ”

The Sleipnir (pronounced “slape-near”) was not the first Viking ship built by Kotmayer. In 2001 in Vancouver, BC, he was one of 30 volunteers who helped build a 42-foot replica of the Gokstad for the 1000th anniversary of the landing of Eric Karmir in Newfoundland. After building a ship called the Moon, Kotmayer served as its captain for his first season. Since then he has been deeply interested in Viking shipbuilding, history and culture.

Kotmayer says that the Vikings began to study boats around 400, and over the next 500 years they perfected their marine technology using the shipbuilding skills and vocabulary that are still used today. Kotmayer said the Vikings were the first sailors to create a seagull shell that stabilized the ship from capsizing, and the first to create special trapezoidal sails that allowed boats to navigate better in the wind. Their long windsurfing boats were also too fast, so fast that no other country’s navy was able to catch them after a raid on the water.

Two men stand next to the ship they are building.

Kotmayer, on the right, և Comrade Schonmeier, joined the Norwegian Sons’ Lunch Dinner.

(Charlie Neumann / San Diego Union-Tribune)

“My heritage is Swedish. I have always thought that the Vikings are part of my ancestors. “Their curiosity and spirit of intelligence, their ingenuity in shipbuilding and navigation have always inspired me,” he said.

Born in Argentina, Kotmayer’s Swedish parents moved with his family to Vancouver as a boy, where he frequently watered his father’s motorboats. He built his first sailing ship at the age of 17 and often sailed during his adult life running a technology company in Vancouver. After piloting the Viking ship Moon in Vancouver, he and his Swedish wife, Pia, moved to Santa Barbara in 2003, where he founded another technology company. In 2018, he retired, և they moved to San Marcos to be closer to Pia’s younger son, who lives with his family in the 4S Ranch.

Kotmayer said he had talked for decades about building his Viking ship, but had nowhere to go. Then, in January 2020, the sons of Norway in Vista offered to let him build the ship on their own property, so he started. Using Moonin’s plans, Kotmayer designed his own design for the Sleipnir, which included reducing its size to fit in a 40-foot container to ship to Sweden.

Two men put nails in a Viking boat.

Kotmayer developed his own design for the boat, which included reducing its size so that it could fit in a 40-foot container to be shipped to Sweden.

(Charlie Neumann / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Kotmayer called the construction process a “three-dimensional puzzle” that had many failures because it was an amateur navy. Many times his plans were not properly implemented, he had to dismantle and rebuild the ship’s parts. Blockades related to the epidemic have also closed the project many times. But he is happy with how things turned out.

Eighteen months after the building was designed, Kotmayer presented the project to the Sons of Norway’s lodge and asked for volunteers. At the same table with Kotmayer sat Ivar Schonmeier, a 73-year-old veteran sailor who was born and raised in Sweden and moved to the United States about 50 years ago. Ever since he met Kotmayer on the evening of July 2021, Schonmeyer has been traveling from his home in San Juan Capistrano two days a week to work on a boat with Kotmayer.

“It was a learning experience, but it’s a very creative job,” says Schonmeyer, a retired engineer. “We are working on the program, but we are wrong. It may be a little disappointing, but it’s nice to see the fruits of my labor. ”

Above, a scene of two men working on a Viking ship.

Kotmayer’s design was inspired by the famous Gokstad, a Viking paddle boat built around 750 and excavated from an ancient Norwegian tomb in 1880.

(Charlie Neumann / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Last fall, the lodge asked Kotmayer to find a new home for his project, as they needed the land for public events. After posting a notice on the Nextdoor app, Kotmayer received numerous offers from homeowners offering their land. He eventually chose a Scandinavian family who gave part of their yard to Kotmayer for free.

Kotmayer works on the ship every working day from 9 am to 2 pm. The ship, which is 7 feet 4 inches wide, has a white oak bark that matches the Port Orford cedar board, which is held in a 1,500-foot-tall, 27-foot-tall reed mast made of recycled wood from a former church building.

Upon completion, Sleipnir will weigh from 2,000 to 2,500 pounds. Kotmayer ordered a 300-square-foot Dacron sail from Hong Kong with Viking-style vertical brown cream stripes. He also plans to attach the horse’s head to the bow.

The ship is 90% complete. Kottmeier և Schoenmeyr is now finishing the interior. Then they will clean the body and check for possible leaks. After that, they will build the deck and the benches, glue the steering wheel and the shovels, and give a few coats of varnish to everything. Hopefully, when they pull the ship to a nearby port this summer, they will take Slapnir on his first voyage to test his navigability.

Kotmayer created a website, vikingshipsleipnir.com:, where hobbyists can trace his progress, as the location of the private property of the shipbuilding project is secret. On the new website, he wrote the reason for this love work.

“Guess I was a little boy who wanted to show that I could achieve everything the big boys did, the Vikings,” he wrote. “Guess I’m a bit of a pig-headed Viking too. Of course, I can build a Viking ship. “

A man sands a piece of cedar.

Kotmayer says the ship is about 90% ready. He hopes to tow it to the port this summer to test its maritime suitability, and then take it to Sweden to sail.

(Charlie Neumann / San Diego Union-Tribune)


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