Estonia has seen a kind of renaissance of old boats in recent decades. A number of old designs have been built, including vessels following the ancient boatbuilding traditions of Saaremaa, Muhu and Ruhnu.
Ruhnu jaala Vikan
Among the better known and older examples is the Ruhnu jaala Vikan that was used to deliver a letter to the king of Sweden following the example of the Estonian Swedes of old (known as the Coastal Swedes in Estonia) in the summer of 2003. The message was one of friendly salutations as opposed to a complaint that was most often the case centuries ago. The Vikan cast off on 26 June and visited Hanko and Mariehamn before finally arriving in Stockholm.
Jaalas or jahlas as they are known in Hiiumaa (a particular type of yawl) are small coastal sailboats meant for long seal hunting trips. The islanders of Ruhnu often sailed them to Riga, Tallinn and Kuressaare to sell their wares. Longer trips to Helsinki and Stockholm were not unheard of. The jaala appeared in the 1860s and was the most common type of vessel until the 1920s, when the larger and more seaworthy jahta became the favoured type of boat.
The Vikan was laid down in March of 2002 and the 10-metre boat three metres in width was launched in May 2003. It was built in the Haapsalu Old Port that used to serve as a meeting place for Estonian Swedes from Noarootsi, Riguldi, Vormsi and Ruhnu during ancient spring and autumn fairs.
Muhu uisk Moonland
The people of Muhu have constructed the largest copy of a historic boat. The project launched by the Väinamere Uisk Society in the spring of 2009 saw the laying of the keel for a typical uisk-type sailboat christened the Moonland that measures 15 metres in length and five metres wide.
The uisk has served as the symbol of Muhumaa on the Väinameri (known formerly as the Strait of Muhu) for a thousand years. These boats were formerly known as huisks or snakes. The word was also used to describe the slender Viking boats of the residents of Saaremaa that were used to raid territories in the Archbishopric of Riga and across Scandinavia. The square-sailed uisk was probably one of the earliest types of sailboat in Estonia.
Moonland, launched in 2017, sails out of Kuivastu and mostly caters to tourists in the Suur Strait area. Because the Moonland only has a draft of one metre, it can be put to shore in the shallow bays of Väinameri. In addition to pleasure cruises and other kinds of entertainment, expeditions to Gotland, Riga and Tallinn following historical routes taken by uisks of old are planned.
Saaremaa Viking boat Orm
The youngest and also smallest member of the old island family of boats is the Viking boat Orm, which was built starting with plans detailing the very last length of rope by sailing and Viking enthusiast Sten Kongas. The work began when he was still a high school student. The five and a half metre boat with room for seven was blessed on the River Salme at the traditional Viking market held there in August 2020. Since then, the Orm has mostly been at the disposal of young sailing enthusiasts that young captain Sten has seen fit to instruct in the ways of ancient shipbuilding and seafaring.
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