On the 8th of June 793 C.E. a sleek, dragon-headed ship slipped up to the shores of Lindisfarne, a small island off the northern coast of England, carrying the most fearsome pirates known to the European world. The Viking pirates hit without warning. They came quickly, attacked with fierce and brutal efficiency, and had slaughtered and ransacked the islands monastery in no time. In fact they even managed to slip away before the alarm was raised. What they left behind was pressing fear, and the solid memory of that iconic silhouette: the viking pirate ship.
The Most Fearsome Viking Pirate Ships
The Dreki long-boat is one of the most iconic pirate ship designs in medieval history. These battleships were long, narrow decked boats with a shallow draft and a long, high stem at the front of their body. The single, central mast had a large square sail and drops in the wind were made up for by the 60 oars which could be deployed quickly.
Much like their fighting style the Vikings’ pirate ships were efficient; no galley slaves, and no unnecessary cargo. Each man was allowed to bring one wooden chest as well as his battle gear. This chest served as a seat while he was rowing, and his shield would be fixed to the railings of the Dreki to conserve space and provide extra protection from enemy fire. The warriors were expected to be able to row and be ready to fight when necessary.
Because of their size and design the viking pirate ships were able to slip up to the shore quickly, and could even make trips up river. Though the weaponry available to Vikings was certainly the main reason they were able to do so much damage so quickly, after all it has been said that a Viking could fell a man in a single stroke with his broad axe, it was their ships that really struck fear into the hearts of their victims. When you saw a Dreki approaching you know that you only had hours to flee, or to prepare for a fight.
Reference: Gail Selinger, W. Smith Jr. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pirates, Penguin Press 2006