Voyage time for the Vikings between raids had many variables. One of which had to do with poor weather conditions. If the wind was blowing favorably in the direction they were traveling in it would be less strenuous and therefore much quicker. The longest journeys by Viking ship would have strong winds blowing against them. At times, the Vikings needed to take it slower if the winds caused massive waves. The waves could destroy a ship or make the men fall overboard to the depths. Bad weather could also mislead the seafarers in the wrong direction causing them to later detour making the journey that much longer. The sagas mention that crews would wait for weeks even months waiting for favorable winds.
After the settlement of Iceland, it became the most common ocean crossing. There would be two available routes between Iceland and Norway. The two routes were known as “Eyjaleið” and “úthafsleið”.
The First route “Eyjaleið” would take you through the North-Atlantic Islands. From Norway to Shetland or Orkney, then to the Faroes. From there you would travel to Iceland. The route back would be in reverse.
With the second route “úthafsleið” you would be traveling in open ocean which was a dangerous crossing. You would have to deal with ice flows and potentially bad weather with no land in sight for refuge.
According to the Sagas, it was common to sight land that the Vikings never intended to see. This would be due to losing course as the Vikings traveled in open water. If the Vikings hit land they would follow the coastline until they reached their destination.
The best voyages were done between Iceland and Norway with ideal sailing conditions. The shortest route between the two countries was between Bergen, Norway, and Horn, Iceland. It’s suspected to have taken about three days.
The reality is good sailing conditions weren’t very common. The sailing typically took several weeks. Anyone who did two trips within the summer would be praised. Merchants and Vikings alike would only sail between May and September for the best conditions.
A very common sailing speed is about 3 to 6 knots. A knot equals to about one nautical mile per hour. A nautical mile is about 1.8km.
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