Longboats - The Vikings for Kids and Teachers Illustration

The Vikings

The Vikings were great sailers and adventurers. Some Viking longboats were large enough to have 50 or 60 oarsmen, but most longships were smaller than that. There were no cabins for the sailors. They slept and ate on deck. They each had one chest for their belongings. They sat on their chest when rowing.

The Vikings used sails and oarsmen to move quickly about on the water. Sails were made of woven wool, with a design of stripes or diamond shaped colors. When the sails were in use, oar holes were plugged so that water would not splash in.  In bad weather, the sail was lowered and used like a tent. The sail was secured so it would not blow away, and the men moved underneath it for protection.

Their boats had flat bottoms, which kept the boat upright even when the waves were high. Boats were built of oak. Boards overlapped, which helped keep their boats very strong. One end of each boat was always built very high, with a carving of a dragon or a snake. This was done to scare any sea monsters lurking about. Viking sailers kept their shields hanging over the side of their boat. It kept the shields out of their way, yet handy in case they were needed, and also helped to protect the sides of the boat from damage from rocks or waves or anything floating in the water. Viking boats were built for speed as well as safety. When they were raiding, they hauled their boat up on shore. That helped them make a quick getaway.

Vikings, both boys and girls, learned as children how to sail and use ships for fishing and traveling. Their homes and villages were built close to water, both fresh water and sea water. A lot of their food was harvested from rivers and the sea. It's no wonder their boats were important to them. In fact, their boats were so important that when a chief died, his longship was buried or burned with him.

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