The Gokstad ship
The longship, as developed by the Norwegian shipmen, was required to facilitate passage along frost fractured coastlands and fjords, and down channels formed by rows of steep little rock islands. The Danish sailors had other needs, they must be able to access shallow sandy entries through island archipelagos. The result of centuries of sea mastery proved a sturdy, flexible ship, broad and very flat, stabilised by a keel, a sailing ship with oar power for delicate movement. A tough nut on a stormy sea but also remarkably capable of penetrating far upriver.
The Gokstad ship pictured above (and below with miniatures aboard) is 76 feet long, and amidships 17 feet broad and 6 foot 4 inches from keel to gunwhale. The ship is made of oak except for the 30 foot mast, decking and oars of pine. Ships' cables are made from walrus' or seal's hide. The deck is loose with storage beneath. The crew, all warriors, numbered 32 - sixteen oars to a side.
When the time came that the lusty sons of the Northmen were impelled abroad for lack of sufficient farmland or by intolerable bully-kings, or lured abroad by tales of easy golden pickings from irresponsible ill-defended treasure hoarders, when that time came, the vikings exploited every advantage of the existing longships with the hunger of the bottomless bellied predator.
If you examine my map below you can imagine that sea voyage is crucial for movement on the medium scale or larger. One hex is 80 miles across.
The Snorri and the Hrothvi devised the longship and they are the peoples who benefit from its peculiar character as a raiding ship, capable of landing small bands of men, almost anywhere, for extremely fast bouts of murderous larceny. Their ships can land men on islands or coastal stretches other ships regard as harbourless, and can escape from faster ships into the wind using oars.
Sailing is dangerous and voyages are not willingly made in the winter, outside April to September. Seamen hug coastlines and do not travel in straight lines across the sea. They keep recognised islands in view and travel long distances by established wisdom. Regarding the map, the ordinary seaman will only sail through hexes which contain land, coast or islands.
The Snorri are the only seamen who can navigate along latitudes in open sea with reasonable expectation of safety and arriving at their destination. For this they use a sun bearing-dial, and a record of the height of the noon day sun throughout the year which they keep private and which was constructed by the master mariner, astronomer and explorer Nurli Blueface. Some seamen also bear a sunstone which allows a navigator to find the sun on overcast days.
Travel distance per day is approximately one hex, 80 miles. This is an average expectation which will be overruled if it is determined that an unusual weather event is taking place. Seamanship is described with five ranks, 5th rank denoting ordinary competence and 1st rank denoting mastery. Crossing one hex a d20 roll is made and the seaman must roll above his rank to avoid the DM investigating further what kind and degree of misfortune has overtaken the ship. I will come up with a small table of sample occurrences and outcomes varying from trivial nuisances to the not infrequent complete disaster. The sea is dangerous. The details should really be improvised at the table as they are situation dependent.
The cargo ship, an ocean goer - knörr - was deeper and broader for the same length, and the deck was higher. There would be far fewer men than on a warship for a given length.
-->> LINK TO 12Mb version of the above map <<--