Nordland Boat – A Heritage From the Vikings



The Nordland boat, closely related to the Viking longships, has dominated the fishing industry in the Lofoten and Vesterålen islands for centuries.

The Nordland boat (Norwegian: Nordlandsbåt), is a type of fishing vessel used for centuries in the northern Norwegian counties of Nordland, Troms and Finnmark, and the name derives from Nordland county where the vessel has a long history.

The boat has a clinker, or lapstrake hull design, and the rudder is on the sternpost. The length varies from fourteen feet to well over forty, and it usually has a length-beam ratio of 3-1 to 4-1.

The Nordland boat has a high prow, stern, shallow keel, v-hull and an inboard gunwale that can be used to drain off the fishing nets when pulled on board.

Some of the larger Nordlanders have a detachable cabin for shelter, often with a wood burning stove inside.

The vessel normally carries a large single square sail, while the largest boats also are carrying a topsail. The Nordland boat is one of the few types of vessels that still carries this type of sail.

Oak was the favorite for ship builders for centuries due to its resistance to rot, its strength and durability. However, oak is not native to Norway north of the county of Trøndelag in Central Norway,  and is in addition a real heavy type of wood that would make the boats difficult to pull on shore, something that had to be done on a daily basis.

For these reasons, the materials used for the Nordland boat is almost exclusively pine, and in the northern regions, fir. Pine and fir are lighter woods that make the boat lighter and much easier to pull on shore, however at the expense of durability.

Nordlandboat SvolvaerTwo Nordland boats, outside of the town of Svolvær in the Lofoten district, Nordland county, Norway.  Photo taken c. 1890 to 1900.

The boat has a long history along the north Norwegian coastline, both used by Norwegians and Sami people who started to use this type of boats from about the year 950 AD.

Around the year 1000 AD, Samis were described as producing Nordland boats for fishing and transport for Norwegians along the North Norwegian coastline. However,  soon the Norwegians started to build Nordland boats by themselves.

One of the biggest differences between the Norwegian and Sami built Nordlanders is that the Sami “sewed” the lapstrakes together using reindeer intestines while Norwegians used iron rivets.

The Nordland boats continued to be built for more than a 1000 years, and in the early 20th century it was still used for fishing and coastal transport.

One of its unique features of is the clever ballast system. Dozens of fist size round rocks are placed at the bottom of the vessel.

In the event that the boat is either swamped or capsizes, the rocks are designed to roll out, something that would lighten the weight and thus keep it afloat.

The coat-of-arms of Nordland County depicting the traditional boat.

Today, Nordland boats are no longer used primarily as fishing and transport vessels, but for pleasure.



Text modified by: ThorNews




Categories: Culture, History, Vikings

1 reply


  1. Norwegian Boat-Building Tradition – Rogaland County « ThorNews

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