● To build traditional wooden boats with community volunteers
to row and sail on Lake Superior and beyond.
● To make creative work with hand tools accessible to anyone
who is interested and willing, and to foster interest in
making things by hand with the broader community.
● To get community members out on the water and help connect
people with the waterways and with the other living things
around us–which we all depend upon.
● To breathe new life into the tradition of community boatbuilding and integrate it into contemporary life in order to bring people together, help them build life-long creative skills, and hopefully bring them joy.
What is Nóatún?
● Nóatún is the home of the deity Njørd in Norse Mythology.
Njørd helps to oversee the settled shores, coastal seas, and the prosperity
of fisherfolk and all those that travel about the waterways in their daily lives...their boats, barrels, nets, sails, huts, homes; and the green river deltas, sandy beaches, fair weather, seagreens, and shoals of fish that sustain them.
● In Old Norse, Nóatún means “boat home” or “boat enclosure.” It is pronounced “no-ah-toon” and rhymes with “row at noon.”
The accents or diacritic marks above the O and U mark long vowel sounds rather than consonants of emphasis. This means that, in the old tongue, Nóatún would be pronounced rather slowly, its vowels savored.
● Njørd resides in a great, though humble, seaside hall of this name, though he is most often said to be standing in the nearby lapping tides all day long–therefore earning him bleached hair and sun weathered skin, except for his feet and ankles which remain pale as they stand in the surf. While Thor reigns over harsh storms and war parties plowing across roiling seas in spear-filled longships, Njørd’s domain is that of peace and plenty; of simple abundance, fresh food, favorable winds, warm fires in the cool night, hewn boats swathed in pine tar, earnest adventure, and safe journeys home.
We've Moved! (2020)
We hope you are all well enough and staying safe (and busy!).
We have moved the boat shop to a new location.
The building in Lincoln Park/West End where we were last year was sold and is slated for significant renovation.
Nóatún Community Wooden Boat Works / Duluth Faering Project
is now set up at 1400 W. Railroad Street––on a waterfront pier in the
Duluth Harbor. We have a mailbox!
Many may know it as the site of the former Duluth Timber Company.
Here, we have great prospects for long term
community boat building projects. Social distancing and all.
Underway: a færing, trerøring, two skiffs, a dory, a mahogany-on-oak Herreshoff H28 sailboat restoration, a båtrya, a verfeldur, an indigo-dyed wool grena, a hand-sewn sail, insulation and heat for the winter!
There are new books in the library and old tools on the bench.
Superior Trerøring (2019-)
Here's what's new:
Our second vessel, inspired by Langoë–the third Gislinge Boat replica built by the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark–is underway in our new satellite work site in West End Duluth at 1832 W. Superior Street! This boat will feature lapstrake construction, hand-hewn everything, and a 25 foot length over all. She will be a "trerøring" for three rowers, or a "trekeiping" for three pairs of oarlocks, or a "seksring" for six oars!
We invite you to come volunteer with us!
We are continuing to gather burr (white) oak and other trees/timbers for this boat and others, so if you have land or a tree and can help out in this way, just let us know!
We are continuing to build our boat building community of related and supporting crafts. Two nineteenth century floor looms built in MN–one in Finnish style, one Norwegian–are set up and will both be weaving soon. A warp-weighted loom is being built on site and will be warped and weaving soon as well!
Duluth Færing Project (2017-2018)
Here's what we've been up to:
John Finkle is the Duluth Færing Project's shipwright and director. He has built numerous wooden boats and has many, many years of experience teaching hand-tool woodworking. In the fall of 2016 ago he traveled to Norway to research historical and contemporary wooden boat building methods in the millennia-old Norwegian tradition. John, along with Justin Anderson–the project's apprentice shipwright, media director, and treasurer–and a growing number of community members comprise the newly-formed Nóatún Community Wooden Boat Works in Duluth, Minnesota. "Nóatún" (pronounced "noah-toon") means "boat enclosure" or "boat home" in Old Norse; it is the home of the Norse God Njord who oversees safe waters, sunny shores, plentifulness on the coast, and small watercraft and their crews.
With Duluth community members, we are building a traditional lap-strake, clinker-built, Scandinavian færing approximately 19 feet long using hand tools and locally sourced materials.
The frame will be hand-hewn from locally harvested Burr Oak (a magnificent tree of the White Oak variety which we have established great affection for) and the strakes of milled Cedar. Ribs and other frame elements are tamarack, black spruce, green ash, and pine. While there area limited number of types of wood common considered appropriate for boat work, we've found through research and experience that many, many species of trees are well suited for a life on the water!
This is an uncommon and disappearing art that is being passionately revived around the world one boat at a time; we want to do our part in bringing this tradition back to life in a contemporary context and to share it with our local community and the broader Lake Superior region.
We are exploring some of the broader understandings of the term "traditional"–which often refers to the past–and how it relates to us the present. Thus, we are employing the opportunities of necessity! For instance, our hundreds of roves and rivets which fasten the boat together are all being handmade in-house with copper grounding wire and pre-1981 95% copper U.S./American one cent PENNIES–all donated by dozens of supporters over many months. This process saves significantly on the cost of fasteners and creates a simple, fast, and important activity for community volunteers. We just couldn't resist.
Along with our volunteers, we've partnered with the Duluth
Workforce Center (Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development) and their fantastic program which employs young adults to work with us several days a week to work on the boat, learn new skills, sweep up wood shavings and explain the crazy things we're doing to many of the folks who step through the door.
With so many different hands putting work into this boat it is indeed becoming its own unique work of art. Unfortunately, sometimes the words "traditional" and "craft"–which are increasing exponentially in popularity in recent years–have been constricted to refer to independent, highly-skilled laborers in a highly-controlled environment. We find that learning to build a watercraft is a perfect outlet for the creative expression of a community. This is part traditional wood working, part public art sculpture. No, traditional woodwork IS public art sculpture!
People observing or participating hands-on see and learn the satisfaction and beautiful quiet and slow deliberateness of using timeless tools in the act of creating.
It is very satisfying for community members to use simple planes and saws to sculpt wood and create a highly useful, “living,” functional work of art–and be able to take pride in something they had a direct hand in helping to create.
We passionately want a community FLEET of wooden boats for Lake Superior moored in Duluth, Minnesota; with your help, this is very achievable!
This is a passion project for us and as such we're volunteering our time and labor.
Monetary contributions to this project will help greatly as we volunteer full-time to make Nóatún operate and must support ourselves with "outside work." Beyond the cost of living, there are many expenses which are not covered by our grants and must either from fundraising or right out of pocket. Any amount of financial support helps make what we're doing sustainable and more stress-free!
Initial funding for this project was provided in early 2017 by a Quick Start Grant from The Arrowhead Regional Arts Council. Thanks! Tusen Takk!
Later in 2017 we ran a successful IndieGoGO campaign which helped us continue covering basic overhead costs. We are very thankful of all those who contributed!
We have begun laying plans, preparing infrastructure, and sourcing materials for our second boat, a 25-foot trerøring (three pairs of oars) inspired by the Danish Gislinge Båt and by boats of this style in Western Norway. This project is largely funded by a grant we received in October 2017 from the American Scandinavian Foundation which will also allow us to travel overseas to do further research and bring even more home to share! We are massively appreciative of this funding. Thank you, ASF!
In collaboration with the Duluth Fiber Handcrafters Guild, we have been weaving a woolen båtrya under the direction of Bruce Engebretsen, who has lead the charge on this wonderful project! A båtrya is a traditional and essential part of a working boat on cold waters; it is wool floss blanket for a member of a vessel's crew and is constructed a bit like a shag rug. The strands of yarn which line the warp are reminiscent in design and function of hairs of sheepskin or reindeer/caribou hide. We are most thankful to Bruce, to our many visiting volunteer weavers (many of whom had never weaved before!), and to the many dedicated and knowledgable volunteers and
advisors from the Duluth Fiber Handcrafters Guild. We'll just go ahead and name them here: Thanks to Barb Dwinell, Sue Brown, Beverly Martin, Ryan Sullivan and Savannah! (www.duluthfiberhandcrafters.org)
We are also greatly appreciative of Dan King and all those who own, manage, and maintain the building that houses our downtown workspace!
We thank our small group of very hard working skilled volunteers and
our many devoted community volunteers, supporters, contributors, and advisors!
Soon the boats will be ready for a community launching and celebration event which will begin the vessels' life on the waters of the Great Lakes–powered by oar and sail.
There are many, many ways for you to contribute:
Come and visit the boat shop! Swing an axe; peen a copper nail; plane a plank; say hello!
Share our story with your friends and family. Spread the word!
If you able to make monetary contributions, any amount makes a significant impact for us!
If you are a reporter, journalist, editor, documentarian, publisher or are connected with someone who is and wish to help promote what we are doing or cover it in a publication...well, we're all about it!