A short history of Vega
The historical Vessel Vega is a Hardanger jakta type Baltic trader built over the winter of 1891-92 at Olve, Norway by Ole H. Nerhus to the order of a Capt. Niels Vagen acting for Mr. Johan Carlsson a cement factory owner in Dagerhamn, Sweden. Specially built to be certified for Arctic trade and to carry heavy cargos of cement, bricks, building stone, and pig iron Vega was originally rigged as a sail powered jacht or jagkt (cutter) and later as a traditional Galleass (ketch). Although modified several times while in Sweden her underwater lines are still those of the true Hardangerjakta whose half model won a prize for design excellence in The Great Exhibition in Oslo in 1898. Vega represents an important part of Norway and Sweden’s rich maritime heritage.
Vega was designed and built over the winter of 1891-92 by Ola H. Nerhus to the specifications of a Mr. Johan Carlsson owner of a cement factory in Dagerhamn, Sweden through a Capt. Nils Vagan, of Herøysund. This was at a time when Sweden and Norway were joined and many Swedish owners were building ships in Norway. From the beginning Vega was designed and built to carry concentrated heavy loads such as cement, bricks, building stone, and pig iron and be certified for trade in the Arctic. She was the only Hardanger Jacht ever built to have all oak keel and frames. To quote Lars Nerhus ship designer, maritime historian, and great, great, grandson of Ola Nerhus, “I was always told “Vega” was the best and strongest jagkt he (Ola Nerhus) ever built”.
Vega was so special that even before she was launched heavy cargos of machinery and the like were lined up for her to carry. Olsen was a businessman and quickly saw the chance for his little boat to make some good profits by leaving her in Norway. At her launch Vega was entrusted to Jens Nerhus, son of Ola Nerhus, who later became a master boat builder in his own right with over 76 jachts to his credit. Jens skippered Vega until up until she was sent to Sweden in 1905. Jens also did a lovely oil painting of his favorite boat during the winter of 1898. (Painting image). To quote Lars Nerhus once again,” When I was a small boy my great grandfather would tell me tales of the sea and his sailing. Vega was always his favorite boat. He loved that boat. He always said she was famous for being a ‘Lucky ship'”. (1893 photo)
In 1905 Norway and Sweden split into separate countries again. One of the repercussions from this split was that Norwegian built boats were not allowed to be exported to Sweden, nor were they allowed to be imported into Sweden. This left Mr. Carlsson with a good, hard working, little boat stuck in Norway. In the end the solution to this problem was simple. Mr. Carlsson’s brother in law Alfred Olsen owned a newly started shipyard in Bergkvara. So Vega was loaded with a cargo for Bergkvara and off she sailed. On arrival she was unloaded and then hauled out in Alfred’s shipyard where a few planks were removed and the surveyor called in.
Places like Bergkvara are small and everyone knows or is related to each other. So with a nudge and a wink Vega was condemned as a total uninsured loss. The next spring she was given a 12 hp single cylinder engine, a few cosmetic modifications (still visible) were made to bow and stern, the planks were replaced, and after a new coat of paint the same surveyor accepted and approved the newly built “Vega of Bergkvara” for addition to the Swedish register of shipping. It would appear that Vega was not the only boat to be repatriated in this manner during those years.
Having already become famous in Norway for her cargo and sailing capabilities Vega now went on to once again become famous in Sweden under her new flag. For the next 80 years Vega carried cement, bricks, and building stone as well as the odd special heavy machine or ships engine all over the Baltic Sea. Several times over the years her rig was changed back and forth between that of a cutter and a galleass (a type of Baltic ketch) if half the rumors about her are true she also had a very adventurous life carrying cargos of immigrants to North America, dried fish to the Caribbean and Mediterranean, and trading voyages to West Africa. The tales of her sailing around the Horn to trade with Chile for nitrates we have discounted as too fanciful for reality, although it is a fact that some boats from Norway did make that trip and very successfully.
Her current owners found Vega abandoned in a sad condition on the hard in the Canary Islands where they purchased her and after sailing her from the Canaries via the Cape Verde’s to Brazil and on via Cape Town to Durban began a long and intensive refit that ended in 2009.
Now Vega is dedicated to a different type of cargo. A cargo of hope, a cargo of medical and educational supplies, and whenever possible local medical teams to East Timor and the isolated island communities of Eastern Indonesia. Many of these islands have not seen a nurse, much less a doctor for many years. Most of these islands are poorly charted and surrounded by reefs.
This work is made possible through the assistance of volunteer crewmembers, private individuals, and companies who provide the farm, medical, and educational supplies or assistance to the medical teams as well as financial support for Vega’s modest running costs. Without their help and sponsorship Vega’s work would not be possible.
During the months when the N. E. Monsoon makes our work impossible in the South Vega moves to the North where we actively support the goals of our sponsors at boat shows and regattas in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.