Good practice from Norway:

Square rig sailing seminar


Above: Lecture and discussions amongst boat-builders. Photo: Tore Friis-Olsen

The Square Rig seminar (Råseilseminaret) is an annual meeting of skilled sailors and practitioners, who are boat-builders, sailmakers, sailors and crews as well as museums’ staff and researchers from relevant academic disciplines (cultural studies, philosophy and science).

The series of seminars were initiated in 2002. Prime movers of the seminars are a amalgamation of organizations and institutions, inter alia The Geitbåt Museum, Hardanger Maritime Museum, the Kystens arv Museum, Oselvar-boat Workshop & Shipyard, Norway’s Organic High School, UiT The Arctic University and local coastal associations.



The aim is to research, explore, share and transmit practical knowledge on sailing and maneuvering traditional boats with square rigs

Another perspective is to research practical consequences of the shift in use of traditional boats. Previously they were primarily used as part of subsistence economy, nowadays they are mainly used for leisure activities.

How it was done

The concept is to explore building and using traditional square rig boats in a modern context. Each seminar singles out a specific approach to the building or use. Some of the approaches have, inter alia, been:

  • The practical conceptual thinking of the crafter when building a boat
  • The wonder of the Masfjord boat, a traditional boat from the West coast of Norway with surprisingly sparse information on its construction and use
  • The Færinger, a small rowing boat equipped with 2 pairs of oars. It is used as a referential boat in the typology of traditional boats

The methodology is a combination of practical and theoretical research in what might be classified as community-based research and exploration. A main task is to test one or several hypotheses, both in a practical and theoretical perspective. Most of the time is spent outdoors, i.e. outside the boats on shore or inside the boats at sea.

Boatbilder Berit Osmundsen from the Oselvar workshop explains strategies when building a boat. Photo: Tore Friis-Olsen.

During the seminars, a diversity of sources might be presented, thus forming a basis for discussion. Sources include interviews as well written and pictorial materials etc.

Emphasis is on sailing, rowing, maneuvers and traditional seamanship. Sessions of practice are recorded by filming. Film recordings are especially valuable and important for the ongoing discussion afterwards.

The seminars take place in September and circulate each year between different regions as well as places.

Each seminar is accompanied by safety sessions, for instance, rescue maneuvers when a boat has capsized.

New knowledge, understanding and experiences from the seminar are often the basis for academic papers or articles in popular science magazines.

Equipping traditional boats before testing rowing and sailing characteristics. Photo: Tore Friis-Olsen.


Last updated September 11, 2017