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Sailboat captain performs Viking funeral

Jan 1, 2003

The captain of a day-sailing charter sailboat in Portland,Maine, was asked to perform an unusual funeral service aboard his boat this past summer. It would not be a simple scattering of ashes as was customary, as Tom Woodruff, who operates the 54-foot sloop Palawan on Casco Bay, discovered.

"They asked me to perform a traditional Viking burial; you know, where you put the personin this case it was his ashesin a boat and set the whole thing on fire," Woodruff said. This funeral was for a man named Andrew Snyder, who apparently had Norse ancestry and whose surviving family members found it appropriate to have a traditional Viking ceremony.

A friend of the family, a boatbuilder by trade, fashioned a three-foot pram of cedar in which the ashes were placed during the ceremony, which occurred off Jewell Island, Maine, in August. The group poured lighter fluid into the little boat, set it ablaze, and then pushed it away from the sailboat.

Despite some initial difficulties in getting the burning bier away from the side of the sloop, the funeral was a success. "It was a very moving experience," Woodruff added. As for the burning Viking vessel, it eventually drifted out of sight.


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