SALT LAKE CITY -- The assembled sailors told tales of their stalwart adventures. Raising their grog and steely knives, they spoke of 12 vessels that sailed the frigid waters of The Great Salt Lake. They also boasted about crewing with the likes of "Hagar the Horrible" and his cast of characters.
Their travels took them, well, as far as their engines would propel them -- about two miles offshore -- because of the limited wind. And though they didn't pillage or sack in what would be regarded as true Viking style, they did trade secrets about their outfits.
The Great Salt Lake Yacht Club hosted "Norseland," the first themed cruise of the year. About 40 folks attended, all dressing for the weather as well as for the occasion.
"Because of the snow and cold we decided to go with a Scandinavian theme," said Lance Fairbanks, member of the GSLYC. "I said, to plan on it being cold, wear what you'd wear if you were going skiing. Then, of course, have some fun, get creative, this isn't some beauty pageant.
"Check your closets, ask grandma if she has something."
Vance and Sheila Mortimer took those suggestions seriously, putting hours into their Norse-period attire. They shopped at thrift stores, transforming blankets, sweatshirts and one bean bag into leg wrappings, tunics and cloaks.
When all was said and done, their impressionistic attempts of what a self-respecting Viking should look like earned them the moniker, "Vi-King" and "Vi-Kueen," respectively.
"We looked at Deseret Industries for things that were furry or fuzzy... Back then you have to realize that a lot of things looked more patchwork. They were more functional than let's say, fashionable," Vance Mortimer said. "We just used our imagination ... and lots of hot glue."
Also recognized at the costume contest was Vance's mother, Cheryl Mortimer, who was given the "Best Sport" award. All Cheryl had to do to earn the title was step aboard a boat, something she had never done before.
"We thought it would be a great time to go sailing and introduce my mom to sailing because she's never been," said Vance Mortimer.
"So then the next time she'll really enjoy it when it's warm," added Sheila Mortimer in a joking tone.
It wasn't a tropical heat wave last weekend when the Vikings set sail, but it was an agreeable 38 degrees. And though snow drifts were still on the deck, Cheryl Mortimer had no complaints. She perched topside, deflecting winterly gusts with a Viking shield her son made, and vowed to return in the summer.
"Going out on the water and being out in the open, you can see forever and it's just freedom," Sheila Mortimer said.
"It's a wonderful experience being out on the open water, feeling the wind in your hair and in your face... and gliding on that glass mirror of water," Vance Mortimer added.
Nine of the 12 boats that participated tied together, or rafted up in nautical terms, in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. One of the nine boats was 'Avalon,' a Westsail '32 owned by Ron Lee. When Fairbanks revealed his idea for the theme cruise, Lee was skeptical.
"I thought he (Fairbanks) was nuts," Lee joked. "We had other cruises in July that no one showed up for. But today there were nine boats that rafted up. Everyone was just busting to get out."
Though it was playful, the theme cruise was no joke. Fairbanks and other club members realize that sailing on the Great Salt Lake is one of the best kept secrets in Utah. It's his hope that future theme cruises will grab the attention of more seafarers, or just those who want to see what it's like out on the water.
"One of my passions is sailing. Out here on the Great Salt Lake it's very unique... the water salinity is about 17 percent," Fairbanks said. "One of the reasons I wanted to coordinate this cruise is to demonstrate that you can actually go sailing when the water is below freezing. We also wanted to get people out here sailing on the Great Salt Lake. We ended up taking a cold day and turning it into a warm event."
This event was the first time since late August that water levels allowed the larger boats to pass through the channel out into the lake.
And though members of the club did not immediately recognize one another behind the foul-weather gear and horned helmets, they did spot the familiar look of addiction.
"I don't like sailing with so many clothes on," chuckled Jackie Harwood, a member of GSLYC. "I knew it would be really cold but it would also be really fun. It just shows how much we love each other and miss each other."