A 45-footer built of ice cream sticks? - Soundings Online

A 45-footer built of ice cream sticks?

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It took 15 million sticks and 1.5 tons of glue to build the replica Viking longboat

It took 15 million sticks and 1.5 tons of glue to build the replica Viking longboat

Capt. Rob McDonald loves ice cream.

In particular, the 45-year-old former Hollywood stuntman enjoys Magnum chocolate ice cream bars. But the fact that McDonald likes ice cream isn’t what’s important — it’s what he does with the wooden sticks when he’s done.

This summer McDonald launched a 45-foot replica Viking longboat he built using 15 million wooden ice cream sticks and nearly 1.5 tons of waterproof glue.

“Throwing an ice cream stick away is like throwing a tree away,” says McDonald, who lives with his family in the Netherlands. “Using ice cream sticks to build a big boat seemed like a fun idea.”

McDonald launched the boat — named Mjollnir after the hammer of Thor, the mythic Norse god of thunder — Aug. 16 in the IJ River in Amsterdam. Before Mjollnir was splashed, McDonald and his son, Rob Jr., who is 11, affixed the 15-millionth ice cream stick, made of 24-karat gold.

“The kids brought it to me on a pillow,” McDonald says. “It was pretty neat.”

In a bid to set a world record for the largest working ship made of ice cream sticks, McDonald, with a crew of 18 children at the oars, took Mjollnir on a 90-minute sail along the IJ.

“Seeing her move under her own power was one of the most exciting moments of my life,” McDonald says. “I took her hard to port, and she followed. Ah, what a feeling. After the years of blood, sweat and tears that went into building her, there aren’t any words to describe how that felt. All the hard work was worth it.”

With help from numerous advisors, sponsors and volunteers, it took McDonald two years to construct the 9.5-ton Mjollnir, interlacing and rotating the birch ice cream sticks as he progressed. McDonald says he was able, with help from his volunteers, to lay up to 25,000 ice cream sticks per day, working seven days a week. The boat has a 12-foot beam, and her white oak mast is more than 32 feet tall. The rudder also is made of white oak, and the square sail, made of white wool, was hand-made in a medieval design.

The ice cream sticks McDonald used to build Mjollnir were provided in part by OLA ice cream company and children who collected them, he says. When laying the sticks, McDonald and his team used a two-part, waterproof polyurethane glue (Bison International’s PU Max Timber Adhesive Super).

“The construction required very specific demands,” says Bison product manager Joyce van Loon in a statement. “You need very strong adhesive for wood, that is also seawater-proof. But the adhesive also needs to be flexible and needs to have great impact strength, capability to fill holes, and be resistant to the heaviest weather conditions. Bison has connected her name with great pleasure to this unique project.”

Although McDonald attempted to construct Mjollnir to ancient Viking standards, he says there has to be a bit of modern technology on board. “I have a GPS and an electric twin-screw engine. Right now I’m looking for ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore waterproof hand-held radios,” he says.

When asked if he has an EPIRB, McDonald says, “An EPIRB? Europe must have a different name for that. I have no idea.” After an explanation of the device, he says, “I will get one.”

In 2003 McDonald set a world record when he built a 7-foot Viking ship using 365,000 ice cream sticks — a feat that has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. According to information on McDonald’s Web site, www.obviking ship.com, McDonald set a world record in 1986 for rocking in a rocking chair for 4.4 hours.

Now that Mjollnir is complete, McDonald is planning to assemble a crew of 14 children and adults from around the world to cross the Atlantic. “The ultimate goal for next summer is to sail her, like the Vikings, across the ocean from the Netherlands to St. John’s, Canada,” McDonald says. “From there, we’ll sail down the East Coast of America, making stops in ports along the way, and end up in Key West, Fla.”

Until then, McDonald will continue to secure funding for his unusual trans-Atlantic adventure. “This has been my dream,” he says. “I wanted to show children that something like this can be done. If you can dream it, you can do it.”