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Popsicle-stick boat to sail the Atlantic

The replica Viking longboat took two years — and 15 million sticks — to build

The replica Viking longboat took two years — and 15 million sticks — to build

In 2005 Capt. Rob McDonald and a team of volunteers built a 45-foot replica Viking longboat from 15 million ice cream sticks and 1.5 tons of waterproof glue. Now, Mjollnir (the hammer of Thor) is ready for open water.

McDonald, 47, and a crew of 14 (seven on board and seven as backup) plan to take the open longboat across the Atlantic from his home base in The Netherlands to St. John’s, Newfoundland, then down the East Coast to Key West, Fla. They hoped to get under way this year.

“St. John’s has a Viking village that is over 1,000 years old, and that’s our mark,” says McDonald. “The Vikings didn’t have the technology we have, so we can take their design and sail even farther.”

If all of this sounds a bit over the top, then you’ve hit on McDonald’s modus operandi. Originally from Jacksonville, Fla., he has been a member of the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame since 1991, appearing in 507 films.

“I remember one of the first movies I did I broke a world record and jumped a Cadillac over a bridge,” says McDonald. “I’ve been offered acting roles, but that just wasn’t me.”

Since then, breaking world records has become something of a regular occurrence for him, whether building boats from tiny sticks or rocking in a rocking chair for 453 hours, 40 minutes. He traces much of his obsession with seemingly impossible tasks to when he was 9 years old, and 70 percent of his body was burned in a gas explosion at his home.

“It all started when the doctor who was treating me told me I shouldn’t have big dreams about my future because I was handicapped, and that made me want to be a Superman for other kids,” says McDonald. “Years later, that same doctor sought me out and asked for my autograph. He had tears running down his face. He felt so bad about what he said, but he really changed my life.”

Wanting to make a difference in the lives of children, McDonald founded the Sea Heart Foundation, which allows children of all ages to participate in fun and far-reaching projects like the Viking boat, which took two years and 25,000 ice cream sticks a day to complete.

“The Bison International glue we used was made specifically for this process, and OLA ice cream company donated the sticks,” says McDonald. “We’ve taken it out about 18 times this summer, and it has proven to be seaworthy.”

Seaworthy enough to survive an ocean crossing? Seasoned salts are rightfully skeptical, but McDonald says he’s found plenty of supporters. “I had 90,000 applicants who wanted to be on my crew for this journey,” he says. “I had a big questionnaire for them, because these people have to have nerves of steel. It’s a way of weeding the garden. The boat has no cabin, and we’ll be going through some severe weather, so we have to have a crew that can rely on each other.”

McDonald hopes to attain an American sponsor for the Atlantic crossing and estimates the entire voyage will take about a half-year. For more information, visit www.obvikingshipcom .