Members of “Save the Osa” raise the mast on the 30-foot Viking ship on Lake Riley at the Sons of Norway Normanna Park in Arlington. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Members of “Save the Osa” raise the mast on the 30-foot Viking ship on Lake Riley at the Sons of Norway Normanna Park in Arlington. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

A Soundview beer and $1 later, a mythical Viking ship sails again

The Everett Sons of Norway started a “Save the Osa” campaign to restore the 30-foot ship for parades and use on Lake Riley.

EVERETT — A beer at the Soundview Bar & Grill led to the discovery of the hidden 30-foot Viking ship.

About five years ago, Eric Ostlund was at the Soundview, a friendly dive on Hewitt Avenue with good cheap burgers and tall tales on tap.

A guy was going on about a Viking ship in the alley.

“I called B.S. on it,” Ostlund said. “And the guy said, ‘Just go down there and look over the fence.’ Sure enough, I saw this dragon head on the bow of the boat and I was like, ‘Holy crap, he was telling the truth.’”

Much of the longship was covered. But Ostlund was smitten.

“It blew my mind,” he said.

He tracked down the owner, Mary Bettger, and asked if she’d sell the ship to the Everett Sons of Norway lodge to use at its Normanna Park compound on Lake Riley and in parades.

At that time, Bettger wasn’t ready to part with the boat, named Osa. Her husband, Don, made it in the yard of his parents’ Everett house in the late 1970s. The hull is fiberglass and the gunwale, or top edge, is wood, adorned with ornamental carvings and metal castings.

Don died in 2011 at age 67. Due to illness, he hadn’t sailed the Osa since 2006. The ship was dry-docked in the yard of a family-owned home near the Soundview.

Mary Bettger, of Everett, waves aboard the ship built by her husband, Don, who died in 2011. She sold the Osa to the Sons of Norway for a $1. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Mary Bettger, of Everett, waves aboard the ship built by her husband, Don, who died in 2011. She sold the Osa to the Sons of Norway for a $1. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

“I missed my husband,” Bettger said. “I’d actually go out to the Osa and talk to Don and rub her hull, and it made my heart feel good. I call her my jewel. She is so beautiful, like a big piece of jewelry.”

She sailed with Don on the Osa many times in Puget Sound and beyond, including on their weeklong honeymoon in 1990.

“I asked him, ‘How did you build this?’ He smiled and said, ‘Mary, I just knew how,’” she said.

Don was not of Nordic heritage. He was more Irish than anything.

“When our son was born, he was on that boat when he was almost brand new,” Bettger said. “He used to tell his friends at school, ‘I have a Viking ship’ and they’d go ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ so he’d bring them home. We took a lot of those boys out sailing.”

So many fun memories under that red-and-white-striped sail towering 27 feet.

“When we would come down that little strait near the jetty and we’d be going by Anthony’s and other restaurants down here, people would come out, scream and yell, they’d clap and hoist their glasses in the air,” she said. “She was so magnificent.”

Don also made swords, shields and suits of chain mail. He was part of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a Middle Ages reenactment group. Costumed members would fill the Viking ship on jaunts around the Sound.

“People would be out there in their fancy yachts, sunning and having their martinis, and then this boat would be coming right at them,” Bettger said.

Don was always creating something, she said.

He earned a master of fine arts degree from Cranbook Academy of Art in Michigan.

“He did huge sculptures. He even built a cannon there that actually worked. Also he built a yellow submarine, like The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, and they put it in some big lake there and it worked,” Bettger said.

This dragon head adorns the bow of the Osa. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

This dragon head adorns the bow of the Osa. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

She met Don when he owned a hardwood floor company in the 1980s and was restoring the floors at her friend’s house. After their son, Dane, was born, he taught art, mostly at Centennial Middle School in Snohomish.

“A true Renaissance man,” Bettger wrote in her husband’s obituary.

Don also made a 20-foot Viking ship, the Sieann, named after his sister. It’s in his sister’s yard in Bellingham.

“We were like two old broads with Viking ships,” Bettger said.

Bettger finally decided it was time to give the Osa to the Sons of Norway.

“There was never any way I was going to sell her to a private party where maybe they wouldn’t take care of her or trade her like a horse. That would be absolutely not honoring my husband,” Bettger said.

She sold it for $1 to the Everett lodge of the Sons of Norway, a community dedicated to preserving, sharing and teaching Norwegian culture. They made her a member, even though she’s Danish.

“You don’t have to be Norwegian to join,” Ostlund said. The club, open to all nationalities, is $60 a year and comes with the “best happy hour in Everett,” he said.

In August, the Osa was towed from downtown Everett to Lake Riley at Normanna Park northeast of Arlington.

(So now if someone at the Soundview tries to tell you there’s a Viking ship in the alley, it really is B.S.)

Normanna Park is a woodsy 45 acres with cabins for members, a pool and a 30-acre lake. Camps are held in the summer for kids. A Viking statue, made by an Icelandic chainsaw artist, stands tall and proud, a 12½-foot selfie magnet.

Sons of Norway members raise the sail on Osa at Lake Riley at Normanna Park. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Sons of Norway members raise the sail on Osa at Lake Riley at Normanna Park. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Ostlund said it will take about $20,000 to restore the ship and construct a roof to shield it from the elements.

“We are going to refurbish it, basically give her some TLC, a paint job, replace the rotting boards and a new coat of varnish,” Ostlund said.

The Osa is in a member’s pole barn while money is raised for restoration. Ostlund said volunteers are needed to help.

An Osa fundraiser in August with a corn-hole tournament, salmon dinner and dance brought in about $3,000. “Save the Osa” sweatshirts and stickers are for sale.

People can donate in the “Osa” jar on the bar at the Everett lodge at 2725 Oakes Ave. Funds from the Sons of Norway’s pancake breakfasts, pickled herring and other such delights go to the lodge, not to the Osa.

A GoFundMe was also started to save the Osa.

The Osa sails in the waters of Lake Riley at the Sons of Norway Normanna Park camp. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Osa sails in the waters of Lake Riley at the Sons of Norway Normanna Park camp. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Bettger got to sail in the Osa on Lake Riley when the ship was tested on the water.

“I know she’s safe, which makes my heart glad,” she said. “It’s beautiful with all the tall trees. It looks like she’s gone home.”

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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