During 1940 and 1941, the first two years of the German occupation of Norway during World War II, 21 small wooden boats set out across the North Sea to Great Britain. Those who attempted the dangerous voyage, known as Englandsfarere—England Sailors—had one goal in mind: to join the Allies in the fight against Nazi Germany. Over the course of this effort to liberate Norway, nearly 100 people in those 21 boats left from the Agder region in southern Norway. Eighteen of the boats arrived safely. Two boats, each with two men on board, disappeared, and one boat was captured by the Germans—all five who were on board were executed or died in captivity. These escapes were undertaken by heroic young men who put their lives on the line, but in the postwar years they received very little recognition.More than eight decades later, Jarle Føreland wanted to re-create the North Sea crossing to acknowledge the Englandsfarere who risked all to join the Allied side in the struggle for peace and freedom in the Second World War. I joined him in this vision and became the project leader. Frode Stokkeland and Willy Pedersen were soon on board as crew members.We would travel in FRI IV, a 22-year-old wooden motor launch, the third boat we had tested. The two previous boats, a 1934 model and a 1954 model, had both proved unreliable during sea trials. FRI IV is a Visterflo sjekte, built in the Østfold region of southeast Norway and powered with a Volvo Penta three-cylinder 18-hp marine diesel engine. It would be an appropriate boat, similar in age to the boats used during WWII. We carried out many sea trials, training to work as a crew in a small boat, getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of our equipment, and strengthening our confidence that we would succeed. Our plan was to follow the route and the story of Finn Narvesen, who fled with Finn Frodesen, Thorleiv Moe, and Hans Syvertsen in SWAN, a 22′ sjekte, from Kristiansand in Agder on September 21, 1940. We would carry Norway's official postal flag as a sign that we had a letter from the Norwegian government on board.
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