Finding the Feie

By Michael L. and Simon M. Christiansen

When we first began our search to learn more about the Feie, RS 4 (Rednings Skuta no. 4), we were only expecting to find a likeness of her at best. We thought that perhaps there were some drawings or even pictures of the old Norwegian rescue boats locked away in a ship museum or archive somewhere. Mike had an interest in finding out more details about the deck and the shape and outside structures of the Feie. He has an interest in carving a replica of the Feie someday, but to do it correctly he needs more detail than can be seen in the family picture of the Feie. To date, our research has not provided the drawings or pictures we were looking for, but to our great surprise and excitement we actually found the Feie and her history!

In 1985, the Norwegian Association for the Preservation of Vessels (Norsk Frening For Fartoyvern) was organized. It is a non-government organization that promotes the preservation of Norway’s historic sea vessels. Special guidelines have been established to encourage owners to preserve the original characteristics in these ships and boats as much as possible. It is a miracle to us that the Feie has been preserved in this way. The Feie’s current owner is Jon Ivar Ronnevik of Haugesund, Norway. The process of restoring the Feie has been ongoing for several years. It is one of 125 vessels that have been registered with the Norwegian Association.

The history and preservation of the Feie is indeed amazing. She is a part of the beginning of the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue (Redningsselskapet), the special sea rescue vessels built by Colin Archer during the late 1800’s. The Feie was built in 1893, presumably the fourth boat constructed, and was the first of Colin Archer’s rescue boats to have his double hull design. Colin Archer from Larvik, Norway, is famous for designing and building some of the strongest and safest wood ships in the world. He designed and built the Fram, a wooden ship used on Norwegian expeditions to both the South and North Poles. The Fram was designed and made from materials that would withstand the terrible stress of the polar ice. It is noted historically that the Feie was built using surplus materials left over from building the Fram. We surmise that the longevity of the Feie is largely due to its safe, tough design and the materials used in building her.

The Feie’s record for sea rescue service is every bit as impressive as its preservation. The Feie was stationed from ca. 1893 to 1903 along the coastline of southwestern Norway, from Haugesund (about 30 miles north of Stavanger) to the Island of Fedje (about 30 miles north of Bergen). In about 1900 the Feie saved a total of 26 vessels during a storm north of Hauegsund. After 1903, the Feie was transferred north to Troms, north of the Lofoten Islands. According to records, the crew of the Feie saved, “75 people from certain death, 14 vessels from ‘total go downs’ and assisted 197 vessels” during its period of service. In 1905, the Norwegian Coastal Service replaced the sail rescue boats with boats powered by diesel engines, making the Feie surplus. It was later decommissioned.

Simon and Signor Christiansen and Paul and Erling Paulsen had for many years worked for others on various fishing boats. During 1901, these good friends and neighbors pooled their money, formed a partnership, and purchased a small fishing boat they named the “Brodren” (Brethren). These men were a great fishing team and during the ensuing years were very successful. In 1905, they heard about the decommission of the Feie and decided to sell the “Brodren.” With proceeds of the sale and other funds, they purchased the Feie. With a much larger and faster boat and an eight man crew, they were able to sail farther away to better fishing grounds. During the next four years they were very successful financially and even helped rescue other fisherman in distress on high, rough seas. The partnership sold the Feie in 1909. Proceeds of the sale helped finance the emigration to America of all four partners and their families. The Feie has played an important role in the life of every member of the Christiansen and Paulsen families. For additional information about the Feie and why the families decided to emigrate, please refer to the book “The Simon and Ingrid Christiansen Legacy.”

A special thanks to:

Einar J. Espeland Stravanger, Norway for his research on the history of the Feie, organizational websites and help with interpreting Norwegian.

Jon Ivar Ronnevik : Haugesund, Norway for his preservation work and care of the historical Feie.

Inger-Lise Sogstad: Senior Advisor, Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Administration for answering our first e-mail, providing a short Feie history, and letting us know the Feie was still around and located in Haugesund, Norway.

Stig Sormo: Vesterålen, Norway for sending a Feie history and a picture of the refurbished Feie from the Norsk-Fartoyvern website.

Feie, Haugesund, Norway