A Viking farewell in Whitby Harbour

A TRADITIONAL Viking funeral is to be held next week for a local man who died last year.

Jet carver Jeff Muse was just 31 when he drowned in Whitby harbour attempting to recover a boat which was floating out to sea.

On Thursday his life will be celebrated when a replica Viking longboat will be towed out to sea carrying Jeff's ashes on a pyre.

From a neighbouring vessel archers will fire flaming arrows onto the pyre which will be allowed to burn before the boat is towed back into Whitby Harbour.

Jeff died on 17 June while on Tate Hill Beach.

His mother Margaret said: "That awful evening Jeff was asked by a young girl to help when her rowing boat was blown off Tate Hill Beach on the rising tide.

"He went into the water instead of her but he reckoned without his lack of stamina from a bout of pneumonia that he had suffered from a couple of months before."

His father, Fritz, added: "Jeff had always been willing to help anybody.

"As a teenager he gave comfort to an old man, a total stranger, as he lay dying in a back lane in Scarborough.

"He was always using our car to take one or more of his friends to an airport or to an appointment.

"Jeff was the one who would not drink because he knew he might be needed to drive or walk one of his many friends home at the end of a good night out in the Shambles, Tap and Spile or the Duke of York."

The 20ft scaled-down version of a longboat will be towed out to sea by the Esk Belle, skippered by Bryan Clarkson, with family and friends on board.

The archers will shoot burning arrows over from the Mary Ann Hepworth, Whitby's old lifeboat skippered by Barry Sneddon, .

Supporting the event and carrying many more of Jeff's friends will be the Grand Turk, under Capt Ian Macdougal.

The longboat has been christened Ffreya, a mixture of Jeff's e-mail address and the Norse goddess whose name gives us Friday.

Her symbol was a cat and a cat's eyes are marked on the sail to bring good fortune.

Mr Muse said Jeff adored cats – although he was allergic to them – and at his first funeral last June donations were collected for the Cats' Protection League. In total more than 1,100 has since been collected and given to the York Adoption Centre for cats.

In recognition of the donation a plaque has been placed on a cabin with Jeff's name on it, his Whitby Pirates' nickname "The Ship's Cat" underneath it and the quotation "No cat is ever ugly."

The burning of the Ffreya will take place at sunset – 8.10pm – on Thursday, weather permitting.

Mr Muse said the family is very grateful for the help of the skippers and crews who will be taking part, port manager Capt Bill Estill and his staff, the coastguard, Defra, the police and fire brigade as well as Ruswarp Pleasure Boats who provided the wrecked hull upon which the Ffreya was built.

If the weather is bad the funeral may take place on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Jeff's family has also said although people are welcome to take pictures they should not be sold for commercial gain.