Keeping Tradition Afloat

Our boating tradition is more than a museum piece, and besides artefacts, we have a selection of classic Shetland craft in working order which you can often see in use during the summer months. These are kept at Hay’s Dock, outside the Museum and Archives.

The yoal takes its name from the English word yawl, and was the shape of vessel preferred in southern Shetland, with its slender hull adapted for use in strong tides. There are six oars, but usually four men rowed, by taking oars singly or in pairs. Our one, the Zeal, is of the form used in Fair Isle. Similar to her is the Laura Kay. This boat type was popular north of Lerwick, and was used in the commercial haddock fishery of the 19th century. The construction is basically the same as the yoal, but with a broader hull, to hold lines and the catch. Both of these are replica boats, built using traditional techniques, specifically for our collection.

Larger again is the Vaila Mae. She is a sixareen, the biggest of the native boat types. She is rigged with oars and sail, as all sixareens were, in the traditional sail shape that inspired our Boat Hall walls. When under sail she carries extra ballast to keep her stable, and when she travels to local regattas even the non-boating enthusiast stops to watch her.

We also have an original motor boat, the Pilot Us. Motor boats replaced manpower in the fishing industry, and here you can see how small some mid 20th century commercial boats were. With a crew of two, the Pilot Us was a whitefish boat based at Scalloway.