Hundreds turn out for Shetland Boat Week

Shetland Boat Week came to an end on Sunday with a session of stories and music on board the deck of the Swan, after an exciting week of maritime activities.

Over 500 people took to the sea aboard a variety of boats, which included the replica sixareen, Vaila Mae and the iconic Swan. The Mousa Boat and the Dim Riv also took passengers out on a range of cruises. Rowing boats in Hay’s Dock were well used, with over 120 people having a go over the week.

In addition to 31 boats on display at Hay’s Dock, there were traditional boats on view at NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway, and Bressay Heritage Centre, as well as the excellent display which is always available at Unst Boat Haven.

A few returning boats from 2016 were joined by a range of boats by different Shetland builders. These included the oldest boat on display – built by Dempster Laurenson in the mid 1800’s and the newest, built by Willie Mouat and completed only a few weeks before the event.

Musical entertainment was provided throughout the week, with the ShantyYellmen performing on Saturday at Shetland Museum and Archives, and the Fishermen’s Mission delivering the Sunday Service again joined by the North Ness Boys. Other musical entertainment included the Shetland ForWirds Fjaana and tunes aboard the Swan on Sunday evening.

Event co-ordinator, Emma Miller said “The atmosphere around Hay’s Dock through the week was fantastic. It was so good to see so many folk just milling around, speaking about boats and getting involved with the event. The feedback from those who were off with the boats was excellent, and there were droves of visitors all week coming to see how Jack and Robbie were getting on with building the boat.

“There were a lot of comments on how much the event has grown from last year, and that’s largely down to the incredible community support for Shetland Boat Week. The folk who brought boats, and the volunteers who crewed for the Vaila Mae and helped with delivering activities on the Dock were amazing and my sincere thanks goes to each and every one of them, as the event would not have been the success it was without them, and our fantastic sponsors.”

Photo: Emma Dawn Coote
Photo: Emma Dawn Coote

The 2017 parade of boats was an impressive sight, with 15 traditional Shetland boats on the water, with a mix of sail, row and motor power to get round the short course.

Yoals from Bigton and Lerwick Yoal teams were joined by another ness Yoal, owned by Neil Cruickshank. The sailing boats included Tommy Isbister in the Stavalu, The Vaila Mae, and Gibby Fraser in the Thetis. The Adamson brothers sailed the Irene and Robert Wishart raised the sail in the Valhalla, which is now 60 years old.

Photo: Emma Dawn Coote
Photo: Emma Dawn Coote

The Vaisaila, recently restored by Gordon Henderson, was re-launched by son, Maurice, after over 20 years out of the water. Archie Green took part with the Press On motor boat, and Marshal Smith took the oars of the Emilie which was launched just before the parade by his granddaughter, Emilie whom he named the boat after when he built it last year.

Earlier in the week, The first Shetland Boat Week Yoal race took place at Scalloway. 8 boats entered the mixed open race, with 5 in the mixed veteran race. Results were: Race 1: 1. Aith 2. Burra 3. Lerwick 4. Nesting 5. Vidlin 6. Bigton 7. Trondra 8. Whiteness & Weisdale. Race 2 Results: 1. Bigton 2. Nesting 3. Trondra (in the Aith Boat) 4. Vidlin 5. Lerwick 6. Whiteness & Weisdale (in the Burra Boat).

The boat being built in the Boat Shed by Jack Duncan and Robbie Tait will be completed in the coming weeks. This was a hugely popular attraction during the week, and progress can still be seen on the webcam. ( A handover will take place later this year when the boat will be officially presented to project sponsors, Serco NorthLink Ferries.

Over 600 people attended ticketed events during the week, with hundreds more taking part in drop-in activities.

The dates for Shetland Boat Week 2018 are provisionally set as 6th to 12th August.