Saturday, 10 May 2008

Shetland Sixareen takes shape

Craftsmen at the Shetland Museum are building a new sixareen, a six-oared fishing boat used for long distance trips until the end of the 19th century.
Sixareens used to be rowed and sailed out to to the Far Haaf, deep and treacherous but profitable waters about 40 miles away. It was hard and dangerous work - trips used to take three days, boats going out twice a week. Conditions aboard an open boat not more than 30ft long must have been vile. In 1881 a storm sank ten boats and drowned 58 men, mainly from one village.
Understandably, sixareens began to disappear as steam powered vessels took over.
But they were lovely boats, and one survives: the Industry, now on show in the shiny new Shetland Museum. And a replica is nearing completion in the museum's boat shed.
Jack Duncan, 62 and Robbie Tait, 60, are building the new boat using exactly the same techniques that were employed in the original, and which they themselves learned when they were apprentices at a boatyard in Lerwick back in the 1960s. She is clinker built, with strips of cloth soaked in Stockholm tar as caulking.
The boat is a delight for language buffs, because all the parts are named in the Shetland dialect. Frames are baands, and thwarts are tafts. Under the tafts are vertical slats called fiskabrods, which prevented the catch or fishing gear stored in one 'room' from sliding about the boat.
The sixareen is due to be launched next month.
All the pictures come from Shetlopedia, a veritable mine of information on anything relating the to islands. There is a fabulous album of picture of the sixareen under construction here. And the Shetland Museum site is here.

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