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Shetland Boat Week here to stay

THE INAUGURAL Shetland Boat Week enjoyed a successful opening five days, despite the weather trying its best to put a dampener on the outdoor events.

All of the boat trips scheduled for Monday were cancelled due to high winds, but visitor numbers have remained healthy.

A host of events – including excursions, tours, lectures and exhibitions – have been held throughout the week, with Sunday set to round things off with a barbecue and a sacred singing session led by the Fishermen’s Mission.

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Visitors hit the water on vessels such as Pilot Us, the only operational motor boat in Shetland Museum’s collection, while pelagic trawler Adenia staged open days.

The Sumburgh Head shipwrecks tour proved popular, as did lectures on Tuesday from Charlie Simpson and Dr Adrian Osler.

This reporter took a trip on wooden sixareen Vaila Mae on Friday morning in the sticky rain, with five crew members helping things to run smoothly.

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Skipper Brian Wishart took three people on the trip, including boat week speaker Dr Kevin Fewster, who is director of the National Maritime Museum in London.

The boat was built in 2008 as a replica of the Industry, which was originally made to take mail from the west side to Foula.

The Vaila Mae hit speeds of around six knots, often listing towards the sea when the winds hit the sails, as it looped around Lerwick harbour.

Fewster, whose museum attracted over 1.3 million visits last year, said he thoroughly enjoyed the trip – despite the murky weather.

“It’s terrific,” he said as the Vaila Mae bobbed in the sea, “and it’s great to see Shetland from the water.

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“It’s one thing being in the museum, but being out here, getting wet and watching the crew is a real privilege.”

Shetland Amenity Trust’s Emma Miller confirmed that the boat week is set to become a permanent fixture on the isles’ summer schedule.

There’s been a keen interest from locals and visitors alike, with one person even taking the whole week off work to attend events, she said.

“Despite the weather, it’s gone really, really well,” Miller added.

“In its first year, we have to see how things are working. We have to live with the weather, which has impacted on what we’ve been able to do.

“But it’s not had a massive impact on folk enjoying Shetland Boat Week as an event, because we’ve had plenty of stuff indoors.”

Davy Cooper, who held storytelling events through the week, said the idea of paying homage to the isles’ boating heritage previously surfaced when the old Taste of Shetland event at Lerwick’s Victoria Pier was being planned in the 2000s as part of Johnsmas Foy celebrations.

“That was intended to be a boat event, but that kind of got kidnapped by the food side of things,” he said.

“But this is a much better location for doing something like this, because you have space you can set boats out, and its relatively straightforward getting them in and out.”

  • Shetland Boat Week continues until Sunday, with the programme available here.
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