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Marine / Fine show of Faroe vessels in Lerwick harbour

Westward Ho is the leading vessel in the Flotilla. Photo: Peter Johnson/Shetland News

A FLOTILLA of five historic Faroese fishing boats put into Lerwick on Thursday as part of a trip commemorating 100 years of the Faroese flag.

Led by the Grimsby built smack Westward Ho, the vessels arrived somewhat earlier than planned in Bressay Sound after a rough crossing, having hugged the west coast of Norway on their journey from Denmark.

Westward Ho skipper Egil Simonsen. Photo: Peter Johnson/Shetland News

The white, red and blue Faroese flag was designed by Faroese students in Denmark in 1919 and a commemorative celebration in Copenhagen was the highlight of the trip, said skipper of the Westward Ho Egil Simonsen.

He added that there were 45 to 50 sailors on the expedition with 13 on the Westward Ho, including the event organisers.

Once alongside in Lerwick, the boats were visited by a delegation from the port authority and the Swan Trust. Author John Goodlad presented each vessel with a copy of his book The Cod Hunters, a large part of which deals with the activities of Shetland smacks fishing around the Faroe Islands.

Simonsen said that his grandfather once crewed with a Shetland smack, probably in the early 1900s.

The flotilla had experienced a heavy sea with the strong northerly wind that accompanied most of their three-day leg from Denmark to Shetland.

Simonsen said: “We left the Faroe islands on the 16th May for Denmark where we have been in several cities.

“Last night was a lot of wind with heavy swells as well. It was pretty rough and we were rolling a lot.”

Westward Ho and Johanna (both built in 1874, the Johanna in Suffolk) are both smacks and the other three vessels are slightly smaller types “but still big enough to cross the ocean”.

The Faroese flag. Photo: Peter Johnson/Shetland News.

Westward Ho remained active in fishing until she was forced to retire in 1964 with severe engine problems. Her owner decided not to re-engine as she was so out of date compared with the steel-hulled vessels that had taken over.

A private foundation called SLUPPIN purchased Westward Ho in 1966 with the intention of preserving at least one of the vessels credited with developing the Faroe fishing industry and indeed “modern society”.

The vessel was reconditioned in Fraserburgh in the 1990s and is now very different below decks than she was when she first came to Faroe in 1895, though she retains the original eight forward bunks.

According to Simonsen, the old vessels in Faroe do not have the same interest for young people that the Swan seems to have in Shetland, although they take people on day trips around Faroe with as many as 50 on board, including the crew.

Most of the flotilla crew are retirees, part owing to the time they have on hand and part due to few young people having sailing experience, according to Simonsen.

The figurehead on Norðlýsið. Photo: Peter Johnson/Shetland News

Though Westward Ho has 16 bunks in total she can be sailed by as few as eight. Cutting the crew below that is a tough challenge, owing to the weight of the mainsail.

The group plan to leave for home again on Friday evening, this time with a much better south easterly wind forecast to be behind them.

It is hoped Westward Ho will be in Tórshavn by Sunday morning along with the rest of the vessels in their respective ports.