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Marine / Restoration work to begin on former fishing boat Maggie Helen

HAY’s Dock will be alive with noise and activity over the coming months as experts from England and Brittany restore the hull of the former fishing boat and yacht Maggie Helen in the same boating shed she was built in 120 years ago.

The Maggie Helen in the museum’s boat shed. Photos: Shetland Amenity Trust

Shetland Museum and Archives has secured the services of a crew of shipwrights who are due to arrive at Freefield on board the traditional sail vessel Swallow.

The expert team bring with them materials, equipment and an experienced skillset which will ultimately see the Maggie Helen back in active use.

The vessel has been in indoor storage at the museum’s boat shed since 2007. The first stage of restoration was done at the time, stripping the boat back to the hull and replacing defective planking.

But realising that the museum would not have the resources to carry out a full restoration and then maintain the vessel once re-launched, she has been kept in indoor storage for the last 15 years.

Museum curator Dr Ian Tait said he was delighted that a team of skilled shipwrights are to embark on the next restoration phase of the Maggie Helen.

“We knew that once the craft is launched, it entails constant funding to cover maintenance. [Shetland Amenity] Trust realised that it could not operate such a vessel, nor was it likely that any other organisation or individual in Shetland could,” he said.

Restoration experts arrived on board the historic sailing vessel The Swallow.

“We approached various boating experts and enthusiasts locally and beyond, and whilst some expressions of interest were received, these dropped out once the challenges were evaluated.

“We’re pleased to have secured a commitment from the Swallow crew to take on the considerable cost and work required to bring the Maggie Helen back to her former glory.”

Once the work has been done, the vessel will leave Shetland for completion further afield. She will then take up a working life along the west coast of Britain and in France.

“Having been built in the same shed she’s in, 120 years ago, Maggie Helen will leave there for a second time in her life, ready to start her new chapter back where she belongs,” Dr Tait continued.

“Whilst we are reluctant to see her go, it will provide us with the space to showcase the restored open boats from our collection, repaired in the same shed, and where they will be accessible for all to enjoy.”