Unst Boat Haven

Located in a purpose-built shed in the settlement of Haroldswick on Unst (Shetland), Unst Boat Haven is dedicated to the maritime and social history of boats and the Shetland fishing industry. The collection comes mostly from Shetland, but includes one from each Faroe and Norway, together with a Welsh coracle and a Berhon folding dinghy. Intended for use under oar and sail, traditional Shetland boats are double-ended and clinker-built, using methods of construction which can be traced back to Viking times. The most famous is the sixareen, the six-oared six-man boat which was the mainstay of the Shetland deep-sea fishing fleet throughout the 19th century. Given the lack of trees in Shetland, many of these boats were imported from Norway, either ready-built or as kits for local assembly. Opened on the 14th May 1994, by Robert J. Anderson of Shetland Islands Council's Department of Leisure & Recreation, the Boat Haven displays many of its boats as if they had been pulled up along a shingle beach, with boxes and barrels waiting for the fish. A painted mural extends the effect into the background. Visitors can also see boats under construction using traditional methods. Other items on display are tools, fishing gear and documents, relating to an industry which reached its peak with the herring fishery in 1905, together with a barrel-maker's workshop, model boats and sea shells. It also provides information on the locally-built Skidbladner, now displayed at nearby Brookpoint.

The Boat Haven is operated by Unst Heritage Trust. Many of the early exhibits were collected by Duncan, Janet and Jean Sandison, who wished to preserve Shetland's maritime heritage for future generations.

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