Views from the Scord 16.01.09

Viking ship arrives

On the very day that Scalloway felt the absence of a Viking vessel to celebrate and admire due to the cancellation of the Fire Festival, a suitably Viking-named vessel drew viewers, admiration and celebration to the pier side at Blacksness.

The Blyth-registered Valhalla was met by a crowd of relatives and well-wishers as she arrived at the quayside as the first new whitefish vessel attributed to Scalloway in nigh on a decade and the only present since the wave of decommissioning depleted the fleet in the early years of this century.

Testament to the current wave of optimism in the Shetland fishing industry, the Valhalla is owned by a crew of which the majority are returning to the whitefish industry after working elsewhere.

Headed up by skipper Alan Umphray, formerly of the scalloper Kestrel, the crew are Ivan Garriock (engineer), John Young and John Robert (JR) Umphray. They are all shareholders in the vessel, which will operate through fishing agents LHD.

Ivan joins the vessel from the trawler Ocean Way and John Young and JR have both left shore-based jobs to return to sea. The level of camaraderie aboard ship is evident with Alan and JR being father and son while Alan and John are lifelong friends. Ivan is highly regarded as a conscientious and excellent engineer by his partners.

The vessel itself is an 18.14 metre (60ft) seiner trawler, built in Millers yard at St Monans in Fife, the last wooden vessel to be built there. She has beam of six metres (20ft) and draught of 3.22 metres (10ft) and was re-engined with a Caterpillar 3406 a mere three months ago, with a new gearbox also installed in 2004; her auxiliary is a 120hp Cummins.

For fishing equipment she has a Macduff 12-tonne trawl winch and Mastra seine net winch with Lossie Rope reels and a Hap crane. Her hold is refrigerated and she arrived with fish handling equipment and nets. The boat came with a licence and the shareholders have purchased quota locally.

The crew have a few alterations to make before setting sail. Her nets have been stripped of bags and undersize mesh panels for re-rigging to Scottish regulations. They are also going to fit a new Gilson winch and modify the hold to take local fish boxes but expect to be ready to set sail next week, weather permitting.

They will mainly be fishing with the seine-net but intend to go trawling in the summer time. The current trend for a return to seine-net fishing is buoyed up by high prices for small fish on the local markets.

Richie Simpson of LHD describes the market for seine-netted fish as going “reasonably well at the moment – seine netters are cheap to run with fuel and the prices on the market are very good”.

The Valhalla has widely been described as a “big boat for her size” and her condition and recent refits made her an obvious choice for the shareholders, who describe her as “just what we were looking for”.

Skipper Umphray described her as a splendid sea boat after their epic voyage to get her home from Newlyn in Cornwall.

“We ran afore the weather the whole way. We did hit some coarser weather at Cape Wrath, but it was no bother,” he said.

The previous owners, Colin and David Warwick, accompanied them on the journey to Shetland in a boat Alan also described as “very well looked after”.

Her prow and transom stern are decorated with a distinctive longship motif which the new owners intend to preserve. She is being re-numbered locally with the appropriate and historical registration number LK 687 which formerly belonged to the highly successful and Scalloway-based Evening Star, on which John’s father served and which shared the same Millers of St Monans pedigree.

In making that connection, John said “she was a Scalloway boat and a lucky boat” with the aspiration that the Valhalla can continue that good fortune.

The last new fishing vessels to come to Scalloway were purchased almost a decade ago at a time of scarce fishing and high boat prices that resulted in none of those vessels remaining locally. The remainder of the older Scalloway whitefish fleet were also decommissioned during that era.

Hop day charity

After the cancellation of last week’s Fire Festival the traditional hop day was re-modelled into an all-day charity event in the Scalloway Boating Club and Royal British Legion Scalloway Branch.

The circumstances prompted the unique opportunity for the two organisations to work together towards a good cause and the end result was a resounding success.

The boating club played host to local band Scaldin Bragg during the afternoon and early evening with collections being taken from the venue-filling crowd and later in the evening the Legion was filled to capacity as the Revellers took the stage and further collections were taken.

The events went ahead under approval of Jarl Michael Pottinger and his wife Cyndi, after returning from the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh with their son Charlie who is now on the mend. All the funds raised are being donated to the paediatric intensive care unit of the hospital.

The afternoon event at the boating club raised £700 which included a £60 donation from Scaldin Bragg from their fee. Gary Shewan of the club said: “We’d like to thank everybody for turning up and giving so generously. Everybody loved the band and really enjoyed the afternoon.”

The continuation of the day’s events at the Legion drew a further £900 with £100 coming from the Revellers’ fee in an evening described as going “exceptionally well” with folk being “really generous” at this venue too, bringing the total for both venues on the day to an impressive £1,600.

Jarl Pottinger extended his gratitude to both venues, both bands and to “everybody who supported the events and donated their time and money to make it a success, and thanks to the community for the all the support and good wishes over the past two weeks”. Charlie, he said, was “getting his appetite back and colour in his cheeks, though still a bit wheezy at times, certainly a big improvement.” He is expected to take a month or so to make a full recovery.

Burra fish and chips

The Hamnavoe Hall is staging another of its highly popular fish and chip nights tomorrow evening.

The fund-raising events have become a popular social event with games to follow the serving of food. On this occasion serving will begin at 4pm and continue until 7pm, to eat in or take away.

The games proposed for the subsequent social evening will include darts, pool and 500, all of which will take place in the upstairs bar from 8pm onwards. Refreshments from the bar will be available from 7pm until 1am.

Harbour round-up

A healthy start to 2009 saw fish landings in Scalloway Harbour totalling 1,978 boxes landed for the week to Friday from the Alison Kay, Fertile, Quiet Waters, Scotia, Guardian Angell, Mizpah, Athena, Fertile and Prevail.

Virtually all the landings on Thursday and Friday were consigned to Scalloway by truck from Cullivoe and elsewhere.

The Fraserburgh-registered fishing boat Polaris II called in for repairs and shelter last weekend and the Sligo-registered crabber Niamh Eaghan also called in for shelter, while working far to the west of Shetland. The Ronja Settler continues to operate from Scalloway.

Mark Burgess


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