Isles Views 07.08.09

Re-launching the Active

Octogenarian he may be, but Duncan Sandison of Baltasound has lost none of his love or enthusiasm for boats, especially those that have a story and an interesting history.

The boat haven in Haroldswick is ample proof of that and visitors, even the most dyed in the wool landlubbers, can recognise the merit of the place.

The latest addition to the wonderful collection of boats in Unst is the three-man haddock boat Active. I am grateful to Winston Leask for his email telling me about the Active and some of her distinguished history.

She was built in Scalloway in 1887 for Winston’s grandfather, Tammie Leask, by boatbuilders who were brothers, Malcolm (Mailkie) and Edward Laurenson who came from Bigton originally. Those Laurenson men were renowned for their skill and many of the apprentices that they taught went on become some of the most respected carpenters in Shetland. Some, but not many, of the Laurenson built boats still survive.

The Active was built to a size that was known as a three-man haddock boat. She is 13½ft of keel and 21ft over the stems. She has a history as a fishing boat in different parts of Shetland but when Mr Sandison took her she was in very poor state of repair, pretty well for uphug. She was offered to him by Ian Irvine of Whalsay and it had come to the stage where the Active either had to be restored, and time for her was short, or she would be burned.

Not only that but she had been altered. Engines had been fitted and she was partly decked and the sides had been heightened. Mr Sandison has done most of the work himself but he had help from Davie Leask and Andrew Magnie Thomson. Trondra boatbuilder Tommy Isbister knows the Active and he was able to advise in regard to her original specifications.

Restoring the Active has been a big job; five new planks were required as well as a new sternpost, tafts and tilfers. However, this restoration is not quite the end of the story. Mr Sandison says that she will not go into the boat haven in Haroldswick, at least not for the time being. Next winter he will fit her out for sailing and put her through her paces another summer.

The Active was launched last Saturday evening on a night that was windy and with steady rain. It was appropriate because she has seen plenty of heavy weather in her long life as a working boat.

After the launch Mr Sandison and friends took her off for a row. He said that he was delighted that 40 folk, including Tommy Isbister and Winston Leask, had braved the weather to see the Active proudly afloat once again.

St Vincent

A few weeks ago Isles Views carried a short piece about the fishing boat St Vincent, which worked out of Cullivoe in the 1950s and 60s.

The present owner is James McGregor, who bought her two years ago, and he aims to restore her to her original state rather than the condition she was in after her motorisation in Wick in the 1940s.

The restoration is taking place in Arbroath and she was relaunched on 3rd July. New masts have been made and they will be fitted in the next week or two. There will be a main mast and a mizzen with lugsails.

The St Vincent will be similar to the Research, now housed in the fishing museum in Anstruther in Fife. Indeed the two boats were built in the same yard; the Research is four years older, built in 1906, and was for many years part of the Whalsay fleet.

The St Vincent will become a pleasure boat but Mr McGregor is not sure of how much time he can spend at sea in her. With the lugsails he will need several of a crew and he is very busy working as a naval architect in Aberdeen. They design and build ships for the off shore oil industry.

However, Mr McGregor does want to take the St Vincent back to Shetland and also to Wick where she was converted. He says that he found her almost by accident. He was actually looking for the boat that his father used to own, another craft with a Zulu stern.

When he found this boat in the north of England, called the Nautilus, he thought it might be his father’s boat and it was only after a considerable amount of detective work that he discovered her true identity.

Mr McGregor knows that the St Vincent was built for a Catholic family in Eriskay, hence the name, but there are a number of gaps in the story that he would like filled in. He says that there is cement in the inside of the hull in the bilges. Was it there put there at the time of building or was it put there later?

When she was motorised in Wick she was painted black but in Shetland she was green. Who decided to paint her green?

If anyone knows the answers to those questions Mr McGregor would be glad to hear from you. You can contact him through me.

Ferries website

The SIC ferries service has a website, designed to keep ferry users and visitors informed of how the service works, and serves, the various islands.

David Polson from the ferry service at Sellaness seeks to up date the information and make it as comprehensive as possible.

Some new pieces have been added to it in the recent past and the finished article is fully informative. It is hard to think of any aspect of ferry travel that is not fully covered. The information on the North Isles is extensive and accurate and Capt Polson and his staff are to be congratulated in producing such a concise package of information.

Norik eela

Under the watchful eye of starter Willie Laurenson an impressive fleet of boats jostled for position in the annual Norik Eela competition, where the 70-odd anglers enjoyed perfect weather conditions.

This year’s guard boat, the Julie Rose, was provided by Muckle Flugga Charters and skippered by Davie o’ Hamar and crewed by Biddy Nicolson and their presence was much appreciated.

The winners among the juniors were – heaviest basket: 1 Stuart Ferguson; 2 George Spence. Heaviest fish: Sam Jamieson.

In the seniors Richard Spence won the prize for the most species with six. Heaviest basket: Willie Mouat 26.5lb. Heaviest fish: Linda Thomson 7.9lb. Heaviest flat fish: Janice Leask 2.2lb. Most flat fish: Alan Clark. Heaviest blind hoe: Andrew Thomson 2.9lb. Best team of two: Willie Mouat and Mark Ferguson. Most unfortunate competitor: Tamara Clark. Best overall boat: Globtrekker (Duncan Gray).

A dance followed in the evening to the music of the Galley Band. A committee spokesman thanked all who took part and the stalwart efforts of the barbecue staff, Desley Stickle and Chelsea Jamieson. Next year’s event will be on 31st July.

Lawrence Tulloch


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