The impressive new caravan park and building at the Aithsvoe Marina in Cunningsburgh were officially opened by isles MP Alistair Carmichael yesterday.
The site, adjacent to the marina itself which can hold up to 43 boats, is the culmination of years of effort from the Aithsvoe Marina Association.
This part of Cunningsburgh has a long history with marine activities, evident from the winch displayed next to the building.
The Duncan family from Greenmow, who for many years operated a boat building and repair business, used the winch to haul herring boats ashore each year in autumn and relaunch them in the spring, from 1896 to 1936.
Also on display is a steam capstan from the Levenwick herring boat Flowing Stream, which was eventually broken up and the wood used for fencing in the 1940s.
Jeemie Smith of Blosta, treasurer of the marina association, explained some of the history surrounding the latest project.
In 1984, along with the then chairman of the pier trust Hughie Adamson, they began “digging around for money” to do improvements.
They initially did a lot of work to the pier and car park, and put down moorings for the bigger boats which were arriving in the early 1990s.
There were about 36 moorings in the voe which was very overcrowded, Mr Smith said, and they began to see that they would need a marina.
“We started fund-raising and by 2004 it was up to 40 berths but we ended up with 43.
“We hadn’t put in facilities ashore so we started on about that and building a toilet.
“Everything to do with finance is pitched towards tourism nowadays and we have ended up with an excellent building which has toilets, showers, a fully-fitted kitchen and eating area, and a large tarmac area.”
Association chairman Andrew Stout described the event as a “culmination of five years of effort” to create something which would be of benefit to the entire community.
Well over a quarter of a million had been invested in the overall project and hopefully it would come to provide a steady income for years to come.
“The process has not always been easy,” Mr Stout said. “We had different battles along the way and hurdles to overcome. There always seemed to be another hoop to go through but somehow we got there in the end.”
He paid tribute to the help they received from the MP who had become a valuable member of their team.
“Alistair Carmichael came aboard and he wholeheartedly joined us over a long period of time.
“We had a mediation meeting recently and it’s all turned out good, with a happy ending, and that’s why we are here today. There are no problems and it’s all up and running. It is against that backdrop that we are inviting Alistair to open this marina.”
Mr Carmichael, concerned that the break in the weather was about to be interrupted once more, kept his speech fairly brief.
“I’m very pleased to be here for the opening,” he said. “It’s a moment to mark a fantastic community effort, the kind of effort that Shetland people seem to be particularly good at. I’m delighted to have played a part.”
Mr Carmichael then cut a string to reveal a plaque on the side of the new building. “We only have one chance at this Dave,” he told the photographer. “So it’s three, two, one, go!”
Mr Stout thanked many of the people whose sterling efforts helped the project, including Sally Spence for her help with grants, designer John Manson, Frank Sinclair and David Williamson of builders Shetland Construction & Developments Limited, Shetland Charitable Trust, Visit Shetland, and Pat Christie whose assistance with the paperwork had proved invaluable.
He also praised his fellow committee members. “We didn’t always agree but we always ended up in agreement,” he added.
Then another familiar figure stepped forward. “You didn’t think you would get away without Jeemie Blub saying something”, said former Sandwick councillor Jeemie Smith, before warmly thanking Mr Stout for his assistance and his faith in the project.