Strongmen drafted for Boat Week preparations

A feat of strength took place this week at Shetland Museum’s boat shed, in preparation for Shetland Boat Week which begins on Monday 7th August.

A group of Shetland’s strongmen competitors moved the recently restored Oceanic lifeboat, with the help of a local truck owner, from the boat shed to the other side of Hay’s Dock next to the pier store where she will be one of the star attractions.

On a wet and miserable Wednesday evening, members of the Shetland Weight Training Club came along to the Shetland Museum Boat Shed, where the Oceanic lifeboat has been a main feature for the past few months, following her restoration. Moving the large boat to the other side of the Dock for display during the maritime festival was looking to be no easy task for museum staff.

Members of the Shetland Weight Training Club shift the ‘Oceanic’ lifeboat out of the Shetland Museum Boat Shed in preparation for next month’s Shetland Boat Week. Photo: Kevin Jones

However the strongmen were on hand to manoeuvre the vessel out onto the slip, where Jonathan from J&B Transport was waiting to load the 28-ft boat onto the truck for repositioning on the West Dock next to the pier store.

Event co-ordinator Emma Miller said: “Shetland Boat Week is all about getting the community engaged with Shetland’s maritime heritage.

“Tonight’s effort by the boys is a perfect example of community spirit and them giving us a hand their effort in this terrible rain was nothing short of heroic. The lifeboat is a big boat, and she’s not been easy to shift. We couldn’t have done it without them, and Jonathan’s truck.”

Formerly known as as the Norna, the vessel at one time operated as a stock boat and relief for the former Bressay ferry Brenda. Originally the Norna was a lifeboat from the ill-fated Oceanic, which was wrecked on the Shaalds of Foula on 7th September 1914.

The Shaalds reef is so close to the surface that it is said you can touch it with an oar when there are spring tides.

Launched in 1899, the White Star liner was for a time the largest ship in the world. Her loss at the time was hushed up as the weather was fine and it was thought there would be a detrimental effect to British morale so early in the war.

The lifeboat has been put back to her original lines, the design of which is the same as the Titanic lifeboats and also built at the Harland & Wolff yard in Belfast.

This is bound to be a big attraction for visitors. The restoration was started last year by veteran boat builders Robbie Tait and Jack Duncan.

Previously the Norna had been stored at the Greenhead base for the last 15 years since the Shetland Museum acquired her.

The relocation of the lifeboat has left plenty of space in the boat shed for all the activities planned during Shetland Boat Week, which will include the building of a new boat by Jack Duncan and Robbie Tait.

John Jamieson will demonstrate fancy knotwork skills, and Marian Armitage will be joined by Charlie Simpson for cookery demonstrations. Games and activities for all ages will be available during the week.

The full programme is available at


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