Replica sixareen Vaila Mae took to the sea this past weekend with weather conditions permitting the use of a centuries old sail technology to improve stability in strong winds.
The vessel, built in 2008 by craftsmen Jack Duncan and Robbie Tait in the boat shed next to the Shetland Museum, features a traditional lug sail that rises to a peak towards the stern of the boat.
Those sails in former times sometimes had a special row of reef points placed higher up so as to remove this peak and make the sail more or less square.
This was called a “squaring reef” and is what crew used during her weekend voyage.
Crew member Brian Wishart said: “When taken in it has the effect of making the boat better balanced; steadier and more manageable in strong winds and heavy seas, and Saturday provided a good opportunity to try it out.
“Since it is perhaps 130 years since the far haaf fishing was common, it is unlikely that this particular device has been used since then and we all felt delighted at how well the boat responded, yet I think a little awed by the significance of the vast intervening period and the changes in particular to Shetland boats, their history, and evolution over that time.”
A full report will appear in this week’s Shetland Times, out Friday.