“Miss Gadabout”

Some of the many boats that can be seen at the Unst Boat Haven.

The origins of the Shetland boat probably date back to the Norse period in the 9th century, when settlers brought their small faerings to fish around the shores. Shetland relied upon Norwegian timber for boat and house building.  Records from 1577 tell how four vessels returned from Norway with a cargo of timber and boats and Shetlanders  “fish in small vessels of two oars, which they buy from the Norwegians.” Sunnhordland district was the most important supplier of boats to Shetland, and from the end of the 17th century, boat-builders at Tysness were specialising in boats called ‘Jealtsbaade’ (Shetland boats). They were “only clinked together with a few nails, and before being taken on board ship they are numbered and marked, and then taken apart again.”