Sunday, June 22, 2008
Midsummer, launch of a sixareen, the lilac dog in the simmer dim
Saturday was officially midsummer, though I believe that Friday was the longest day, for abstruse astronomical reasons. And so to Lerwick (again) for the launch of the Vaila Mae, a beautiful sixareen, the traditional open Shetland fishing boat of the 19th century. It's called a sixareen because it has six oars, each rowed by a separate crew member, and these boats were the core of the so-called 'far haaf', the fishing up to 50 miles out at sea in conditions of sometimes terrible danger. They had masts, dipping lug sails and would carry a small, smouldering peat fire. There were several tragedies caused by unexpected gales, notably the Gloup disaster. Hundreds of men died in these vessels.
This boat has been built at the new Shetland museum and is the first sixareen to be constructed in Lerwick in a century. Though not the first in Shetland. Duncan Sandison built one in Unst (called the Far Haaf) in I think 1988, though it was destroyed by the great hurricane of 1992. A replacement, however, was built the following year and is in the Unst Boat Haven.
There was a big crowd at the launch, and the fiddle group New Tradition (of which my daughter Martha is a member) played. Later, Martha went off with pals to climb Ronas Hill, Shetland's highest point, for midnight on midsummer. While, at around 10.55pm, Lulu the St Bernard turned lilac for no apparent reason.