The sixareen or sixern (Old Norse : sexæringr; Norwegian : seksring meaning "six-oared") is a traditional fishing boat used around the Shetland Islands. It is a clinker-built boat, evolved as a larger version of the yoal, when the need arose for crews to fish further from shore. The first of the sixareens were, like the yoal, imported from Norway in kit form until the mid 19th century, when increasing import duty made it more cost effective to import the raw materials and build the boats in Shetland.
The sixareen was so named because she was crewed by six men, each man rowing a single oar, unlike the yoal where three men rowed a pair of oars each. The size of a sixareen was about 25–30 ft (7.6–9.1 m) overall, with a beam of 7–8 ft (2.1–2.4 m). The boat carried a square sail which was used when the wind was favourable, however in light winds or in a head wind the crew could row for many hours to complete their journey. Fishing trips usually were over three days, with the boats making two trips each week when the weather permitted.
As with the yoal, all the parts of a sixareen have names, which are usually found only in the Shetland dialect, although many of the names are derived from the old Norse language. The names of the parts listed here include the English name and where possible, the Norwegian name.
There are six separate rooms, or sections in a sixareen: The fore head where sails and tackle were stored, the fore room, the mid room where stones for ballast were placed, the owsin room which was kept clear for owsin (bailing) out water using an owsekerri, the shot room where the catch was stowed, and the kannie where the skipper sat at the helm.
The compartments in the boat were separated by tafts on which the crew sat, fiskabrods under the tafts which stopped the catch and fishing gear from shifting between rooms, and by baands, the frames to which the boards were fixed.
The boards, named from the keel upwards, were the boddam runner, the hassen, the first and second swills, the laands (four boards), and the reebin, the upper board, inside which the wale or gunwale was fixed. At the bow and stern the boards were fixed to the stammerin before attaching to the fore and aft stems. The reebin was additionally strengthened by the breast hook or hinny spot where it met the horn at the top of the stem.
While the yoal was used for inshore fishing, and seldom ventured more than 10 mi (16 km) from land, the sixareen was used to fish up to 40 mi (64 km) from Shetland. Because of this, and the unpredictable nature of the weather in northern waters, the loss of boats and lives was high. The worst losses were on 16 July 1832 when 17 boats and 105 men were lost in a severe gale, and again on 21 July 1881 when a sudden and violent summer storm claimed 10 boats and 58 men, mostly from Gloup, in the north of Yell, in what became known as The Gloup Disaster.
Although it is not clear when the last sixareens were built for fishing, it is likely to be not much later than the late 1880s, by which time it was seen that larger boats were the way forward for the local fishing industry.
Two sixareens were built in the 20th century. In the 1980s Duncan Sandison of Unst realised that the sixareen was very much a boat of the past, as there were none left in Unst. With the help of a group of volunteers, after 800 hours work, the Far Haaf, a replica sixareen was completed in 1988, but was destroyed by a hurricane which swept the isles in 1992. Another Far Haaf was built and launched in 1993. It now occupies a special enclosure outside the Unst boat haven. Another sixareen, the Vaila Mae, was built in 2008 for the Shetland Museum in Lerwick, where it can be seen on the water during the summer months.
A dory is a small, shallow-draft boat, about 5 to 7 metres or 16 to 23 feet long. It is usually a lightweight boat with high sides, a flat bottom and sharp bows. They are easy to build because of their simple lines. For centuries, dories have been used as traditional fishing boats, both in coastal waters and in the open sea.
A yawl is a type of boat. The term has several meanings. It can apply to the rig, to the hull type or to the use which the vessel is put.
Yell is one of the North Isles of Shetland, Scotland. In the 2011 census it had a usually resident population of 966. It is the second largest island in Shetland after the Mainland with an area of 82 square miles (212 km2), and is the third most populous in the archipelago, after the Mainland and Whalsay.
Fetlar is one of the North Isles of Shetland, Scotland, with a usually resident population of 61 at the time of the 2011 census. Its main settlement is Houbie on the south coast, home to the Fetlar Interpretive Centre. Fetlar is the fourth-largest island of Shetland and has an area of just over 4,000 hectares (15 sq mi).
Unst is one of the North Isles of the Shetland Islands, Scotland. It is the northernmost of the inhabited British Isles and is the third-largest island in Shetland after the Mainland and Yell. It has an area of 46 square miles (120 km2).
Papa Stour is one of the Shetland Islands in Scotland, with a population of under fifteen people, some of whom immigrated after an appeal for residents in the 1970s. Located to the west of mainland Shetland and with an area of 828 hectares, Papa Stour is the eighth largest island in Shetland. Erosion of the soft volcanic rocks by the sea has created an extraordinary variety of caves, stacks, arches, blowholes, and cliffs. The island and its surrounding seas harbour diverse populations of wildlife. The west side of the island is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the seas around the island are a Special Area of Conservation.
Muckle Flugga lighthouse punctuates the rocky stack of Muckle Flugga, in Shetland, Scotland. Originally called North Unst Lighthouse, it was renamed in 1964.
The Shetland Bus was the nickname of a clandestine special operations group that made a permanent link between Mainland Shetland in Scotland and German-occupied Norway from 1941 until the surrender of Nazi Germany on 8 May 1945. From mid-1942, the group's official name was the Norwegian Naval Independent Unit (NNIU). In October 1943, it became an official part of the Royal Norwegian Navy and was renamed the Royal Norwegian Naval Special Unit (RNNSU). The unit was operated initially by a large number of small fishing boats and later augmented by three fast and well-armed submarine chasers – Vigra, Hessa and Hitra.
Haroldswick or Harold's Wick, is on Unst, Shetland Islands, Scotland, and is one of the most northerly settlements in the British Isles.
Scalloway is the largest settlement on the North Atlantic coast of Mainland, the largest island of the Shetland Islands, Scotland. The village had a population of roughly 900, at the 2011 census. Until 1708 it was the capital of the Shetland Islands.
HNoMS Hitra is a Royal Norwegian Navy submarine chaser that saw action during World War II. She is named after the Norwegian island of Hitra.
The Ve Skerries or Vee Skerries are a group of low skerries three miles (4.8 km) north west of Papa Stour, on the west coast of Shetland, Scotland. They define the southwest perimeter of St Magnus Bay.
The yoal, often referred to as the ness yoal, is a clinker-built craft used traditionally in Shetland, Scotland. It is designed primarily for rowing, but which also handles well under its traditional square sail when running before the wind or on a broad reach.
The Shetland bus was the name given to a clandestine special operations group that made a permanent link between Shetland, Scotland, and German-occupied Norway. From mid-1941 until the end of the war it operated a number of vessels, mostly Norwegian fishing boats.
Haaf Gruney is a small island in the north east of the Shetland Islands.
Yell Sound is the strait running between Yell and Mainland, Shetland, Scotland. It is the boundary between the Mainland and the North Isles and it contains many small islands. Sullom Voe, on the shores of which is a substantial oil terminal, is an arm of Yell Sound.
Note: Gloup is common in Scottish placenames referring to a sea jet.
Robert Nisbet (1834–1917) was a Shetland sea captain. He was born on 15 October 1834 at Burravoe on the island of Yell, Shetland. He died on 3 May 1917 at Leith, Scotland.
SS Ben Doran was a steam fishing trawler that operated out of Aberdeen, Scotland. It was launched in 1900 and operated until its wrecking on the Ve Skerries, Shetland, on 29 March 1930, which claimed the lives of the full crew, believed to number nine crew members. Its wrecking has been called "the most tragic wreck in all Shetland's history".
May Moar or Marjory Moar born May Hectorson was a British crofter in the Shetland Isles who was awarded an RNLI silver medal for rescuing fishermen off the island of Yell.