The Swan Trust Smaa Boat on Display

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18 July 2021

The Swan Trust Smaa Boat has joined a number of traditionally built Shetland boats on display at Fort Charlotte, as part of an exhibition organised by Living Lerwick in celebration of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21.

The collection of boats on display were all bulit using traditional techniques and remind us that as an island community, the sea is an important and ever present part of our lives. The boats represent a range of different boatbuilders, with construction dates ranging from the early 1900's to the most recent in 2016. Some have been partially and lovingly repaired and restored - others are fully original and all are a testament to the skill and talent of the boatbuilders.

The Swan Trust Smaa Boat was built in 1947 by John Bruce of Skaw, Whalsay, assisted by his brother Sammy. She was carried as a lifeboat on the port side of the Swan wheelhouse and was, thankfully, never used for the purpose she was intended.

When the Swan was sold, and left Shetland, in 1955 the Smaa Boat was sold separately to John Phillips. He kept the boat until he donated it to the newly formed Swan Trust in the early 1990s, when the Swan returned to Shetland for restoration.

The Smaa Boat was restored by local boat builders, Robbie Tait and Jack Duncan, to the great condition she is in today.

Brian Wishart, Swan Trust Trustee, said: “We were honoured to be asked to display our Smaa Boat as part of this exhibition of traditionally built Shetland craft. While it is great to have the Swan’s original lifeboat, as lifeboat requirements have moved on, we cannot use her for her original purpose and so she is not accessible to the public very often. In fact, this is a rare opportunity to see many of the boats on display and I would urge everyone to visit this exclusive collection and learn more about our traditional craft.”

The exhibition is open daily 9am – 5pm until Saturday 14th August, and is accompanied by a town centre trail activity for all ages.

If you would like to help support the Swan, follow these links to donate or volunteer with the Trust.


Want to get involved in maintaining and operating a traditional wooden sailing vessel? There are a number of different ways you can volunteer to safeguard, care for and sail this unique heritage asset.

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