Boats and the sea

Shapinsay’s relationship with the sea always been important over the years being not only ‘highway’ to the mainland and other islands for adults, school children, sports teams and livestock alike on foot but also as the delivery route for coal, fertiliser and other raw materials for agriculture and building works. Then came the Ro-Ro ferry giving vehicles access to and from the mainland and easier transport of sheep and cattle and tradespeople. 

Today’s islanders commute to work daily in Kirkwall, others shop or visit or even travel onwards through the modern transport networks of ferries and planes without a thought to the past but here we look at some of the boats which came before today’s MV Shapinsay. One of those was the MV Klydon who was operated by the Dennison family and which daily carried passengers, goods, groceries, materials, farm goods, cars and tractors. The Klydon’s operations were eclipsed when the present Orkney Ferries took over.

Boats Klydon and Orana at pier

The picture below shows the island’s passenger ferry MV Clytus, taken in the early 1970’s and sporting the Orkney Ferries livery of black and white.Clytus edit

Local people have shared many stories about the various boats which served the island in times past.


Here Jim Hepburn tells a tale of about a seafaring adventure involving his Grandfather James Hepburn and two friends (pictured below) whose winter’s day fishing trip left them stranded on the nearby island of Auskerry for 2 days and which also involved an issue of modesty for one of the crew on this fishing tale with a difference!

Auskerry tale

Getting off island to take part in mainland evening sports events could be a challenge in adverse weather conditions as former badminton team member Jim Eunson explains:-

Many a boat was built and launched from Shapinsay in living memory and one of the most prolific boat builders was Ivan Hourston working full time in the early  in the 1960’s, pictured below in his workshop. As he explains in an interview for the Orkney Historic Boat Society what started as just a hobby became his livelihood’s .  

  06 Ivan Hourston and D Work in boat building workshop at Harbour View 1981