Ness Yoal

Watercraft

Effect: Culture

Type: Skiff

Composition: Wood

Place: Europe

Date: 2003

Builder/Location: Ian Best, Fair Isle, Shetland Islands, United Kingdom of Great Britain

Donor: Smithsonian Institution

Location: Shetland Islands, Scotland, UK

Museum Location: 52

Yoals are a type of fishing boat native to the Shetland Islands.

Ness Yoal, 2003

Ian Best, Fair Isle, Shetland Islands, United Kingdom of Great Britain
This boat was produced for the 2003 Smithsonian Institution Folklife Festival and is provided
through the courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

No single person is responsible for the yoal design. It is the result of an ongoing development
process involving many builders and fishermen in Shetland since the 9th century. Even though
a strong Norwegian heritage influences yoal design and construction, it is very much a local
type of fishing boat, particularly well matched to the Shetland environment.
The Ness Yoal derives its name from the town of Dunrossness, Shetland, from an old Norse
term dyn-raustr-nes meaning “headland of the roaring tideway.”

1. What is a Ness Yoal?

“A light, supple, open boat of the southern Shetland Islands; engaged in inshore fishing, sealing and general transportation.”

–from Aak to Zumbra: A Dictionary of the World’s Watercraft

Why is it called a Ness Yoal?

Ness is derived from the name of the town of Dunrossness, from an old Norse term dyn-raustr-nes meaning “headland of the roaring tideway.” In the north of Scotland, yoal indicates that a boat is double-ended with flared sides and slanted ends.

2. Who made this Yoal?

Ian Best began building this boat Fair Isle, Shetland, and finished it at the 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC.

Ian Best, July 2003
Photo by Dane Penlan, Courtesy of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Smithsonian Institution

3. Where are the Shetland Islands?

The Shetlands consist of over 100 islands and are located of the northeast coast of Scotland.

4. Where are Yoals used?

Yoals are ideally suited to the local waters around the southern end of the Shetland Islands. They have to be strong yet flexible in order to work and survive these turbulent waters.

 

Origin: Scotland, Shetland Islands, UK

Ness Yoal

Yoal Construction

Ian Best, boat builder from Fair Isle, Shetland, works on a Shetland "yoal" in the Scotland program at the 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall. Photo by Dane Penland.