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Wick's Isabella Fortuna honoured by National Historic Ships UK

By Alan Hendry

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THE Wick Society’s historic fishing boat Isabella Fortuna has been given a national accolade recognising its importance to the community and the dedication of the volunteers who keep it shipshape.

The 129-year-old traditional Fifie is one of three regional flagships appointed by National Historic Ships UK. The other two are Kingswear Castle, a Devon paddle steamer, and Kitty, a sailing barge operating in the Thames Estuary.

“It’s a great honour for us to be given this national award,” the Wick Society’s boat section secretary Alan Miller said.

“The Isabella Fortuna is in great condition, and for everyone involved with her she has always been our flagship. But it is good recognition for what the crew has done.

“Malcolm Bremner and his dedicated group of guys go down three times a week and a lot of traditional skills are applied. Between the whole of them they’re very knowledgeable, both on the engine side of things and on the carpentry repairs to the boat as well.

Visitors being welcomed aboard the Isabella Fortuna during a Wick Harbour Day. Picture: Alan Hendry
Visitors being welcomed aboard the Isabella Fortuna during a Wick Harbour Day. Picture: Alan Hendry

“It’s an ongoing process. The engine was replaced last year and there’s a lot of deck work being done this year.

“We are community-minded as well, that’s the important thing for this award. There is a lot of interaction with the local community – we take various groups out for trips and we have a close association with a lot of the schools.”

Each of the regional flagships will each receive a grant of £250 to be spent on the vessel, along with a special pennant to fly at the masthead. “It means that at any event we attend, people will know we’ve got this award from National Historic Ships,” Alan explained.

“It’s to show that the boat is in great condition and to recognise the dedication of the voluntary crew. There are about 10 guys in total who spend countless hours on the boat, and there is never a task that is too much for them.

“Everybody has got a love affair with the boat.”

The Isabella Fortuna was built by James Weir of Arbroath and launched in 1890. The vessel was bought by the Wick Society in 1997.

Hannah Cunliffe, director of National Historic Ships UK, said: “I am delighted that we are able to offer these awards once more and publicise the range of activities and the cruising programmes of these vessels in the coming season.

“Our three regional flagships have all shown their enthusiasm for raising the profile of UK maritime heritage and we look forward to working closely with them in the months ahead.”

The award criteria require vessel owners to come forward with seasonal programmes to engage the public through festivals, demonstrations, on-board cruises, quayside visits, educational programmes, participation in races and similar activities. Flagships are expected to promote the role of National Historic Ships UK by distributing PR material and flying the flag as its ambassadors.

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