Cultural Characteristics

The ring net boat hauls in an enormous ring net using a power winch. Photo: Norwegian Fisheries Museum.
The ring net boat hauls in an enormous ring net using a power winch. Photo: Norwegian Fisheries Museum.

Boats and other vessels
The long and deeply indented coastline has given Norway, internationally speaking, a unique stock of traditional boats. We have seen that a hundred years ago there were 100,000 boats in use by fishermen; by far the majority of them were open wooden boats with from two to five pairs of oars and a sail. Building techniques and design differed from district to district, a result of differences in topography, weather, currents, fishing techniques, and to a degree external cultural influences.

Even though the types had undergone certain changes over time, there are, as for example in the case of the so-called oselver from Sunnhordland, clearly traits that go back to the Gokstad boats of more than a thousand years ago. For coastal dwellers the boat was just as important as the horse for inland farmers or the car for present-day Norwegians; it was needed for fishing or other work and all types of transport. On a typical fisherman farmstead along a stretch of the coast such as Tysnes in Hordaland county it was common to have five to six boats: one or two "big boats" with four or five pairs of oars for herring fishing, heavier loads, and the voyage to church; a six-oared boat, and two or three four-oared boats for other fishing activity, "local traffic" etc.

The precise design of even a particular boat type like the oselver was affected by the boat’s intended use: whether for line fishing or other ways of fishing, use by the master seiner, for fast sailing, or for carrying cargo. A large fleet of square-rigged cargo boats from Northern Norway, Hardanger sloops, and ketches took care of the heavier freight transport over longer distances, between the fishing grounds and the export harbours, and between rural settlements and the nearest town. Both in Northern Norway and in the county of Sogn og Fjordane it was common to have sloops connecting the individual rural settlements. In Nordland county alone there were as many as 350 sloops operating as late as 1890.

Picture: The ring net boat hauls in an enormous ring net using a power winch. From the 1960s most catches of herring, mackerel, capelin, and blue whiting were taken with such highly efficient fishing boats.
 
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