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Boathouses in Breiviksunde

The boathouses in Breiviksundet are reminiscent of the shore-houses, the modest quarters for the fjord crofters who came to the coast to participate in the fisheries. We find many sites from such houses along the coast, and without doubt many of them date back to the Middle Ages and prehistoric times.

There are still fishing sheds standing that were in use right up until the former turn of the century during the winter fisheries. The owners of these shacks were farmers at Herdla, Toska, Radøy and other islands east in the Hjelte fjord. During the large seasonal fishing periods, fjord farmers came from the interior communities in Nordhordland to the coast to participate in the winter herring fisheries or the spring herring fisheries, but they also came singly to fish with line for cod and coalfish.

There were rich spring cod years in the former century outside Øygarden. History tells us of the “inside fjord farmers” who got up at three in the morning to be ready to fish before sunrise. And for the entire day, while they waited to pull up the seine, they had to manage without food. Many lodged with relatives or friends, while many set up their own fisherman’s shacks or “fjord sheds”. These were small timbered sheds covered with bark and peat. The shack had two rooms – a front room – “skot” – where they kept fuel, kegs and barrels for salting the take-home fish, and room for clothes and equipment. The living room was both a room for staying and sleeping in, with stove, long table and benches. On both sidewalls there were three layers of bunk beds. Here a boat-team usually kept house, consisting most often of six men. In the 1840s there were more than 20 such sea shacks at Herdlevær and Skogsøy, but formerly there were many more. The term for these shacks derives from Old Norse, “fjarðmadr” – fjord man – a person living by a fjord.

A mountain at Herdlevær still carries the name of Kartveitfjellet. In the shelter of this mountain a fish team from Kartveit in Manger had their fisherman’s shack. Here was fine sandy ground, which made it easier to pull up of the boats when a storm threatened. Further south on the island, Skjelanger and Husebø had their shacks, and in Skogsøy were the Toske shacks – fisherman’s shacks for the people from Toska and Manger.

Recent research has shown that this tradition goes right back to prehistoric times.

  • Seashore shacks at Hjartøy

The drawing shows three examples of how the seashore shacks at Hjartøy may have been constructed. (drawing by Sigmund Alsaker 1989)