Previous names

  • 1890 - 1928 Isabella
  • 1928 - 1976 Fortuna
Certificate no 705
Status National Historic Fleet


Function Fishing Vessel
Subfunction Drifter
Location Wick
Vessel type Fifie
Current use Museum based
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No
Info required Yes


Builder Weir, James, Arbroath
Built in 1890
Hull material Wood
Rig Lug Dipping
Number of decks 1
Number of masts 2
Propulsion Motor
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Diesel
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Breadth: Beam
12.98 feet (3.96 m)
Breadth: Beam
12.98 feet (3.96 m)
6.00 feet (1.83 m)
Length: Overall
43.48 feet (13.26 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed



Built by James Weir of Arbroath, for fisherman John Smith, ISABELLA was launched on the 15 September 1890 and was the largest yawl in the harbour. She was intended for line and drift-net fishing and was powered by two big lug sails, a jib and five oars. For 86 years, generations of the same Smith family fished with the vessel from Arbroath.

In 1919, a 15hp Kelvin engine was fitted but by 1928 greater power was needed for the seine-net fishing and a Kelvin K2 44hp engine was installed. This was upgraded in 1932 when a Kelvin K3 66hp engine was fitted and this engine continues to power the boat today. At that same time, the name was changed to FORTUNA.

When in 1976 the Smith family retired from the sea, Hobson Rankin, an enthusiastic restorer, bought the vessel and began a 4-year restoration project. In 1980 the FORTUNA became the ISABELLA FORTUNA incorporating once more the original name. In 1997 the Wick Society bought the ISABELLA FORTUNA from Hobson Rankin and Michael May for £6000.00. Mr Rankin donated his share of the vessel to the Wick Society to assist them in using the vessel to promote the rich heritage of Wick's fishing industry.

Since that date enthusiastic volunteers have been engaged on a continuous programme of renewal and restoration. ISABELLA FORTUNA is normally berthed in Wick Harbour but during the winter she is housed in the old Lifeboat Shed on the South shore of Wick Bay. This enables maintenance to continue throughout the year. With a voluntary crew the vessel visits ports for festivals and other sea-based events and promotes the aims and purposes of The Wick Society. In 2005 she featured on the BBC Songs of Praise programme from Caithness.

ISABELLA FORTUNA took part in the 13th Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy on 8-9 July 2006.



Caithness Courier: Well-wishers greet 'Isabella Fortuna', 23 July 1997
Classic Boat: Scotland's oldest remaining fishing boat, December 1999

Key dates

  • 1890

    Built by James Weir, Arbroath and named ISABELLA

  • 1932

    Name changed to FORTUNA

  • 1890-1976

    For 86 years, owned by generations of the same Smith family

  • 1976

    Bought by Hobson Rankin who started a 4 year restoration project

  • 1980

    Name changed to ISABELLA FORTUNA

  • 1997

    Bought by the Wick Society

  • April 2019

    Vessel awarded Regional Flagship (Scotland) status for 2019 by National Historic Ships UK


  • January 2011

    A Sustainability Award of £500 towards the transport for wood for the masts was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships

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