Gratangen is a municipality in the county of Troms, some 60 km north of Narvik. The boat preservation centre is chiefly concerned with the small vessels that for 200 years were an essential part of everyday life on the west coast of northern Norway. They were used to carry the priest, the doctor, the midwife and the sheriff, and were also the means by which families made their livings from sealing or fishing. The Nordland boat had a high upright stem, lay low water, and traditionally carried a square sail. The size varied, from a vessel carrying two people with four oars to the ‘fembøring’ (longboat) boat for five oarsmen. From 1900 engines were fitted, boats became more rounded in shape, were decked and had wheelhouses.
Historic boats are displayed in sheds which are flooded twice daily by the tides, thus ensuring their preservation. The museum displays the many-layered clothing worn by seafarers in northern Norway, the nets and block-and-tackle sets used by fishermen, the celebrated Lofoten chests, and the glass floats used for keeping nets afloat. There is a model of a ’Jekt’ (sloop) a large vessel used for transporting dried fish to Bergen in the late nineteenth century. Visitors to the centre are able to see craftsmen working with traditional methods to preserve historic ships.
The Nordnorsk Fartøyvernsenter is one of three established in Norway by the Directorate for Cultural Heritage in 1996, the others being the Bredalsholmen Dokk Fartøyverbsenter at Kristiansand and the Hardanger Fartøyvernsenter at Norheimsund.