Mailboats Shetland: James & Roxane

James Sinclair and Roxane Permar collaborated on a Mailboat Project. You can follow their creative process below.

2nd September 2008 – Roxane

Kyle Brooke-Freeman found one of Roxane Permar’s Mailboat messages.

View a picture of the ‘Work in Progress’

13th August 2008 – Roxane

Luis Strachan (age 6) found eight of Roxane Permar’s Mailboat messages at the remote Birrier Cove between Aywick and Vatster, Yell, Shetland. His is the first sighting! Roxane is as delighted as Luis and his young brother Ethan (age 4) who shared the find.

View a picture of the ‘Work in Progress’
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21st April 2008 – James

Here is the stuff I’ve written so far for the project, see what you think.


Tuesday February 17 in the year of our lord 1912
41 miles due west of Benbecula
on bearing, 57 degrees 48′ 52” North , 8 degrees 35′ 8” West

Send help!
Please send help

We haven’t had supplies
in six weeks
Village Bay hasn’t seen a ship
in all that time.

There are foam breakers
as far as the eye can see
there are winds tearing
spindrift out of the sea.

Black clouds fill the sky
rain is thundering down
black depression in every eye
the old are suffering all around.

If we could only hold out
for spring’s calmer weather
if we can only hold out
for longer days we’ll be better.

Our stock of peat is low
soon the boats will be burnt
our stock of foodstuff’s is low
we need mutton, medicine and coal.

There’s nothing left in stone cairn
tatties rot row after row in the rain
and the Williamson boy is ill
he becomes weaker with each passing day.

Please send help
Send help!


( at da Dale o Waas beach )

Hit’s brawly herd tae fathom, how
a lobster can survive dis wadder.
Wi da gale blawin an a wasterly swell runnin
joost a bulderation in-annunder da banks
an du see’s yun big baa oot by da point
yes yunder, whaar yun muckle sea is brakin.

I mind wis takin a peerie skiff doon aff da beach
on a february day in nineteen fifty four
an settin a creel richt on tap o dat baa.
Whin we hailed da creel, we got tree lobsters
dat day we set an hailed twall creels
an hed sixteen lobsters fur wir day.

Du see’s yun noosts set up abune da beach.
Da story goes, dat mony a year fae syne
a muckle sea ran richt up da high waater mark
an tumbled aw da boats up ower da broo.
Naa boy du’s no likly tae see Foula
da day, dir’s ower muckle haar fur dat.


Islander’s tumbled down the shoreline, to gawp
in utter astonishment at a stranded, iron leviathan
stuck high on Foula’s shallow ocean rim.

Clambering on ropes up steel and silent walls
was effortless labour for birdmen of Hametoun
more accustomed to chasing gannet, guillemot and fulmar.

And shocked they were, at stateroom opulence
where the children of the industrial revolution had slept
cosseted and comfortable beneath silken sheets.

Tired arms rowing a furtive traffic of treasure ashore
as a blood orange, westering sun slipped behind the Kame.
Crawling home to Pund’s and gossameadow, burdened down

they sat around to feast on roasted seabird stew
served on bone china plates with silver cutlery
supping blaand from cut-crystal brandy goblets.

Charlie Smith hung a chandelier so heavy, his roof sagged
Foula’s one-room school was filled to bursting with books
and a fist fight broke out over the ship’s barometer.

Belligerent, the missionary preached his sermon on Sunday
told the story of money-lenders and merchants in the temple
warning of Eve’s temptation of Adam in the garden of Eden.

All the while islander’s, oblivious, lived for the moment
washing themselves with bars of scented soap
drying each other with cotton White Star Line towels.

Mailboat Haiku

Crashing waves
on a dark afternoon
makes fish fly.

Frozen ice
in a low southern sun
is it fragile.

A white sun
shivers and shimmers
turning the sea to silver.

Slipping underwater
falling down deeper, where
breathing is impossible.

Thickening mist
and pouring rain
bring blindness.

Black clouds
are turning red
as the sun escapes.

Under silver moon
in an equinox of rip-tides
elusive, the otter swims.

Green-silver flash
of a mackerel’s tail, dances
in shimmering shoals.

Fast moving clouds
running away from the wind
hide behind high hills.

Outside a hurricane blows
rattling windows, banging doors
and whistling under the eaves.

In blackest winter night
when no moon shines
evil things come out to play.