Youth sail training

Developing our young people, and teaching them about our heritage, is at the heart of the Trust and we work with local organisations to offer youth opportunities and sail training experiences. This includes a partnership with Sail Training Shetland, to offer an annual sail training experience to 15-25 year olds, Zetland Educational Trust, to offer half day charters to schools, and creating links with various youth groups to look at other opportunities to work with Swan such as volunteering opportunities or youth projects involving Swan. By crewing the Swan, young people discover the excitement and reward that comes with relying on themselves and each other, and learn some of the most important skills in life. It is heartening to see some of these young people returning to become regular volunteers and crew members on board Swan, as well as several going onto various careers at sea.

Perhaps the greatest contribution the Swan has made to contemporary Shetland culture is the hundreds of young people who have sailed on her. This includes day outings for primary school children, lengthy trips across the North Sea for secondary pupils and sail trainees, aged 15-25 years, taking part in the annual Tall Ship races. Swan has enabled the skills of sailing a traditional fishing boat to be passed on to the next generation, highlighted Swan's heritage and built the skills, confidence and wellbeing of those who have sailed on her - especially on longer trips.

Swan has also been one of the best teachers of history Shetland has ever had. Comments from schools who enjoyed sailing trips in 2019 include:

“A hands on experience like this will create memories that will last a lifetime, and that is priceless.”

“Thank you so much for allowing our pupils the opportunity to experience the history, culture and heritage of Shetland life. What you do in a couple of hours to engage our pupils in our heritage could never be recreated in the classroom. Later in the week I did an assembly where we were speaking about possible careers - A P6 pupil said that when she was older she wanted to work on the Swan.”

“Our pupils had a brilliant time, learned a lot about the history of The Swan and new skills. It was also brilliant to develop teamworking skills, especially as the class have been split this year.“

“A short trip on the Swan is an ideal way of getting a hands-on experience of a traditional sailing vessel, and learning about our heritage, without being overwhelmed. It was great to see the pupils working as a team to hoist the sails and undertake manoeuvres. There was a buzz of excitement as one of the pupils spotted a large fin a short distance from the boat. It turned out to be a large basking shark swimming just below the surface and there was great delight when it swam right past the bow of the boat as we were looking over the side. Overall, an incredible experience for our pupils.”

The Swan Trust's partnership with Sail Training Shetland provides annual sail training placements for young people to participate in maritime events and festivals such as the Tall Ships Races, Small Ships Races and Nordic Sail. Placements are typically at least 2 weeks and are often international. As places are sponsored, there is a small personal contribution, typically £300, required per trainee. Open to those aged 15-25 years old, advertising for opportunities to participate opens each Spring. Click here for testimonials from Sail Training Shetland Trainees and their parents.

The Trust awards the Vovoe Trophy annually to their Sail Trainee of the year, and has also won awards itself for its sail training work. Find out more here.

Trips are tailored to suit the age group. Young primary children are normally afloat for 1½ to 2 hours, and older primary children perhaps 2 to 3 hours.

Secondary classes can be anything from a few hours to a full day sail, or even a week long school trip to Norway and back.

Sail Training Shetland placements are typically longer up to two weeks or more, depending on the location and sea passages required. Some voyages require crossing the North Sea, which can mean a few days without seeing any land. Tall Ship placements also involve race legs between host ports and celebrations in port.

School/shorter trips: The trip is a 'hands on' outing, and under the crew’s guidance children assist with setting sails, deckwork and steering. They are introduced to the basic parts of a sailing boat, and the history of the Swan.

Longer Trips: Trainees are part of the crew and fully involved in the operation of the boat.

We can take a total of 12 passengers, including children and staff.

On longer voyages away from Shetland shores this is reduced to 10, which would include any chaperones or supervisors.

There are no age restrictions on youth sailing around Shetland, we can offer trips to any age tailored to suit.

For participation in Sail Training Shetland placements, the age limit is 15-25 years old.

Yes, we regularly do trips with special needs groups and would be pleased to discuss your requirements.

  • Warm clothing and sturdy footwear
  • Travel sickness pills (recommended if trip is outside harbour limits)

    Sail trainees undertaking longer sea passages will be provided with a kit list prior to departure.
  • Sailing Instruction
  • Lifejackets
  • Safety harnesses
  • Snacks/meals - shorter trips: usually a hot drink and biscuit; trips including overnight stays: all meals and snacks.

Although some sizes of waterproofs are available, it is advisable to take your own if possible.

For further information on what is required for longer trips, refer to our kit list

For information on costs please contact:
Mr Peter Campbell
8 Sandyloch Drive
T: 01595 695193



Want to get involved in maintaining and operating a traditional wooden sailing vessel? There are a number of different ways you can volunteer to safeguard, care for and sail this unique heritage asset.

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