Unst & Yell Schools enjoy trips on the Swan skippered by previous sail trainee

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2 September 2021

The Swan was in Unst and Yell last week to deliver a number of half day sails to pupils in the isles. Skippering the trip was Scott Sandison, who first came aboard the Swan as a schoolboy himself and has pursued a marine career, now working in Unst at Cooke Aquaculture and operating his own fishing vessel.

The Swan started her week in Unst, with two trips on Monday accommodating Baltasound High School primary 5,6 and 7 pupils, and two trips on Tuesday accommodating, their secondary 1 and 2 pupils.

Baltasound Junior High School Headteacher, Paul Thomson, said: “A hands on trip on the Swan provides an invaluable learning experience which would be impossible to recreate in a classroom, and is incredibly fulfilling for our pupils. They learn about teamwork, our heritage, sailing, navigation, and so much more.

A high percentage of our pupils go onto marine careers and to have a sailing experience aboard the Swan is a valuable opportunity for the next generation of seafarers and helps us to develop our young workforce. For our pupils to see Scott at the helm is even more inspiring - learning he gained much of his seafaring experience through the Swan and now works in the aquaculture industry in Unst, as well as owning his own fishing boat. We really appreciate and value these trips, and so do our pupils.

On Tuesday night the Swan sailed to Mid Yell, ready to welcome pupils from the Mid Yell Junior High on Wednesday for two half day sails. On Thursday she welcomed another two sets of pupils, one from Mid Yell and the other from Cullivoe. A Thursday night transfer to Burravoe allowed the Burravoe school pupils to sail aboard on the Friday, before Swan sailed for Lerwick.

Mark Lawson, headteacher at Mid Yell Junior High School, said: “For many years now we have benefited from the work of The Swan Trust and hundreds of young people have been able to participate in and enjoy all sorts of short day trips and longer adventures. During these activities our pupils have been challenged, inspired and rewarded in lots of different ways, which really do make a difference to their development. It is particularly special as the Swan comes to us, increasing our pupils awareness of their own island and the beauty of the nature they are surrounded by.

The Swan crew have always put the needs of our young people first, been approachable and patient and can be relied upon to get a smile out of even the most difficult to reach teenagers. The Swan trust provides one of the highlights to our school year and adds the ‘colour’ to our very packed and busy curriculum.”

Scott Sandison, Swan Skipper for these trips, is someone who has known the Swan since he was at school – sailing aboard her himself for the first time as a schoolboy. Scott also Sailed on the Swan as a Sail Training Shetland Trainee, taking part in the Tall Ships Races, and went onto become a crew member, in both volunteer and paid roles. During this time The Swan Trust helped him to gain his skippers tickets. Scott currently works for Cooke Aquaculture, and has his own boat which he fishes with in his time off, but has always retained a passion for the Swan, and particularly her youth sail training work.

Scott said: “The Swan, and youth sail training, is incredibly important to me. I can remember the first time I came aboard Swan as a schoolboy, and the excitement among all of us in helping to sail this big boat. Having come up though all stages of my sail training with the Swan, I grew to see that these experiences are about much more than learning sailing skills and keeping our heritage alive. It is about building confidence, independence, team working, communication skills, friendships, mental and physical wellbeing.

It has also shown me, and many others, that a career at sea is the path they want to take. Many Swan sail trainees go onto marine careers, including myself and Maggie Adamson who also skippered the Swan this year. I value the opportunities the Swan has given me and others, and am proud to now be standing at the helm teaching a new generation.”

The Swan Trust relies on a range of funding to cover its core costs and deliver sail training opportunities. This week of sailing for the Unst and Yell schools was supported with funding from Cooke Aquaculture Scotland.

David Brown from Cooke Aquaculture Scotland said: “Sailing on The Swan is a rite of passage for so many young Shetlanders. An adventure under sail can be a life-changing experience. As well as being lots of fun, sail training helps help young people to develop confidence, communication and teamwork skills.

The trips will hopefully ignite a passion for sailing or an interest in working in aquaculture as it has for many of our employees like Scott, who works for Cooke and skippered Swan throughout the week. The Swan moored next to our Uyeasound shorebase during the week and it was great for our staff to get such positive feedback from the young people taking part. As a family-owned company it’s important for us to support the communities we live and work in. We are just pleased that we were able to help so many young people to have the opportunity to take part.”

The Swan Trust would like to thank Cooke Aquaculture Scotland, and all their funders, for their support.

Find out more about our youth sail training experiences and those who support us.

If you would like to help support Swan follow these links to donate or volunteer with the Trust.


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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