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Young people from the Western Isles are being offered a chance to spend a day under sail on a tall ship, with a visit to Stornoway harbour by a Fifie herring drifter.

The Shetland-based Swan, LK243, is on her way south-west today to spend a month offering youth sail training and public trips around the Western Isles.

She’s due to arrive in Ullapool today (Thursday 19 May) to prepare for a nine-night trip around the isles, starting on 22 May. The voyage is expected to circle the islands, taking in St Kilda if the weather allows, before returning to Ullapool to deliver two youth sail training taster days at the start of June.

The Swan will then cross the Minch to Stornoway to offer youth sail training taster days for young islanders on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 June.

The sail training days for 14 to 25-year-olds are being delivered in partnership with Stornoway Port Authority and Sail Training Shetland and will cover everything trainees would experience on a longer sail training experience.

There are 20 places available on each of the two days, and absolutely no sailing experience is required to take part, just a willingness to pitch in and work as a team. 

The port authority is currently inviting local young people to apply for a place via their website at Completed applications should be submitted before the closing date of 31st May.

SPA chief executive Alex Macleod, whose own great-grandfather was skipper of the original Muirneag, one the last of the Zulu fishing boats, said: “While the days on offer will give just a small taste of a longer passage at sea, it will enable the trainees to learn about working a boat, including working sails, watch systems, taking the helm, and basic navigation, as well as learn more about the opportunities on offer for Tall Ships Races 2023. 

“Sail training is not just about learning to sail, it is about building confidence, teamwork, communication and enjoying the great outdoors. I certainly hope this experience will inspire young people to apply to take part in the Tall Ships Races 2023 – it is an incredible opportunity.”

The Swan’s home port of Lerwick is one of the destinations on the Tall Ships 2023 race, which will see dozens of ships covering sea miles between Den Helder in the Netherlands and Fredrikstad in Norway, via Hartlepool in England and Lerwick in Shetland.

Time aboard her will give more people a chance to sample the tall ships experience, as she sets out from Stornoway on 13 June for a seven-night Western Isles cruise.

During the whole month, islanders will become familiar with the sight of the Swan in harbours the length of the isles.

Described as one of the finest boats in the Scottish fishing fleet when launched in 1900, the Swan was one of hundreds of Fifies to be found fishing around Scotland and further afield.

She had a long career in Shetland, before being retired in the 1950s and leaving the isles in 1960. A community initiative formed in 1990 to return her to Shetland and, following a full restoration, she was relaunched as a sail training and charter vessel in 1996.

She is a 20.42-metre gaff-rigged ketch, with a total sail area of 210 square metres and berths for 15 passengers and crew. She’s now one of only two Fifies of her size in existence and the only one offering sail training experiences. You can find out more about her at

Trustee Tommy Allan said: “With Covid restrictions, we have not been to the Western Isles for a few years, and are very much looking forward to sailing there again.  We have held very successful training taster days in Shetland both last year and this, and we hope they’ll be just as popular in the Western Isles. 

“With the Tall Ships coming back to Shetland next year, there are going to be lots more sailing training experiences available, and we very much hope to welcome some of the trainees back for a longer journey. 

“Of course, anyone can come aboard the Swan to ‘learn the ropes’ and we hope our seven and nine-night trips open to the public will also prove popular – we certainly always enjoy sailing around the isles, and taking a hop over to St Kilda.”

The pictures show the Swan in full sail and leaving St Kilda on an earlier visit to the Western Isles (Richard Sibley/The Swan Trust).