School pupils from the Sandwick School in Shetland recently enjoyed trips aboard the historic fishing vessel Swan, learning about local maritime heritage, marine careers and how to operate a sailing boat.

Deputy Head Early Years and Primary, Jasmin Tulloch, said: What an unforgettable experience for our pupils to develop their confidence and teamwork skills while learning about their local environment and history.  A great opportunity to learn the principles of sailing, see Shetland from the sea, relax and be active in the fresh air.  The children and young people had a fantastic time, with one p6 pupil stating that it was the best day he has ever had at school.”

Headteacher, Stuart Clubb, added: “We were delighted to be able to offer this opportunity to our pupils, and they were all very excited to get the chance to get back out on trips again, it’s much needed.  The experience they had aboard the Swan was fantastic, and so different to anything else we offer.  Overall, an incredibly valuable learning experience we would love to repeat.

uring the week, The Trust welcomed aboard pupils from primary 6 and 7, and secondary 3.  Pupils learned about safety at sea and good marine stewardship, the history of the Swan and Shetland’s maritime heritage, the terms for the different parts of the boat and how to work the lines on deck.  They also got hands on with the sailing, working as a team on some activities, including raising and lowering sails, as well as individually, such as taking a turn at the helm.  Sailing in the busy Lerwick Harbour also allowed the pupils to see the modern fishing boats and onshore facilities which support the industry, as well as marine tourism and other maritime activity, further demonstrating the many careers on offer both at sea and ashore.  Groups which were accompanied by student teacher, Seth Travins, also enjoyed singing sea shanties led by Seth, both on the bus and the boat!

Brian Wishart, Swan Trust Trustee, said: “We tend to forget that not so long ago, so powerful was the connection in Shetland with careers at sea that youngsters in every secondary school in Shetland had access to navigation and seamanship through the curriculum, and a good number of primary schools also introduced elements of this in the older years.

Careers at sea might not be so readily obtained nowadays, but experience and learning are being continued to some extent out with schools; some sailing clubs promote assiduously the sporting aspects; rowing clubs get lots of people on the water who might never otherwise have that access; and the widespread hope is that a Shetland boat festival will rise again to help the general public enjoy, with growing confidence, water-borne experiences.  Working with our youth is at the heart of the Swan Trust and, amazingly through this year of complex difficulties arranging social interactions, the Swan has just completed a summer of trips with young people covering all corners of the isles.

This is especially important when we realise that, in spite of the welcome provision outlined above, a trip on the Swan may be the only maritime/sailing experience a child may have in Shetland. With our rich maritime heritage, and the fact that fishing and the merchant navy have for so long been a mainstay of our economy, it is really important to allow our youth to experience sailing for themselves and learn about our heritage.

How appropriate that for many pupils a day- or half-day trip on the Swan, the only seagoing sailing fishing boat available to take the public afloat anywhere in Scotland, is the first, and hopefully not the only time, they will have been on a sailing boat and able to view their home surroundings from a new perspective; the sea.”

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 Sandwick school was supported with funding from Zetland Educational Trust, demonstrating the educational benefit of a trip on the Swan for Shetland’s school pupils.

Built in 1900, the Swan is a vessel of national importance.  Originally a sail fishing boat, she was extensively restored in the early 1990s and relaunched in 1996 as a sail training and charter vessel, with a focus on enabling young people to experience the thrill of sailing a traditional vessel.  As a sail training vessel, Swan promotes mental and physical health, builds life experience, friendships and memories.  Passengers develop new skills and are challenged to reach their, and the crews, full potential. Further info can be found on the website:


Sea shanties with the children Region Scotland