THE sail training boat Swan is now being skippered on an ad hoc basis following the departure of skipper Jane Brander in the middle of last month.
Ms Brander, who had originally been employed as a full-time skipper, had recently been working part-time in a bid to help the Swan Trust, which runs the business, to save money.
Chairman of the trustees Michael Gray said that having a full-time skipper had “eaten into the reserves” of the trust, but having Ms Brander go part-time had helped the financial situation, which was now back on track and fairly positive. Temporary skippers would be employed as and when required, he said, and all bookings would be honoured.
The Swan, a restored Fifie built in 1900 at Hay’s Dock, operates trips for schools and youth groups as its core business. It also relies on more lucrative charters to boost its coffers.
Captain Gray blamed dwindling bookings for the financial problems and said: “There was a quick build-up when the Swan started 10 years ago and we got a good response. After a peak about five years ago there was a steady decline with trips cancelled. It has been difficult to get charters and the local market has been saturated.”
But, he conceded, it would be difficult to do a full programme without a full-time skipper. He hoped the situation could be reversed.
“I hope another generation can come along to increase the programme, and I hope we get some new trustees with new ideas.” However the next few years would be quiet and trips would be skippered by temporary people, he said.
This summer had been “particularly difficult” with two lucrative charters cancelled – both were called off through lack of support.
However the Swan has had two charters this summer – Unst schoolchildren recently went to Norway in her, and the boat left for Norway again on Wednesday with the band Fullsceilidh Spelemannslag on board. They are going to play at the Tall Ships in Maløy.
Apart from that there are shorter weekend charters, mostly geared to tourists. The season ends in September and maintenance will take place in the winter months. This will be done professionally, with some volunteer involvement.