The Swan, Shetland’s restored Fifie-class fishing boat, known from Alborg to Antwerp and other ports in between, has a new skipper at the helm.
The Swan Trust announced this week that Richard Pattison, 50, a former army officer with 30 years service, is only the fourth incumbent of the position since the vessel’s relaunch in 1996 after six years restoration work.
He will take up his position on 1st April, or as he says “that auspicious day”. He is familiar with classic wooden boats in and around Essex since childhood, and has always had a close affinity with all things nautical.
While in the services he gained experience on various expeditions in both the Arctic and Antarctic, so has no fear of what the changeable Shetland weather has to offer.
He first found out about the job while looking on a sail training website, but the Swan’s reputation had preceded it and he was aware of her iconic and ambassadorial role for Shetland in classic boat circles. Her participation in the Tall Ships races is well documented.“The Swan is more than just a boat,” he said.
He is used to commanding young soldiers and thinks there are more similarities than differences between them and the young people in whom he is interested in encouraging confidence and developing skills.
Mr Pattison considers the sailing experience to be as much about getting on with people as practical skills. He does not envisage any major changes in the running of the boat but thinks that as he has not grown with the development of the trust he might be able to have some input with fresh ideas and maybe even destinations. At the same time he sees it as being a two-way learning experience.
Swan Trust chairman Allister Rendall said: “We believe that in Richard Pattison we have a very experienced and capable skipper, who will enable us to fulfil our aim of offering sailing opportunities to Shetland’s young people.”
As well as her youth trips with young people, the Swan has also undertaken many memorable excursions for adults around the islands locally and further afield to places like St Kilda and Faroe.
As new skipper Mr Pattison will have a packed programme this season as ever with short sails with local schools and weekend trips around the outer isles.
Further trips include the long weekend to the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy, a two-week trip to Norway with Sail Training Shetland trainees and an extended charter in Orkney and Shetland for the Cape Farewell Foundation.
Meanwhile a 10-day cruise through the Caledonian Canal and the Inner Hebrides is being looked into.