Wildlife spotting in the Hebrides

30 Jan

If you have ever wondered what a Cumbrae cruising adventure course is like this extract logged by our Chief Instructor last summer on board our yacht, Somerled, may provide you with some inspiration for this year and a flavour of what can be expected. It’s not all hard sailing, intensive training and certificates!

  “After a couple of hours sailing we were closing the Northern tip of the island of Eigg, the wind and boat speed had dropped, and the seas were calm, but on this very relaxing first evening, as Instructor and crew all got to know each other, no one wanted to admit it may have been time to start the engine.

Ahead, but well clear of the steep headland, breaking waves and turbulent water could be seen in front of us. Odd, we thought to ourselves. A quick check showed no reefs or off lying dangers on the chart. Odder still that that those on deck confirmed that the breaking waves were moving…. and towards us. Suddenly it became clear what we were witnessing. It was hard to count but our first estimate of ten was quickly revised, at least twenty, fifty more like, more again! Dolphins everywhere. We watched in awe as these sleek and playful mammals put on displays of leaping, jumping, twisting and tail slapping. An entire school, in vast number and different sizes, swam around, across and under us. A few played with our bow wave but most just swam, leaping and playing on their course northward. After 20 minutes of sheer awe at the sight of what seemed like hundreds of dolphins they passed and it was all over. As a sheer spectacle and life experience for all on board it was both amazing and humbling.

The following day we slipped out of the southern anchorage on the Isle of Muck. After hoisting our sails to catch the gentle north-westerly breeze we set our course for Ardnamurchan. Everyone staring and straining in expectation of sighting more inquisitive dolphins. We had covered less than half a mile before the shout came from the crew. Less than two cables directly ahead the black rounded back and small dorsal fin of a pilot whale and traveling beside it that of a much smaller calf could be seen. As these first two submerged, just further to the left another two broke the surface showing their long black rounded backs then off to the right another three. Not the playful jumping and showing off we had seen the day before, but a far more elegant and stately procession of gentle giants. We estimated at least ten whales each gently breaking the surface, exhaling with an audible cloud of fine spray before catching a breath, arching their backs and slipping gently back below the surface. Judging their direction of travel, we gently sailed around them providing them a clear onward passage we watched them into the distance as we continued south on what was turning out to be a great sailing adventure.”

National Centre Cumbrae provides yacht cruises for those wanting an experience of a lifetime, you might even be lucky enough to meet a few dolphins! We are running our 5 for 4 offer on our cruises so if you are able to get a group together then you can take advantage of this when you come onboard.

By Viki

Instructor Job Opportunities

22 Jan

Cumbrae is currently inviting interested watersports Instructors who wish to join our pool of Casual Instructors to submit a CV with covering letter to hr.recruitment@sportscotland.org.uk. Applicants who are shortlisted will then be invited to attend the Instructor Staff Inductions as part of the selection process.

  Please note Induction dates below. We are recruiting for two separate posts, Centre Watersports Instructors and Cruising Instructors Candidates applying for both Cruising Instructor and Centre Watersports Instructor will need to attend both Inductions

  Post 1 - Centre Watersports Instructor As a centre watersports Instructor you will provide high quality instruction at the Cumbrae centre. You will be a skilled water sports Instructor, with appropriate NGB Instructor qualifications in one or more of the following disciplines: dinghy sailing, windsurfing, powerboating, and paddlesports. You should also have experience of working in a training centre, delivering water sports to a wide variety of client groups. Instructors must have excellent organisational and communication skills.

  Centre Watersports Instructors, A CV and cover letter should be emailed to hr.recruitment@sportscotland.org.uk. by Friday 1st March 2019

  Inductions for Centre Watersports Instructors will take place on; Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th April 2019 You will need to attend both days.

  Post 2 – Cruising / Yachtmaster Instructors As a Casual Cruising Instructor you will provide high quality instruction on board our yachts. You will be a skilled Instructor, with either RYA Cruising or RYA Yachtmaster Instructor qualification. You should also have previous experience of working at a RYA training centre and delivering RYA syllabus’s to a wide variety of client groups. Instructors must have excellent organisational and communication skills.

  Cruising / Yachtmaster Instructors, A CV and cover letter should be emailed to hr.recruitment@sportscotland.org.uk by : Friday 1st March 2019

  Inductions for Cruising / Yachtmaster Instructors will take place on Sunday 24rd March 2019

By Viki

Developing the instructors of the future

17 Jan

Each year, National Watersports Training Centre Cumbrae employs a number of young people to our Instructor Development Scheme (IDS).  They will all have a variety of qualifications already, but it is our role to develop them even further in to the areas they want and are required by the sector so that they can go on and have successful careers in water and outdoor sport. One of our team this year, Katrina Seator, gives us her experience of being part of the scheme and developing her yachting prowess.

Big decisions

“Sea kayak guide in Alaska or IDS at the national centre in Cumbrae? With only 24 hours to decide! I was working in Lapland away from my family and friends at the time and so I posted my dilemma on social media. The answer was unanimous, everyone said I should go to Alaska, after all I’d always wanted to kayak amongst the glaciers!  However, when senior instructor Rod phoned me just as I was getting on a snowmobile and asked for my answer I replied “Yes I’d love to come and work at Cumbrae!”. Everyone thought I was crazy when I told them.  I hadn’t made a decision in advance, I just went with what felt right in the moment. Now, at the end of my contract here at the national centre, I know I made the right decision. I joined Cumbrae as a Level 2 Paddlesports Coach and kayaking is my passion. It was great having a choice of kayaks to take out whenever I wanted and it was amazing only having to carry them across the road to get to the sea. I was able to tag along on all the paddlesports courses and assist the leaders, helping build up my logbook. Being on the IDS team meant I also had access to courses at National Outdoor Training Centre Glenmore Lodge which allowed me to do paddlesports courses not run at Cumbrae. I am now a Sea Kayak Leader and Canoe Leader.

Venturing in to sailing

I was keen though to try yachting so after a few weeks getting settled in to the job, I went off on a weekend cruise. It was an amazing experience. On the first night I was up on deck on my own in the dark helming and I couldn’t believe that I was in charge of this big yacht. It was exhilarating! The following month I completed a Competent Crew course and learnt all the basics. After that I got out on the yacht as much as I could and completed my Day Skipper theory course. I got to spend a weekend on the Ocean Youth Trust’s 72 foot yacht which was an opportunity I will never forget. By November, I was a fully qualified Day Skipper so I wanted to keep the momentum going and moved on to yachtmaster theory and by March I had completed my Coastal Skipper Practical. I got out on the yacht as much as I could going round and round in circles picking up mooring buoys and MOBs. My hard work paid off as I finished off my contract by achieving my yachtmaster qualification. I was over the moon to have such a big qualification under my belt. I had done a little bit of dinghy sailing before I joined the IDS in Cumbrae and it was good having a variety of double and single handers on site to use whenever I wanted. The first time I went sailing at Cumbrae was on a catamaran and it was so much fun flying along whilst hiking out. I was having great fun until it pitch poled and I went flying round the mast then ended up under water, but that’s all part of the experience! In amongst all of my yachtmaster preparation I was encouraged to complete a dinghy instructor course. The instructors at the centre reassured me that a dinghy was just a small yacht so everything was pretty much just the same, except from being entirely reliant on wind power. I decided it was good for me to keep expanding my skills in all different types of sailing and I’m pleased to say I am now a dinghy instructor.

No stopping me

I had been jet skiing as a teenager on those rare occasions when the sun shone in Scotland and I had gone jet skiing on holiday abroad too so when the centre started offering Personal Watercraft (PWC) courses I jumped at the chance to learn these skills. It is a great addition to having a yachtmaster qualification as often larger ‘super’ yachts will have a jet ski included. I completed the course and went jet skiing a few more times practicing manoeuvres. Luckily a space came up on a PWC Instructor course last minute and I decided to give it a go. I figured I was already a snowmobile guide so it was just a different surface to get used to! The PWC Instructor course is the most fun Instructor course I have ever completed and I thankfully I passed! Windsurfing was next on my bucket list to try so I started practicing a lot, it was really exciting on a windy day when I managed to pick up lots of speed. I achieved my Intermediate Windsurfing certificate and I’m hopefully going to do my Windsurf Instructor in the near future.

Work hard, play hard

Being on the IDS at Cumbrae meant I lived in the perfect location to get out on the water every day. Who doesn’t want to wake up in their cosy little chalet and look out their window to see the gorgeous views across the Clyde? It also meant I had access to all the boats and equipment to do all the water sports the centre offered any time I wanted. The actual job itself was a great learning curve, seeing the other side of the running a national centre. I enjoyed working in the office, speaking to customers and giving advice on courses based on my experiences there. The job involved working mainly in the evenings and early mornings which was great as it meant my days were free to get out on the water as much as I needed to gain experience. I can’t thank the senior instructors enough as they were always encouraging me to progress and better myself. I probably wouldn’t have gone for as many different disciplines and courses if it hadn’t been for them. And to end this journey with a sought after professional yachtmaster qualification was the icing on the cake. I had an amazing 19 months on the IDS at sportscotland National Centre Cumbrae and I would jump at the chance to go back and do it all over again.

We offer a full range of sailing cruises and qualification and instructor courses, including our fast track Professional Yachtmaster qualification that Katrina took part in. Please have a look at our cruising courses section.

By Viki

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