Instructor Development scheme - What’s it Like?

21 Dec

We are Currently have an advert for opportunities to join our Instructor Development scheme (IDS) .Having just completed 19 months on the IDS scheme Katrina Seator took the time share her experience in the hope of inspiring others join the scheme…..

  “Sea kayak guide in Alaska or Instructor Development Scheme (IDS) at sportscotland on Cumbrae? and only 24 hours to decide! Working in Lapland away from my family and friends I plastered these choices all over facebook and asked my guests. The answer was unanimous, everyone said I should go to Alaska, after all I’d always wanted to kayak amongst the glaciers. However when Cumbrae’s Rod Smith 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 the words that came out of my mouth at the time. Now at the end of my IDS contract I know I made the right decision that day .

  I went to Cumbrae as a level 2 paddlesport 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 IDS meant I got 25% discount at Glenmore Lodge which allowed me to do paddlesports courses not run at Cumbrae. I am now a Sea Kayak Leader and Canoe Leader.

  I quite fancied yachting so after a few weeks getting settled in to the job, I went off on a weekend cruise. It was amazing. At one point on the first night I was left 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! Next month I did a competent crew course and learnt all the basics. After that I got out on the yacht as much as I could and did the day skipper theory course. I got to spend a weekend on the huge OYT Yacht which was another great experience. I loved it.

  By November I was a Day Skipper so I kept it up and moved on to the Yachtmaster theory and by March I had done 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. I was over the moon to gain such a big qualification.

  I had done a little bit of Dinghy Sailing before I went to Cumbrae but it wasn’t my favourite watersport. It was good having a variety of Double Handers 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 was under water, but that’s all part of the experience.

  In amongst all the yachtmaster prep. I was doing, there was a Dinghy Instructor course running and everyone kept telling me I should do it. They kept telling me a Dinghy was just a small Yacht so everything was pretty much just the same, apart from it didn’t have an engine. I decided to spend a few weeks dinghy sailing constantly and booked on to the Dinghy Instructor course. The course was interesting, I learnt a lot and I am now a Dinghy Instructor.

  I was in the office one day and found out there was a cancellation on a Personal Watercraft Proficiency course the next day. 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. I completed the course and went jet skiing a few more times practicing manoeuvres. A space came up on a PWC Instructor course last minute and I decided to give it a go. I figured I’m already a snowmobile guide so it can’t be that difficult! The PWC Instructor course is the most fun Instructor course I have ever done and I passed so I’m now a PWC Instructor too.

I decided I wanted to learn to Windsurf so I started going out practicing a lot, it was really exciting on a windy day when you 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.

  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 watersports Cumbrae offers any time I wanted.

  The actual job itself was really good. I enjoyed working in the office and speaking to clients 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 your days were free to get out on the water as much as you wanted.

  All the staff at Cumbrae are very friendly and it’s like a big family. The catering staff make sure you get well fed, the office staff are very friendly and always make sure you are included and invite you to social gatherings and the senior instructors are always encouraging you to progress and better yourself.
I had an amazing 19 months on the IDS at Sport Scotland Cumbrae and I want to go back and do it all over again.”

  Inspired ?.....Current IDS advert and application to join IDS in April  2019 can be found here

By Viki

Great Cumbrae Sea Kayak Race 2018 - results

06 Sep

Thanks to everyone who took part in this year’s Sea Kayak Race.  Please find the results below!

Congratulations to our winners!

Bib No.        Name                     Category            Elapsed Time             Position

117              James Mayers        Elite                    01:22:00                       1st

107              Kevin Ramsay        Elite                    01:24:39                       2nd

108              Douglas Wilby        Elite                    01:26:05                       3rd

119              Kenny Fraser         Elite                    01:28:22                       4th

109              Lizelle Kemp          Elite                    01:28:34                       5th - 1st Female

103              Mark Williamson    Elite                    01:30:08                       6th

106              Martin Tonge         Elite                    01:32:08                       7th

120              Ben Graham          Elite                    01:33:28                       8th

118              Les Kilpatrick         Elite                    01:35:10                       9th

105              Alison Auld            Elite                    01:36:10                       10th - 2nd Female

116              Alan Hunter           Elite                    01:37:55                       11th

114              Stuart Nicolson      Elite                   01:47:31                       12th

110              Paul Hignett           Elite                  DNS

111              Paul Hignett          Elite                   DNS

112              Annette Morris       Elite                  DNS

113              Steven Whipp       Elite                   DNS

104              Andrew Morton      Elite                  DNS

Bib No.       Name                    Category           Elapsed Time            Position

102              Paul Carey            Elite                   09:55                          1st Junior

101              Alice Wilson          Junior                 10:49                          2nd Junior

122              Harris McNicol      Junior                 11:43                          3rd Junior

121              Innes McNicol       Junior                 14:30                          4th Junior

Bib No.       Name                   Category           Elapsed Time          Position

124              Robin Davis          Touring                                                  1st

By Viki

Problems arising

22 Jun

As all experienced, and perhaps inexperienced skippers will know, it’s really not always plain sailing when out at sea. We are proud of our very experienced senior instructors here at National Watersports Training Centre Cumbrae and their ability to adapt to challenging situations. Here, our Senior Instructor, Angus Fergusson, tells us about one of those times.

“It goes without saying; problems that occur whilst in open water can be slightly more challenging than those that occur whilst in sheltered water. Whilst running an RYA Coastal Skipper Practical Course last month we had just completed a passage of some 70 nautical miles in a northerly wind, Force 6-7. Ideal conditions some might say for completing your coastal skipper course! On this particular day we were sailing a short passage from Tarbert to Largs with a strong easterly blowing. Whilst rounding Ardlamont Point we had to keep a short distance off the buoy due to a military exercise taking place in Ettrick Bay. The boat was well reefed down with three reefs in the main, and a small handkerchief of a head sail in light of the conditions. We were close-hauled to keep ourselves clear of the lee shore and whilst doing so we heard a loud bang sound and suddenly the rig went loose. Our first reaction was that something must have snapped and unfortunately we were right.

 We looked up to see the backstay flaying around and the head of the mast rocking to and fro. The first question for me to ask was whether all the crew were safe and ensure no one was hurt. Once I was sure everyone was okay I took the helm and organised the crew, giving them all specific jobs to do so that we could bring the situation under control in a safe manner. Looking more closely at what we had lost it appeared to be the forestay. First and foremost we needed to secure the mast to prevent losing it. Arranging for two of the crew to go forward with life jackets on and harnessed to the jackstays, they were able to bring the spinnaker halyard forward to tie down. Whilst this was happening I was attempting to keep the head sail filled despite the head of it being some 5m from the hounds. By keeping the head sail filled I was able to keep the mast pulled forward. I used the engine to get us further away from the lee shore, in case the mast was to come down.

 Once we were further away we then opted to lower the main sail and tie it down, all the time making sure that the crew did not venture to the leeward side of the boat. We were unable to roll all of the head sail away so we gingerly motored slowly head to wind. This helped us lower the foresail and foil onto the deck were we secured it down. Once safely ashore we inspected the damage. We discovered it was the toggle at the top of the foresail that had snapped, which is very unusual.

Angus’ lessons learned and top tips:

Although very rare, dangerous situations can arise when at sea. It is always important to keep calm and use all of your training and knowledge to assess the situation and keep the crew safe. Our coastal skipper courses, with senior instructors like Angus, will set you up well to be able to handle lots of different types of situations, but hopefully not a repeat of this incident any time soon!

By Viki

Challenging week for the Coastal Skipper course

26 Apr

Katrina Seator is an instructor here at National Watersports Centre Cumbrae.  She recently joined the crew on board one of the centre’s yachts for a Coastal Skipper course in challenging weather conditions.  Here she writes her account of the week.

Sunday 11 March 2018

At 19.30 I met up with our skipper Stuart and the rest of the crew.  We had a look around the yacht to get familiar with our surroundings was and following a safety talk we headed to bed, or should I say bunk!

Monday 12 March 2018

I got up at 7.30am and made breakfast for everyone.  We had a look at the weather forecast and the charts and made a rough plan for our week ahead.  We decided to go to Campbeltown and made a passage plan including pilotage.  We motored out of Largs Yacht Haven and got the sails up.  The wind was very light so we changed the head sail from No. 3 to the Genoa, which is larger sail than what we had been using. We motored a lot of the way, it was partly sunny and we had lunch on deck as we cruised along.  We practiced a few Man Overboard drills along the way and we arrived in Campbeltown late afternoon and watched the sun set over Davaar Island which was a stunning sight on our first night.  Whilst dinner was cooking we practiced manoeuvring in confined spaces and berthing alongside different pontoons both bow and stern. We decided we were going to go south to Sanda Island the next morning so I was asked to make a passage plan as I had never been there before.  There is a lot of tidal movement around the island so I had to take this in to consideration when deciding what time to depart.

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Early in the morning whilst I finished my pilotage for Sanda Island down below, the others went up on deck and practiced some blind navigation, sailing of a pontoon and finding a spot depth.  As we departed Campbeltown we had a good combination of sun, wind and tide all the way to Sanda Island.  I had to keep a close eye on the time as we only had a short window to arrive at a favourable state of tide.   We arrived at 13.30 as predicted and dropped the anchor in a gorgeous little bay.  It was very scenic and sunny and we considered going for a swim, however the cold Scottish breeze convinced us otherwise!  We agreed we would have some rest and complete a night sail to Loch Ranza.  We worked together on a passage plan and took advantage of the tides by leaving just before dark. As we headed up the Kilbrannan Sound we decided to increase our night passage to 40 miles and go all the way to Tarbert as we had a maintenance issue that could be fixed easier in a harbour than on a mooring buoy in Loch Ranza. By the time we got to Carradale I found myself alone on deck enjoying the peace and quiet as the crew went down below to rest and warm up.  I helmed the yacht all the way to Tarbert.  I found it both exhilarating and calming sailing in the dark, I loved it.  We arrived in Tarbert just after 1am and went straight to bed.

Sanda Island approach
Sanda Island approach

Wednesday 14 March 2018

We stayed in bed slightly longer this morning due to our late arrival the night before but we were greeted by a howling wind.  We decided to do a shorter journey to Port Bannantyne due to the adverse weather so we did all the chart work before heading out to the wind and rain.  We departed Tarbert and put up our storm jib, luckily the wind decreased so we changed back to the Genoa.   We beat to windward for hours with the wind and rain hitting us in the face before reaching calm water as we entered the West Kyle of Bute.  We sailed through the Burnt Islands and down the East Kyle and arrived in Port Bannatyne just before dark.  We had dinner and decided we would head to Helensburgh the next day to do manoeuvring and berthing practice.  We went to bed but it was hard to sleep with the wind howling and the rain battering down on the boat despite a tiring day facing it!

Thursday 15 March 2018

We woke up to force 7 winds and white horses all around.  The waves were crashing over the marina wall.  None of us were very enthusiastic about heading out to sea so we had nice warm showers and bacon rolls and were very happy when skipper Stuart decided we should do theory inside for the morning!  We learned about diesel engines and how to check them and we looked at different weather forecasts and how to predict the weather ourselves.   By lunch the wind had decreased to a force 6 so we set sail in to the big waves.   Our plan was to go to Kip Marina so I did a quick pilotage plan.  However once underway we decided, by way of a group vote, due to the wind strength and direction we would go back to Largs.  It was very windy and wavy and the sailing was really exciting despite it’s challenges!   Once there we practiced Man Overboard under power and sail and berthing in the marina.  Both of which were quite challenging in the wind but it was really good to know that we could achieve it in those conditions.  We berthed up for the night just before dark and whilst we waited for dinner to cook we had a chat about cold water shock and helicopter rescues.

Friday 16 March 2018

We woke up to force 8 winds whistling through the marina.  We had breakfast then went for a walk to the marina wall to check the sea state.  There were white horses and you could actually see the gusts of wind blowing across the water.  We discussed the conditions and what we wanted to achieve and decided to head out and practice picking up mooring buoys under sail.  Once out it wasn’t as bad as it seemed and we really enjoyed practicing the skills in such challenging conditions.  We stopped for lunch, had individual debriefs whilst we cleaned the yacht and were over the moon to find out we had all passed!  

Skipper Stuart and the rest of the crew were very skilled sailors and I had an amazing week on the yacht with them despite the challenging weather!

If, like Katrina and crew, you are keen to complete your Coastal Skipper course then you can check out our course dates on the website at

By Viki

Senior Instructor Vacancy

06 Mar

Cumbrae is now advertising for a seasonal Senior Instructor post for 2018 season. This is a key post at the National Centre just

  As a Senior Instructor at the National Centre, you will be part of a team that shares a passion for Watersports. It is essential that you hold an RYA Senior Instructor qualification. You will also be expected to hold at least another TWO qualifications from the following; RYA Windsurfing Instructor, RYA Cruising Instructor, RYA Powerboat Instructor, Level 2 UKCC with BCU 4 Star Leadership.

  In addition to having the right qualifications you will also have experience in working with a range of client groups and at the higher end of National Governing Body qualifications. Overnight working and duties at the Centre or on the yachts is also to be expected.

  A proven leader and team player, you need to be strategically minded and be able to demonstrate a track record of building and maintaining strong and effective relationships with a broad spectrum of clients, from novices to experts, and other key business partners, both internally and externally.

  This is a great opportunity for a motivated individual who can bring their own energy to the role.

  Fixed Term, for 6 rata; £33,107, Grade 4

 The closing date for this post has now passed (9th March)

By Viki

To the Outer Hebrides and beyond!

05 Feb


You can join us on an inspiring and exciting sailing adventure.  Peter Braidwood, Senior Instructor at the centre tells us about one of these incredible trips.


As a skipper I have been fortunate to have had several opportunities to explore the magnificent east coast of the Outer Hebrides by yacht, but all too often we had to return back to the mainland after two or three days to run from impending bad weather.  However, during the first week of August last year, the Cumbrae yacht, Somerled, and a crew of five; myself, Dave, Jo, Clare and Stephen were blessed with a weather window that allowed for a swift passage out west.  This was the start of a voyage that would be an exploration of several fantastic anchorages in the Outer Hebrides between Vatersay in the south to the Sound of Scalpay in the north.


The following morning began with calm seas and a low tide and therefore an opportunity to attempt the famous Fisherman’s passage between the islets of Uinessan and Snuasimul.  It is always a heart-stopping moment for any skipper attempting such passages for the first time, so the accurate leading lines on Barra and south Vatersay, obtained from the pilotage book, proved to be a good learning experience for the crew particularly from a position at the bow manned by Dave.  Onward to South Uist and an overnight berth in the fantastic bolt hole marina of Loch Boisdale (pictured) where we received a warm welcome from harbourmaster, Coll McDonald.  Coll and his team are working hard to encourage more yachts to visit South Uist, and the marina is a perfect base from which to explore the area.

Loch Boisdale from Somerled
Loch Boisdale from Somerled

The next day brought breezier conditions and more exploration challenges ahead.  Following advice from a local fisherman who I had met at Eriskay harbour, we headed towards a small temporary anchorage between Loch Boisdale and Loch Maddy.  Caolas Luirsay is on the north side of the entrance to Loch Skipport and it was superb shelter away from the F4-5 south easterly swell, although the anchorage in seven metres was still exposed to the wind.

We eventually arrived at our destination for the evening which is one of the most isolated of anchorages that I know if.  I had visited this anchorage on a few previous occasions - within Flodday Sound.  The anchorage is typical of the hundreds of special places that can be discovered in the area.


The last day of travelling out west allowed us to explore the anchorage in Loch Scadabhagh with a narrow entrance again testing pilotage skills.  Around into East Loch Tarbert on North Harris and a pier stop for water and souvenirs, we still had time for a peaceful lunch stop at anchor in Urghabeag Bay.  With sails raised it was goodbye to the Outer Hebrides as we passed under Scalpay Bridge and the use of a fair wind over the sea to Skye and the Acarseid Mor on Rona for the evening.  The final day was an early start to catch the tide at the Kylerhea with lunch at the Sandaig Islands and Mallaig to complete the adventure.

We are sailing for over 1000 days throughout the year on various cruise experiences - check out our dates and destinations!


By Viki

New magazine out now!

30 Jan

Our new magazine!

Here at the national centre we wanted to change things this year to give our customers a more engaging read along with our regular course listings that we normally produce at this time of year.

Our new magazine includes insights from instructors and customers, some great photography taken of our courses as they happened last year and of course, the all important course listings for 2018.

The season is fast approaching and all our of courses are available to book via our website. Visit our Courses section for all the information.

If you would like a magazine sent to you via post please contact the centre on and we will get one to you or you can pick it up next time you visit any of our national centres including Inverclyde and Glenmore Lodge.

We look forward to seeing you on the water!

By Viki

Instructor vacancies

22 Jan

Cumbrae is currently inviting interested watersports Instructors who wish to be included in our pool of Associate Instructors to submit an application form for working at National Centre Cumbrae. Shortlisted applicants will then be invited to attend the relevant Staff Inductions as part of the selection process.

  Please note we are recruiting for two separate types of posts; Centre based Watersports Instructors and for Cruising / Yachtmaster Instructors. The application form is the same for both posts Please note the closing dates are different to accommodate the required staff induction training

  Shortlisted candidates from the application process will be contacted and will be expected to attend the appropriate Induction days at the National Centre Cumbrae. Candidates applying for both Cruising Instructor and Centre Watersports Instructor will need to attend both Inductions,.however please complete only one application form, and submit by 16th February, (the Cruising Instructor closing date)

  1 - Centre Watersports Instructor: Your role as a Casual Instructor will be to provide high quality instruction at the Cumbrae centre. You will be a skilled watersports 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, closing date for completed application is: Friday 16th March 2018

  “Save the date”. Inductions for shortlisted Centre Watersports Instructors will be on Saturday 31st March and Sunday 1st April 2018 you need to attend both days.

  2 – Cruising / Yachtmaster Instructors Your role as a Casual Instructor will be to provide high quality instruction on board one of 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, closing date for completed application is: Friday 16th February 2018

  “Save the date” Inductions for shortlisted Cruising / Yachtmaster Instructors will take place on Saturday 3rd March 2018, please be available for this day.


The application form for both posts is the same. Please complete the application form. and send to

  More Information and an application form for both posts can be obtained by following this link

By Viki

No Joining Fee January for our gym

18 Jan

Gym - join or PAYGNo joining fee January!


  Our gym at Cumbrae has been updated with new equipment and a new fitness team working across both National Centre Cumbrae and Inverclyde.

  You can book your induction now and will pay no joining fee for the whole of January.

  Please phone 01475 530 757 to book your induction with the team, anyone can join, you don’t need to be a customer of our watersports courses to get involved!

More about our fitness suite.

By Viki

Recruiting Now Instructor Development Scheme (IDS)

16 Nov

Cumbrae is recruiting for three people to join the 19 month The Instructor Development Scheme (IDS) starting in April 2018. The IDS programme targets people who are interested in a career in the outdoors and particular within the watersports sector. Candidates may have reached a stage at which they are ready to move onto instructor qualifications. Those selected may possibly have gained some work experience at an outdoor centre and hold a couple of basic National Governing Body (NGB) awards such as a paddlesports, dinghy, powerboating, windsurfing and cruising qualifications. The centre is a busy place and a great place to learn and develop. At the end of the training period, trainees should be well qualified.

  Duties and Responsibilities As part of the scheme there is a requirement to contribute to the day to day work around the centre (i.e. stores and basic maintenance) as well as staffing the reception desk on a rotational basis. You will be paid an allowance of approximately £6,000 per year from which you will be required to payback 120/month for your basic living expenses, food and accommodation. The number of working hours is approximately 19 hours a week. The remaining time should be spent gaining experience, attending courses or shadowing instructors as part of a pre agreed development plan. There will be other opportunities to undertake paid work on courses (qualifications permitting). You will have access to a wide range of free training opportunities worth around £6,000 - £7,000 The scheme will run from 1st April 2018 until 31st October 2019, two summers and one winter. You must be available to start from 1st April 2018. If you are not available for these dates due to other commitments, college courses, etc. please do not apply this year.

  Who Should Apply? Applicants must be over 18 years of age. We are looking for responsible individuals with a variety of relevant outdoor interests who will work together during the height of the season as part of a team of six. We will therefore select people based on a balanced team structure of complementary skills and character. In your free time you will be expected to gain experience in order to complete a broad range of NGB training courses in paddlesports, powerboating, sailing, windsurfing and yachting.. The ability to be self-motivated in order to gain experience is an important criteria. From the applications received we will interview candidates, over a 2 day assessment centre.

  How to Apply. You must complete a sportscotland application form to be considered for this role For an application form and information please click here .

  Closing date for completed applications is December 15th 2017. Applicants who are successful in gaining an interview will be informed during the week beginning Monday December 18th It is anticipated interviews will be held near the end of January 2018.

By Viki

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