Life on the high seas!

RYA Competent Crew Certificate - TS Maybe 2018

Our aim is to develop a love of sailing in our sail trainees by developing each individual as a vital and competent part of the crew.


Sail-Trainees: Kian Binns, Connor Cairney, Alina Cvetkova, Anastazja Czajka, Carmen Ciuccio, Maddison Hardy, Hannah Maslen, Matthew Maslen, Caoimhe Richards, Honor Sutcliffe, Danielle Todd

Staff: Tony Walker, Claire Maslen
Drivers: Julian Higginson, Tom Bright

Skills acquired:

  • Rope handling
  • Sail handling
  • Safety precautions
  • Man Overboard
  • Rules of the Sea-Road
  • Meteorology
  • Steering
  • Nautical terms


Introduction: St. Bede’s & St. Joseph’s 2018, sailing residential aboard the tall ship ‘Maybe’ was an incredible journey in unprecedented weather conditions.  Often becalmed and enjoying temperatures only seen on the west coast of Scotland four times in the past fifty years!


 On our first day, we left Ardor to make our way to Glasgow where we collected those indispensable items of nautical equipment - two boxes of tin whistles!  Arriving at Greenock Marina in a tropical Scotland, such was the bright sunlight and the accompanying dry-heat.  This Mediterranean feel was to follow the voyage every day on the Tall Ship (TS) Maybe, our High School on the Sea. That provided an education which was destined to be taken in casa, as well as al fresco!

We had arrived in the shadow of multi-million pound super yachts, our neighbours certainly knew how to live a life on the ocean waves!  But we were there to SAIL!

Our initial safety briefing taught us all about our own personal life jackets which were to be worn throughout the voyage at all times unless the skipper authorised their removal!


As we set sail from Greenock Marina we were reminded of the dangers of complacency and the vagaries of the tides when we came across a ship that had been stranded on high ground, with a very embarrassed owner!

Our ship sailed past a Victorian Paddle Steamer, the PS Waverley which is the last seagoing passenger-carrying paddle steamer in the world. It was built in 1946, and she sailed from Craigendoran on the Firth of Clyde to Arrochar on Loch Long regularly until 1973.

Our mooring for the night off the coast of the Isle of Bute near to Rothesay. We arrived in time to enjoy the beautiful late Scottish sunset after 11pm! We were awed by the sight of the tangerine moon ass it rose over the rolling hills of Argyle and Bute.

To Rothesay, the principal town on the Isle of Bute.  Sail trainees enjoyed 32oC temperatures, light breezes and a tangerine moon!  Leaving Rothesay the TS Maybe headed towards the Isle of Arran, passing Brodick Bay, Lamlash and Holy Isle, an ancient spiritual-heritage site, stretching back to the 6th century. Sailing around the Mull of Kintyre, singing some very famous Beatles song! We were just a breath away from Ballycastle on the northern tip of Ireland sailing past the county of Antrim on towards the Isle of Staffa.  The sail trainees were able to see Fingal’s Cave and Scotland’s own Giant’s Causeway that stretches to Northern Ireland.


This area of the North Channel was literally the M1 of the Viking era.  It is obvious why locals regard this as a main arterial route between the north of Ireland and the west coast of Scotland.  Thinking of this seascape as an integral part of the United Kingdom is easy once you realise that you can see both Scotland and Ireland at the same time and each is only a day’s sail away! Ancient tales of giants and Olympian challenges spring easily to mind!

Mull, Staffa and Iona, three islands in one day!  On passage today we went through the Sanda Island Sound, a narrow passage at the southern point of the Mull of Kintyre, as we sailed we achieved 8 knots with the wind pushing from astern.  As well as seals, we also saw Orca’s as a brief celebrity appearance was made by a very large whale! 

The Maybe headed towards the beautiful island of Iona, in the Inner Hebrides off the Ross of Mull. Iona Abbey was a centre of Gaelic monasticism for three centuries and is today known for its peace, tranquility and natural environment.

But also significant, as the ancestral home of Meg our skipper whose 6 great grandma’s lived on the island of Iona!  All our sail trainees, no longer concerned about getting their feet wet, decided to go en masse into the sea off the beach in Iona for a good swim!


An important part of sailing tall ships is the watch-system, where the trainees are split into smaller teams or watches and a rotating system of duties, including cooking, cleaning, deck duties and sleeping are allocated in two or three hour rotating slots allowing everyone to gain experience as well as rest and recuperation as the ship progresses.  The night watch were able to steer the ship into its night-time anchorage, as well as enjoy the rising of the moon between 10pm to 1am.  Just as the morning watch, were able to see the sun rise on a new day, between 4am and 7am.

Located off Scotland’s west coast, rugged Sanda Island is available for £2,000 a night for those who have always wanted to be the lady or laird of the manor! The 400-acre outcrop is a mile from the Mull of Kintyre, which was made famous by Sir Paul McCartney’s’ song and only twenty miles from the Giant’s Causeway and Ballycastle in Northern Ireland!

As we progressed towards Islay, we were becalmed, with not a breath of wind to fill our sails we set too and gave the ship a good clean, making it ship-shape.  We all set too, cleaning and polishing all the brasses as well as the binnacle (the housing for the ship's compass).  Late, bright, nights were followed by even brighter, earlier mornings.  Al fresco breakfasts, off the west coast of Scotland this summer were an almost spiritual experience.

There were plenty of moments when lost in reverie we only realized that the Maybe was our High School on the Sea, life and school had never been better!!

We left the idyllic Isle of Iona refreshed after our swim in the crystal blue water and a fresh northwesterly gave us great conditions in the afternoon for sailing along the south coast of the Ross of Mull.  We reached speeeds of over 10 knots!  In the evening we followed another beautiful wooden gaff rigged boat called Leader through what looked like a gap in the high cliffs into Kerrera Sound, a regular haunt for dolphins.  It was like being in a Harry Potter movie passing through Platform 9¾! Except, instead of arriving in Hogworts we materialised into Oban Harbour beneath the might Roman Colliseum! 

The scenery was spectacular and when we got through we dropped our sails and tied up on a floating pontoon at harbourside for the night in a gently rolling sea that lulled you into a peaceful sleep – it was magical! Arriving in Oban at last-light was awesome with all the lights of the small houses and the grandiose statement made by the Coliseum, lit by purple spotlights!

The next morning we set sail from Oban very early, the day was dry and clear but the temperature was still cold as was the sea. Despite this, the overall feeling was refreshing as we headed towards the Caledonian Canal and the final leg of our voyage on what once again turned out to be an incredibly beautiful day.


Lacking a good headwind sailing was supplemented by engine power as we passed islands bedecked with gorgeous wildflowers and luscious green grass and trees, despite the drought conditions.  But we made a valiant attempt to raise the stay-sail near the bow.  At midday we arrived at the entrance to the Caledonian Canal.

The awesome majesty of Ben Nevis towered over us and snow was seen in crevices on the mountainside, despite the blistering sunlight!

Corpach sea lock and the remainder of the lock system that makes up Neptune’s Staircase took several more hours to negotiate. Each lock had to be negotiated slowly and with care.

Sail training aims to encourage learning and to facilitate a relationship with the sea as well as developing self-awareness, leadership and a sense of community amongst the sail trainees whilst aboard.

This was certainly the experience of our sail-trainees this year!

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