Author: Lochaber

Crew Feedback

Crew Feedback

Feedback from our all customers is very important to Lochaber Watersports.
Although it’s good when people say nice things about us, we also very much welcome constructive criticism.

Had a great week with excellent easy-going instructions – also thank you very much for helping with how to get a camping permit for our next trip. Have now become Scotland’s best fed Day Skipper.
Charlie – Aberdeen

Great fun sailing in Scottish weather with good food, good boat and good Instructor.
Andy – Stoke

Had a wonderful week – Skipper Mike’s tuition and seamanship only bettered by his fry-ups!
Celia – Penicuik

Excellent 5 days. Mike is a great Instructor with lots of patience. Experience of a lifetime.
Julie – Liverpool

Excellent – scenery, sailing, teaching, culinary ingenuity, seals and dolphins!
Sarah – Essex

Fantastic holiday! Great teacher and cook in Mike. Great boat. Learned a great deal and thoroughly enjoyed it. Every success to Lochaber Watersports!
Ian – Yarmouth

West Highland Week – 8th overall. Superb fun, great company. Everyone loved FIGMENT – one of the better party boats!
Mike – Essex

Thanks! Set me on course for a new “journey” in my life.
Nancy – Kinloss

A great week – work on the jokes for next time, Mike!
Mary – Dornoch

RYA Training

RYA Training

Lochaber Watersports is a RYA Recognised Training Centre for offshore yachting, powerboat and shorebased theory courses

Yachting Courses

We are pleased to offer the entire range of courses from Competent Crew through to Yachtmaster Preparation. Our Courses usually run from Easter through to September and all start from our Centre adjacent to The Isles of Glencoe Hotel around 2000 on a Sunday evening and finish back at Ballachulish the following Friday afternoon around 1600. All candidates have the complimentary use of the Hotel’s Leisure Centre including swimming pool, sauna, gym etc before and after the Course.

Sailing is meant to be fun and this is the basic philosophy behind all our RYA courses and our Instructors and Skippers are picked with this in mind. Every course is different but we would usually expect to visit Oban, Tobermory, Coll etc as well as several quiet anchorages during the cruise.

Our fee for a 5 day course is currently £325. This fee includes all food on board, instruction, safety gear etc. The only extra would be if we decide to eat – or drink – ashore, then that cost is down to you!

You will need to bring – Sleeping bag, waterproofs, soft shoes, sea boots – if you have them – clothes appropriate to the weather – shorts and tee shirt or jeans and jersey – washing kit, personal items etc. Pack everything in a soft sailing bag and please do not bring excess kit as space is obviously limited.

Berths can be confirmed with a deposit of £75 each along with a completed booking form which can be downloaded from this page. We are happy to accept payment by cheque or most credit cards. Detailed joining instructions and a final invoice will be issued about 6 weeks prior to the course start.

To see if there are berths available on our yachts for your chosen dates, please click on Boat Availability 2007

Then click here to open our Booking Form as a Word document, complete it and return it to us with your deposit.

Powerboat Training

In the UK the RYA are the national governing body for this exciting activity and in conjunction with the Department of Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency control the qualification of powerboat drivers. Lochaber Watersports are one of the few RYA Recognised Training Centres in Scotland and as such only use qualified Instructors and suitable craft which are regularly inspected.

The Level II syllabus covers basic boat handling in some detail and theoretical chartwork, meteorology, collision regulations, emergency procedures etc. The Intermediate and Advanced syllabi also cover high speed navigation, night work and SAR procedures etc. A commercial endorsement can be added to either a Level II or Advanced (subject to external assessment) if appropriate. We also run Safety Boat courses which are particularly aimed at Safety Boat drivers

The cost of all 2 day non-residential powerboat courses is £180 per person and there are significant discounts available if more than one candidate is involved. You will need warm clothes, drysuit or good waterproofs, boots etc. We supply automatic lifejackets, helmets with visors and a light lunch each day. The 6.1 metre RIB we use is fitted with a Tohatsu 90 hp engine which cruises around 35 knots as well as being highly manoeuvrable for pontoon work.

All our course are based at our Activity Centre in the grounds of the Isles of Glencoe Hotel at Ballachulish where our candidates have the complimentary use of the Hotel’s Leisure Centre including swimming pool, sauna, gym etc which can be most welcome after an arduous day on the water. Local accommodation is available to suit all budgets and a list can be provided on request.

Places can be confirmed with a deposit of £50 each along with a completed booking form which can be downloaded from this page. We are happy to accept payment by cheque or most credit cards. Detailed joining instructions and a final invoice will be issued about 6 weeks prior to the course start.

Theory Courses

Lochaber Watersports is also a RYA Recognised Teaching Establishment for shorebased theory courses at Day Skipper and Coastal Skipper/Yacht Master level. These are intensive 5 Day Courses which are held, subject to demand, throughout the year.

YachtMaster Theory Courses

YachtMaster Theory at Lochaber College, Fort William – 3 weekends 10/11, 17/18 and 24/25th March 2007

Day Skipper Theory Courses

We will be holding Day Skipper Theory course in Ballachulish on 19 – 23rd February 2007. Please get in touch to find out more – cost £325 per person.

Day Skipper Theory at Lochaber College, Fort William – 3 weekends 10/11, 17/18 and 25/25th February 2007 – Cost approx £260

The Courses held at our Centre at Ballachulish qualify you for a fantastic Dinner, Bed & Breakfast deal at the 4 star Isles of Glencoe Hotel & Leisure Centre.

St Kilda Cruise

As you are probably aware, St Kilda lies in the Atlantic Ocean about 50 miles west of the Outer Hebrides. The island was populated until 1930 when increasing hardships caused the entire population to be evacuated to the mainland. The Ministry of Defence set up a Tracking Station which is now largely manned by civilian staff. The other inhabitants are representatives of the National Trust and Scottish National Heritage who are responsible for protecting the wildlife and the fragile environment.

Please ask us for details of our next trip – our outline passage plan is, of course, entirely weather dependent and will involve an early departure from Ballachulish – crew members are welcome to arrive on the previous evening.

Our first day’s cruise will hopefully take us to Arinagour on Coll where we shall moor overnight. The following morning we will initially head south to transit the narrow channel between Coll and Tiree before heading north west to cross the Sea of the Hebrides to arrive at Castlebay on Barra. Continuing westward we shall pass to the south of Barra before entering the Atlantic Ocean for the 60 mile voyage to the archipelago of St Kilda and its main island of Hirta where we shall anchor in Village Bay. You can find more information about the islands at Or for photos of the 2005 cruise click here.

We would plan to spend a couple of days in St Kilda before making an evening departure for Castlebay. We would expect our return to be more leisurely spending more time at Barra, Coll and Mull with a scheduled arrival back at Ballachulish on a late morning.

We will take three yachts which will sail in company –

Sailing Boat
FIGMENT (LOA 10.3 m) our Catalina 320 is brand new in 2006. She is fully equipped with wheel steering, roller reefing, hot and cold water, Eberspacher heating, autohelm, refrigeration and like all our yachts, all the appropriate safety equipment.
FREEDOM (LOA 9.8 m) is our Westerly Fulmar. In 2003 she came third in the sailing sections of the Magellan Three Peaks Race from Barmouth to Fort William and was third in the Tilman Trophy in the 2004 Race. She is similarly equipped to FIGMENT but with tiller steering and cold water. Sailing Boat

FANTOM (LOA 9.7 m) is our lovely 1980 Sadler 32. Built to a classic design she sails really well. Comfortably and spaciously fitted out below with lots of traditional wood and plenty of storage and hanging space she has berths for 8 but is actually coded for 6 crew.


A New Season – Spring 2020

A busy Winter season is drawing to a close. There are buds on some of the trees, the daffodils are blooming but there is still plenty of snow on the hills! Leon who was an exceptional assistant during the whole of 2006 returning to South Africa to spend Christmas with his parents at their home on the edge of the Kruger National Park and to have a holiday in Mozambique. He was soon emailing to say it was far too hot in Southern Africa and he couldn’t wait to get back to Scotland.

Charlie Menzies, our indomitable engineer, decided to buy a 50 foot Chinese junk call Kung Fu-tse which he plans to refit and use for skippered charter work in 2020. I spent an interesting couple of days with Charlie helping him bring the boat down the Caledonian Canal to his base at Gairlochy. The most exciting bit was when we got fogbound in Loch Oich – the visibility was only 50 metres as we felt our way south with no instruments or charts!!

Lochaber Watersports was kept fairly busy for most of November delivering a series of powerboat courses to about 30 staff from Marine Harvest. After that it was Day Skipper and YachtMaster theory courses at both the Centre and Lochaber College.

All the yachts have been “resting” and snugly tucked up at MRC down at Barcaldine. Most of the work has been carried out on FREEDOM with a new headlining and berth cushions as well as a new Nelson cooker to replace the ageing – but beautiful – Taylors cooker for which we could not source essential spares.

Leon returned to Lochaber in early February and four days at Lochgoilhead where he successfully completed his RYA Powerboat Instructor’s qualification and was soon involved in the running courses as well as the real world of antifouling, polishing, varnishing and cleaning. Welcome back Leon and Congratulations on your achievement!!

2019 looks like being even busier than previous years as a glance at our availability page will show. However we still have space on most of our practical courses or if you feel up to it – why charter a yacht and do your own thing? Our spring St Kilda trip is almost full and we already have several bookings for our September cruise to “The Edge of the World”

We have received lots of good feedback on our Blog page – especially Laurence Young fantastic video of dolphins on the way to St Kilda. Why not have a look for yourself and leave a comment!!

Enquiries and bookings are starting to come for both charters and RYA courses – you will find an almost up to date availability schedule here.

Have a great sailing season – I know we will!!!

Year End – November 2018

Winter is now approaching rapidly. The trees are slowly loosing their beautiful autumn red, brown and gold leaves and as I write the sun is brightly shining on the first dusting of snow on the tops of the hills.

Lochaber Watersports was featured on BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors programme with Mark Steven a couple of weeks ago – it was great fun trying to talk to the Presenter and drive the RIB at 30 knots at the same time!! However we got about 20 minutes of air time so I am sure it was worth it!!

FIGMENT, FREEDOM and FANTOM are now moored at MRC at Barcaldine and will soon be safely tucked up in the big shed for the winter.

As soon as they are ashore and under cover Charlie will be working his technical magic on the boats. FIGMENT is having a storage locker for the spare gas cylinder fitted as well as a DVD unit so that we can show training material on RYA courses – and charterers can watch their favourite movie if they wish!! FANTOM is having a CD and new compass fitted and FREEDOM is having her “drooping” headlining replaced, her uphosterly renewed and a major engine overhaul.

FIGMENT’s last outing of the season was for a yachtmaster exam and I was delighted that Mungo Watson was able to maintain our 100% pass record. Mungo worked for Lochaber Watersports about 5 years and since then has been working on super-yachts – mainly in the Pacific.

Charter, St Kilda cruise and RYA course bookings are now coming for 2007 and the most exciting news is that both FREEDOM and FANTOM have been chartered by seperate teams for the Three Peaks Race in June so there will be a great “Race within a Race”

Have a wonderful Festive Season and we look forward to talking to old and new friends in the New Year.

Season’s End – September 2017

Well, the sailing season is almost over and I am writing this whilst awaiting the arrival of the last practical RYA course of the year – I must say I am rather looking forward to it!! – I didn’t get out on the water nearly enough.

It has been a really busy season with all three of the yachts regularly out on either courses or charters – although with fairly light winds in general. However the best news of the year was the fact that two more of our students passed their YachtMaster practical exam. Well Done to Alan and Alisdair for retaining our 100% pass record – who said anything about pressure!! Thanks are also due to Iain and Paul who did a great job crewing for the candidates.

Unfortunately our second St Kilda cruise of the year didn’t quite make it!! We had a pretty rough trip out to Barra and then a gale while we were waiting in Eriskay. However all nine of us enjoyed our cruise up the Western Isles and then on to Rum and Coll via Skye. The good news for the crews is that they are now members of our Aborted St Kilda Club and get a 25% discount on every subsequent cruise to St Kilda until they make it. I see bankruptcy looming!!

In general the yachts had a good season. FIGMENT is still experiencing a few new boat niggles – mainly in the electronics department – but she was never around for long enough to give Charlie a chance to fix them. FANTOM had a few engine problems but hopefully these are now all behind us. FREEDOM just kept going and going!! Bookings for 2007 are rolling in already with something like 8 charter weeks booked already. FREEDOM has already been booked for the Barmouth/Fort William Three Peaks Race – it will be her third attempt so Good Luck to Nigel and his crew. Our Tohatsu RIB was well used too with plenty of successful candidates for the RYA National Powerboat Certificate.

As ever Lochaber Watersports depends entirely on the people who help me run it. Thanks to Dave, Brian and Jeremy who skippered the yachts and ran various courses. Leon, Fraser and Jonno made a brilliant job of running the Centre and looking after the RIB and small boat hires. Without a doubt it was the best staff team that we have ever had. Thanks, Guys!! I am also delighted that Leon is coming back to us in 2007 and will be doing a Powerboat Instructor Course at Port Edgar before he returns to South Africa to spend Christmas with his Mum.

We are organising quite a few Theory courses over the winter period. There will be Day Skipper and YachtMaster courses at Lochaber College in Fort William over three weekends as well as several five day intensive courses at our Centre at Ballachulish. If the dates don’t suit your diary – don’t worry – just give me a ring and we will sort something out. We also plan to run a number of Diesel Engine courses on selected dates throughout the winter.

On a personal note, I have no plans this year to cross the Atlantic or even sail in the Canaries. I now have three granddaughters – all girls – and another on the way – so I hope to spent a little time being a proper “Grandpa”!!!

Finally thanks to all our friends – old and new – who were able to visit Lochaber and spend time on one of our boats. It’s a fantastic place!! Come back soon!!

Back from St Kilda – May 2015

Well it’s all go now and a lot has happened in the last few weeks. Leon and I spent a few days at Northney Marina whilst FIGMENT III was finally fitted out. It was a hectic time with lots of deadlines to meet and exciting parcels constantly arriving at Windward Yachting offices. Raymarine are experiencing supply delays after relocating their factory so the instruments had to be sourced from various sources – including Italy!! The MCA surveyor arrived to complete the coding survey which was satisfactorly completed in record time.

On the final day, Leon innocently asked why the steering worked the wrong way round! Wow!! Some hasty rerouting of the steering cables followed! Catalina in US thought that because the Brits drove on the wrong side of the road maybe the steering should be backwards too …….. Well spotted, Leon!

Right on schedule a huge low loader arrived and the boat was craned on. The driver was fantastic but it took almost 4 hours until he was satisfied that the boat was perfectly positioned. Then it was off on the long drive North. I had originally hoped to sail FIGMENT back to Ballachulish but unfortunately time restraints ruled that option out.

On 1st May FIGMENT arrived at Barcaldine and MRC soon had her unloaded. The mast was still wrapped in miles of carpet and polythene wrapping but sensors and lights were soon attached and the mast stepped. The following morning FIGMENT finally took to Scottish waters and three hours later she was on her home berth at Ballachulish.

Our first scheduled cruise was our St Kilda expedition – a mere 3 days away! Charlie Menzies took up residence working his way through the list – indeed he was still on board when the first St Kilda cruise members arrived and they were soon pressganged into assisting – Thanks, Peter!

Then – after a great Isles of Glencoe Hotel breakfast – it was off to St Kilda. It was another excellent cruise marred only by light winds which – as usual were always on the nose! After overnight stops in Tobermory and Castlebay we enjoyed a few hours on Eriskay – where we finally got the Wheel pilot to work! – then it was through the Sound of Barra towards the Atlantic Ocean. In the Sound we were treated to a fantastic display by some friendly dolphins. On through the night we were deilghted to see the jagged cliffs of St Kilda appear with the dawn and we dropped anchor in Village Bay around 0700.

We met the National Trust of Scotland Ranger for a briefing and were told that we were the first yachts to visit in 2015 – and it seems fair to assume that FIGMENT is the “youngest” yacht ever to sail to St Kilda. We spent a day relaxing and exploring the island and then in the afternoon we attempted our first circumnavigation of the archipeleago. Alas, it was not to be and we returned back after encountering dense fog.

The next morning we departed intending to visit the Monach Islands but contrary winds prevented this so we transited the Sound of Harris and spent the night at Lochmaddy. A brilliant sail down the west coast of Skye followed but the blustery winds made anchoring in spectacular Loch Scavaig unwise so we felt our way into the idyllic landlocked harbour at Soay.

A brief stop at Rum enroute to Coll were the crew enjoyed showers and a meal in the Hotel then it was past the Treshnish Islands, Staffa, Iona and along the south coast of Mull and into Dunstaffnage after a long day at sea. The final leg took us back to Ballachulish where we arrived at 1400.

Great trip, great weather, great crew and 420 miles in our log books. Well done guys!!!

So we now have summer to look forward to with lots of nice people coming to charter our yachts or come with us on RYA courses – as ever we look forward to meeting you all.