New Chair for Cruising and General Purposes Committee.

Charles Bird takes up the Role as Chair from Fergus Duncanson.
26 Aug 20

The volunteers on the committee bring a broad range of experience around marine planning, marine law, navigation, the environment and cruising around Scotland in general with a remit to promote and protect the rights of RYA members and the wider boating community.

Charles takes over from Fergus Duncanson, who has led the committee since 2013 having sat upon it since 2008. Fergus will continue to share his knowledge on inland freshwater boating and the national parks on the committee. He expressed his deep gratitude around the level of knowledge and experience among this ‘weatherbeaten’ group covering the immense range of activity behind the scenes that affect recreational boating. Thank you, Fergus, we have really appreciated all you have done as chair.

We caught up with Charles to find out a little more about his experiences and motivations.

“The first time I remember being afloat I was about 7 or 8. My father had a friend in the navy and we went out in an RN yacht from Bucklers Hard. I remember being down below and seeing the sea rush past inches from my face and thinking how amazing it was. When I was about 11 I spent a couple of weeks learning how to sail on the Isle of Wight, again with family friends. We used an 11ft Gull which seemed at the time to be remarkably seaworthy and we were able to sail up to three times a week. Our school had a fleet of Fireflies and a couple of elderly “Stars”. I made the sailing team and raced against other schools, including in the Schools Championship. When I was 16 I helped crew a friend’s parents yacht (a 27 ft “Peter Duck”) back from Norway via Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Kiel Canal. These were my first night passages out of sight of land.”

“I was recruited to the Foreign Office and it was hard to sail regularly. On one posting to the UAE, I had a Prindle 16 catamaran which I used to race with a spectacular lack of success. Four years ago my cousin who has MS invited me to help crew for her on a specially adapted Dufour Grand Large in Greece for a week’s charter and we returned for the following two summers. I realised what I had been missing......I have five adult children who all love being on the water so was looking for the elusive combination of a boat that was large enough, seaworthy, safe and reasonably priced. The Peter Duck had given me a fondness for ketches. I was hugely fortunate to find a Jeanneau Sun Fizz 40 ketch within budget and have thoroughly enjoyed sailing her over the past two years, based out of Clyde Marina. Two of my children, one of their’s fiancée, Jill and myself are all RYA qualified Day Skippers, having taken an instructor on board for a week and I can’t recommend this enough. Having all done the course together on our own boat in a variety of weather and sea conditions, including a night sail in fog, we now have confidence in each other and the boat. My other three children are now keen to do the same.”

“I became interested in the volunteer role with RYA Scotland partly because of the course we did and partly because I was following the various debates on social media about how, when and even if we could or should get back on the water following the Covid-19 pandemic. I was also in touch with Clyde Marina and was aware of the complexities involved, the intensive and extensive engagement by RYA Scotland and others with the Scottish Government on what would be required to open up the leisure boating sector to give us access both to our boats and the water. All this was being done for the benefit of members and non-members alike, and I’m not sure how much or how well this behind the scenes engagement by RYA Scotland was understood and appreciated.”

“In cruising the waters around Scotland there are a number of issues that interest or concern me. One is the environment. We are hugely fortunate to live and sail where we do and it is our responsibility to respect, look after and protect both the waters and the seashore for future generations. We have to be careful, too, because we are only a fraction of those who take to the sea. There are all those who make their living on or from the sea, including ferry operators and other commercial interests. We need to be sensitive to their needs as well. Safety will always be a concern, whether that is offshore, in coastal waters or on inland waters. Safety doesn’t only concern equipment, the seaworthiness of your boat and knowledge of the weather and tides, but it can also involve behaviours - the reckless and inconsiderate use of vessels in crowded or restricted areas or areas with sensitive natural habitats. Education and training in these areas is vital for the continued enjoyment of the waters by all. And enjoyment Is what boating is all about, whether racing or cruising, powered or sail, larger yachts or dinghies. The benefits, both on physical and mental health are well known. As well as having a valued and valuable role in education and training, RYA Scotland have a key role to play in keeping the waters safe, open and enjoyable for all, as well as being an advocate with Government and other relevant bodies such as the NLB, Marine Scotland, RNLI, British Marine Scotland, the aquaculture industry and environmental organisations, on behalf of us all.”

RYA Scotland depends on a team of volunteers and to find out more about volunteering with RYA Scotland visit: