Sailing Projects

Ian has been going out in angling boats since he was eleven years of age and took to sailing when he was a student. His first boat was basic plywood catamaran and he worked his way through traditional lug-rigged boats, dinghies and yachts while employed by the Coastguard Service, in Stornoway, latterly serving as as a Senior Watch Officer. He gained his RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Offshore certificate of competence in 2003. Ian has also successfully completed a Cruising Instructor's assessment and the Ocean Youth Trust's mates and skippers course.

Current collaborative practice with the visual artist Christine Morrison, in response to voyages, is documented on

   Ian's sloop El Vigo, Sail Stornoway 2012 | Paul Taylor

A passion for the sea has been a motivating force behind poem, stories, plays, radio broadcasts and visual arts projects for many years. In 2003 Ian was invited to contribute a web-based work as part of Zenomap, Scotland's first presence at the Venice Biennale.  He navigated the route of a traditional story which links Sweden with the North of Scotland and told the story as a series of messages from a satellite phone, transmitted from Shalimar 2, along the way. These appeared on a computer terminal at the 50th Venice Biennale.  

The story is published in Lobht nan Seol/The Sail Loft - an exhibition catalogue available  free of charge from Sail Loft 2, north beach, Stornoway. (Please send £2 or an A4 SAE to cover postage.)

The Shiant Islands (taken from the yacht Elinca) and used as the basis for a photo-polymer print by Emmanuelle Waeckerlé where the image is recomposed in Ian's text of the Aleinn Duinn story, which relates to this setting.

Commercial sailing tasks have included working as mate on the 67ft BT challenge yacht Elinca and delivery of a 53 ft Hallberg Rassey yacht from Norway to Stornoway. He has made many successful delivery trips of small yachts in the west coast of Scotland area.

"No passage even for boats" - a gap between Boreray, St Kilda and an outlying stac from Elinca.   Ian's image of a charted route in the Sound of Soay and a Gaelic version of a St Kildan story (made with Maggie Smith) have also been used as the basis for a text drawing by Emmanuelle, printed by John McNaught at Highland Print Studio.

As a volunteer skipper with  Falmadair (North Lewis Maritime Trust) he takes out many groups to allow them to experience traditional North Lewis lugsail vessels. He managed the renovations of sgoth Jubilee (1935) and Broad Bay (1912) as part of the Sail Loft project in 2006.

In 2008, he managed the preparation of the 33ft an Sulaire for open water sailing and skippered on her passage from Stornoway, round the top of Scotland, to join the Moray Firth Flotilla.

     Knut and Isabella Fortuna (from an Sulaire)

In 2010 he skippered on voyages to celebrate Jubilee's 75th birthday. She was returned to her home Port of Ness. As the last sailing sgoth Niseach to visit the island of Suile Sgeir, she was sailed back to that Island, with the writer Robert Macfarlane aboard. After returning to Ness, she was sailed on to Stromness, Orkney to make links with the Orkney Yole Association before a return voyage to Stornoway in October.


Westray to Fair Isle, June 2010 - Ian's image from a voyage crewing on the 28ft Hereshoff design "Spirit of Rema" for Edward Anker. Ian joined Ed in Stornoway and helped take the small yacht on to cruise Shetland. Their route included Baltasound and Outskerries. Ed went on to take his vessel single-handed to Norway and back and continued on his attempted solo circumnavigation. The voyage is one of many which will feed into Ian's non-fiction works -  the retelling of traditional stories alternates with a log of navigating their settings.

 Limfjord, Denmark (chart detail)

 Ian's own sloop, El Vigo, a 33ft Robert Clark design, has taken part in many arts projects. Her own voyages have included a transit of Limfjord in Denmark and a non-stop North Sea crossing from Thyboren to Stornoway via the Pentland Firth. A detail of the chart used for the limfjorden passage, and a retelling of a story from that area,  was the basis of a third photo-polymer print made with Emmanuelle Waeckerlé and Highland Print studio. The story was told to Alex Patience who responded with a version in Doric

Many of these voyages have led to experiences which have fed into Ian's two volume non-fiction project - this has been developed thanks to a Creative Scotland Bursary 2014 – 15.