Swannanoa is a Shetland Family Four motor cruiser, built in 1989. We bought her in 2007 just after we first moved to Scotland so that we could have some fun on the water and explore the coastline of our new country of residence. With no place in the country more than 45 miles from the sea, and with more than 6000 miles of coastline, some of it very rugged, we have quite a bit to get around. The subheading of the site is ‘Voyages at the Edge’ as Scotland is not only at the edge of Europe, but with some of the oldest rocks in the world at more than 3 billion years of age, parts of it are also at the edge of time.

She is both a means to an end, and an end in herself. In the first instance, she enables us to be reasonably independent and self-sufficient for several days and provides us with a perspective on Scotland that we probably wouldn’t experience with other forms of transport. With a small cabin which can sleep two to three people, a small galley for cooking, a table, and a sink for washing, it is very much a way of ‘camping on the water’. In the second instance, maintaining and refurbishing her the way we want is a hobby in itself.

At 5.4 m in length, she is easily trailerable, and most summers we take her to different places on the west coast of Scotland and use her to explore, usually living on her for two weeks, then enjoying our creature comforts in a cottage in the third week.

During the winter, she stays on her trailer in the drive way of our house, where we try and finish the never-ending list of jobs that need doing each year.

Check out our latest updates and news on the Blog page.

In the Trip Reports menu, you will find descriptions of our various adventures in her. We hope that you enjoy reading them!

Caledonian Canal

Swannanoa near Fort Augustus on the Caledonian Canal

We have since taken up sailing to extend our range, and in 2018 bought a sailing boat, Ruby Tuesday, a 12 m Jeanneau Sun Odyssey, and are currently in the process of sailing her around the UK over the summers. We have started a new website at rubytuesday39.wordpress.com where you can read of our continuing boaty adventures.

As of September 2019, we still have Swannanoa , but as we don’t use her very much these days, we are thinking of selling her soon.

15 thoughts on “Home

  1. Thank you for your interesting blog. I’m looking to buy a Family Four, so found your notes on weights; engine comparisons and upgrades particularly useful. Hope to get up to the Scottish lochs in due course. I was wondering if you had any concerns about having a cooker located so close to the fuel tanks and how you installed your bilge pump, as I haven’t seen a way of getting access to the bilges?

    • Hi Mike

      Thanks for your comment. The F4 is a good choice. We’ve had a lot of fun in ours over the years.

      The cooker is inside the cabin and the fuel tanks are under the seats in the cockpit, so they are separated by the bulkhead. Hopefully they are fairly safe, but you can never be too careful. It is petrol vapour that you need to be wary of, and we very rarely smell any, certainly never in the cabin. It’s mainly a question of using common sense, like not having naked flames near the fuel tanks, and always turning off the gas after use. Luckily, none of us smoke.

      The bilge on ours is under the engine well, although on the later F4s the engine is mounted on the bathing platform, so I am not sure where the bilge access would be. I shaped a piece of wood to the curvature of the hull and epoxied it in place, then screwed the pump base into that. The riser pipe goes to a through-skin fitting on the transom.

      • Hi Robin,

        Thank you for your immediate and helpful reply. I’ll let you know when I find the right boat. In the meantime, I look forward to following your progress.

        Kind regards


  2. Hi Rob,
    Your website is a brilliant resource for me as I’m currently refurbiishing a 535. I started from a virtually bare boat and have made good progress up to now.

    I still have a long way to go before I have a boat as well sorted as yours! Being a mechanical engineer, the electrics are the only thing that daunts me. I shall need professional help when I reach that stage.

    Meanwhile, thanks for the use inspiration and information.

    Andy W

    • Andy

      Many thanks. Glad you find it useful. If anything is not clear, or you want further information, let me know and I will try and help. We have had a lot of fun improving Swannanoa over the years, and most of it has been learnt from the internet. That includes the electrics, which I knew nothing about when I started!

      Good luck with your 535. Shetlands are great little boats.

  3. This is a great site, thanks for setting it up as its first time I have bought a Shetland, I have a Blackhawk which I’m restoring and finding difficult to start rewiring boat from scratch so hopefully your photos and plans will be a great help.

    • Hi Andy

      Glad you find the site useful. Shetlands are great little boats. Hope you enjoy yours as much as we have enjoyed ours.

      We basically started from scratch with the rewiring as well. I am not an electrician, but it wasn’t too difficult – most of what I learnt was from the web.


  4. Hi Robin

    I stumbled across your site and have found it an inspiration. I am a retired engineer and have just purchased my first Boat a Shetland F4 9892 virtually the same as yours except mine has the outboard mounted on the external platform giving a little more space in the cockpit.I intend to renovate it over the winter ready for next summer.

    The first thing to tackle is the leaking windows, my boat does not have any linings or backrest in the cabin, it does have the headlining, which I will replace using your information as a guide.

    I would be grateful if you could advise how the backrests are attached to the hull and if you think it would be an easy job to line the cabin without any patterns.

    Thanks for a brilliant site.



    • Hi Mick

      Thanks for your kind words, and hope that you enjoy your Shetland. We have had a lot of fun in ours.

      The backrests have L-shaped bits of aluminium one arm of which is screwed into the base of the back rests and the other arm into a wooden batten which is fibre-glassed to the hull. There are three of these aluminium bits for each backrest – one at each end and one in the middle.

      I think that lining the cabin would be possible without patterns, but it certainly would be easier with them, particularly on the curved sections as the correct shape is not always obvious; flat surfaces wouldn’t pose too much of a problem with careful measurements. It might be possible to make your own templates out of fabric or paper. It is important to make sure that the lining is glued evenly to the hull with no air pockets underneath – I found that I had to continuously roll it with a wallpaper roller for about 20 min until the glue set.

      I have tried a number of sealants on the windows, none of which have been very successful, but so far am pleased with the neoprene tape I put on a couple of years ago.


      • Hi Robin

        Thanks for the information regarding the back rests I will give it a try, not sure why mine does not have these.

        I was going to give the neoprene tape a try on the windows, not sure when, my wife has just told me she wants a log cabin in in the Garden for an office first, joys of retirement.

        Thanks again for a great site I am certain it will prove invaluable to me.



  5. Hi there. Many thanks for producing such a detailed account of your work. I have just started a full refit of our F4 MK4 including new decks, wiring lining etc and have found your blog incredibly useful.

    Best regards,


  6. Hi Robin

    Just a quick update after a season using my F4 refurbished mainly using your website. Want to focus mainly on the window sealing. Followed your advice and used neoprene tape, instead of sealing each individual screw with Butyl I installed all the windows and obtained a roll of 25mm vinyl tape as used for coach lines on various vehicles etc. This has a 5 year life expectancy so seemed good to me. I cleaned the area around the screw heads with acetone and then adhered the tape over the screws all round the windows. This appears to have worked, not a single leak all season, looks good being gloss black but any colour can be supplied. The added advantage is it protects the neoprene against UV.

    Have now taken the F4 out of the water and windows look as good as when I refurbished them.

    The charging system you show on the website also worked a treat

    Many Thanks


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