Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and i am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's battery marina in the barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

a short video of yesterday's sail

found here at

Apologies in advance for the slight fogginess. I need to get some new GoPro anti fog inserts. The cheapies I bought just don't seem to be working. Really irritating. I guess lesson get what you pay for


Sunday, 13 April 2014

out on the water today

we managed 5.6 knots this morning into Cawsand Bay.  Low tide was around 12.30 ish and high tide around 6pm. Just the start of the springs.

Looking at Cawsand

This is Kingsand. In the far right is the clock tower that during the winter storms nearly collapsed into the sea but was saved during frantic through the night engineering efforts

The intention was to sail up the Tamar, turn into the lynher and sail up to Boating World, up one of the Lynher's tributaries. The winds put paid to that....I sort of knew they would.  Straight down the Tamar - north and north, north west.......impossible journey. You'd spend so much time tacking into the wind. So plan B went into operation..........across to Kingsand and then over to the Yealm. The sun shone; the breeze stayed steady at around 10 - 12 knots. It was a really decent sailing day. 

heading out towards the Yealm with the Great Mewstone off the port bow

The new handheld VHF radio (ICOM M-23; floating, small and lightweight) worked really well. It was able to pick up Falmouth coastguard quite clearly which really surprised me. It clips securely to the buoyancy aid. I've still to work out all the various channels and permutations but its waterproof so no more aqua-pack flapping about.

Entrance of the Yealm ahead

I love listening to the waves sliding beneath Arwen's hull. Almost hypnotic, that hissing and gurgling.
It was a good day. Any day on the water is a good day I guess.

Heading deeper into the Yealm, looking for the harbour masters pontoon

found it at last and botched the approach into the pontoon....mental note - always approach into the tide!!



Saturday, 12 April 2014

Some more navigators on their way

Joel reports about a new navigator in Germany. You can read his post at his blog 

One is being built at the Guildford boat yard. Read about it here at 


Friday, 11 April 2014

Casa Batllo

We really liked this house..................

full of curves and a triumph of design and function

lots of surprises..........and 'oh my's!'

Its a fire place

huge amount of care and attention was paid to how natural light would pass through the house

this was the main room

the oak wood style and craftsmanship was exquisite

everything was themed around the sea and water

there was a central light well that carried light from high up off the roof down through all areas of the house......a brilliant piece of design that channelled light throughout the house

the tiles started off darker blue at the top and became increasingly lighter towards the bottom

Space was so well utilised

Huge attention was given to ventilation throughout the house; in the above photo the slots on the right hand wall open into the central 'well' area around which spirals the stair case - air and light came from this central well to all parts of the house

I was rather taken with the design of this sink

and even the ceilings were works of art

in the  garden and out on the roof....the trade mark broken glass and pottery artwork

chimneys cleverly disguised

can you guess what the roof work represents?

think mythical sea dragons.............

Gaudi......artist, architect extraordinaire and genius......

There yesterday and home today.........

Our last morning in Barcelona. But we will be returning.
An early breakfast followed by a walk through the narrow streets of the El Born quarter. I love watching cities wake up; delivery vans manoeuvre for position and drivers rush about with the old porters wheeled trollies delivering all manner of goodies; drinks crates, boxes of fresh fish and veg, barrels of something delicious.  Shopkeepers crouch down to insert keys and the electronic security shutters slowly rise, each decorated with a logo, a mural or some graffiti art work. Workers grab a quick cafe at a local tabac or cafe stall chatting about the football and the local teams.

Outside the cathedral this morning, council workers were already hard at work replanting some small gardens either side of the steps. Large bags of fine, well worked soil were dropped into the area and spread out by rake. Trays of flowers were offloaded from small open backed vans and laid out on the pavement, rearranged and shuffled many times until the head honcho gardener was happy with the planting scheme. The C dels Comtes was empty, other than the odd scootering sneaking across the wide paved expanse.  Tourists had yet to wake but already the temperature was rising and La Catedral offered peace, shade and solitude.

Although not religious myself, perhaps being one of the 'reluctant Christians' I have always been moved by religious building. Monuments to such devotion and belief, their craftsmanship and artistry move me.  La Catedral soared high, huge straight columns reaching into the very heavens whilst around the outside lay the small chapels and nooks devoted to saints. Some of the carving and painting dated back to the 1400s. Lit by gentle warm lighting, the early morning faithful came to pray, to ask for a blessing and to hear the priest incant a religious song. No incense, no pomp, mere simplicity and genuine belief.

From outside the air horns and chants of an approaching demonstration march across the way. Some 'special' police wait around vans, good humoured, a token presence. Perhaps it is a march in protest against austerity measures or perhaps in protest against the Spanish governments refusal yesterday by 299 to 47 votes to accede to the request of Cataluna to have greater independence and autonomy. Certainly the region protests as witnessed by the sheer volume of Catalonian flags flying or draped from balconies across the city. Or perhaps they are just patriotic, like us welsh, who will display our 'red dragon' at the drop of a hat!!

From the religious sanctity of La Catedral to the early morning bustle for La Ramblas.......ah the hunt for a small present to take back to the children......number one daughter ......easy.........a scarf.......number one son........never the airport will supply inspiration!

Back along the sea front to soak up the last of the Mediterranean sun before cutting up through the maze of alleyways and out by the Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar and our favourite little Placa. Sat on our stone bench, under the trees we watch the world walk up......a group of noisy Spanish children, two by two, troop by on a school trip.....well behaved, good natured, all smiles and waves.  Wherever we have been, school trips have been in abundance; animated but well behaved, respectful of other pedestrians. Their teachers still wear the look of 'the frazzled'. And the naughty ones are held by the arm by the oldest matriarchal teacher present....the naughty destined to spend time in their company. Ha!

Tiny little street cleaning cars, known as " noo- noos" in our family, after the teletubbies, wash the streets clean of dust. And Barcelona streets really are clean...well all the ones we have walked along have been.

And so it was time to leave, reluctantly. Another few days would have been grand but that is for a return visit.  Into the uber clean and empty Estacio de Franca and onto the ultra clean train that departs on time. First Great Western....take note!  A quick change and a prompt arrival at the airport. From station to cafe in terminal two.........40 minutes.....easy!

Good bye sunshine; good bye 22 Celsius...........

was it only yesterday?

A good day in Barcelona always starts with a coffee on a street corner somewhere

followed by a stroll along the streets to see the sights

not quite as old as our motovespa "Stacey" but still quite cute....if you like vespas that is

a shrink wrapped beastie which I was unable to find out more about

and then I managed to find some proper wooden boats

the helmsman was excellent on this vessel.......clearly an old seadog

emerging between the palm trees....was a lovely view!

as usual I have no idea what type of ship she is......but she is beautiful.....and very well maintained

there was even some nautically themed street sculpture to admire as well

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

How long can you stay on your feet

Our record is virtually nine hours. We left the hotel at 8am and returned at 5pm. First we headed for Montjevic and the castle. Rather a nasty history of suppression, illegal executions and bombardment of the revolutionary citizens of Barcelona.
The views were amazing. Below the ramparts 193m down is the extensive container port of Barcelona. It was fascinating to watch funny tall container cranes on big wheels run around like demented ants, lifting containers off lorries, onto lorries, off trains and onto trainers. Everything in miniature.
To get up there we'd strolled across old Barcelona, scuttling down narrow alleyways between five story buildings with ornate architecture. We stumbled into beautiful squares, passed tiny fashion boutiques and spent time in the food market. We strolled down La Ramblas when it was empty and a delight to be on.  From there a short metro ride, then up on a little cute funicular before catching the telefrique cable car to the top a d the stupendous views across the city to the west with its hotchpotch of densely packed housing, apartment blocks and historical buildings. In the distance like soaring candles, the spires of the segrada familia.
After a tour of the citadel fort, we strolled downhill through gardens to the Olympic stadium, rather impressive actually. You can only truly understand the sheer awesomeness of that archers shot to light the torch in 1992 when you have seen for real how far and how high he had to shoot.  From there it was a walk back down to the waterfront and a stroll along Porto Vell. Past a collection of old wooden boats from tall schooners to small Mediterranean fishing vessels of old with huge almost claw like sail rigs. All beautifully maintained. What does John Welsford say......the bet varnish for a boat is white paint? He'd have been a happy man today! After daydreaming about sailing the med on such boats it was back up into the old quarter calling in at the Musee Picasso. Cant see the point of cubism. Prefer Gaudi.  Nough said!
Stopping for a picnic on our favourite stone bench in a little elongated square shaded by trees and surrounded by beautiful tall apartment blocks with their pretty balconies, we ate our bread and cheese and watched the world go by. The fashionable Spanish sauntered by. They make it an art form. I have yet to master it. Lumber along that's me. Sauntering? Can't quite get the hang of it.  The Spanish have a unique ability to take an eclectic mix of bright colours and combine them with browns and blacks and it works. They all look tanned, healthy, happy souls.
But perhaps they are the wealthy ones for like all cities, scratch a little below the exterior veneers and poverty emerges.......the homeless ones, who hide their flattened cardboard boxes behind the tall mobile cable boxes on street corners; or the North Africans who push shopping trolleys though he maze of alleyways delivering some object for someone at a bargain price. THe invisible people!