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.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Welcome back

after a break, a blog returns


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Using your sail's tell tales!

Tell tails are somewhat absent on Arwen. I've decided I need some and I need to position them correctly. So for the last few days I have read around a couple of articles and this is a summary of what I have gleaned thus far.

My aim by the way, is to try and improve my genuinely appalling sail trimming knowledge and technique!!

So a summary thus far, which of course, as normally is the case, I have no idea whether its useful and  accurate or not. The problem with being a newbie sailor is you have nothing to fall back on in terms of experience when dealing with new things and so cannot determine whether what you are reading is genuinely useful or not. I guess you just have to go out there and try it!

I like experimenting anyway!!

So, a summary, thus far

  • tell tales show airflow over the sail surface.
  • when the sail luff passes through the wind, the wind velocity at the sail's surface decreases due to friction with the sail and this is called 'the boundary layer'
  • correctly trimmed, the boundary layer stays intact and the tell tales stream aft, parallel to each other, on either side of the sail
  • if the velocity of the boundary layer decreases and separates from the sail, it results in more loss of speed and power
  • too close to the wind or under trimmed - the boundary layer slows on the windward side and the tell tale lifts
  • too far off the wind or over trimmed and the opposite happens - with the tell tale on the leeward side of sail lifting or stalling along with a consequence loss of power
That seems to be the basic theory - I think!

It seems that getting the leeward sail tell tale streaming is the most important thing to do and this follows the basic maxim "if in doubt - let it out"! Doing this encourages more airflow over the outside leeward side of the sail and thus reduces loss of power/velocity.

Another maxim I read was "inside drops, pull in - outside drops, let out" which I think is based on the premise that if the inside, i.e. windward tell tale stalls or drops, pull in the sail and/or bear away; and if the windward, i.e. leeward outside tell tale drops or stalls, ease out sail and/or luff up towards the wind.

Has anyone else found that as they get older, retaining this stuff in their head.....becomes harder? Maybe it is just me then!

I found these videos helpful:

so, where to position new tell tales on Arwen? Ah well, that seems a little harder. The advice seems to be

  • on the jib - two sets - each 30cm approx. back from the luff
  • on the mainsail - one set 50 cm back from the luff and approximately 60cm up from foot of sail. here it is at optimum position for glancing up to, without losing the gaze on the water in front
  • and using 15 cm pieces of fine wool; although jury appeared out on that one - some arguing wool when wet stuck to sails; others favouring thin strips of sail cloth, which doesn't

and what about leech tell tales I hear you ask? Just when I thought it couldn't get more complicated......

  • mount three sets on the mainsail, where the battens are
  • around 20 cm long wool strips
and how do you use them?
I'm glad you asked! It would appear that leech tell tales are used as follows:

  • to gauge the degree of twist in the leech of the sail and how it affects wind flow across sail surfaces
  • want to have all of them streaming straight back for about half the time. Over half the time indicates too much air flowing over sail freely and therefore losing lots of its power, so trim the mainsail. Under half the time - need to loosen the leech and ease the sheet

Ah Ha! Well that was as clear as mud to me; and do leech tell tales really matter on Arwen anyway. Probably not!

If I have got any of this wrong, do let me know via the comment box below


Thursday, 20 August 2015

Navigator nutters

One of Paul Ricketts videos
Search his YouTube channel for more.

Oh my!

hold your breath!
First video on the left hand side of page

Oh my!


Tuesday, 18 August 2015


This is an amazing work of art and dedication to the brave crews who voluntarily man our waters and come to us in our times of need and danger. Well done to Jack Lowe for such an imaginative tribute and archive.

Spotted it on Gavin Atkin's 'intheboatshed' website which is in itself an amazing archive of our seafaring history and close affection with boats and the sea.

Both sites well worth a visit and bookmark.


Rolex Fastnet update

I downloaded a free app to my IPad which shows me the positioning of all the boats in the race  and I've been listening to Fastnet FM radio as well.
Rather jolly and exciting!

The first boats back will be tomorrow morning around 6am. Most are expected back on Friday. The high pressure which sat over this part of the country today has rather slowed things down. However, with heavy rain fronts moving in, I suspect that happy situation won't last long!!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

putting the 'spice' back into my GoPro video films

I have a growing anxiety that the short video films I make of my sailing trips are becoming too boring and mundane. Initially, I did them merely as a visual record of our voyages together and because, lets face it, I am slightly geeky and like playing about with simple video editing tech.
But, having been a fan of GoPro video of the week for some time, I am coming to the dawning realisation that my films are much the same as always.......boring, predictable, mundane, unimaginative. And I don't want them to be that....I want to look back when I am old and frail on some good quality films and memories.

Part of the issue is that I cannot get GoPro Studio 2 to work on my laptop despite several re-installments. It just continually freezes and then you lose everything you have edited thus far, necessitating the need to start all over again. 'Frustrated' does not do justice to how I feel when this happens! But it also means I lose some rather good editing tricks and tools.

Time pressures are another issue, especially if a sail has taken place during a term time. Weekends become precious, especially with the certain knowledge that much of each Sunday will be taken up in school work preparation and marking and so I rush the filming, giving little thought to a storyline; ditto with the editing.

Then there is my lack of filming knowledge. Oh I wish I had the creative talents of Dylan Winter (strangely enough, his cousin is one of my closest friends.....a claim to fame....sort of......) or of 'Eye in the Hand', someone else who makes his films so simple and classy. Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I actually scripted, filmed and directed a 40 minute programme which almost made the BBC schedules but it was alas a long, long time ago and clearly I have forgotten whatever knowledge and skills I had then.

Anyway, enough is enough and I have to put this right. Only I don't know how!

Don't get me wrong - I sort of understand the mechanics of good film clips. The Missus calls me '20 second Steve'......a reference to my need to film segments of 20 second length everywhere I go....she isn't referring to anything else I hasten to add! At least I'd rather hope not!

Anyway, swiftly moving on, getting a variety of shots, narrow and wide, slow panning and not zooming; letting the action unfold; linking shots in someway for easier edits later - all of that I get, even if I don't practice it well. Can't believe I am going to confess to this but I actually have a simple proforma which lists all the different shots I can from various activities on a day's sail - a sort of checklist, an aide memoire.

But it is the story line which is tripping me up. Getting a good storyline to glue all these shots together is critical and I don't know what story lines to go with. ' A summer sail' is getting boring! So I need ideas for simple story lines; I also need to better understand what potential viewers might want to see in a short 5 minute video of a sailing dinghy called 'Arwen'. I can't provide 'seat of your pants' scares, thrills and spill - leave that to Laser 1 sailors. I have the glimmer of a story about searching out the best Latte in the world......its slowly taking shape in the recesses of my mind.......but I need inspiration.

So dear blog readers, over to you ........what would you like simple dinghy cruising videos to be like; what do you think makes a worthwhile video you would give up five minutes to watch? Have you any suggestions for simple storylines? You can find my videos on this blog page or on my YouTube channel - search 'Plymouthwelshboy' all one word.

All suggestions, as long as they are clean, good humoured and fit for human reading, are welcome