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.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Falmouth Adventures Day Three: sailing across to St Mawes and returning home again

Bright skies, cotton wool clouds, winds from the north west at around 10 kts - what more can you ask for?

Saturday dawned bright and sunny. The sunrise painted Mylor yacht Haven in a deep golden tinge; the water was calm, the breeze light and I had the place to myself bar the heron that stalked the shallows close to the slipway.  House Martins darted two and fro skimming low across the glassy waters of the inner haven. A shower, some porridge, a mug of tea. Everything packed away dry! By 8am the outboard had been warmed up and we departed pontoon E with barely a whisper.

Early morning at Mylor Yacht Haven
Old traditional Falmouth work boats drawn up on the beach

Into the fairway at the marina and out into a sunlight Carrick Roads. The breezes warm and steady, the Mizzen was unfurled and raised and Arwen turned bow to wind. Off came the sail ties, downhaul released, some pulls on the topping lift to raise the sprit boom slightly and then a heave away on the main halyard and slowly the top boom rises to that point where the forward section suddenly dips and the aft section suddenly rises up vertically. A few more pulls and the top yard has reached the mast top, it's forward section lying forward of the mast on the starboard side, just where it should be. Sweet!

St. Mawes in the morning sun

Jib sheets released and the starboard one pulled and the furler on the bowsprit rolls into action. Backing the jib turns Arwen's bow South East and the mainsail fills. Easing the mizzen, pulling up the centre board, trimming the mainsail and jib, and Arwen begins her downwind crossing towards St. Mawes castle. Can't get rid of the crease though....maybe I should have applied some more downhaul....perhaps lowered the sail and adjusted the position of the tie point of main halyard on top boom....but hey sail is up, we are moving, sun is shining, warmth on my face.......lazy sailing......shameful!

Few boats are out on the water at this time but CH 16 crackles into life. The pilots are going alongside the port side of the large oil tanker moored in the central area just outside the penryn river. The gantry walkway only descends half way down the sides and a steel ladder is lowered for the rest of the way. It's a fair old early morning climb for the pilots. The buoy monkeys have arrived, a tender at the bow moored to the huge yellow buoy. I think it's called 'shortening up' or 'singling up' but I could be wrong. Anyway mooring ropes are being released and singled up. Two red and white port tugs arrive, one for the bow, the other to the stern. We exchange waves as I sail close by. Lots of smiles on the bridges and friendly waves back. Everything looks relaxed.....they have done it all before.

A Cornish shrimper shadows us off the port stern quarter. Deep dark tan sails and deep blue hill with cream top sides, they are rather elegant boats. He's trying to catch up but failing. Even downwind, Arwen has a turn of just need to fully concentrate. A full powered 'accidental' gybe is not to be recommended! I know from painful and I mean 'stars in your eyes - lump on your head' type painful experience.

St. Mawes castle guarding the river entrance

We ease onto a training run and we scuttle along, the occasional rattle from the centreboard accompanying the sloosh of water gurgling along Arwen's hull sides. The castle looms above us as we pass a large yellow buoy and make the turn into the river. The lovely white houses of St Mawes on the hillside above reflect the bright easterly rising sun. The water sparkles. a thousand surface diamonds. In the tiny harbour is a large marque and bunting. Some gigs are out racing, the rhythmic slap of oars on water , the grunts of heaving bodies and the sharp calls of encouragement from coxwains. Looks like St. Mawes is waking up to party day.

The wind has dropped, the influence of this, the Roseland Peninsula. Fickle breezes fill the sail and suddenly disappear leaving Arwen still and listless. We gingerly find our way between the moorings. It is good practice, I feel, on occasions to sail between moorings. It heightens my awareness of the wind puffs, sharpens my tacking skills, heightens my awareness and sensitivity towards currents and drift. Actually, if truth be known, it scares the bejesus out of me on most occasions. But 30 mins of excessive heartbeat acceleration is a good thing according to my GP. Maybe I misinterpreted what he was getting at and he had other methods in mind,  like jogging or rowing or cycling.

We slowly weave our way up river and around the bend.  The Percueil River stretches up ahead, a boatyard on the port side. The niggle of time pressures begins to invade my brain. It is our last day on the water at Falmouth. The weather for tomorrow is horrendous and no place to be in a small open boat - driving rain and 25kts+ winds howling down from the north. A crossing to Helford today would be wonderful. Getting back tomorrow would not! Consequently if I am to haul out today, then I have to be back at Mylor Creek boatyard for around 1pm. It has a 2hrs +- either side of high water limit! Time and tide wait for no man.

heading back up Mylor Creek

Reluctantly, Arwen turns her bow westwards and we meander back through the moorings past the man pumping out his lovely old wooden carvel planked dinghy; past the oceangoing yachtsman leaning over his gunwale to get the daily paper off the kayaker who has bought it across the water to him. I've seen similar things in the Caribbean. Local people wait until a yacht anchors in their bay and then paddleboard or kayak out with fruit, bottled water, groceries etc. to the waiting yacht crew.  I wonder if the idea would work here?  I feel a business idea coming on! "Wasting time docking that frigate upriver at Devonport Dockyards? Don't want the hassle of  crew waiting time onshore with loved ones?  Then you need Steve's grocery kayaks - we can supply all your victualing needs without you ever having to moor alongside. Save time. Return to sea quicker. Phone Steve's victualing Kayaks on........." . Maybe not. An idea that might need a little more thinking through over a couple of bacon sarnies and G and T's....a perfect breakfast!!

Grockle boats (tourists to the non Cornish/Devonians amongst you) are already out and about as Arwen turns north; sails hauled in and centreboard down further. We exchange waves. Many take photos of Arwen flying across the water. We reach a heady 6+kts. Positively skimming across the water surface we are!  Sadly, in all the years we have sailed together, Arwen and I have never managed to get a photograph of ourselves under sail from a slightly more distant perspective. I guess we tend to be solitary sailors, Arwen and I. However, one day, it would be nice to get just one photo of us from someone else's boat.

we beat upriver hugging the eastern side as far as St Just pool, when we turn onto what is almost a broad reach. We are just slightly above Mylor Yacht Haven over the western side of the Roads.  Within a few precious minutes we have reached the marina fairway entrance.  Sails are dropped and furled away neatly. When we turn the corner into Mylor creek we will be directly head to wind all the way up the channel and the tide is just beginning to recede. Tacking room will be in short supply amongst the moorings and receding seas. It is best to motor back the last mile or so.

We arrive back some 30 minutes after high tide. The slipway is uncovering slowly. The yard is deserted. Somewhere from within come the sounds of mallet on chisel on wood. Someone is having fun. Retrieving Arwen from the narrow slipway between a high quayside and high old rusting barge hulk is easy; no cross winds to drift her off to one side; no currents to contend with. She rolls onto her trailer with one smooth motion. Perfect!  hauled up the slip and onto the hard standing at the top, there is space to offload her; to dry out tent tarpaulins and foulies; to prepare her for her 70 mile journey home.

All packed away and ready to depart.....but we will be back

Yes the trip is cut short; no we didn't get to Helford; no we didn't overnight camp on some secluded creek beaches. But....we do have all those delights to come on another trip back...and we both look forward to that.


not a huge fan of it or that bigger user of it. However, one of the Facebook pages I do visit is this one

It's the home of the John Welsford Dinghy Cruising forum. It's a really useful site full of tips and brilliant inspiration with postings from astonishingly experienced and talented people.

Worth a visit and bookmarking


Falmouth Adventures: Day Two overnighting at Mylor Yacht Haven

Falmouth Adventures: Day Two - heading downriver to Mylor

We waited. It rained. The wind blew at 20+kts, screaming in gusts down the channel from the east. Boats strained at moorings. Halyards shrieked on alloy masts.

my shelter for much of the morning, passing the time, reading, posting blogs, watching the world stream by

On Friday, things didn't abate until around 2pm. And then we made the dash. Under motor, Arwen chugged her way down past the King Harry Ferry. We hugged the western shores, down past the creeks. The wind did exactly what we had anticipated. It shifted around to the north west. A good call made!

We drifted a little off Loe Beach as the tide fell back. Would it be a good anchorage for the night? Could Arwen be beached there safely? Could we get off in the morning? With open land behind and winds predicted to continue from the north, I decided to move on. Down past the millionaires Row - Enormous houses with extensive gardens that ended in their own personal jetties. Manicured lawns, large ribs under cover on slipways.

The sea had turned grey, a slate grey with odd white tipped waves. Sheets of drizzle swept across Carrick Roads in grey walls as thick grey clouds scuttled past overhead. Turning into Restronguet Creek put us in to the wind and Pandora Inn really didn't seem that inviting. So we turned and moved on south towards Mylor.

A quick call on VHF confirmed space on the outside visitors pontoons at Mylor Yacht Haven. Yes they did have a shower block; yes it was a sheltered mooring from northerly winds; yes a scraggly looking little 14'6' day sailing dinghy with a soaked forlorn looking skipper would be most welcome!

outside pontoon - facing into the winds - perfect

And so I wussed out! We motored alongside and tied up behind a large blue hulled cruiser of some 30' length. It would provide plenty of windbreak during the night. Fore and aft mooring lines held Arwen firmly against the pontoon, aided by bow and stern springs. The boom crutch went up; Sails were furled and tied neatly and the white tarp tent was stretched out and clipped in place. Boat towels came out to wipe down thwarts and mop the floors. The rain started to ease and the wind blew through from bow to stern to provide a drying breeze.

With sleeping kit laid out and tent secure, it was time to explore Mylor Marina. What was needed was tea - lashings of it - big pots......chips would be a bonus too. Warmth and space to write up passage notes and observations; post brief blogger messages via mobile phone.

From my window seat I could see Arwen bobbing in the breezes, her courtesy flags streaming. Occasionally sailors in their red jackets would stop to briefly peruse the white tarp tent......."who is that idiot? He's sleeping in that?"  It was etched on their faces....disbelief! I'm pretty sure it was etched on mine too!

Some chart work - what should we do tomorrow? The forecast for Sunday was grim, worse that the last two days. The plan was to sail across to Helford tomorrow and return on Sunday. Tomorrow would be nice weather....but that return to be back on Mylor Creek slip for 2pm on Sunday would be rough - straight in to a wind 20kts+ and torrential rain from the north!  If I was to end tomorrow then I would need to haul out around 1.15 at latest; after that the tide would have fallen too much at the slipway and I would be committed to waiting until 2pm Sunday. Perhaps I could sail up the Perceuil river tomorrow and find a sheltered overnight spot but that would mean sailing back across Carrick Roads on Sunday morning - it would be rough!
 Decisions, decisions. Lets see what tomorrow brings. Maybe Sunday's weather forecast would be better.

I spent an hour people watching. It is a favourite past time. Don't know why but I suspect it has something to do with being a teacher. We learn fast to read people, to pick up on emotions, movements and little nuanced expressions.
Sailors, walkers, day trippers came and went , seeking sanctuary from wind and rain. Different ages, different interests. Sailors - elderly single men, chestnut brown weathered faces, content to sit and stare out of the window. Rib owners, younger, noisier. Jovial, loud, types, back slappers and all bonhomie. Walkers, kitted out with best gear, quieter, poring over maps and guides. Marina business people poring over tablets and laptops. Career climbers, career focused - ignoring their children; sending emails, making mobile calls, organising and issuing commands from afar; their children left to play on their own tablets. A cross section of society all in one room sheltering from the British summer no change there then!

The foul weather clothing I'd strewn across various stools was drying nicely; the chef bought me another pot of tea with a huge smile and nod of understanding. My foul weather gear has really impressed me. I invested last year in a proper yachtie jacket - Gill - with high collar; neoprene cuffs; foldaway hood. It was bone dry on inside and had done its job well. My lightweight gortex berghaus overtrousers - well - they had performed magnificently as always. Much prefer them to heavy sallopettes.

I returned to Arwen as the rain died away and the evening sun began to break out. The pub across the way was serving pie and chips - sounded and smelt tempting. I was dry; pilotage plans for tomorrow sorted.

Now it was time to find a comfy table in the pub and treat myself one more time - pie and chips; roskilly ice cream, window seat (we welsh are so nosey....) and a good book .

Things were looking up. Definitely looking up! And, moored alongside the pontoon that night, when the winds howled and rigging clanged and shrieked, I missed it all! For I was dry, well fed and sound asleep!


Thursday, 30 July 2015

Sleeping on board Arwen

living on a small boat should be straight forward. everything should have its place, as demonstrated by Joel on board his navigator Ellie.

Yet despite my best efforts I never seem to get it quite right!

I sleep on the port side, head to stern, legs down alongside the centrecase. My sleeping platform on the port side is supported by inflated drybags and surprisingly, it works! The down sleeping bag is inside a gortex bivvy bag along with some pillows.

I cook on the starboard side thwart. So the cooking crate is left on that side when we are anchored or moored.  Food is on the thwart towards the stern.

At night, along the stern thwart goes my PDF, marine radio, large lantern torch, mobile phone and glasses; a drink and some snacks. In a dry bag also located here are spare fleeces and my foulies. Everything else is packed away for the night in dry bags which lie along the hull sides in the front cockpit well.  Cooking kit is always packed away leaving the starboard side of the boat for moving along if I need to get to anchor well. Entry/exit into the cockpit tent is via the bow, starboard side.

Having now seen how Joel does it, I can lots of areas where I can make adjustments so that, hopefully, in the future, Arwen will look tidier and less cluttered! 

Falmouth Adventures: Day Two Leaving The Smugglers Inn and heading south

Drip, drip, drip, drip. The musical accompaniment to my first night afloat. It started raining late evening and didn't stop until late afternoon the following day.

that bucket was overused during the night........!!

A pattern. A million circles scattered randomly across deep, slow flowing, grey-green rivers. Mullet bumping the hull at night. The rising winds blowing in the starboard side of the tarp tent until it bowed so much that half the space in the boat was lost. The constant drumming patter of rain on the tarp; the getting up in the night to check mooring warps and retying bow and stern springs. Through the opening at the stern, glimpses of cows on the hillside above, heads down grazing, silhouetted against the dark night sky. The occasional ominous rumble of distant thunder. The screech of wind through masts and the interminable clanking of wires against aluminium masts. Arwen tugged at her moorings. Fenders squealed in protest as she banged back against the pontoon.

It was a long night!

still raining next morning
just lie back on the cushions and do some reading!

The rain and wind stayed all morning. I sensed that further downstream things would be wilder and these fears were confirmed with the arrival back of ZaZu. Tied up at the hammerhead, her disembarking crew ere quick to advise staying put for a few hours more. Carrick Roads was 'choppy'!

I had breakfast, hot porridge with giant raisins and sultanas, hot sweet tea, and more hovis biscuit.  I strolled around the foreshore. Scandinavians say 'there is no such thing as bad weather...only bad clothing'. Um! To a point. My foulies held rain at bay. I was snug and warm. And dry! I sat under the carport and made tea; I read more from 'The lugworm Chronicles'.

 I scrutinised charts and re-read my pilotage drawings and notes. I planned afternoon sailing routes - a variety of options depending on the wind. I studied the swallows swooping low across the water and return at high speed to their nests in the carport rafters above my head. A grandstand , front row seat for some spectacular aerial acrobatics. Boy those swallow chicks are demanding!

low tide

Some would find all this boring. I found it relaxing, such is my normal hectic pace of work life, the chance to have no one around, time to is treasured.

Swans visited; hissing and searching under the tarpaulin edges for some tasty morsels and titbits. They eyed me suspiciously. I clearly wasn't playing the game. I studiously ignored them. Arwen sits only some 40 cms above the water line and Swans heads easy come up to deck level if not slightly above. I love swans but past experiences have taught me - don't feed them, they come back for more and get really irritable if they don't get it! And so a few minutes later some highly disappointed swans departed, their graceful necks making S shapes, the occasional head turned backwards with forlorn looks.

And finally, around 2pm, the weather broke. The winds dropped, the rain eased and we made our break. Our aim, to row, motor and sail back downriver to Mylor, stopping off on the way at Restronguet Creek.

I was sorry to depart The Smugglers Inn. It was a beautiful, hospitable place run by a lovely couple and I will be back.....hopefully when it isn't raining!

The Smugglers Inn
Good luck to Clive and Ellie on their business ventures