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.
Arwen has an associated YouTube channel so visit to find our most recent cruises together.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

New travel kit

I've written before about the film kit that I take on cruises with Arwen. Recently though, someone asked me about what travel photography kit I carry on my travels.

Well this set me pondering. I am no photographer and in fact I have just put myself on a digital DSLR photography beginners course in January after buying a new entry level DSLR camera - a canon EOS 800D

So what's in the travel bag, ready for our forthcoming Europe trip (which is still in its planning phase but is slowly coming together)?

  • a lightweight amazon basics 50" tripod, a small 10" high tripod and another flexible bendy leg tripod
  • if travelling abroad, my lightweight dell laptop or my Samsung 7" Galaxy tab
  • small portable battery pack
  • Zoom H1 microphone with windmuff
  • canon EOS 800D with 18 - 55mm zoom and 55 - 250 zoom lenses, each with protective filter lenses
  • spare batteries for above
  • manual and quick guide for above camera
  • remote control for EOS 800D
  • cleaning kit 
  • selfie stick bluetooth
  • note book
  • penknife
  • green kneeling matt
  • two GoPro Hero 5 blacks with spare batteries
  • two selfie sticks for GoPro's
  • assorted GoPro clips and fittings
  • egg timer for time-lapse on GoPro's
  • spare memory cards 
  • lightweight ear buds
All of this gear sounds a lot but actually doesn't weigh much. It gets carried in my photography rucksac which still has enough room for waterproof and flask. 

And why the sudden interest in digital photography?
I was disappointed with my photographs from our recent China expedition and I realised I need to learn far more about the basics of photography. I will never be a good photographer but learning the basics to take better photos for blog and future magazine articles will help enormously. 

the new camera will be coming with me when I attend a travel show next year where I have signed up to workshops on vlogging travel videos, taking better travel photos and writing for travel magazines

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Apologies for my tardiness

My apologies for the lateness of this post. A few weeks travelling across SE China led to the delay in editing my latest vlog, hampered by forgetting to actually load batteries into the camera.
Don't say a word 🙄

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Friday, 5 October 2018

Long forgotten lakes, quaysides, castles and chapels

Ince castle, high above Ince Point hoves into view. Off the Skipper’s starboard beam, and passing slowly astern, lies Wivelscombe Lake, a shallow expanse of water ending in several small tidal creeks. And, somewhere beyond the tall reeds that fringe its edges, lie abandoned quarries and quaysides.

new seal repair on steering compass

Skipper falters a little, the temptation to explore this backwater lake gnaws into his consciousness. As his focus waivers, Arwen, his little open boat, loses headway and her bow begins to turn away downwind.

But, a prudent decision is made and the sailor nudges the tiller to port and heads the bow once more upriver. The building tide is carrying him towards the confluence where the river Tiddy joins the Lynher; the point where he will turn northwards up the narrowing Lynher towards the Treluggan Boat yard on the last of the spring tide.  

Wivelscombe Lake will be saved for another day on a similar building spring tide when he can safely nose into reed bed lined creeks, nooks and crannies. Maybe he can even dry out on the mudflats overnight to enjoy the starlight sky and wildlife around him, safe in the knowledge that the following early morning tide will float him off and he can row back into the central lake channel and out to the main river again.

jib sheets back to aft centre-case when single handing

Focused back on his sailing once more, he notes that the westerly breezes whistling down the channel at a steady 8 – 10 kts are still causing the water surface to pile up into steep sided little choppy waves; classic wind against an incoming tide. He tensions the snotter slightly to flatten the sail and eases downhaul to spill off some of the wind in the upper sail. The gusts are unpredictable and they spill off the surrounding hills ahead at some 18 – 25 kts. Skipper keeps his eyes forward watching for the crinkly marks across the small chop that announce the imminent arrival of one of these ‘dry’ squalls. It isn't quite time to consider reefing, not quite yet. 

Ignoring his notebook with its courses, bearings and distances plotted in shorthand, skipper tacks back and forth up the channel, his eyes glued to chart and waters ahead. He is confident that he has sufficient water now beneath him to cross the sand/mud banks that dry out at some 0.50m or so at low water, mid channel.

Ince Castle (well a house really) with its famous four turrets slowly falls astern. He’s makes a steady 5.2 kts but this brings occasional dollops of spray as the little dinghy’s bow plunges into troughs and whilst he is relatively dry, the continual plunge and twist motion is a tad uncomfortable and, after all,  as regular readers know, skipper is prone to the odd bout of sea sickness now and then.

below the deck, all lines run aft

And 'Now’ is one of those times. So, he focuses his mind on the story behind the Ince towers. Built in 1642 at the start of the English Civil war, the house was captured by the Parliamentarians. Ince is Cornish for ‘island’ and the peninsula on which the house is sat is almost one with two quays either-side of a narrow neck of land at its far north western end. Similar in sound to ‘Ynys’, the welsh for island he muses.

Anyway, the story goes that Sir Henry Killigrew, a royalist MP modified the castle just before the Civil War by adding four towers, one tower for each of his four wives! All of them were kept in their own tower, blissfully unaware that in the remaining towers they had three other competitors for his affections! Or so the story goes! Skipper fleetingly muses on the perils or otherwise of having four wives and then wisely decides its best not to pursue that line of thought further. 

securely stowed sleeping boards 

As the green 'Ince' starboard buoy, with its upstream tilt, passes by, skipper searches the channel for his next navigation marker, the red port can ‘Wacker Quay’. The twenty foot yacht some quarter mile behind would probably have to keep to the mid-water channel on approaching the can, for the tide is still building. Skipper, estimating he has at least 1.4m of depth below him now, decides to take a long tack across the channel towards Wacker lake and the tree covered Warren Point. 

On this port tack, he hears the revving of a number of outboards and so ducks down to gain a view under the mainsail. Line astern and approaching fast are four black inflatables, each holding four Royal Marines and their kit. A 'raiding'party, ooh that looks fun!

The lead boat anticipating the fledgling skipper’s course, alters a little to starboard to pass close behind the white dinghy's stern. Waves and smiles are exchanged with each crew as skipper risks several quick glances over his shoulder at the passing craft but his focus is pulled back to the course ahead. If he has read the chart right, and if the muds and sands have not shifted too much, then he should be heading up the little river channel that flows out of Wacker Lake.

Ahead protrudes  Wacker Quay, another nineteenth century agricultural dockside where barges unloaded limestone and loaded up with lime. But what many sailors who pass by may not know is that there are also the remains of a tiny military narrow-gauge railway. In 1886 it ran from the quay up the hill and overland to the south Cornish coast. Horse drawn trams hauled stone up the incline and over the hill to the stone masons building the new Tregantle Fort high on the cliff top. Not for the first time skipper muses on why his brain manages to retain totally irrelevant material and nothing that is of actual importance.
Now the area is a wildlife haven, a popular bird watching site as just beyond the quay is a car park and the main road down to Cremyll on the Tamar.

the channel up to St Germans (and to the final stretch of Lynher up to Treluggan)

Closing as near as he can to Warren point opposite the quayside and at the point where the wind shadow begins to appear, the lone sailor tacks rapidly to starboard, thus giving himself a nice long close-hauled tack back across the channel, through Dandy Hole, towards Redshanks Point. The wind God’s favour the amateur sailor and for a short time skipper enjoys a respite from the constant back and forth tacking that has dominated his voyage up the Lynher thus far. There is just enough time to lock off the tiller and mainsheet, trim the sails for self- sailing and pour himself a much-needed cuppa from his flask. He skirts the large anchored yachts lying in the sheltered lee of the hill and the deep water pools afforded them on the outside of the river bend and mentally notes that one of them looks as if it is permanently lived aboard.

As he turns the river bend, the winds drop to a more comfortable level and, for some obscure reason that Skipper can’t quite work out, it starts to blow from slightly astern. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he takes full advantage of the shift, letting out his sails and raising his centreboard to put himself onto a near downwind run. The chop has gone, the river surface is mirror like. As he leans over the port bow and stares into the greeny-brown water, his reflection stares back. It may be an ugly mug but that smile is something else and says it all! 

approaching dandy Hole

 Through the narrow channel between Beacon Hill and St Erth Hill on the eastern side, skipper gently zig-zags up the channel, spying the Marines pulling their ribs onto the beach, almost hidden beneath the low oak trees on the western shore. Ahead in the far distance two paddle-boarders heading downriver, skirt the eastern tide line whilst somewhere on St Erth Hill lies the chapel that skipper has yet to find. Almost possessing 'Harry Potter' like magical properties, despite several forays out from Redshanks Beach, he has yet to discover this 'mystical chapel. Somewhere, hidden from his gaze lies this  two-storey, late thirteenth century chapel with its faded medieval wall paintings. The lower floor was used as a cider house, and still contains its granite millstone and wooden press; the upper floor, is the chapel itself. Known as Earth Barton Chapel, the only known medieval document relating to it dates from 1413. Now it is a listed building. 

where the Tiddy and Lynher part company 

It is a very hard to find listed building but being the history buff that skipper is, he knows he won’t give in. At some stage in the next couple of years, he will find and visit the chapel, hopefully with son in tow. After all, what is the point of having a son who is a medieval history specialist if you can't drag him along occasionally for a free insightful, enthusiastic commentary or two?

all signs point to Treluggan!

You may have seen it before - if so why not visit
and download another play list?

Thursday, 4 October 2018

playing with sails

Playing with sails, and forthcoming a quick look at rigging on Arwen and the the sailing in the Kingsbridge estuary series.

My next bog update will be a continuation of my recent journey up to the Treluggan boat yard.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Fine tuning the standing lug rig - an update

Well, progress is being made. A video is on its way showing some of the subtle differences I have managed to achieve in rigging and sail shape. There is still a way to go but we are getting there, thanks to the help of John, Joel, my good friend Dave and many others out there in the FaceBook community. The Jedi side of FaceBook as I like to think of it.

A quick trip out in the sound last week and another quick trip to Salcombe yesterday tested out some of the rig adjustments.

The moving of the mainsail peak right to the top of the aft part of the yard has let to better upper sail shape although please don't as me to explain why - as I have not the foggiest idea.

The new arrangement of an S hook onto which I can attach the parrel bead loop at the tack of the sail is much better although I suspect I am going to have to move the main mast side cleat position.

The loop keeps getting caught on it as I haul up the main sail and so the sail is being prevented from reaching its highest point on the mast as it should. In the interim, I haul the main sail up and then move forward to attach the parrel loop but it is a pain and unnecessary, so the cleat will have to be moved.

The moving of the tack downhaul has been a great success but has more work to do on it. The tack is now held against the base of the mast, much better! The tack downhaul is now a line which runs down through the deck from the tack S hook and attaches to the block and tackle which lies in front of the centrecase.  It is here that the problem exists. I still cant get sufficient tension on the luff to eliminate the throat to clew crease before the two blocks in the tackle end up meeting each other.  similarly, the line from tackle to tack is a little too short an so restricts the height I can pull the main sail up (by a few inches).

So, tomorrow I will alter the block and tackle positions allowing a greater distance between them and I will alter the length of the line. Next week I will get out again and quickly test them one more time. I am hoping these adjustments will be the final ones and the crease will disappear for good.

The new arrangement for holding the yard against the mast is much better and the steel loops on the yard with the mainsail halyard going through the top one, then around the port side of the mast to tie off on the lower one seem to be doing the trick. I think some further adjustment is needed but I haven't yet quite worked out what it is. I'll get there. I am what some might term a slow learner!

What is definite is that in light winds yesterday at Salcombe, Arwen sailed better than she has in the past. This may be down to the alterations. It may be down to my greater understanding of the rig, developed over this last year or so.

I am going to remove the reefing lines and set them up as I saw Tim do on Facebook. He kindly sent me some photographs of his arrangement, in which he has a line with a hook attached to the aft end of the sprit boom which he can clip onto the first or second reefing cringle in the leech of the main sail. I guess the line with clip is just held in place by a velcro loop when not in use. Similarly at the tack end, he has another short line with another hook that runs from the downhaul hook and this clips into either of the reefing cringles on the luff.  It looks much easier and neater than my current system and is worth a try.

And that is it. Over the winter I will paint the hull again as the trailer rollers have taken their toll. The rub rails need a good sanding and filling in places, there are signs of rot in one or two patches. I will put in new circular hatches on the front thwart seat tops and fill in the hatch openings on the thwart sides. that will make those locker spaces far more accessible.  Little locks have been installed on all hatch lids already so that if I am camp cruising and go off for a stroll it will potentially slow down or hopefully deter any pilfering light-fingered groats!

I enjoyed sailing in Salcombe yesterday. It was far less busy with plenty of space to tack and drift without being mown down by someone. Much better!  Now if only I can find a tide which will be suitable for a bit of camp cruising up the creeks to Frogmore, Southpool and Kingsbridge. 

Thursday, 20 September 2018

The Tamar barge 'Lynher'

A lucky chance encounter with the Tamar barge 'Lynher' occurred last week.  A beautiful sight to behold. It cheered me up no end after the disastrous reefing debacle. very difficult to sail one handed whilst filming with the other on a moving object, so I haven't done her full justice and I owe her owners a huge apology.

If you are interested you can find out more accurate, not from memory, details about her at 

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

occasional visitors

Sometimes, out in the garden, when they don't think you are looking, we get furry and feathered visitors. For the last few mornings..................breakfast has been enriched with these cute folk.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

reefing a standing lug sail and other things

I went out today in the sound; an outgoing 5m tide with high tide at 10.09. winds were 7 kts with occasional gusts around 14 kts. Skies were sunny with ominous rain clouds every so often. No rain materialised though.

The intention was to test out the new sail rigging; practise some reefing, sailing under main and mizzen and also eliminating the 'dreaded' sail crease that seems to permanently adorn my sail from throat to clew.

Well the rigging adjustments. In a previous post I outlined how I had moved the sail higher up its top yard and adjusted the down-haul so that it ran down through the deck. I  had also devised, on the advice of many, a way of running the mainsail halyard through a stainless steel loop around the mast so that the yard stayed closer to the mast when sailing.

Lets start with the good news, The newly positioned down-haul worked. The tack was held right close to mast base via the parrel beads and I was able to crank on the tension on the luff with no problem.



The raised sail up its top yard had the desired effect, raising the tack some 8" at the bottom so that it cleared the coaming with ease.

The upper yard stayed close to the mast and didn't flog or drift away as it has done in the past.

the yard is held much closer but doesn't seem to be hauling all the way up to the mast sheave, so some adjustment needed somewhere

And now the bad news. The crease still remains. I did manage to almost get rid of it by cranking on the luff tension but there are traces of it still there and adjusting the snotter didn't seem to have any impact. Not all is lost though. Next outing I will adjust the tie on point on the top yard and also move the snotter attachment up and down the mand these adjustments may well have the desired effect.

The toll on the rigging from the Salcombe debacle a few weeks ago was made evident when all of a sudden the jib suddenly collapsed and fell to the deck. The block that it runs through at the top of the mast, suddenly split open. On closer inspection, I discovered some internal screws had snapped and the sheave actually had split longitudinally in half. Quite some force a few weeks ago!

Reefing was diabolical. A disaster......with all the vowel intonation afforded the word by Craig, one of the judges, off 'Strictly come Dancing'! I will post some video on my YouTube channel at a later date. Its really cringing stuff!

I got all the things done in the correct order but my reefing lines are too long. The S hooks I use don't transfer smoothly into the luff holes as they should.  Because I have led all lines aft to the cockpit, it was difficult to find the right line at the right time. It was, frankly shambolic.

I think I will get rid of the reefing lines. I have a snap hook that attaches the clew to the sprit boom. I can't see why I just don't un-clip it, pull the leech down and clip the boom into the first reefing point cringle on the leech. No need for reefing lines, just lower the whole lot into the boat, transfer the tack down-haul; transfer the clew and then raise the sail again and tidy up the loose sail afterwards.

Sailing just under main and mizzen went well. Tacking using only the mizzen and jib sheets was a partial success. I locked off the rudder, bought the mainsail to just off the transom port quarter and then used jib and mizzen sheet adjustments to tack about.  I managed it but it needs improving.

Heaving to and using the mizzen to go head to that buttoned down.  Sailing off a mooring has improved significantly as well although it can be hit and miss.

Sailing under jib and mizzen didn't go well when it came to tacking. Gybing, no problem. Tacking, a disaster!

Still, I did get to see the restored Tamar barge 'Lynher'. Oh my what a glorious sight she was. A real rare treat. it made up for some of the day's disasters!
It is difficult taking photos with one hand whilst sailing with the other! But I hope I caught a flavour of what a magnificent boat she is..................enjoy!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

YouTube stat reflections

YouTube send me a little update each month about how well my channel is performing. I can access the stat's via YouTube analytics.

Having always regarded the channel as a depository for my vlogs of sailing and travel adventures, a sort of visual diary for my future 80 yr old self, I was somewhat surprised to find that I have gained 156 new subscribers over the last 90 days or so.

In the last 28 days the videos have been viewed 7000 times with 150 likes and 30 comments. I just discovered an extraordinary amount of information in YouTube creator studio analytics, none of which I have any idea on what to do with or how to interpret. I don't even know whether I want to or not.

I do like, very much, the discussion that the comments generate; I definitely know that peoples' kind observations have helped me improve my sailing and dinghy cruising significantly in recent months and I am very grateful to them for their time and analysis. I have certainly made lots of new on-line friends across the UK and the rest of the world and I value the periodic contact with each and every one of them for all sorts of reasons.

Next year my channel, will be officially ten years old and this blog nine years.

A 'good' side to the internet and social media I guess.
Go figure!

caravan touring

Readers of old will know that her indoors and I purchased a caravan upon our retirement. Affectionately known as Florence, (Florrie for short) she is teemed with our car 'Zebedee'.

Now readers of 'a certain age' will know where this one is heading! Both her indoors and I were heavily influenced by the laid back Bohemia that was 'The Magic roundabout'. Dylan, the rabbit had a significant influence on one of us at least! It was a sixties thing!

Anyway, having slightly digressed away from the topic for today's post, let's return to it. Not wishing to bore anyone with our diaries and photos from recent tours around the Malverns and North Devon, I did want to just share two little gems we thoroughly enjoyed. I am not into promoting any business on my blog, but we did enjoy both of these.

Firstly, I apologise, for I am no Giles Coren food critic but I did enjoy a pasty, coleslaw and salad at 'John's of Instow. Pasties are like a religion here in Devon and Cornwall and one can be fobbed off with some frankly quite appalling ones. This one, however,was simply stunning; a masterclass in pasty perfection.

Firstly lets set the ambience. Imagine if you will a grocery come deli come cafe shop set in the seaside village of Instow. Outside are nice green sunshade canopies drawn down over the pavement with the shops name across them. Rather lovely.

Inside, wooden floors, bare wood scrubbed table tops, white wooden chairs framed by white walls,  discrete lighting and lovely sage green shelving and dressers. Cheerful, smiley, welcoming staff!

A window counter top with bar stools that afford simply stunning views out across the estuary muds and beaches towards the Babcock Appledore ship yard. Bare brick walls adorned with local artists work. A deli counter stocking local cheeses that frankly were sublime. And lets not get started on the neighbouring cake counter. One coffee cake was an 8" deep, yes 8" deep, melt in your mouth perfection! Soft music and shelves of local Devon produce ranging from wines to moonshine, from pickled vegetables to piccalilli, jams, preserves, curds,  and a most impressive selection of local meats, sausages and pies in a chiller unit back in the grocery section.

As for the pasty?

I genuinely don't know where to start or how to do justice to this locally produced culinary perfection. The light brown flaky pastry melted in one's mouth. It crumbled to perfection. Pasty contents were well cooked, flavoursome with a wide selection of vegetable and tender meat; none of the tough gristle you normally find in what purport to be pasties in some parts of the south west. It was of a decent size and wasn't that horrible sort of triangular crimped hummock shape so beloved of some mass produced pastie makers.
As for the coleslaw. It crunched perfectly; genuinely freshly made with a thick creamy, possibly even yoghurty based sauce. It was heaven, just not enough of it!!

Normally having scoffed a pasty my poor stomach will protest much later at its ill-treatment; but not on this occasion. With local spring water and a fresh green salad, this simple meal was well worth the £6.00 paid.
Well done John's of Instow. You managed to tempt us back on three separate occasions during our stay in North Devon and it wasn't just because you are conveniently on the 'Tarka cycle trail'. Your lattes and cappuccinos were worth two return visits!

And now I'd like to point out I have no connection or affiliation with John's of Instow; neither did I receive any form of payment for this recommendation! This is merely a public service announcement, if you are in the vicinity of Bideford, pop across to Instow. You can even catch the little ferry across the estuary which practically drops you outside the shop front door!

And so to our second little find. In the words of Monty Python 'And now for something entirely different'

The Lynton and Lynmouth cliff railway. Awesome fun! Amazingly simple technology and a great ride with stunning views. Just go do it!

Fill up the 700 gallon water tank at the top and as it descends it pulls up the bottom carriage which of course has emptied itself at the bottom. Those ingenious Victorians eh? 

A little taster to whet the appetite, courtesy of my humble mobile phone 

"A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind”
Webb Chiles

Such words of wisdom casually encroach on Skipper’s thoughts as he surveys his pilotage notes and assesses the weather around him.

From the comfort of his 14’ open boat ‘Arwen’, securely tied on to his favourite yellow mooring buoy at the southerly end of the Saltash Bridge trots; and now substantially fortified by hot tea and cheese and marmite sandwiches, it has not escaped skipper’s notice that the wind forecasts in his notebook fail to correspond with the ‘real’ breezes eddying around him.

Yet again he has forgotten that whilst winds may well be from the SSW in Plymouth Sound and up the Hamoaze, they too often have an irksome habit of blowing directly westwards down the Lynher channel when he decides to venture up it. Or perhaps, he muses, it could just be the influence of topography around him.

Today’s cruising goal, one of his favourite ‘backwater treasures’, is a traditional boat yard.  Hidden away in a 20-acre former quarry where the upper Lynher narrows and winds its way through steep sided, oak wooded valley, Treluggan is in Skipper’s humble opinion, a ‘proper’ boatyard; a place where highly skilled craftsmen combine traditional woodworking skills with modern methodologies and materials.

Looking along the old wooden pontoons at Treluggan

Aerial drone shot of Treluggan Boat yard

Surrounded by stunning natural beauty, fabulous wildlife and fascinating industrial archaeology, there is a deep tranquillity to be had from tying up alongside its crumbling, wooden planked, mooring pontoon. Here, in the narrow mud bank lined channel, natures privileges abound; the diving acrobatics of majestic blue and russet orange kingfishers, the ‘snuffling’ antics of small salmon splashing in the shallows, shovelling up the unsuspecting small fry and long legged, motionless white egrets, a stark contrast against the chocolatey brown thick mud.  It is he muses, such a shame that many boats never get to see such wonders, so quick are they to drop their hooks in the popular deep water Dandy Hole anchorage further downriver.

Putting reveries aside, it slowly dawns on the small boat adventurer that extensive ‘wind artistry’ will be required today. Lengthy periods of up-river tacking, finesse in sail trimming and plenty of agility, will be required if he is to reach this picturesque journey’s end.

Returning to his pilotage and passage planning thoughts and wishing to arrive at Treluggan at the top of the 4.9m high tide around 1700, Skipper knows it is pointless entering the Lynher much before 1330pm. Although he only draws 10” with centreboard raised and can easily take the soft mud ground, the helpful passage planning notes downloaded from the boatyard site a few nights before recommend small boats should enter the final mile of channel from 1.5 hrs before high water. So, quick mental calculus suggests it will be 1530 at the earliest before skipper can turn to starboard at the confluence of the Tiddy and Lynher rivers to begin the winding passage up to Treluggan, past thriving salt marshes and beneath wonderous Victorian engineered railway viaducts.

With no need to rush, and a wary eye on the wind, the fledgling dinghy cruiser usefully fills the hour before departure with ‘boat-keeping’ tasks. One or two frayed halyards where whippings have ‘mysteriously’ undone need re-seizing and so he reaches for his little toolkit ditty bag stored in the port forward thwart locker to find needles, thread and bosun’s palm. 
Afterwards, bottom boards are sponged clean; the annoying small pieces of gravel that find their way onto his boat and gouge his newly done paintwork, thrown back overboard. Dry bags are shuffled around and bungeed down along boat sides to give better trim and a few pleasant minutes are passed admiring the foot stirring antics of a long-legged grey heron as it flushes out and rapidly harpoons unwary flounders and eels at water’s edge.

The French use a lovely phrase, ‘Trouvaille’ to describe that ‘chance encounter with something wonderful’. Skipper’s few minutes of ‘trouvaille’ end as the lanky heron, spooked by a rattling train crossing Brunel’s ancient lenticular trussed bridge, soars aloft in lazy circles, its slow beating wings carrying it onto a tree top perch a few hundred metres further upriver.  Feeling a momentary sense of loss, the sailor quickly checks the winds once more and mentally notes his scrawled passage plan notes.
“Leg 1 – Beggar Island red port can on 256M at 0.4NM against westerly tidal flow of 0.4kts”.

His first checkpoint up river yet he knows in reality that this bearing and distance will become meaningless as he starts his rapid tacking upwind to reach the waypoint.
Mizzen raised, the little boat drifts round to point into the stiffing breeze. Aft of the centre-case, comes a sudden flurry of activity as skipper hauls on halyards and sheets. The standing lug sail top yard shoots upwards to its near vertical alignment against the mast; luff tension is applied and snotter adjusted to gain decent lower sail shape. Ropes are tidied into thwart mounted halyard bags before rudder is lowered, centreboard set and painter released in one fluid set of movements.  Dismissing the need for a potential reef in mainsail earlier on, he has already visualised his departure course away from the buoy. 

Away on a southerly reach back down the upper Hamoaze between the two moored lighters west of Carew point, before tacking around and heading back up’.

Jib unfurls with rattling sheets, the red furling line snaking away through the cockpit coaming fairlead. The white hulled dinghy with its burgundy sheer plank makes a steady 3.5kts on the return reach to the Lynher red port can marker before a series of short tacks bring boat and skipper upriver, past Wearde Quay.

Had Skipper and Arwen been sailing past this point in the late 1800’s they would have passed HMS Defiance at anchor off this quayside. The last wooden three decker ship launched for the Royal Navy, she may never have seen service as a line of battle ship, but her history is still an interesting one. In After becoming the permanently moored training school for torpedoes and mines in 1884, her commanding officer, Captain Henry Jackson, made a series of pioneering radio transmissions in 1896, so becoming the first Briton to use radio for practical communication from the deck of a ship. During WW1, Defiance was an army training camp and later in 1918 was converted to a Queen Alexandra convalescence centre for battle casualties. Sadly, in 1931, she met her end, dismantled and sold for scrap.

Captain Jackson 

 With no wreck to view and only a row of renovated cottages to mark the quayside, Skipper is content, that based on old photos he found on the internet, HMS Defiance must have been a remarkable sight. So important and busy was she in her heyday that the Great Western Railway even built a station halt behind her on the main Paddington – Penzance line. ‘Defiance Halt’, long since closed.

Between Beggar Island and Sand Acre Point, skipper tacks upriver with care, keeping a wary eye on the water colour beneath him as he approaches the northern shore. Shallow water above oozing mudflats will catch the centreboard of the unwary sailor and whilst grounding oneself on a rising tide is a mild and somewhat irritating inconvenience, it is not something skipper is keen to do under the full gaze of the ‘Jupiter Point’ naval trainees, who are out in force practising their MOB procedures in small ribs.  

Courtesy of Navy Times

He is especially very keen NOT to become the day’s ‘teaching point’ for accompanying Chief Petty officers and so he further shortens his tack runs.  

Courtesy of Navy Times 

Whilst it is fun for short periods of time to ‘guess’ the depths and repetitively duck back and forth beneath swinging boom and mainsail, skipper is of an age now where back and legs tire quickly and the ‘novelty’ soon wears off. He is not, never was and never will be a dinghy racing type!

 Today the fates take pity, rewarding him with a sudden albeit brief wind shift to a more south westerly direction which enables him to complete a ‘longer’ tack out past the training school, the mine sweeper HMS Brecon moored midstream, and over to the northerly ‘Anthony’ green starboard channel can. It is a move that particularly delights skipper as it affords him a closer ‘inside’ view of Forder lake and the hamlet of Anthony Passage.

HMS Brecon 

In this stretch of water, it is not hard to see how the shift from Hamoaze to Lynher is like cutting ties with civilization and entering a past historical time. The change of pace and scenery, from dockyards, incinerators, lumbering chain ferries and stark urban landscapes to sceneries not out of place in the early 1800’s or even medieval times, is most welcome.
Forgotten creeks, old wooden wreck hulks, crumbing Victorian quaysides, the ‘Capability Brown’ designed gardens of old country house estates and glimpses of ancient medieval Motte and Bailey Norman castles high on farmed hillsides always excite this skipper.

Looking over Forder Lake towards the river Lynher

To the sounds of rattling blocks, flapping sails and knocking centreboard, Arwen’s gracefully curved forefoot stem slows its slicing through the wavelets as skipper eases mainsheet, tightens mizzen and brings bow into wind. Gently drifting backwards, he now has time to admire the industrial archaeology of Forder Lake. From early medieval times right up to the twentieth century, the history of flour milling, fulling, market gardening, lime burning, roadstone quarrying and concrete block making have left their indelible mark on this pretty conservation area and area of outstanding natural beauty (ANOB).

Seduced by splendid agricultural scenery on rolling hills, it is too easy to sail by and miss this inlet with its old mill house and pond where the thirteenth century tenants of Trematon Manor bought their grain to be milled; where seventeenth century waterwheels enabled fullers to clean, shrink and thicken woven cloth; and where nineteenth century boats bought Devonport Dockyard dung and street sweepings upriver to be dumped on the quayside for local farmers to carry away in carts. Natural fertiliser for the local market garden farms!  Some twenty miles long, rising 280m high on Bodmin Moor and with 75% of its catchment given over to dairy farming today, Skipper likes to think of the river Lynher as a ‘hard working’ waterway rich in a history that he never tires of discovering.

As winds shift back to WNW, he completes a longer tack south across the channel. Over the transom he gains fleeting glimpses of Trematon castle above Forder Lake. Privately owned, he sadly has yet to reach a station in life where he would be granted a personal invitation to visit such a worthy historical site. Built on a former ancient roman fort, after the Norman conquest, the motte and bailey castle’s 30’ high, 10’ thick walls were once home to Drakes treasures from his circumnavigation. Spanish plunder, safely kept there, whilst the ‘pirate’ awaited aboard his own ship for news that he was still in his fair Queen’s good books!

Aerial view of Trematon castle and beyond is Forder Lake 
with its GWR viaduct, mill pond and old mill houses

Ahead of skipper, the wooded gardens of Antony house, owned by the National Trust and still lived in by the Carew Poles, a family who can trace their lineage back to the 1400’s and Carew Castle in Pembrokeshire. 

Antony House 

Although a geographer by heart, skipper does occasionally admit to being lured by the dark side of the force and the attractions of being a historian. Thus, the Lynher with its stimulating histography is one of skipper’s favourite cruising haunts. Why, it was here in 981AD that the Saxons crossed the river, forcing ancient British Celts back deeper into Cornwall (so unwittingly, skipper feels, starting the Cornish struggle for ‘independence’ from the domineering, hugely omnipresent Anglo Saxon and later Norman, English and London centric governments.  A unique Celtic seafaring, mining and farming history, with a culture and language more in common with Wales, Ireland and Brittany, skipper, as a Welshman, has some sympathy with this longing that is so entwined in the DNA of many Cornish people).

A cormorant, in the path of the rapidly approaching little boat prudently its flap wings and sprints its webbed feet furiously across the water surface to gain momentum and lift, thus intruding on Skippers musings about cultural politics. Breaking away a few metres ahead of looming bow, the cormorant in a welter of spray, whooshes its way southwards to find another less disturbed fishing ground.
Meanwhile, skipper pauses briefly to plot his position on chart and to search out his next waypoint mark with binoculars. Building forward momentum once more, he unhurriedly turns tiller to leeward and ducks beneath swinging boom and fluttering mainsail. Jib is backed, bringing bow through the wind more quickly and he checks his steering compass.

‘291M, 0.9NM to ‘Ince’ green starboard buoy’.

Course details successfully scrawled in passage logbook, he momentarily relaxes as his little boat surges towards deeper channel waters. Sails trimmed and tiller tamer set, he pours a tea from his trusty flask and savours the last of his cheese and marmite sandwiches.
Life is good. Or, to paraphrase the great Joshua Slocum,

          ‘the days pass happily with me wherever my [little boat] sails’