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.

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’

Thursday, 6 September 2018

some refinements today

Well today I managed to get out and work on Arwen whilst she is parked on the driveway.
Following on from all the advice offered over the last couple of weeks I made the following rigging changes.

1. I moved the peak of the mainsail further up the top yard to the very aft end. For some obscure unfathomable reason, I had it around 9 inches lower down the yard. I am hoping that this will now raise the tack several inches off the deck and coaming area

2. I bought new, smaller blocks for the down-haul tackle and re-rigged it. Now a line with an S hook attached can clip into the sail tack eyelet. This line runs vertically down through the deck, around 55mm back from the mast rear face, around a turning block attached to the reinforced thwart seat top below and attaches to the block and tackle of the down-haul. I re-positioned the attachment points for the block and tackle - moving it further back towards the front of the centre case. I should now be able to tighten up the luff and pull it further down and closer in to the mast where it goes through the deck

3. I have altered the parrel bead set up so that it is much closer around the mast. again a simple S hook attached to it will now attach to the tack eyelet. This arrangement should bring the sail tack far closer to the mast and in conjunction with the above changes mean that the sail tack doesn't brush against the coaming when fully tensioned.

4. In order to move back the down-haul block and tackle towards the centre-case front, I had to also move back and re-position the up-haul for the centreboard

5. i also added another stainless steel ring on the top yard for the mainsail halyard to run through. I now have rings positioned at the 30% and 40% marks along the yard. The main halyard runs through one of these rings, around the port side of the mast and gets tied off on another ring at its very forward end. This arrangement works well, holding the yard near vertically and very tightly against the mast. The yard doesn't drift or flog away from the mast and it has significantly improved sail shape already.

The two articles below summarise where I was with my understanding of sail trimming and rigging on Arwen, prior to all the helpful comments given me over the last two weeks.

Next week, after returning from a short break, I intending getting Arwen out on the water in a stiff breeze. Plymouth Sound should give me plenty of space to practise reefing, heaving to, sailing under main and mizzen, main alone and jib and mizzen.  After my Salcombe scare, it is time to 'get back on the horse'!!

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Leaving Calstock

A bonus for the cruising the rivers Tamar and Lynher series......leaving Calstock.


Monday, 27 August 2018

sail trimming

Sail trimming baffles me at the best of times. Recently, there has been much debate about my inability to trim Arwen's sails correctly. This is due to inexperience as a sailor and not fully understanding sail dynamics.

As one member of the dinghy cruising association Facebook group told me......"it can take years to internalise at an unconscious level the automatic unthinking adjustment of sails"......rather like we all do when driving a car.

A very good friend managed to get some photographs of Arwen out on the water recently. These are the very first photos I have ever seen of Arwen sailing and they have provided me with lots of information.

The saggy jib stay. The dreaded throat to clew crease. The not completely set jib. The poor mainsail shape.

I'm not really doing justice to John Welsford's design.

But there are a few things beginning to emerge.  Firstly, whether the mainsail should actually be tied on at the very aft end of the top yard. Secondly, how the tack should be held much closer to the mast. Thirdly, how the down-haul tackle should be attached to the top of the deck next to the mast base.

This last one is an interesting point, since I have tried that arrangement and there was no way I could get any tension on the luff before both blocks had met at deck surface. It just didn't work.
Which raises the question why not and whether I have done something stupid during the build process and got my measurements wrong! Not only did the blocks close too early without applying sufficient tension but that the sail foot also caught up with the coaming top. Ho hum!

So next steps.
1. move the top peak sail tie on point to very aft of yard which may lift the tack a few inches up the mast
2. refit deck mounted down-haul tackle and see if doing 1 above makes any difference
3. do 1 above but alter the down-haul tackle so that a line runs from an S hook on the sail tack, down through the deck, through a turning block and then reattaches to the down-haul tackle which would run horizontally along the front of the centrecase/front thwart top
4. adjust the bobstay fittings to apply tension to the bowsprit so that the jib stay gets more tension on it

Over the next few weeks, Arwen and I will get out in the Sound and see whether these adjustments work. we could always enlist the help of a local sailmaker to see if adjustments could be made to the sail shape as well I guess, if need be.

Whilst out on the water, we will also spend time doing the following until it becomes better understood and more automatic

  • reefing the main
  • sailing under reefed main only
  • sailing under jib and mizzen only
  • sailing under main and mizzen only
  • dropping mainsail between lazy jacks and down into the boat more quickly that I do now (and finding the best place to store the furled mainsail, yard and boom in the boat so that it doesn't interfere with tiller etc. 

I also want to set up a separate area on the rear thwart of my charts - so fitting some thin bungee cord; and sorting out where to put the smaller kedge anchor so that I have more clear space on the bottom boards. I'd like to try and free up room to move the position of the galley box so that I can actually use it whilst hove to at sea, without having to lift it off the floor and onto one of the side thwarts. it was something I noticed in one of Roger Barnes's videos about his homely dinghy. He was able to use his galley box in its original position. Another illustration of his ability to make things simple, effective, functional and seaman like.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

sailing in Salcombe

Despite the upset of last week, (see previous posts) there will be a series dinghy cruising the Salcombe and Kingsbridge estuary coming out during late September/October.

Here is a taster of things to come, a thank you to all those who helped me with advice last week. thank you all and enjoy!

Saturday, 25 August 2018

sailing a small open boat in heavier weather

Following on from my previous post and Facebook pleas for advice

Tips on what to do next time

Firstly, thank you to all of you who so kindly took the time to offer advice, tips, words or wisdom and encouragement. They were greatly appreciated. As a mountaineer and a mountain leader, I always encouraged students to use hindsight to analyse difficult situations they encountered in the ‘hills’. So, with this in mind, here is what I have gleaned from your comments. Now I need to go away and think about it and where necessary, act upon it. Apologies to anyone who sees their comment somewhat prĂ©cised or paraphrased.

Why didn’t things work?

The navigator is an amazingly seaworthy boat with a variety of sail configurations. She is a strong, stable, well built, small open coastal cruiser in which I have complete faith and trust. In far more capable hands, she has proven herself on some amazing offshore passages and voyages. People expressed surprise that a Welsford boat could not sail to weather at about 55-60 deg off the wind and so get me to another position. Basically, it isn’t the boat! It can do all of that and so much more. In which case it was me!!  So, I handled things badly in some way due to lack of experience. From what I can remember, things went like this.

The events:

After a couple of severe gusts during which we heeled rather severely, and with increasing windspeeds and lumpier seas developing, I turned to windward and ran downwind under mizzen, main and jib and slightly out to sea to get space from the lee shore that was slightly parallel and ahead of me.
 I then managed to turn head to wind in a trough and dropped the main between lazy jacks and tied sail up whilst avoiding being sea sick…..a first for me!! Now under jib and mizzen, I ran further downwind and out to sea slightly whilst I tried to regain some composure before deciding that such a course was not an option. With mizzen practically at right angles to the transom, I furled some of the jib.
This course would take me along a rocky coast with few natural bays or gullies that I could safely get into. I would be in danger of crossing possible severe over-falls around Start Point and then having to turn northwards to get onto a broad reach to make the safety of Dartmouth; around 10 miles at least. A mile and a half into the wind behind me were the steep cliffs at the harbour entrance to where I could make out far calmer water and so rightly or wrongly that was elected for option. 
When I came to tack around, I would get so far and then stall; or Arwen just wouldn’t make the turn. When I gybed, a similar result happened. I tried pulling the mizzen base in to help make the turn; backing the jib; centreboard fully down; centreboard up. I just could not get to head to wind before being blown sideways at the bow and turned back downwind.

Why might this have happened apart from my inexperience and incorrect sailing strategies?

Some people suggested it may very well be that the jib and mizzen don't have enough power to drive the boat to windward when the windage from the hull is increased due to high angles of heel. As the sails become more horizontal they lose power, and as the hull becomes more vertical there's more surface area for the wind to push against.  Add to that the force of the waves striking the windward side of the boat, and clawing off to windward would certainly have been a challenge.
The boat needs a certain amount of "horsepower" to overcome the push of the wind on the hull and rig so it can go to windward.  There is a windspeed and sea state combination where it’s just not possible to do that.
As one person observed “If you think about the physics, you can see why turning into the wind with only jib & mizzen would cause problems. At the point where you are beam on, force is being applied to both ends of the hull, almost a guaranteed stall”.

So, what could I have done differently – your tips and thoughts

This is where I have plenty to think about and go out and do so thank you to you all. Suggestions included:
        “To turn upwind in such situation next time, reduce the lateral force on the bow which was pushing it away from the wind direction, by using reefed main and mizzen only”.
        “Difficult rudder control suggests imbalanced sails so just the reefed main would be better option as there are less sails to deal with and it makes running and reaching easier. A mizzen has tendency to head boat up into wind, so use just reefed main”.
        “When tacking, release the main (or mizzen sheet) and back wind the jib to allow the bow to come through the eye of the wind? Only when on the other tack release the back-winded jib and sheet in the mizzen”.
        “Drop the main and put up a small trysail?”
        “Think of your mizzen as an ariel rudder. Take all your sails down, she should sit more or less head to wind.  Ease the mizzen out and she will bear away downwind. To sail towards the wind, sheet the mizzen in and then sheet in the headsail.   If you were in a lumpy sea with a lot of wind you probably didn’t have enough power to close haul with just a headsail and mizzen.  Make sure you always have a lot of sea-room and try sailing “full and bye” a few points off the wind which will give you more speed.  When you are on the move, water passing over your rudder will allow you to tack, choose your wave, try backing the headsail and mizzen if possible to help you round.  To gybe, let the mizzen out, again make sure you have sea-room
        “Deep reef the main and sail with headsail, main and mizzen. Reef early and keep to windward with loads of sea room to allow for heavy weather manoeuvring”.
        “Fully down centreboard would be my choice in those conditions”
        “In winds from 16-20 knots hold sheets in hands, not in jammers to let them go fast in case of a gust and go downwind if possible”.
        “Dumping the main and the mizzen and just tried with your jib would have given a good start. If you didn’t have the horse power you needed, reef the main and start off again, SLOWLY until you have the sail area that provides the power you need without being over powered”.
        “It helps to reduce the amount of centre-board in stronger winds when sailing upwind as it balances the boat better.  The greater leeway you generate is balanced by reduced heel, leading to better speed through the water which then makes manoeuvring easier. Also, with reduced sail the boat will become unbalanced to a degree as the centre of effort changes position, so adjusting the board can correct this.  Once the boat is set up with one of the rig options sail along and feel the weight on the helm and adjust the board to see what difference that makes”.
        “You will need to have main up with triple reef. And storm jib up to go upwind...and that is if the boat is not overpowered, with your size and weight, I think in those conditions it is better to run. Should you have no space (lee shore) your thinking was correct and jibing would have been the way to turn the boat. If the speed hinders you, you can throw some rope out the transom to act as a sea anchor. Also, a bucket well tied will do. Hove to [was another option to consider]”
        “When the wind shifts like that, go straight to jib and mizzen.  The wind you had was too much for even a double reefed main.  Then, look for shelter downwind or on a beam reach.  With that much wind, and leeway, a beam reach is all you can expect.  Tacking under jib and mizzen is not easy even in ideal conditions.  Gybe all the way around instead. I think I'd have run downwind under jib and mizzen to the closest thing resembling shelter”.
        “Your mizzen has a huge impact on your ability to tack or gybe, especially if you don't have speed. When tacking, as you come head to wind, loosen the mizzen sheet a bit or she can stall you out head to wind, then retrim after you are through the tack. Also, don't loosen your jib sheet to soon as you want that power for as long as it's available. In some conditions, I'll let the jib backwind  (fill on the backside) to push the nose across before I loosen the sheet. If you do that, be prepared to quickly release the old working sheet and trim in the other side as you come through the tack”. 
        “Running downwind or on a broad reach, you want to make sure your sails are out far enough or the boat will want to come back to windward. Get the mizzen out perpendicular to the transom. When gybing, just grab the foot of the mizzen and pull it across without touching the sheet. That moves it quickly and helps you finish the gybe. You definitely want the jib out when sailing downwind. If you end up in irons after sorting out a reef or making other adjustments, loosen the mizzen sheet, grab the foot of the sail and pull it in towards the transom while pushing the tiller the to the same side and the boat will quickly back you off the wind”.
         “The center-board is key as that's your pivot point for the power generated by your jib and mizzen. If that wasn't down, it's tough to turn the boat!!”
          “You need lots of boat speed ... but at the same time you are reefed down, so have less sail up and so less power. Try bearing off, getting the boat going as fast as possible, pick a flat-ish bit of sea and then sail her round. Also, make sure the plate is fully down”.
          “Try "backing" the mizzen. I sometimes lash mine far over to leward before an attempt to cross the wind. Then, if you can at least get her up dead into the wind, or near enough, the mizzen will  do the rest, but prevent getting caught in irons. Once the jib backs, you're sure to complete your tack. Just be ready to free up that mizzen once the tack is done! *You can practice this at anchor with a bit of wind, lash the mizzen to one side or the other and watch as the bow swings opposite the "backed" mizzen. This is also a great way to sail out the anchor with control”.
          “Drop the main. Straight away preferably into lazy jacks. Immediately you have a balanced rig with centre of effort lower. Ease the jib and mizzen and head off away from danger e.g. the rocks. If still being tested by the wind, wind in a bit of jib... If still over powered with that rig, it is probably time to go straight to the motor”. While of course it's good not to rely on your motor, there's nothing wrong with using it when need to!” “Don’t think it’s a failure if you have to use your outboard for a bit of extra power, to push you through those waves when going to windward, unless you have a mean machine racing yacht, beating to windward in heavy weather is always a misery, only the purist won’t pop the engine in forward gear with a few revs on to keep the hull moving through the water”. “Would have put the engine on as soon as I realised I didn't have full control of the boat. I know you were trying not to use the engine all summer but surely the reason you carry an engine is to be an alternative means of propulsion when sailing isn't working and rowing not possible. This was such a situation. Well done for making the right call and thanks for sharing”.

Follow up actions to consider

1.       “Consider buying yourself a storm jib. With a storm jib, a heavily reefed main and some practice you’ll be ready for the Straights of Magellan”. đŸ™‚
2.       “Check the weather forecast more carefully and look at a number of different sources of weather information”
3.       “Have a contingency plan for such an eventuality – know which bays you can run downwind to”
4.       “On a calmer day try all the different rig options to see how well they balance.  This will give you more knowledge on how the boat reacts, thus what is best for tougher conditions.  Also you will have a few options for adjusting the shape of the sails, which will also affect the balance and power, so worth adjusting those as well”.
5.       “Start sailing and trying out your boat in days with marginal weather. When its hairy enough but not disastrous conditions and feel your boat. Start challenging yourself.4. Take this as a learning experience and do what u r doing, re live it analyse and ask yourself what u did right or wrong. Then when out in those rough days test yourself under controlled conditions”.
6.       “Practice reefing in good weather until you can do it in a few seconds without thinking”.
7.       “Seems to me sailing in lighter winds with the various sail configurations will help you learn how your boat handles. Next time you'll be calmer, because you recognise that calm is the key to making everything go smoother”.

Other points people made:

“One of the other key things is to make sure your motor has a fuel hose and tank, so if you have to motor for 45 mins into a gathering gale or whatever you don't suddenly run out of fuel from a top tank as I have seen happen to a mate”. [which is an interesting point as I have a 3.5hp Tohatsu which has an internal tank and I can motor for about 40 minutes on mid revs; and yes I have frequently hung off the back to refuel in wavy conditions – not pleasant]

“Anchor and wait it out; put up mizzen to keep pointing into the wind”

My thanks to you all – it has been a really helpful discussion with lots of points to consider. Thank you to all of you below for your tips, reassurance, encouragement. Greatly appreciated and I will let you all know how I get on over the next few weeks.

Thanks to
Bill      Denis      Roger      David      LJ      Ken      Lisa      Nick      Kevin      Tim      John      Mike
Michael      JW      Duncan      Stuart      Quecon      Ed      Alexia      Graham      Chris      DK
Patrick      Tim      Joel      Paul      Dana      Albert      Mattias      Ignacio      Doug      Richard      Justin
Jim      Thomas      Melissa      Cornelius      Grldtnt      Geoff      Seb      Scott      Wade

And one other conundrum!!

Michael and Richard, looking at a photo of Arwen spotted this.......the perpetual crease I always have in the sail. 

Do you have a loop around the mast at the tack? it looks like the boom is pulling the bottom front corner of the sail away from the mast. Put a loop around the mast before the sprit boom is fully tensioned. That is very likely what the problem is ... it is a huge  gap and will be altering the angle at the throat so you get the crease. Sail corners have to be kept close to the spars they are attached to. In the photo it looks like you have the downhaul going into the cockpit ... it should be close to the mast. But just pull the tack forward to get rid of the gap first and see what happens. Basically the throat of the sail is cut with a certain angle. If the angle is distorted, particularly reduced, by either the yard angling lower (usually downhaul tension is inadequate which you have looked at already) or the tack moving back, then get that crease. The sprit boom is very powerful for pulling the clew back and a lot of that tension will be along the foot”.

Well here are the photographs in question:

 Now over the years John has patiently explained several times how to remove the crease and I have acted upon everything but it still remains and so this now raises tow other questions

1. did the sail maker alter the cut of the sail and I never noticed because I don't know enough about sails?
2. and the more likely - did I do something silly when building Arwen, deviating away from the plans, in such a way to cause this problem?

I am beginning to think the answer is yes to question 2.  

Firstly, I built the cockpit coaming about an inch and a half higher than the plans suggested. I'm sure I had a stupid reason at the time for doing so but here is the golden lesson, when you have never built a boat before, NEVER, NEVER deviate from the plans without checking the implications with the designer first (sorry John!). The designer designed it with the coaming height in mind for a reason!!

Secondly, I am now looking for the plans again to check measurements. Comments from Michael and Richard have made me think not only is the cockpit height wrong but that the coaming has come to far forward into the cockpit itself by what looks like three inches or so. So did I forget to cut excess of the deck king plank during the building phase and just put the coaming on without checking? Plausible, given I built it each evening after a long school day and normally didn't start building work until 9pm each night. 

At present, I can get plenty of tension on the downhaul but what it does, due to its position, is it pulls the tack away from the mast into the cockpit in order to clear the coaming; and that is the likely cause of the crease.

Now I could put the downhaul halyards down through the deck in front of the mast by attaching a single line to the tack, running it through the deck and then attaching it to the downhaul block and tackle. In this way I could haul the tack down as far as the deck but then I couldnt apply any more tension. if I did this, what other adaptations would I have to make to the top yard halyard attachment point; and to the sprit boom attachment point on the mast?

If anyone has any advice or suggestions on the viability of this or about the possible problem of the crease, do please let me know because I have done something daft and so am not showing off John's brilliant design to best advantage and that isn't fair on him or his amazingly, wonderful boat 'navigator'. 

I'm sure I was never this thick or stupid as a mountaineer!!