Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my dinghy cruising blog about my John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. Built over three years, Arwen was launched in August 2007. She is a standing lug yawl 14' 6" in length. This blog records our dinghy cruising voyages together around the coastal waters of SW England.
Arwen has an associated YouTube channel so visit to find our most recent cruises and click subscribe.
On this blog you will find posts about dinghy cruising locations, accounts of our voyages, maintenance tips and 'How to's' ranging from rigging standing lug sails and building galley boxes to using 'anchor buddies' and creating 'pilotage notes'. I hope you find something that inspires you to get out on the water in your boat. Drop us a comment and happy sailing.
Steve and Arwen

Monday, 14 September 2020

Enrico in Italy - Miravar 2020

 is off on a raid - all the details here

and here is the taster video - looks a great sailing area

That guilty feeling...

 So I was late out feeding the garden critters this morning - talk about hard stares! Oh the guilt and to cap it all, squirrel Nutkin decided to show his displeasure by biting off the stems of the sunflowers so that they collapsed onto the veg box , from where he could attack the heads. 

Ever watched a squirrel try and carry a 2' long piece of sunflower stem with head up 32 garden steps? A hilarious start to breakfast outside at the coffee table. 

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Searching for Minke Whales

 Snatching a day on the water tomorrow. High tide at 11.08 am 4.5 m.  Winds backing from NE around to WSW during the day with general winds around 3 - 7 kts and gusts around 8 - 12 kts. Visibility will be good all day and cloud will build during the day. Sea state will be smooth to slight. 

I'm aiming to sail around to Whitsand Bay, to the west of Rame Head and then anyway a few miles off shore eastwards towards the Great Mewstone near Wembury Bay. I'm hoping that the tuna, dolphin and gannets will still be around.

Launching from QAB, I'm hoping to be on the water by 0730 and I will actually motor out across the sound as winds will be very light at that time of the morning.  

One of the aims tomorrow is to shoot a considerable amount of B roll footage for future vlogs. I never get time on a sailing trip day to just do simple things like shooting the raising and dropping of sails etc. So, once clear of the breakwater I will spend some time filming different aspects of sailing Arwen and getting the close ups of various aspects of boat work.  

I might also go over to Cawsand, anchor off the beach using either the beach buddy bungee or rigging a simple pulley system through two anchor and grab myself a coffee if the hotel cafe terrace is still open. 

I'm not planning on actually creating a vlog from this trip tomorrow though. 

Let's hope I spot lots of reeling diving gannets over a shoal of tuna being chased by a pod of cetaceans.  


A very early start - launching on the ramp at 06.30. An omen of the day was watching two blue trailer rollers suddenly drop off the trailer as I drove it back up the slipway. They rolled the length of the slip but I was able to retrieve them. An inspection of the trailer shows that all the split pins and discs which hold the rollers on their bars have corroded away - so today I must source 16 discs and 8 split pins asap!

The predicted 7 kts winds never materialised. It was gentle winds or no wind at all all day. Still a bad day on the water is better than a day teaching in school....especially under the current circumstances. 

Frustration doesn't sum up the day. After a quick glimpse of a small dolphin just off Rame Head, nothing for a couple of hours. Two sunfish, another dolphin.

And then an extremely frustrating hour - four miles off shore drifting along in the tidal currents eastwards towards Whitesand Bay I could hear several 'blows' of whales. Despite the sea state being smooth, I couldn't see anything. And then a two second glimpse of a large back in the distance just past Rame and that was it.  

Several hours later light wind sailing and drifting about and nothing. 

But at least I know why - wrong time and wrong place - they were all partying off Fowey.

Enjoy Lone Kayaker's blog - he is a clever, clever man.

In the meantime, I'm off to the local trailer parts supplier. This afternoon is earmarked for some trailer maintenance!

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Minor tinkering

 I've been tinkering with the sprit boom. Two smaller blocks and 4mm halyard thickness for the snotter. I have also rechecked the position of the snotter attachment on the mast and have put in two positions - the original fixed one and above it a rope lashing that can slide up and down the mast. 

We will see if these minor adjustments help next trip out. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Learning new things all the time - rigging a Welsford navigator

 Recently I wrote an article for the Dinghy Cruising Association about deviating from the plans of the designer when building a boat - especially when you were doing it for the first time - and knew bugger all about sailing or boat design in the first place!

The dangers of tinkering and using only a 'little' knowledge!

Anyway, everything works fine on Arwen - except for sail trimming. Regular readers of this blog will know I am hopeless at it, don't understand the dark art and NEVER get it right on Arwen. There is always a permanent crease from throat to clew that no other navigator sailors get. The top of the sail always seems slightly floppy as does the leech. 

One reason I am thinking is the mistake of following the advice of the sail-makers. Jeckells loved the sail plan but insisted that full sized battens would be a pain when coming to dropping and stowing the main sail and so shortened them. Being naive and unsure of myself I accepted their advice - hindsight and now knowing how brilliant John is as a was a silly mistake to make and displayed a lack of faith in John and his designs. 

I suspect I will have to bite the bullet over winter and have full sail battens inserted. Ah well - you live and learn. 

Over the last few days another navigator owner Tim Ingersoll has been most generous with his time and filmed two short videos of how he has rigged his navigator with the standing lug sail. He did it at my request as a great favour to me so I could see how someone else with the same rig had done theirs. 

Here are his two short videos. 

Now several things became crystal clear rather rapidly after watching these two videos.
  1. The difference those full length sail battens make and how easily they drop and furl - I have no idea what Jeckells were talking about - now!!
  2. Our snotter arrangements are similar but with differences - I use double blocks as the tackle - Tim uses a single and a double; I use 5 mm line - he looks as if he is using 4 mm. My snotter halyards 'sticks' - his doesn't!
  3. His reefing system is different - a braille elastic and hooks affair - which looks quicker and easier than my individual hemp ties! Mine may look slightly more aesthetically pleasing though - maybe - just a tad - if you are a traditionalist? 
  4.  Oh dear God - his under the deck arrangement is so much cleaner and simpler than mine - what was I thinking? Deck turning blocks - yes of course - not actual blocks - dur! And Jib and mainsail halyard cleats on the top of the deck or the actual mast sides - so much better. 
  5. Tim uses a single big block for his centreboard - whereas I use a triple and double block arrangement which takes up space - so I may ponder on that one further
  6. Tim's top yard is noticeably different - it appears thinner and more curved than mine - he lashes the main halyard on it and has a separate parrel loop arrangement at the forward bottom end of the yard to hold it close to the mast. He also has that yard on the port side of the mast, the same side as the sprit boom. Other sailors on inspecting Arwen have also commented that would be a better arrangement although John's plans clearly show sprit boom one side and top yard the other. I think I will stick with the plans - having learned a painful lesson on the sail battens. 
  7. Our down-haul arrangements are slightly different as well - Tim followed the plans!  Guess who didn't! Tim's blocks are above deck - mine are below deck. Everyone tells me to crank on more tension to get rid of the crease but I promise you that is impossible - the luff is as taut as it can get - there is no more tension to be applied!
And that seems to be basically the differences - which now leaves me things to consider regarding the main sail battens, the top yard and the luff tack down-haul arrangement along with the deck turning blocks. 

On a different note but still on the general kindness of people, Dave, a highly experienced boat builder and member of the Dinghy Cruising Association contacted me by email after watching a few of my recent videos. Dave is an extraordinary small boat sailor and everyone accepts he really knows his stuff. Essentially he thinks there might be an issue with the sprit boom itself and the snotter. he had a similar problem on a boat he built once with a similar standing lug sail arrangement and he solved it by simply altering the boom at the bottom to make it a boom like you would find on a gaff sail and he then rigged a vang attached to the boom. 

So, lots to think about.  I like the sprit boom and since Tim and many others have made it work really well for them and John planned it that way - I will stick with it a little longer I think and make some of the minor alterations that Tim has shown me and see if these work. If not, knocking up a cheap boom over the winter, as Dave suggests, wastes little and could be a solution. 

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Porpoise off Plymouth Sound

 I love where I live - I am so lucky to have this close by.

A bit lengthy - in a rush? The porpoise appear about 11 minutes in.

Capsize lessons

 Rik recently capsized his pathfinder. He posts about the experience and subsequent alterations to his boat Vanessa here at

An essential read with some interesting lessons for us all.