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

Wednesday 22 December 2010

an apology to HM Coastguard......and some musings on radios

It seems my last post may have inadvertently caused offence. I’ve had a reply from HM Coastguard, which has rightly pointed out that I hadn’t yet read the document on their website before passing comment about the proposed cuts. It’s a fair point – I responded to the initial news reports and should have known better – sorry!

The comment also raised the issue of perhaps putting in a fixed waterproof VHF capable of 25W transmission in Arwen. It didn’t answer my initial query of whether or not my 5W hand held would be adequate enough. However, the very nice guys at the Dinghy Cruising Association Yahoo group came to my rescue and the consensus seems to be that the original radio transmitters will be kept and so my 5W output will be picked up and relayed to Falmouth or Southampton with no problem at all.

So this comment from HM coastguard got me thinking further about a) putting a fixed VHF unit into Arwen and b) about the implications of the proposed cuts and closures to HM Coastguard stations.

Firstly the fixed radio issue. My thanks must go to DCA members for such a quick and illuminating response. When you are new to this – it is reassuring to know that experienced advice is only an email away. DCA members put the following case for and against having a fixed waterproof VHF in an open dinghy.

Oliver briefed me that “all new fixed VHF sets are DSC enabled. This includes the facility for automated distress calls. The better ones enable the radio to be interfaced with a GPS set, so that the automated distress call can include the GPS position. However, if you have only the pre-DSC operator's licence you will need to upgrade. Entry level fixed sets are around £100, but you get what you pay for, and it may well be worth paying significantly more. Some of the "professional quality" sets are I think around £450”. At which point – this just goes well outside my potential budget!

This is a Cobra MRF55 DCS fixed unit which can be got for around £90 at the moment

Installation of a fixed unit will require a masthead antenna. The height of the antenna will be one of the factors that determines the range of communication. Wattage output is the other. A fixed radio needs an external 12V battery which will need to be leak proof and firmly secured (so it doesn’t go flying in a capsize). What kind of battery also raises questions – cheaper car batteries are often not leak proof. Miniature 12 V batteries can be bought but again are not always leak proof. The radio set will need to be waterproof – not so much of a problem I guess since rib runabouts must have VHF units which are fixed and therefore waterproof. A capsize is likely to damage a mast head antenna and so the radio is gone as well in that eventuality.

Oliver also suggested an alternative approach - using a masthead antenna with my existing hand-held set. I will have to check but I think my handheld does actually have an antenna socket. Solves the battery problem but since it’s only a 5W handheld – not the power outage one; similarly a capsize could lose the masthead antenna – so no progress on that front either.
And now to the coastguard reorganization/closures. Falmouth will go to daylight hours only. Brixham will close. There will be a new super centre at Southampton/Portsmouth. HM coastguard tells me that the original transmitters will stay. They didn’t say that my hand held would still be picked up but read their reply comment on the post below. I may well, through inexperience, have lost the full implications of what they are saying to me. I think this is where I am at, at this time. Some argue that MRCC’s are merely call centres which reroute distress messages to local staff on the ground in that area (SAR, RNLI, Coastguard cliff teams, Harbour Masters etc). I’ve heard the argument that air traffic control is only two centres for the whole of the UK. There is some validity to these arguments. However, experience suggests that when you rationalize you do lose that local knowledge element that can be so valuable and save vital minutes. Friends who work in various industries where their local centres have been closed in favour of one or two national centres tell me that because people at these centres don’t know the ground – they get the most stupid directions or instructions sent to them, which if those sending them knew the area – they’d know were impossible to fulfill or that there would have been better alternatives which only local would have known. I’m slightly baffled at how Falmouth has such a great reputation for dealing with international incidents way out into the north Atlantic and as far away as Bermuda…and yet they are to be reduced in staffing and down to daylight hours……doesn’t this expertise and proven success count for anything? Finally I’m worried that the consultation period is rather short……this government seems to be making a habit of rushing things through – education is littered with rushed through consultations at the moment. It is very easy to cut something in haste – it takes a long time to put what you cut back into action when you discover that your hasty decision was a cock up!
We are very lucky to have the Coastguard service we have – their experience and dedication is legendary. It should not be thrown away lightly! I’m still ambivalent about the government’s decision to cut coastguard provision….but I’m very distrustful of their consultation process and the speed at which they rush things through…….so I’ll suspend judgment for now and reflect and read further. Watch this space.


Saturday 18 December 2010

yep - it got worse......but why is it we grind to a halt over a few inches?

It did snow again last night as I predicted and we woke to a couple of inches. Being on a north facing slope means the snow doesn't clear - we don't get much sunshine in winter because we are at the immediate foot of a high hill. The valley across from us gets the sun and over there everything turned to slush pretty quickly.

Actually I got up at three in the morning and this was the scene under our street light

The view from our porch across the valley to our local parish church which dates back to the 12th century , if I remember correctly. This was at 8.30am this morning

And poor old Arwen under her tarp's at the same time

We do seem to grind to a halt and the whole transport infrastructure seems to go into chaos with only a few inches of snow. I guess we just can't afford to invest in the snow clearing equipment we need for times like this - when these times may only happen once very few years.

And the view along our road at 9.10am - its quite exciting really

Still, it won't last for Christmas - there is a thaw setting in the south west of England - sometime later next week. It has been fun. I love that 'blanket of quiet' that descends when snow covers the land; and the lack of traffic noise that normally wafts up from the main road in the valley below.

I expect this will be my last post before Christmas - so I take this opportunity to say 'Merry Christmas and Happy New Year' to all those followers of 'Arwen's Meanderings'. May 2011 bring you happiness and prosperity and thank you for taking the time to pay us a visit this year.


Friday 17 December 2010

hey its snowing!!

It's snowing. We rarely get snow here in Plymouth UK - we are so far south and it is normally so mild - the gulf stream and mild waters of the Atlantic keep our air temp a few degrees above elsewhere in the UK. However, we are being given severe weather warnings and we woke to a small snow cover this morning. It is supposed to get far worse tonight - the temp is dropping rapidly so who knows? I definitely can't see the moors from our front window which is always a sure sign the weather is closing in and the skies look grey and leaden! maybe we will get our white Christmas here in Plymouth - the first one in 30 odd years! Here's hoping!

This is Arwen at the moment:

this is the fresh snow - the stuff that fell last night has almost melted away
Arwen is on our new driveway which we had dug out so that it would make
it easier reversing her up and onto the slope.

Arwen will be OK under that lot - there are three separate tarpaulins covering her. It's just the weight of snow building up on them that is the issue.

the view at the moment along our little street - some of the snow is sticking again
if it does - it will be tricky getting out of the road tomorrow - our little road ends in two steep hill corners either end - fun in ice!

Definitely NOT sailing weather at the moment!
On other matters - we learned today that as part of the severe economic cutbacks the country is facing - some of our coastguard stations are being axed. My local one, Brixham, is being closed. Falmouth, our big rescue co-ordination centre - which stretches far out into the north Atlantic is being reduced in staffing and to operating during daylight hours only. We will have a new super centre at Southampton. I think the cuts are a big mistake and lives will be put at risk. My little handheld VHF won't reach Falmouth or Southampton - that's for sure. I feel really sorry for all those expert coastguards who are losing their jobs. They have all been outstanding and will be greatly missed by us all. I'll report more on the cuts to coastguard services in UK when I have a better handle on what is being proposed.


Tuesday 14 December 2010

analyzing the stat's!

I've been looking at the stat's for this blog. It's quite interesting and so I share with you a very brief summary of the main headlines. Since the blog was started back in May 2010, people from 76 countries have visited the site. The UK and the USA have the biggest numbers of visitors, followed by Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Way down the list of visits, but of no lesser importance to me, are some interesting places e.g. Qatar, Macedonia, Kuwait and Bangladesh. I'm thinking of getting a world wall map for my classroom and putting in pins and strings - the geographer in me senses there is a pattern in there somewhere worth retrieving.

Today we have had 28 page views. Yesterday it was 48. Last month we had 1648 page views and for all time since the blog started - 9978. hey, you've just made that total rise by merely visiting me now and you are most welcome. Sit back, kick off your shoes - go to oldest posts first and enjoy. take a break - get a coffee - come back - chill for a while with me and Arwen.

Many people catch up with Arwens Meanderings via another website. Duckwork's is the most popular referring url. Othe popular ones include Dave's 'openboat' site; Rob's 'the middle thing' site, Gavin's 'in the boat shed' site, Joel's 'navigator' site; and Steve's 'log of Spartina' site. All these can be accessed from the menus on the right hand side of this blog and hey guys - thanks for the mention - much appreciated.

Peak traffic to Arwen's blog was September 2010 - I sense that many enjoyed the tale of my extended voyage to Salcombe and my reoccurring bouts of sea sickness - harsh people - to take enjoyment from someone else's suffering - harsh indeed! One person on YouTube even asked if I could remember next time to film myself hurling up over the side.....yeah - of course I will - can't understand why I so selfishly forgot to do that in the first place!!!!!!!!!!

There have been around 1900 searches using google.  The most popular search terms have been 'Arwen', 'Welsford', lug sail', 'lugsail yawl' and 'dinghy cruising'. The most interesting one, worthy of further investigation I feel was this rather intriguing entry ' Steven tied to a mast short story'. I'm still trying to work out how that search led to 'Arwens Meanderings'!


Friday 10 December 2010

bad winter weather

I took the decision to pack away Arwen for the winter. It took me an hour or so. The tarpaulins over her had frozen solid. Over the last few weeks water had permeated the tarp and collected in the bilges/floor. Because Arwen is stored on a sloping drive, the water flows down and collects at the base of the front thwart. Because I seal the hatch rims with Vaseline, water hasn't leaked through into the under thwart locker but it was inches deep on the floor.

Not on the driveway but on the QAB slip a few months back

Anyway, off came the jib and the jib furler off the bowsprit. The end of the furler cord which runs back to the cockpit has frayed and so will need new whipping. The end of the jib halyard has actually suffered a similar fate - partly because I've been remiss in not whipping it immediately I saw the fray start. So there is one job in the evenings. I removed the main halyard and need to check that carefully for wear and tear.

Out came the mainsheet and jib sheets (another frayed job needing remedial action). I also took out all the paraphernalia  like fenders, and halyard bags. One or two of these were damp and are now drying in the garage. The gratings were a bit damp and had started to get mouldy - so they need sanding down and re- soaking in Deks Oljie. Out came seat cushions and they have been cleaned.  Basically it was a good opportunity to do some cleaning up. I now have to decide whether I'm going to sand down the mast and re coat that in Deks Oljie as well - its a matter of shifting things around in the garage - like a dismantled 1960's scooter!!!!!

Hand on heart - it needs doing; there are a few dings in it which need filling as well. Its all part of looking after a wooden boat and that is what the fun is about isn't is?


Tuesday 7 December 2010

do you ever wake up in the night........

with little niggles.....things that start worrying you and grow out of all proportion?  I've woken up for several nights now with a little fear which is growing in my mind....and I can't shake it loose.......have I put on so much weight recently that a) I will not fit inside Angharad...and b) if I do fit inside.........she'll sink and water will flood into the cockpit across the deck?

I blame my Mother - she saw me recently after a spell of not seeing me and remarked 'darling you really must lose weight'

Gee - thanks Mum! Now look what you've started - rampant paranoia! And a vision I can't shake loose.........I'm at the slip at Queen Anne's battery; everyone has turned up to celebrate the launch of Angharad...they are lining the pontoons; I sit in her, push off and..................gurgle gurgle gurgle! I sink never to resurface again!


Robert's labour of love

Robert's labour of love is finally on its way and you can purchase it. All the details are here at his site at

I am really looking forward to reading this book.  Robert is a craftsman and a really reflective guy - it will be a brilliant and insightful read for all those interested in small open boats - sailing them , building them or dreaming about them. I look at some of the people who have also made contributions - they are legends in the navigator world - these people really inspired me when building Arwen. I pored for hours over Barrett's photographs and wished constantly  I had her level of expertise, craftsmanship and artistry. I complied a huge scrapbook of every photograph I could find of a navigator before I ever started on Arwen; I annotated these pictures with questions, ideas, design features I wanted off these boats; some things I didn't want. I scrutinised these peoples websites, flickr photos and blogs. I spent hours visualising, constructing things in my mind. Dave P's site gave me inspiration - real people, building real boats and having fun in them. These people are my heros! They are the reason I managed to start Arwen and whilst she will never win any beauty prizes like all the other navigators will - I did have fun building her; I did achieve an ambition; I did learn a huge amount and oh hell yes - have I had fun sailing her or have I had fun sailing her! However, I'd be less than honest if I didn't say I got frustrated too - despite my best efforts - I just don't seem to have the skill set some of these people used to drive me mad that despite measuring something 6 times - I'd still cut it to discover a 3 - 6 mm gap had suddenly materialised from nowhere...urgh!  I guess we all have to learn - I'm really good at helping kids carpentry skills....well - hey I'll just live with imperfection!

You see this is the thing - you need people like the Dave's, Rob, John, Martin, Owen, Chuck, Richard, Barrett, Kevin (Steve of Spartina fame and Wilfred - see his site sometime!!) - people who will willingly share their time, expertise and passion; who will encourage the novices with words of wisdom; whose creative efforts provide something to aspire to in your own creations; where there is no such thing as a stupid question - or if there is - it is never acknowledged as being one...........

Maybe I'm biased....but I really did look around other designers - I went to them all..and then after each one - I kept returning to a welsford would have been a pathfinder - had the garage extended another 6' forward - but sadly despite the best efforts of my 'harry potter mad' son - the garage didn't do a 'Sirius Black' house extending jobbie and so a navigator it cut your cloth (or boat in this case) to fit......etc etc......

I haven't seen the book yet but I don't have to in order to firmly recommend it to all - it has a pedigree behind it - an inspired author - some inspired practicing contributors and an inspired designer. What more do you need - go get one - you won't be disappointed - promise!


Saturday 4 December 2010

a nifty idea

Whilst catching up with what is happening out there I came across this really nifty idea for a tiller tamer which I will now do over the winter on Arwen - I found it at Jon's site which you can access here

It really is quite simple and clever. I, like Jon, have found that using the mizzen to actually lie head to wind hasn't been easy and as soon as I move around the boat the balance shifts and so the main sheet doesn't lie along the centre line. Maybe I've been doing it wrong but securing the tiller in this way is certainly a step in the right direction - nice one Jon - thank you!


well done Thomas - another pathfinder launched

Tom and his crew rolling the boat way back sometime this year 
when clearly I was not paying enough attention

Bit old is this news - but I have only just caught up with it - Thomas Hamernik has launched his Pathfinder - he did it in August and there is a great article on duckworks at

There are a couple of great video clips as well at and another one at

And here he is sailing it. I think the copyright of this photo belongs to Tom.

It's a lovely boat and a great design - well it would be - an obviously talented builder and a great designer - 'wot more can I say?' Other than - "sorry Tom that I didn't publicise your great launch sooner - please forgive me"



Friday 26 November 2010

Robert's Navigator book on it's way. This has been an extraordinary labour of love by a very talented man. I'm really excited at getting my hands on a copy. Robert tells the story more at his excellent blog which can be found here


Robert's book - doesn't it look fantastic (copyright Robert Ditterich)


new video film

Dave has posted an excellent short video for the Akaroa wooden boat festival 2010. I love this film - it is well shot, full of atmosphere and shows how much fun sailing with others can be. A classic - well done Dave and thanks - its brightened up a very nasty, snow and down right freezing winter night here in the UK. You can see some lovely boats and a number of navigators.....and then there is that stunning scenery as well

Find the video at


Saturday 20 November 2010

finally at last.........

Angharad got her launch. This afternoon she was put onto the car rack and driven over to Oreston slip - a tiny little launch ramp on the side of the Plym. It's a lovely little place overlooking the old docks. Angharad slipped into the water for her first test float. Given I have no paddles yet I didn't get to canoe....but it was enough to see she floated level......and didn't sink. Here are the photographs.

Angharad strapped to the roof of old faithful

getting the painter ready

And she's launched - Angharad takes to the water for the first time

Lordy me....she floats horizontal she does!

Celtic Cross on foredeck

and now its back to the car and home again


Sunday 14 November 2010

Here is a video of Kevin with the last sail of his season on board his navigator Slip Jig. He's sailing on the Chesapeake bay in Maryland and wow doesn't it look great. I have always liked the videos of Slip Jig - interesting camera angles - well thought out.

He woke up with frost on the windshield and a forecast that was clear skies high of 60 degrees F, small craft advisories, wind NE 15 knots with gusts to 20. What really happened was 10-12 from the SE and the wind shifted to the S in early afternoon to less than 5, temp on the water was mid 50's in the afternoon.
enjoy the video which can be found at

I'm still waiting for my last sail of the season - like Kevin - I'm waiting for the right forecast!!!!!


Friday 12 November 2010

we did promise not to....but.......

We did promise not to mix scooters and sailing but hey, here is a quick update. The weather has been miserable - we can't get out in Arwen; we haven't been able to do a maiden launch of Angharad. We have made progress on the 1965 motovespa scooter though and secretly we are rather please with ourselves because neither Sam or I know anything about engineering (although he's just started a GCSE in it - so I'm playing catchup........again!). So with apologies to all my boat are some shots of the stripped down scooter.

the top of the steering column with the handle bars and the front steering fork removed
The circular metal bit at the top of the column is a very stubborn bottom half of a ball bearing cage
which refuses to shift.......I bet for some of you wooden boat purists this is striking fear in your hearts.........or down right revulsion......I still feel that swapping to scooters from wooden boats is something naughty to be done privately behind closed doors!

This is a small frame chassis for the uninitiated. Everything has been taken off it and we now need to find a grit blaster who is sensitive enough to gently blast off the paint back to bare steel. We'll then etch prime it and two tone pack paint it

some rust areas to sort out especially where the floor panel joins the central raised area

this is the front wheel hub assembly known as the fork. you are looking at the back plate of the brake drum and the grey bit is the lower end of the front shock absorber. sadly we are having some problems with this - some idiot tried to force the back plate off with a screwdriver and the nut on the other side has jammed!

the offending castellated nut - i think it will a blow torch job to heat the nut slightly so that it least I think that is the theory!

This is the carburettor and my mad son wants to take it apart - I applaud curiosity...but this feels one step too far!

before we took the front steering assembly apart

original light, horn, badge - 45 years old and it still worked having been stored in a barn for 30 years unloved - amazing!

The very highly sought after rear tyre holder - very rare and difficult to get hold of apparently

and we are hoping to take it from this...................

to something similar to this.....well that's the plan
The reality might be a tad different!
(apologies because we are unsure where we got this lovely scooter photo from and so cannot acknowledge the excellent restoration workmanship)

Anyway we just thought we'd let yoou know how we were getting on - hopefully the next post will be boat based!


Sunday 31 October 2010

The horror and Heroism below decks

There was a very interesting piece in the Daily Mail this week. It isn’t a paper I read – too politically biased and Tory for my tastes; but someone drew my attention to a lovely piece by Bernard Cornwell. He is the author of historical novels and the ‘Sharpe’ series. His books are excellent reads and I recommend them to all. Anyway, I share with you the highlights of this article which focused on ‘the horror and heroism below decks at Trafalgar’.

Cornwell starts with a summary about how Victory wreathed in smoke seems doomed to be destroyed by the French ship Redoubtable. Nelson lies dying below deck from a sharp-shooter’s well aimed bullet and the Redoubtable crew are about to throw a bridge across to Victory for a boarding assault. But all is not yet lost, for HMS Temeraire sails across Redoubtable’s stern and delivers a broadside that rips through oak beams and decking and destroys one-third of the best trained crew in the French navy. Cannonballs and 68lb carronades rip into crowded upper decks and when redoubtable finally surrenders, only 156 of her 643 crew have survived the onslaught.

Nelson lies dying below deck on Victory

However, a new account, a letter from Robert Hope, a 28 yr old Kentish sailmaker aboard HMS Temeraire, sheds new light on the events of Trafalgar and it has been released by the National Maritime Museum. Robert, writing to his brother John, two weeks after the battle, shows how proud the whole navy are of their victory that day. It also shares some interesting facts about life onboard a Royal navy ship in the early 1800’s.

I was surprised to learn that only about 10% of injuries and deaths on board such ships were blamed on enemy action. Most were due to drowning, sickness and accidents. Sickness? Well, whilst high ranking officers had space and luxury, with expensive furnishings, the majority of crew were crammed into damp, dark and stale air decks below. Midshipmen had quarters not much bigger than dog kennels; ordinary crew had a hammock space 18” wide. Here, these crew worked 4 hr watches – 4 hrs on and 4 hrs off.

Victory and Temeraire race for the enemy

Food was an issue – diet was poor. With 2lbs of peas each week, each man would also get 4lb of beef; 2lb of pork – both heavily salted, stringy and as tough as leather; 120z of cheese was infested with red worms and the ‘hard tack’ biscuits were infested with weevils. Allocated half a pint of rum diluted with three-parts water to make a grog – it was often replaced with a pint of beer instead. Lemon juice stopped scurvy but other diseases such as dysentery were common. The stinking smell of hundreds of unwashed men, combined with smells of tobacco, tar, sewage and rot must have been overwhelming and unbearable.

The worst off were top-men. Climbing the rigging in near gale force conditions, most were blown to their deaths. On the bowsprit, known as the widow-maker, men who fell were sucked below the hull, never to be seen again.

Robert Hope, a sailmaker, would have seen all of this at first hand. Another sailmakers responsibility was, of course, disposer of the dead. Whilst officers coffins were the wooden cots they slept in, ordinary sailors were simply sewn into their hammocks, with the last stitch being sown through the deceased’s nose....a sort of final check before a burial at sea!

Height of battle at Trafalgar

Sailors spent many months at sea on blockade or picket duties. Prostitutes were smuggled onboard for light relief during the non-stop training drills. This practice was vital and so it was the Royal navy could discharge and reload a gun at one round every two minutes – two or even three times the speed of their French counter-parts. I hadn’t realised, but the British Navy was the only one equipped with the deadly carronades – lightweight guns nicknamed ‘smashers’ because of their close range destructive capabilities.

During engagement, life below decks was horrendous. Temporary operating theatres were set up on orlop decks with coiled ropes acting as mattresses for those waiting the surgeons skills – or lack of them in some cases. On many ships, orlop walls were painted red – it hid blood splatters! Good surgeon’s prided themselves on removing a man’s leg in a minute or less – extraordinary pain when your only relief was a grog of rum. Above, sand on decks helped bare footed gunners get a grip as the blood flowed across decks. Stripped to the waist because of the heat below decks, men wrapped scarves around their heads to reduce the ear damage from pounding guns. Many went prematurely deaf.

Redoubtable at Trafalgar as Temeraire and Victory carry on the assault
The rest of the article goes on to recount the battle events which I won’t recount here but Cornwell does finish with a lovely point which I quote in full.

'Now, as politicians destroy the Royal navy with economic cuts, it is good to rediscover Robert Hope’s letter, a reminder of the Temeraire’s glory days – and a time when Whitehall understood that Britain is an island, and an island needs a navy’.

Given the debacle over the fact that we are building two new Aircraft carriers which won’t actually have planes to put on them.....I think he makes an excellent point!

On a different note – Angharad is finished and as soon as the inclement weather has passed, I’ll launch her and post some pictures.


Artwork above by the following artists:
Geoff Hunt
Auguste Etienne Francois Mayer
Montague Dawson

Tuesday 19 October 2010

new pathfinder launch

Jon has launched his new boat - it looks fantastic - great craftsmanship - well done Jon.
Chuck made a short film of the inaugural launch/sail I think and you can see it here

Jon's site is at


In the meantime make sure  you stay in touch with Steve and Spartina who have just returned from their last voyage of the season
Go to

That's one impressive storm front Steve - look forward to hear how you coped with that one.

Half term holidays are coming up and I hopefully I can get two things done  a) launch Angharad  and b) go for a last sail of the season - I'm aiming to try and sail some way up the Tamar, weather and tides permitting.

I might even call in here for a bevvy or two......the famous union pub at Saltash passage


Sunday 17 October 2010

well didn't quite make it....but..........

I didn't quite get Angharad finished - a vespa got in the way!
I've rushed Angharad - I could have done better I know; but I've had fun and she's turned out semi ok. she'll make a fine tender to pull behind Arwen on those days I don't want to beach Arwen.

Angharad in her final colours and partly rigged on deck

I've still got odd jobs to do - finish off the side deck rigging; sort out the painter; finish the backseat rest support......but hopefully I'll get these done so she pops in the water the week after next.

Douglas fir gunwales; mahogany stems; international toplac paint 'bounty red' exterior

A little strip douglas fir floor panel - for standing and sitting on

In the meantime below are some pictures of my next project - non boat related so it won't be appearing on this blog again - we may have to start another one. It is a motovespa douglas 125 super - or at least we think it is. If anyone knows better, please, please, please drop us a comment or two.

Registered in 1972 and still going strong

We are about to disassemble her and then restore her back to her former glory. Vespa is Italian for wasp! This is an old lady - circa 1967 and she still runs - we zipped her up and down the road before we bought her!

Unusual arrangement for carrying a spare - most were put behind legshield where toolbox can be seen

Apart from rust, perished tyres, a broken headlight and one wrecked shock absorber - everything else seems fine - the paintwork will need redoing - plenty of odd rust patches.

Anyway more of Angharad's progress next week and we'll let you know how we get on with the vespa periodically - probably on a different site as this one is for Arwen


Tuesday 12 October 2010

it could be this weekend........

'Weyhey' as they say in some parts of the UK........this weekend could be a number of firsts........first time to see Angharad finished. Her last coat of paint went on tonight. She is a resplendent bounty red (like Arwen's top plank) with white interior. She has a semi varnished deck with pyrography dragons and celtic crosses burned in. her navy blue painter has been attached and we now have to do final touch ups and attach her side deck rigging....I'm still awaiting brass screws and surface cups but the black webbing tape has arrived. So, maybe, just maybe, she may get launched this weekend......but then there is the issue of the scooter!

In a fit of madness, my teenage son persuaded me that now his sister has just started university it would be a good time for some father /son bonding and since he doesn't like boats and I hate horses  - we needed something neutral to bond a vespa scooter restoration would be perfect wouldn't it Dad?

And so we will be heading off to darkest southern Cornwall to collect a 1969 vespa 125 primivera which we purchased over eBay........I must be stark raving mad! But my son, knowing what buttons to push, suggested that if I'd never ever done woodworking before and could build Arwen - a scooter restoration should be peanuts!

And I fell for it!

Rescued from a barn - it does actually go. There is some rust but with TLC and some careful restoration it should be a fantastic scooter at the end of the two years.......have I no sanity whatsoever? This is my 'doh - Homer moment' of all times!

I wonder if I googled 'how to switch on a scooter and move off on one under control?'  I might get some useful tips...for yes dear readers - I have never sat on or driven a scooter or motorbike in my life.......I'm beginning to see flaws in my son's logic!

In the meantime I suffer the ignominy of my wife bursting into hysterics of laughter every time she sees me!


Ps I dimly remember her doing that when I suggested I build a maybe, just maybe.......I might just get the last laugh!

Monday 4 October 2010

Page three picture boats

 A fellow blogger Robert runs two blogs. One is page three picture boats found at
There are some great pictures here - be sure to click on older posts at bottom and as as you scan down the page don't miss the picture of Arwen and a very miscreant crew!

Robert's other blog is called 'what was the middle thing?' and it well worth a read. you can find it at  He is a fellow navigator builder...and therefore is a special person! And wait until you see what he does with Violins. Robert is one talented guy and a great philosopher....enjoy his blogs - I do!


Things I never knew about the Atlantic Ocean

Sometimes, reading the Sunday paper can be a real pleasure. You come across little nuggets or gems which make you think; or reflect on things. One such gem for me was a recent piece in the Times newspaper by Simon Winchester. I think it was a Saturday Times essay called '33 million magnificent square miles'. Simon was sharing extracts from his new book called 'Atlantic: A vast ocean of a million stories'.
Now my homewaters are just up from where the Atlantic turns into the English Channel; the south west is greatly influenced by this body of water - our weather certainly is with all depressions originating over it. The Gulf stream brings a mild winter to Cornwall and Devon shores; the big breakers on our north and south shores - so ideal for surfing - originate far out in the Atlantic. And so it was I was drawn to this full page essay....and what a gem it was.

The Pillars of on..........

Firstly, Simon questions how the view that "the Atlantic is merely a vast waste of time that rolls with infuriating slowness 6 miles beneath us as we sit cramped on the milk-run planes between Heathrow and Kennedy", has come into existence? why do we view the Atlantic as "a mere something that prevents us from getting where we want to go as quickly as we would like to"?  What an interesting question I thought! As Simon points out.....what happened to the days when to cross the Atlantic on an Empress or a Queen cruiser was seen to be an excellent adventure full of salt spume, storms and cruel seas?

How have we reduced such an amazing body of water down to merely 'the pond'?  I have to say he does raise some thought provoking questions!

He suggests many reasons, some mainly to do with aircraft pilots - details about 'our crossing today'; the 'track we will follow will take us out over the north Atlantic before turning south down along the coast of.......'  which sort of diminishes the sheer distances involved really! 'We will arrive ahead of schedule due to a tail wind of.........'; or 'we have caught up during the crossing and so will only be a few minutes late descending into Heathrow.....'  are phrases I've often heard but never really thought of.....I mean lets face it - its dull grey, boring, with the odd ship track to interest you and it goes on for several hours.......and there is so much in flight entertainment......why would we bother to think about what a great body of water we are crossing?

Simon raises the spectre of famous places we pass over but which never get mentioned by flight crews.......ancient ocean history he calls it in names such as 'Bloody foreland', Innishtrahull', 'Fastnet Rock', 'Cape Farewell', 'Nantucket' and 'The Ambrose lighthouse'.

I was never really aware that it was the great Phoenician traders who first ventured out onto the Atlantic in a search for further trade. According to Simon, the story goes that in the 8th century BC, Phoenician galloi were plying trade between various ports across the Mediterranean Sea. No-one ventured out past the Pillars of Hercules (Gib rock and opposite Jebel Musa). trade was between famous cities - Alexandria, Genoa, Tripoli. Known as the Sea of Perpetual gloom ( I rather like that description), sailors kept well away from the fierce Atlantic swells. Great profits could be made from trading Murex snails (I'm beginning to feel sorry for these little guys and I don't even know what they look like!) which provided a much favoured indelible purple dye popular with the Mediterranean elite families, and so, it is likely that one brave Phoenician captain took his ships out between the Pillars of Hercules into those fearsome seas. Trading posts were established at the port of Essaouira, where the poor snails seemed to breed in abundance....and so 3000 years ago, as Simon puts it, 'the world reached a tipping point......where the Mediterranean Sea had been the inland sea of world civilization......but now the Atlantic was to seize that role and expand it'.  Wow!
He puts up a lovely argument that Parliamentary democracy starts within sight of the Atlantic.......hang on readers, before you rush to object....wait for his argument! Winchester claims that with 'impeccable symbolism' the Atlantic is itself born under the first Parliament - Thingvellir in Iceland! Here tectonic plates tear apart to form the mid Atlantic ridge (we move at a rate of 4 - 5cm per year away from our American cousins...across the pond (said with tongue firmly in cheek)). Anyway here, in the valley on the island was formed the Althing...the Reykjavik Althing is the world's oldest surviving parliament.......all in sight of this great vast ocean.

Simon goes on to discuss trade, the setting up of 'The Hanseatic League' and the growth of ports across Scandinavia....but my favourite anecdote is one about Chaim Weizmann, professor of Biology at the University of Manchester in 1916.

HMS Repulse around 1916

Apparently, the Atlantic is responsible for the birth of the State of Israel! I hear the phrase from one of our old comedians here in UK, 'not a lot of people know that' ringing in my ears. The Professor developed a biological method for making large quantities of acetone. He discussed this over lunch with a somewhat bored editor of the Manchester Guardian, C. P. Scott. Scott, a week later, told the story to one David Lloyd George, who immediately informed the Royal Navy. Now at this time our great Navy was losing the Atlantic war against the German U boats.....since naval gunners had run out of cordite.... a key component of which was........wait for it........acetone! Weizmann, was given the keys of the Nicholson's Gin Distillery in London and the message went out to school boys across the nation.....'bring us your horse chestnuts and conkers me sons'! Acetone began to flow out of the stills which were taken to the Navy's cordite factory in Dorset....the newly made munitions were sent to our ships.............and the Battle of the Atlantic was tipped somewhat in our favour!    So where does Israel fit into this?  Well, according to Winchester, Weizmann wanted nothing from our government in terms of thanks........however, he was a committed Zionist and he'd welcome a formal declaration by the British Government that it would 'favour the creation of a homeland for the Jews in Palestine'. Thus 30 years later, under the Balfour declaration, the State of Israel came into being - a product of chemistry and the Atlantic Ocean!

His essay went on to cite many more examples of the unique history of the Atlantic....and I will leave you to search for it online via the Times newspaper website......for me it was a cracking article and I will not see those Atlantic rollers in the same way when I'm next in Arwen, heading around Rame Head, south to Looe!


Saturday 25 September 2010

Steve's back

Steve's back with Spartina. He'll update his blog in next few days at

be sure not to miss his comments, observations or stunning photos....talking of which here is one which Steve took on his trip....I guess it was getting a tad windy then!

Steve, hope you don't mind me pinching one of  your photos and using it to make link to your site


boat jumbles and painting decks

A friend found this on the internet somewhere and sent it to me - I like it - I always was a big 'Peanuts' Fan!

Spent this morning at the Newton Abbot Boat Jumble in South Devon this morning. There are always two held at the famous race around May and the other in September. I go to one of them every year, not so much to buy anything (although today I did buy bits and pieces for fitting out Angharad), but because I'm curious and like to nose about brick a brac.

Its mainly local people selling things from the back of cars!

Anyway, having armed myself with some 5mm navy blue rope for decklines; two brass cleats for for'ard deck and a seat cushion, I decided to take some or two sellers don't like being photographed....for we say one or two dodgy stall items perhaps?

Its amazing what you can find on sail.....I wonder what vessel this lot came off?

The vast majority of stall sellers and car booters are wonderful sea faring folk with a ready smile and story to tell. I like Newton Abbot boat jumble...and today I liked it even more.....the sun shone and it didn't rain like last year!

Stallholders arrive around 6am - so its an early moring start

Alway plenty of old carpentry tools knocking about.....but look carefully and choose wisely....

...stalls with nautical bric a brac - all collectables!

.........more of these wonderful big ship blocks........

.....anyone need a fender........

......or a rowlock or two...........

I bet this lot is a pretty penny or two......

....who has time to collect these things.......

I quite liked these hand carved, hand painted lighthouses and Capt'n Birdseye figures - cute old willow cane lobster creel....nice worksmanship....

The bonus today? I managed to get two coats of undercoat onto the top decks of Angharad without dribbling it over the varnished areas.....and I managed to see a double header steam engine on the main line beside the race course - a Castle (GWR) and I'm not sure, but I think it looked like the Flying Scotsman behind it.....anyway all that steam and 12 original BR and GWR livery coaches...a wonderful sight........all in all....a nice pottering day!