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

Friday 14 May 2010

Learning to sail a lugsail yawl

When I first started sailing Arwen - I was very confused; John Welsford was very patient and his yahoo group forum members were very supportive. I learned in a laser stratos and a laser. Never had to contend with a mizzen. Didn't have to contend with a sprit boom either! I kept thinking it was a gunter yawl - not sure why but clearly I was terribly confused on this new sailing mularkey!

You might think.....what were they teaching you on this RYA 1 and 2 course?  That would be grossly unfair - the course was brilliant - I'd never sailed a boat before and all of a sudden I was - safely! I understood the basics of sailing - tacking, gybing, reaching, running, points of sail, lee shores, leaving and returning to beaches etc etc....but setting THREE sails for best performance......oh what a science.......and thank heavens for John and the team. Until recently I could only get about 2 - 3 knots out of Arwen irrespective of  wind speed.  After advice and offerings from the team.......I got 6 knots............sooooooooooooo fast - wonderful! So what have the guys and John taught me which I'm now applying?

  1. up to 10 knots wind - sheet the mizzen in really hard so there is a slight pull on the tiller
  2. 10 - 15 knots - ease the mizzen a little; ease the main slightly (with the caveat that if in exposed seas for a longer time - think about reefing the main)
  3. 15 knots plus ease the main; ease the mizzen and if it's going to blow like that for a bit reef the main or go to jib and mizzen only
  4. tiller helm pressure is the clue to whether the boat is over pressed and needs sail reduction.......oh i wish I'd known that earlier!!!!!!!!  If the tiller pulls hard, ease the mizzen; if the tiller seems overlight, sheet it in a little!
  5. when using all three sails - trim the jib and main for best angle of attack and get all telltales streaming aft......'doh' - sounds so obvious to those in the know!
  6. then trim the mizzen to get a few degrees of weather helm, if pointing.........took me a bit of time to work that out as well!
  7. I didn't realise there was a running order in sail trimming........another homer simpson  'doh!' moment - in winds up to 12 knots, when close hauling, sheet the mizzen hard first; then sheet main until its setting nicely with the mizzen; and finally sheet the jib until its right with main and mizzen and 'drawing' properly.  Oh! - I suddenly got it - it's the mizzen that sets the sheeting angle for the other two sails; and sets the pointing angle of the boat........I'd been starting from the jib end first!!!
  8. when reaching and running - set the jib angle first; then main and finally mizzen!
  9. the outing with 'notelet' taught me sail for speed not angle of closeness to the wind....Arwen doesn't point as close as other easing the sails a fraction, as wind speed increases.......seems to be the key

An early photo of me and Arwen in the Cattedown
I'm trying to get to grips with three sails and getting rid of that crease!

You can see why my head begins to hurt....I've had to write down  all that stuff above and get it laminated  so that it goes with me in the cockpit and I can refer to it until eventually I'll do it automatically...........I think that is probably a really sad admission! 

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