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, 17 May 2010

Some musings on my summer 'Yealm trip'

My first planned trip this summer will be past the Plymouth breakwater (oh Lordy me....real deep water stuff!) and around to the east beyond the Great Mewstone to the next river along – the Yealm. Gosh – I’ll be fully exposed (dreadful thought – sorry) to the prevailing south westerly winds so I’d better choose tide and weather conditions carefully. There is some interesting navigation to get right. Firstly no short cuts between the Mewstone and the Wembury ledges! When rounding the Gt. Mewstone – not cutting back inside rapidly...otherwise an interesting end could happen on the outer and inner Slimers! I know that it is important to then make a controlled approach on 088 degrees transit towards the mouth of the Yealm (lining up with two white pillars in Cellars beach..I think they have white triangular top marks and a black vertical line on each) because there is a very nasty sandbar stretching a fair way across it and consequently a very narrow channel. I think the waypoint information is something like Safe Distance WP 50:18'.591N 004:05'.00W Outer Red Buoy marking sandbar: 50:18'.59N 004:04' but please check that because I’m still learning how to do charts and use my GPS. A quick look at the chart for that area shows that the southern tip of the sand bar is marked by a lit buoy. Someone told me you have to stay pretty close to this buoy to avoid the rocky foreshore opposite. Anyway I won’t bore you with the rest of the pilotage – partly because I’ve still got to get my head around it myself .......but I will be spending plenty of time poring over the charts before that trip! Now one of the reasons for this careful scrutiny is because of this..........

The yellow track shows the line of approach to avoid the bar
which juts out from the northern coastline where the little pointed headland is

I can remember last summer watching from season point, whilst fishing for bass......a yacht took a short cut across that bar. Now I knew not what kind of yacht it was ....but I knew it had a great deep keel and I knew it would end in grief because I was fishing a falling spring tide and we were three hours into the fall and I could see the bar exposing itself! I definitely don’t know what was in the head of that skipper – but the crunch could be heard several hundred metres away. Suffice to say over the next few hours I felt deeply for that poor guy. The boat keeled over; it got swirled around and bounced about; the side railings got ripped away in one place – the paint was scrapped off or is that ‘sanded’ off.......boy my heart went out to him and there was no one coming to his aid.

I obtained the map extract from the Ordnance survey 'get-a-map' facility and it remains their copyright. I add it here to help you locate cellars beach, season point, Newton creek etc etc.

The Yealm is a pretty river – it rises on Dartmoor and flows down through the village of Yealmpton where it then becomes tidal. The villages of Noss Mayo and Newton Ferrers are found on opposite banks...and let’s face it – it’s a fantastic place to live I suspect!

Looking along the mouth of the Yealm
Copyright for photograph belongs to Bob Harris

A long time ago oysters were cultivated on the muds but then it became polluted in the ‘80’s. It’s much cleaner now and I think oyster farming has started again. However with new developments like the Langage power station development at Plympton and the proposed Sherford Newtown plan in the upper catchment area........I guess the river will suffer again!

Copyright belongs to Robin Lucas
A pretty natural deepwater harbour....and sheltered too - ideal for an onboard
overnight camping trip!

You can see from the aerial photographs that it is a great natural harbour. Most of it is deepish water and doesn’t dry out although Newton creek off to the east does. There is no marina but there are pontoons and swinging moorings. I’m told you can cross Newton Creek at low tide – my experience doesn’t bear that out...I remember when I had my first home built Canadian canoe ‘Chakotay’.......wading through feet of mud to get to the dolphin pub because I had miscalculated the tides ( a real Homer ‘doh’ moment!) and providing hours of amusement to the pub goers on the terrace....not one of whom volunteered to come and rescue me as I lay face down in ooze...............several times!! I learned my lesson that day – triple check you’ve read the tide tables correctly and you’ve calculated for adding BST! Believe me, given every houseowner in Newton ferrers and Noss Mayo probably owns a boat and definitely has a harbour mooring or two.........there really is no worse a place to humiliate yourself!

 I really can't wait until summer is here! My first summer dinghy cruising and camping......wondefful - the kind of thing dreams are made of.....well mine anyway!



Abbie said...

hey i have the first comment
hope i'm invited :)

steve said...

Abbie - given you are my daughter - you are always invited...sailing wouldn't be fun without you!

Bill Jones said...

I very much enjoy your blog Steve - it reminds me of many very good holidays on the SW estuaries with my Cruz (14ft ketch)dinghy 'Arion'. The Yealm was very good - a lovely estuary, and Cellar Beach was an excellent lunch spot. You can walk across Newton Creek by the way - on two constructed pedestrian causeways - at LW. Best wishes, Bill Jones.