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

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!


Sunday 19 September 2010

setting Arwen up on the ramp

There has been a flurry of activity on various blogs and email forums about rigging times and procedures for various boats. Steve Early did a nice piece on his Spartina blog about the steps he takes to rig his pathfinder. Coincidently this has been a topic of debate on John Welsford’s forum as well – how long does it take to rig a pathfinder?

So this has made me think...what steps do I go through when I’ve arrived at the ramp with Arwen? I don’t want to sort of jump on a band wagon but actually it is something I’ve never really for all navigator owners...............

I think I have the rigging time down to about 35 minutes from arrival to launch. I’ve tried to leave some stuff ready rigged. For example,

Arwen ready at top of ramp at QAB

• The sail is left tied on the top yard; the clew is left tied onto the aft end of the sprit boom and the sail is folded so it rests between them and yellow sail straps tie the whole lot together as a bundle. The downhaul is permanently attached as well during sailing season when it is stored in the boat. The lazy jack/ topping lift system I use is also permanently attached during ‘the season’.

• My shrouds are two parts – the bottoms are double blocks, the top one with a snap shackle – so it just clips onto the shroud that hangs down from the mast band. You can see this in the picture at the top of the blog.

• I leave the jib permanently mounted via the furler to the bowsprit during the sailing season. The jib sheets are already run through the deck eyes and coaming to the rear centre board area. The jib furler halyard is permanently threaded through small deck loops along bowsprit, side deck and coaming.

• All my fenders are tied on to the correct length and are stored in the alcoves behind the coaming.

• I have a mooring warp permanently attached to the Samson post

sorting out the top yard

So with these short cuts.......what’s the procedure?

• Stop car – put chock behind trailer wheel

• Remove lighting board and coil/store in car

• Take outboard from car and put onto bracket; tie in position with ropes and then lock in up position; remove orange prop bag; double check again fuel levels and that its out of gear; retaining clip checked

• Check bungs on transom are screwed in

• Take Boomkin from rear cockpit, pass through transom and lock in place with retaining pin

• Rudder from rear cockpit and placed onto transom and retaining clip checked

• Tiller passed through rudder stock and retaining pin in place

• Rudder up-haul and downhaul sorted; rudder hauled into up position and locked off

• Fenders taken out from inside cockpit behind coaming and hung over side on which I’ll be tying up

• Untie elastic bungees which hold mast, mizzen mast, booms and sprit boom to the two upright stands ( I have upright ‘T’ stands which hold masts etc – one slots through deck into position where mast goes; the other fits between a wedge piece on the bottom of the rear cockpit and the rear of the centreboard – this one I tie to cleats)

All last checks done and ready to go......

• Insert mizzen mast through rear deck and secure

• Unfurl mizzen sail and insert battens

• Pull sail up and cleat off

• Thread mizzen sheet through rear coaming and Boomkin and lock off on jammer

• Attach mizzen sprit boom via snap shackle to mast

• Pull mizzen sail downhaul through deck block and cleat off

• lift mast into place through deck

• Pass jib halyard through deck, through block at mast base – then pull up jib and tie off at cleat found at back of centre case. Jib sheets flaked to floor

• hook the two lower shrouds to mast components; tighten and cleat off on side deck cleats

• Main sail halyard threaded through deck, through block below deck, run back to rear cockpit

• Other end of mast main halyard tied onto top boom of sail with sufficient left over to tie a loop of rope around the main mast

• Sail bundle lifted up to mast – yard placed port side; sprit boom end placed starboard side.

• Sprit boom end outhaul tackle snap shackled onto mast

I think this was our maiden voyage.....must be - I hadn't worked out
how to get rid of that 'orrible crease!!

• Elastic from mast head snap shackled onto sprit boom end

• Elastic from sprit boom end snapped onto deck loop at mast base

• Sprit boom and top boom lifted via topping life/lazy jack halyard so that it all lifts clear of cockpit. extra rope from mainsheet where it ties to yard is now looped around mast and tied off on yard

• Mainsheet is clipped onto end of sprit boom (other end is permanent left attached to block found on rear deck ); mainsheet uncoiled and flaked

• The two support stands are now removed from boat

• Centreboard raised and cleated off

• Safety harness/rope coiled ready on side thwart

• Ditty box bungeed into place aft under side deck starboard side

• Spare clothes bag stored up front port side under deck

• Food and waterproofs put into respective places under side decks

• Sallopettes on and lifejacket secured

• Then retaining winch strap is removed.

• Mooring warps are tied on stern; the front one is left permanently tied to the Samson post.

• There is an all-round check and ‘think about everything’

• Chock is removed and rig is reversed down ramp to just above waterline.

• At this point the retaining ropes which tie bow to winch post are taken off;

• the winch tape is uncoupled from the bow eye;

• The boat is reversed last few metres into water.

• One shove pushes boat off trailer and it’s guided across to pontoon and moored.

• Trailer is removed, taken to top of ramp and uncovered and left.

• Car is driven 30 m to car park.

• On returning to boat the bumpkin is tightened up to place tension on the bowsprit and cleated off at mast base.

• Final checks and tidy up take place whilst the outboard warms up. Fuel tank is stored; spare fuel bottle secured with funnel

• Charts are placed under bungee cords and secured; binoculars, compass, GPS and SPOT waterproof notebook and passage plan put under thwart bungee cords or in allocated alcove, starboard side.

• Then VHF switched on and radio checked with Brixham coastguard or QAB marina. Placed on strap and over shoulder/across chest

• Mobile phone switched on and placed in jacket pocket

• Centreboard lowered a third

• Rudder lowered and downhaul secured

• Mainsheet tightened through jammer to secure sprit boom above

And out and sailing...the rigging time is really worth it.......


Tuesday 14 September 2010

By the way......

By the way, Steve and Spartina are about to set off on their latest voyage and Steve has posted details of his SPOT tracker page on his blog.

Good luck Steve, have fun, as always and we look forward to seeing your posts on your voyage when you get back. Steve's blog can be found at


made it at last!

I've made it at last - I'm finally published journalistically speaking on the mother of all boat sites - 'Duckworks'.

Arwen and I have of course, since the article was written a few months ago, undergone some more thrilling, life affirming and character building voyages to those described above.....see some previous posts about sailing to Salcombe and back!

you can find the article at


Saturday 11 September 2010

update on Angharad

I managed to get some more coats of paint onto Angharad today. International Pre-Kote red primer has made the poor tender to Arwen a horrible colour – my Son nearly had heart failure when he saw it, declaring he’d NEVER step foot in Arwen again if she was towing that monstrosity! Well he rarely goes in Arwen anyway no change there then!

a slightly oddly planked Angharad!

A short film clip of Angharad in her 'pre-kot' glory can be found here at
(please note film was done on my new vivitar DVR 510N video camera which was £20 - I'm trying some out before deciding to buy some for my students to play with - they are very simple point and shoot video cameras)

Angharad will get three more coats of primer and then 4 coats of International Toplac ‘Bounty red’ colour. It’s the same colour as Arwen’s top strake – a sort of deep burgundy red colour – it should look quite smart.

Putting on the primer has shown up some imperfections – bits I didn’t fair properly with filler.....but it has hidden the awful escapade of the ‘sprung bow planks’! Her planking doesn’t quite match up either side but hey so what......Arwen’s does!

Angharad has also had two more coats of varnish as well and so her decks are beginning to be a deep golden honey deep golden honey that the pyrography designs barely show through. I’ve made a very simple flooring grating made up of off cuts of 2cm x 2cm Douglas fir – It’s something to stand on when getting into and out of the boat. I just have the back rest to make now out of off cuts of Brynzueel plywood and that’s it. Her deck ropes will be rigged around the deck edge and she’s ready for launching – in I hope, about three to four weeks time.

Angharad is a traditional old Celtic name meaning ‘much loved one’. It comes from welsh mythology – Angharad was the lover of Peredur which is found in the welsh tales from the Mabinogion! In fact legend has that Peredur met her at King Arthur’s court at Caerleon! Basically it is a welsh romance story from long ago. Peredur, son of Efrawg, sees his father die, when a young child and so his mother takes him into the forest to live in isolation! There he meets a group of Knights and so decides to become like them and he travels to King Arthur’s court! Sir Kay (Syr Cei), ridicules poor Peredur at court and so the latter sets out on further adventures promising to avenge Cei’s insults and those who defended him.

Peredur setting off on his 'quests'

 On his journeys he meets uncles (who train him in weapons and show him a severed head on a silver Uncle does that to me every time I visit!!), the nine witches of Gloucestershire (here is a very cheap opportunity to comment on the fact that my Mother and two sisters reside in that county..........but that would be cheap and unmeaning for I love them conjures interesting images in my head for a few seconds....!!!) and of course his bride to be the fair Angharad Golden-Hand. Peredur returns to Arthur’s court, then marries Angharad, sets off on his travels again and ends up killing all nine witches of Gloucester because he discovers the severed head is that of his cousin and they were responsible for the beheading!

If you were getting bored with this potted welsh history – be grateful – you got the edited version – there are at least 11 books in the Mabinogion!


a slight off topic rant...and please forgive my ranting!

This blog is all about my voyages in Arwen and so it will always be. Occasionally however it might include more than just that and this is one of those occasions! Devonport naval Base, here in my fair city, is under threat of closure. Countless yachts and boats have sailed up the Tamar past this magnificent dockyard; countless more sail around the Sound, passing our Royal Naval frigates and destroyers, and other ships from visiting Navies from across the World.

This is a link to a site that gives you the history of the dockyard and the ships built there since the 1670's

The Royal Navy and associated Royal marines have been part of the history of our city for at least 250 years! Yet now, we face huge cuts under the spending review of our newly elected coalition Government. I am not particularly political yet surely politicians in Westminster must know that moving the dockyard to Portsmouth will have a devastating effect on the economy of our city and wipe out all these years of tradition, attachment and bonds that we have with our senior service.

The frigate sheds and outer basin viewed across the Tamar from Torpoint!

Plymouth is a naval city – we are proud of our association with them and I was one of those who waved good bye and then again waved a welcome back to our sailors and marines during the 1980’s conflict. Now our marines are on deployment in Afghanistan; our Navies patrolling the seas worldwide. There are around 12,000 jobs directly associated within the dockyard; probably at a conservative estimate another 20,000 locally are directly linked to the yard through contracts and outsourcing; through shops and local services and schools – which our naval families use. Our local newspaper estimates 400 businesses locally will be directly affected should we lose any more submarine and surface fleet work. There are plans in Westminster to move our frigate fleet to Portsmouth; to decommission our three amphibious Royal Marine assault ships. I am not going to get into arguments of how incredibly short sighted this is in our current world situation....any intelligent person will know that. Devonport has the deepwater port – Portsmouth doesn’t; we have the extra capacity – Portsmouth doesn’t. Portsmouth is cramped and more of a security nightmare than the confines of Devonport Dockyard with its huge walls and gates. Big ships can only use Devonport – Portsmouth doesn’t have the facilities! We already have the Flag Officer Sea Training stations along the Tamar where all naval personnel begin their training. Have Portsmouth even begun to work out how they can get our largest ship HMS Ocean into their’s why it’s a Plymouth based ship – dur! We have 15 dry docks, four miles of waterfront, 25 tidal berths, five basins and all the skilled personnel! Portsmouth already has 60% of our surface fleet based there ranging from aircraft carriers to HMS endurance, our Antarctic patrol vessel.

An aerial of part of Devonport Dockyards and the River Tamar

Come on – play fair........there is little money and there will be cuts but just because the majority of the top Naval Brass want to live up near London (and so that makes Portsmouth more suitable for them) doesn’t mean to say we should lose all our heritage, jobs, skilled personnel etc. Our dockyards have a reputation for outstanding workmanship and delivering every job on time and to budget. The Navy is woven into the very fabric of our history, culture and society in this part of South west England and we are all proud of it.

On the submarines in the sub pens at Devonport

So government ministers, if one of you is a sailor and is reading this – you know what we all think in Plymouth – do the sensible thing – abandon plans for Trident; extend the life of our current Vanguard subs (which with nuclear reactor replacements easily have another 15 – 20 years of life in them; save money and create 1000s of jobs here in the south west and stop 1000’s becoming unemployed by your governments stupid idea to relocate all Naval surface fleet work to Portsmouth!

Part of our much loved waterfront skyline - the huge lifting crane at Devonport!

My rant is over......I promise not to do it again.......I grew up in Wales.......we get rather passionate about injustices!