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, 12 January 2011

a declared interest....but........still highly recommended

I’ve just received my copy of Robert Ditterch’s book

Something about navigator’. The rear cover has this to say

A fascinating story of a charming boat ‘something about navigator’ explores the development, building and sailing of one of john Welsford’s most loved designs. The navigator has become an incredibly popular boat with over 600 plan sets sold at last count. Robert Ditterich uses a narrative style to pin down the charm at the root of this popularity, while also extensively illustrating the processes involved in building one, fitting it put and using it. The navigator ‘in the wild’ is represented by illustrated essays from experienced navigator sailors and builders. The romance of small open boat sailing, and the freedom felt, even just in dreaming about one, will make this book appealing to owners or aspiring owner/builders of many wooden boats available today’

I’ve never reviewed a book and I’ve only just started reading this one. So what follow are my basic first impressions. In addition, I must declare that there is a contribution from me in it – so in one sense I may be biased....but I have tried to be objective in my first thoughts despite this.

The pictures below I've taken from the internet and I'm hoping that those involved won't mind me using them here - some appear in the book; and I wasn't able to contact everyone please forgive me guys.
So, to basics first. It is available from although Robert has it available from another site as well. I’d encourage readers to go to 
for the further details and reviews. The ISBN number is 9781456403737 and the publisher is
I have the colour version. It’s well bound with a glossy cover and a good comfortable size for holding; 244 pages long and font size is excellent, particularly for bods like me who suffer from failing sight and can’t read in dim light. It’s why I always hog window seats in cafes and on planes and trains!

The amazing 'Yuko' built by Barrett Faneuf, out sailing her at the Port Townsend festival
Copyright Barrett Faneuf
Barrett has been inspirational to all Navigator builders - her step by step build detailed on Flick'r is frankly awesome!

Anyway, back to the book – there are 8 chapters. Robert starts with some thoughts about small boats, before looking at the navigator itself. The following chapter looks behind the mind of the person who created the design i.e. one Mr John Welsford. I’m looking forward to this chapter – John has always struck me as a talented and thoughtful designer who genuinely likes interacting with his customers. He encourages all to enjoy their boats and he has been instrumental in my successes with Arwen. Being at the end of email and always available on his forum has been so reassuring and never once have I ever felt stupid – I’ve asked him plenty of stupid questions but I’ve never been made to feel stupid!

Kevin Brennan and his navigator 'Slip Jig'
(Copyright Steve Early, 'Log of Spartina' and Kevin Brennan)
Kevin's boat is a lesson in master craftsmanship - see his links to his 'fitting out' videos on Youtube in the side menu on right of this blog

A lovely chapter then asks experienced navigator owners to share some of their magical moments - Richard Schmidt’s article about ‘Bootstrap and a camp cruising trip in the ‘sounds’ is inspiring, educational and a cracking read. So too are the adventures of Martin Wellby and his family in ‘Windlass’ on a Marlborough sounds camp cruising trip.

Martin Wellby and 'Windlass'
Copyright Martin Wellby

For sheer exotic daydreaming – the master himself, Dave Perillo shares his Fijian adventures in ‘Magret H’. Owen Sinclair in ‘Tusk’ shares some short ‘cameo’ moments of sailing in various locations around New Zealand – informative, insightful – full of tips for new navigator owners – his adventures and experiences make it easier for new builders to understand what this boat is capable of. Kevin Brennan’s contribution on actually building a navigator is a must read for all potential navigator builders. Kevin has built ‘Slip jig’ which frankly in my eyes is perfection personified – see his YouTube tours of ‘Slip jig’ and you’ll see what I mean.

Chapter 7 on building the hull outlines various techniques and this is an outstanding chapter – oh I wish I’d had this available to me when I started the build. The book is worth getting for just this chapter alone and it is made all the more significant by the quality of the numerous step by step photographs and explanations. Any builder of wooden boats would learn something new from this writing. Quality and precision engineering, flair and artistry are superlatives that don’t do justice to the photos which are used in this chapter supplied by , what in my eyes, are the master builders, namely Barrett Faneuf, Robert Ditterich himself, and Wilfred Vermien (go to his blog at; complimented by the superb photography of Dave Johnstone.

The last chapter details useful resources, blogs and website addresses for prospective navigator builders.

You only spend a few minutes with this book in hand to realise it is a quality publication – simple, eloquent, insightful, informative, imaginative and written by a craftsman, who appreciates simplicity, style and thoughtful design; and who is reflective in what he does. No jargon, no over-complexity, no over-simplification.......It's just right.......I love it. Contributions from well known navigator builders who demonstrate craftsmanship, consummate sailing skills, a sense of fun and adventure and a flair for ’making you want to build one and get out there’ just adds to this book. This is a book written by a boat builder/sailor for boat builder/sailors and it should be on everyone’s shelf. For novices like me – it’s a Godsend

Well done Robert and thank you


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