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 28 February 2011

my brain is hurting........again!

I’m about half way through the book I am reading ‘Practical dinghy cruising’ by P Constantine. It’s really made me think – I knew it would!  I originally mentioned it here:

There isn’t any order to the points below – they are just things I’ve scribbled to myself to think more deeply about.

Firstly tents! Paul made a very good point that it can take up to two hours to sort out a tent, catering and sleeping arrangements at the end of a long sailing day. Securing the sails, erecting the tent, changing clothes, assembling the galley and then sorting out bedding; cooking a meal and then washing up – all take time and a high degree of planning.
This is true and I need to develop a more systematic system than the one I did in Salcombe last summer. I need to have systems of Tupperware boxes with different things in. I always think that Steve Earley with Spartina has it really well buttoned down. Visit his blog and peruse his posts. The man is one highly organised camp cruiser. Go to

Then there is the issue of buoyancy. John has plenty designed into a navigator......but I always worry that my hatches might leak....don’t know why – I just do! So maybe I need to put in some additional buoyancy. Fenders are useful additional buoyancy and of course they double nicely as hull props for propping up the boat when you allow the water to ebb away and you decide to beach camp on board! However, these fenders have to be well secured and almost immovable in the hull if they are to act as additional buoyancy and they must of course be below the water level in the hull during a capsize so that they provide the additional lift. I need to take another look at this issue! Mine are definitely not that well secured!

I need to revisit the downhauls on my centreboard and rudder. Originally they were shock cord. I used this because if either hit bottom, there was enough ‘give’ for them to rise upwards slightly. However, I found that the shock-cord stretched whilst under way and the centreboard would rise. The rudder was the worst offender – rising upwards quite rapidly. This made steering difficult and placed huge strains on the rudder. So.....I replaced the downhauls with 5mm rope – it held them in place nicely....but now I’m worried – if I accidently hit bottom whilst creek crawling.......they won’t give or bounce I need to look at this one again – will a thicker shock-cord be better?

Paul posed some really good questions about deciding how safe your boat is. Arwen passed the RNLI small boat safety check with flyhing colours two years ago. She scores highly on this website on which you can complete an online questionnaire which helps give you an idea of how safe your boat is – it’s fun to fill in and actually quite a useful reflection exercise – go to

Anyway, questions posed by Paul included:

In a capsize can the rudder or tiller detach themselves and float away?

• Will the centreboard drop back in the centre board case and be difficult to extract when the boat is floating on its side?

• Will any gratings or floor boards float away?

• Is the tiller firmly attached to the rudder?

• Are rudder fittings bolted to the transom rather than just screwed?

• Are oarlocks metal and firmly attached to the boat?

• Are cleats bolted through the deck rather than screwed to it?

Um! May need to go and check one or two things......I sense that ‘to do’ list is growing again!

The one that made me really sit up and think is along the same lines as some questions posed by Osbert a few months ago. Can the boat sail itself?

Wow! I’ve never tried. I always sit with tiller in hand and I’m happy to potter along but actually, Osbert, Steve in Spartina and believe it or not Joshua Slocum himself – have all commented about how their boats can sail themselves for short periods of time.

Paul, in this book makes the point like this.......

The way the boat sails is of prime importance. Speed is not really the issue with cruising; it is far more useful to have a degree of comfort when sailing for a sustained period of time. Going more slowly does not mean sailing inefficiently, it is more to do with matching the sail area to the undertaking. The activity is ‘sail sightseeing’ and during sailing, it is usual to engage in a variety of domestic activities, changing clothes, eating snacks, taking photographs and checking pilotage details to mention just a few. You do not want to have to be constantly jumping up and down to keep the boat from capsizing whilst occupied in this way.........

..............the reaction of the boat to gusts of wind should be predictable, steady and smooth. It should not be so tender that it instantly falls on its ear with each puff of breeze; there should be plenty of time to react. It helps if the boat will gently follow the wind in the puffs but still be easy to steer and not become so ‘hard mouthed’ that she will luff irrespective of what you do. Here is a relevant question....could the boat be sailed with the sheets held firmly in jamb cleats or with the helm impeder almost constantly engaged without undue risk of capsize?”

Got that ‘Homer’ feeling again.....doh! And there I was as a novice sailor hoving to every time I wanted to do something – hell no wonder I don’t seem to make much mileage!

Soooo much to think about! This sailing malarkey is complicated stuff!


Sunday 27 February 2011

a new navigator is launched.......

A new navigator has been launched. Steve's 'Annalisa' hit the water and looks awesome - fantastic colour scheme too.

A lovely navigator - you could recognise those lines anywhere...if you were in the 'know'

I often wondered what Arwen might have looked like with white sails and here is the answer. There are some other differences I note between 'Annalisa' and 'Arwen' as well as just sails. There seem to be two chain plates....intriguing and I'm left wondering why. The bowsprit seems to be a different arrangement as well.  There is some form of jib track/car system and I really like the outboard well inside the boat. The big wooden blocks on the outside of the coaming for rowlocks seem to be slightly further aft than Arwen's as well.  I am always fascinated at how other navigator builders make alterations to suit their purposes. There are some equipment fittings here which really get me thinking. This is another beautiful boat, a credit to both designer and builder.

nice sail setting - that top yard seems to come further forward of the mast than mine
photographs:copyright Steve Thorpe

Congratulations Steve - I know you will get huge enjoyment, satisfaction and pride from 'Annalisa'. In my limited experience thus far - a John Welsford navigator seems to be a head turning crowd puller both within and outside of the sailing community wherever you may be.


Wednesday 23 February 2011

new zealand earthquake

I just wanted to say to all those living in New Zealand who read this blog that our thoughts are with you, particularly those around Christchurch. I have a brother and his family living in Christchurch, who thanks heavens are safe. Through the wonders of Skype I have been able to seem them and get a visual on how they are coping. I know how lucky they have been. However, through contact with them I am also deeply aware of how desperate the situation is for so many. I can do very little from here in the UK at the moment other than give support to charities who are going out to help there and to keep in regular contact with my brother to make sure he and his friends are ok.
Our thoughts are with you all.


...other boats have a

Logos! There has been a small debate – a few posts really about having a sail emblem for navigators on John’s yahoo forum. John has a small compass north arrow with an N on it on his plans for navigator – I quite like it. Then Steve (another Steve, not me) came along asking if he could play about with it and his daughter did a very nice design.......and then I copied that and then tried to amalgamate elements of John’s original design into it....and well, I quite like it – I think!

I could see it on the sails – white logo on Tan sails – rather like the emblems on Cornish shrimpers. It would be relatively unknown and get people thinking! All I have to do is now check with Stephen, his daughter and John – because copyright is theirs.....and apart from which Stephen may have been wanting something unique to his navigator – which I fully understand, and his daughter came up with it (talented lady) and rightly so. But it has got me thinking and I need to ask John would he mind if I came up with a logo for Arwen? I’m slightly ambivalent but there is an excellent book about the navigator by Robert logo?


Tuesday 22 February 2011

...not Arwen....but Stacey

Although this blog is about Arwen, Angharad and things nautical...occasionally we let other things slip ‘Stacey’....our renovation of a 1967 motovespa super 125. Don’t ask me why she’s called ‘Stacey’ – that’s the name my 15 yr old son has bestowed upon her and I have no idea how he thinks! Nor do I want to!

‘Stacey’ occasionally sneaks in because I think anyone who builds boats or restores them or even those who enjoy dinghy sailing will also appreciate anyone who restores other things. It is a skill, a calling, a great responsibility. The philosophy behind building a dinghy or creating something are really the same. I appreciate the time, effort, commitment, thought, worry, contentment etc that goes into building a piece of furniture, doing a piece of art or restoring a vespa!

When you last saw ‘Stacey’ she was like this.

we are hoping that she will be returned to like this

Well, now she looks like this.

this is the chassis

We have stripped her right down into her component pieces. It took some work to sort out, especially all the cables. We took loads of photographs which I hope will help us reassemble it without any hassle.

a very old speedo

The trickiest bit was dropping the front fork. We discovered after much hammering and some cursing that some clown had spot welded in the bearing races – now who would do something as stupid as that?

the somewhat troublesome front fork and drum brake

Anyway, ‘Stacey’ is now at the sand blasters G and T finishes, here in Plymouth. They have been very impressive – their finish after sand blasting and powder coating is excellent. The owner has talked to my son about colour schemes, options, different types of coatings etc. He’s looking at a candy apple red (medium) colour with satin black underneath all frames etc; white walled tyres and silver rims; chrome trimmings. It will look very smart.

We need to replace lots of bits and pieces and we are about to strip the engine – which will tax us to the full but we have some people who can step in and support us if need be.

We’ll let you know how ‘Stacey’ looks when we get her back in a few weeks time.

still in shock.....

Bloody hell - £75 for the servicing of my tohatsu 3.5HP outboard!

£45 for basic service + then VAT; then a new twist lock pin (fair enough the other was broken); £8 for gear oil; £1.20 for lube; a new spark plug and other minor bits like a shear pin replacement.
Wow! I have to learn how to service my own outboard from now on!

"Didn't he say £45?"
"Nope he definitely said £75"
"Are they allowed to do that?"
"Do what?"
"Con mugs with no mechanical experience!"

Oh and I managed to make a sleeping board to go across one side of the aft cockpit; it's just drying off

£75 - I'm traumatised!

Steve cruising a solitary experience...?

My previous post has got me thinking - should I join the DCA? They have a wonderful new website here:

I’ve met them at Beale Parke boat show several times and they are a great bunch......but I’m never quite sure. It isn’t them - it’s me!

Firstly, I’m a sort of solitary bod – I’m not good with crowds or adults. I can’t understand either. (I’m far better with teenagers – them I understand completely. I can spend hours with teenagers because they are full of fun and hopes and aspirations and intelligence and youthful enthusiasm. They keep me young and thinking and it’s a great privilege being an educator (even if you have a government hell bent on destroying education at the moment – just don’t get me started!). When you close that classroom door and the little light bulbs of understanding suddenly switch on – its magic!)

'Breakfast'  Copyright: Dinghy Cruising Association

Then I worry about my lack of experience – you see I’m a solitary learner (which flies of course in the face of sensible educational research which conclusively shows that the best kind of learning is collaborative!) and I like to make my mistakes away from others......and I make loads. I still can’t sail up to a mooring properly (ugh!); I’ve never bothered sailing up to and going alongside a pontoon and I’ve never sailed Arwen off a beach. or onto one for that matter. I've never sailed and dropped an anchor; nor sailed away from an anchorage.
I’m a lazy sailor who relies on an outboard and I haven’t learned the skills and craft properly. Now, I know that if I joined the DCA I’d gain heaps more experience more rapidly and so would make fewer basic sailing mistakes in the I know I’m being daft. I guess it is a confidence thing. With teenagers I’m 'Mr Confident' – with adults....well they kind of terrify me! Even the really great ones like those at the DCA!

'Camping'  Copyright: David Summerville, Dinghy Cruising Association

I recently completed a very detailed psychometric test as part of my work and it came out with loads of positives, including the fact that apparently I am an excellent team member........but one of the points for development said....

"Steve should sit next to the phone once per day with the internal phone list to hand and randomly call one person on it and hold a 3 minute conversation with the person at the other end...on the topic of anything!" Ouch!

I guess it would be good for my own personal development and sailing skills if I joined the DCA!

Decision made!
Or is it.....?


Monday 21 February 2011

ah.......the sweet smell of fresh coffee, a room with a view......and a laptop....

My son is still in bed, my wife is out! There is peace and quiet in the house and whilst I love them both dearly, it is lovely to sit at my living room window looking out over the village below and the distant Dartmoor Hills, with a cup of coffee and have a few moments to catch up on blogs of other people from around the World. Isn’t blogging wonderful and isn’t it great to have small insights into the daily lives of people you’ll probably never meet but who live on the other side of the Planet.

John has posted his latest at his blog – the subject of winch wires for trailers. You can read it here at

That got me thinking – I haven’t checked the winch strap or winch I use on the trailer –so that’s another thing to be added to the list of ‘things to do’.

Another blog I love reading is this one – I’m not going to say much here but I love this blog because Teresa does what so few of us manage to end up doing – think a dream and then live the dream.

Teresa Carey
What’s more Teresa’s a fellow teacher and well – that just makes her special anyway! Read her blog and see her wonderful projects at  

Here is a picture of her lovely boat on what Teresa calls ‘launch day’.

'Launch day': copyright Teresa Carey

I got hold of another great book yesterday – I have only glanced through it. It’s called ‘Practical Dinghy Cruiser by Paul Constantine and its available from this place here:

My initial impressions – this is an excellent book full of practical tips, suggestions and questioning – I like books which make you reflect on what you do, how you do it and most importantly of all why do it! The back cover has this to say..........

The book has many simple constructional diagrams of useful equipment, numerous photographs of the people, the boats and the activity. There are lessons to be learned and short cruise accounts to be enjoyed, sufficient to carry the reader into the dinghy cruising world in the craft that they have evolved. The contents will hopefully encourage them to feel that “I could do that”.

By Paul Constantine and Moonshine Press

I haven’t quite got clear yet in my mind but I think..........that this is a book written by a Dinghy Cruising Association member; who draws primarily on the experiences, wisdom and expertise of DCA members. I learned loads in just the first few pages and when you do one of those rapid flick through the pages – loads of cameos, practical tips, and difficult to articulate, but what to me is a sense of adventure, joy, exhilaration, and hard won experience just leaps off the pages. I’m just finishing Joshua Slocum and I hate reading two books at once because I’m essentially a shallow person with limited brain capacity who cannot multi practical dinghy cruising will have to wait a wee while longer before I get stuck into it......but I can’t wait! It’s even got fantastic practical instructions and diagrams on how to build a boat tent ......and wait for this an example of the fates coming together or what.......on the same day the book arrives in the post.......I find long lost and forgotten about in the garage a huge canvas tent that I bought way, way back in a boat jumble......which looks as if it could be cut up to make a lovely ridge tent – following the instructions in this book – now is that fate or is that fate!

Rat’s another thing to add to the list of things to do!!!!! That lists a growing and time is as they say running out!


Saturday 19 February 2011

top sailing tips to think about............

Steve is a fellow navigator who on John’s yahoo forum has just posted a file about sail setting for the navigator. I’ve posted on this and my experiences following John’s advice before
Steve has actually added to some of the stuff I originally saw and so there is some new stuff for me to think about.
Tying the halyard no more than 30 – 40% of the length of the upper yard (back from its front foot) is helpful. Steve also points out that “When you raise the sail on a standing lug (even a small one) you should be able to notice a distinct "tail-heavy" feel to the yard. The weight of its aft end as well as that of the sail and boom should all be pulling down on the aft end of the yard and up on the forward end of it.”

That’s definitely true – as I get older – it seems harder to pull up that upper yard!

‘If you have a crease from the throat to the clew – make sure the lower tack isn’t more than 50mm away from the mast by using a set of parrel beads’.

Now I have a confession to make – I took those off. My coaming is quite high and I found that if I put a huge amount of tension on the downhaul the sail could only be pulled down until it hit the top of the coaming. Irritating and clearly I haven’t set it up right because no other navigator seems to be reporting this. I took off these lower parrel beads and the sail can now be tensioned by the downhaul much more – to the point of where the sail bottom is actually slightly below the coaming inside the boat – but then there is a huge 30cm gap between the mast and tack at the bottom – but no crease! Um! I’ve clearly done something wrong!
Steve also makes a comment that the main needs to be set in such a way that the upper sail batten’s aft end is parallel with the boat’s centre in medium weather; and sagging off very slightly when it is blowing harder. I’ve got to work out what that looks like in my head and then I’d better check that one too.

And 25% of the yard should be forward of the mast

I have never had that much forward – I barely get 25 cm forward – so that also suggests I’ve done something wrong setting up the sails. I mean don’t get me wrong – creases have disappeared – the sail sits high enough so the sprit boom doesn’t sag and Arwen sails fine for me .......but that’s not the point – clearly it is not right and she could sail even better and I owe it to her to get it right!
Another comment made me think. “Don’t put the sprit boom end so high on the mizzen that the top of the leach is hooked to windward”. What does that mean – because now I’m thinking my sprit boom forward end does seem high on the mizzen – ugh!

I am doing some things right – unintentionally I didn’t realise this but I do sail with the jib set further out than other boats around me – the wind indicators do stream either side – so that must be ok. But then he said

“Jib - watch for the sag in the luff of the sail and re-tune halyard tension until you have about 20mm sag 1/3 the way up the luff.”

What does that mean? Some old seadog in Salcombe told me I had a sagging jib and should tension the halyard as tight as I could – now I should allow a slight sag? Whoa there cowboys...........I need to internalise all this stuff.

At least I furl the mizzen correctly because I loosen off the tack and take it up to the sprit boom and I lower the head of the sail down to that and lash the lot; and then tighten the mizzen sheet which holds it securely.

Well – some new ideas and tips and things to check when I go due to an appalling memory – I’d better go and right them down in my waterproof log book!

measuring up..........

I spent an hour or so measuring up and designing what I think the portable sleeping platform will look like.

I’m going to put it across the length of the aft cockpit but on the port side. It will overlap the centre, side and rear thwarts by about 4 cm. I’ll make it out of 6mm thick marine ply which I have left over and this will be strengthened below by battens 10cm x 2cm thick. I’ll seal the whole lot with Burgess Hydrosol as well. The overlap bits will have foam on the underneath so that they don’t dent the thwart sides.

I don’t want the platform to be wider than about 36cm because I want to store it along the side of the centre case on port side when underway; alternatively I might clip it up under one of the side deck areas where it runs into the front deck (again port side).
I might need to add a little fold down leg on a hinge so that it supports the weight of the platform on the cockpit well floor. Because I will sleep on a self inflating mattress – I don’t have to worry about the ridges where the platform edges overlap the seats.

I’ve also given a little thought to a helm impeder. I think I saw something like this but can’t remember where – the Dinghy cruising association seems to ring a bell. I want something that I can tension when to keep rudder amidships and pointing into the wind for reefing; or where I can keep the rudder to leeward when hoving to.

So now I’m on holiday for a week, it’s time to clean the boat and make these modifications – well I would if it would only stop raining for an hour or two!


Friday 18 February 2011

...should I? Shouldn't I?

I’m thinking of attempting the ridiculous – well ridiculous for me that is.
I’m thinking of having a go at repacking the wheel bearings on Arwen’s trailer. It’s a good quality Degraaf trailer – but its 4 yrs old and I’ve never done it – which is shocking really. Given there are no brakes on it – how hard should it be? (Famous last words ringing in my head?) Of course it will have to come off the drive slope and then there is the issue of how do I jack it up and secure it....given the boat is still on the trailer. In fact I don’t even know if this can be done!

This is the same trailer type that carries arwen
It's a fantastic trailer except for one niggle - the screw handles which hold the rods which hold the lighting board stand far too high and would scratch the hull - so I don't use the rods - I just tie it over the back of the transom    Copyright: degraaf trailers

I haven’t researched it yet on the net but I’m guessing that I can get away with not removing the wheel but just prising off the hub cap. Is there a special tool for that? Don’t know – better consult the oracle on all engineering matters.

(Dad – is there a special tool I need? And if I attempt this – and mess it up – any chance you’d know what to do and could rescue me?)

When that hub cap comes of I actually have no idea what’s underneath it. I’m guess in some kind of nut and pin system which one assumes will have to come out. If it’s a nut – it should unscrew – shouldn’t it? Then I assume that the bearings will magically appear and that these will somehow slip out – so I’ll need a tray to put them on. I’m wondering what holds them in place and I’m expecting lots of grease – so is there a grease seal of some form? What stops the water ingress? And the axle should be in view as well?

is this what it will look like on my trailer wheels?

Lots of ‘I assume’ in this post isn’t there – um!

How do you get grease off bearings – solvent? And then what should I be looking for – how will I know they are OK or need replacing? Will they be in some form of ‘races’ or will they be like the vespa – individual ball bearings which sit in a cup arrangement? (Ha – wasn’t that a surprise as the damned things all fell out and rolled across the garage floor – all 20 of them!!)

How do you get grease into race bearings – I have no idea do I! Um – maybe the desire to do everything and be self sufficient in maintenance – whilst a laudable ambition may be a bit unrealistic. I’m not the most mechanically minded person on the planet......and that’s why we have the Tamar Trailer Centre 500m down the road from where I live – maybe it would just be simpler to call in there and get them to do it – although that costs money which is tight at the best of times.

So the idea that I might try and service my own tohatsu 3.5hp outboard.........seems just as ridiculous doesn’t!

I think I’ll stick to the wooden good are you at trailer bearings?


Tuesday 15 February 2011

new video clip of a well sailed navigator

There is a new clip of a navigator and a very famous one - Dave P's original navigator 'Magret H' in Fiji.

Its about 13 minutes long and shows a very happy Dave doing some brilliant sailing in some spectacular locations......its very painful to watch if you are in mid winter blues and can't get out on the water.........soooo painful!!!!

Thanks Dave - excellent clip


Sunday 13 February 2011

I managed to get the gunwales finished yesterday. We had a whole day of sunshine – temperatures around 10C; birds were singing; the daffodils are poking through; crocuses are out – all signs that spring is definitely on its way. The blackbirds are out in force – different pairs challenging each other for supremacy in the back garden...we had 4 pairs of blackbirds last year all nesting within 5m of the house! It made putting the rubbish out in the bin something like a scene out of ‘Hitchcock’s film ‘The birds.

Anyway, Gunwales are done – there was a lot of scrapping and sanding; the finish isn’t as smooth as it was when I did them first using the router......but it will do. I’m not one of these ‘terribly proud about pristine varnish’ types. I prefer to be out there sailing and let’s face it the gunwales constantly get a bashing even when I’m using fenders. Arwen seems to float at a height just level with the underneath of the pontoon platforms in this area – so there are the odd gouges!

removing fairleads to seal underneath

I managed to run her partly down the drive giving all around access. Visual inspection shows quite a bit of cosmetic work needs to be done over the forthcoming half term. She needs a good hull clean – it’s slightly greyish tinged in places. That needs to be scrubbed off with ‘Cif’ cleaner and then polished with some wax. The mould needs to be scrubbed off with a soft scourers and ‘Cif’ (better buy shares in this company now!). That will take two hours I guess. There are some nasty paint cracks and dings which I missed before putting her away in October and they need scraping back and repainting.

from high up you can better appreciate her lovely lines

I removed the cleats when doing the gunwales and I’ve discovered that the sealant I bedded them in – one lot seems to have decayed. It allowed water into the deck area immediately below and that is horribly damp – so that needs scraping out, filling and repainting over – another half day Job. The mast does need looking at – there are dings where the top yard slams against it on occasions. The varnish has disappeared in many places to show just the sealant. So I need to get it out when sunny, sand it down and then reseal it. I’ll probably use burgess hydrosol; and then top coat it with the burgess equivalent of varnish.

the sealant perished and let the water in - one soggy deck bit - rats!

...and there is much to do on the upper mast
the mast band seems to have slipped and exposed the area where it
used to be..........the gunk was it all needs to be scraped off, sanded
and sorted

I sound depressed about all the jobs – but I’m not at all – I love working on the boat as equally as much as I love sailing her. Also doing regular maintenance on a wooden boat is part of the charm – don’t get wood if you don’t like the regular maintenance jobs!

I’m aiming to have her sorted by end of half term – that’s a fortnight from now – if the weather goes with me! That’s repainting of dings and dents; repairs to damp areas; doing the mast and cutting. Fitting and sealing some new sleeping platforms. Oh......and making sure the tent fixes in position as well.

My friend and sailing partner in crime came around for a meal last night and we’ve tentatively put some dates in the diary for getting out on the water for the first time this year; and for me crewing for him at a sailing meet here in Plymouth in June for his class of boat – apparently up to 45 boat owners will descend for a rally weekend and my friend is suggesting trips to do in the area – depending on tides – it looks like a trip to Dandy Hole up the Lynher; a sail across to Cawsand and stop on the beach; a picnic in Barn Pool at the mouth of the Tamar and if the weather is nice – a sail around to the yealm and back....sounds to me like a cracking weekend and I’m really looking forward to it....even if it isn’t in Arwen!

My friend has a character post boat rather like this one
Nice boat: same LOD as Arwen; same beam size as Arwen - but no centre case inside; and a huge amount of ballast in keel. Gaff rigged - a really nice boat
Copyright of this photograph: Character Boats

Spring time is coming.........soon be sailing!


Wednesday 9 February 2011

John's new blog

John has started blogging himself. He has obtained a lovely little boat which I think is called 'May'. You can read about 'May' and the adventures she and John have at

The view from 'May' around Auckland area I think: copyright John Welsford

Get over to John's blog - its really interesting; he has a great writing style and there are loads of tips and advice....although he talks about what he is doing to adapt 'May'.....the ideas may well apply to your boat or at the very least give you food for thought.  The great thing about John is he is a creative designer who clearly practices what he advocates............for newbie sailors and builders...this blog is a goldmine!


Sunday 6 February 2011

.....well if it fits...........

.......its been a long week - one of those 65hrs plus work weeks which seem to be getting more frequent I was looking forward to a break! And whilst daydreaming over a set of does happen occasionally.........I remembered I had a tent downstairs in the basement.  Now I wonder, can I make this fit my requirements with a bit of modifying?

Now if I can put anchoring points along the side decks and clip it down
on hooks attached to the rub rail

..and I'll have to do something either end of the dome as well
They are zipped doors so I could raise them slightly and give myself some ventilation

When half term comes I'll get the boat off the drive slope onto the road and try fitting it properly; I'll also dry fit some plywood offcuts across the front cockpit well to see if I can make a sleeping platform; and I'll finish scraping the starboard gunwale. Then both port and starboard gunwales can have several coats of burgess hydrosol again.


Saturday 5 February 2011

...getting old and forgetful.........

When you look at the charts, my proposed summer trip to Looe and onwards to Polperro and Fowey looks............a tad ambitious.............again! Google Earth never quite lays a trip out for me although it gives a good overview of coastline features. I find it sort of simplifies the immensity of the distances. A chart, however, lays bare every depth, danger and problem. It’s a good job I’m into maps and charts. I love ‘em!

I’ve been doing a cursory look at the proposed route – not serious planning, just a sort of acclimatisation look.

summertime passage plan - down to it too ambitious?

The start of my passage west is Queen Anne’s Battery to the Draystone buoy off Penlee Point. I’m assuming that the whole trip is best done with north westerly winds – so if this is the case – it should be a nice broad reach out across the Sound and past the western end of the Breakwater. I’m pretty familiar with this area – you can see some of the video links of Arwen opposite – many of them are filmed around Cawsand Bay and Penlee Point area. I’ll probably buoy hop a little – New Ground, Queen’s Ground, maybe the Knap buoy to the south-south west of the breakwater end. Obviously going out of the Sound on an outgoing tide would be beneficial but this may not be the case – it depends partially on what the tidal streams are doing along this section of coast from Fowey to Plymouth Sound.

From the Draystone Buoy at 50d 18’ 8N 04d 11’ 0W (I will have to re-check these because I think I’ve forgotten how to read Latitude and Longitude off the chart sides – sorry!) the trip will then be in unfamiliar territory and I haven’t been able to find out much from the internet about passages across to Fowey.

The first problem is how close I go to Rame Head peninsula. The chart shows overfalls symbols immediately south and south east of the headland point stretching for about 3 cables out to sea. One possibility is to go 7 cables on 253M from the Draystone buoy which takes me through the site of a historic wreck at 15d 18’ 5N 4d 10’0W. I could continue along this line until I am directly south of Rame head. There is a prominent abandoned chapel on the headland top which would make a nice transit line bisecting my line of sail. It also takes me about 5 cables south of the headland which is 2 cables clear of marked overfalls. I think it is at this point the tide races around the headland and the waves get pretty choppy.

At the point where I am immediately due south of the chapel, I could then make a turn and a line up for the next leg of the journey. The issue is where does that next leg go?

In Whitsand Bay, around the corner of Rame Head, there are several hazards to avoid. Firstly there is the disused explosives dumping ground (I keep having this dream of sailing across it and then watching Arwen being blasted upwards on a huge waterspout as I rise above in an out of body experience).

Then there is the military wreck site where they sank HMS Scylla to form an artificial reef. It would certainly be a noticeable feature – surrounded by several wreck buoys and numerous dive rib boats! In fact avoiding that area of speeding ribs might be a very good thing!

I could cut in towards the shore but I have to be aware of the underwater wave cut platform/ledges that jut out from SW Rame headland for up a to a cable from the shoreline. On the other hand I read in one of CRINKER’s posts (see previous posts below) how he cuts inside the tidal overfall races and finds calmer water each time. There is a buoy marked on the chart at the eastern end of Whitsand Bay which would form a useful end of leg marker (at 50s 19’ 6N 04d 15’ 4W). Going to that means I cut between the explosives dump and Rame Head. From the Draystone this would be around 3nm. From there I have to avoid the Tregantle Fort Firing range at 50d 21’ 0N 04d 17’ 0. Ow! This is beginning to hurt!

Tregantle Fort and beach - I can remember back in the early '90's when a container ship sunk and this beach was awash with sawn timber lengths as far as the eye could see
and cliff top car parks were full of people putting timber onto car roof racks and lorries specially hired for the day.........ah there still be pirates in South Cornwall and Devon!

From the eastern Whitsand Bay buoy, I could do a leg approximately 9nm on 281M to Saint Georges Buoy which is in the outer area of Looe bay (50d 20’ 2N 04d 24’ 2W). This line would take me 2.5nm offshore opposite Portwrinkle. From there it would be 2.3nm approximately into the Looe harbour entrance.

Now there is a little harbour at Portwrinkle - see if you can spot it
I'm not sure I'd like to try and navigate my way across those ledges though - shallow draft or not!

There are several useful shore marks that will help me get transits and position fixes on the way across the bay. There are masts at Tregantle Fort and just to the east of it two large cardinal marker posts which can be lined up to form a good transit line for getting a fixed position without using GPS. Portwrinkle has a large hotel and fixed cliff-side beacon marker and between Downderry and Seaton there is another big radio mast.

You can’t land a small boat anywhere realistically along this shore line I think. Well at least that is what I think from looking at Google earth.....but maybe someone could advise me on this point?. Onshore winds make it a great surf beach area; there are huge rocky ledges in front of Downderry and Seaton and it would be a really nasty leeshore backed by steep cliffs situation – hence doing it with an offshore north westerly wind. But this does raise another point – where are the emergency escape bolt holes? My initial perusal doesn’t find any so if the weather suddenly changes, is it a case of carrying on/turning back?

lovely cliff top Downderry with spectacular views and some really nasty rocky ledges waiting to catch the unwary sailor!

The total trip to Looe would be around 20nm adding in distances on different tacks due to wind shifts etc. When you look at the chart for Looe Harbour – it’s about a 200m wide entrance, flanked by the long Banjo pier on the eastern side. It narrows considerably by Looe sailing club to about it’s a definite motoring in job. The small craft moorings are on the western Looe side of the river up towards the road bridge.

Historic Looe with its West and East sides

It’s about another 5nm around to Polperro. That would make a 25nm trip. Alternatively Looe to Fowey is about 10nm. So an interesting choice one day of 25 – 30nm to reach Polperro; then day two could be sailing Polperro into Fowey and up to Lostwithiel? Or sail day one to Looe; then do a second day to Fowey and a third day up to Lostwithiel and back? At which point do I then take the boat out at Fowey? How do I get the trailer there? Or shall I bite the bullet, hope the weather holds North Westerlies and sail back the reverse route Fowey to Looe; then Looe to Plymouth? That would make it a five day round trip – hoping the weather blows NW all the time!

Talland Bay betwen Polperro and Fowey I think - could that be a sheltered anchorage from south westerlies?

Um! Decisions, decisions! If anyone out there has done this passage in a small boat 14 – 21’ in length and can offer me some advice and tips on passage routes etc – I’d be immensely grateful. Specifically at this moment I’d like to know

What are conditions like rounding Rame Head – what should I watch out for?

• What wind directions are best for doing a passage along this coast in a small open cruising dinghy?

• After rounding Rame Head, where should I lay off to next?

• Are there emergency bolt holes where I can shelter along this coastal stretch?

• Are there specific tidal issues to watch out for?

If you can advise – I’d really appreciate it. I think I might take a taster voyage out to Rame Head and around to Queener Point area immediately in the summer sometime - just to get aquainted with the area - a ort of reccy - no harm in doing that is there.

Take care and have a good weekend everyone.
Given I’ve suddenly realised I’ve forgotten most of my passage planning and chart knowledge hard won last summer – I need to revise back over it again this afternoon!


When God gave us maple syrup – he neglected to tell us he’d given us the elixir of life....and he left us to discover it for ourselves!

One of life’s deliciously simple pleasures goes like this...........a Saturday morning with nothing to do...daughter at University, son sorting himself out and taking himself off on a practice expedition walk with school friends. The wife and I can have a lie in and a lazy start to the day; poddling off to get the Saturday papers and then a short car trip to the Barbican and to Monty’s!

Monty's on the historic Barbican

Ah, Monty’s........a little cafe on the historic Barbican opposite the little Sutton Pool marina. Here they will let you sit with huge Latte’s reading the papers and breakfasting on pancake stacks with bacon rashers and crispy chopped lettuce, sweet peppers and tomatoes............served up with a side dish of............maple syrup.

the only thing missing is that sublime side salad
copyright: Flickr Squishy

You drizzle it over the shuffle bacon, pancake and crisp lettuce into a little parcel and raise it to your mouth..................its perfection! Couple that with looking over the top of the papers at your gorgeous wife, remembering why you love her so much and then burying yourself in the latest book and film reviews in one of the supplements; all to the tune of wind whistling through rigging and the little bobs and curtsies of boats at mooring pontoons.

on the mooring pontoons in Sutton Harbour marina
Copyright Athenaeumlodge

What a way to start a weekend after a hectic work week schedule!
And then it’s a stroll back through historic cobbled streets with old warehouses converted to little hidden cellar bistros; a quick look at the boats moored up and a lazy day.

early morning opposite the converted warehouses
copyright: redbubble

the barbican fish quay 100 years ago
copyright cyber heritage

the old fish market has closed and a purpose built one has been built on the opposite site of the marina: the old railway tracks can still be seen in some can the old mooring bollards
(copyright fotolibrary)

copyright: goodtime webshots

It makes up for the crushing disappointment of Wales losing to England last night at the Millennium Stadium! And then its choices – no one wants me to run them anywhere; no one wants anything done around the house......oh my – time to myself – what shall I do?

Is it too wet to do the starboard side gunwale on Arwen? Yep! It's a gale out there!

Shall I do some chart work, UNDISTURBED, at the kitchen table – dreaming and planning summer trips to the sounds of Andrea Bocelli?

Oh yes – sounds like a plan! I am so easily pleased!    
Have a great day folks!


Thursday 3 February 2011

........odds and sod's......

Not much to post today – will update on my progress on the starboard gunwale at weekend; along with some of the pre-planning I’m doing for some of my proposed summer trips. I was on Gavin’s site (  ) the other day and he had a lovely Youtube clip of some old dinghies being sailed in the 1960’s at Looe – one of the places I aim sailing to in August.

Since then Gavin has given more details of these dinghies which are Redwings – visit his site to find out more about them. Last summer I was at Looe and I think I may have come across one of two of these – they were having a dinghy race with some old wooden dinghies which one guy said had been the subject of some conservation project – I’m now wondering if they were actually surviving Redwings
I also found this clip of a navigator sailing but I can’t find where I got it from....and I can't remmeber whether I've put it on the site or not before - a Homer 'doh!' moment again - sorry folks - anyway if you know who it is ....please do let me know so that I can acknowledge them....I know I downloaded it from YouTube but in my haste forgot to book mark the page or record the details. If it is you reading this blog – I’m really sorry and I hope you don’t mind me showing off your wonderful boat and sailing skills.