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

Sunday 24 April 2011

a nice adventure to Cawsand and back

Had a special sail today because Mum and Dad joined me for a fast sail across to Cawsand on the western side of Plymouth Sound. The wind was breezy and Arwen kept an average of 4.8 knots all the way across. The wind was coming from the north-west so it was a good close haul at times. It came gusting over the Mt. Edgecumbe headland. The sea went from glassy like to severely rippled in seconds! We departed QAB at 9.55am and were on the beach at Cawsand at 10.30 – 35 minutes to do 3 nautical miles or so. That’s pretty good going. There was weather helm and I was able to use it to help me work out when to loosen the mizzen slightly. At one point we furled the jib as we were over canvassed.

We stopped off on the shingle beach at Cawsand. Here it was sheltered from the northerly gusts and there were just very gentle tiny waves lapping on the shore. Mum and Dad were dispatched to get coffees but somehow arrived back with ice creams.....a sure sign of senility setting in! The Cawsand Ferry arrived to disgorge its contents onto the beach.

After ice creams, it was back on board. Now pushing Arwen off the beach, turning her bow back out to sea and jumping on board whilst starting the outboard, lowering the rudder and getting her underway in an appropriate direction is always tricky but somehow we managed it without embarrassing ourselves in front of all the beach masses.

Going back was slower, much slower. The wind had dropped and we floated about off fort Picklecombe listlessly for 20 minutes or so before the wind suddenly veered around to blow from the immediate south. This put us on an excellent beam reach down the outside of the breakwater and we picked up some speed. We covered the length of the breakwater inside of 25 minutes averaging 3.5 kts.

There were some nice older boats out with us – I have no idea what they were – but they were wood, old with big tan sails and very elegant! As we turned to head north we were buzzed by returning dive ribs going back into fort Bovisand dive centre.

almost 11 nautical miles - a nice day's sailing

We did a dead run down the eastern side of Plymouth sound, doing the odd gybe as I tried to do for speed not angle. All the time we kept a look out for the return of the porpoise but it was not to be. They’d clearly moved on. At south mallard buoy we gybed to starboard and set off on a beam reach along the river plym through the Cattedown. Just off yacht haven marina we turned head to wind and dropped all sails, motoring back onto the pontoon at QAB for 3pm. Five hours and a grand day out. No porpoise but plenty of gannets in Cawsand Bay, another very rare sight.

Coffees and a quick clear up and home in time for tea. A cracking day out.


Friday 22 April 2011

lot's going on in the navigator boat building world

so.... if you want to see some excellent craftsmanship pop along to Joel's site (that mahogany planking is to die for) - go to

A classic shaped and well crafted navigator is appearing at the Johnson's family home (with plenty of young help which I think is great - getting kids involved in crafts like this gives them joy, a sense of belonging and life time skills). Go to

Robert installed an electric motor in his navigator Annie - a clever adaptation and he has written it up at his blog site - go to


Thursday 21 April 2011

today's sailing

Well I didn't get to see the porpoise again but I feel very lucky to have seen them at all. It is a very rare occasion to have them in the sound. I did get to see a large common seal though which seems to have taken up residency in the little bay opposite the marine aquarium.

I went out again today. The wind was very fickle, blowing gusts in one moment and then flat calm the next. I'm beginning to get the hang of picking up a mooring and sailing off it as well. I also practiced reefing at sea and have come to the realisation that my reefing ties are too short so they need replacing. Dur - I just don't know how I managed to mess that one up! I also discovered that my downhaul sheet is too short. I cannot raise it up to the second set of reefing points. Wow! Good job I found out now. So that will need sorting as well. Managed to sail for a time under jib and mizzen and put into play the advice given recently by John's forum members.

got the jib set fine but the main sail - oh dear!

 I managed to tack the boat but found her easier to gybe under just mizzen and jib. I'll need my friend Dave to come out with me on this one I think. He will know what to do.  I find sailing Arwen in very light winds difficult. I still haven't got a handle on how to trim the sails for very light winds. There is that old adage however "Practise makes perfect". I also miscalculated the tides and so arrived at very low water at the slip. I had to tie up alongside an inflatable  (sorry Arwen - the indignity) and wait for the tide to rise sufficiently. So I lazed around, read a book, sat in the sun, tidied up the boat and people strolling along the pontoon to their big boats all admired Arwen.......pretty cool really!


Wednesday 20 April 2011

for days like this...........thank you!

Today was a special day. It felt special as I crept out of QAB marina at 9.00am.

 A massive spring tide right at the top and the whole sound was a millpond. Not a breath of wind anywhere. Loads of flotsam drifted aimlessly; rafts of seaweed, the odd plastic bottle, and the cursed mastic sealant containers. We really are a wasteful and environmentally un-thoughtful society aren’t we? Mist hung over the breakwater. I did try to sail but it became pretty clear that I was going nowhere other than backwards. Well the sun was rising high, it was going to be a scorcher and there was only one thing to do really. Started the outboard and putted slowly across the sound to Cawsand bay and one of my favourite anchorages.

I like to anchor just off the wooded cliffs.

tranquil woodlands full of birdsong

Today they were in their fine greenery and full of birdsong. The sea was that lovely bright emerald green and it was so clear you could see the seaweed beds and sandy patches. It was quite fun sitting on the forward deck, my back leaning against the mast and my legs dangling in the very cold briny. I could see the anchor with the chain coiled to one side of it. It hadn’t dug into the sand but clearly it held fine. In the meantime I chilled and listened to the sounds, the slight knocking of the rudder as the boat pivoted in the wind (I kept the mizzen up to point me into the wind at anchor. The waves surged and gurgled into the gullies and crevices of the rocks. The tide was dropping fast exposing several bands of colour on the rocks. The top most colour was a dark grey/black with splodges of grey lichen; immediately below it was a light grey band and then the browny grey area where the barnacles grew profusely. Exposed kelp surged in and out in ribbons glistening in the sun, its movement rhythmic in time with the surging waves.

amazing colour bands on the rocks

And then it happened. That niggle. The rising of the hairs on the neck, the sense that something was about to happen. A breeze suddenly picked up and the mirror glass sea rippled as little puffs of wind came towards me. The new tell tales on the shrouds, streamed out towards the stern, their flickering adding a high ticking to the sound landscape. Everything was telling me it was time to go......and so whilst many came to join my sheltered spot, I upped anchor and made way but not for long.

a neighbouring anchoree

The wind dropped completely – becalmed. Drifting aimlessly. Not a breath. I tried everything and then resorted to motor. I could cross to where the breakwater was I could see ripples in the sea where the wind was ruffling the surface. There I could catch some breeze.

And then I saw them. Well I thought I saw them, porpoise off the starboard bow at 600m. Quick scanning with binoculars and I was still unsure – were those waves, ripples, driftwood? A tail fluke shot to the surface, an arched back and then I was surrounded. A pod of 15 or so porpoise including babies frolicked around me. They shot under Arwen, came alongside her, took a look at me and generally swam around me at varying distances. The closest? Less than a metre! Playing in my bow wave! All well in-side Plymouth Sound.

Today was a special day. I knew it would be when I crept out of QAB at 9.00am into the still foggy morning!


Tuesday 19 April 2011

Robert and Annie

Robert has posted about his first sailing experiences in Annie. He makes some excellent observations about trimming and balancing jib and mizzen. Have a read at

Guess where I took this picture? Cannes? Sardinia? Corfu?

Nope.....sunny Falmouth. The Missus and I managed to escape for a few days down to Falmouth and what great weather we had. It’s been 22C today here in Falmouth – Plymouth area. The normal average is this is unseasonably warm weather!

the same big white gin palaces from another viewpoint

Falmouth is a town and port on the River Fal on the south coast of Cornwall. It has a total resident population of 21,635

The name Falmouth comes from the river Fal but the origin of the river's name is unknown. It’s famous for its harbour and together with Carrick Roads it forms the third deepest natural harbour in the world, and the deepest in Western Europe. It is also famous for being the start or finish point of various round-the-world record-breaking voyages, such as those of Sir Francis Chichester and Dame Ellen MacArthur.

this was alongside the maritime museum pontoon

a different kind of luxury I guess!

The Falmouth Packet Service operated out of Falmouth for over 160 years between 1689 and 1851. Its purpose was to carry mail to and from Britain's growing empire. As the most south-westerly good harbour in Great Britain Falmouth was often the first port for returning Royal Navy ships.

News of Britain's victory and Admiral Nelson's death at Trafalgar was landed here from the schooner Pickle and taken to London by stagecoach. On 2 October 1836 HMS Beagle anchored at Falmouth at the end of its famous survey voyage around the world.

The Falmouth Docks were developed from 1858 and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) opened Falmouth Lifeboat Station nearby in 1867. The RNLI operates two lifeboats from Falmouth: Richard Cox Scott, a 17-metre (56 ft) Severn Class all weather boat, and Eve Park, an Atlantic 75 inshore lifeboat.
During World War II, 31 people were killed in Falmouth by German bombing. It was also the launching point for the famous Commando raid on St Nazaire. An anti-submarine net was laid from Pendennis to St Mawes, to prevent enemy U-boats entering the harbour.

While Falmouth's maritime activity has much declined from its heyday, the docks are still a major contributor to the town's economy. It is the largest port in Cornwall. Falmouth is still a cargo port and the bunkering of vessels and the transfer of cargoes also keep the port's facilities busy. The port is also becoming popular with cruise ship operators. There was one in the night we strolled around the waterfront.

the boat ramp is in the centre of the picture; the large building below the pontoons is the national Maritime Museum. the docks are on the right hand side

Falmouth has many literary connections. The town was the birthplace of Toad, Mole and Rat: Kenneth Grahame’s classic Wind in the Willows began as a series of letters sent to his son. The first two were written at the Greenbank Hotel whilst Grahame was a guest in May 1907. Reproductions of the letters are currently on display in the hotel. Poldark author Winston Graham knew the town well and set his novel The Forgotten Story (1945) in Falmouth.

Richard Bolitho — a fictional Royal Navy officer who was the main character in a series of books set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The books were written by Douglas Reeman (using the pseudonym "Alexander Kent") and Bolitho came from Falmouth. If you’ve never read these books and are into old navy novels/romps, I highly recommend the Bolitho books. You can find out more here

I visited the Falmouth harbour office to find out about self launching facilities in the town. The main slipway is Grove Place Boat Park and Customs House Quay (in the photo above). The launch charges are £10.50 per day and the daily trailer rates are £9.50. I’m still unclear where you put car and trailer. If you need to know more the Harbour Commissioners office telephone number is 01326 312285. The web address is  

The water taxi service is VHF channel 37 whilst Falmouth harbour radio is channel 16 and 12. Falmouth pilot is on 09. The Falmouth coastguard can be reached on 01326 317575. I’m tempted to crack a very poor taste joke about don’t phone after 6pm because they won’t be there due to the coastguard cuts. Coastguards I know are incensed about these cutbacks and I feel really sorry for them. I’m pretty sure it’s another silly ‘rushed into’ decision which seems to be pervading all our public/community/education services since the coalition government have come to power!

Mylor beach

I also visited the pretty village of Mylor. Someone suggested that it was a good place to launch on my proposed summer trip. I’m thinking of either a) launching at Falmouth and sailing up to Plymouth or b) sailing down to Falmouth from Plymouth and getting someone to run the trailer down there for me and then bring me back. There are a huge number of creeks to sail up in Falmouth Harbour. I could spend 2 or 3 days just sailing this area.

Mylor harbour area

Mylor is a beautiful village off Carrick Roads. It has a pleasant little beach, a wine bar (rather tastefully done inside), a chandlery, a yacht club, a new surf shop and a lovely little church. I suspect in days long gone, packet ships bringing trade to the area would anchor in the creek just offshore of the little marina. These websites give further details:,_Cornwall  
The parish church is dedicated to St. Mylor and during its recent restoration a 17’ high Celtic stone cross was uncovered. Legend has it that it marked the actual grave of St. Mylor himself. Within the churchyard are graves of several packet boat captains. There is an attached graveyard for 60 men and boys from HMS Ganges, which was a training ship moored at Mylor for over 30 years in the early 1800’s. It was renowned for its harsh conditions and severe discipline. Mylor was at one time the most westerly naval port and victualling yard in the British Isles. During WW2 it was a base for the French resistance and now it is home to the last fleet of Falmouth oyster boats.
And what fantastic looking boats they are. You can find out more about these lovely boats at

For over a century, Cornish families have derived their livelihood from oyster dredging in the Carrick Roads and surrounding rivers. Many of the oyster boats, known as Falmouth working boats were built at boatyards around the Fal, with some of the oldest boats dating back as far as 1860.

Governed by ancient laws that were put in place to protect the natural ecology of the riverbeds and oyster stocks, oystermen fishing in the Port of Truro Oyster Fishery are prohibited from using engines. Instead, sail power and hand-pulled dredges must be used. This is the only oyster fishery in Europe, if not the world, where such traditional methods must be used.

The Working Boats can be up to 30 ft in length and have the original gaff cutter rig. The oyster beds, or lays, are marked by sticks, or ‘withies’, that protrude from the water. The fishermen rely on the tides, wind and local knowledge to dredge for oysters. Once caught, the oysters are purified for 36 hours before being sold. Some oysters are returned to beds to fatten, and can be sold after the close of the oyster season.

During the summer months, the working boats may be seen racing in the Carrick Roads, and at many regattas in the county. The racing rig is far larger than the rig used for fishing and these gracious vessels create a truly magnificent spectacle as they race at close quarters under full sail. You can see one of these boats in action at

Another clip can be found below

At Mylor charges vary according to activity. A short stay visit within the marina is £3.00. Car parking is £5.00 per day and trailer storage £3.00 per day. When you launch at Mylor slip – you then tie the boat up at the pontoon and then drive the car and trailer up the valley. In all it takes about 20 minutes to drop off car and trailer somewhere along the half mile long valley and get back to the boat. I guess they have slip attendants who can keep an eye on things – it’s a long time to leave a boat unattended at a slipway! There is a yacht club, a crane to lift boats in and out, a car park and some boat yards.

there is a Falmouth oyster boat for sale

the lifting out crane at Mylor

I bet someone got a very nasty surprise when this mast snapped

some proper rope work on one of the boats tied alongside the wall at Mylor

hidden amongst the Falmouth oyster boats

a tidy working boat

and a slightly neglected one as well

looking out over Carrick Roads

Friday 15 April 2011

a nice afternoon on the water

Managed to snatch a couple of hours on the water this afternoon. It was murky and I almost didn't go but around mid day the sky attempted to brighten and so I took the risk. And I'm glad I did because the sun made an odd appearance through out the afternoon. High tide was 3.30pm BST and the wind was southerly and only a few knots.

I sailed up and down the length of the hoe foreshore and did some mooring on buoys which I slowly got better at. It is rather satisfying being able to moor on a buoy, sort out sails and then depart off that buoy by slipping the line and sailing off it.

It was a good shake down cruise giving me the opportunity to remind myself what went where. I still need to sort out the topping lift/lazy jack system. There is just too much string hanging off that sprit boom......very irritating.

Someone told me today there are a pod of 30 porpoise four miles offshore at the moment - so that's next weeks sailing sorted out....whoopee!


Saturday 9 April 2011

great news

'Annie' has been launched. Rob has all the details on his site at

He also has a neat video clip of 'Annie' moving off the pontoon under the power of his electric pod. Neat gizmo - love it! It is a real pleasure to see this boat launched. Rob is a consummate craftsman who has made several small design changes leading to an excellent, highly crafted navigator. Rob thinks things through and takes his time. He is author of the book 'something about navigator' which I highly recommend. I've read it a couple of times now and keep learning something new every time I do.

Well done Rob. I know you will get many years great pleasure and enjoyment from 'Annie'


Tuesday 5 April 2011

it finally arrived.........

My new bargain jacket has arrived.
I needed a waterproof for the boat. My walking jacket, whilst excellent, wasn’t really designed with sailing in mind.
On a limited budget I shopped around and eventually decided on the Gul Code Zero Stratus.
It’s simple, classic, good fitting with articulated arms. Made of GCX2 EVO fabric – it's light weight, breathable, waterproof (100% waterproof with taped seams) and windproof. It has a mesh lining, a ‘pack away’ hood and a quick drying fleece lined collar, which I have to say, fits nicely over the chin and mouth area, affording some excellent protection from dollops of spray.
The two way zip looks pretty chunky and tough and has a Velcro storm flap along its length. There are big quick drying hand warming pockets, an easy grab elasticated hem adjuster and adjustable cuffs. All in all it looks the part and I’m looking forward to trying it out over the Easter period

....ah...boating heaven.....

Whilst looking for geography clips on YouTube I came across these two of a navigator being sailed by 'Shanghai'. I have no idea who he is....but this is one great navigator; and he is one excellent sailor!
I will have to console myself watching these until I can get out on the water next week

Enjoy...and Shanghai - whoever you are.......thank you for sheer 'poetry in motion!'


Sunday 3 April 2011

another new navigator gets launched.....and bits and pieces

Well another navigator has been launched. Named ‘Stingaree’.  I haven't emailed Geoff but I hope he is OK with me posting a few details about his launch.

Geoff ordered the plans for her in July 2006. She was launched 2 April 2011 (a launch under oars only says Geoff......a launch is a launch says I). 

It’s taken 4 years 9 months and 2 days which Geoff works out as 248 fabulous weekends of enjoyable boat-building (he also says he exaggerates, apparently not every weekend was an enjoyable one!)

His maiden voyage with ‘Stingaree’ was to Kapiti Island in light airs and on a fantastic sunny autumnal day where the wind was rising to 10- 15 knots on the homeward reach. Apart from the main's crease which he says he still hasn't 'nailed', the sail was perfect.

Kapiti island is at the southern tip of the North Island of New Zealand on the western coast
Opposite on the mainland are the coolly named Paraparaumum beach and Waikanae beach

Geoff describes the boat as ‘awesome’! Well that echoes the sentiments of all other navigator owners doesn’t it?

Well done Geoff and congratulations. I’ve followed your posts and updates on the forum with eager anticipation and the day has finally arrived. Happy sailing Geoff and welcome to the ever growing navigator family.

Is that a British Seagull engine I see attached to the I remember having one of those on my very first boat 'Pugwash'......that was a long long time ago

All photographs copy right Geoff 'Way_back_there'

In the meantime, John has made another couple of postings on his blog and they are well worth a read at

In a similar vein, Robert is one step closer to his launch day with 'Annie'. Now Robert is what I would call a master craftsman and if you want to see 'perfection' in a navigator, then you must take a look at his blog and the photographs. He's also a poetic writer, unlike me, having a way with words that are simple, concise, and basically pure prose! Go take a look at
Another man with a gift for the simple prose and stunning photographs is Steve. His blog 'Log of Spartina' is a must read and if you haven't found it yet, go now and see what you have been missing.

Finally, I rarely publish the stat's for the blog but here is the chart. It has almost been a year since the blog started and page views seem to be on the increase. Thanks for reading about 'Arwen's meanderings'. Easter is just around the corner so look out for more posts. We will be out there in the next few weeks practising picking up moorings, mooring alongside and sailing off a mooring. Getting ready for our awefully big adventure in the summer - Arwen and I are thinking of sailing down to Falmouth (50NM in two days). We'd spent a couple of days shoving our bow up the creeks of the Fal and then, all being well, try and find someone to come and collect us with the trailer! More about that possibility in future blogs.

Don't panic about April......we are only getting started; but since December 2010, well things have been on the up. Thanks for all your support folks.

Oh and one more thing......THE AMERCIAS CUP IS COMING TO PLYMOUTH UK IN SEPTEMBER 2011......oh yeah!


Kapiti island looks like a good 'explore' and I'd quite like to sail over to those smaller islands or are they mere rocky outcrops?