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

Tuesday 31 May 2011

a breezy day out

We went for a sail today, me and Arwen that is. The winds were north-westerlies, force 4 with gusts to 30 knots. I wanted to go up the Tamar but the winds just howled straight down the channel making it a no go zone!

So I pottered around the sound. Actually I did some racing between buoys and tried to improve my times. Then I tried tacking under just main and mizzen. I still need to get the hang of tacking without a jib. That mizzen causes me so many problems because I just don’t seem to use it right!

Then I escorted HMS Bulwark out to sea. HMS Bulwark, is the second of a new class of assault ship and she was launched at the BAE Systems shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness on 15 November 2001. Formally commissioned into the Royal Navy on 28 April 2005, HMS Bulwark underwent a major 8 month refit and began 2011 undergoing sea trials and evaluations in order to return to the Fleet in February. She then undertook sea training to ensure that the ship and crew were ready in all respects to take over as the Royal Navy’s, high readiness, Flag Ship. So I guess this is one of her new deployments since then and so I waved her off and wished her luck. She’s a Devonport ship and we are a loyal lot here in Plymouth. We are a Royal Navy/Royal Marine city and proud of it too.

Having bashed up and down the sound for a bit, I then hove to so as to take a closer look at this wee beastie below.

I don’t know what nationality she is, I’m going with German. She looks fast, radar proof and somewhat stealth like. She’s bristling with machine guns and the two crew in combat gear looked very ‘professional and capable’ on the back decks. She dropped her rib out the side which then dashed off towards the Dockyard and she held station off the back of Drakes Island.

It made an unusual encounter to end the morning’s sail.


Monday 30 May 2011

a nice old lady with a stuck bottom..........

Visited Morwellham Quay today which is situated way up the Tamar River about 4 miles west of Tavistock. It is an award-winning World Heritage site, featuring a historic port, a copper mine, a working Victorian farm, a railway, some heavy horses and museums of costume and mining.

Looking downstream from Morwellham towards the South west Water HEP plant

from when ships used to tie up at the quays

It lies on the Tamar amidst towering cliffs and gently rolling farmland. There is a narrow gauge mine railway. You travel by train along the banks of the River Tamar before venturing deep underground in the George & Charlotte copper mine. Within there are displays about the harshness of 1800’s mining.

a simple railway point lever

done by a very talented gentleman

 I really enjoyed the place. It wasn't busy, there was plenty to see, my wife and mother-in-law were good company and I got to see an old lady's bottom stuck in mud......lots of mud!

a lovely little run high above the river

lovely old buildings and textures

Morwellham is 3km below the tidal limit of the River Tamar near Gunnislake and 32 km from Plymouth. The port occupies the floodplain of a wide meander and is backed by sharply rising and thickly wooded valley sides which rise to over 180m.

low tide

the old ships chandler

It was connected to Tavistock (6.5km away) via the Tavistock Canal, completed in 1817, and also to Devon Great Consols, once the richest copper mine in the world, by a standard gauge mineral railway (and inclined-plane railway) in 1859. The Great Dock and Quay of Devon Great Consols has been recently (2007/08) restored and the historic 100-year old Tamar sailing ship Garlandstone is berthed here.

the Garlandstone

lots of foxgloves in flower

 The dock is heavily silted up and it will be interesting task extracting the Garlandstone from her mud-mire. A continual programme of excavation and conservation is underway. At one time Morwellham quay was the centre of the greatest copper mine/export industry in the whole of the British Empire! You can read more about Morwellham here.

If you want to find out more about the Tamar sailing ship Garlandstone, these two sites will get you started.

Meanwhile here are more photos from Morwellham today

she's in a silted up grand dock

masses of anchor chain on deck

wire and rope hawsers

No. 2 dock, all silted up

the little electric tram

Although not sailing up to Calstock tomorrow, I am going to try and sail up as far as Pentille quay on the Tamar, winds permitting. I’ll post reports tomorrow night or Wednesday.

this man was a pleasure to watch

what a fantastic craftsman


captions please?

Sunday 29 May 2011

renovating a vespa engine wasn't in the grand plan of things but.........

We've been tackling 'Stacey's engine. We've managed to do a bit today using the Haynes Vespa manual and a brilliant set of videos by a guy called 'Sausage' - no honestly, that's his name! He has cult viewing status in our house........he makes things look so easy. Anyway lots done until we reached the clutch and discovered that we needed a clutch puller tool....which we've needed to order. Ah well!


the external view of the cylinder head

the base of the head, it's definitely a Malossi conversion

top of the piston, heavily carboned

the piston at the top of the bore

side view of guegon pin (at least that's how I think you spell it!)

some burning at the top but not below the rings
now for a decision, is it still OK or do we need to replace it?
Anyone got a view?

the crank showing through

the rear brake shoes and rear brake back plate
behind that back plate is the clutch cover

this is the brake back plate

the main driveshaft I think

the cover off and the clutch exposed
we need the clutch puller to get the clutch off the tapered spindle

the clutch looks like it is in good condition, I think!

Saturday 28 May 2011

'Stacey' update

Well the shell of 'Stacey' is back with us. Candy Apple Red on a metallic silver base with four coats of lacquer. She has been sandblasted, powder coated, filled, sanded, primed and polished. She shines and the photos don't do her justice. She's got two more days to just cure a little more and then she is ready for assembling.

In the meantime, we have the engine to strip!


our first view of 'Stacey'

Look at the 'shine' and lustre of that paint

All the dents, rust patches and dings miraculously gone

Number 1 son is extremely pleased with his colour choice

a new floor has been welded in and you can't see the seam

the glovebox drop down flap

mudguard and forks

front and rear hubs with engine cowl cover

a lovely deep colour

now all we have to do is reassemble her

the sinking of the Bismarck

There was an interesting article in The Times yesterday about the sinking of the Bismarck during WW2. I’ll try and summarize here the main gist of the article written by Simon de Bruxelles.

It would seem that the German’s biggest battleship did try to surrender before she was sunk seventy years ago. Well this is what a new account of the battle is suggesting.

We know that the ship sunk after a 2 hr shelling and that the 50,000 tonne ship sank in the Atlantic. The map below shows her last days. During the sustained shelling it was always reported that the Bismarck carried on battling to the end showing no signs of surrender. Her rudder was knocked out and most of her guns destroyed.

However, there is a new book which apparently suggests that at least three observers from HMS Rodney saw signals associated with surrender. The book has been published on the 70th anniversary of her sinking in 1941.

One testimony came from a gunnery observer called Tommy Byers onboard the Rodney. He died in 2004 but in an interview recorded with him before his death, he said he was watching the Bismarck through binoculars and saw a German sailor signalling the ship’s surrender in semaphore from the top of a gun turret. When Byers reported this to the gunnery officer he was told ‘I don’t want to know about any signal now’.

 The Bismarck then flew a black flag which is the internationally recognised signal for parley but again the gunnery signal officer wasn’t accepting it. Finally the Bismarck started using Morse lamps from her yard arm, four lamps at a time, and again the gunnery officer said ‘I don’t want to know. Don’t report anything like that.’

Tommy Byers was haunted for the rest of his life by the scenes and by the deaths of 1,995 of the Bismarck’s 2200 crew. He was most definite about what he saw throughout his whole life said his son. “He had the skill to read semaphore and therefore it fell upon him to do something about it. He felt guilty he didn’t do more at the time but he wasn’t of high enough rank to get his voice heard”.

HMS King George V

The sinking of the Bismarck is the stuff of legend. A week or so earlier she has sunk HMS Hood, the pride of the Royal Navy with a huge loss of life. Only 3 out of 1400 crew survived. The loss led Churchill to give his famous order ‘sink the Bismarck’. The book raises the possibility that this was the reason why the Rodney refused to acknowledge the signals of surrender.

HMS Hood

The article does suggest that Tommy Byers account is collaborated by an unpublished account from Lieutenant Donald Campbell who was the air defence officer on the Rodney. There is an HMS Rodney archive and a statement from this has him describing the shells bursting against the Bismarck’s armour like ‘eggs on a wall’. He saw what he thought were a series of flashes in Morse code signalling surrender.

The Bismarck had been heavily damaged by her tangle with HMS Hood. She was attacked by 15 swordfish torpedo bombers and she tried to limp into the French port of St. Nazaire, but without sufficient rudder steerage, she was a sitting target and so the shells from HMS Rodney, HMS King George V, HMS Norfolk and HMS Dorsetshire found her easily. 300 out of 3000 shells hit her and she eventually keeled over sinking at 10.40 on 27th May 1941. Her wreck now lies in 5000 feet of water.

The Bismarck being shelled

The theory is that the captain of the Bismarck, a fanatical Nazi Captain Ernst Lindemann, had already been killed and so the crew unable to communicate with the heavily damaged bridge, probably tried to surrender.

On the other hand, it would have been hard to put ships alongside to take off all hands. HMS Dorsetshire picked up 200 survivors but with so many U boats in the area, the Royal Navy would have severely risked their own ships and personnel.

The book is called ‘killing the Bismarck’ written by Ian Ballantyne and it is to be published in July by Pen and Sword Books.

I found this website for those of you who would like to find out more about the Bismarck.
You can find out more about Captain Ernst Lindemann at

I will be sharing plans for sailing this week soon


HMS Rodney