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

Thursday 30 June 2011

I might be able to fit in another little sail this weekend, if the weather holds. Gosh two trips inside two is looking good. Might try and scootle up the Tamar , if the tides and wind fall right!

And, some rigging changes should see me sailing better and doing justice to the navigator design. The changes? Well so far in the last few weeks I have or will have by Saturday

  • lengthened the snotter between its blocks
  • made the up haul elastic stronger to lift the boom up better to hold it parallel to the snotter
  • got rid of the silly green loop between mast and snotter (don't know why I put it there? Dur!!)
  • sorted out the lazy Jacks and inserted a block on one to help act as an uphaul on it - so this will need a longer lazy Jack (it sounds complicated, isn't and rarely for me, I actually know what I'm doing with this one, because I'm pinching the idea off my friend's post boat!)
  • tied the main halyard lower on the top yard
  • used a bight of rope to tie main upper yard to mast instead of parrel beads - a system pinched from Duckworks, somewhere but can't remember where precisely, main thing is it works really well!
  • reinstated the parrel beads at sail tack
  • installed netting under front deck for storage
  • installed straps across hull floor to secure sand ballast bags
  • installed a helm impeder on the underneath of the tiller
  • made the reefing ties on the sails longer (dur - learned that one the hard way as well)
  • trimmed excess rope lengths - just about everywhere
  • changed the mainsheet blocks to boom to a simple 2 to 1 purchase so Arwen performs better in lighter winds
  • filled in the very nasty ding in front hull port side when the wind blew me rather violently into a pontoon support pole last weekend, whilst on final motor approach to the pontoon side. (the crunch could be heard for miles...but the damage is less than expected)
  • installed elastic ties under starboard centre thwart cushion - for storage of charts
  • rigged lazy jacks on the mizzen sail
  • will have found the missing mizzen sail top batten (irritating - can't find where its lurking in the boat - urrr!)
  • put in lots more elastic bungie and clips so that huge amounts get stored under side decks and out of the way (can't get over how Steve and Bruce sail in such an uncluttered boat - is that good house(boat) keeping or what)
well there we go

I'll make a decision about sailing at weekend tomorrow night and post a report then


Wednesday 29 June 2011

getting the snotter right

Well going to the forum has paid dividends again. The problem is easy, I seem to have rigged the sprit boom in such a way that I cannot get the boom to go aft enough. Consequently there is always a huge belly in the bottom of the sail. So my thanks go, again, to Osbert, Wayne and Robin.

They have drawn attention to the fact that the snotter is actually too long and when tightened block to block is still too long. This because I have it on a strop off the mast and which then clips to the end of the boom on a rope bight. The guys also pointed out that the snotter and boom should be near parallel to each other with the boom being held much closer to the point where the snotter attaches to the mast. The key is to maximise the gap between the blocks so that the snotter can be tightened much more.

Someone suggested that

“You can/should adjust the amount of belly in the sail depending on wind levels, more belly in lighter winds - the point is that you may not want to have the snotter as tight as you can make it!”

So adjustments......well it’s been suggested that I remove the shackle/block at forward end of boom and replace it with a simple bulls eye and then tie the snotter through it and run it back around the mast; then get rid of the up-haul on the forward end of the boom. I then need to hoist the main and then tighten the downhaul for luff tension. Then I should push out the boom aft wards until the sail bottom shape looks good. At this point I could then lash the forward end of the boom around the mast twice and back out to the bulls eye with a couple of hitches.

Well, there is now plenty to think about and to fiddle with at weekend but once again it shows the value, depth of expertise and effectiveness of the people in John’s yahoo forum. Thanks guys.


Tuesday 28 June 2011

long been looking forward to this

'Ellie' has been launched. Another navigator joins the family and what a wonderfully crafted boat she is. Joel is one savvy craftsman and 'Ellie' just oozes quality and charm. Well done Joel! You can read about the launch day and see a great little video at Joel's blog

I'll leave him to tell you the story of his launch day.


Sunday 26 June 2011

at long last............

a) I've managed to get a sail in  and b) my daughter has come sailing with me after an absence of almost a year. She's been at university, is back for the summer and the last time we sailed together was August 2010. She's my sailing buddy and I miss her. It isn't the same without my daughter in the boat . My son and I, well we restore a vespa 'Stacey' together. My daughter? Well we go sailing together. She's a quiet type and just likes being next to the water. Conversation is not needed but very welcome when it comes.

definitely a watersports girl!

And what a morning. We went for a short trip - 4 hrs - a quick sail across to Cawsand bay and back again. Round trip about 8 nm. Wind was variable from the SE around to the SW and very gusty with some gusts of 27kts. Average wind speed was around force 4/5 and with another person in the boat, Arwen just flew. Our top speed was, wait for it, 6.8kts! Her average normally is 3.

Whats more,  I understand what Osbert was trying to explain to me along with Owen, Kevin and others.
The bit about steering by sails and not by tiller.

We played with the jib and pull her tighter the boat pointed in a slightly different direction; loosen the jib and the mizzen seemed to win and so we changed direction again........minimal tiller movements and we still managed to aim for somewhere and get there by only adjusting the jib!

the sail still blows up and over the boom bottom and I have to sort that out. Anyone with some tips or views, do please comment

I get the bit about the Jib and Mizzen going against each other and the boat pivoting around the mast area - AT LONG LAST!

It was pretty choppy today. When the wind blows from the south east, the water seems very lumpy.
Spray was flying everywhere but actually very little ever enters the boat.

We also adjusted the sail trim today. Tying the main halyard to the mainsail top yard further forward so it was well in the bottom third of the yard made it haul higher. Moving the attachment for the boom up to around 130 cm above mast step helped too as did adding the parrel beads at the tack around the mast. I was able to get more tension on the downhaul as well.  There is still an issue with the outhaul however. I think if I actually attach the outhaul to the boom right at the very end - it will give me a further 15 cm tensioning and pulling back of the boom and I think that will make all the difference. The boom was certainly much higher today.

big feet, short legs, stocky build
I cannot deny it any longer and I have to face up to the painful truth
I'm descended from Hobbits!

I still have to work on flattening the sail more; it does seem to billow somewhat at the base. I think there should be about 18" between boom and sail when its blowing out; there seems to be about 30"!
I also have to sort out the lazy jacks. We had a near disaster today and thank goodness my daughter had presence of mind to steer into the wind. When we were dropping the sail - the lazy jack was flapping and managed to get wrapped around the front end of the top yard and so wouldn't let the yard drop. In 20kt gust winds, it was a scary 10 minutes, in which I had to climb onto the deck, hang on for grim death and and try and unwrap the twisted and trapped lazy jacks. I think I had left them too slack and so they had caught around the front bottom end of the top yard. Lesson learned. On my own?  I think I'd have been over!  I don't want to contemplate what would have happened then!! But I will at some stage before I go out and certainly the lazy jacks will have been altered.

don't be fooled by the smile, she was hanging onto the jib sheet for grim life

I also took the advice from readers last time and reduced the mainsheet purchase. What a difference in light winds - so much more responsive in light winds.

So, a nice short sail in very breezy conditions which were testing but fun and lots learned. It all adds up doesn't it! Most importantly? My daughter came with me and that just made the day really special!

we passed this lovely boat on the way out of the Cattedown
anyone know what she is?

the little Barbican to Cawsand ferry whizzing back and forth

Oh, and a little short video of our sail today. If you can't get out right now because of weather, then enjoy and remember, my sympathies are with you. I've waited several weeks for this day!!


Saturday 25 June 2011

oh thank heavens!

At long last, after sooooo much aggravation, sweat, blood, toil and tears, we present to you...the insides of 'Stacey'.....stripped down and ready for rebuild. Those waiting for a sailing post, it is still looking good for tomorrow.....yipee!!


a split and EMPTY engine casing
except for the main crankshaft bearing

how it used to look before it was emptied....which now begs the question.....
can we put it back in the right places, in the right order with the right bits and nothing left at the end?

and how 'Stacey' looked when we first had her....not bad for a 40 year old Scoot?

Friday 24 June 2011

another navigator launch....

and you can read about it here.......congratulations Blake - cracking looking boat!

in the meantime, Joel is looking to launch his navigator this weekend and you can see another well crafted boat here at his blog

Gosh, it makes me desperate to get out on the water but the weather has been lousy the last few weeks. Hopefully will be out sailing on Sunday and will post a report here Sunday night......if the weather holds of course!!

Well done Joel and Blake


Saturday 18 June 2011

a change of plans

I was supposed to be sailing this weekend, crewing for a friend in his 'postboat' but the weather has been foul. Forecast force 7 gales with squally winds and heavy rain, you'd never believe it is our summer would you.

Still every cloud has a silver lining and so we worked on 'Stacey'.

getting ready to install the second chrome trim

new chrome trims and new piaggio badge

took a little fiddling around but we got it fixed back on
and yes......we know it isn't the right glove box but that's what 'Stacey' came with

the glove box lid doesn't fit properly....neither does the lock work reliably, ho hum!

the cog wheel from under the kickstart assembly

with shim washer being removed

to reveal bearings below

one of the gears

the bit causing me problems
I have no idea how to get it out
the drum is attached to the main spindle but this bit at the bottom grips the base of the drum
I have no idea how that comes out and then how to get the drum bit out

what it looked like before I started taking it apart

the other side......and that basket contraption doesn't seem to want to come out either


Sunday 12 June 2011

inside 'stacey'!

Well we've managed to remove the clutch, take off the flywheel and stator plate and wait for it........split the engine casing!  Wow, not bad for a non-mechanically minded father and son team! What's more I think everything is looking pretty good inside! "Whey hey" as they say here in the UK.


The clutch plate

side view

the clutch basket

the base of the clutch plates

the powerful spring inside

The stator plate

Inside the engine casing

the crank shaft

the crankshaft side view

the gears I guess

top views of gears and I think it is the cruciform in there as well

close up of bearings on crankshaft

there was a huge amount of oil in the bottom of the casing - should there be?

bearings in other engine side casing

Thursday 9 June 2011

new video of navigator sailing

there are some new videos of navigators sailing on YouTube.  First here is a great one from Rob......with his wee friend!     Go down to the post 'talking with friends' and enjoy a magical moment.

And another great video from Kevin ans SlipJig. Enjoy.


Tuesday 7 June 2011

right now I think this is where I am at.......

I've trawled everything everyone has said to me about sailing Arwen. My thanks go to Osbert, Kevin, Jon, JW, Rob and Owen.

I've put it into two pictures below (because I haven't worked out yet whether you can download documents from blogger - sorry folks)

I'd be interested in any comments, proposed amendments, observations


Sunday 5 June 2011

kind people who give their time freely

Jon, from across the water in the USA, was looking at my video clips from the post below (‘a breezy day’) and made some really useful observations. I love my navigator but as someone who still regards himself as a newbie to sailing, I do find getting the best out of her sails somewhat confusing at times. Jon sheds some excellent light/tips on the situation. Thanks Jon, I really appreciate the advice and time you gave my dilemma.

He noted that the bottom of the sail looked far too loose given the wind speeds on the day. He also observed

“When you are on the "wrong" tack, i.e. when the sail is on the windward side of the boom and laying against it, your sail is slipping up over the boom and hanging down on the other side. The foot should be tight enough so that it stays on the same side of the boom on that tack”

Now it’s been pointed out I can see exactly what he means – good spot!

Jon goes on to comment that when I tack, the foot of the sail is too loose, too full and so flogs a lot as I come into the wind; flogging slows the boat down and so makes it harder to get around!

“In the wind that you are sailing in, I think the main sail needs to be a lot flatter by tightening up the downhaul, outhaul, and what other adjustments there are for that particular plan. The flatter the sail, the less power it has, which is what you need when the wind is blowing”.

Now that all makes sense to me but here is my problem. I still haven’t got clear in my head which bits to tighten/loosen or move to actually get a flatter sail! I know I can slide the boom attachment up or down the mast;

the two bits which confuse me still
a)the blue rope around the mast to which the boom attaches - it can be moved up or down - why? How does that affect the sail shape again?
b) the silver blocks with red/white rope through them - what does that do to boom? How does that alter sail shape and why?

I know there is some form of outhaul at the mast end of the boom which runs through blocks – which I can pull in or let out! But I’ll be darned if I can work out what changes as a result of doing those things. I really am quite a dim sailor aren’t I!!

On a good note, Jon reckons I have gybes buttoned down but just need to remember that

as you come into a jibe, sheet in the main just before you turn through the wind so that the "thwack" of the boom is only allowed to move through a very small space. Once through, you have to immediately let out the main again”.

His final tip was something I had been wondering about but it now confirms my suspicions and is something I can alter almost immediately. Jon comments

 “your mainsheet looks to me to be over-leveraged. Not that big of a deal, but you have a lot of rope running out to the end of your boom. I am running a gaff-rigged yawl on my Pathfinder, and I don't really know how that compares to your rig, but I have a very simple 2 to 1 (I think) block on the boom so there are only 2 ropes running out to my boom. On small boats like ours, you really don't need all that much help to pull in the main sail. The problem is that the mass of rope that we put up to make it easy can be a hindrance. Not only is it more stuff to tangle, but in light air, it really makes your mainsail unable to respond to a small breeze, the friction of the blocks is too much”.

yep! too much of the yellow rope!
Lets take it down to only 2 not 4 and see what difference that makes?

I really appreciate Jon giving up his time. I have no idea where in the states he resides but it was kind to pass on the tips and thanks Jon.....and if any navigator owners can steer me correctly on the business with the boom adjustments......I’d really appreciate it. I know people have given me advice in the past but I’m still confused. As a teacher I know that sometimes you have to tell or show some students the same things several times before they internalise it....and this is OK with me, for once they get it, they fly! I am one of these ‘late’ flyers!


Thursday 2 June 2011

a 'stacey' disaster

Just when things seemed to be going so well with 'Stacey' our 1971 motovespa restoration....we hit a expensive one.  Below is the front hub assembly.......

The spindle goes through the central hole in the silver back plate. Unfortunately, when it was powder coated, the team worked on the spindle by bashing it  out with a hammer. This stripped the nut in the middle of the spindle which had a screw thread on the outside of it. It locked into a screw thread on the inside of the shaft section on the silver plate....or it did!  It doesn't any more.  Ah well - a new hub unit is £60  and a new spindle with all the bearings is a further £30.   Ouch, ouch, ouch!!!!!!!!!!!

Now I know a lady up north who used to collect bits of primaveras for years and she has several crates of bits and pieces in her 'tardis' like shed ('Tardis, for our overseas readers is the time machine in which Dr Who travels. TARDIS stands for 'time and relative dimensions in space'. It is cult viewing over here and a bit like either love it or hate this household we are HUGE Dr. Who fans and have been since the 1960's). Anyway I hope our friend up north has one stored in one of her magic crates and that she might do us a's going to be a very expensive mistake to put right!

A crestfallen Steve

Wednesday 1 June 2011

remember yesterday's mystery ship?

Well she wasn't German..............

The Visby is the latest class of corvette to be adopted by the Swedish Navy after the Göteborg and the Stockholm class corvettes. The ship's design heavily emphasizes "low visibility" or stealth technology. The first ship in the class is named after Visby, the main city on the island of Gotland. The class has received widespread international attention because of its status as a stealth ship and its network-centric capabilities.

The ships are designed by Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) and built by Kockums AB. The first ship of the class was launched in 2000 and since then the construction has been fraught with repeated delays. Finally in December 2009, the first two ships of the class were delivered to the Swedish Navy by the FMV, albeit with greatly reduced operational capability.

And so goes the introduction to the Wiki can read the rest here at

Wiki....what would we do without it! Good detective work Dad, well done!