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 31 July 2011

What a cracking day out (as Wallace and Gromit would say) it was today! (For those interested in Wallace and Gromit...and all sane people should be, you can find out more here at )

Leaving the Sutton Harbour and assembling in the Cattedown

For the rest of you with no soul or humour, then today was the Plymouth Classic Boat Rally and Arwen carried me and my friend Dave up and down the flanks of the ‘big boats’ all morning......and we didn’t get in anyone’s way or mown down by the big boys! Whew! One very nice soul even came close by to say what a pleasure it was to see Arwen so often sailing well across Plymouth Sound waters and that he hoped we’d sail her down to Fowey for next week’s Fowey Regatta because Arwen was such a lovely boat! I have no idea who this kind gent was but he had a great boat with well trimmed sails, clearly recognised an outstanding small boat and brilliant seamanship skills and we liked him!

You really can only see a classic boat rally from the water. It just isn’t the same from the quayside. We nipped in and out and between boats; we raced one or two and were, of course, severely outdone! Everyone on board smiled at us but I think they thought we were a cheeky little upstart interloper.

There were a few 18’ boats – old wooden restored sail fishing boats....some waved; one or two looked at us a little disdainfully but did we care? No we didn’t! We smiled, waved and sailed on by!
It is amazing to think that some of these boats are 100 years old and so beautifully maintained. It is so wonderful to see that there are people who are prepared to give up so much time, money and keep these amazing boats pristine and on the water.

We marvelled today at some really good seamanship. On one large 45’ boat they had what we think is a dipping lug sail. When it came time to tack, everyone jumped up off the deck, ran forward, lowered the HUGE lug sail a certain amount and then pulled down the tack end and swung it right around the front of the mast to set the sail on the other side before hoisting it once more. It was done with speed, precision and sheer good seamanship. A pleasure to watch!

A real pleasure was watching my neighbours, a few houses down from where I live, sailing their boat ‘Phoenix’. I don’t know what type she is but I do know she’s had an interesting history and is in fact ‘a windfall’ boat from WW2.

I think she was built in the 1930s and was one of only six built. She found her way into the ‘care’ or otherwise of the Third Reich and I think Himmler and friends were supposed to have sailed her although I will need to check that fact when I see them next (the neighbours, not Himmler, that is!) She was confiscated by the Allies and then disappeared for a time having different owners. Eventually she was found by my neighbours tied up and somewhat neglected and abandoned somewhere ‘up the Tamar’. They have spent time and money restoring her and they have done a cracking job. In fact when she sailed past Arwen along the inner breakwater wall – you could still smell the fresh paint (which I think they finished putting on her yesterday!!).

She has lovely lines, a good turn of speed and she is owned by a lovely, wonderful family who clearly are very proud of her and rightly so. She has no engine and so there is some pretty skillful sailing by the two of them!

You can find out which boats were at the rally by going to this site. I’m sure more photographs of the 2011 rally will appear in due course. 

This rally almost didn’t take place. It was originally cancelled but rescued at the last moment. I’m really pleased. It would have been a great shame not to have seen these wonderful boats parading out past the Hoe and Mountbatten Breakwater. It must have been an impressive site from Madeira road along the Hoe foreshore.

Some shots of Arwen to finish - here is the refurbished outhaul

a reasonably well set jib sheet

Arwen just needs tidying up after a great morning's sail

Back on the driveway

Tomorrow I'll post some short video clips of some of the boats sailing by us. I'm sorry for the poor quality of some pictures. It's difficult taking photos one handed when dodging through larger boats; and frankly, my little Samsung camera just doesn't do good distance shots. The exposure and clarity are always poor and need cleaning up in some editing programme.  I'll have to wait until circumstances improve so that I can purchase a new one.
I hope the shots give a flavour of what a lovely day it was.

Saturday 30 July 2011

a little bit more about sailing up the tamar........

I sailed past Mutton Cove and Mt. Wise the other day on the Plymouth side of the Tamar.

Copyright:Admiralty charts

In the Mutton Cove/Mt. Wise area of Devonport are two interesting statutes. The first is the Scott Memorial. Captain Robert Falcon Scott was born near this area in 1868. We all know what tragically happened to him on Antarctic Expedition. Beaten by Norwegian Roald Amundsen, Scott’s team died in severe weather on the return journey, only a few miles from a much needed food depot. There is a memorial at Mt. Wise, Devonport which was unveiled in 1925 I think. The memorial represents Courage, supported by Devotion and crowned by Immortality. Fear, death and despair are trampled under-foot. There are portraits of Scott and his fellow brave explorers, Wilson, Oates, Bowers and Evans.

Just along from that memorial at the southern end of the dockyard by Mutton Cove is the statute of William IV (reigned 1830 – 1837).The original statute was a figurehead on the Royal William gunship (120 guns). This isn’t the original one on display however. It is fibreglass! The original wooden one was restored and is now found with other figureheads at Black yarn Stores at Devonport dockyard!

King Billy at Mutton Cove

A nice village on the Cornish side is Millbrook, at the head of Millbrook Lake. It’s located on the Rame peninsula which is often called Cornwall’s ‘forgotten corner’. It is bounded by the river Lynher and Tamar and is an area of outstanding natural beauty (ANOB - a status we give to special countryside here in the UK). There are about 850 homes in Millbrook and a population of around 2000, along with a marina and a boatyard and some chapels and churches. There are a few pubs of course, after all this is Cornwall!

Millbrook combines with Cawsand and Kingsand villages each May to hold ‘The Black Prince’ Procession. The ‘Black Prince’ is a model boat which is carried shoulder high through the villages by four new naval ratings from nearby HMS Raleigh. It is draped in flowers and accompanied by a procession of dancers, musicians and locals. All the monies raised each year go to the RNLI.

Antony Passage is a small hamlet opposite Jupiter Point
Copyright: Admiralty Charts
Antony Passage is a far smaller hamlet than Millbrook village and is found on the northern banks of the Lynher. As far back as 1324 there was a ferry across the Lynher to East Anthony.

Copyright unknown - sorry

It fell into disuse in the 1950’s. In the 20th century it was well used because there were few roads in the area on either side of the Lynher. It was mainly used by Plymouth people, not for commuting to work but for doing a ‘grand circuit’. You caught the ferry across to Torpoint, walked through the Anthony estate, then caught the ferry and walked through to Saltash where you then caught a chain ferry across Saltash passage which connected with a tram back to Plymouth city centre.

It's an interesting old area is the lower Tamar and Lynher!


Wednesday 27 July 2011

the remaining film clips of Tuesday's sail up to the Lynher

Here is Part 2 'Mashfords boat yard to Wilson beach'. Hopefully the text is a little larger.

Some of the beautiful scenery on the Cornish side

This is the final clip Part three: up to Jupiter Point and the return.

An old lifeboat up at Mashford's yard in Cremyll


I was going to tie up here (illusions of grandeur on my part for Arwen) but the seagulls expression suggested that I should forget that idea and go elsewhere!

some video clips.......

I found another video clip of Jaunty, Dave P's old navigator. You can view it here

The first of my 'Arwen up the Tamar' videos can be viewed here

Part 1 from Barn Pool to Mashford's boatyard

...or if the captions are too small on the clip above, you can access it on Youtube - search for 'Part 1 Barns Pool to Mashford's. Sorry about the poor quality in places but my beloved Sanyo Xacti CA-9 waterproof camera has died and I'm doing these videos on a small samsung digital camera instead.

Below are the tracks of my outward and return legs up to Jupiter Point yesterday.

Outward leg up the Tamar: the wind was blowing anywhere from NW to NE and so made for some interesting sailing!

by the time I came to do the return leg, the wind had shifted around to east or south I was tacking back as well!!


All totalled up - the GPS says I covered 19nm.......the actual straight distance is around double the distance because of the wind shifts, constant tacking and probably some poor lines of sail by me!  Still enjoyed it though. More videos to follow tomorrow............

and a quick shot of the new lazy jacks before the sail is hauled up and trimmed
It is a single piece of rope that starts tied off on the boom, runs up the port side of the sail, through the mast band loop and then back down the starboard side of the sail to a tiny pulley block on the sprit boom. Then it runs back up and through another pulley block which had been tied into the lazy jack, before descending back to the sprit boom. A new tube cleat has to be added on the boom for the rope end to go through. I haven't trimmed the rope to length yet either.  By pulling on the rope end, the sprit boom lifts until it is about 4' 6" above  the thwart/centrecase.


Tuesday 26 July 2011

beating up wind........

I think they call it beating upwind..........having to head into the wind relentlessly...........well that is what I did today. The wind came straight down the river Tamar from a north westerly direction force 3 rising to force 4. A gloriously sunny day and it was fun.

There is so much to see on the lower Tamar......herons plodding under the low hanging boughs of oak; little tugs scurrying between basins 1 and 2 in the dockyard; moored frigates; submarines being decommissioned. 

 The 'grockle boats' (grockle - cornish for tourist!!) with their loudhailer commentaries squawk loudly across the waves. Sunken old barges lying in the shallows, rusting hulk trawlers laid up on moorings, navy lighters moored fore and aft.

Of course, you need to concentrate! The Police boats are very active in this area, peering into every quay, basin and bay. They scrutinise everything including me!  You have to be careful negotiating the Torpoint Ferry crossing. They come from both directions but at differing speeds and slipping between them is all a matter of timing!

And then there are the hidden little piers and quays hidden between dense oak trees; today the preserve of holidaying teenagers.......running and jumping with huge whoops and hurrays and ending in the Tamar with colossal splashes. Some are fishing, a few have lit fires to cook mackerel on.

Devils point at the mouth of the Tamar with Mayflower marina on the left

Best of all is the entertainment afforded by the Royal Navy in the Lynher at Jupiter Point training base. Lots of ribs with new recruits chucking bright orange buoys overboard to yells of 'Man overboard'; a nominated person pointing at the buoy whilst the helmsman desperately steers around to come alongside the unsuspecting floating buoy.

The Cremyll Fort battery at Mt. Edgecumbe

On HMS Brecon, an awning covers the foredeck underneath which new recruits learn the intricacies of dropping very large chain anchors under the watchful gaze of  NCO's and Petty officers.  Some lucky recruits get to race at high speed up and down the Lynher practising high speed turns whilst trying not to empty their colleagues into the briny. Others repeatedly come alongside pontoons over and over again until the manoeuvres become routine.

Barn Pool, a popular picnic anchorage

The only fly in the ointment of a perfect day was my little outboard. it keeps cutting out when you increase the speed above a certain point. It doesn't matter where you place the choke cuts out!  It needs a visit to the outboard doctor!

The Royal William Yard, the old Victualling yard at the time of Nelson

Some short films of today and more photos to come tomorrow. Today, we covered upwards of 15nm; average speed was 3.2kts; top speed was 5.4 kts.

The Edgecumbe Arms, on the Cornish side at Cremyll, where a foot ferry disgorges day trippers from Stonehouse, Plymouth, on the opposite bank

One of the tourist boats which run 1 hr dockyard tours departing from the Barbican in Plymouth

One of the old dockyard sheds and King Billy - more about him tomorrow

I'm not sure but I think this looks very like 'Spirit of Mystery', the boat that Pete Goss, his Son and a relative sailed all the way to Australia a couple of years ago

an iconic landmark in Plymouth, the Devonport pagoda flats

the frigate complex at Devonport Dockyards

The Torpoint vehicle Ferry between Torpoint and Plymouth

nice old lifeboat with the very famous Mashford's boat yard behind

HMS Somerset - I saw her last week entering the sound

More tomorrow with some short film clips and more details about the sail