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

Saturday 24 September 2011

can you see us?

well can you see us.................?

Look for the legs dangling down on the middle tier above the white wall. The legs on the right hand side belong to the Missus.....I'm leaning on the railing next to her...........last Saturday, AWCS match race final day........

It has been soooooooooooo  quiet around here this week. SOOOOOO QUIET!!


whoever is doubting.........

that there is a recession would haven't have needed to go much further than the Newton Abbott boat jumble today.

Lots of 'bits and pieces' this year of variable quality too

....and not as many people I thought although I could be's a perception rather than a fact....

another one missing was the man with the great hat who sells blocks, old tools, masts, sails and books

Seriously down on the number of stalls and occupied pitches, there were familiar faces missing. My stainless steel nuts and bolts man wasn't there; nether was the Compass Marine 'fender' seller. it was rather thin on the ground.

...strange not thinking about buying epoxy and spatulas!!

I'm sure I saw some of this last year.......

I like the 'artistic slant' but who buys this stuff?

Not only were there fewer stalls but the quality of what was being sold was lower than perhaps I've seen in the past. There was a lot of second hand gear that really was 'well used'.  A lot more 'junk' would be a little uncharitable but you will all know what I mean.

was almost tempted...would one be useful to carry on Arwen for moving in the shallows instead of the outboard.......dunno!

I just liked the colours and the patterns!

One surprise was the cost of second hand outboards. My little tohatsu 3.5hp was fetching £300. there were several available and they were being sought after. Which left me slightly enraged given that I left mine with a company in Salcombe who are doing brokerage on it and claimed the most they can get for it is £120 (of which they want 10% commission and VAT).  I'm furious and first thing Monday will be ringing them to get it back. I'm not greedy and I'm not going to sell it for £350 but if I was able to get £250, that would pay for the marine radio and some contribution back to the family budget for the new outboard I bought at the end of August. Apart from which, I'm honest and I expect everyone else to be the same with me!

this nicely done model caught my eye.......I used to make these myself

horribly expensive......a rip off or should that be a 'rope off'....ha ha ha......over never mind!

stuff for big boats

an array of fishing rods...some of which are very old.......

Anyway, I managed to get the nuts and bolts I needed for 'Stacey' my son's motovespa 125 super 1971 restoration project. I didn't manage to get the cushions I wanted for back rests for Arwen.....the cushion person wasn't there this year!

It does look sparse on the ground

whatever it is for, a fender one assumes, it is an extraordinary piece of craftsmanship

Well, we are being predicted an Indian Summer this forthcoming week, so maybe, just maybe, Arwen and I will get a trip in next week


Wednesday 21 September 2011

some navigator updates:

Wayne has been painting his boat and it's beginning to develop a personality - funny how putting on the paint does that to a boat...or is it just me that thinks that?  His varnish the transom or not?  Well how long have we got to debate that one......?
Find out about his progress at

Joel has posted some excellent reports about the Port Townsend boat festival - videos, fantastic photographs, enlightened commentary; a sail with JW himself (the lucky man.....Joel that is.....although when you see Joel's boat, you'll realise how lucky JW would have felt sailing it).  Joel's reports are excellent and will need a few evenings if you are to gain fully from them. Like Rob D (and his wonderful boat 'Annie'), Joel is a natural writer and philosopher as well, so put some time aside and  ......enjoy!

You can access Joel's site at

For those of you who keep a mild interest on our other love 'Stacey', my son's 1971 father/son motovespa 125 super restoration project.....well progress is slow but we are one step closer to understanding the wiring, thanks to the the very kind people at Beedspeed, here in the UK. They made the wiring loom for us and we also bought the rear light and handlebar light switch from them. The wiring diagrams whilst very good left us confused because the colour wires in the loom didn't necessarily match up with the same colour wires in the light, the stator plate and well pretty much anything else electronic for the bike. We sent out a plea for help with some photos and Alan came back to us with a step by step idiots guide on how to join up what colour wire to what other colour wire must have taken him ages. There really are good kind folk out there who will support newbies like us.

My good friend Dave will be accompanying me to the boat Jumble at the weekend and that's really good. It makes an event a bit more special and fun when out and about with him. I really enjoy him sailing with me in Arwen.....I learn something new each time......and there are very few people who can tolerate any time spent with I really look forward to when he's out and about with me. It will be fun and I'll post pictures and thoughts on the jumble at the weekend.

In the meantime I have been giving some thought to the issue of sailing in rough seas. Now, when I mean rough, I'm talking as an inexperienced new sailor who has never sailed in anything above a force 6 tops. Watching the America's cup crews tackle some pretty extreme conditions last week has set me thinking though and this comes on the back of sailing Arwen to and from Fowey in 'bouncy seas' (top end of force 4 - for Pete's sake listen to me - I make it sound like a Fastnet force 8 gale tragedy don't I - Sorry!!).  I spent a pretty uncomfortable day sailing down to Fowey in the summer, right into the prevailing winds which ran parallel with the coastline and caused some rolling waves for long periods of time (the ones with steep crests and damn big troughs).  I sort of managed to sail through them but should there have been some specific techniques I could have used that would have made it more comfortable?

force 6 and plenty of white topped waves in Plymouth Sound last weekend

So.........whilst watching the ACWS, I asked some 'serious sailor types' also watching it what they thought I should have done! (I assumed these people were serious sailors......a salty weather beaten look about them; cotton trousers of various shades of blue, salmon, red; smocks or not; serious sailing clothing; binoculars with some serious knobs to twiddle on; clearly people who could analyse and understand manoeuvres of the crew immediately they made them; etc etc)

And this is what I got back....things to reflect on..............I have no idea whether they are right or not but I'm up for trying it out....nothing ventured, nothing gained.  (One very professional looking sailing person did comment that I was mad to go down to Fowey in a 14' open dinghy but that he admired my 'obviously very well developed but misplaced sense of adventure'.......I'm not quite sure what to make of that.....He clearly isn't a member of the dinghy cruising association whose feats would probably have had his hair standing up on end and him going through several bouts of tutt tutting!). Anyway, advice proffered went like this......

  • knowing how to steer through big waves is essential! Didn't expand on that though! Gee thanks!
  • try steering around breaking wave crests and avoid taking wave crest beam on.
  • watch the transom swinging away from the wind as big waves pass underneath the hull (is Arwen long enough for that to be an issue...dunno?) This will cause the boat to luff up into the wind and so more rudder needs to be applied to hold the planned course. Bear away quickly and for very short time stops this from happening!!
  • try not to turn downwind or else an accident gybe may ensue....yeah I've got that one understood having done that several times!!
  • trim the mainsail carefully to stop the top part of sail from twisting and don't over sheet the lower sail part or else it will cause excessive weather helm.......I'm always confused by weather helm but go by the rule that if the tiller is tugging to hard and I'm having to pull it too much to keep course - I have too much canvas up!
  • when running - pole out the head sail.....I'm not sure whether that is applicable to a jib on Arwen or not - it's something I'll have to look up and work out what it means that's for sure!!
  • don't go downwind in windy squally wavy's asking fro trouble (is this true, if so why? Is it to do with gybing? Surfing excessively....which I thought was rather fun when it happened.......oops!) Or is it to do with pitch poling (now there is a new term I learned from watching ACWS in the Sound......everyone wanted the boats to do it....why?)
  • sail to windward close hauled is a safer option couple with
  • go further offshore because waves will be less close together and more likely to roll under boat with less impact......probably true and its the advice my friend Dave gives it must be right as far as I am is a brave man who goes 4 miles off shore in a 14' dinghy and with limited experience.......I know technically it is right.....but self preservation sought of kicks feels so wrong!!!!!
  • luff just before the boat meets an approaching wave and then turn away as you go down the back of it which helps avoid that this I did do and I can say this does me on this one...but it does take concentration and constant hand on the helm
  • of course, don't bother going out when conditions are going to be like my defence, the weather forecast given was completely wrong regarding wind speed, wind direction, wave size not really my fault!
  • if on a lee shore and I was, keep a flat sail with maximum depth well forward - it maximises drive and minimises heeling ( I found this tip in a boat magazine......with one or two others on this topic...only I can't remember what magazine......and the Missus put it out in the recycling rubbish bag.....oops again!!)
  • reefing obviously, which I do whenever I get scared...which is frequently!
  • furling the jib and sailing on main or dropping main and sailing on jib and mizzen or dropping jib and mizzen and sailing on reefed main...basically reduce sail area
  • using the engine - motor sailing to windward - it helps reduce leeway; especially if you head 20 - 25 degrees to the apparent wind (I think I remember that from that magazine that got thrown in the recycling ahem!!!
  • lying hove to until worst is over is sometimes better than fighting the squalls and waves
  • lying to a sea anchor

in a force 6 last weekend, this sailor seemed to be doing the right things?

I suspect there are plenty of useful tips but its working out which apply to small boat sailors isn't it.  I need to do more research, reading and thinking about this. It is important to sail out in moderate winds to get the experience but I really wouldn't like to have to try and right Arwen from a capsize........I'm pretty sure I'd struggle to do so!


Monday 19 September 2011

why have we had so much fun?

Well this video will show you. It is long, around 45 minutes, but if  you watch only the first 10 minutes you will get the picture. It has been exciting stuff!

Pushed for time? Then perhaps the abridged version of what can only be described as a day of pushing it to the 7 the final winner takes all fleet race with wind speeds in excess of 25 kts!

Comm'on folks........secretly.......wouldn't you have loved to just be here with us to have seen some of this stuff live?

And guess what.........there is talk that they MIGHT bring it back to Plymouth again because they have so enjoyed themselves......oh yeah.......BRING IT ON.........Arwen and I challenge  Oracle 5 to a head to head match race....winner takes the prize...........a packet of gummy bears!

I'm in the middle of editing just a few short video clips of what I saw and will post this week.

In the meantime Arwen is under wraps on the drive. I'm hoping for a break in the weather so that we can get a voyage in before the winter gales - delete that last sentence.......what am I thinking?  They have arrived and with a vengeance too.  

I'm off to the boat jumble this weekend  with a shopping list of things including
  • some stainless steel bolts of various sizes with nuts and washers for 'Stacey' our Motovespa 125 super 1971 Father/Son restoration
  • some long narrow cushions to put onto the thwart back panels because they can be rather hard on long voyages as I discovered on the way to Fowey, especially if you wear just a life jacket and not a padded buoyancy aid
  • some little turn stud button thingies which will push through the holes at each corner of aforementioned cushions, so securing them to the thwart sides
  • to talk to a man what does interesting things with canvas - could he make me a cheapo canvas tent and simple frame for Arwen?  And then can he sell me some sensibly priced canvas to make some canvas flaps which will press in to those stud thingies - to be placed across the oval holes in Arwen's thwart backrests. In the rain - they get water in them and so anything stored in these areas under the deck gets wetter than it should. I noticed that Steve on Spartina has such a canvas flap somewhere to protect an area where I think he keeps his radio and ditty box.
  • a trailer clamp of some form to attach the spare tyre to the trailer in such a way that it is out of the way and also padlockable
  • to talk to a man who is an electronics expert - can we install an aerial on the mast which plugs into my new handheld VHF, in order to extend its range - feasible? practical? needed?
And then there is the Bacon butty and latte coffee; the normal chat and donation to the RNLI people; a good nose and rummage around peoples stalls and car boots; the excitement at the fishing tackle stall (what's new; what's catching; all those rubber and plastic lures to marvel at!!!!!). There will be the 'I can't believe you have the cheek to sell that broken down crock of an outboard to some mug who will buy it without seeing it working - dur!" stall run by some very dodgy looking gent; the guy who sells discount paints (with a 1902 sell by date scratched off the do look hard before you buy!). There is the rope seller (very fair prices and excellent quality); the epoxy people (ditto about advice and prices) and then the general public who are selling whatever didn't get used this season....they bought it on a whim and realised over the summer it was next to useless and so now they want to pass it on to me! You know the kind of thing I mean.......the mooring pole that extends and has one of those hook contraptions which pushes your warp through the mooring buoy loop and returns it back to you but then fails to release itself from the actual mooring buoy so that as your boat goes, reluctant to let go of the expensive contraption.....get pulled overboard (you can tell I've been there, done it and got the cap badge.....just don't ask)!
We'll queue to get in, have a chat, chew the cud and have a moan about the price of marinas; there will be gossip about the Americas Cup including the heated debate about whether multihull sailing and this new fangled approach to the cup is in fact real sailing......the mono hull boys will, I'm sure, reflect nostalgically on the days when big hulled boats competed for it, using a handicap system no one understood, out in the offshore waters where nobody saw what was going on......

us dinghy cruising boys, a solitary and hardened breed, will recognise each other from our weather beaten tanned faces with a haunted expression on them. we will gather in little clusters in little corners and share horror stories.........."Honest to God mate, force 8 , bouncing up and down like a YoYo and I met my vomit on the way back up the wave crest"

I can't wait - I love the Newton Abbott boat jumble - it is fun, quaint, quirky and good value.  Roll on Saturday!


Sunday 18 September 2011

thrills and spills galore...... the final fleet race - winner takes all. And Spitall taught all the boys a lesson in seamanship today!!

Welcome to my LAST blog on the 34th America's Cup World Series  - the Plymouth Leg!!

copyright Gilles Martin-Raget ACEA OR Ricardo Pinto
the ACWS website doesn't say which one - so my apologies
what is equally as important is  - can see me in the crowd.....can you make me out........on the raised bit at the foot of that white tower, towards the lower left hand side?

It was a change of course, change of tactics and a change of location for me, as I scuttled across to the Mountbatten side of the sound for this the last race. The wind, force 6 was gusting directly from the north west in to our faces, making even the job of holding a small camera lense steady, a feat of consumate skill and patience!

spectators started arriving in boats

amateur photographers jostled for position

the officials started to patrol the red zone borders

fleet security just shot about everywhere

QHM turned up to check all was well

and Artemis came out to practice for 30 minutes or so before the start

And, whatsmore, ITV 4, a national TV station here in the UK did a half hour's programme about this weekend, miracles of mircales and wonders will never cease. Well done to ITV, even if you did put it on your fourth station!!

the race officicals made sure all knew where to moor safely

and the crowds this side and on the Hoe got bigger

bow men folded and re-folded sails in preparation

Mr Coutt's shot about everywhere before the start

and the Coastguard took the opportunity to make a seriously important announcement

the Team korea coach boat went along side

Artemis started REALLY warming up

and Mr Coutt's kindly gave all spectators on the Hoe a real good close up

With 2 minutes to go, the french team Corum managed to capsize on their approach to the start line; Green Comm managed the spectacular feet of actually parking their rear port aft hull on top of an oracle boat, the rudder locking both hulls together. China capsized a little later on, as did Artemis, and on one boat, one poor unfortunate crew member actually plunged straight through the wing sail into the briny below - it was a huge hole....but he was safe....shaken but safe!

2 minutes to the start and as we say in's an up.....

.................wait for it.............'s an 'up and under.......'
with a near collision thrown in for good measure

time to hang on for grim death.....gutting the clock is counting down to the start

sorting out the tangles

time is counting down - get that line on

come on tow it back upright.......we still have time

YES, YES, YES......on her way back up

and splash down and BACK in the race!
Well done Team Corum!

Oracle Coutts and Oracle Spitall battled it out for much of the race with New Zealand chomping at their heels. Some clever tactical play by Team New Zealand took them into second place and it was really close rounding the last marks, but as ever, that wily aussie skipper kept the lead and crossed the line a few seconds ahead of Team New Zealand.

the strain shows on the faces

Team New Zealand, match race winners yesterday, intent on building on this success

and Oracle 'Coutt's' determined not to let them .....

Team China's coach crew look on anxiously

whilst race officials politely explain the consequences of being mown down by a 39 kph AC45 to some interlopers

crowds build on the Hoe
I wonder what old Francis Drake would have made of this......certainbly disturbed his game of bowls almost as much as the Spanish Amarda!

'where have they all gone?'
the problems of putting one marker way over in Jennycliffe Bay on the eastern side of the Sound

Coutt's comes 'tanking' down one leg doing about 39 knots

and then its for most of the race Coutt's versus Spitall with neither prepared to give quarter

there really was a 'burn up' contest going on between the two Oracle boats

and there was very little in it

the point at which Green Comm turn across Team New Zealand and manage to get their hull lifted up onto the bows of the Nespresso AC45!!

the Umpires boat holds position just off Mountbatten pier

 A brilliant afternoon's racing, here is the edited highlights - enjoy!!

The crowds on Plymouth Hoe increased throughout the week, as the city embraced the World Series and the teams.
“Plymouth has been buzzing with excitement since you arrived,” said Councillor Vivien Pengelly. “It is estimated that over 115 000 people have lined the Hoe over the past week to see some of the most exciting racing to ever come to British waters. I have to take my hat off to all of the teams. Your skills are amazing. We’ve been thrilled to have you here.”

And I think our Vivien has summed that up rather nicely!

And my final video efforts from all of this week condensed down to only 5 minutes will appear sometime mid week.  Next weekend - it is tamer things, the Newton Abbott boat jumble! I know, you can barely contain your excitement can you?