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, 16 October 2011

I needed to get out on the water yesterday. It has been a painful week and I needed space to think, reflect and thank God or the spirits or whoever it is for my blessings. 

I rose early and was preparing Arwen at QAB before the sun had fully risen. It was promising to be a calm- ish day with winds SE 8 knots and temperatures of around 17 Celsius as a ridge of high pressure pushed up from the south, blocking the depressions and fronts building off the Atlantic.

It was an opportunity to try out the new outboard and radio as well after my disasters of the Fowey trip in August.  The motor started promptly and chugged away; stalling a a few times until I got use to the new type of choke. The rest of the controls are much the same although a twist grip throttle takes a little bit of getting used to. it performed beautifully throughout the morning, starting first time and gently pushing me through whatever currents came my way.

A high spring tide of 5.4m at 8am gave plenty of water beneath me at the pontoon; rafts of seaweed lying on the ramp at the highest point of the tide. As the sun rose, it bathed everything in a warm orangey glow. There were few about. The sea was perfect , mirror glass with clumps of seaweed, sticks, odd pieces of wood and the odd plastic bits of flotsam drifting out on the outgoing tide.  Occasionally invisible puffs of wind would ripple the surface of the sea, darkening it slightly. I followed an old fishing trawler out from Sutton harbour lock gates and got a friendly wave from its skipper. I had no specific plans....I just needed to chill and think.

I motored past Mountbatten breakwater and waved to the fishermen who were casting lines from its outer edge. They'd been there through the night to catch the top of the  tide, a prime time for mackerel, pollack and conger, that day break period. A few waved back.  Out in to Jennycliffe bay on the eastern side and there I came to rest and I drifted around for a time. There was no wind and so I motored across to the north of Drakes Island and practiced motoring up to and tying up at one of the large yellow buoys.

Across from me Mt Edgecumbe woodlands were brightening in the warm embers of the rising sun, the strips of grass becoming more visible as daylight became brighter, the lawns sweeping up to the old house at the top.

I have always maintained that this is a diary of my adventures and sails in Arwen and it records where we go, what we do and how we feel.  Sitting in Arwen yesterday gave me some private time to mourn the passing of a dear friend this week. I attended his funeral on Wednesday. we had known each other for thirty one years and had been really close during our late teens and twenties. Growing apart during our forties because of different work, interests and growing teenagers, we'd come back together in the last couple of years. he had fought valiantly against cancer for a number of years. I never heard him moan; he always put others before himself and he was a remarkable man. Practically to all intents and purposes, a Buddhist, he was deeply spiritual, intellectually sharp, constantly curious and had that insatiable appetite for knowledge that you see in young children. As his closest friend said, he was always asking the 'why' question.  He was humble, warm humoured, would genuinely do anything for anyone and accepted me for who I was.......I have always struggled in the adult world.......I don't understand its codes, conventions and practices. I spend most of my time terrified in social situations. Teenagers and children though, I really get!  My friend understood this about me. I won't say any more about him.......he was honest, humble, kind, compassionate, inquisitive and had more integrity and honour than most other people I know.  I will miss him and I hope through my bumbling words last Wednesday, at his funeral, I did him justice.

My friend loved the outdoors, the moors and woodlands. I don't like woodlands, never have! I love open spaces and vistas, wild mountains, coastal scenery. However, he would have appreciated the views across to Mt Edgecumbe yesterday morning and so in memory of him, I took a little potter that I could see the woodlands that he always liked........even if it was from a boat (he was never too keen on boats!)

There were a number of private small fishing boats out and about. One was speeding up from in front of me and I thought he were about to cross my bows as some arrogant speedboat types do and create huge waves for Arwen to bounce across....but he didn't. right in the middle of the sound, he slowed down and then went behind me, with a was really quite touching and restored my faith that here are small motorboat owners out there with a sense of chivalry!  I sailed alongside one for a time, the wind so light that I drifted past him. We were able to chat about what he was fishing for; what lures he was using and how his summer had been. Nice guy...he admired Arwen, asked how she sailed and what her 'quirks' were.  It was a pleasant few minutes shared between two people who like being out on the water. I like that camaraderie.
As we chatted a cormorant popped up, took a look at us, decided he didn't like what he saw and so ran across the water building up speed for a take off.......boy did those little webbed feet run across that water.

A sailed on across the sound towards Jennycliffe and reflected on the other sad news of the week. Someone I know and love and care for very deeply has lost her first baby, being a few months pregnant. She (and her lovely husband) are distraught and there are no words of comfort I can offer either of them. I am clumsy with words...they do not come easily to me. despite being a teacher, I am not articulate and I will often remain quiet and hold my own counsel rather than speak.......but it doesn't mean I don't feel the despair that these two good people feel. I will give them a few more days to come to terms with their sad situation and then I will contact them. By then I hope to have found the words that might at least offer them a grain of comfort and solace.

After an hour or two, I'd had enough which is strange. But it was time to come back in. I followed a small crabbing boat back in...we were merely yards apart. The weather beaten skipper sluiced down his small floor and emptied various crates. some lobster pot small fish bait were tipped over the side  for the noisy seagulls flowing behind, who swooped and dived in a stunning display of aerial acrobatics. He waved across to acknowledge my presence and then set about his business again...sorting things out so that when he came alongside the Barbican fish market he'd be ready for his crates of crab and lobster to be swung up off his decks and out onto the quayside.  As we came close to the Cattedown, one of the dockyard tugs was manoeuvring backwards, the skipper showing his amazing skill, holding a course steady and true.

I needed to be out on the water yesterday to think about these things.  My friend, he was always good at enveloping you in a bubble of calm, peace and tranquility which would shut out the noisy, intrusive and busy outside world.  The other person I know has a similar ability and also has a heart of gold, ready to do anything for anyone. I know she will be hurting deeply right now but I will be there for her when she is ready for me.
Arwen does that you know. She gives me a sense of peace and space, she brings me closer to a sense of the spiritual. It is difficult to put in to words, but yesterday just a few hours in her on the water in my beloved Plymouth Sound, helped me put my head in order. Both helped me think out what I need to to to support my friend's family in the near and longer term future; and to start thinking about the words that I will say to a lady and her husband, who have lost so much this week as well.
Life is fragile and transitory at best. Sometimes in the hurly burly of daily life, work and expectations of others, we forget what is important and most dearest to us......our friends, our family, our loved ones.



Anonymous said...

Hi Steve, actually, you are brilliant with words. Just show your blog to your young friends, it says it all really. Phil Sykes.

steve said...

Thanks Phil....a kind comment....much appreciated