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

Friday 30 December 2011

Overboard Waterproof Rucsack 30 Lt

I had a lovely Christmas present from Mum and Dad. It was an ‘Overboard 30 Lt waterproof rucksack'. I’d been looking at one for some time umming and arring whether to get one or not. I have another over the shoulder overboard roll top waterproof bag and it has been excellent.

Mine is identical to this one except it is all one colour - black.

The rucksack is 100% waterproof and suitable for quick submersion but not for a prolonged underwater experience! It is one main compartment with a small zipped pocket inside for keys etc. The back panel is padded at shoulders and lumber area and there are padded shoulder straps, a chest strap and a waist belt. The back panel has an air flow design.

It has a roll top which clips in one of two ways – either together or down the sides of the sac. Apparently the sac will float if dropped into the water and protects everything within from sand, dirt, water and dust. With a large elasticated mesh outer pocket for water bottle or sun-cream, a top carrying handle and reflective patches so it can be easily seen in torch light, its construction seems robust with welded seals.

So that’s a brief description but what about first impressions?

Well. I’m impressed with the build quality and toughness of the material. All seams are fully welded. It has an excellent array of adjustable straps and is comfortable to wear although I’ve yet to try it fully packed. The bungee drawstrings across the front of the sac are very good for holding waterproofs; the elasticated pocket holds my sigg water bottle and the internal pocket is big enough for keys, mobile phone etc.
Sealing the pack up was easy; the normal way we all know across the top and then a way of fastening using side clips illustrated in the diagrams below from the overboard website.

 One side buckle is non moveable; the other is adjustable and I found this a little fiddly at first. Another slight bugbear is one I have with all one compartment sacs. It’s a nightmare rummaging around to find anything in the main compartment, especially small things!

I intend using it as a daypack to hold packed lunches, flasks, spare hat, gloves and sunnies and sun creams etc, etc. On camping trips – it will hold spare clothes, sleeping bag, bivvy bag etc. I think it will be an amazing piece of kit and when I have given it a road test or two I’ll report back further. In the meantime, Mum, Dad, a wonderful present – which will remind me of you both each time I’m on Arwen. Thank you! I love it – a brilliant present.



One of my sisters gave me a musto sailing baseball cap as well which has a clip that attaches it to your collar. My wife bought me a sealskinz bush hat as well. Again really thoughtful presents. I am a lucky man to have family who think about my needs

Saturday 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone. May you have a wonderful day with all your family and friends and may you all have many exciting but safe adventures on the water in 2012

Steve and Arwen

Tuesday 20 December 2011

The last Christmas Tree ship of the Great lakes!

The Sailing of the Rouse Simmons

“Sight of the little schooner brought joy and gladness to the hearts of hundreds and thousands. The arrival of the ship at Chicago, with its trees lashed to its masts, was a happy traditional occasion, marking the start of the Yule season… The owner of the Christmas Tree Ship was as much loved by his crew as he was by the thousands of children he made happy at about this time of year.”

Manitowoc Herald

November 24, 1962

While it was nothing but a weary old lumber schooner, the “Christmas Tree Ship” was a Chicago institution. To area families, its arrival signified the beginning of the Christmas Season. Each year just after Thanksgiving, the ship would make its journey from the Far North piled high with wreaths and freshly-cut pines—delivering its precious cargo to eager turn-of-the-century Chicagoans at a dock near the Clark Street bridge.

In approximately 1885 August and his brother Herman Schuenemann moved to Chicago to seek out their fortune. Chicago’s Harbor was one of the busiest in the world at this time with over 20,000 vessels entering and leaving annually. As competition was fierce, the brothers became excellent businessmen as well as sailors. Although they made a relatively good living, two-thirds of their annual income was generated between Thanksgiving and Christmas with the sale of trees

The Captain in the centre with fellow sailors

On August 15, 1868, the Milwaukee Sentinel announced the launching of a new sailing vessel built in one of the city’s local shipyards. The schooner, christened Rouse Simmons, launched from the shipyard of Allan, McClelland & Company had a length overall of 127 feet; a beam, 27 feet 6 inches; and a depth 8 feet 1 inch. She weighed around about 220 tons. Described as having a sharp entrance and beautiful run and built of the finest timbers ever, her cost when fully completed and ready for sea was $17,000. She carried three masts, was fore-and-aft rigged, with a square sail on the foremast.

The Rouse Simmons
Copyright: Charles

Her owners were Royal B. Tousley and Captain Akerman, of Kenosha, the latter of whom commanded her. She was designed for the lumber trade and plied between Manistee and Chicago. However, she also had capacity for 16,000 bushels of grain. She was then one of the largest boats on the Great Lakes and was the pride of its builder. Later, as larger and faster boats were built, the Rouse Simmons was used for the transportation of iron and copper ores, lumber, piling and rough stock of all descriptions.
Although the majority of the ship’s life was spent hauling lumber, the vessel became tragically remembered for its last cargo - Christmas trees. On December 6, 1912, the Milwaukee Sentinel reported that the schooner had gone missing in “the vicinity of Twin River Point” – an area that had “long been considered one of the most dangerous portions of the lake, having earned through its many wrecks and wild waters the name of ‘the graveyard of the lake". On November 23, 1912, Captain Herman Schuenemann had been transporting a Yuletide cargo of evergreens with the Simmons when the ship was caught in a ferocious storm and subsequently sunk.

Copyright: Wisconsin

The Schuenemann family were famous in the area. They were one of the first merchants, as well as one of the last to carry Christmas trees. Their involvement in the Christmas tree industry lasted nearly a half century.
For more than twenty-five years Captain Schuenemann had operated boats in the tree trade on the lake… the average load for the schooner was between three hundred and four hundred tons of trees. The big trees were loaded on deck while the wreath material and small trees were put into the hold. 

Elise, the Captn's daughter at the helm of the Rouse Simmons

The Simmons was a symbol of a more peaceful, innocent time before World War I when the horse and the sailing vessel gave their slow, gentle imprint to the tempo of life. Crowds came aboard to pick over the trees. The sounds of excitement and laughter mingled with the clop-clop of horses across the bridge and the pleasant smell of evergreens. It was a pleasant way to end the shipping season – surrounded by happy families a short ride from the Schuenemann home…It was the children that made it so joyous. They loved the Christmas Tree Ship as much as the Schuenemanns loved having them aboard. Yes, it was a good end for a hard summer on the lake.

Despite the warm glow of Yuletide feelings, life for the Schuenemann brothers was for the most part hard work and danger. But hard work and danger were things sailors had been used to since they first put to sea. Besides, it was their life. The brothers would buy old lumber schooners for a song and wring the last bit of life out of them, nosing into every port along the lake, seeking cargo. It was a chancy business made even chancier by the tempestuous nature of the lake, where storms were universally feared. No one knew better than Herman Schuenemann how dangerous late-season voyages on Lake Michigan could be…Had the Rouse Simmons been anything other than the Christmas Tree Ship, her loss probably would never have been remembered. Half a dozen other ships were missing after the same storm that claimed the Simmons, and none of their names are remembered. But because the Simmons was something special to the people of Chicago, the Christmas Tree Ship earned her place in legend and history. For the sentimental, there is the thought that men were willing to risk – and lose – their lives to make Christmas brighter. To historians, the Christmas Tree Ship symbolizes the end of an era – the death of commercial sailing on the Great Lakes. World War I was about to begin, and steam alone could keep pace with the demands of a nation preparing for war…Perhaps it was best that Captain Schuenemann, his crew, and the Rouse Simmons died the way they did. In a few short years the world would know that there were worse ways for men and ships to die…

…The world was changing. Although schooners had dominated the waters for a time, that time had passed. By 1912 few remained, and those that did were looked upon as insignificant ships hauling insignificant cargos. One of the cargos hauled by the last schooners afloat on the waters were Christmas trees - a cargo that couldn’t be damaged if hauled in a leaking, old vessel.


The information provided above is a partial excerpt from the book THE HISTORIC CHRISTMAS TREE SHIP: A True Story of Faith, Hope and Love by Rochelle Pennington.

Progress on 'Stacey' the 1971 motovespa super 125

Number one son, well he's my only son actually, managed to get some work done on 'Stacey' his 1971 motovespa today. He's installed the horn and its new rubber gasket.

The speedo has been fixed and the front steering column assembled. The front wheel has been added and the front mudguard attached. The Number plates have been added and finally he drilled some holes and added the prestigious vespa logo.

Now he has a lot of revision to do over the next few days for exams immediately after Christmas but maybe he and I can steal a morning dropping the engine to install the carb and the choke levers etc. After that it is just the headset. Wow! The end is in sight and at last I might get my garage back so I can re varnish the mast; make a set of double blade paddles for Angharad; and possibly even roll Arwen over and squeeze her in for a new paint job!


Monday 19 December 2011

Christmas at Sea


The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;

The decks were like a slide, where a seamen scarce could stand;

The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally off the sea;

And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;

But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.

We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,

And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;

All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;

All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,

For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;

But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:

So's we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,

And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;

The good red fires were burning bright in every 'long-shore home;

The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;

And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;

For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)

This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,

And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,

My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair;

And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,

Go dancing round the china-plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,

Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;

And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,

To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.

"All hands to loose topgallant sails," I heard the captain call.

"By the Lord, she'll never stand it," our first mate Jackson, cried.

..."It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson," he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,

And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.

As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night,

We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,

As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;

But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,

Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94).

a new blog

Another navigator blog has appeared. If you own a navigator, feel for Dave! He has bought one with sections missing. You can visit his blog at


Saturday 17 December 2011

'Stacey' update

The steering column is slowly being assembled. The front brakes have been fitted; the oil seals and roller bearing cages put in and the shock absorber fitted.

We have re-tapped the stripped stud on the wheel hub and threaded the cables down through the steering column. All that remains is attaching the speedo and brake cables; adding on the wheel hub and tyre and installing the bottom steering races.

I think we are getting there at long last.


Mind you we still have the carb, regulator and wiring to do; the headset with throttle and gear cables and headlight.....mmm .......maybe a little bit more than we thought

Thursday 15 December 2011

an outboard mounting bracket on a trailer??

Is there any reason why this idea shouldn't be done because it seems to me to be such a simple, elegant solution to an age old problem for small boat trailer sailors, that I cannot believe people haven't done it before! Am I missing something obviously wrong with this idea? Go to
and scroll down to trailer outboard mount section.

If you think of reasons why it shouldn't be done drop me a comment please.  I have to say that it irritates me immensely having to put the outboard in the car each time and trying to keep it upright wedged behind the drivers seat. I could put an outboard mount on my trailer with no problem and I have to do a spare wheel mount on it over the winter so this is not that much extra work.

So what am I missing....why haven't small boat trailer sailors done this before....or have they and I'm only just catching up with them?  Conundrums, conundrums...........

And here is another conundrum.......why is it that when I am desperate to go sailing, the weather is really fine and perfect but I'm stuck in school; and when I get to a holiday, the weather immediately changes and becomes howling gales?  Is there some 'Interrelationship Law' of metaphysics/meteorology/employment that I am unaware of?

It would be nice to get one more sail in before 2011 ends......but time is running out!


Monday 12 December 2011

anchors for small boats

The John Welsford forum has been discussing anchors and anchor rodes. Someone was wondering how much anchor weight, chain and rode is needed for a navigator.

Everyone has their pet theory/idea. I carry two anchors on Arwen. One is a plough CQR type anchor and weighs in at 15lbs. It has 8m of chain on it and then some 50m of rode. My second anchor is a 10 lb danforth, again with 6m of chain and 40m of rode. I use this one as a stern anchor. Both are moused i.e. the shackles are wired so they don’t come loose.

the main anchor is stored in that upright bin on the right hand side of the for'ard cockpit - not the best idea is it!

Storing the anchors is my problem. The main anchor doesn’t fit in the anchor well and so I store it in an old kitchen waste bin which is bungee strapped into the front cockpit well (starboard side). The anchor rode is stored in the anchor well. I am very conscious that this is not a sound arrangement. In the event of a capsize, that anchor is going to fall out with disastrous consequences and so this winter I must find some way of strapping it securely to the deck or the inside of the cockpit so it doesn’t fall out! However, I then need to get a system which avoids the jib sheet getting fouled on the anchor. Ho hum!

the main anchor is so big it doesn't fit inside the anchor well

The stern anchor is stored with its rode in a plastic tray on the cockpit floor, port side for’ard cockpit. It is bungee corded securely in place and the whole lot just doesn’t shift at all without release of all the bungee cords. I am far happier about that arrangement!

I also carry the set up for my pulley anchor system using floating rope although Joel has made some good points about the dangers of floating rope. Where I’d use it I want it highly visible and floating so people could see it!

I know I need to get some more anchor rode – I could do with another 50m which I could store in one of the lockers but tie on as and when to the main anchor rode. However, I rarely anchor in anything over what I have should be ample even during spring tides.

In the meantime, here is a nice video clip – from 1943 – from little Dunkirk ships to the rescue of an RAF pilot who ditched in the sea. The port where the boats are built looks awfully like Falmouth area to me but I could be wrong! I had problems hearing the sound because my laptop is on the blink. Anyway, enjoy it at


Wednesday 7 December 2011

some quick news on lazy jacks and other things

'Stacey' has been given a clean bill of health by Grahame from the Troglodytes! Just in case you think that is a rather harsh thing to call someone from Cornwall, i should point out that they are a scooter club! Grahame very kindly offered to take a look at 'Stacey's' engine as he is only 40 minute run from us. He poked and prodded and twisted things and declared that
a) the wheel would spin freely around the brake shoes....IF  I had it in neutral in the first place!
b) IF it had been put in neutral, then the clutch would work fine!!
c) the gears seemed to be selecting OK when the wheel was spun and the gear selector arm moved.

Boy do I feel stupid! Grahame was a real gent....friendly, good humoured and patient. He calmly explained everything so I better understood in THAT voice. You know the one.....the one teachers use when they are trying to help a very slow student get an understanding of something.......!
Grahame - you were a star man and we are deeply grateful for your time and expertise - thank you. Grahame is about to start a new spare parts Internet business for scooters and when he does - we will make sure we are his first customers

With regard to lazy jacks, well progress is being made here as well. Robin who lives in St Kitt's and Nevis (is that really the paradise I like to think it is? Cos if it is....he's one lucky man because it's barely above freezing here!). Anyway, Robin posted some photos and a sketch of his arrangement on his pathfinder which I show below. Now I just have to get my dim head around them and then apply the same principles to of which is adding another halyard which runs to the lower forward end of the upper yard so that the whole yard can be controlled in a descent using two halyards not one!


the instructions

port side arrangement

starboard side arrangements

an elegant and orderly drop into the boat - huh! I'm jealous

what organisation should look like!
photographs copyright - Robin C

I will post more and comment on them at a later date but thanks Rob for being so generous with time and advice - much appreciated