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 31 March 2012

the first sail of 2012 and working lazy jacks

At long last, Arwen and I have managed to get out on the water. Our shakedown cruise last 2 hrs and included a circumnavigation of Plymouth Sound. I have waited so long for this and so has Arwen. She was covered in leaves which had blown in under the tarp; the wheel rims have rusted badly so they will need pressure washing to get the rust off and then painting with Hammerite.

All ready to go

Everything went like clockwork including reversing Arwen back onto the drive at the end (amazingly I managed it first go with no pulling forward or repositioning).

well not quite ready - some tidying up needed

We had to use the northern slipway because so much work is being done at QAB. The southern slip was closed as new drains were being laid across the top of it.

got to sort out the furling of the mizzen though
And the lazy jacks! Oh my, those lazy jacks. Do they work or do they work! The main halyard was slacked off and the whole sail just dropped straight down into neat furls and flakes. No watching the aft end of the upper yard plunging into the sea. No knock on the head; no hanging onto the sail as I’m flung outboard. It happened so quickly I couldn’t believe it. I blinked and it was done. Not only that but it actually works as a topping lift as well.

shameful isn't it

I was conscious that Arwen looked a bit ‘shabby’. She does need some TLC, paint touch ups, filling of holes on the boom and a really good clean. So, sometime this week, she’s coming back off the drive and the pressure washer is coming out with a little soft scrubbing brush and some soap. After that some polish. And, if the warm weather returns, the sealing of the mast.

a new advantage of the lazy jack system is that it seems to keep
the top yard much closer to the main mast

the waterproof rucksac that Mum and Dad gave me for Christmas in action
Thanks Mum and Dad

I really enjoyed today. Although the weather was on the turn and we've dropped from the heady heights of 23C down to 13C (23C in March - how exceptionally weird is that?), the day was good and the winds merely fickle. I look forward to going out again later in the week.


Tuesday 27 March 2012

this coming weekend

is looking good for the first sail of the season. The weather promises to be sunny; the winds are light 7 kts from the north; the tides are good with high water at 11am and a tidal height of 4.1 m so that means I can launch at 8am and come off the water at 2pm and still have some tide left on the ramp.

I can have the Cattedown to myself to practise coming alongside mooring buoys - picking up buoys; sailing off buoys. of course the disadvantage is that the Cattedown is in full view of two marinas, two sailing schools, the water taxi; four pubs; the barbican and the maybe I'll sail off somewhere else to practise!

I have a little new camera to test thanks to my Aunt - a 50th birthday pressie last week - well she sent some money which has funded the camera (thank you AJ). With my track record I went small, cheap and functional a little Nikon coolpix and thus far it seems quite good. I'll post photos and video on Sunday and you can all decide about quality.

In the meantime I have been checking the stats. The blog is coming up three years old - where has the time gone - amazing! There have been 76,000 page views since it started. Last month was the highest monthly total (6524). Since December the blog has averaged 300 page views a day (is that good? I have no way of measuring it or comparing it); does it matter anyway? Do I really care? Am I that vain and egotistical? Would I still write it even if no one ever logged on? Probably - its therapeutic, a diary etc - is this a sad admission?

The most popular pages? Well that record goes to 'just when I think I'd got this lug sail thing sorted'; 'the sinking of the bismarck'; and 'creek crawling up the Lynher'.
The most popular traffic sources?  Well no surprises here - Joel's navigator site; Rob's 'middlething' site and Gavin's 'in the boatshed' site.  Thanks guys, really appreciated!

Come on Saturday...three more days of school; and please don't let OFSTED phone tomorrow to visit us on Thursday and Friday - that would just be kicking a man when he is already down and stomping on his head!

Saturday is coming; Saturday is coming!


Monday 26 March 2012

rigging Arwen

Lars has just contacted me by email. he is on his way to completing his navigator and he is doing the sprit yawl standing lug rig and wondered if I had pictures of Arwen's rigging. Good question I thought to myself so I had a dig around my folders. Lars, I hope these help and I will try and get some better ones next week when we go out on the water


Sunday 25 March 2012

Tinkerbelle and Robert Manry

I have been a member of the Dinghy Cruising Association for the last year or so. I find their forum informative, lively and well informed, populated by sailors who understand small boats and who have a high level of skill. The forum can be a little ‘tiring’ though as there is lots of off topic banter which at times can be strident and bluntly irritating. Well I find it irritating and so I exercise my right to tune out until it comes back onto boating topics. What I don’t find irritating however is the dinghy cruising association quarterly journal. Now that is brilliant, a mixture of rally reports and articles about dinghy cruising written by those who are experienced and knowledgeable. Authors have great skill in weaving stories with factual information. As a newbie, it is a mine of well informed discussion, instruction and insight. These are people who really know their ‘stuff’ and I would recommend anyone who sails a small boat to join. This year my new year’s resolution is to actually get over my fears and actually join one of their south west rallies. I say fear because I feel I don’t have sufficient skills to actually join those rallies and I’m likely to make a complete ‘ass’ of myself. I don’t row Arwen; I’ve never sailed her onto a beach; or off one for that matter. I’ve still so much to learn but then the argument goes – you join DCA to gain from the experience of others!

Any way the reason I bring this up is because of a great article by Paul Constantine about Robert Manry and his small boat ‘Tinkerbelle’in this quarter's journal. Together they crossed the Atlantic, Tinkerbelle, being a 13.5 ft boat, Robert a copy editor of a newspaper. The date was 1965.

Robert Manry

Paul’s article was well written, informative and thought provoking. I won’t repeat any of it here but I did decide to do a little digging because this is a story I didn’t know about.

Robert Manry was born in 1918 in Landour, India, in the Himalayas and worked as a reporter in Ohio, and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Tinkerbelle was a boat he bought to work on. He added a small cabin, painted it and made some modifications.

I read that Robert Manry had dreamed of sailing the Atlantic for 30 years and although he had asked friends to accompany him they didn’t materialise and so he planned his epic journey as a solo voyage.

Yet when you look at Tinkerbelle, you realise it is a miracle that he ever survived the voyage. Her hull wasn’t deep enough. He didn’t have much breadth. Half the cockpit was open with little shelter from wind or waves. Tinkerbelle was a little wooden Old Town "Whitecap" sailboat, originally built by the Old Town Canoe Co. of Maine. Her official registration number painted on her bow was OH 7013 AR. Robert made various alterations to his boat, filling any space with foam for added buoyancy and fitting an emergency distress beacon, spare parts and enough supplies for 90 days at sea. I read that he taught himself to use a sextant
sitting on the porch outside his house.

Anyway he sailed from Falmouth in USA to Falmouth in UK. It took 78 days during which time he was woken by a submarine, knocked overboard several times by big waves, socialised with Russian trawlers, broke his rudder several times, feasted with a Belgian ship’s captain and received an armada welcome in Falmouth UK.

“…[an] armada appeared on the scene, this one English and headed south, straight for Tinkerbelle and me. It came towards us fast, turned and then swept us up into its bosom to escort us the remaining few miles to Falmouth; and as it moved along it continued to grow. It was a fantastic sight.”

Robert Manry
Sounds like an average day on Plymouth Sound in Arwen!

When he stepped onto land at Falmouth steps at the Old Custom House, his wife and children were there to greet him, having flown in from Ohio. Thousands turned out to welcome him, for his story had made the press on both sides of the Atlantic.

There is plenty on the net about Robert and his voyage. I found a really nice British Pathe clip here at

So, having done just a little research on Robert, I guess there is no more putting it off. I need to contact the various DCA members and sign up to one or two of the rallies this year.

Monday 19 March 2012

ever decreasing circles.................

So it is final preparations time again. Pumping up the trailer tyres because they have gone flatter over winter. I should re-grease the bearings and it will help if I use waterproof grease this time (doh!).
I'm not particularly promoting this brand but it is waterproof.......unlike the last lot I used.........Doh!

All the rollers need re-greasing as well. In an ideal world the trailer would be on blocks and the wheels taken off over the winter but hey this is one of the draw backs of having a driveway on a slope. Scrapping off the rust on the wheels and painting them with hammerite is another job shouting at me every time I pass Arwen.

Got to go through the yellow emergency grab sac making sure there is a hypothermia kit, some nutrition bars, space blankets, glow sticks, spare water and first aid kit. I need to cut some plywood patches. I have bungs but not patches. I need to get a spare pintle and gudgeon set, a quick setting epoxy repair kit, a new roll of duct tape and a new can of WD40 (because, hey here is a surprise, SOMEONE ELSE HAS USED ALL MINE UP ON SOME SCOOTER WHICH IS STILL IN MY GARAGE!!).

I’d quite like to get a hand held anemometer; and one of those Gaz camping grill plates (for when I camp aboard Arwen – would quite like one of them on the beach in the evening!)

Then mast needs sanding and deks oljie-ing so I need to get some Deks Oljie or maybe I’ll use burgess hydrosol wood sealer – can’t decide which but need to soon!

Shall I go for this............which I have used before and really like...............or

....or this....which I have also used and quite like
With either one - you need to apply two versions - the sealer and then a top coat gloss one if you want a shiny mast!

Still haven’t got around to fitting that spare wheel to the trailer – another winter project which seemed to slip by. Then there are some scraps and dings which need touching up – well sanding back and repainting basically. Um – need a small tin of international Toplac white!
I have fitted the new steering compass and put new sail repair tape in the emergency repairs kit; so I haven’t failed miserably yet. And, with fairness I did sort out the lazy jacks and reefing system a few weeks back ready for an Easter launch. The new water ballast containers arrived this morning – 4 10 Lt containers and I will work out some form of securing system for these next weekend. I have the straps and the metal eyes already. I want them immediately alongside the centre case so that they can be strapped in and I can still pass down the sides.
Spring is in the air. Two more weeks to go to the Easter Break. We’ve had some good fair weather....please let it last! I walked around the Hoe yesterday and the Cattedown moorings are empty – loads of space to practise those moves I never get right.... you know the ones.......

MOB drill

• Sailing up to and picking up a mooring buoy

• Leaving a mooring under sail

• Coming alongside a pontoon

Then I need to get out somewhere where there is a nice sandy beach with few rocks inshore and get to grips again with

Sailing up and dropping anchor

• Sailing off from anchor

• Sailing onto the shore and beaching Arwen

• Sailing off the shore having beached Arwen

• Breaking out of my lazy dependency on the outboard to get me out of trouble!

Anchoring bow and stern....i.e. dropping a stern anchor as I approach the shore and then setting a bow anchor as well

Oh yes and how could I forget......................

• Learning to sail by just using sail trim to turn the boat and not using the rudder at all

I think it is fair to say it should be an interesting Easter. If you want a serious laugh visit Plymouth in the next few weeks and look out for the little white hulled boat with the burgundy sheer plant and the lovely tan sails, sailed by a moron, around in ever decreasing, haphazard circles!


Tuesday 13 March 2012

building a set of paddles for Angharad

is high on my list of priorities...if only I could get my garage back from 'Stacey'!  I quite like these greenland paddles I found on Duckworks. What a nifty way of building kayak paddles - I like it!


Sunday 11 March 2012

sailing adventures

and there's me thinking I'm quite a little adventurous bod when will and Sara go way over what i get up to. Fantastic courage and spirit of adventure. Well done to them both - see

And if you want to check out their site go to


Saturday 10 March 2012

I’ve been thinking about sailing at Easter and I’m wondering whether it is worth towing Arwen down to Helford for a couple of days. I could either camp on board or camp at a site. The Helford River is a lovely estuary which sort of stretches from Falmouth Bay up to Gweek. In fact estuary is the wrong word as actually the Helford is a ria.

 In the lower part of the river it is fields and little beaches either side and valley gardens such as Glendurgan and Trebah which lead down to Durgan village and Polwigwidden Cove. It is from here that D-day embarkations took place. In 1944 a regiment of 7500 men of the 29th US Infantry Division embarked from Polgwidden Cove to the D-Day assault landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy where they suffered terrible casualties. A memorial at the bottom of the garden commemorates the courage of these brave young American soldiers.

the village of durgan

Further up river there are yacht moorings and fishing boats. Helford is on the south and Helford Passage on the north, both linked by a passenger ferry, which I read somewhere has been in service since medieval times. Helford Passage has a sandy beach, a little shop and a popular pub: The Ferry Boat Inn. Across the water is another pub the Shipwright’s Arms in Helford Village.

I am sorry but I can't find the website that I found these pictures on
It was a nice site about the Helford river, so if anyone knows what it was, please let me know so I can do the correct acknowledgement

Go further upstream again and there are oyster beds, Frenchman’s creek, Polwheveral and wood lined banks. Frenchman's Creek was made famous by Daphne du Maurier in her work of the same name. I believe that it was quite an area for smugglers rowing their boats silently up the creek. At Tremayne Quay, which was built for a visit by Queen Victoria in the 1840s (which she then declined to make) you can actually camp on the quay for a night, which sounds quite fun. Up at port Navas quays lime used to be offloaded and granite from the quarries around Constantine loaded up

Porth Navas

Somewhere at Nare Point there is a National Coastwatch Institution. They are a voluntary organisation formed to maintain a watch over our coastal waters. You can read more about them here at

Most of the riverside commercial activities are at the head of the estuary at Gweek, once a trading port serving Helston and the surrounding area. There is a thriving boatyard, the Watercraft magazine shop and other businesses including the National Seal Sanctuary which is a popular tourist attraction, operating as a home and hospital for seals and other marine animals rescued from the surrounding seas. Injured Atlantic grey seals are nursed back to health before being released to the freedom of the Atlantic Ocean.

The entrance to Gweek creek

With regard to pilotage I know that I’ll need admiralty chart 147. Arwen with her shallow draft will be able to explore great parts of the estuary upper reaches. The entrance faces East so will be sheltered from prevailing westerly winds. However, in easterlies it will be uncomfortable so I think sailing in easterlies is to be avoided. What I haven’t checked out is whether there are any launch ramps available. Therefore it is possible that I’d have to launch at Falmouth and sail around. At just under four miles from Pendennis Point, the Helford is a regular jaunt across the bay for many Falmouth boats. I read somewhere that in this instance I’d have to keep a kilometre offshore to pass the Gedges rock.

St Mawes and the entrance to the Fal is to the north; Helford ria entrance is to the south in this google earth image

I’m not sure whether I can anchor anywhere in the estuary. There are restrictions such as on the North Shore where there are Eel Grass beds. Now I am still smarting from all the insults I got from yachtsmen when I commented last year about the issue of anchoring and eel grass beds and sea horses at I’m not going down that road again suffice to say that I will avoid this areas as requested because I know anchors do damage the beds and, frankly, I’m into minimal disturbance boating. Anchoring is also prohibited on the South Shore West of the Voose, because of fisherman's store pots or anywhere in the inner River West of the telephone cable that crosses the narrows.

This is Helford Passage and the moorings

Going further west up river there are moorings where visitors can pick up one. I haven’t found the prices yet but I suspect they will be hefty. In some ways I’d quite like to try and make it upstream to get to Gweek Quay. The channel is well marked with buoys. I think the Gweek boatyard may well be a good stopping point. The boatyard has a website at 

The creek up to Gweek

Yep, a sail around Helford certainly looks fun. Thinking about it maybe four days down there sailing around the Fal as well sounds good too. Now exactly how do I go about persuading the Missus?


Monday 5 March 2012

Rob's 'Annie'

Rob has been out and about in Annie. You can read his post here and view his video clip

Go to



Sunday 4 March 2012

trying to get time with 'Stacey'

It isn't happening. I have the missus and then three other women in my life. The second woman is away at university and I'm not getting to see her or sail with her and I'm missing her (that's my number 1 daughter who is going to be a conservationist....I am so proud of her  - my girl defending the planet - brilliant).  The other two women are mistresses and I'm definitely not getting enough time with either of them.

Arwen is waiting patiently. I've done some tender work with her, fitting her out; giving her a new compass; refitting her lazy jacks. She's content to wait.

'Stacey' on the other hand is feeling right royally neglected. With just cause too. My number 1 son has entered revision mode and when not revising for GCSE's he is out most weekends doing practises for the Ten Tors competition which the Royal Marines hold here down on Dartmoor for youth groups and school children from across South west schools.

This is how 'Stacey' looked a year and a half ago
A barn find
She ticked over just but there were problems with electrics and as we discovered later a whol;e host of other things too

She has lain neglected for weeks with just the odd fondling; a nut put on here, a quick polish to remove gathering dust. It just isn't enough is it. Ladies like to be treated nicely, with respect, taken out on occasions etc. We have sorted out a few bits and pieces. She has correct fitting nuts and nut caps on the legshield and the foot brake attachment plate.  Her carburetter has been installed and thanks to the small frames forum members, we managed to refit the felt washer on the manifold (which we forgot to put on in the first place). we thought it would mean dropping the engine for a fifth (!) time but the smart boys on the forum came up with a plan B which just meant taking off the carb (again).

I have had nightmares about wiring and the new looming being different colours to the old one
I'm sure son slept soundly!!!

All the wiring has now been completed from regulator to CDI coil etc and the 'boys' have suggested we start her up one weekend. Apparently if we put the coil on the spark plug, attach a throttle cable and earth one of the wires to the regulator nut - we could attach a tube to the carb - fill it with pre mixed fuel and start her up. Wow!  of course switching her off may be an issue - we have to put a hand over the carb and block off the sir flow supply. Hm!  i think number 1 son and I may have to call in Grandad before we venture on this path. He's sorta mechanically minded; he is an engineer after all.

stripped down, rebuilt and nothing left out on the work bench at the end - now that alone is a bonus!

So what's left with our motovespa 125 super 1971 lady?
Well, in no particular order we have to
  • find out where the spare grey cable we have goes ( we have no idea at the moment but we have a grey cable left over - worryingly)
  • assemble the headset - put in the throttle and gear tubes; put in the pulley systems; install them in the head set
  • assemble the front light and find out what bulbs we need

    I really cannot remember anything about how the gear and throttle pulley reassemble back in this area - ouch!!!!

  • wire up the front headset to the switch box on the handlebars - correctly and then ensure its wired up correctly with everything else - that will be a laugh!
  • attach brake and clutch handles and cables
  • put the lower steering races back on and insert the front steering assembly back up the legshield steering column
  • attach the top steering races and then
  • reattach the head set
  • sort out the leg spring - which we just can't get in place because it requires tensioning the spring beyond what we are capable of doing. We've yet to work out how to keep the scooter stable and non moving whilst using a JCB to reverse back on the spring to keep enough tension so we can slot it in to the required groove!!!!!!!!!!!!!

getting all those steering races etc back in the right way - oh what joys that will give us - I think not!!

Then there is the final testing of electrics, starting it up, discovering it won't fire, taking it all apart again and back engineering until we find the problem; there will be multiple postings to the small frames forum (prepare yourselves boys) and then of course it will eventually fire up but won't idle properly so we will have to spend days fiddling with the carb jets etc

new paint job, rebuilt engine, new white wall tyres........the old dear is beginning to take on a new lease of life from all this attention!

Remind me someone why I took on this particular project?
Anyway back to the marking, lesson planning and lesson evaluations. No rest time for the wicked.


Saturday 3 March 2012

a cheerful little film

from Dave J who owns a lovely Navigator in New Zealand. Enjoy!


Lifejacket checks and ballast!

I’ve been rather foolish. I haven’t done my lifejacket checks over the winter. What I should have done is semi inflate them via the inflation tubes and then hang them on a wooden coat hanger in the garage which is quite dry. Instead I left them just lying on the deck of Angharad! Not very good seamanship is it?

I use SeaGo jackets
I find the them comfortable and well made

I have inflated one of them and I’m leaving it for 24 hrs. It’s a good way of checking that all seals are correct. I will do the same with the other three which are stored on Arwen in a locker!!

Then I need to check gas cylinders. They need to be tightly screwed in and the green plastic arming clips should be secure. I really should check these once a month. I don’t have any re-arming kits for them either. Just don’t say anything to me. I know! I could unscrew the cylinder and check the firing mechanism I suppose. I would have to replace the green safety clips afterwards. The firing pin can be lubricated with a water repellent lubricant; which I suppose could also be put over the cylinder as well.

I read on our RNLI site somewhere that the cylinder bottle should be checked as well and a rusty bottle discarded and replaced. The material which holds the bottle in place should also be checked to see that the rust hasn’t corroded it in some way.

My webbing has been fraying in places and I have on occasions taped up the edges with duct tape. The buckles and D rings are fine.

This is the other type I have for visitors on Arwen

Whilst the jackets are partially inflated I will check the reflective tapes to see they are still securely stuck on; ensure the whistle is still secure and that Velcro strips are still in the correct place and not lifting.

I have also been giving thought to the issue of ballast. I personally carry plenty as it is but Arwen does need more. The Dinghy Cruising Association recommend that ballast should be about 14lbs for every foot if I remember which means that I’m fine in the boat when single handing. However, I have always had a couple of sand bags in the floor area either side of the centre case. These weight about 2 stone each, so another 4 stone. However, the bags are not great. Whilst their advantage is that they stay flat on the floor and I can walk over them, water traps underneath and the wood there is permanently damp. Anyway, you may be asking where this is going. Well in the ‘Watercraft’ magazine was a great article by some Polish Dinghy sailors who crossed the Baltic Sea in 14’ boats. They carried water jerry cans as ballast and cited many advantages of this approach, not least that they were easy to move around, could be easily emptied at the slipway and easily stowed. In an emergency they could be rapidly converted to extra buoyancy too. It’s a nice idea and I think I will investigate it over the next couple of weeks.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Dave's Sea Minor

has been out for another sail and this time Dave has managed to post a short video which you can find here at


Another little interesting web article I picked up on was this one at The Guardian paper and which openboat forum members have been discussing. Go to