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 29 April 2012

restoring a spanish 1971 motovespa 125 super......

isn't as easy as it looks, especially if you have no idea what you are doing! But, we are persevering and dedicated and so 'Stacey' slowly makes progress. Today we have had some quality father/son time restoring her a little more.

The petrol tank valve got sorted and twisted to the correct position. The petrol tube from the carb was attached and the tank installed in the frame. We haven't tested it yet for leaks but will do so next weekend.

In a moment of sheer inspiration, number 1 son installed chrome trim around the front mudguard and what a transformation that made. It also resulted in the decision that all edging will now be finished in fore mentioned trim!

Even I have to admit 'Stacey' is beginning to look classy and
I am very proud of number 1 son (well only son)

The seat was given some elbow grease scrubbing with CIF cleaner and has come up a treat and that was installed but not before said son had put it on a chair in the kitchen, sat on it and made 'brum, rum' noises loudly whilst imaging that he had a set of handlebars in his hands and was revving the throttle. He is revising for GCSE's so we have to make little allowances for his mental state!

I know son would like a white seat but he will have to save up or get a job for that one

The troublesome steering fork was dropped (again!!) and the bearing races removed to be replaced with individual 4mm and 8mm ball bearings. We had lost some of the original ones when disassembling but managed to finally track down a supply. And what a difference that made. The steering tightened up completely - no rattles, no rocking. Tight!  Which is great except that it seems to have bought the mudguard awfully close to the legshield and whilst the wheel can be turned easily from side to side without scrapping said legshield or protruding does seem awfully close doesn't it!  Too close perhaps?

So what do you think.....too close?

Anyway we have returned to the two forums (smallframes proboard and the Vespa Club of Great Britain) to ask the experts what they think. They have saved us time and time again and I'm sure they will now.

We've started tackling the headset. The white rubber throttle and gear grips are on; the throttle tube has been inserted into the headset. The gear tube would have been until we discovered we are missing a white rubber washer - how irritating!

It was so long ago we took all this apart that we can't quite work out what way the throttle cable pulley goes back in - well dur!

So...we are making progress. Our aim is to have her complete for half term in 6 weeks time when we will try and start her up all being well.


Saturday 28 April 2012

I came upon the Spirit of Mystery today. I’d gone to take a look around the Mayflower Marina; and the slipway over near Blagdon’s yard.

Spirit of Mystery is a Mount’s Bay Lugger (a replica). The original sailed to Australia and back in 1854/55 carrying seven fishermen from Newlyn who hoped to find their fortunes. I read that she took 116 days and that previous to that the vessel had never been out of sight of land. 12,000 miles, what an undertaking!

She was built by Chris Rees at Millbrook and launched in June 2008. She weighs 16 tonnes and is 37’ in length with an 11’ beam. She has wood in her from the Cutty Sark and HMS Victory and some rigging from SS Great Britain. That is quite some pedigree.

Although the original was sail only, the new Spirit of Mystery has an engine and watertight bulkheads.

The 2008 voyage had on board Pete Goss and two of the Goss family along with Mark Maidment. They left Newlyn on 20th October arriving in Cape Town on 25th December. Leaving on the 13th January 2009 they were sailing to arrive in Australia in the first week of March.

However, that was not quite the way it was to be for on March 4th she was hit and rolled 90 degrees by a giant wave. Poor Mark Maidment had his leg broken; the dinghy was washed overboard. Sailing into Portland to transfer her injured crewman, Spirit of mystery finally reached Melbourne on 9th March 2009.

Sounded like quite an adventurous voyage!


Wednesday 25 April 2012

Missing bearings?

So having posted our 'steering column' woes on 'Stacey', our 1971 motovespa, on the forums, advice came flooding in and I guess the situation is as follows:

“Have you fitted both top and bottom bearing races”?
Yes we think so......but we will go back and check!

“Are they the right size bearings”?
Well dur!
Or maybe we’d better just check that one too.

“Did you grease the bearings?”
Yes...and us; and the bench; and the garage floor; the kitchen sink; the hallway carpet; the bottom of our shoes.......
oh yes – we greased the bearings!

“Have we tightened everything up properly?”
As far as we can tell yes but then we can tighten it further but then the mudguard rubs against the legshield and that can’t be right.

“Have you tried putting the whole weight of the scooter down on the bench so the front wheel rests on it and then tighten it up?”
No – that’s a good tip to try this weekend.

“Are you missing the lower bearing seat?”
Ah! Now then – that could account for the rocking. We think we put it all back and we triple checked but something is clearly amiss and so we need to go back over everything and check one more time!

“Or could it be the bearing cone which is in the lower part of the steering column attached to the legshield?"
Ditto – better go back and look at that one as well

Hey ho hum! Life is never easy but then it would be so boring if it was. Thanks as always to the extremely patient guys on the 'Small frames' and the 'Vespa Club of Britain' forums. You have probably saved us again!!!!


Sunday 22 April 2012

We have been working a little more on 'Stacey' my son's 1971 motovespa 125 super restoration; the one where we know nothing about scooters but decided to give it a try anyway!
Below is a short film of her as she is at the moment and some questions. If anyone has the answers, please let us know via the comment box below. We hope we are doing her justice!


Saturday 21 April 2012

A new fuel bottle

Joel made me think last week about the way I hang out the back trying to use a funnel and a 5 litre jerrycan to fill an outboard. He suggested the need for a 1 litre bottle of some I went out and found one. 1.5 litre Optimus ( a good make here in the UK) and at a very reduced price. Perfect! My outboard has an integral 1 litre tank - so this is a bottle that will fill the tank once and have half a tank left in reserve. Well done Joel - grand idea.


We made our annual pilgrimage to Padstow.  It's become part of our family tradition. The best time to visit Padstow is out of season and so we did!

Looking across from Rock

Best way of getting from Rock to Padstow

I'm not sure I could tow Arwen out of the water and across the sand to that ramp with my car 

Taking a short cut across the stern of the ferry

Looking across towards the sand dunes of Rock

Looking out to sea

'Mowgli' the dredger

Another year; the same speedboats

could solve my anchor woes.......or maybe not

all the hair braiding gear on the quayside

an emerging new art form

this cheeky chappess joined us at the cafe table

tides out!

all tide up and no place to go...tide up get it?

varnish work

must be fun to drive

remember the first picture at the top of the blog.......well the tide went out!

Padstow was nice at this time of year; uncrowded and the weather kept nice too. And to top it all - a nice trip on the ferry across the Camel estuary!


Wednesday 18 April 2012

I'm sorry!

Forgive me readers for I have sinned................

It is the simplest of things that lets you down in the end!


Tuesday 17 April 2012

and there was time to pop into Fowey

I didn't get to see much of Fowey last August when I called in (you can read about my trip here:  and then use the right hand side menu to access the other two blogs about the trip).

So it was quite nice to be able to walk the streets and quayside on Wednesday afternoon. Looking across to my former mooring and towards Polruan gave me a different perspective on Fowey

At first I was fascinated by doorways...............

and steps.......

and then both..............

but eventually we reached the shoreline

looking upriver to the harbour master office pontoons

Ah! quite creative I thought

a trent class life boat which came on station in 1996

I'll take both please - the cottage and the boat in front of it

the inshore lifeboat

the china clay wharves further upstream (how do they get those clay carriers through the moorings; and how do they turn them around again)?

ah - the all important shot of the public slipway at low tide

an update from Joel

Joel has posted a good update and lovely set of video clips out on Puget Sound in his navigator. Enjoy at


Monday 16 April 2012

too much weight on the end of dinghies

Recently someone commented about having the anchor up front and all that weight on the bow and then all the weight of the outboard on the transom being another issue. I don’t know enough about sailing boat design or sailing physics but the advice came from someone very knowledgeable and as close to an expert on dinghy sailing as there can be. Consequently I was worried and so went in search of some clarification from other people I know who know lots about this kind of thing; namely JW and his forum members and my friend Dave.

is this the best place for the main anchor on Arwen - discuss!
My friend Dave, as always,  made a number of valid points, based on decades of sailing experience in small boats. He said it was all about balance, trim and stability. (Ha! I vaguely remember those being mentioned on RYA courses ). If plodding around the sound, then the outboard on the back isn’t a problem. If off on a longer coastal passage with a following sea then it might be prudent to unship the outboard and store it alongside the centre case low down. This would of course depend on location...going around a headland; the danger of a lee shore etc would all have to be factored in – how fast can you reattach an outboard in a following sea and get it started? Basically, if the stern doesn’t seem to be lifting in a following sea, then unship the outboard. Now I'm really glad I installed those securing straps for the water ballast containers a few weeks ago because they could actually retain an unshipped outboard quite securely.

My friend also observed, from personal experience of helming my boat, that Arwen is a pretty large and heavy dinghy and so carries the outboard well in most sea conditions that I sail in and since I don’t sail in anything much above force four, it should be fine.

should I leave the outboard on the transom permanently during my sailing as I do...or should I unship it and store it low down against the centre case until needed - discuss!

He did prompt me to think about what anchor I carry on Arwen. Is it appropriate for the type of sailing I’m doing that day? A picnic stop in Cawsand needs only a moderate hold as opposed to the grip needed for an overnight anchorage. What are the weather conditions – onshore winds and swell? In that case I may need a heavyweight anchor which ideally should be deployed amidships and low down so that balance and stability are not affected. He also thinks that on long trips I should stow it as I’ve done before in the bucket amidships. He finished by posing some really useful questions (as he always does):

What is the intended sailing area?

What is the sea state in which I will be sailing?

What will the weather conditions be during the trip?

Where will I intend anchoring?

How secure does anchoring have to be – lunch time; afternoon loll or overnight?

What if it goes wrong – what is my plan B?

exactly what size anchor should my main anchor be - JW seemed to think this one was about right

John W also had words of wisdom, as always, based again on decades of sailing and design experience. He agreed that weight at the ends means inertia in the ends. He painted this image:

Imagine a bar with two weights on it that can be positioned anywhere on the bar. Rotate the bar holding it in the middle with the weights in the middle. Try and stop the rotation. Then imagine doing the same thing with the weights at the end of the bar. Much more difficult to stop the rotation”!

He went on to observe that fast deployment of the anchor basically requires that the anchor is on the bow, unless the anchor is small and light enough that you can easily heft it overboard from amidships and that boat balance was often a matter of compromising without losing safety.

that's where I used to store my bigger anchor - in that grey large bucket
the smaller anchor is in the blue box on the floor in the port side of the front cockpit area

Like my friend Dave, John and Pete, another forum member, (who has given me much sound advice in the past) felt that if the outboard was light enough to mount on the transom when needed then that might be a good solution. Everything of weight that can easily be put in the centre of the boat (chain, fuel, water, tinned food, outboard etc.) should be put there, but eventually it is a matter of  my judgement.
Pete finished, much like Dave, by saying

“If you find that the bow is submarining in bad weather or that waves are coming over your stern then your boat has probably got too much weight in the ends and/or it is overloaded”.

Wise words and a clear message here. Have your wits about you and keep checking balance, trim and sail area aloft; and sea state and direction, if the weather turns!

John made a final reassuring point.

“Navigator is designed to take up to 20 kg of anchor and chain up forward in the anchor well. The volume in Navigators hull is so distributed as to take into account the various weights required, and the positions in which they will be stored and no, you will not have made her unsafe. Note that she is designed from first principles as a cruising sailing dinghy, whereas most of the boats that people often use as cruising dinghies are [more] general purpose boats adapted for the purpose.”

as I remember that is a 12 kg anchor with around 4 kg of chain but I will need to check

It is good to have people around to help you work things through. My thanks, as always, to Roger, Peter, John and Dave for giving up their time to educate me further about small boat sailing intricacies. I appreciate the advice and time you gave gents....thank you.