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

Tuesday 29 May 2012

At long last: how to reef a sprit boom in video

Well done Wayne. What a fantastically useful little video. Hat's off to that man; not only for a clever, simple and clear video on how to reef a sprit boom lug sail but also on how to clear a front cockpit and maintain boat trim and balance (you'll see)! The height of organisational efficiency. Star man!

A must watch for all Nav owners. THANK YOU  Wayne!

Now I know what I'm doing wrong!!
And thanks to Steve Earley as well for clearing up what I was doing wrong when tacking under jib and mizzen only.  Slacken off the mizzen more than I have been doing. Dur! It sounds so simple when you hear it from experienced sailors!

Thanks both of you - much appreciated.


Monday 21 May 2012

'Stacey' is stalled....where do we go next?

Attention all boaters...we need your help...well your lateral thinking actually. Nobody seems to have any answers for us.....'Stacey' , my son's beloved motovespa 125 1971 scooter restoration has come to a standstill because of a problem. Boaters, we hope that ingenuity and problem solving capability shown by all self builders and small boat sailors will come to the fore......'help us all you obi-wans'!

The problem can be seen in the photograph below. We have stripped the forks; replaced all the lower and upper steering rings and bearings - exactly like for like and we have reinstalled it. It is tightened up as it should be and the front steering is not rocking forwards or sideways. It is perfectly correct but cannot be slackened off, for to do so is to introduce looseness into the front fork.

So explain this.......the gap between the rear mudguard and the legshield has reduced and is now too close; a bump on the road and the two will meet!  Originally the gap was 2 cm between legshield and mudguard before dis-assembly. We have triple checked everything. Nothing is wrong; everything in the correct sizes and in the correct order at bottom and top of steering fork.......we have no idea what's happened; and we have no idea how to make that gap back to 2 cm.

Now come on people - we know how adaptable, flexible and creative we are........suggestions do we
a) increase that gap without
b) loosening the steering nuts so that the front fork and wheel rattle or have sideways/forwards movement

We are baffled and no one on the scooter forums seems to have the will someone creative please save us - any suggestions gratefully received because we are out of ideas!

Steve and number one son!

righting lines on dinghies like Arwen?

Does Arwen need 'righting lines'?

This is a question perplexing me a lot at the moment. I can’t even remember what started me thinking about it either. I mean Arwen is unlikely to invert should she capsize..........but there remains a niggling doubt in my little old head.............’what if she did?’
How would I get her back upright because that hull and those sails will be heavy; of that I’m in no doubt! I also suspect she will ride quite high in the water too. A reader of the blog ‘Keyhaven Potter’ had a good tip before we even start the discussion about righting lines. He had seen what some sailors had done locally to help themselves get back into their boats after capsize – basically a length of rope with a plastic horse riding stirrup at the bottom. The length of the rope can be adjusted. It is tied to the shroud plate and stored inside under the coaming. In the event of a capsize, it is found, shaken out and hey presto – a step to help you get back in over the side......pretty neat I thought. I have a rope with knots and loops in on the back port aft corner but i quite like this idea too.

Anyway back to righting lines.

There doesn’t seem to be much on the web about installing righting lines on boats like Arwen; plastic dinghies and multi-hulls – yes! Wooden day sailing boats – no!

I’m not sure whether Arwen needs them or not; even if I did, I don’t know where to tie any on. Could they be tied onto the shroud plates somewhere? Is this the best location for them........if I’m using one to throw over the upturned hull and then hauling my weight on it as I walk up the hull side and lean back to try and bring the sails up to the horizontal? What forces will such a move exert on Arwen?

Then there is the issue of where to run the ropes and what kind of rope they should be. They will need to be knotted at intervals. Floating line is probably best. I could run them along the gunwale just under the wood rubbing strip at the top of the sheer plank. They would need to stretch quite some way if they are to be long enough to throw over the whole boat and then reach the water the other side. So they would need to go around the back of the transom. Elastic line at the ends would help to secure them to some hooks that would need to be stuck to the transom somewhere. Robin suggested using the jib sheet...which is a possibility but it depends on how you have arranged the jib sheets in the hull; where they are secured, cleated off etc. I would think there will be a fair degree of force exerted trying to pull the weight of the main sails plus mizzen etc up from inverted to horizontal!

Of course there is the whole question of capsizing. How many people have capsized a navigator thus far; in what conditions; how many got inverted and what did people do? Do you sail to avoid capsizing in the first place? I have yet to do a proper capsize test on Arwen. I know, don't say anything; unforgiveable really. However, as soon as I can - it is over to Cawsand and the very first thing I do this season!

I’m a curious little bod but sometimes I worry....I always seem to ask lots of questions; most of which I can rarely answer myself! Maybe I just ask too many damn fool questions. I should give my poor little brain a rest.......but then just as it begins to pops another question.......will it never end?

Anyway over to you readers – righting lines on Arwen – what do you think? Do let me know via comments if you have any interest.


Tuesday 15 May 2012

this what I mean by being organised...........


Why do I offer up this website to you?
well firstly, if you haven't come across this website - you will love it. Gavin keeps a fantastic blog about all things old and nautical, a mine of maritime information.

Secondly, here is a great report about Will Stirling and his voyage from Start Point to Jersey across the channel in a 14' dinghy. Yes you read right....14'; 39.5 hrs at sea - distance of 90 nm. Read and marvel at their adventure.


Monday 14 May 2012

Why am I so disorganized?

With the cruising season coming upon us soon and the opportunity to do some cruises along our wonderful south west coast, three questions have been occupying my mind

• Where to go?

• Why does Arwen seem so untidy inside?

• How can I cut down on what I take and keep things more ship shape?

The last question is of particular relevance given that I’m hoping Dad will come along on one or two cruises this year (although I will have to make Arwen more comfortable – some form of sleeping platform in the rear cockpit). Now Dad’s shed is an exemplary example of meticulous organisation and packing. Every tool is in its correct box; every box in its correct place. His model railways stuff is organised in boxes. The shed even manages to consume all the debris that Mum won’t have in the house. Of course, Dad can’t actually get in the shed any more but that is a mere detail (or a sore point, depending on whether you are discussing the shed with Mum or with Dad). It is an example of meticulous organisation and two days onboard Arwen with the way I stow things will drive him mad! So I suspect a tidy up is in order and soon!

So where to go?

Choices! On the list for a cruise with Dad are

• Up the Tamar as far as we can go over two days

• Around to the River Yealm

• Trailer the boat down to Fowey

• Trailer Arwen down to Falmouth and sail the Fal and Helford river areas (quite like this idea – we could camp on land each night and do day sailing)

• Launch at Totnes and sail down to Dartmouth in to Slapton Bay and back again (quite like this one too)

So over the next few weeks once my exam groups have left and I have a little more time in the evenings, I can research venues, tides, launch ramps etc and I’ll let you all know.

Now, the second question, why does Arwen always seem so untidy?

Um! I am sadly, one of those naturally untidy people. Don’t get me wrong, I know where everything is......but organisation is not one of my strong points. Part of the problem is that the forward hatch is pretty much inaccessible because it is directly behind the mast. When I built Arwen, I had the old version of the plans and I didn’t have the confidence or ‘nouse’ to deviate from the plans. Truthfully, I didn’t think through the implications of the location of various hatches carefully enough. Offsetting the forward bulkhead hatch to one side would have made so much sense. I keep meaning to correct this by filling in the hatch and cutting a new one but I never get around to it and there is some reluctance to mess about with the forward bulkhead in-case I mess it up!

By the same token – putting in top mounted hatch covers on the forward thwart instead of side mounted would have made a difference too. Then there are the sand bags that I use as extra ballast which rest on the floor – I’m fed up of them. However, the new 10 Lt water containers should sort that out. Four of them clipped either side of the centre case area will give some extra weight when I am single handing. I need to rearrange the centre lockers as well so that I can store more in them. They contain spare tools, equipment, radar reflectors and drogues etc at the moment. I think putting them to the forward thwart lockers will help as I rarely access need access to them at sea. The centre lockers can then hold my food, day stuff and the grab bag contents. The small fuel bottles can also be stored there as well. So all is easily accessible.

I’m thinking of removing the various pockets that go along the side of the coaming. They only hold odd bits of rope, sail ties etc and I can better places for those too. That will give a less cluttered feel as well.

I am interested in how others pack their dinghies for cruising. Steve Early has it down to an ‘art form’ on ‘Spartina’. He has lists, specialist crates and a packing plan. I quite like that level of organisation.

Someone I know has a scuba divers bag for all wet gear or anything that can stand getting wet and he keeps that on the floor in his cockpit. Like on Arwen, he stores spare clothes, sleeping gear etc in waterproof bags under deck on forward thwart. He stores valuables, camera, keys, money, and whatever may be needed for the day in a large plastic bucket with a sealable waterproof lid. I have a plastic canoe bin with lid that I could use but it is very bulky! My issue as always, is that I want an emergency grab bag which will go with me in event of a capsize but I also want easy access to the things I will need during the day.

When on cruises for a couple of days – I have waterproof expedition sacs, one for food and cooking gear; one for spare clothes and sleeping kit. Both get stored under the deck on front thwarts. The tarp which forms my tent also gets stored behind the netting on the port front thwart as well. Stern anchor and warp are in a box on the port forward cockpit floor – bungee corded to the sides and internal frames so in the event of a capsize it can’t break free. On the starboard side are two very large white fenders for putting under Arwen should we ever dry out on a beach; or putting between us and other boats should we ever raft up (something I try to avoid as I’m anti-social). Charts get clipped under the bungee on starboard centre thwart; spare fuel 5 Lt jerry can up front on front thwart port size.

I think I need to think this through again!


Some regular readers will recall that I am giving considerable thought to installing righting lines on Arwen. You can see my first musings at

Well, having read this article which was posted on 'Duckworks' June 'webwatch' page.......I'm giving considerable thought to righting lines.  However, what really caught my attention was the discussion about wearing life jacket vs. buoyancy aid when on extended coastal cruises. I also mused on this some time ago

Although this essay is 1999, the lessons I suspect are still valid even if clothing technology has advanced somewhat in 13 odd years. It's worth a read - so go to but remember I found it posted on the Duckworks site so be sure not to miss this amazingly useful website at


Sunday 6 May 2012

Just for Joel.....

Joel, my friend, enjoy.

I was thinking about light wind sailing in Arwen. I never quite get it right somehow. Some of the JW forum members gave helpful advice.

• Make all your boat movements slow and gentle

• Use minimum rudder angles and far larger turning circles as the rudder will act as a big brake

• Sitting over so that Arwen leans to leeward because the immersed chine will provide a shape that will encourage her to round up into the turn.

• Increasing or decreasing the weight on the helm will also be a factor

• Making sure that crew trim is correct – sitting as far forward as possible in light winds

• Hesitate in releasing the jib in a tack so that it backs slightly; a move that helps push her around more rapidly

I guess doing something with the sails would also be useful as well but I can never remember what – should you tighten them or loosen them slightly so that you get a bit of a belly between the sprit boom and the sail.......questions , questions , questions...............


We popped along to Salcombe yesterday for a little break after a very tough week. OFSTED visited my school and as always, it was a tough experience. I don't have a problem with being scrutinised. We are public servants after all and the public have the right to expect that we maintain high standards and do our very best for the students and communities we serve. But why, oh why do many of OFSTED inspectors have to be so arrogant and 'bullish'? Sacrcasm and an inquisitorial style that makes the Spanish Inquisition look like a chat between friends around the barbie! Not all inspectors, but enough to make it an unpleasant experience.

Still enough about that.
Salcombe. We arrived to find the Salcombe yawl fleet out and about. It seemed pretty cut throat out on the water. I think they were racing up channel to Kingsbridge and back...but I could have been wrong.

lots of to-ing and fro-ing

pretty breeze with some interesting gusts

the ferry inn was an excellent viewpoint with lovely windows, food and service
highly recommended

trying to get into a position for the race start

gets pretty intense out there

final few seconds to the start

and they are off up channel

well most are
some just like to be out for the fun

Now it's time to reassemble the house, empty the car, put the study back into one piece, clear all the folders and bags of books from the entrance hallway; sailing......well only after I've reassembled the house and put in some quality father and husband time!