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 29 June 2012

GoPro Hero 2 HD cameras

Well we have gone ahead and bought a new video camera.  We needed something that would be fully waterproof; shockproof and easily attached to a variety of things like bikes, vespas, canoes and boats!! It had to be good for snorkelling and diving too. A tall order but eventually we plumed for the Gopro Hero2. We could only afford it because of some birthday money from my sisters (thanks girls xxxx); and the permission of 'she wot must be obeyed'.

And it was a tough decision. However a number of factors won it in the end:

·         It’s wearable and mountable

·         An  ultra-wide 170 degree video at 1080p with 11mp higher resolution stills, fast time lapse and burst shooting at 10fps

·         A huge array of mountings, fixings and accessories

·         Waterproof down to 60m

·         A slow motion 120fps mode at 848x480 that will slow the action by four times.

·         Both HDMI and external microphone ports.

·         A Wifi  remote-control using a smartphone

·         A robust build with high durability

·         Minimal engineering with only two buttons, a clear interface and a protective housing

·         Clear icons  like "1080 - 30" with "W" at the top meaning the camera's set to 1080p video at 30fps with the Wide field-of-vision;  easy to understand, simple to navigate and logically organized icon driven menus

·         2.5 hr battery life easily recharged in 1 hr

The Gopro people boast that this camera is all about capturing the action from the inside of the adventure!!

We are awaiting its arrival and will give first impressions sometime next week. In the meantime here are some video clip tests

and a sailing one.........................enjoy the music........teenagers eh? whatever happened to Led Zepp?

Nice to see my old stomping ground again - The Mumbles!

a growing sense of frustration tempered by lovely boat pictures

Will it never stop raining in this country? This is supposed to be our summer and look what we are getting

Can you believe this is June in the UK? The jet streams have come so far south that weather you would expect to get in the Faeroes (no disrespect to people up there) is now the mainstay of our weather pattern! In fact as I watch the BBc news now, they have just said that this is the wettest June on record (since records began). I watch in disbelief as someone is canoeing in his back garden so deep is the flood water in Tyneside. One thousand lightening strikes in a five minute period and a tornado as well. This is weather at its very freakiest!

copyright windguru website

Any hopes of going sailing this weekend look remote (again)!  Having a vespa in the garage means I cannot dry out sails if they get wet….so………nuff said really!

So I content myself by admiring Richard’s new navigator. It is such an elegant boat and joins the ranks of ‘Slip Jig’; ‘Annie’; ‘Ellie’ and ‘Yuko’ in is well crafted looks and beauty. Maybe Arwen is in need of a make-over as she approaches her fifth birthday. Maybe some wood decking strips, new hull paint perhaps?
Anyway I can’t post any sailing reports so please make do with these excellent images of Richard’s boat and his commentary beneath. Thanks Richard for letting me share this with others. Appreciated.

Although not obvious I fitted an outer stem of two pieces of 4 mill hardwood laminated together. Quite tricky, one snapped on first attempt. I steamed them on separately but it gives an excellent look to the bow. The 19mill brass half round strip just finishes it off.

I extended the stem by 10 centimetres to accommodate the bowsprit which slots into the Samson post and neatly over the stem. Also seen is the front end of the coaming which is a separate piece and follows the deck stringer to bring it in front of the mast, like Pathfinder.

I continued the hardwood trimming on the fore deck as on the transom deck. Here also is shown the Samson post, the bottom of which is bolted right down on to the stem, and also the bowsprit which fits over the stem.

When stepping the mast the end tends to bash against bulkhead 2 so I mounted a hardwood pad to protect it. I have yet to fit the locker doors in B/head 2

I knew that I would have a problem lifting that main mast into its hole in the deck and so resolved to make it so I could walk the mast up. I made a sub deck, strengthened everything underneath, put the hole in the deck and king plank as per the plans and then cut the slot out. Voila! Stepping the mast is no problem and the belaying pins are very handy.

This is a Duckworks deck block on its slide for the jib sheet. This is a nice combination and worked well.

I stopped the seating at bulkhead 5 giving lots of space in the front.

The hardwood rowlock mounting was a reasonable success but would have better further out to give more leverage. I am very happy with jib sheet clam cleat mountings but will probably buy swivel clam cleats

I took the coaming down to the deck and I think it looks really good and gives fantastic storage space.

I filled in bulkhead 7 which gives a nice locker accessed by the trap.

I put a rubbing strake on the transom. Doesn’t really serve any purpose but looks pretty. You can also see the hardwood up stand for the main sheet pulley and a bit of hardwood trimming. The upstanding pulley is a waste of time as it needs to be a double!
I really like the thought and attention which went into the creation of this boat. There are some clever adaptations from the plans. Well done Richard, a splendid boat.

Monday 18 June 2012

Here is a lovely video which includes Kevin's navigator 'Slip Jig'. I've always envied those experienced sailors who can sail up onto a beach in this kind of style. Wish I could.  Close the door; switch off the mobile; unhook the phone; develop temporary deafness. Sit back and enjoy! Oh and when you've enjoyed the video have a trawl through a lovely blog!


Sunday 17 June 2012

Planning the summer voyages up The Tamar and the Dart

We are having a 'finish 'Stacey' day' today! With a bit of luck, if my son manages to rouse himself out of bed now that he has finished all his exams, we might, might, just get a few hours on 'Stacey'; and if all goes well, we could see her being started. However, given I have four hours of school preparation work this afternoon to do for tomorrow and its now already 9 am.......and no signs of stirring from number 1 son's bedroom.....this is looking a distant unachievable goal for the day!

so close to completion....and yet so far to go!

It's father's day as well today and I've been giving some early morning thought to a trip for me and my Dad up the Tamar to Calstock. We didn't manage to achieve it at Easter and so I want to try and get it done this summer.

There are some good tides for Calstock up the head of the Tamar. July 30th and 31st low tides will be around 1000 -1100 and this means we could go up on the tide although I will have to arrange with QAB to use their northern slip if they will let for one occasion as there will be insufficient water on the southern slip.  The other possible tidal gate would be 1st and 2nd of August with tides a little later at around midday. If we didn't get as far as Calstock, we could stop overnight at Morwellham or perhaps Weir Quay I suspect; alternatively we could go up the Lynher and overnight up at Dandy Hole, depending on the weather.

In the meantime I am also giving some more thought to doing a bigger sailing voyage this summer, from Plymouth Sound to Salcombe; from Salcombe around to Dartmouth and then possibly all the way up river to Totnes; taking Arwen out here.

I'd envisage a two (maximum three) night trip. Part of me would like to sail it from Totnes backwards to Plymouth but prevailing winds are normally from the south west along our coastline and so we'd be heading back into a wind which makes it uncomfortable. You can find out more information about sailing the Dart at these websites. One of them is from a canoeist's perspective....a cracking website/blog called 'song of the paddle'. Enjoy!

the view looking upriver at Baltic wharf in Totnes - as far as we would be going

Anyway, plans are afoot. Happy Father's Day if you are reading the blog this morning Dad and check out whether you might be able to do these dates and let me know.

And now it's time to incur teenage wrath by rousing number one son!


Friday 15 June 2012

England, as a welshman, I love you dearly, but will you please stop giving me and the nation mini heart attacks.
Well done boys!

Thursday 14 June 2012

here are some more links to website containing photographs from Beale Park 2012 boat show

A James Wharram catamaran craft at beale - would have quite liked to seen her unfolded

One of the Venetian rowers that Momist suggested I take a look at if I want to row Arwen from a forward facing position

I don't know who to credit for the above photographs. I struggled to find who had copyright so please accept my apologies if it is you and drop me a comment so that I can credit you or remove them

Thanks  Steve

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Rowing a welsford navigator?

We have been discussing how to row a navigator on the JW forum. The photographs below have been supplied (and are copyrighted) by Joel Bergen who owns a lovely navigator ‘Ellie’. These photographs are actually of Barrett’s boat ‘Yuko’. She was such an inspiration when I was building Arwen. She posted her progress photographs constantly and I learned so much from her postings. I have always wanted to meet her in person just to say ‘thank you’ for the inspiration; the instruction and goodness knows what else.

This isn't 'Yuko' and I can't remember whose navigator this is but I hope the owner/builder doesn't mind me using it to illustrate the rowing position. Lovely Navigator isn't it

David and Joel were discussing the merits of doubling up either side of centreboard – two rowers etc. Then we reflected on how it could be done single handed! Where do you sit; how long do the oars have to be; what do you do with the tiller whilst rowing? And then along came Robin!

A similar seating position and the rudder is up with tiller amidships

Robin, as always, had a different slant which immediately makes you start thinking in a different direction.....he constantly does that to me....prompts my thinking of alternatives, as does Joel and John. So he suggested that maybe rowing standing up and facing forward might be a better option for a navigator. Richard supported this viewpoint but suggested we’d need tall rowlocks and installing them as close to the gunwale as possible.

Finally Joel estimated oars may have to be 9 – 10’ in length.

So, to add to my list of things to sort, if it ever stops raining in the UK, are

  • New oars (or a cleanup and re-sealing of the existing ones)
  • Finding some taller rowlocks or a way of securing the oars in them for a standing position
Add to this some unfinished business from last year i.e. cockpit tent and well we might just be ready for the summer, should it ever arrive in the UK


The beale Park boat Show 2012 part 2

I have been desperately trying to find photographs of last weekend's Beale Park Boat Show. Thus far, the only things I can find on the net are here:

If anyone know of any photos on the web please can you let me know?


Saturday 9 June 2012

"There is nothing so distressing as running ashore.
Unless there is doubt as to which continent the shore belongs”


Can’t remember where I read this quote but it has always stuck with me. I think it originally came out of a book on practical sea navigation which was written by said Mr Lecky. I have it stuck on the inside of my log book to remind me when planning offshore dinghy cruise trips to make sure I damn well do everything properly in terms of advanced preparation. I’d hate to be sailing for Dartmouth only to land on the Normandy beaches!
Anyway, the weather is foul. I haven’t been out sailing for months because the weather has been grot virtually every weekend I could go and sailing in 70mph gusts just doesn’t sound fun. The long range forecast for the summer is dire. The jet stream has pushed further south than normal so it’s just a series of depressions lining up one after the other.

When it’s like this there is only one thing any decent sailor would do – plan for those little windows of opportunity when I might be able to sneak out for a few days. So I have been daydreaming and poring over a few charts. I would like to sail around to Salcombe; from Salcombe around Start Point and up to Dartmouth. From there to Torquay sounds fine as well and then I need to persuade someone to haul my trailer across and help tow me home.

So I’ve dusted off my passage plan outline record sheet and thought about what I need to include. So in no particular order are:

• Waypoints: I have a really good book about waypoints throughout the English channel published by Imray. Very useful, so now I can enter all the key ones in to my GPS in the evenings

• Making sure I have the correct charts (I do now)

• Getting an idea of tidal streams and how they flow around the different coasts and headlands – although there will obviously be more detailed tidal planning just before I go

• A list of suitable bolt holes and the conditions when I can and cannot get in to them

• A hand held compass and a compass mounted in the boat (Arwen’s latest acquisition)

• A list of buoys and shore marks in order that I would pass them – I can have these typed up ready along with the columns alongside for entering time expected at and time actually at ( I tend to fill these in as I go along with a reading from the GPS of the average speed done between two marks). I also mark off on the chart where I am every 30 minutes – a habit. On the mountains I would take stock every 30 minutes walking to see I was in the right place at the right time and that the weather was what I expected (In reality on the mountains , as at sea I am continually doing these adjustments and spot checks every few minutes)

• On the day before and the morning of departure there will be detailed weather forecast notes for a few days plus recording relevant website and phone numbers and radio and coastguard broadcast times of weather forecasts for next few days. I tend to start watching the weather a week before the departure date. I try to imagine what different wind speeds and directions and different se states will do to the boat’s trim and balance and handling

• I rarely sail with crew on these passages so I don’t need to worry about making sure they know what to do where and when etc

• I make a list of frequencies and call channels for various harbour masters and authorities and marinas so I have those to hand easily

• I tend to let coastguard know where I’m heading if it is a long passage; I also leave a detailed paper copy with my wife and also a friend who is an exceptionally experienced sailor.

• I update my spot page and make sure that is working and I test out spot to make sure my wife is receiving the texts to her mobile

• Then there is the detailed pilotage a day before – what are the tidal heights and restrictions; when do I want to depart and arrive in various ports and why; what are my alternative routes; when is the point of no return (something I have borrowed from mountaineering – at what point do you say ....’if it gets bad at what point can I turn around and get back to safety in the shortest time; and at what point do I become committed come what may?’

• A week before I go I also inflate lifejackets and check that they remain inflated for at least 48 hours

• Out come my checklists for equipment and I go through Arwen making sure everything is where it should be and is in sound condition; food is purchased and sorted in to various sealed containers for stowing.

• I sort of work out how much fuel to take. I always get this wrong but I work on the principle that the outboard will do about 5 miles on one tank and therefore I need fuel for at least half the journey distance (I always take too much but it acts as ballast I guess).

• I also run through a series of ‘what if scenarios’ as well. They normally take the line of ‘what if I capsized at this point? What if I got caught on this lee shore? Where do I go if the weather turns foul at this stretch?’

• I also map potential hazards along my intended routes – rocky outcrops; places which dry out; bars and shoals; overfalls and nasty tidal rushes and streams through narrow harbour entrances etc

Wow. Until you write it down, you never realise how much you do in planning a small coastal voyage. It’s a good job it is such fun isn’t it!


Friday 8 June 2012

beale park boat show

Beale Park boat show got cancelled today but will be on tomorrow. Having driven up from Plymouth and checked the website at 8am and again at 9am I was somewhat annoyed to find that I arrived at 10am to be told by security guards that they made the decision to cancel it at 9.45am.

I appreciate how difficult such events are to put on; and how much fantastic work gets done behind the scenes but I'm pretty sure that someone could have made the decision earlier!  At least I hadn't travelled all the way down from Scotland like the poor gentleman I gave a lift back to the station had done. He had to be at a wedding tomorrow and so this was his only day. My heart really felt for him.

I hope they are able to put on the event tomorrow. It is always the highlight of my boating year is Beale Park. Sadly I had only today and have other engagements tomorrow. A tank and a half of petrol! never mind, there is always next year's event. I wish the organisers good luck for tomorrow and I really feel for all those exhibitors who have lost a day's earnings in a very tough economic climate.


Wednesday 6 June 2012

Another new navigator blog

I discovered a new blog whilst surfing the net. Brian out of Fort Worth, Texas, is writing a new blog about the building of his Welsford navigator blog ‘Summa’. You can read his blog here at

I think this one will be well worth watching. Good luck on the build Brian.


Whilst searching for something else I came across this lovely blog; although about a fantastic garden, this Lady did a fantastic set of blogs about the Thames pageant......from onboard one of the participating boats.

Enjoy at

We are nearing the end with 'Stacey' our 1971 motovespa 125 super restoration.  The headset is at the fabricator's having a repair. As you can see a piece fractured and broke off just where the front brake is mounted.

Well quick consultations on this website and smallboards vespa forum led to us knowing we needed it TIG welded. of course being aluminium the temps would have to be very high and that would blister the powder coating and paint job.

looks fine from above doesn't it

Well we can't afford a new paint job for the whole scooter so what could we do?  Well the fabricator over at Marsh Mills down the road from us came up with the solution. Weld the little broken piece onto a metal plate and then bolt the plate back onto the base of the handlebar set; it won't be noticed because it is on the bottom of the handlebar set.

So there we go......a small plate bolted on; it won't interfere with the brake and it will be hidden from view; it won't result in the paint blistering either. Best option we can go for really!


Reefing Arwen

I’ve watched the video that Wayne posted on reefing in windy conditions several times now. It really is exceptionally helpful and I think I’ve got his routine now. Head into the wind, tighten mizzen, cast off jib sheets and furl jib. Ease the downhaul; ease the main halyard and move the downhaul up to the first reefing grommet at the tack and clip in. Re-tension the main halyard; re-tension the downhaul; ease the snotter on the sprit boom and pull reefing lines at clew until you can tighten up on the reef grommet at clew end. Make everything fast and re-tension snotter. Finally tie all loose sail below boom using the sail reef ties.

It sounds so easy when you say it like that......but to see it done under trying circumstances and a full cockpit go and admire how Wayne does it. Anyway practice makes perfect and it will be the first thing I spend time doing if I can ever get out on the water this side of our summer!!!!! You  can find Wayne's video on a previous post of mine at;postID=950442140502530688
His lovely website is found at  and it is well worth visiting frequently and bookmarking

Tuesday 5 June 2012

thames pagaent boats and that concert!!

here are some flick'r photos of the Thames you a sort of flavour of what went on......

and here are some photos from the concert last night....................all copyright to the following newspapers  The Daily Mail; The Times; The Telegraph; The Guardian; The Scotsman

Gary Barlow: what a star. He organized the lot and co-produced the commonwealth single 'Sing'

Kylie: still as cute as ever

Robbie: the 'show-man'

crowds stretched up the mall and beyond

I wonder what Victoria would have made of her statute being used in this way.....I suspect we'd have been 'rather pleased'; after all she was another 'peoples Queen'

somewhere behind and in the middle of that lot is Buckingham Palace

To be honest it was pretty good stuff and I would have loved to have been there. Mind you Lord knows what Grace Jones was doing or thinking....or wearing for that matter.  And Stevie Wonder and WillIam - well it wasn't the Queen's birthday boys - it was her diamond Jubilee - something slightly different......but hey that's just nit picking.

Highlight for me - Maddness on the roof of Buckingham Palace and those awesome projections onto the front of the Palace as they sang........awesomely my Yr 9 class would say!

It was sad that Prince Philip couldn't be there due to illness. He is a bit of a hero of mine, despite his odd gaff's. I used to lead a Duke of Edinburgh Award group; I know how much he and all those who run it in his name have done for the youth of our nation. I even gained my Gold Award many years ago and received it from him at The Palace. We as a nation know and value how much the Queen missed him alongside her last night and how she wanted the show to go on.

All in all, a cracking four days with our nation presenting itself at its very best. Well done London and well done the Royal Family too.

Monday 4 June 2012

some images and moments from yesterday's pageant

All photographs copyrighted to people who took them; from national and regional newspapers in UK
I hope that the copyright owners will forgive me for putting them here as a celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

Pagentry and Britain
It's what we do best!