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 31 July 2012

canoeing the canal.................................

We canoed the old Exeter Ship canal today. Number one son had ‘Angharad’ and she paddled well. He describes her as stable; she certainly cut through the water with a fine line. Of course she is slightly harder to paddle than one would have hoped for on account that the dimwit builder put her cross brace in the wrong end so that what should be her stern (the slightly wider bit) is now her bow and the narrower bit that should have been her bow is now her stern. Just don’t ask who the dimwit builder was....take a 'lucky' guess!!!!!!

Anyway the canal is really old and I mean old! It was built in the 1560’s making it one of the oldest artificial waterways in the country. It had to be built because Isabella Countess of Devon in 1270 or so built a weir to power her mills which had the effect of cutting off the port of Exeter from the sea. Trade was restored to the city only to be stopped again by another weir in 1317. Anyway cut a long story short I think it went nearly 300 years of tolls being charged to transport goods to Exeter from Topsham lower downstream. In 1563 traders commissioned the building of a canal from Topsham to the city centre (Exeter Quays). In the 1700’s the canal was extended to take ocean going ships and the canal was very busy right up to the rise of the railways in the late 1800’s. In fact in 1939 I read somewhere that the canal carried 63,000 tonnes. The last commercial vessel on the canal was 1972 when Esso Jersey left the canal basin carrying oil to its terminal.
Now much development has taken place along the canal especially around the quays area; not only residential but also recreational with cycle ways, outdoor education centres, small boat trips along the canal and a passenger ferry across it.

Monday 30 July 2012

Dave Crocker, local artist and his 'On the Path' project

I met a very interesting man today. His name is Dave Crocker and he is an artist. He was standing on the beach at Wembury where I’d taken my parents for the morning. His landscape of the beach and rocks with the tide out and the Mewstone in the distance was outstanding. Done in oils he’d captured the light and the sheer variety of colours (greens, purples, golds and blues) with a deft touch and an expert eye. Texture shape and form were excellent. Out in the sun it was a pleasure to watch the long pauses and gazing off to the horizon followed by these swift but delicate brush strokes. What an extraordinary eye for detail and a deep appreciation of how a landscape evolves during the day.
One of Dave's paintings looking across Wembury towards the estuary of the Yealm

What I really liked was his passion and enthusiasm. He was prepared to engage with anyone who showed an interest. His passion and a sense of awe and wonder poured out of him. He had a deep appreciation of the importance of art for young people and was keen to share this passion with all on the beach….and wow did people engage with him. How could you not…an artist with a skill who wants to share his passion!

His current project is very interesting and appealed to me immediately. Over a coffee, he outlined what he was trying to do. It is quite awe inspiring in a way. He is currently working on his South west Coastal path Project which he started on the 21st of May. The project premise is simple….. Dave is going to paint 365 oil paintings in exactly one year with all paintings being created entirely outdoors irrespective of the weather. All the paintings will be along our long distance SW coastal path. His first expedition of 73 paintings done between Mountbatten and Wembury will be in an exhibition at the ‘Re legacy’ gallery in New Street on the Barbican from 2nd to 5th  August (this week). 
One of Dave's Paintings
It's the Jennycliffe Cafe and looking south along the coast towards Bovisand Fort
Jennycliffe is on the eastern side of Plymouth Sound behind the Mountbatten headland with its breakwater and old Flying Sunderland boat hangars

I will be definitely going. I can appreciate passion about something. All boat builders can. An eye for detail, line, shape, structure; the wonderment and joy of creating something; the pleasure over taking time to work out problems and solutions; the joy in getting varnish to flow smoothly and dry without brush marks. The pride in cutting a joint with a precise fit; the recognition of what it takes to be a craftsman; the desire to try and achieve a minuscule amount of what they achieve daily.

If you live locally, call in at Dave’s exhibition. I suspect it will be well worth it.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Saturday 28 July 2012

The Barbican International Jazz and Blues festival along with the Plymouth Classic Boat Rally

What a great weekend - classic boats and a Blues and Jazz festival all in one weekend! Here are some photos......more tomorrow

Thursday 26 July 2012

going over to Cawsand part 2

........the final video clips from the Monday trip. Hopefully I will be out again this weekend with Mum, Dad and my number one sailing buddy, my daughter! In the meantime here is the final video and sorry about the lazy sailing and poor sail trimming....................


Video 2 from Monday's sail

Continuing from Fort Picklecombe to the anchorage in the lee of Penlee Point

Sorry about the abrupt ending. Still trying to get the hang of a new video editing programme....almost there


Wednesday 25 July 2012

Some boats I've been collecting........

photographic wise as I potter about.....along with some photos taken during Monday's sail

At the Captain Jasper's steps, local inshore fishing boats in the Barbican

Something I hate to see.....old boats rotting away on the banks of the Plym

here for the Classic Boat Rally.......the genuine thing

in amazing condition, so well looked after

one of her winches...probably costing a pretty penny

the boat in question....the one and only; the original.......

another possible entrant for the boat rally and a pretty thing too

wow....and I thought Arwen could look cluttered

all this lovely rigging

now that is a bowsprit

waiting out in the sound before entering the cattedown

this was a lovely old boat as well

I found this one lurking in Cawsand Bay....another classic boat rally entrant

and two from Arwen just to finish the post


I have had a lovely day

It has been perfect from the start. I arrived at QAB just as John arrived and he was able to unchain the entrance for me; so no running around finding someone to do that. Arwen's rigging sorted itself out (bar the tangles of the various halyards on the mast). The sun shone all day. It was 17C at 8.30am. The launch was easy at the top of the tide and I eased out into Sutton lock gate area without having to dodge the traffic coming through the lock gates.

I apologise for the barebones video; no music or opening and closing credits. I am trying to get Windows Moviemaker to engage with GoPro MP4 film clips. I have had some success but then at times it just doesn't like some irritating. Anyway I will post this one and then another one showing the sailing later this week

With no breeze whatsoever, I decided to head across to Cawsand immediately. It was like a mill pond. I passed a lovely old vessel coming into the inner harbour area ready for this weekend's Plymouth Classic Boat Show (it's 25th anniversary) which looks like it will be a real special event. It was a french boat and I got a wave or two as I passed by.  You can find out more at

Other than that there wasn't much about. A nice blue old boat tagged along with me for sometime before I overtook it and headed into Cawsand Bay.

I had a good time over there; read a book; went for a swim around Arwen; fell overboard wrestling out of my wetsuit (dur!); sailed off the anchor (what a dark art that is); played with the GoPro camera for a bit trying to work out what it can and cannot do; admired a lovely guillemot sunning itself on the rocks nearby with it's wings stretched open and it's back to the sun; and discovered that if you trim the sails carefully you can actually in light breezes secure the tiller in the helm impeder, cleat off the mainsheet and actually let Arwen sail herself........and if you keep movement to a minimum she actually does. That has been quite a revelation I must say.

The sea has been so green. I spent a bit of time completely fascinated with flotsam. You can do that when you have nowhere to go  in a hurry! There were different types of seaweed and old twigs and logs. Darting around them were tiny little swimmy things like earwigs. One would suddenly dash from the cover of weed in to the open water, then realise it was a bit bright and BIG out there and suddenly make a mad dash back for the cover. There were some tiny jelly fish in there as well - minute little things.

I managed to take a look under Arwen's hull as well. The centre board seems fine. There are some bad scratches right underneath on her bottom panels. This winter I will get her in the garage and paint her........even if I have to displace 'stacey' to a shipping crate! 'Stacey' is my son's motovespa 125 super 1971 restoration project which seems to be going an indeterminable length of time!!

I also spent a little time trying to work out where to put the GoPro camera sticky pads for the various attachments. A little job for tomorrow.  Anyway Arwen and I will be out again at the weekend. I will email my friend and see if he wants to take his Post Boat out as well. Talking of which I met another Coastal Whammel owner today, a boat with a lovely name 'Double D'gin'. I will post more video and photos over the next few days. In the meantime my apologies for the substandard video editing - technical gremlins!


Sunday 22 July 2012

We had a lovely day which started with a trip on the Cawsand Ferry. We walked from Cawsand around the coastline to Mt Edgecumbe Country Park and then caught the Cremyll ferry back to Stonehouse Creek before walking around past Millbay Docks and up onto the Hoe where a classic bus rally was taking place.

A really nice day


It started with a coffee at one of our favourite cafes

followed by a stroll down the bridge to the ferry pontoon

where the little Cawsand ferry was coming alongside

there was time to admire the newly refurbished Mayflower Steps from which the Pilgrim Fathers set sail

and watch the boats coming through the lock gates from Sutton Harbour

our local fire boat came alongside as well

then it was across the sound to Cawsand beach and that funny fog bank

one of my favourite anchorages

Cawsand Beach

Mooring up until Friday's Plymouth Classic Boat Show

Passing the Folly with Drakes Island behind it

Well here goes..................

The weather today has been fantastic with the sun out all day. I'll post a short report of our walk around Cawsand, Mt Edgecumbe and Plymouth Hoe in a later report. In the meantime...well here goes......I'm going to try and get out tomorrow and Tuesday for a sail.

Nothing fancy now. A shakedown cruise for Arwen over to Cawsand and back. Some trying out of the new GoPro camera and working out positions for mountings on Arwen; some sailing up to mooring buoys and coming alongside practise.

If the beach at Cawsand isn't too crowded (as it was today) then testing the new anchor pulley system will also be on the cards.

Tides are slightly awkward for the day - huge spring tides. High tide is around 08.30 and low tide around 15.30.  I won't be able to get back onto the slipway until around 18.00.  Thus I will probably launch around 11 ish and mosey on out to Cawsand for a while. Might don the wetsuit and go for a snorkel. Then I can potter back and do the manoeuvres until the tides are such that I can get back in on the slipway. Should be home for 19.30 ish.

With luck, no reversing into anything; no flat tyres and no disasters....probably jinxed it now by saying that haven't I!!