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 29 September 2012

spanish motovespa 125 super part 2

Well here we are................ ‘Stacey’ our 1966 restoration project is finally home. She has been for a check-up, tidy up and an MOT.  She’s back but we have discovered some oddities so she may have to go back to the people who took a look at her for us.

Out on the street for the first time in two years

The above mentioned oddities include:

1.      The engine kill switch is now the horn

2.      The horn switch is now the engine kill switch
Both work fine!  The back brake light did work when you pressed the brake pedal but now it doesn’t!  The horn sounds like a very posh duck being strangled!
oddity number three: that gear change handle is in neutral
Does that look remotely right to any one who knows something about vintage vespa?
Last night at 1am my nocturnal dwelling teenage son dashed upstairs to inform me he could smell petrol wafting up from the floor boards. The garage is below our house. A rapid investigation discovered fuel leaking out in torrents from where the petrol hose seemed to have come lose because someone didn’t put a jubilee clip back on correctly; not only that but the on-off petrol tap seemed to have disengaged itself!
So at 2am we were taking out a petrol tank; washing down a garage floor; ventilating a downstairs section of a house and mopping up petrol with paper towels from inside the vespa itself. 
Despite this excitement we were able to fix the fuel tap; reattach the fuel hose correctly and start her. Everything else seems to be OK. There was a huge amount of grey smoke at first but that seemed to disappear as she warmed up.
Anyway here is the video clip of her working. We had started her previously hence the absence of the light grey smoke mentioned above:
Our problem is she sounds noisy and we aren’t sure whether the engine noise is the ‘right sound’. Being ‘vespa virgins’ we have nothing to compare this to; yet I can tell you immediately whether an outboard engine is sounding correct or not but not a 2 stroke vespa engine.  

So if you are the owner of a ‘certain’ age vespa, does ‘Stacey’ sound right when she is idling?
if you have been following the saga tales of 'Stacey' remember we told you about the gear change marks being filled in by the primers?  Well the mechanics we have been working with came up with this solution. Not pretty but effective for two newbies!
By the way she starts on the first or second kick start. We are assuming that is good and she seems to idle fine for several minutes without throttle adjustment.
Of course, we do have another problem. Neither of us can ride a vespa. My son can’t yet do his CBT for a few months so I will have to do mine. Thus we can’t actually take her on the road and drive her around. The only possible place we could have a go is a large car park which is normally empty on a Sunday but that would mean having to push ‘Stacey’ 1.5 miles there; and 1.5 miles back (uphill most of the way). And no, we don’t have a trailer we can put her in

Son kept the original speedo. He is absolutely against replacing it or the trim
The mechanics replaced the spark plug lead
We didn’t really think this all through did we? But at least the paint job on one part seems OK and who cares. All that matters is that we love her!


Friday 28 September 2012

Motovespa 125 super

'Stacey' is home and she works!  Pics and video to follow when I can get my son to talk coherently. At the moment he's just draped over her mumbling incoherently.....I can't quite decide whether that's lovely or actually very sad! I'm going with 'aaah - there's lovely' (a very welsh phrase and sentiment).  I remember how I was at the launch of Arwen!!


Thursday 27 September 2012

another welsford navigator gets launched

Lasse, from Sweden recently launched his navigator and what a beauty it is. He's kindly allowed me to publish one or two of his photos here on my blog. If you want to see more then go to his own blog at

He jokingly reminded me that he hoped I could speak Swedish. Haha!  I'm from what makes you think I can speak another language? In fairness to my kinsmen, I do speak some welsh which is my second language and my sister is a real linguist speaking German, French and Japanese fluently. (I think she also has some Spanish as well - I'm very jealous of her - a talented girl)

Anyway digressing, Lasse has built a lovely navigator to rank alongside Yuko, Annie, Ellie, Jaunty and Slip-jig to mention a few.

Here are the pictures.

I love the white hull, colour sheer strake and cream sails look
Very elegant, this boats sits very well in the water
I also like the liftable outboard bracket; not for the first time I have thought of removing mine and installing a similar bought one
I'm not sure which gentleman is Lasse but I am loving that lovely wood transom and rudder blade.
That looks very classy. Arwen's looks marked and in places the aluminium paint shows through.
I also like the lower coamings. In hindsight I think I made Arwen's a little too high
Ah! That infamous 'navigator' sail crease! Nice leather work on the booms
Now I am always fascinated by how people arrange their snotters.  (I'm sure I could have phrased that sentence so much better with hindsight). Lasse seems to have his boom higher up than I do; his yellow snotter rope goes inside the parrel beads; mine goes out and over them. His sail seems to be tied for and aft on the top boom; mine is tied through each hole along its length. I have no idea whether one method is better than the other but it just interests me that we all come at it slightly differently.
Very nice leatherwork. Good craftsmanship I think.
Having seen this arrangement I am definitely going to alter mine under the deck. This is simple and clear. The halyards seem slightly thinner than mine too.  I need to ask Lasse about the red rope blocks - I'm trying to work out what he has done there; it almost looks as if it is a pulley system below deck to haul down on what though? I like the arrangement of the black ropes as well. I am assuming they are to the centre board.
Those varnished boards look elegant and have come up well. I am always envious of those who do varnish work like this. However, I must admit I'm in the John Welsford camp - 'the best looking varnish is white paint' brigade!!
Now this is an interesting photo. I love the compass housing. Very practical and classy. I also like the empty space below the thwart either side of the centre case. I built lockers in there. Sometimes I wish I'd left them open plan! I notice Lasse has a bilge pump in the thwart on the starboard side? I'm thinking of installing one in Arwen too.  I like the little cut outs in the coaming and those look to be lovely oars. Lasse, what lenght oars did you do in the end and did you download any plans off the internet? If you did is there any chance you could share the website?
Well, all in all, an elegant, classy looking well built navigator. Lovely craftsmanship, some simple, practical adaptations too.  Lasse has more photos on his website. Be sure to go take a look, even if you can't speak Swedish!!
Well done Lasse and thank you for letting me share these photos. Congratulations.



Monday 24 September 2012

Wooden blocks on small dinghies?

I have been thinking of making some nice wooden blocks for Arwen over the summer along with a new pair of 9’ 6” oars.  Now the garage has been cleared of scooter debris there is no excuse.
This is elegant craftsmanship and I am sorry I don't know who to attribute the copyright to
I do rather fancy having smaller versions of these on Arwen
I’ve been researching about block making on the internet. Joel on his navigator blog has a lovely blog entry detailing how he makes them. His have lovely brass straps. And I have to admit, I like the way he has gone about it. Although we have never met, I have a huge amount of respect and regard for Joel. He is a thoughtful craftsman and sailor and these qualities permeate through his blog, his workmanship on ‘Ellie’ his navigator and in his comments to people queries. A courteous, good humoured gentleman craftsman is Joel. He’s probably chuckling reading this and thinking ‘if only he knew me better!’
Go here to find Joel's blocks and guide on how to make them:

On the other hand, getting back to blocks, I am attracted to the type of block that comes with a rope strop. Be under no illusion, I know these will take far more work and craftsmanship than I possess but this is how we grow isn’t it. As humans, we frequently bite off more than we can chew; we make mistakes and then if we have any sense we learn rapidly from them! I’ve never played with bitumen twine before but it does sound rather fun doesn’t it!
being of a somewhat dim persuasion, I've lost my copyright credits list and so can't remember where I got these from. I think it was either Nick on the Woodenboat forum or from Duckworks
If they are yours please drop me a comment so I can thank you and attribute them to you...or of course remove them if need be.

So, I’m thinking ash blocks, brass pins, tufnol sheaves with rope strops which have been properly bound.  3” in size, I’d need around 3 or 4. I’d need to replace the two side deck blocks with wooden ones that had Joel’s brass straps because they will have to stand on end within springs to sit proud of the deck.  The mainsheet block on the end of the boom will need some thinking through. I have two blocks under the deck mounted to the front thwart around the mast where various halyards come down from the mast and through the deck and then run aft to the rear of the centre case.
I think they call this binding 'racking'?
Of course there are then the blocks on the centreboard up haul – a triple and a double.
Um – so that would be about 10 – 12 blocks.  Now I have a band saw and a router so that should help. There are various rasping files. I have some measurements of sorts. There is quite a bit of advice on the duckwork's site and on the woodenboat forum…… now it’s a matter of thinking it through more carefully over some cuppas; pricing it out; going to ‘she wot must be obeyed at all times’ (or ‘her in-doors’ as she is affectionately known by me and number one son) to get the cash…….and then running away fast as she explains in no uncertain terms that if I want to retire at 58 from teaching and have a skiing holiday at Christmas, Arwen can’t have new shiny blocks!
If I really planned it out carefully (that would be a first I hear my son, daughter, wife and father all mutter at the same time) I could set up an assembly line production
I’ll keep you all posted! Watch this space…a significant war of attrition is about to take place in Arwen’s household…..I wonder who will blink first!
Oooh! another thought, the smell of boiled linseed oil wafting up from the garage through the floorboards of the sitting room.......oooooh! that does sound nice (well to me anyway!)
I really am genuinely sorry to have misplaced my copyright acknowledgement notes
Please will people be patient and forgive this temporary lapse

Tiller tamers on small dinghies

I've posted before about using a tiller tamer on Arwen. I used the design from the Dinghy Cruising Association and if  you look back through the list of posts on the right hand side you will find several references.

Robert, another navigator builder has also been using a tiller tamer and he has posted some useful video clips on you tube. You can see these below:

Robert's video clips show the tiller being used on different points of sail. He was sailing in 6 - 14 knots on a 30 mile round trip which lasted some 5.5 hrs with an average speed of 4.5 kts.
These are really useful videos, showing a well balanced and well crafted boat. my congratulations and thanks to Robert for taking the trouble to create and post them

Saturday 22 September 2012

'Stacey's coming home.....'

'Stacey' my son's motovespa 125 super restoration is returning this week from the garage. She is going through her MOT on Monday. We've seen her started up. She's loud. The carb will need tuning. The mechanics have had her up to 25 mph around the industrial estate. The gear change is a little clunky and will take some getting use to. Number one son also has the petrol tap in backwards so that fuel comes from the reserve and when you have it on the tank - it's the reserve! Confusing. He will need to stick back on the piece we have cut out of card to cover the bit which was cut out of the legshield. And sort that petrol tap!

We cleared the garage this morning in honour of her return. There is now space at the front and we even hoovered up the dust off the floor. Wow!
We've started to investigate getting our CBT tests sorted. We'll post video of her running mid week.


Sunday 16 September 2012

Using a VHF on a small boat (part 1)

What do people use their VHF for?

Now that was a question on the DCA open boat site which flummoxed me somewhat initially because I thought the answer was pretty obvious. Then I got to think about it. I read some posts on the openboat forum (The DCA site) and then did a little scuttling around the internet and hey-presto, I’ve learned some more new things!
You can use it as a torch and a GPS if it has these inbuilt functions.  (Mine doesn’t but hey when money appears eventually I will replace my current handheld VHF with a floating one plus some gadgets!!)
I use it to contact QAB if I need to on approach back into harbour, checking on slipway conditions and state of tide or whether there are boats launching in the narrow area between the pontoon moorings. I could talk to the lock keeper into Sutton harbour on channel 12 should I feel the urge to take a nosey on in there although I doubt if they allow riffraff like me in there.
Should I mount something like this in Arwen in a box under the rear deck? Is it needed? What else will I need to add to make it work? Is it worth it?
There is the obvious red button function channel 16. Mine doesn’t send an automatic mayday distress call. I have to do it verbally. However, I do listen on channel 16 when I have cleared the breakwater. Within the breakwater I have it on dual watch – 16 and 14 (port harbour master). In this way I can keep abreast of ship movements, pan-pan, securite and mayday calls. I have sadly heard two mayday calls in my sailing around south west shores both resulting in loss of life. The advantage of the mayday call was all boats in the area started looking for the people who were overboard. I was sailing in the vicinity but was too slow to render any assistance other than to be another pair of eyes scanning a sector of sea area.
 Only a few weeks ago whilst sailing in the Penlee area the coastguard broadcast a securite message about keeping a temporary exclusion zone around the tinker buoys because divers had found unexploded WW2 ordnance on the sea floor beneath them! I would have hated being the one sailing over as they exploded (they were 500lb bombs so I expect they’d make a fair old waterspout – can you see it – Arwen rising up on a fountain of water?)
I have on occasions called up the coastguard for weather checks and once for a radio check as I was close inshore and was worried that cliffs would be blocking my signal (they were and I couldn’t make contact on my handheld having to do it instead on a mobile of all things).
Then there are the routine coastguard weather and maritime safety broadcasts. Very useful when I’m camp cruising in deep valleys where there is no mobile reception (it happens!)
I have on one occasion called up an incoming large trawler to get its intentions and used the same radio to report it to the port harbour master for dangerous steerage. A boat nearly ran down five small day sailing dinghies which were crossing the western entrance of the sound. The trawler just kept coming and the boats had little wiggle room due to tides, races and wind. The trawler cleared the front of the first dinghy by less than 15’ and caused a huge wash which put the others in peril. Given each was carrying one RYA instructor and several teenagers I decided enough was enough. Turned out the harbour master had already had others radio in.
I haven’t yet used it to communicate with other boats for a ‘chat’. That is yet to come and to be honest I try to just listen and keep it free. If I want to chat to another boat crew I guess that is what a mobile is for if you have reception.
Could I recess something like this into the rear thwart under the deck?
I carry it because I am also paranoid. From past posts readers will know that if I ever go overboard I am likely to sink from all the safety gear attached to my buoyancy aid – PLB, mini flare pack; mobile phone and VHF. (And not forgetting safety knife and spray hood in packet).
I was aware but hadn’t given much thought to it about the criticalness of antenna height above the water. So far apart from one stretch along Bolt head where I seemed to be too close inshore I have had good and clear reception off my handheld VHF. However, I have wondered if I need to put a folding antenna on the mast and some cabling running down it and through the deck; along under the deck on the side of the centreboard case and out to some form of waterproof plug in the aft cockpit. In this way I could extend the range of the handheld set. This is something I do need to investigate further because I can see advantages and disadvantages to this so it will be the subject of a future post ‘Should I install a fixed VHF in Arwen or extend range on the handheld using an antenna on the mast?’ kind of post!

As someone pointed out you can call coastguard on your mobile but you don’t get to hear the pan-pan or securite calls; or worse still the May-day ones!

Saturday 15 September 2012

A noteworthy achievement

The Burlesdon Blogger has reached 250,000 page views on his blog and that is genuinely impressive. I like his blog; it is always interesting and gives a lovely historical snapshot of the ebb and flow of life around where he lives. It appeals to the historical geographer within me. You can get to his blog at

That started me thinking about this blog and so I thought I'd check the stats too. Well it sneaked past me without me noticing! There have been 111,000 page views since I started the blog. When did the 100,000 mark happen; why didn't I see it? Wow!

This is the stat's chart overview but the 111,056 number comes from the data at its side.

The chart giving the overview
I've tended to keep an eye on the colour map on the homepage more. the 'geographer' within me again. I think someone from 160 countries has now viewed the blog at least once. My ambition is to have a person from EVERY single country view the blog at least once. Now as a geographer, that's really cool!

Wednesday 12 September 2012

'Stacey' update

Get this........'Stacey' is just about to pass her M.O.T. You have no idea what a huge milestone this is unless of course you have been following our two year journey trying to restore a 1971 motovespa 125 super scooter. 'Our' means me and my son! It is his scooter. We knew nothing about scooters when we took this on. We still don't! However, through the help of the vespa forums and Granddad (well done Granddad); along with tonnes of support and encouragement from our school caretaker Kev (who owns many pieces!) we have finally made it to the end.

from this.................
We sent it to a place called 'Two wheel Technics' here in Plymouth where Rodney has been a gem. He checked 'Stacey' all over. Then he sorted out the flywheel, the lighting and the gear cables for us because we had got them wrong. 'Stacey' now starts; idles correctly, sounds good and has been driven at 20 mph with no problems. The speedo works too. Rodney is a master technician and a very patient and understanding guy! this coming back from sprayers

The end is in sight!  Now we have to do our CBT tests and get the head gear! Then, of course, we have to learn how to ride her!!

to almost finished

I hope we have done the old girl justice in our restoration of her



Dave and his navigator creases!

Dave is a navigator owner and he has just posted these photos on the JW forum. I hope he doesn’t mind me posting them here on the blog; I’m having trouble reaching him via the forum at the moment. So Dave if you are reading this and don’t want to be – send me a comment and I’ll remove this post immediately and please accept my apologies for not being able to get in touch via the forum. Technical gremlins my end which I am battling to resolve as you are reading this.

 Anyway, Dave was attending a wooden boat regatta around Bribie Island north of Brisbane, Australia. He had perfect weather and good winds blowing around 15 to 20 knots when the pictures were taken.
His boat is the one with the blue hull and a boom on the main sail. He observes that the photos suggest that he has It appears from these a slightly bigger jib and a fuller main and so he felt this should make his boat a bit quicker! What he discovered was that the two boats were very evenly matched despite appearances in these photos.
So he posed a question……….for navigator owners…………………….”how do I get rid of those wrinkles in my main? They may not be slowing me down but I don't think they are very attractive. What am I doing wrong?”

Given I sail a sprit boom I really have no advice to offer but I know a huge bunch of guys who will. JW himself got rid of my creases by giving me an analogy about a hankerchief! That is the value of the JW forum; expertise is always a click away! Dave has a blog about his navigator. Well worth a visit at

The JW forum is at 


quick don't miss it....a welsford video

I discovered this fascinating Youtube clip - a talk by John and some other colleagues about what to look for in a small boat. It was quite illuminating. I discovered by chance through the openboat forum and then later discovered that our good friend Joel (Yo Joel - how ya doin - and well done sir!) had recorded it with John's permission.  It's about 55 minutes long but well worth sticking with. So throw out the kids for an hour; pack the Missus off shopping; take the phone off the hook; find a comfy chair and a beer or cuppa...and sit back for some intellectual discussion about what makes a good safe small boat!

Well done Joel!



Sunday 2 September 2012

I'm sorry..........

I didn't get to do my jolly up the Tamar. Guilt set in and I spent the day working to get ready for the start of the new term tomorrow. It is funny but I've slept really well all summer but since Friday I have been restless and barely got any sleep. Funny that isn't it.  It is like returning and awakening to some sub-human state after having hibernated!

Anyway I will try and get a sail in this weekend and will report back on it. Thanks for being so tolerant. In the meantime back to lesson preparation. Hur!