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 30 October 2012

A Canadian navigator

is slowly materialising. Here are some of Joe's photographs of his navigator build.

He hopes to get it in the water this coming summer. Good luck Joe, some lovely hull work and craftsmanship.

Another great looking navigator on its way!



motovespa 125 super

An update

Wait for it. Wait for it comes


Oh yes....she clunks, thunks or bits falling off. OK so we only got her  up into second gear but it has been TWO YEARS!!

We still have problems but we have sorted out the carnage wrought by the garage who were supposed to fix all problems! The wiring has been redone and we now have a kill switch which kills the engine; a horn button, which, well frankly does what it is supposed to do which is....does the horn!! (Unlike a few weeks ago when the kill switch did the horn and the horn button killed the engine).
The back brake light now works as well. Further more we have sorted out the gearing. Regular readers will remember that the garage put 4th where 1st should be; 2nd where neutral should have been; 3rd where 2nd was ....well you get the gist. Basically we swapped over the gear cables at the rear and repositioned neutral on the headset and the gear shift handlebar.

We still have problems. Changing gears is difficult and at times takes two hands which kinda defeats the object of a scooter! Finding neutral is a nightmare and so we are still on the hunt for a knowledgeable vespa mechanic in the Plymouth/Torbay area who can finally once and for all get it sorted for us.

But in the meantime.....she actually goes....slowly and without the speedo working but hey that is monumental progress as far as we are concerned


I've been worrying about Steve

Steve lives on the east coast of the US where Hurricane Sandy is doing her worst. I'm not quite sure where he lives, Elizabethtown I think but I hope he and his family and friends are safe and Spartina, his boat is safely out of the water and under shelter.

Streets of New York: copyright 'The New York Times'

The news coverage we are seeing this side of the Atlantic is pretty awesome and clearly 'Sandy' is having a huge impact. To all of you on the East coast and especially Delaware and New Jersey, our thoughts are with you all; good luck and God bless. Stay as safe as you can under the circumstances


Saturday 20 October 2012

motovespa 125 super update

Well we have managed to sort out some of 'Stacey' our 1966-71 motovespa 125 super. The horn is now the switch it should be as is the kill switch. The back brake light now works and the throttle doesn't rotate the wrong way any more.

We still have the gears to sort out and swap over; and the vibrating number plate. Then there is the issue of fitting mirrors and indicators. We've found some that fit either side of the rear number plate.

In the meantime we have a slightly sticky throttle as it doesn't quite return to low revs as it should do so we need to sort that out too

Ho hum. Almost there!

Monday 15 October 2012

a potentially ignominious defeat

I'm failed; come undone. Alas, awoe and all that!

I can't find anything on one Captain Jeremy Roch RN other than a few snippets. The internet has either failed me or I am looking in wrong place.

So what do I have

an it is ....make of it what you will....I think it is him in his small open boat sailing between Plymouth and London with one dog and a boy

please don't ask me what the copyright is or where the image came from. It just popped up on a google images search with little acknowledgement. I think it is from one of his journals
I also have a couple of quotes from him:
Of sailing with a boy and a dog in a 10' boat from Plymouth to London and back again.......
"one as good company as the other to me for any help I may have need of"
He was aboard HMS Cambridge during the Anglo dutch wars at the battle between the English and the Dutch on St James Day in July 1666: it seemed to be a fearsome battle out in the English channel and his comment was
'Here was a glorious prospect of 2 fleets, drawn up in such order as perhaps never observed on the sea before, for here every ship fought single so that valour was not oppressed, nor could cowards well avoid fighting. The English shouted for joy that they had…. the opportunity to try it out with the Hogens (the Dutch) on equal terms'
He is mentioned briefly in a book 'The Island Nation: A history of Britain and the sea' for his sailing to London and back exploit. It clearly caught the public imagination and attention at that time.  He also voyaged on HMS Antelope
And well that is it. Slim pickings indeed.  I haven't given up hope yet but it isn't looking good at the moment. Still, a mystery, an enigma to solve and I like that.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Captain Jeremy Roche RN

This question piqued my curiosity in the 'Dinghy Cruising Journal' that has just dropped through my letter box.

"Have you ever heard of Captain Jeremy Roche RN who, in 1677, sailed a small open boat from Plymouth to London and back?"

Ha!  I sense some Internet research coming on....who was this mad RN Captain?  It nearly killed me sailing Arwen to Salcombe and back a couple of years ago. London...and back again?  Was he a fool? An extraordinarily skilled seaman? What was it about him?

I know not but I sure do intend finding out and I can't wait until the next quarterly edition when they promise to reveal all then.....way too long a wait.......I mean is this a potential Easter holiday trip for me and Arwen; could we do London and back again in two weeks?

Me thinks not ( I suspect it will need a couple more days than that !!!!!!!!) but I will have fun finding our how one Capt'n Jeremy Roche did it and I will share my findings on the blog in due course. Doesn't one just love a mystery!


The Dinghy Cruising Association publish a quarterly journal of dinghy cruises carried out by members, technical articles about dinghy cruising etc. It is a well written, well edited and professional looking glossy journal. A source of information and inspiration along the lines of Steve and his voyages in Spartina, it is well worth joining the DCA just for this.
Go to

copyright The Dinghy Cruising Association website: 'crossing the saltings'

Monday 8 October 2012

Welsford Navigator Arwen and her Youtube account

Just been doing the analysis of my You tube account. The stat's go like this:

  • 23,188 views of my channel since March 2009
  • 25 favourites added
  • Top geographies are: USA, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand
  • 94% of viewers are male
The most watched clip with over 10,000 views is this one. The very first video I ever made. Enjoy once more my amateur efforts!

My sister won't thank me for this one! Sorry Sis!
And its funny how three years on my sail setting is still rubbish; Arwen is still untidy inside and those holes in the boom still remain unfilled. Poor seamanship, it just keeps coming back to haunt me! In the words of one of our famous actresses.....'Am I bovered?'

My family

This is a blog about Arwen. Occasionally Angharad the wee canoe or Stacey the motovespa may get a small look in. Sometimes it is my family too. And this is my 'four hundredth post'; a milestone so to speak so it seems only right that I talk about my inspiration, my family.

We celebrated Dad's 75th birthday this weekend.  We all met up at Mum and Dad's. My family split with the children staying at Grandad's and Gran's and me and 'her indoors' staying one night with one sister and one night with my other sister. Respite care for us! Even my daughter managed to tear herself away from her university social life!

Gossamer cobwebs over the bushes in my sister's garden very early in the morning

We pottered around; visited a model railway shop (Dad, two hours and you only chose one thing for your pressie....two hours man! How many times can one wander around the walls of a model shop?) Mind you he was enjoying himself and number one son and I took great pleasure in the fact that Grandad was in his element so who cares.

We all went out for a lovely meal; all the sisters, in-laws, nephews, nieces, cousins and grandparents. It was fun and I realised how lucky I am to have such a talented, fun and caring family. Five teachers and one exceptionally tolerant and patient engineer (one of my brothers-in-law; he borders on sainthood putting up with us five teachers); and then Mum and Dad. Four grand children, who as teenagers go, are amazing (although true I am biased). If everything goes according to plan we could end up with one doctor, one pilot or dentist, one conservationist and one who hasn't quite decided yet but happens to be a very talented cook!  But you never know.......plans change and what teenagers aspire to one week has often changed by another. Who cares, as long as they do their best, are kind people and find a passion for life to follow as a career.

We missed my brother and his family all living in New Zealand but we have taken some video; emailed some photos and restrained ourselves from phoning him very early in his morning (why did we do that?  Where is the fun in not waking him at an ungodly hour?)

Looking out over the fields where my sister lives

My younger sister's house faces east and so sitting out in the very early morning sun catching those first rays of warmth on the face is one of life's little pleasures; especially when you have such peaceful, stunning views. She actually has a vine growing over her front door......that is SO cool! And a stream in a field next door which gurgles away; a little valley where the early morning mists congregate and pheasants which squawk loudly at the slightest disturbance in the trees.

I think I may well try to grow these along the back of our house on a trellis.
We face south and 'her in-doors' would fancy having her own 'home made' wine

Her front view is a magical tranquil place. My Mother's garden is another great example of what an English cottage garden should be; my other sister's house is so wonderfully decorated inside. She has created such a warm family orientated ambiance with lovely little pictures, pottery and crafts from their trips. I love the interior of her house!

It makes me realise what an untidy pit me and 'her in-doors' live in; and what a jungle our garden is......but then we wouldn't have it any other way. Me and the missus, well we just don't do 'neat and tidy'!

Happy birthday Dad and thanks everyone for such a great weekend. We loved it and you all!


Sunday 7 October 2012

a john welsford navigator called

crappy?  I'm still traumatised by Arwen being referred to as 'crappy' on a vespa forum in America.
Scraped, bruised, bashed, dented, somewhat unkempt and forlorn looking; well yes maybe; built by a man with limited wood working skills or intellect; well yes maybe........................... but CRAPPY?
How can you call a welsford designed boat crappy? To coin a phrase from an unfortunately well known politician here in the UK....who are these plebs?

How can such an elegantly designed craft be called crappy?

a motovespa 125 super post mortem

Well, we have poked and prodded her; crawled underneath, over and around and we have finally taken a good long hard look at Stacey, number one son's vespa project since her return form a motocycle garage.

So here we go:
  • the throttle cable is wrong in the headset and will have to come out which means removing the headlight unit. it seems that the cable pulley turns over itself leading to the very disconcerting incident this evening when she got stuck over revving; fortunately out of gear.
  • the gear cables need to be switched over at the rear and we have ordered a cable adjuster third hand tool to help us achieve this with out a serious amount of cussing. Thank heavens for ebay.
  • the numbers on the handlebar to show the gear selection points have to go and we have both agreed that little painted lines and dots would be far more attractive. The problem is how to peel off those self adhesive numbers without taking off the paint!
  • we need to somehow find a way of dampening the vibration of the rear number plate unit; it sounds awful and looks grim and we haven't even engaged the gears yet
  • we will need to drop the engine again so that we can replace the little bung that goes in the top of the clutch plate tube so that oil doesn't spurt out everywhere
  • we have to back trace why the rear brake light wont come on when the brake foot pedal is pressed
  • putting a new piece of card covered in duct tape over the horribly butchered arch shaped hole in the lower leg shield
Sorting the cabling is a minor matter and will take around an hour of work. The numbers, if all goes well, probably the same length of time. The devising a solution to vibrating number plates - well that is down to cups of coffee and ingenuity and an inspirational brain wave or two. Could be minutes. Could be weeks!
The rear brake light? Well if God was smiling on me and she does do that occasionally I think, then it will be just a wire that has come loose. The starting point is to very carefully drop the brake foot pedal plate and see in the back. I could have the wires the wrong way around too! 
The leg shield cover - 20 minutes.

So I think maybe, with just a little luck, we are looking at a day's work.
let's hope so. It has been such a saga. One I would rather not have to take into 2013!


Saturday 6 October 2012

It's sad but I guess everyone is entitled to an opinion

even if it is an uneducated one! I guess that is the price of freedom of speech. I mean will you have a look at this

I mean I don't mind about the comments on the vespa but the insults to Arwen. Shameful! How could they? How mortally offensive. I think I need a lie down!

As usual the guys on the smallframe proboards forum and the vespa club of Gt. Britain forums have been stars - patient and forgiving and immensely good humoured. The mechanic we gave the scoot to for the last few bits and pieces did botch up the gears and got them the wrong way round. Easily fixed.  The engine number and frame number show a 1966/67 model but it didn't get registered and used until around 1971 according to the original documents we have so that explains the number plate as well. And yes lets face it we've made mistakes but then we knew diddy d about vespas but at least we gave it a go and we know heaps more now than we did a year ago.  Same with building Arwen.

Sadly I think that lot above on that forum (apart from the second person who was fair and kind - thank you sir)  come from across the pond. A pity they don't have the manners, intelligence, good humour, wit and kindness of their boat building brethren over there who have never ceased to amaze me with their creativity, knowledge, manners and enthusiasm for all things nautical, however they may look. Maybe they could take lessons from Wayne, Joel and Steve!

In the meantime we'll go back to our two heaps of junk and continue working on them, gaining immense pleasure as we do so. The best kind of learning is from making mistakes and frankly as long as we are happy with what we have produced and as long as we make it safe  and we use it wisely so that we cause no harm to others then who cares about the opinions of some unenlightened people.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Arwen will have her first refit after five years sailing - new sealant on masts and spars; a new paint inside and out. Some new wooden ash blocks as well. Stacey the motovespa will get her gears and numbering sorted; she'll have the big hole in the legshield sorted out and we will have rescued her engine and restored it from the awful state it was in. We'll keep them both and derive much pleasure form them. When son has finished with the vespa I will strip her down again and rebuild her perfectly with help from our forum members who really know their stuff.



Thursday 4 October 2012

My dad...

was 75 this week. Happy birthday Dad. He's sharper minded than me and has lost none of that innate engineering ability of his. My mum is still feisty and sharp too.Both could still give us kids the run around and  I love them both dearly even if I don't get to see them very often. But then they have four children, three of whom are teachers who work average 60 hr weeks - what did they expect! Nuff said. (With my missus and my brother in law that makes five teachers - you really have to feel sorry for our kids don't you!)

Happy birthday Dad! Model railway shop here we come!

Mum, Dad and number one son when Arwen was launched five years ago!
FIVE years...where has the time gone?