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

Monday 31 December 2012

Don't hold your breath but.........

It is still looking good. And good news too QAB are allowing me to use the north slipway as there is no lifting out tomorrow. This means that I can come off the water at any point during the day.
Fingers crossed.......



Ssshhhh! There is just a glimmer, the merest of glimmers; a chance break in the awful weather when maybe, just maybe, Arwen and I might be able to shake off the Christmas slumbers tomorrow with a New Year's Day sail.

Ssshhhhh! Don't speak about it too loudly or the nasty weather gremlins will hear and put the carbouche on whispered plans.  The tide is a massive spring 5.45m at around 8.30 ish. The winds will be 12 - 15 knots with gusts of 26 knots possible so reefing will be they order of the day. The rain, well it may just hold off long enough.

Ssshhhhh! It's the kind of thing dreams are made of................ssshhhhh! Don't let the bad weather gremlins hear us

Happy New Year everyone
Steve and Arwen

Thursday 27 December 2012

Captain Roch part 2

I believe we left the adventuring Captain Roch at Cowes on the Isle of Wight on the 25th July 1677. You will remember that he was sailing a small open boat from Plymouth to London via the south coast and up along the Thames estuary.

Anyway on the 26th with fair west by north winds, they left Cowes, but this time with an additional passenger, a Frenchman. The brisk winds reaching almost gale force at times from the west pushed them along some 20 leagues until they were off beachy head. However, sailing all through the it saw the good Captain off Rye where a severe thunderstorm soaked them all to the skin. Improving conditions saw a change of heart and so they made for Dover arriving at 4 pm.

On the 28th they departed Dover pier and on gale force winds hey reached the north foreland at midday; her the shifting winds forced them to anchor off Reculver.

I have to say that he article from which this information is derived in the dinghy cruising association  winter 2012 journal is quite illuminating. It is well written by Keith Muscott.  I haven't been able to work out exactly what length boat Roch sailed; details seem to be scant. There was some mention, somewhere, I recollect, that the length was 18" but I suspect I am wrong on that. Irrespective of that, the distances he achieved in a small open boat do seem to be genuinely quite impressive, especially given the weather conditions that seemed to prevail.

Sunday 29th an attempt to get over the flats on a flood with south west winds failed; the tide fell sooner than expected and so Roch was forced to anchor. On the first of the return flood with the wind blowing hard from the SW and the seas rough, Roch managed to make the Isle of Sheppey just before nightfall. He then made into the small port of Hope just before midnight.

The following morning at break of day he made for Gravesend but the increasing WNW winds forced him to anchor two miles below the port entrance where they lay uneasy for many an hour; unable to land due to the steep muddy banks either side. Eventually under reefer sail he was able to reach Barking creek. It wasn't until noon on the 31st that Roch could depart the creek into the main river and on the ninety hour he reached London Bridge.

Captain Roch departed Plymouth on Friday 20th and he arrived in London on 31st some 11 days later. He had sailed much of the south coast, around the Kent peninsula and up he Thames.

This sounds to me like a really worthwhile effort for Arwen. Well perhaps a trip to Weymouth?
Everyone have a very happy, merry Christmas and new year


Saturday 22 December 2012

"Stacey" returns with a vengeance

Although this blog is about Arwen, "Stacey"  my son's 1971 motovespa restoration gets a look in.

"Stacey" is finally finished. Yes you did read right.......she's finished.

The throttle now works; it has spring in it returning to its zero position when released.
The speedo works. Originally the end wasn't seated properly and so the cable kept coming loose.
 The gears now work and select correctly and actually go in the right order and in the right direction. Remember the saga of them being in wrong way round?
The engine rattle has gone and the sticky throttle cable is no more! We had missed one or two top hats on the cables and it made all the difference.
The brake lights work correctly.
The engine sounds sweet.

And so she's finished.

 Two years and many heart breaks on the way; we have gone from this to the last photo

remember this... the first photo of "Stacey" outside her new home
into the garage she went and so the strip down began
some things took a little fathoming out
her engine went from this to .......this
a new paint job was next
and then it was back to the reassembly process
and finally she took shape
I'd like to say we have managed to do this all ourselves but that would be untrue. the people on the smallframes forum have been saviours so many times. They know who they are.........thanks guys!
Our school caretaker, who is a vespa fan and such a source of inspiration....cheers bud! To my design tech colleague who rescued us at the start - thank you!
And finally, well here is a Christmas story. We were demoralised; baffled; no idea where to turn. we had reached the end. the scooter had beaten us; gears were wrong way round; the speedo didn't work and......and.....and........well you get the picture. We'd been to garages who charged us lots of money and yet did things wrong. Who can forget the kill switch sounding the horn and the horn switch killing the engine?
And just as we were giving up and losing the faith......there came a whisper out of the west. Of a wise man; a man who knew vespas; a magician who could fix things. And lo it came to pass that we journeyed to find this wise man whose star setted over the west of the city.
And he did look at 'Stacey'  and his eyebrows did raiseth....several times....but it was a measure of this wise man that he merely murmured 'well done and remember you don't know what you don't know'. We explained our plight and did make him understand that we could wait for eternity until he had time to look at our motovespa but he merely said he'd look and get back to us.
Time passeth and we heard little; a whisper on the wind that the cables were too long. And then a phone call, all had been put right; 'Stacey' was ready.
To our guardian angel from the west of our fair city; you know who you are......thank you for rescuing us; for giving up so much time to put so many fiddly things right; for taking time away from your young family to help us. Our wise man has turned out to be the Jedi of the scooter kingdom...our 'Yoda'! We cannot begin to put into words sufficient thanks to him.
Stacey is finished and now we have to do our CBT's. We'll let you know how we get on in the new year. In the meantime, everyone have a very merry Christmas and a lovely start to the new year.
Steve, Arwen, Stacey and number one son.


Thursday 20 December 2012

Captain Jeremy Roch and his small boat voyage from Plymouth to London

Some time ago I promised that I would give an update on my post about the voyage of the Neptune by captain Jeremy  Roch You will remember that this was the gentleman who sailed a small boat from Plymouth along the coast and up the channel and into the Thames estuary and then on up to London. This was done in 1677. Now I only learnt about this gentleman as a result of reading something in the dinghy cruising association magazine; which I have repeated recommended to anyone interested in small boats and dinghy cruising.  Anyway I do not intend to divulge all the article that has just appeared on Jeremy Roch in the most recent edition. People will have to join the DCA and get the copy. But I thought I might share a little of what he did!
Well it would appear that Captain Roch decided to save money having been called to London by deciding to go by sea!  Having fitted his boat with all that he required for such a voyage he was dismayed to discover that those who originally had agreed to sail with him withdrew. So resolved to go single handed, he must have been somewhat pleased to have been asked by a young boy if he could seek passage and help crew the boat.
Thus on 20th July 1677, with one boy and a dog, Roch set sail on a southerly wind from Plymouth sound for bigbury bay where he anchored for the night. Next day he set sail for Salcombe where he became becalmed but sought out friends and had a good meal!
Sunday 22nd saw Roch sail on a NE wind towards Dartmouth where once again he became becalmed just outside the river mouth. However, by nightfall he'd been carried along the coast towards Torbay where they anchored for the night. With an early departure on the Monday, the crew sails towards Portland, stopping to shoot seabirds for a while. They anchored at sunset three leagues west of Portland. Another early start  saw them beat the notorious Portland races and crept around into Weymouth, calling in for a few hours for ale and a meal! Leaving Weymouth almost in the dark they made for the bay of swanage where they anchored for the night.

So let me see.......Plymouth to the bay of swanage on a small boat just a little larger than Arwen in four days?  I guess so...........I made Salcombe in a day a few years ago.

On the 25th, they passed the needles on the Isle of Wight around 3pm due to a brisk WNW wind; sheltering in Cowes overnight and on land too in a boarding house. Roch picked a good room since according to his log a jolly crew of French ladies arrived in the next chamber and lulled him into a sweet sleep with music, dancing and singing!   On the 26th Roch took on board a Frenchman seeking passage; who it would appear did little except devour the captain's meat and wine. Sailing over 20 leagues on gale force WSW winds, he passed beachy head. I am unclear where he anchored if at all.............but his log says he was off Rye at sunrise and with improving weather he made for Dover arriving at 4pm.

I am of course only giving a precise here. Roch's log is written in old English and actually describes more of his journey; making references to shoals, sandbanks etc on his way. What fascinates me is that he made Plymouth to Dover in a week in a small open boat.
I'll finish the summary of his journey over the weekend. In the meantime I marvel at his seamanship and ambition and wonder, just wonder, whether me and Arwen could manage, perhaps, this summer a trip from Plymouth to let's say Weymouth?

Now let me see. Day one to Salcombe; day two to Torquay;  day three to Exmouth and day four around Portland to Weymouth?
Now how would I get Arwen back to Plymouth then?


Friday 14 December 2012

Playing with the iPad

I've been playing with the iPad. I will do a blog over Christmas about apps for sailors but in the meantime I have been playing with some simple educational apps. One I like is 'Popplet'. it's a simple mind mapping program which allows you to combine text and images. I've just spent 10 minutes putting this simple popplet together. It is very intuitive to use and I could some of my younger students really liking it.

Over the next weeks I will trawl the apps for sailors and see what they are like. In the meantime the popplet should be below as a jpeg


Sunday 9 December 2012

From my iPad

I have secumbed to new technology. This being sent from my iPad. And this is a picture of me that is a once only to be seen. Me in a dinner jacket at a James Bond theme night. For those of you with a delicate disposition, look away now!


Monday 3 December 2012

classic yacht TV

I discovered this little gem via Gavin's 'intheboatshed' website (which  you can access on the menu bar somewhere on the right hand side of this post).
You can access Classic yacht TV at Gavin's site which is........

Enjoy. Some nice quirky films of bigger boats but sailing a classic is sailing a classic whether it be 60' or only 14' 6"!


languishing in the doldrums!

I’ve been wondering about the joys of owning a small trailer sailor boat! Only I have forgotten what it is like to use one. Mine languishes forlornly on the drive, hoping her owner will take her for one last sail this year.

Moray McPhail, of Classic Boats once posed this conundrum:  ‘Why do I want a boat?

He mused that maybe answers should include:

·         To go sailing in

·         To potter around fixing things

·         To anchor, sit and read on

·         To go for an overnight camping trip on

·         To meet interesting people

·         To challenge oneself in adverse conditions

·         To get away from it all

·         To test one’s patience, fortitude, skill etc

I am sure there are many more reasons! Sadly I think I have forgotten them! I have a dim hazy recollection that owning a small sail boat demanded a set of skills that were unique. You had to know about tides, wind patterns, weather lore, passage planning; be able to read the rips and currents; interpret the channel bouyage; and know the quirkiness of your boat!

You had worked out things like weather helm; what to do with the mizzen when you tacked; and how to use the jib to turn more speedily through a tack. Your skill shone through when you could sail upwind in the lightest of summer breezes when all other boats lay idle, drifting in a malaise!

And so I wait. I wait for a weekend where I won’t work all day Sunday trying to catch up on the work I failed to complete that previous week. I wait for a spell of dry weather when the nation isn’t flooded! I wait for one of those crisp winter days when the sun shines; there is just enough breeze and no sign of rain; when the tides fall just right on a neap so that there isn’t a race back to the launch ramp to pull out Arwen before she is beached for two hours at low tide below where the ramp ends abruptly.

 I am extremely lucky. I own a boat. I own a Welsford boat. I built her myself and I know every plank, epoxy blob, fitting and creak! I know how she never sits properly on her trailer; how her sails always set with a crease which never disappears despite my best efforts. I know that some days she flies like the furies!

I have a dim recollection that this may have been the last time I sailed in Arwen this year with me good old Dad! we sailed around to the Yealm and back.

Christmas holidays. Please, please, please let there be a weather lull when tides and weather falls right. Arwen and I need to escape onto the water. We need space, and horizons to aim for; we need to feel the wind across our faces!