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 28 December 2013

Whilst studying some photographs......

In the yahoo folders, I discovered a number of things which I may need to alter on Arwen. There is no doubt that my mast seems wrong. The sheave box is definitely in the wrong place and I will need to dig out the ans to check but it does seem around 10" lower than everyone else's. this would explain why trying to tighten the luff using the down haul is such a problem and why there seems to be a gap between the luff and the mast.

On the boomkin out back, I think I will replace the current eye arrangement with a metal screw in eye that can be repositioned to face the transom. It will mean the mizzen sheet leads right back to the transom without any turns in it. Less friction must be a good thing.

The down haul is attached to the top of the deck to one side of the mast......a roller arrangement and the halyard comes through a hole in the coaming or is tied to a cleat attached to the inside of the coaming. I actually think I prefer my down through the deck arrangement but I will take another look at it.

I think the top boom is too heavy and I need to taper it and shave some weight off it without losing the stiffness. Again I can take a look at the plans. The length is right and the width at one end is right but I didn't bother to taper it and I think doing so will help enormously.

I like the way some nav owners have drilled a series of circular holes insets of threes along the bottom edge of the internal coamings. Here they have tied on fenders, stored oars etc and actually it is a clever idea. So I will see what it might look like on Arwen. It would mean re varnishing the coaming but then it does need doing anyway.

I need to redo the reeling ties as well. A recent outing in which I had to double reef demonstrated that they were slightly too lengthening them will make life easier afloat.

Someone has made two uprights that slot into the mast holes against which the mast and booms can be tied during transport.....a far better arrangement than the one I have now.  Someone in Sweden had made lovely wooden slatted floor bases out of ash which looked stunning and practical.

I need to alter the lazy jacks. I need a triangular piece at the bottom of the sail either side so that more of the sail is caught between the two lazy jacks as it collapses down.  In the meantime, some people have put a topping lift on the mizzen boom as well and I need to alter the lazy jack there so that it does both functions.

Some people have used halyard organisers to guide ropes back to the cockpit....wooden pieces with holes drilled I which are attached to the small sides running either isle of the centre case.

Thursday 26 December 2013

Windy gizmo

I got given a very thoughtful pressie at Christmas.......a windy anemometer. Bright yellow and protected by a thick rubber bumper it is cheap and cheerful but really works. Excellent value for money and I'm thrilled. I've been looking for one for ages and this is just right. Photos and a better review to follow when I can get out on the water again but it has simple controls and settings and wind speed in knots with Beaufort scale. Perfect and really thoughtful.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

what the difference a day can make

the gale is blown out. What a difference a day can make.

Hidden away in a corner of Sutton Harbour marina lies this little gem

the skies clear for a brief period

stormy times ahead

I have never seen it so rough. The winds were howling through the rigging. Screaming would be a better adjective. That metallic tinkling sound as lines rattle against metal masts.   
Even in Queen Annes Battery marina, boats tossed slightly as the currents found their way through the normally impenetrable outer wall. And what waves! I cannot ever recall seeing waves being driven down that narrow area of the barbican before.
Angry, foaming, grey waves with bright white foam tops......white horses on a mega scale! They piled up against the lock gate of the Sutton harbour entrance. No one in their  right mind would have attempted an exit or entry through those narrow lock gates.
At the harbour masters pontoon, the harbour launches rose and fell great heights, secured fore and aft. Even the pontoon was rising up and down on its steel pilings.

And this was the sheltered area! We drove around onto the hoe. No one was trying to walk along the hoe foreshore road. You'd have needed to be insane.
The breakwater was hidden under a maelstrom of malevolent breakers,  spume rising high in the air and being whisked shoreward. The sound was a boiling mass of white caps. Waves crashed against the base of the hoe, white water breaking high over the restaurants at the waters edge. It was genuinely quite impressive and awe inspiring. Nature's fury at its best.


And we have more to come. Christmas travel plans disrupted, many homes without power......flood warnings out everywhere. Railway travel severely restricted. I'm glad we live on a north facing hillside!!!

My thoughts and prayers and best wishes go to all those travelling, to those affected by the weather......take care in your Christmas journeys. And thank you to all our emergency services, from the fire brigade to the RNLI, from Police to the AA and RAC, from council workers, to environment agency and electricity board workers.....and those struggling to get our railways moving again. Thank you all for keeping us safe this Christmas


Sunday 22 December 2013

I saw three ships come sailing in

 I saw three ship come sailing in,
on Christmas day on Christmas day.
I saw three ship come sailing in,
on Christmas Day in the morning.

And what was in those ships all three?
on Christmas day on Christmas day.
And what was in those ships all three?
on Christmas Day in the morning.

Our Saviour Christ and His lady,
on Christmas day on Christmas day.
Our Saviour Christ and His lady,
on Christmas Day in the morning.

And where they sailed those ships all three?
on Christmas day on Christmas day.
And where they sailed those ships all three?
on Christmas Day in the morning.

All they sailed in to Bethlehem,
on Christmas day on Christmas day.
All they sailed in to Bethlehem,
on Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the bells on earth shall ring,
on Christmas day on Christmas day.
And all the bells on earth shall ring,
on Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the angels in heaven shall sing,
on Christmas day on Christmas day.
And all the the angels in heaven shall sing,
on Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the souls on earth shall sing,
on Christmas day on Christmas day.
And all the souls on earth shall sing,
on Christmas Day in the morning.

And let us all rejoice again,
on Christmas day on Christmas day.
And let us all rejoice again,
on Christmas Dayr in the morning.

One of my favourites......bound to be really for a sailor. It was a traditional folk song performed by wandering minstrels. The original version of the carol, the Three Ships were the ones taking the supposed skulls of the wise men to Cologne cathedral in Germany. However, there have been many different sets of lyrics associated with this carol and the most common lyrics today talk about Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem.

Some say it dates from medieval times. i suspect that three ships approaching Bethlehem would give new meaning to the phrase 'sea level rise'. i read somewhere that one thought might be that actually it refers to 'ships of the desert.........camels'. Well it would make more sense wouldn't it.

I don't know what kind of ships were around at the time of the birth of Jesus. I read in one blog elsewhere that there is a boat called 'the Jesus boat'. Discover near the Sea of Galilee it has been dated to the time of Christ and was probably used by fishermen on the lake. Romans, Greeks, Phoenicians and many more certainly traded around the Mediterranean shores and lets not forget the Egyptians either. Grain, ceramics, stone, dyes and wine were cargoes of value carried around in large boats with oars and sail.

Rumour also has it that the lyrics are associated with Cornwall and Glastonbury, places both dear to my heart and very co one to home. Both places were the ancient seats of the Celtic tribes in the west of our country. It is claimed that Jesus visited this part of our country and walked along the pilgrims route to Winchester .......along the very ancient tin trade route. My knowledge of history is insufficiently good enough to even begin to verify this assertion. Cornish folklore talks of when Jesus came to Cornwall. St Joseph of Arimathea was a tin man, making his money trading the precious metal between the Mediterranean lands and Cornwall. He made voyages to Britain in his own ships bringing with him on one occasion baby Jesus and his mother Mary. Landed at St Michael's Mount  Penzance bay so legends say!

Other oral legends tell that when the Romans invaded Palestine and the Holy lands, Joseph with the three Mary's sailed to the south of France with the chalice that caught he blood of Christ as he was crucified and then travelled throughout Europe preaching. In this oral tradition the here shi would be the three Mary's bearing the gospels.

Saturday 21 December 2013

A new navigator blog

Written by John can be found at

Saturday 30 November 2013

The old gaffers association of Western Australia and their 'C' fleet

Clearly had a very good weekend. Some fantastic boats. Enjoy.


Tuesday 26 November 2013

Bits and bobs

I have been thinking about making a catering box as a winter project. A quick Internet trawl found this example which I quite like. I could sketch it out and work out dimensions and build it from my scrap ply I store in he garage. I'd want it hold everything...plates, owls, mugs, trangia stove and fuel, washing up kit, tins of food etc etc. I'd want it to sit in the port front side of the cockpit. I've got some tapes already in place for holding the extra ballast water jerrycans I sometimes use. So those could hold it in place.

Below the box photos are some of boat tents. The other thing that occupies my mind!!

And last but not latest rough effort at mastering the iPad art package. It isn't going too well....this mastery thing is it! Still I have the rest of my life to master it!!


Sunday 24 November 2013

Weather helm part 2

Nov 2013
Weather helm on your tiller

I have posted on weather helm on Arwen before but recently there has been a discussion on the JW forum and as always, I come away learning loads of new things. It is an amazing forum with some real wisdom and experience in it.

I didn't realise that adjusting the rake of the mast for'ard or aft will affect weather helm. I knew that not having the rudder fully down would, so I am up on something. With mizzen sheeted in hard, as Joel points out, his 'Ellie' has a slight weather helm and with mizzen half way out, helm appears to be neutral.

Robert sails with the tiller lashed in self steering most of the time and he notes that he has to keep the boat balanced at all times using mizzen, crew weight and the centreboard to achieve this balance.  On a beam reach he has the centreboard half way up and the stronger the wind, the more He needs to raise the board. On a broad reach He raises the board almost all the way. But even when close hauled, He doesn't have the board all the way down unless the wind is less than 10 knots. "then try lashing the tiller just a tad to windward of the centreline (i.e., to induce just a bit of lee helm) and then use only the mizzen, the centreboard and your body weight/crew weight to balance the helm of the boat, in that order". Sounds interesting and I've made a note to give this a go next time Arwen and I are out and about on the sound.

Robert makes another well thought out point "But now that I look back, I realize that self-steering taught me things about my boat that I may never have learned otherwise or at least not as quickly and thoroughly. So, maybe just look at it as a learning tool, if nothing else". Wise words indeed. Thanks Robert.

Others observed that the jib halyard is tight; that the mast stays are tight and that jib head stay is tight too. That will have a profound effect on reducing weather helm as well.

John, as always, had pearls of wisdom. "The mast can be raked forward a little, and if it is a yawl rigged boat the mizzen can be eased a little . Another thing to try is to move the crew weight back and forward and see what difference that will make. Sail trim can make a big difference as well, check that the slot between the mainsail and the leach ( after edge) of the jib is adequate to let the air gathered by the jib pass through and around the back of the mainsail, if it is backwinding the mainsail then move the jib sheet turning block aft until it is backwinding the mainsail only very very slightly and that at the bottom forward corner of the mainsail."

Tuesday 19 November 2013

using Youtube

I have been off ill with a sickness bug, probably caught off one of my loveable tutor group - thanks guys!

Whilst resting on the sofa with bucket at side in what my wife calls 'typical wimpy guy mode' (somewhat harsh a judgement I feel...I mean how many times can I demonstrate genuine illness in a bucket before she accepts I'M ILL!!?).....I thought I'd take a look at my YouTube channel page 'Plymouthwelshboy'. I've never bothered to look at the analytics before. Anyway cut a long story short - I have 97 videos on my channel - 97! Amazing! None of them of any quality whatsoever - sad waste of time! But I like making them as a record of my voyages big and small so there!

There have been nearly 30,000 viewings of my videos (and no Missus - they aren't all me viewing them....before you utter the judgement!!).

Most are viewed on YouTube; very few get any likes or dislikes I guess they are seen by a very discerning viewer or two (thanks guys).

I suspect I make them too long - most people can only sneak 5 mins max - I make them up to 12 mins long. They often just show Arwen pottering around and with no high action shots I guess they are a little boring. I could liven them up by doing 'hiking out' over the gunnel's attached only to a piece of string; or by filming myself running for'ard around the mast whilst sailing reefed in a force 6. I could try climbing the mast , GoPro in hand to get a downward looking perspective or better still film a genuine capsize in the middle of the fairway just on Devils Point bend as HMS Bulwark comes around the corner.

All these would I am sure add some much needed adrenaline to the films. Alas, I am getting too old and I have no video editing skills either. When I have time I will try and create a masterpiece video of Arwen's best sailing bits along with a semi useful commentary and well chosen music.

In the meantime if you need a cure for late night insomnia search for 'plymouthwelshboy' in the YouTube search bar. Guaranteed to send you to sleep!!

Now can I get to the bathroom in time?



Monday 18 November 2013

BBC Britain and the Sea

An interesting programme, easy going with some nice shots of an old sailing boat. It gave a nice overview of my home sailing waters.


Monday 11 November 2013

Fiddly bits and pieces

The outboard tightening screws jammed tight. I mean really tight. WD40 failed to shift them. When all else fails I am a great believer in screwdriver, hammer and brute force. Eventually they shifted but it took 20 minutes. The salt from previous trips seemed to have welded them tight. Lesson learned, liberal doses of marine grease have been applied and all works smoothly.

The new centreboard block and tackle worked smoothly as well. I was pleased with it. The new roller rolled smoothly. All is hunky dory again.

part of the fun is the anticipation and preparation before departure. An opportunity to check rigging, sort out halyards and give everything the once over; especially as poor Arwen is stored on the driveway under a tarpaulin!


Saturday 9 November 2013

Looking good for tomorrow

I wasn't able to get out today but I did manage to snatch a few minutes to swap over the centreboard tackle to the new wooden homemade blocks. As I feared the double block was five mm too big to fit down between the centreboard casing and so I have installed the new triple wooden block and kept the old grey 'plastic' looking Barton block. It will do and the new natural looking hemp rope looks great.

Tomorrow the tide is high tide around 9 ish and winds from the north west around 5  - 6 knots with gusts to 8 knots. The weather is set to be sunny until around 10 ish and then it will gradually cloud over. If I come off the water before 2.30 pm I should avoid the predicted showers and downpours. It will be an opportunity to test the new centreboard tackle and I will do some coming alongside and mooring on spare buoys practice. I may pop over to Cawsand beach as well.

I am looking forward to it. It's been a tough week.


Thursday 31 October 2013

rollers and centreboard tackle update

fixing the roller has cost £15.00 and took ten minutes. A frustrating expense.


the old roller - the one plastic insert had shattered; the other had managed to squeeze itself well inside

The star washer was a bit tricky but then I remembered an old trick - taking a socket the same diameter and putting a clamp on the rear end to stop the pin from sliding out the other end, it was a simple matter to tap on the star washer.

Alas, despite several intensive searches I was unable to find a similar smaller roller but a spare castor roller I had has sufficed.

In the meantime the block/tackle set up for the centreboard is now complete.

 I've put on some simple ply washers to fill the gaps where I managed to mis-measure (see previous post) and now they seem to work fine. My only concern now is that the double block fits down inside the centreboard casing!!! Now given my mathematical inabilities who wants to take a bet on it fitting well?


Repairing the trailer

Would have gone sailing today but discovered that the rear trailer v roller is in worse state that first realised. The plastic inserts either end had shattered but the hairline cracks hadn't shown up on initial inspection. Only when I dropped it on my foot by accident last night did I discover the fractures......several of the plastic not my foot.......although it was heavy enough to hurt!

So it's off to Marine Bazaar in the hope that they have a 7" roller v shape. With a bit of luck the other parts should arrive from trailer trek today as well which means I can refit the offending roller structure today or tomorrow. I am not happy about securing it with a star press washer affair but I have no choice. I can't get a roller spindle long enough that has split pins either end. Infuriating. Neither can I drill through the old spindle I have. Doubly infuriating.

The roller has done well with fairness. It is six years old, constantly immersed in salt water and takes the whole weight of the boat initially on winching until it tips downwards onto the remaining rollers. So there has been plenty of stress on it over the years.

I'll do a post on fitting it sometime this weekend.


Thor and Greenwich

Funny coincidence
Wrote a post about Greenwich. Went to see the new Thor movie in evening. Can't say I liked what they did to Greenwich but it would have been awesome to have seen them filming it there. I'm a bit of a 'marvel' fan....sad but true!


The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich

Greenwich is London's hidden gem. Across on the south bank it is a mixture of elegant buildings housing the Royal Naval college; the maritime museum and then the Royal Park with the Royal Observatory. Sadly the park was closed and that is the only access to the observatory. the high winds had damaged trees and heath and safety gurus were taking no chances; and whilst I understand this.......I am gutted. I was so looking forward to the Prime Meridian, Harrison's clocks and the observatory. Still, there is another excuse for going up to London next year.

I'm not sure what to make of the Maritime museum. Again, it wasn't what I was expecting. I sort of wandered around and had done everything within two hours. I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong....but I was left with a nagging feeling 'is this it?'

Am I expecting too much? Am I missing out on things in my search for perfection I forget to enjoy what is there? Things to ponder on.

ah...before us the masts of the Cutty sark

The Royal Naval college at Greenwich

Across the water, Canary Wharf...and 'the storm'!

The National Maritime Museum

All the photos below are copyrighted to the Maritime Museum

I think this is an Enterprise dinghy

 Another fine collection of figureheads

this is King Frederick's Royal Barge

the carving and gold leaf work is truly stunning craftsmanship

and the marquetry on this rudder is exquisite

the facial expression on these lions - all hand carved

The front end of the Royal barge

an elegant craft built for speed

there were many fine models

showing the design of many fine ships

I found this part of the collection fascinating

a portrait miniature of Lady Emma Hamilton
she was a beauty

a note from Nelson to Emma: copyright the maritime museum

this was the uniform worn by Nelson when he was shot
The ball hole can be seen just below the epaulette on his left shoulder

a wall mural showing the launch of another navy frigate

and an oil painting depicting a similar launch

this is a half tonne model of the King George V

a half tonne

the catapult plane
Pilots would have to ditch and then be recovered
I'm not sure what their survival rates were like