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 29 April 2013

Is 'cosmetic' appearance important?

I keep having this internal debate in my goes like this......m
My dad, god bless him, would say " if a job is worth doing then it is worth doing well". Followed by " a craftsman takes pride in his work".

Now dad is a perfectionist and actually in my career I have definitely inherited that trait. Perfectionism, doing it well, putting the time in to develop expertise etc.

However, on Arwen.........well those traits don't always materialise.........but should they?
Take the blocks I put on yesterday for holding the jib cleats at a better angle off the coaming.
They do the job.  I did use mahogany off cuts. I did give them a lick of varnish.....'lick' being the key word here.
Are they both equal! Possibly not but then neither are the tufnol cleats! Did I  round over the edges....yes I did. Are they securely attached......well I did my best and time will tell.

Do they look aesthetically pleasing.......well no!  They stick out and I can't quite put my finger on it but they just don't look right.  So maybe this is a matter of function over form. Maybe they will 'grow' on me over time.

What is certain is the jib sheet is now much easier to clip in and out with just a sharp downward tug. And the mahogany is from sustainable sources and that is important to me. Maybe I rushed them a little and added them as an after thought; a sort of bolt on..........maybe that is what's troubling me


Friday 26 April 2013

Some simple adaptations

A few weeks ago, I altered the rear cleat position for the mizzen sheet. I cut a mahogany block from some old scrap timber I had lying around and angled it slightly along one face so that when offered up to the back coaming it lay slightly angled downwards. Screwed into the coaming, the cleat was added.
I have to say it works; and works well indeed. Not pretty but definitely functional. No more scrabbling around to secure the mizzen sheet; just one sharp tug downwards does the job. Wonderful.

So now I have to do the same with the jib side cleats. Now when solo sailing, I just let the jib sheets pass through the coaming hole and down to the rear of the centre case top. Here one of them passes through a huge deck loop before being tied to the other jib sheet. In this way, I never lose a jib sheet and they are easily jammed into the cleat on the aft end of the centreboard case cover.

However with crew in the boat, it has been necessary to part the sheets and the crew fumbles to try and secure it low down to their side. These new blocks should stop that from happening. However, I need to make them low profile one so that they don't dig into the crew's ribs or get accidentally knocked off the coaming by an over vigorous crew member.

I'll let you know how they turn out


Monday 22 April 2013

Some video clips

Showing welsford navigators and various other boats at 



A short video of Saturday's trip

It has one or two errors in it.....sorry. Still trying to get used to using iPad apps such as reel director. Also, I discovered from my log it was Arwen's second sail of 2013

Anyway, hope you get some enjoyment from it


Sunday 21 April 2013

The final part

By now it was cloudy, chilly and a nasty wind was picking up. We turned to sail back down the Tamar. That fickle wind had moved due south and so it stayed all the way down the river, which happens to run almost due south.  With the tide still just easing its way in and with the wind increasing in strength, we resorted to motorssailing, with two refuelling stops on the way back down, my paranoia more than an actual need to refuel!  The river entrance proved entertaining with a nasty chop developing that cut the outboard out three times in the narrowness entrance ( heart stopping moments they call those.......thank heavens we had been motorssailing and the main was still up or on the rocks of Devil's point we surely would have been)

It was good to have a shakedown cruise. Dave, as always, was excellent and superbly experienced company. Arwen, as always, was impeccably well mannered.

Bring on the summer!

Part 4

On the eastern shore, just before the bridges, is a small boat club and it was clearly a busy day. All the boats were being returned to the water having been on the hard standing during the winter months. A large hire crane slowly swung each boat up and then down into the water whilst an army of hard hatted men motored the boats out onto the narrow trot moorings that lined the eastern bank.

Sailing under the bridges was cool. Orange overalled men swarmed over the scaffolding like an army of ants and a small boat was tied up at the base of one of the massive support pillars. Optimistically called the  'safety boat' I'm not quite sure what that boat and its one man crew were supposed to do. A piece of scaffold dropped from 150 feet will hole a boat! A man falling that height, God forbid, chance really.

Clear of the bridges and we were into the huge expanse of water in the upper Tamar.  the public slip at Saltash had queues of small private fishing boats wanting to launch near to high tide at 12.30pm.  On the other bank was the jetty where the ammunition barges tie up to be loaded for the Royal Navy. The whole of the hill on the eastern side is hollowed out.......the ammunitions bunker for Devonport Dockyard!

Part 3

And my apologies. Using the iPad to post blogs has its bugs; one of which is that it doesn't like posting longer logs and the bogging screen reaches a capacity and refuses to scroll down further. Irritating and so my apologies to all.

Rounding Bull point and the two Tamar bridges hove into view. The front one is the Brunel railway bridge, over 150 years old and undergoing some repairs. It carries the main London to Penzance railway and our lifeline in the south west to the rest of the UK.  The second bridge is the road bridge linking Devon and Cornwall, which is the same age as me, 51 years old.

Part 2

We glided past devil's point where I used to go conger fishing as a teaching student. I almost lost my life there once when a rather temperamental conger I'd hooked decided attack was the best form of defence and so actually slithered up some steps to try and take chunks out of my feet at 4am one morning. With eyes the diameter of tea cup mouths and at some 7 feet long.......well you had to be there..........and it was frankly as scary as hell!

Past number one yard at the dockyard, now taken over by Stirling and son, the traditional boatbuilder whose work I admire so much, and old King Billy, the ship figurehead who has been recently given a repaint and clean and we were soon up near the ferries.

As always, crossing between the three ferries mean't switching on the motor as a safe precaution.  Timing is everything as they are chain driven ferries. You have to pick your spot, get around the back of one before either of the other two depart the shorelines. 

Passing Mt. Edgecumbe country park and the little village of Cremyll with its passenger ferry about to leave..............

The dockyards were empty, a Norwegian stealth frigate, a supply ship, a few subs. We passed close to a fuel tanker topping up the huge fuel stores on the Saltash side before sliding across the channel between the fuel barges towards Bull Point on the eastern shore, passing the new Royal Marines shore landing craft training centre. 

Going up the Tamar at long last

Finally, after what feels like an eternity, Arwen and I managed to make it out onto the water yesterday, accompanied by a very close friend Dave. And he was as glad to be out on the water as we were too!

The weather fell perfect or nearly so! A day of sunshine forecast with light winds around 5 knots from the east. As it was, clouds did close in for part of the day and the winds rose to around 12 knots making one part of the day somewhat uncomfortable.

The great thing about Dave is he's patient. Good job as it took me an hour to rig Arwen instead of my normal 35 minutes. It never ceases to amaze me how many times I forget how to rig her after a prolonged absence from the sea! In the space of 45 minutes I managed to attach the down haul the wrong way, the top boom the wrong side of the mast and two sets of parrel beads completely wrong so that they would jam on various mast cleats. Dur! But our Dave, just pottered helping assemble boomkin, rudder and various bits and pieces. A patient man is all I can say!

Once clear of the marina (a big hi to all at Queen Anne's Battery.....good to see you all again after such a long winter!), we motored into Jennycliffe Bay on the eastern side of Plymouth Sound and pointed head to wind. Surprisingly sails hoisted rapidly with only one imperfection (sail bottom wrong side of boom......again!) and off we headed with the wind behind us into the mouth of the Tamar. 

Now this is difficult to believe but this is only my second sail up the Tamar and I've never been under the bridges. Dave helmed Arwen skilfully as always, because winds were fickle. They blew from the north east around to the south and back again. Only later in the day did they start to come from a constant direction. At times he was having to pinch close to the wind in order to keep a good course. Light winds also meant at times we barely made forward progress, carried along just by the incoming neap tide. 

Monday 15 April 2013

Intheboatshed is a website run by Gavin about nautical things ...old boats and maritime heritage. It is an excellent website. I notice today that Gavin has posted about a really great little website which has some lovely video clips. Access it at 

Gavin's website is at


Sunday 14 April 2013

The saga goes on

We love Stacey, we really do! But she can be hard work at times. As we solve one problem up crops another. The throttle now doesn't stop as it should. The throttle actually twists over itself which is disconcerting. Now when we investigated this we discovered that the little lug in the headset which acts as a 'stop' has just crumbled away with age. Rats!
It is almost impossible to weld in a new lug block and it would be very expensive because its welding aluminium! However, one of the gent's on the proboards small frame forum has come up with an idea......aluminium epoxy. Didn't even know it existed. Anyway we will give it a try and will report back on how successful it is.


The Agamemnon

The Agamemnon

Was a Bucklers Hard ship. 64 guns and launched in April 1781 she was renowned as being one of Nelson's favourite ships. He served on her between 1792 and 1796 I recall and she took part in the siege of Calvin, on Corsica, where Nelson lost his  eye. She had previously fought in the War of Independence as well and then, of course at Trafalgar. She ended her days aground in the river plate in Uruguay.
And here is a little fact, when Nelson sailed her into Naples in 1793, and introduced her to the British Envoy, one Sir William Hamilton, he was to meet his mistress, one love and later mother of his daughter Horatia, one Lady Emma Hamilton. Ah!

More can be found out about Agamemnon from 

Saturday 13 April 2013

The Puckle gun

A prototype machine gun designed to fire nine bullets in succession without reloading. Designed around a revolving block, one block held round bullets to fire at Christians. The second block held square bullets to be fired at heathens. The guns were never fired and so we will never know what damage they could have inflicted. Nor have I yet found out why heathens should have square bullets fired at them. But the gun was invented by one James Puckle around the 1720's to accompany Nathaniel Uring on his expedition to the West Indies!

Friday 12 April 2013

Getting Stacey tuned to optimum

Since taking the carb off to trace an air leak, we now have to tune Stacey back to optimum performance. Since neither number one son or I have any idea what we are doing then this could take some time!


One of the things  that really amazed me the other day at Bucklers Hard was the strong connection to some ships which are in the annals of history as far as our country is concerned. In WW2, it was a base for motor torpedo boats and I'll reach more into that at a later date. But what really caught my eye in the little museum, which by the way, I thoroughly recommend, were all the ships associated with Nelson's and the battle of Trafalgar. The Agamemnon. The Euryalus. The Swiftsure. Then there was the Illustrious. These are all famous ships. Most readers will know about the Battle of Trafalgar. The end of a campaign when we British tried to stop Bonaparte from invading our fair lands. The various fleets met off Cape Trafalgar in south west Spain in a battle that lasted some five hours, saw the French and Spanish defeated and our favourite admiral killed by a sniper shot. I think from this last major sea battle, the British Navy went on to rule the waves for another hundred years.

HMS Euryalus

This was a Buckler's Hard ship. 

The Euryalus was a 36 gun ship and a Bucklers hard ship to boot. If I remember correctly she was built in 1806 or 1807 and commanded by Henry Blackwood. Trying to recall what I read at the museum (note to time buy a guide....idiot!), I don't think she actually fought at the battle but she did spend much time reporting the movements of the Franco Spanish fleet movements to Nelson at Cadiz harbour. I vaguely recall reading somewhere hat she also served as quarters for the French admiral Villeneurve after his own ship sank; I also think she may have been the flag ship of Collingwood as well after his own ship was dismasted or sunk. Euryalus went on to serve in the Mediterranean and North America and forgive me friends over the other side of the pond, but I think she took part in the destruction of Fort Washington as well......sorry guys! 

Anyway, side tracked here, sorry, since the post was meant to be about Bucklers Hard. As far as I can remember, Bucklers Hard stats with the second Duke of Montagu, John. He owned the Beaulieu estate and wanted to build a free port for the import and export of sugar from the West Indies. Since George 1st had taken it upon himself to grant the islands of St. Vincent and St. Lucia to the Duke of Montagu and the said Duke decided to mount an expedition to said islands to set up sugar plantations, I guess it made sense. Imagine the shock then when the expedition captain Nathaniel Uring arrived to discover the islands had been colonised and claimed by he French!

Back at Beaulieu, woodland had been cleared and a 25m wide street built down to the quay at the river's edge. Houses had been built either side, a prospectus drawn up, plans for salt house, bah houses, chapel and storehouses drawn. Plots of land were for sale on a 99 year lease but I can't remember how much for .........5 - 7 schillings rings a bell. 
Sadly there wasn't much interest and with no sugar coming from the Windies, well Montagu Town never got built!

Things to do if only the weather............

Well, managed to do the new mast cradle and that was it. So a number of things now to do in next week whilst I have the time. In no particular order

 Sort trailer bearings
Whip ends of all ropes frayed, having heat sealed them first
Empty all lockers and tidy up and ditch what has accumulated and is not needed
Find a cheap cockpit tidy that I can attach and remove as and when to the  cockpit coating - to hold hand held compass, flask, sun hat etc when on extended voyages
Trim the lazy jacks halyard so there isn't so much flopping around and needing coiling when under way
Plug one or two old screw holes on the bottom sprit boom
Check the outboard bracket
Grease all rollers on the trailer
Paint the "dings" and scratches on the hull
 Purchase and fit a new inner cockpit hatch where the old one has warped (starboard side of centre case)
Make a simple attachment to hold the petrol funnel that I so that it will stretch over the aft transom for filling but then be easily stowed under the aft deck out of way

I think that my first voyage will be around the sound just having a shakedown and making sure that all halyards run freely and sails set as they should. Then I will do some practice moves; coming alongside mooring buoys under sail, sailing off the buoys from different directions; into and with tide etc. I want to spend an hour or so with the tiller lashed mid ships and sailing in different directions by using just jib and mizzen sails to steer by. You can never practise MOB PDF and weighted bucket overboard in Jennycliffe bay after letting coastguard know.

I quite fancy a sail up the Tamar and Lynher again and possibly up around to Calstock on a good spring tide. Another trip is to launch at Totnes and sail down and back to Dartmouth. My friend who owns a post boat as talked about camping down at Fowey and sailing the river and bay which sounds fun to me. I'd quite like to do the same in the Fal and Helford as well

So many many choices. Lets just hope the weather plays ball as well!


Thursday 11 April 2013

Bucklers Hard

Bucklers hard

Is part of the Bealieu estate and I had the opportunity to visit it today. What a fascinating place. Several of Nelson's ships were built there. It was a great little museum and the river was tranquil. I'll post more about the place tomorrow.  

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Searching for elusive air leaks

Checking for air leak
Stacey has a problem. On occasion she will over rev. I mean really over rev, like a vampire banshee! (My children are into vampire I know these things........sadly). Anyway, it happens when we come to road junctions and slow to a stop. The kill switch seems ineffective and the only thing that brings her revs down is changing gear, letting the clutch out and stalling her. She is then right as rain when you start her up again. Anyway, my tentative enquiries suggest Stacey has an air leak somewhere. It would seem that there can be several places where this may occur. In no particular order of importance, causes could be

- spark plug too tight
- fuel pipe too long
- carb felt washer on manifold pipe not sufficiently greased up
- loose carb where it attaches to inlet manifold
- idling screw not properly adjusted
- flywheel oil seal blown
- main crank, clutch side, oil seal blown
- leak between engine casings
- or leak where cylinder barrel joins main engine block

I have discovered with a torch dangling down in the car area that there seems to be quite a bit of fuel in the plastic tray at the bottom of the carb which suggests a carb air leak problem.     Whatever, we have some detective work to do and so I have come up with a plan. Now I am a non-engineer and so I need to get this plan checked by the boys wot know a thing or two about vespas......namely the proboards vespa smallframes forum guys and the gents over at the vespa club of Great Britain. I'm pretty sure, based on previous advice from them, that there isn't anything they don't know about vespas.  So here we go. Here is my, in the words of "balderick", my "cunning plan!"  For non- UK readers, Balderick was a much loved character in the "black adder' comedy series).

1. Check  the carb is bolted down properly and that the gasket is intact underneath it. Make sure they have spring washers on and are not tightened down too much. I'll clean all the carb area as well at the same time. 
2.  make sure that the joint between the carb and intake is sealing up good;that the felt gasket is in the sleeve right and that it is well greased up. Packing that felt O ring with grease and making sure  it goes on the intake side between the inner and outer flange and gets pushed in by the intake side of the carb is critical and to be honest we remember putting it in but NOT greasing it up. Oops!
3. confirm that the carburettor and its box are bolted on correctly by grabbing the carburettor box and making sure it doesn't wiggle. 
4. Check that intake and exhaust manifolds are tight and gaskets used are secure and functioning
5. We could take out the idle jet, clean it and blow out that idle circuit with carb spray and compressed air 
6. then it may be a blown oil seal; so we will have to drain a little of the gear oil and give it a sniff - if we smell petrol then the main seal's gone and will need replacing... ....or maybe we could check the........
7. cylinder head; that there isn't a big oily patch under the cylinder head, and that the head nuts are all tightened properly. We'll check the seal at the cylinder head to the barrel and the barrel to the engine looking for leaks underneath the engine as well where the engine case halves join.
8. If our worst fears are confirmed and it is an oil seal leak then we will have to dismantle and rebuild the engine. Someone told me that a really simple check for crank seals is to remove the clutch cover breather and put finger over the hole. 9 times out of 10 this will bring the revs down straight away - on really badly blown seals you will actually hear the air escaping from the hole. I can't say I've heard any hissing air but there again I haven't been consciously listening out for it. It could also be the flywheel side seal and so we will need to check for oil runs behind the flywheel.  When we take the flywheel off, we are looking for a oil mark from the seal to the lip on the engine where the botton of the flywheel sits. There may also be a small pool of oil on the lip. If there's no sign of oil there then it's probably not the flyside seal although you never know. The seal is cheap and easy to change so it's worth a try.

(Someone also told me  If we need to use the scooter before we can do the work, put an extra splash of oil in the petrol and only go up to 3rd gear. Oil to keep the piston from seizing and if we don't go above 3rd gear, when it happens again changing gear stops it revving to banshee level again. But get it seen too ASAP. Not good for the piston or piston rings, worth checking them out at the same time).

9. We could also check all nut torque specs / looseness on the cylinder head, the carb manifold / box, the exhaust too
10. spark plug tight - better check it too
11.  Fuel line too long ....lift out tank and the fuel tap should be same plane as frame top

Friday 5 April 2013


"Stacey" our 1971 motovespa 125 super sneaks onto the blog. I just passed my CBT test and am slowly getting out and about on the vespa.

Here are two films of this morning's outing


Still can't get use to using an IPad

Posting on the iPad isn't as clear or as quick as using the laptop but we persevere ........

A few more photos

As promised

I braved the wind and shot off on Stacey to get photographs of 'Irene' the big ketch which is moored in the Barbican. Enjoy!


Gavin has posted a lovely feature about the Stirling's and how they have acquired the lease to the No. 1 slipway at the Devonport yard.  You can read about what the Stirling's have been up to courtesy of Gavin at


Joel is putting me to shame

He's made adaptations to 'Ellie' and whipped his ropes AND he's been out sailing with his newly adjusted sail rig. Cool video as always as well.

The man is just shaming me into action
Nice post Joel. Glad to see 'Ellie' on the water for first time this year.


Bits and pieces

Well mast cradles are on their way. Similar to Joel's, they are painted white and currently drying in the garage downstairs.  I've got one which drops down the mast hole on the front deck; the rear one lies across the coaming aft of the centre case.  I have to line them with an old camping mat I have in the basement but they should be ready by end of the week. Not that there is any rush. The weather remains "breezy" he says..........25mph for the next few days with gusts around 35mph.

In the meantime I have had my first extended drive out on "Stacey". We went up onto the moors along by the china clay works running through Lee Moor and Wotter before descending down to Elfordleigh and Boringdon Hall. I haven't yet got the gear change off pat yet; there were a few over revved gear changes!

My son and I have different ideas about what constitutes "spongy" brakes. So tomorrow the brakes get adjusted. I discovered this going downhill when I wanted to stop at the T junction at the  foot of it; but surprisingly didn't as the big white stop lines gently trundled underneath me and the houses opposite became somewhat larger and more solid looking as I entered their front gardens!!!

A few hours of fun with the missus........a lifetime of payback! I love them dearly, honestly.


Tough calls in life

Irene is a ketch built in 1907 by one Mr. Carver. She is on our UK historic ships register and at the moment she is alongside in the Barbican in Plymouth. It looks as if she is being fitted out. Life rafts in those white oval canisters mounted on wooden frames were strewn across their aft decks yesterday awaiting some permanent positioning. Now sadly, the camera that I carry permanently in my waterproof jacket decided to run out of battery charge, so dear readers, I will endeavour to go back down the barbican later to try and get said photographs. She is an absolute stunner in some ways although some tidying up still needs to be done. I would love to be able to sail out on her but sadly I doubt I will be able to afford it. Ce cera and all that.
Her historic ships entry can be found here.

Her website can be found here at

In the meantime I am now faced with one of those dilemmas all men face occasionally in their lifetime. Today is a holiday. She wot must be obeyed has had to go to work. It's 8.14am. Usually I've already done a couple of hours on my normal teaching day. SWMBO has left me a the washing, put it on radiators, cut the grass, trim the hedges, tidy the house, make sure teenage son tidies his bedroom, clean the kitchen...........on my list is photos of Irene, fit the new mast supports, trim all ropes with my new hot knife gizmo, whip said rope ends, clean up Arwen, de-winter the outboard. In the back room are 80 coursework projects which need grading and around 20 hrs of lesson planning before I go back to work.

Tough decision. Duty, fear of SWMBO or just 'chill'in'.  Tough,tough call!