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

Thursday 30 May 2013

They"ll do

Here are some of the new cleats for Arwen. Made from scrap wood, some of which has been reclaimed from shelving being thrown out at school. They have been oiled and although marked in one or two places I do think they will look better than the black plastic ones!

A room with a view

Her wot must definitely be obeyed.. ..... I.e. my mother-in-law came to stay for a few days and she wanted to go visit Brixham. Still a major fishing fleet port, I found it a bit tacky as far as tourism goes. However, there are signs of regeneration, namely the new crab quay restaurant and excellent new fishing quay; and a nice coffee place right at the front of the inner harbour.
Then there is the replica of the Golden Hind and what will soon be defunct but wrongly so.......the Brixham coastguard station.

However, what really grabbed my attention was the gents toilet at the new crab quay restaurant. These toilets over look the new fishing quay, all the trawlers loading and unloading, part of the public  quay walkway and the corner of a coffee shop terrace. And yes these really are buckets, and yes those windows are completely see through .......un-nerving does not describe the experience. I can only hope that they are tinted one way glass!

Tuesday 28 May 2013


About the spelling mistakes and grammar in the last post. Using the iPad drives me mad. When you come to proof red the draft blog won't scroll down and so much of what you have typed remains out of view...........really frustrating. Stick in a photo and it makes the situation far worse!

The above shot shows the stern of Arwen. The outboard seems to be performing well although I still haven't quite got a feel for how far I can go on one tank of fuel. There is one of the black plastic cleats which hopefully will be replaced by a nice oiled iroko one in the next few weeks. Just in the top right on the coaming is one of the newly installed 'tuff bag' plastic pencil cases. One on each side they have proved really useful for camera bits and pieces, hand held compass, GPS and spare batteries.     I also installed a plastic tray thingy under the port rear transom deck. I fashioned a sliding lid from scrap ply. It holds sun cream, lip salve, more spare batteries, notebook and china graph pencils etc. Binoculars sit comfortably on top, wedged in the upper part of this plastic tray/bin affair. And, as I discovered on Sunday, everything works. Everything is now close to hand and I didn't need to scrabble in my rucksack once. Wonderful!


Precious days

I've just been reading Steve's blog about 'Spartina', his Welsford Pathfinder. He was out sailing with friends on Sunday too and clearly had a lovely time. You can read his blog here at

He talked about 'precious days' out on the water and he's right
. Days like Sunday with blue skies, steady breezes and sunny skies are rare indeed.

Strangely perhaps, I love the whole rigmarole of rigging Arwen before the sail. It is an opportunity to check rigging for wear and tear; plan though the voyages in my head; check the weather conditions and muse on life in general. Sunday started well with a chat to one of the marina yard crew about his family, heir progress in school and life in general. A couple of 'real' sailor salt types came by and admired Aren (thank heavens I'd cleaned her up on Saturday!). Of course, the downside of these little chats is you fail to spot he mistakes you've made. I discovered this in Jennycliffe bay when I went to use the lazy jacks. I'd managed to raise he mast in such a way got he sails fell to one side of the lazy jacks and not between them. No amount of fiddling was going o sort hem and o you will see in the most recent videos that he lazy jacks are loose and twisted...........

On the water boats will often sail past Arwen. She always gets a wave and a yelled compliment. I think it is a combination of graceful design by John and the tan sails. Tan sails bring out the old 'salt dog' in Briish sailors.......well certain sailors........over here we call them 'old gaffers'. I also think experienced sailors of a certain age would wistfully like to 'downsize' but don't quite get around to doing so. Maybe they are envious of the small boat s ability to crawl up mud lined creeks. I think American friends call it 'gunk holing'?

Monday 27 May 2013

A couple of shots

Of a slightly cleaner Arwen........

playing about with a gopro hero 2

I love this camera. Mount it on the top yard; on a mooring pole and send it overboard; on a tripod in the cockpit. It is versatile although I haven't yet managed to sort the water on the lens effect or the salt left as it dries out in the sun. It leads to irritating salt deposits.

After sailing across to Cawsand, I returned to Jennycliffe, where I spent an hour or so sailing up to one of the large moorings and coming a full stop! These are skills I very rarely practise and I need to do more of it. Out of six attempts I only failed once and I'm pleased with that. Mind you most of those attempts were towards low tide when it was barely running.

 The one I am most pleased with was picking up the mooring buoy off the north side of Drakes Island. It was tricky because it was between a boat and a floating pontoon with little room for error. On the first attempt I pinched too close to the wind, cleared around the stern of one boat and knew immediately I wouldn't be able to reach it as the wind veered slightly further south. I sailed past, gybed and came back into a close haul tack holding about 40 degrees all the way up to the buoy where a quick turn head to wind bought it neatly alongside. Having already furled the jib, the main fluttered and filled nicely on the approach. The mizzen, well I left that slack. It is a lovely feeling of smug satisfaction when the mooring buoy comes amidships with barely a bump and Arwen comes to a standstill so that you can walk the buoy for'ard and tie off the bowline.

And there is never anyone around to witness it is there.......whilst any miss is witnessed by crowds. Funny that isn't it!


Sunday 26 May 2013

Sunny days are here long last

Perfect sailing weather so it was frustrating to get out on the water to discover that the lazy jacks had mysteriously crossed over and the only way would be to drop the I just carried on instead.

And it was wonderful. Blue skies, spring tides, 10 kt winds, and things to is the first of a few videos and reports. I hope you enjoy them


Saturday 25 May 2013

An old marine pool life jacket

As I was cleaning out Arwen on her annual spring clean, I managed to accidentally pull the toggle on an old life jacket that I bought in 2000. And amazingly, it worked and inflated instantly. I took the opportunity to test it for leaks in the bath and there were none. I am genuinely impressed. Well done marine pool. Now I have ordered a Halkey roberts 33grm rearming kit and clip which I hope will fit.

It's always good to test manual inflation life jackets once every so often but maybe thirteen years is a little too long!


Friday 24 May 2013

Making cleats

Our office in school is being refurbished and all the very old shelving is being ripped out and binned. So imagine my horror when I discovered lengths of Brazilian mahogany and lovely iroko being chucked out.

So yes I have done the decent thing and through the help of the caretakers recycled some of it. Not much , because lots of it can be used in technology but there were odd bits of no use to anyone but perhaps a boat builder with an idea about replacing the horrible black plastic cleats on his beloved welsford navigator with lovely oiled iroko ones!!!

And guess what? It's Half term! Holiday time! I have time to make some cleats. Yippee!!!!


Wednesday 22 May 2013

Some other videos of navigators.....

Every so often I try to search YouTube for more videos of navigators in action.

Joel posted " mast handling made easy!" And on his own blog rightly extols the vitues of hollow wooden masts

Then there are these as well. Enjoy.

Trauma: where has my cluster map gone?

I have just noticed that my cluster map running since may 2010 has been archived without warning. I am bereft. As a geographer I LOVED looking at where people were logging onto my blog from. Could I get someone from every country of the world?

Anyway, you can see a new map has started and here is the old one.
Typical bloke.....just can't cope with change!!!


A lovely blog

Is a website that I found mentioned on Gavin's blog "".

I really like it. A lovely read and I learned loads. Enjoy!


Sunday 19 May 2013

A couple of possibly useful websites and a few photographs

Don't know whether these are of any interest to anyone........and whether it is only UK based.......but ..........


And a few pics from yesterday

A frustrating day part 2

Joel was right. He did a great post about how a welsford navigator will sail herself if you balance the mizzen, jib and mainsail.

I decided to test this out for myself. With the vastness of plymouth sound before me and the winds coming from the north west, it was the perfect time for sailing back and forth from Mt. Edgecumbe in the west to Jennyycliffe in the east.

It took a little figuring out. You have to get a neutral rudder so I sheeted in the jib and mainsail as hard as it could and then started experimenting with easing out the mizzen. And lo and behold, Arwen sales herself.  What a revelation to someone who doesn't sail as frequently as he might like!! Not only that but I also discovered that occasionally when Arwen just jeered off course slightly, an adjustment on the jib would have her back on course............amazing!

And so a few happy hours were spent tacking back and forth on close hauls and close reaches and the great thing is you could line up marks on distant shores aft and for'ard to see how much deviation the was from your course. Very little I am amazed to say!

Of course I'd actually gone sailing with the intention of getting back the long ago lost skills of picking up a mooring under sail; or of coming alongside something and actually stopping under control; or sailing onto and off a beach.  Why the sudden desire to remaster these skills?  Well because I am escorting our CCF students one evening a week to a Royal Navy training facilities where hey adoring their powerboat level two and the instructor said since I was an experienced sailor I may like to take some students out on a bosun dinghy and teach them the finer arts of sailing back to the shore and picking up a mooring.  !!!!!&^#?|"$¥ was all I could think...........quietly in my head!


Saturday 18 May 2013

A frustrating day

Things were going so well until I couldn't find the mobile phone. I searched the boat, the rucksack, the car (three times). It was depressing but the sun was shining and having lost a mobile phone and having resigned myself to her indoors being somewhat annoyed, I decided to make the best of the day............but it wasn't the same. All the time was the nagging doubt....where was the phone? Had someone picked it up?

It is clear that I'm getting senile. I came off the water early because of  the phone. I packed away the boat and was about to get in the car and leave the marina when I found the phone. Stuck in the roof rack.  Just don't ask! Don't say a word!

It was, albeit short, a great morning on the water. I'd gone with the intention of doing some picking up mooring and coming alongside practice but the winds were very fickle first thing.
 But the was plenty on the water........I think it was HMS Illustrious in the distance. HMS defender, a frigate came past. The plymouth lifeboat paid me a visit and waved, as did the inshore lifeboat. I got caught in he middle of a big boat race as well......outpaced, not them.

Tides were perfect. High tide at midday. Winds rose steady during the morning.

All in all not a bad day but a little frustrating in places


Saturday 11 May 2013

Final bits and pieces

One more lick of varnish on the mast top today. The weather has been way too windy for Arwen out in the Sound.  I also took the opportunity to install some little bag holders on the coamings. I actually used three little tuff bag pencil cases. They are well forward up near the jib cleats where they come through the coamings. A quid each. Not bad. Not bad at all. Now I have places for hand held compass, GPS handheld unit, little bags of nuts and sultanas; waterproof notebook, china graph pencil; camera accessories.............the list just goes on.

Of course, they don't look pretty.........but she is a cruising boat......well sort of!


Tuesday 7 May 2013

Self steering using jib sheet, mizzen and tiller

Quite simply, the best explanation I've seen. Joel has this real talent of making what might seem complex, quite simple. Instruction and supporting video.....what more can you ask for?

If Joel isn't a teacher already, then he should really consider a career change!


Ps Richard also posted this useful piece on the subject as well....thanks Richard.

Sunday 5 May 2013

should have been sailing....but more important things got in the way

I should have been out sailing today - nice south west breeze around 10 knots and plenty of sunshine with a high of 19 C.

However, 'her in-doors' hasn't been well over the last couple of days and since she is always there for me it seemed only right and proper to spoil her a little. So all the washing and ironing has been done; the meals cooked; number one son looked after as he revises for his AS levels next week; and several conversations with number one daughter to cheer her up in the final week before she sits her final degree exams. Flowers have been bought and put in the front room and I am amassing brownie points even though that wasn't the intention.

I've managed to plant out all the veg boxes as well - onions, potatoes, cauli's, broccoli, spring onions (Oh bog - forgot to get those - oops and 'her in-doors' did especially ask for them - ah well another trip tomorrow!); then there be carrots, leeks, a couple of aubergine plants and a couple of experimental red peppers! And if the neighbouring cats come anywhere near them................!!

Somewhere in between, I managed to also sort the slipped mast mast band issue. Can't say it looks pretty but it will suffice.  I spent ages racking my brain on this one because as you can see it had slipped around 10 centimetres (4 inches for our 'over the pond' and 'down under' friends). The shoulder on which the mast band rested had worn away over 6 years.

Anyway, I've screwed in some mahogany blocks, glued beneath; sealed the gaps around the mast band with clear sealant and when all is set will coat the mast with sealer to finish it off. all being well the blocks will stop the band from slipping down again...........I hope!  Couldn't afford a new mast band so make do and mend is the order of the day.

Whist at it, I also took the opportunity to put the mooring pole out of the way. I am forever tripping over the damn thing; or it gets caught in ropes in the boat. It has a place inside but it is always awkward to reach. Here clipped on the side deck, it should be accessible but out of the way!

Wow! Busy day!  Oh and I managed to sort out 'Stacey's' air leak ('Stacey', for those not in the my son's 1967 - 70 motovespa 125 super restoration project; a barn find which had seen better days. She gives us endless minor troubles but she is an old lady and we do love her so...even when she does leak oil all over the garage floor over the course of one night!!!!).

Anyone who can remember the stupid comments made by a vespa forum in the US about both Arwen and Stacey being worthless heaps of junk; and poor Stacey being no better than 'anchor' fooder.......well........her gears have been corrected so that they go the right way now. Her throttle tube is in the middle of being repaired too.  Her electrics now work and all air leaks are fixed.
All is well with the world. What's more, if 'her in-doors' is feeling better tomorrow, I may even go for a sail and conveniently forget the pile of marking that is awaiting me in the hallway!  Wow I am feeling rebellious!!


Great website

If you like building boats then you will love this site. Enjoy.