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

Friday 28 February 2014

the box.................................

well here it is

the box....a family heirloom.......

it will need rubber neoprene gaskets and new hinges

side on; one corner is splitting and needs some work

a bit of a split in the top too but this is some fifty years old......

perhaps a wee bit more work that I'm initially anticipating?
hinges will need sorting as well and may be rabbeting the tops to fit better?

pretty cavernous.........

and a pretty, very old metal petrol jerry can which holds a fair old amount

Monday 24 February 2014

another navigator coming along nicely

reading this excellent blog does take me back a few years to when Arwen was being built in a a garage where I only had 50cm clearance around all sides of her......ah those cramped days....I remember them like they were yesterday!!!!

This navigator will be excellent due to the time, care and meticulous attention to detail of its builder. inspiring stuff. You can see progress on this navigator regularly by clicking on the blog on the right hand menu on this homepage. Alternatively book mark it yourself at

Well done John!


the GWR box!

The box! I'm sort of over cutting it in half - see last post. But now I'm thinking 'what do I store in it?'

Its not like I've got anything more pressing to think about (like forthcoming poor GCSE exam results; or too many new courses to plan and prepare; or falling behind with my marking; or forgetting what my children and wife look like etc etc etc......).

Nope, I am worrying about a box! In fact what makes this worse is I'm worrying about the empty space inside a box! We don't go a big deal on having regular 'pysch therapy' here in the UK...that's what a pub is for......but I could be nearing needing one!

What do I store inside this empty box I have inherited; and do I need to insert internal walls? When I read this back to myself I realise how desperately sad I sound!

Anyway, I think I will store in this box the following:
  • fuel bottles for stoves and spare gaz canisters
  • the trangia stove
  • plate, mug, bowl, cup
  • cooking utensils
  • cleaning materials
  • washing up bowl
  • food - tinned; bottled; cartonned
  • matches, spare batteries
  • rubbish and food bags
  • toilet rolls and tissue packs
  • sleeping bag and bivvy bag
  • lantern
Struggling to imagine it in my head, having just written two science lessons on 'puberty'......I did a quick internet search and lo and behold, found exactly the kind of things I was thinking of.........yep - I think some form of internal walls and sliding tray affair would be perfect! all the images below are copyrighted to 'Red Otter' on the Songofthepaddle forum

my box is slightly larger and heavier than this one I suspect
that top tray tidy is exactly what I was trying to envisage in my head
and I love the way 'Red Otter' made the sections expandable/removable
brilliant thinking and craftsmanship
this is SOOOOOOOO well designed
everything you could possibly need for camping
Of course, this does take me back to my original dilemma in my last post, namely that the box is too big for Arwen as it stands at the moment. It just wont fit in the space between centre and forward thwarts on port side. It would if I cut it in half to make two wanigans...........but.............honour and tradition - I just cannot bring myself to do that to a family heirloom. It just isn't right and I have a responsibility to my Dad and Grandad and to future grandchildren..........the box must stay as it is in size although I don't think anyone would worry too much if there were removable inserts!
I'll do some more thinking about helps stave off the reality and impending sense of doom and failure regarding GCSE results!


Sunday 23 February 2014

A dilemma

Sadly, my step gran died in January. Reaching her nineties, she was much loved and respected. In helping my parents sort her estate and house, we came across my grandad's old camping trunk...a huge wooden box from the days of the old great western railway (commonly referred to as God's wonderful railway by all railwaymen in the GWR). Dad and grandad were GWR men and very proud of it too.....anyway digressing. This lovely wooden trunk is huge and dad has let me have it. And now to my dilemma. If I were to cut it in half and rebuild the missing sides on each half; and then sand and restore them.....they would make excellent wannigans for Arwen.

However, I can't bring myself to do is a lovely old box which needs some TLC and it used to carry all my Grandad's camping gear when he was a scout leader. He used to pack it up, load it onto the train and with scouts in tow, head for the south coast once each year for scout camp.

So dilemma over I guess.....restore it and use it for storing my camping gear or boat gear for Arwen in the back of the car when off sailing.  I plan on camping down Falmouth way in the summer so this box will be ideal and it will resurrect a family tradition. I don't know what possessed me to think about cutting it in the first place and whilst I know Grandad and Dad would be fine about it being done because they would be glad it was being used........there is some sense of family history in this box which just cannot be destroyed. A sense of innate responsibility pass on some family traditions.  The 'camping box' passed down through the generations. I rather like that!

So heat gun at the ready, paint stripping, sanding and restoring here we come. And whilst at it, I'll put some thin ply in the base and reinforce the chipped and worn corners with some pine square cornering.

Of course the dilemma now is what paint scheme.......Arwen is white and burgundy red. I am somehow leaning towards GWR green or GWR cream and brown.......traditions!!

Saturday 22 February 2014

How long does it take to rig a navigator?

As the fine weather is an interesting point. And Joel, across the big pond, has been doing some research using a video. His navigator 'Ellie' is a lovely example of craftsmanship. Read and see more about what he discovered at


Thursday 20 February 2014

A nice report

About two navigators in Perth, Australia.


Sunday 16 February 2014

The opportunity arose...........

A 15% discount in the sale at my local kayak shop.
I have bitten the bullet and replaced my old crewsaver PFD with a new one. It had served five years and had failing zips, a small tear or two and some general wear and tear which had taken its toll. It has been consigned to the "spares" locker for now. It is still serviceable. 

I spent ages looking around and followed the advice of Osbert who owns a JW 'Walkabout'. I looked at lalizas PFDs but they had only one or two I liked. At the end of the day I went on practical recommendation of some sea kayaker friends and a couple of sailing instructors I know and plummed for the palm kaikoura. You can read about it in a post from a few days ago. 

First impressions......
  • Good fit with plenty of adjustment straps
  • Very well made.....typical palm attention to detail
  • Love the foam flex body curving flotation panels
  • Front zip .....tough and much better than my old over the head PFD
  • Excellent anti ride up waist strap; side straps; and then shouldr adjustments. All straps can be tucked out of the way. 
  • It sits low on me and feels very comfortable
  • Plenty of pockets. I've managed to stow safety knife, mini flares, windy anemometer, hand held GPS, sunnies, fingerless gloves and still have room to spare. It doesn't feel bulky although I suspect it looks so. 
  • The fleece lined hand warmer pockets......very nice touch
I've attached a new strobe lifejacket light to one of the attachment points. Below that is my SPOT PLB; on the other side is my VHF radio. 
It has 70 newtons so I shouldn't sink!!!
It sounds bulky but so far I have been able to sit, bend, squat and the arm movement freedom is fantastic.

So now all we need is the sailing weather....preferably around force four/five as opposed to gale force ten which seems to have been most weeks since december! 


Monday 10 February 2014

stormy times.......

The Thames has flooded. The worst for over forty years. Our island nation is under siege from awful weather. The worst winter in living memory..............flooding everywhere; our government in disarray; politicians playing the 'blame game'. Perhaps not our finest hour........from a government perspective; it is from a perspective of looking at the astonishing fortitude of our people who have suffered; their resilience is humbling. The rescue efforts and dedication of our emergency services and the environment agency breath taking

A short clip of the wind on Plymouth Hoe on Saturday.



Sunday 9 February 2014

pretty windy on the Hoe yesterday

My hand held windy gizmo thingy recorded 64.7 mph at just before midday; that would have been the gusts that nearly sprawled me backwards. It was sad to see the damage done to a Plymouth icon, 'The Wet Wok' Restaurant....its outer conservatory overlooking the sea wrecked and ripped away. I hope the owners will be able to repair and re-open soon. Similarly, the Waterfront restaurant with all its windows boarded up after monster waves on Wednesday poured through the windows ripping everything in side apart.


Soooooo cold!

the gusts started to creep upwards around midday

The highest recorded was 64.7 mph

people were having to lean into the wind to make any progress
the Hoe took a pounding just below the beach huts

many of the railings were left twisted or GONE this morning!
Meanwhile down at western hoe was not looking good. the pier on the left and its little inner harbour were under threat; the cream coloured wall - that's the 'Wet Wok' restaurant or what is left of it. the wall where the wave is pounding is the retaining wall to the hoe road.....council workers were down there in force ready to take action!
can you spot the mile long Plymouth breakwater in the distance?
Nope, neither could we at one point - says it all really.
Plymouth Mountbatten breakwater takes a pummelling and those waves just keep rolling in and getting bigger

meanwhile, on the hoe - at tinside pool - things were beginning to get interesting!
oops - there go the railings.......

and one of the buoy marks......

...and part of the outer wall

could have happily spent all day wave watching but it was soooo cold.........or I'm just getting older and feeling it more.........

poor tinside lido - normally emptied for winter - the waves filled it; filled the store rooms, the changing rooms, the café area.......terrific battering to a much loved landmark

oops - facing the wrong way?
below me, the little beach area and the steps leading down to it, where so many of us go on lovely summer Sunday's....was taking its own pelting

much of the seating, fencing and the steps will have gone under this pounding

what you have to remember is none of us can ever remember seeing the hoe taking such a beating. We have a mile long MASSIVE breakwater two miles offshore guarding the entrance to this fourth largest natural harbour in the world. these waves are just.......unprecedented

I leave you with Plymothians turning out to witness the awesome fury of nature, and our local police, turning up to keep us safe; all of us hoping our beloved Plymouth Hoe withstands the might of the sea

Saturday 8 February 2014

Batten down the hatches

Here is the flood warning map from the UK Environment Agency. I cannot remember it ever being this bad. My own area, Plymouth and the south Devon and Cornwall coastlines are preparing for the next few hours as severe gales roll in again.

Outside the rain is lashing down. Dartmoor has disappeared in the rain. The wind is
Howling down my chimney


Thursday 6 February 2014

more musings about boat tents for Arwen

Whilst we are battling the elements here in Britain, my thoughts still turn towards, perhaps, a summer, in which Arwen and I can go camp cruising.  Sailing down to Fowey and on to Falmouth; pootling around the Fal and other rivers in the locale sounds great.....and I can't wait.

Paul, from down below the equator I think, suggested I get hold of a copy of Woodenboats 2014 small boats magazine which I did (thanks Paul). Four or five great little article about designing boat tents for dinghies - highly useful. certainly gave me some food for thought!

  • many went for the option of getting a couple of really cheap tents, butchering them and re-stitching them to create one purpose designed tent for their boat
  • most of these approaches used hoop tents with door openings either side in a porch area
  • poles ran through outer sleeves and were highly flexible
  • these tents attached to the boat via bungee straps in the lower tent sides attached to hooks arranged along gunwales or under rubbing strips
Some made tents out of sunbrella fabric but followed a hooped tunnel tent design. instead of poles - plastic water piping was used...slid through sleeves. hitch pins were inserted into their ends which fit into purpose made blocks strategically placed along side decks or on gunnels. Cords were run from each end of the hooped structure to pull the whole tent taut and these were tied off on masts or fixings to transom and foredeck.

many had zipped door each end and some had doors made of insect mesh as well as actual fabric doors giving a variety of options.

the one I liked most was designed by Francois Vivier for his own boat....a tunnel hoop shaped tent which used flexible sail battens as hoops. he put the sail boom onto the side deck and strapped it there and the whole hoop tent then covered that and the opposite side deck as well. Neat!

I have only scanned the articles briefly since school work continues to demand four hours every night Saturday I have created some 'me time' to read the articles more fully and really draw out those invaluable snippets of advice. In the meantime, plenty of food for thought.......thanks Paul


from The Telegraph

more pictures emerging of life here in the south west after yesterday's storm - all photographs copyright 'The Telegraph' newspaper

 Part of the railway line connecting south west England to the rest of the country run along a lovely stretch of coastline. here at Dawlish Warren.......well the photographs say it all. Suffice to say, the Army have been mobilised to come help put all this right!

Meanwhile around the rest of the coastline in Devon and Cornwall.......

this is the main road connecting Kingsbridge to the Torquay area
I fish off this beach frequently in the summer
The beach seems to have moved somewhat inland!
And over on the Somerset levels, poor people there have been enduring 7 weeks of complete inundation. Or complete mismanagement of a crisis by our government, depending on your viewpoint!

If you want to know more about the weather conditions we are facing; the plight of people in Somerset and the issues surrounding flooding in the UK and how to manage it in the future, the BBC has some good information and video clips at