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

Sunday 30 March 2014

Forgive me father...for

....I have sinned.

I went out for a stroll on a Sunday night. I forsaked the marking; the planning of lessons; the analysis of my previous week's progress data; and I became human again.

I took 'her indoors' for a Sunday evening stroll; like normal people do!

rarely do you get to see the water level so high in the inner basin at Sutton Harbour - behind the old converted warehouses of the Barbican

Normally to jump down to these pontoons would result in serious injury - today you can step across onto them - wow!

Iona of Fife - a lovely little vessel

going out on the high tide; seaward bound

the foundation stone of Smeaton's tower - our iconic lighthouse on the hoe

one of our local art projects; we have had an outbreak of fish across the city

well done Plympton St Maurice primary school!
Today was the first Sunday this academic year where I stopped work early enough to go out in the evening. It felt slightly rebellious and a guilty pleasure!
last weekend was my birthday and has become a tradition, my wonderful daughter made a cake for me in keeping with my passions. This year she designed the world map taking in to account global warming and predicted sea level rise.....well that is her excuse anyway!  Thanks hun - you spoil me!


Saturday 29 March 2014

New hatches and bits

The inspection hatches in each centre thwart have warped over the years and had become buckled. So I've been watching the cost of inspection hatches; and when they dropped in a sale to £15 I decided it was time to buy two. They didn't quite fit so some jigsaw artistry had to be done but eventually the port one dropped into place.

 I also, as a result of it being that little bit bigger, had to relocate a cleat to the side of the centre case. It is the cleat for the mainsail downhaul. The centre board sheet cleat was placed on a new wooden block to give it some more 'down angle' so that it is easier to cam cleat and un-cleat the sheet. The plastic holder of the compass also got repaired (it snapped when I fell against it recently).

if anyone has some bright ideas about how to get that small cam cleat off then I am all ears; the screws seem to have rusted into blobs so there is no thread to attach....bizarre

Access to the starboard side was somewhat restricted by hedges so the fitting of that hatch will be next week's little job. Its nice pottering on Arwen and my lovely family give me some space at the weekends for such tasks.

Sunday 23 March 2014

wooden dinghy cleat bases

Here they are - just drying out. I suspect I will do a little more finishing to them and also then recoat them with Burgess sealer. Holes to be drilled to mount them (with counter sinks); and their hardwood backing plates also to cut and finish.....but we are getting there.


wooden dinghy cleat blocks

The jib sheet cleats have been irritating me for some time. When I put them on Arwen originally, they were mounted straight to the vertical side coamings next to the centre thwarts, at an angle. Ever since then they have been difficult for crew to use as they are very 'flat' and its difficult to get the sheet between the cleat blocks.

When single handed, I have always taken the jib cleats back to the rear of the centre case and to a big cleat there. It has worked well to date with all control lines bar the sprit boom outhaul and the topping lift sheets arriving at the back of the centre case area.

Anyway, I've made some angled wooden blocks for the side jib cleats so that crew will now find it easier to put the jib sheet into the cleat. Made from remaining bits of salvaged wood from our office clearance which were no good for anything else frankly, they have been angled, shaped, sanded and coated in burgess sealer and are now ready to mount. Well almost; they need 24 hrs to dry first. I have enough wood left to make some backing plates as well for the inside of the ply coaming. The blocks will need holes drilling and sealing when I have had time to work out their positioning.

My next little project will be to make a sleeping platform extension that can be stowed in the front half of the cockpit but then bought aft to lie across one half of the aft cockpit thus ensuring I don't roll off the port thwart seat during the night!  Then I have the 'cockpit tent' to make before finally making a little slatted platform seat that can be used on the side deck to make sitting out on the side deck a more 'comfortable' experience when ghosting along in gentle winds. the last one I might not bother to make as I tend to use a folded thick floating cushion for such a purpose and that really suffices.

Anyway, an enjoyable hour making those. Just what I need before I set to work on the four hours prep for tomorrow's lessons. Hey ho.



a little potter

yesterday was my birthday.....another one come and gone. My beloved 'her in doors' was literally indoors all day with a nasty cold. she barely made it out of bed - very unusual for a lady normally full of bounce and enthusiasm for life. Number one son had gone off to do his volunteering; number one daughter out at work....and all was after weekend household chores that never seem to get done during the week....I had time for potter.

the cattedown looked calm and flat despite the icy south westerly that was blowing. the mountbatten breakwater and old aircraft hangers doing their job as windshields

inside QAB snuggled up against the outer marina wall and pontoon this larger vessel 'challenger 4'
clearly having down time after some serious offshore sailing

and I though I had too many sheets and halyards on Arwen

a hawk 20 sets out for Plymouth Sound

the new university diving centre taking shape; I'm not sure but I suspect they may well also repair their slipway as well

the marina yard is chocka full of large yachts on stands, many of which are for sale. a sign of the times I guess


Saturday 22 March 2014

Odd jobs

Those odd jobs that you should do immediately but forget or put off got done on Arwen last weekend. Most urgent was the eyestrap on the rudder blade which secures the down haul. The wood had become damaged and the strap insecure. Twenty minutes with a chisel trimming away some wood rot and the cutting of a new hardwood insert. It fitted perfectly and was glued in and the eye strap re secured. It doesn't look pretty at the moment but when painted over it will be fine.

The elastic bungee cord that stretches across the starboard central thwart was replaced. Over stretched  and salt caked it secures my charts and passage plan notes when on coastal voyages. It was white and blended in with the thwart top so this time I've gone for red!

There one or two screw holes on booms that I hadn't got around to filling; the result of moving some cleats and eyestraps. These were filled with wood filler and sanded down flush. The colour doesn't quite match but at least they are filled.

Doing simple repairs are one of the little joys of owning a small boat. I find doing them as much fun as the actual sailing.


Wednesday 19 March 2014

The very first Navigator Ddraig is up for sale

I remember reading about this boat 'Ddraig'. Caught my attention many years ago on a couple of counts. Firstly - a welsh name. Nough said already! I rest my case!

Secondly, my friend 'Dave' had said to me 'thinking of a new boat - have a look at John Welsford's navigator'. So I did. I read John's story about Ddraig on his website......and I was hooked! That was it. Love at first sight! How well my friend Dave knows me!

And so Ddraig has had a refit and is now for sale. You can find details here at

The very first navigator; and so many have followed since, all special, but none quite so special as the first one!


Sunday 16 March 2014

Not having given up yet on a tent for Arwen

Whilst looking and admiring Joel's handiwork on his website for the umpteenth time I came across this blog and what lovely thinking about tents.  I could see how it would work on Arwen with no problem.

So more food for thought!


A Tiller lock for Ellie

Joel has produced a lovely tiller lock for Ellie. High quality craftsmanship as always and ingenious, well researched engineering thought processes. Joe is a deep thinker and produces something that is simple and clear and smartly functional. An elegant solution.

 Read about 'Ellie's' new tiller tamer here


Some musings.....

Well I didn't win the eurolottery. £107,000,000 and one winner! Well good luck to them and I hope they enjoy it, it changes their life for better and they can bring joy and happiness to many. In the meantime, its Saturday morning. 'Her in doors' is still snuggled under the duvet. Most favourite daughter (I only have the one) is up after her night out; favoured son (again the only one I have so I supposed I ought to favour him to bits really) is getting ready to head out to his volunteering job with a national conservation charity and I have the kitchen to myself. The garden view from kitchen window is one of unkempt devastation. The grass is long and coarse, daffodils poke through it, scattered up the hill slope, bringing a touch of colour to a drab green and tired landscape. In the top distance the tree house with its tent looks shredded and forlorn. Brambles dominate the the top garden and the woods look scruffy. Much work to be done but hey it's Saturday so maybe not today.

Kate Humble is on the radio chatting about 'lambing live' and all feels well after a tough, tough, tough week in school.  Nough said on that one really.

I continue to learn some lovely little nuggets as I read through 'the dinghy cruising companion'. I find it a good read but I'm not sure what very experienced dinghy cruisers or sailors would make of it. I hope they would find plenty in the low key, authoritative but gentle writing style of the author. Much of it is basic common sense and sound advice and insight.

 But, as a novice sailor, well some of it is gold dust; some of it is 'doh!' moments as you realise that the sentence you have just read contained such a simple, common sense nugget of advice that you can't believe you haven't done it yet. I'm having plenty of 'doh!' moments!!!

The book sits on the kitchen table in front of's sides festooned with those little 'post it' book marks you can buy which stick out of pages on which you have found something relevant or essential. I can see over 50 of these little stickers and I'm only third of the way through.

Kate is talking about aquaponic green houses.....her voice is like liquid honey poured over pancakes or cream squirted into hot chocolates..........yummy, comforting; a child like enthusiasm just emanates from her voice....curiosity, excitement about anything to do with nature and the outdoors .......she's lovely.

Anyway, digressing.

So things catching my attention this morning

1. Why aren't my jib cleats inside the boat on wedge shaped blocks so it is easier to pull sheets into and out of them when sat out on the side deck?
2. My centreboard case top has a hole with a bung for when the centreboard gets stuck. I have a broom handle that fits the hole........but I don't carry a mallet or hammer to hit the pole so that it forces the centreboard back down........doh!
3. Why haven't I got a lead line on board? It does seem rather vital in a cruising, creek crawling dinghy
4. If you use the formula in the book, Arwen's oars should be around 10'6" in length......oops.......mine are at least 3' too short
5. How dim can I be? I have an out haul anchoring system for beaches but here is a simpler approach for the odd occasions.........tie a rope to the crown of the anchor, flake out sufficient scope into the bottom of the boat, balance the anchor on the stern transom deck and then shove the boat out. All being well the anchor drops off the back, Arwen swings around to lie at anchor and I have a rope which can be tied to a large rock up on the beach. When I need Arwen, I just haul the rope, break out the anchor, and drag it up the beach along with Arwen.
6. I've just learnt how to moor Arwen to a very tall breakwater or harbour wall - all the mooring rope arrangements and calculations needed. Simple.......lovely stuff.
7. Learnt more about my sailing rig and how to rig it more efficiently than at present

Anyway, the 15 min dip ins that I do are really throwing up all sorts of new knowledge that I frankly I should have known. But rule 101 of teaching - you don't know what you don't know!

Lots to think about and practise over the next few sails at Easter! Great fun!


Thursday 13 March 2014

CKD boats

A nice looking navigator progressing well at 


Wednesday 12 March 2014

I'm liking this book!

I try to avoid reviews and recommendations - what one person likes, another dislikes - it is all personal preference at the end of the day - what works for me may not work for others.

However, so far, and it is early days, I am really liking this book

Written By Roger Barnes, President of The Dinghy Cruising Association, the style is warm, good natured, informative without being arrogant or over bearing; it gives sound advice and lovely cameos of his experiences and passion for dinghy cruising. I genuinely can't put the book down. And I have been learning such useful little snippets that I never knew...mainly because I'm inexperienced.

Now at the risk of looking stupid......I never realised I was supposed to reduce the downhaul tension on the luff when on a broad reach; and tension it up real tight when close hauled. I just kept it permanently tight.......well go figure......dur! (God must despair with me - I really am quite thick aren't I)

I hope people find it a good and useful read. I am definitely glad I bought it.

Roger at the helm of his dinghy

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Just received

A copy of Roger Barnes's book on dinghy cruising. Roger is president of the Dinghy Cruising Association. His book is called 'The Dinghy Cruising Companion'.

Very first impression.......high quality, excellent pictures, very comprehensive, lovely writing style, authoritative......I could go on. Every time I flicked randomly to a page, I learned something new, or found something thought provoking.

I am really looking forward to reading it and putting lots more skills into practise. Roger is one of our greatest dinghy cruisers and his experience and that of DCA colleagues is hard won.

On first impression.......get your copy fast!


Sunday 9 March 2014

The Palm kaikoura

was a comfy fit with plenty of adjustment. The deep cut allowed plenty of arm movement. The hand warmer fleece lined pockets worked, really well. I was worried that it would be bulky but actually it didn't seem so. So far, first outing? Impressed; but it is still early days.

Above, as worn
Radio, SPOT PLB and strobe lifejacket light attached
Left pocket as you see it
Wind anemometer; GPS, sunglasses; fingerless gloves
Right hand pocket - safety knife and mini-flares pack; spare batteries for radio and SPOT PLB
Smaller pockets - a few sweets, lip salve; whistle; spare engine kill cord
My phone also attaches to one shoulder as well

a little clip of yesterday's sail

sorry there is no music; I completely forgot to add it in but it gives a flavour of the day out. If you are suffering gloomy winter weather, I hope it brings some sense of spring to follow


Saturday 8 March 2014

at long last......its been a long time coming

I managed to get out on the water today. I have been so desperate to get some 'down and alone' time. it has been manic at school and is cranking up to major exam season.

Nice to see Arwen on the water - the first sail of 2014
Sailing under jib and mizzen only; very well balanced
Today was perfect weather.....sunny and quite some breeze, around 15 knots with some gusts up to 20. I sailed out to Cawsand bay and back again; just a short 1.5 hr sail to blow the cobwebs away.

She's looking a little worn. This will be the last season before a major refit and repaint

My Christmas present from my Mother-in-law
Brilliant, single handed flask and it worked really well
Thank Mother

Arwen and I sailed under jib and mizzen; with a locked off tiller. So all the steering was by mizzen and jib sheets release or tensioning........and it worked. I haven't mastered tacking yet but gybing is no problem.

The new additions made over winter from offcut scraps
above: the hand held compass bin....and below......the binocular bin. Need to get a new lens cap though!

Arwen sails well under under jib and mizzen. Seas were rolling as it was wave against tide; an outgoing tide and strong onshore southerly winds.

Fort Picklecombe...I wonder how residents fared over the winter storms?

My beloved Plymouth Hoe complete with Smeaton's tower and the Plymouth Lifeboat

I learned lots today. A good mornings work. Getting a feel for steering by sails alone is a crucial skill especially in rolling seas.

My first ever 'selfie' - how sad
New lifejacket much more comfortable and carries everything I need without being over bulky. I think it will prove to be a good investment

Approaching home, passing the cardinal mark

All safely tied up
Much learned
I'm already looking forward to the next sail; now I have had my down time, the next one will hopefully be with my friend Dave. Perhaps with his boat Notelet too. Now that will be a good day out.