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 29 May 2014

sailing up the river tamar

this page will go active tomorrow when you will be able to track my progress up the River Tamar. I have decided to seize the moment and head for Calstock, a fair way up the river Tamar.

this link will take anyone who is interested to the RYA pilotage notes for sailing up the Tamar to Calstock

The weather forecast isn't pretty but beggars cant be choosers can they and this is the last opportunity I have to do it before starting back at work on Monday.

The winds are around 10 knots dropping to 5 knots during the afternoon with short, sharp showers predicted between bouts of sunshine. on Saturday, the weather is better - it wont rain but winds are very light and from the north - backing around to the east which is pretty much perfect for what I need. tomorrow they are from the east most of the day - again this is perfect - over the starboard beam.

I have taken a mooring at the Calstock boat yard and I will be able to moor alongside their pontoon for around 2 hrs either side of high water before having to retreat to a mid channel mooring - sounds perfect.

For the first time, the IPAD will be accompanying me along with one or two navigation apps I want to try out. We'll see how they go.

I intend launching around 11.15am from QAB and will have a little shakedown cruise first around the sound before heading in to the mouth of the Tamar around 12.30ish.  I aim to arrive at Calstock around 6pm just enough water there to moor alongside the pontoon.

I suspect I will be able to sail as far as Weir Quay and then after that probably resort to motor although if there is sufficient wind from the east and sufficient water on the bends - I may be able to sail up past Pentille Castle and Haldon Quay. Who knows - we shall find out tomorrow!


Tuesday 27 May 2014

The Exe Valley Country Park

A nice bike ride from Exeter Canal Quay down to  the Turf Inn and back along the old Exeter Ship canal; passing Topsham on the way....once England's second busiest port!

looking back up the Exeter ship canal towards Exeter

one of the canal's residents

a little community of boats is found at the lock gate end where it joins the river Exe

some have 'an interesting' style

the turf inn
it was rather nice sitting on the left hand side with our backs up against the pub shingles
watching the Topsham ferry winding its way down river

looking across the estuary towards Topsham with old boat wrecks in the foreground

looking down river towards Exmouth

the Penzance - Paddington railway line runs on the embankment behind the boats

the lock entrance to the Exeter ship canal

on our cycle ride back we came upon this old gem. I think, but I may be wrong here, that this is an old WW2 motor torpedo boat

wasn't much protection for the crew, from cold, waves, bullets or splinters

Monday 26 May 2014

glorious weather

as it so happened today has been would have been fantastic cruising back down the lynher skies, lovely sunshine and real warmth. Rats!

Still 'ce cera cera' and all that!

I took the opportunity to go help a friend sort out his braked trailer; and then I came home, did some stuff in the garden and then took the opportunity to fashion a tent of sorts from an old white tarpaulin. It will sort of work although the 'windage effect' could be an issue I suspect. Having made a boom crutch as well, the tent is roomy and high. Not quite standing room. It also allows a breeze to pass down through the tent. Given I sleep inside a gortex bivvy bag - this shouldn't be an issue. It has worked in the past with a darker green tarp.

Well we'll find out at some stage! My hunch is it should be much lower but then you are sat cramped on the side benches. Trial and error; trial and error!

I also fitted another mast halyard to take a small anchor light as well.


Got to sort out and trim to shape
I didn't cut where shrouds are - I just removed shrouds and tied them to mast
the back closes across by use of elastic ties but leaves some gap for air flow
It is also easy for emergency access to outboard should need arise; although I envisage taking the ground on most of the occasions I use this tarp tent
I haven't quite sorted out how the front works yet
The ties do pull the ends in around the mast and there is 'quick release' access to get at the anchor if need be
it will suffice against light shows and gentle breeze nights
and that's its primary purpose

Sunday 25 May 2014


Managed to sort the miscreant hatch cover before dad arrived. Would never have heard the end of it...son of an engineer and can't solve a simple problem like a jammed hatch cover. It would have kept him amused for days!!

Managed to prise it off mm by mm with a screwdriver and a metal boat building clamp (just don't ask!!!) without damaging the thread. It had crossed over several threads idea how.  Cleaned all the threads and it seems to have gone back on fine. Pumped out all the water but most of the day is gone. Weather has turned very wet, not like the forecast in someways this has been a blessing.

Hey no hum!  He comes the rain.....again


Rain stops play.....

It's a conspiracy.......but with a silver lining I guess.

Plans to sail today up the Lynher are postponed to the end of the week.
A number of reasons...........

Torrential rain overnight has flooded the boat through the tarps and its taking some pumping out!
The winds are around 17 knots for much of the day......which is fine; nothing like a little bit of heel.....won't be the first time.

However, and its a big however........the 'popped hatch'.........well that's a different issue.
Basically there are three things that irritate me about Arwen.

1.  The centreboard case top on my version of plans stopped half way along the centre case so she used to ship water through the open section when going to windward........fixed by using some camping sleeping matt foam
2. The hatch in the forward bulkhead is directly behind the mast and when I built Arwen I was too inexperienced to spot the problem!!! Makes it almost impossible to use as there is only 7 inches access either side of that mast
3.   My biggest bugbear! Two 8 inch circular hatches in the vertical walls of the forward thwart. Hindsight, a wonderful thing would have put hatches in the actual thwart seat top!

And one of the hatches has not only leaked so that the under seat area is full of water but it also jammed being screwed back on.

And I mean seriously jammed.......half on, half not on, threads exposed, jammed. Don't know how....I was so careful screwing back in but something suddenly clicked and that was it. Grease, Vaseline, WD40, gentle heat, ..........nothing shifted it. Left it for a while............nothing.

Now going to sea with a hatch on hatch is not an option, not with 17 knot winds gusting to 26 knots. Well not going to sea in any circumstances actually.

So so we are shore bound having missed the tides!

The silver lining? Mum and dad can call in and see us on the way back from their holiday in Cornwall.......and dad will have a solution. He's an engineer. He'll have a solution. He always does.

In the meantime, I will sail with my good friend on Thursday, all being well and then sail the Lynher Friday and Saturday instead.

By then normal service will have been resumed. Sorry folks!


Saturday 24 May 2014

Possible overnight camp stops

I haven't quite decided where to camp tomorrow. There are four possibilities.

1. At St Germans - the starboard side of the most starboard trots - out on the mud flats - as you look up river towards the railway viaduct

2. Up a tributary of the Lynher - alongside the pontoons at Boating World although despite contacting them three time by email - they haven't replied - so I guess I should take the hint!
3. on the southern, outside bend of Dandy Hole - I could anchor fore and aft right in the lee of the wooded hill slope which would give me a sheltered anchorage for the night
4. in the top of the picture above is a little triangular piece of land with a small beach - just off the main channel - right hand bank. I know the hostellers club have used that beach before. I am camping on a set of rising spring tides - so if I moor in such a way that I have an aft anchor out; along with a bow anchor onto the land - I should be able to camp on the land; let the boat dry out overnight and then re-float in the morning
Well that's the theory anyway!

Final review for tomorrow

Well the wind is picking up but as long as it stays a southerly that will be fine. I guess it will be sensible to reef from the start and heave to where necessary. I could sail most of tomorrow with just mainsail and no mizzen or jib. Alternatively I may be able to sail with just jib.

We will soon find out.

Below are the various weather site predictions. There will be rain that's for sure

the above three maps are from passage

the met office forecast for Plymouth

The weather forecast

Is for cloud and some odd showers. Winds are forecast SSW around 12 knots but with gusts to 29 knots. As I go up the Tamar, that should be fine with winds blowing over the port stern quarter. As I turn into the Lynher, as long as the winds stay SSW then I should get them coming over the port beam for much of the way. May need a reef or two then.

But winds never work out that way do they!

I'm going to need to make a nifty launch tomorrow early or I will run out of water at the ramp. So I'm thinking I will just dump everything in, launch and get on the water and then beetle around to the north slip pontoon and tie up again to sort things out. It's a much longer pontoon with much more deeper water. My other alternatives are to mosey across and tie up on a buoy in the cattedown or one of the bigger ones to the north of drakes island. Plan C is to just pull up on the launch ramp opposite QAB and sort things out there first.

Anyway must dash, things to do.....get meths, get petrol, bits and bobs and do my pilotage passage plans.

Exciting times!!

Friday 23 May 2014

SPOT tracker page

This is my shared SPOT tracking page for Sunday and Monday. The weather is going to be grim 
tomorrow but hopefully improving throughout my two days.

I will update more tomorrow


This is my 700th post on this blog. Wow!  And on Sunday it will my 300th hour and 75th trip in Arwen
Double Wow!!

Sunday 18 May 2014

The facts about La Solitaire du Figaro

The boats
  • identical 33ft Figaro Beneteau 2 yachts
  • length along waterline 10.11m
  • beam 3.43m
  • displacement 3,050 kgs
The race
  • leg 1: Deauville-Plymouth June 8th arriving June 10/11th - distance 484 nautical miles via Wolf Rock and Astan Buoy off Roscoff, Brittany
  • leg 2: Plymouth-Roscoff  departing June 14th; arriving June 17/18th  distance 535 nautical miles via The Fastnet Rock
  • leg 3: Roscoff- Les sables  departing June 22nd  arriving 24/25th June   distance 505 nautical miles
  • leg 4: Les Sables - Cherbourg  depart July 29th  arriving July 1st/2nd   distance 490 nautical miles
More can be found out about the race at


Sam Goodchild

is a west country skipper in the Solitaire du Figaro. He's 24 yrs old and is flying the flag for Plymouth and Falmouth.  His boat is 'Team Plymouth' and Sam wants to focus world attention on our fair city. Its his fourth year in the event and he is already the UK's best placed competitor since the one design rule was introduced in 1991.

Sam says in our local paper that the biggest challenge is looking after your body as well as making the boat go fast.

Well we all wish him luck in our city. Its going to prove to be quite an event!

La Solitaire du Figaro

is coming to Plymouth, the first time it will have been to the UK in eleven years. Reputedly one of France's most popular long distance yacht races, it has the superstars of the yacht sailing world competing across its 2000 odd miles.

copyright: Courouc-Maramara-La Figaro

All entrants are on identical 33ft long yachts and it begins in Deauville on June 8th and finishes in Cherbourg on July 1st. its very popular in France, particularly Brittany and the Vendee.

Sailors will criss-cross the channel snatching 10 - 15 minute catnaps. All boats carry on board tracking and so we can all follow them live. There are four legs and although sailors will be able to do media interviews they will need to be self sufficient and out of contact with the outside world or their support team. all running repairs must be done by the sailors themselves.

there will be a huge sore party and thousands of fans descending on Plymouth during the layover in Sutton Harbour on June 11th. apparently we are having a carnival of entertainment on the hoe to go with all the fun!

Stacey, our 1971 motovespa super 125

very occasionally makes an appearance here.

Well she had an outing today and rather nice it was too. A short spin over to the hoe to have a coffee with my lovely wife before she went shopping and I returned home.

Her top speed 50 mph. Very civilised out in the sun. And lots of people had similar ideas too.


A John Welsford Navigator

Is a lovely boat. Roomy; a boat you sit in rather than on; simple to sail; elegant, classic lines. And always mistaken for a Drascombe Lugger.
It happens all the time. "Oh what a lovely drascombe"! "Damn fine boats are drascombes, you'll love sailing her"

It happened four times yesterday whilst Arwen was on the road and I was working on her. One lovely lady in her late forties insisted it was a drascombe because she'd sailed in one as a youngster and it had "lovely tan sails"!!!!!!

Please understand I have nothing against a drascombe. Lovely boat. BUT a Welsford navigator just doesn't look like a drascombe does it!

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year in Plymouth and the sun shone all day. We hit 23 Celsius! So yesterday morning I caught up with all those odd jobs that needed doing, putting Arwen 'shipshape' for next weekend's voyage up the Lynher. The new sleeping platform was tested. It will work, just. It is a section of 4mm ply reinforced below by two 80mm wide lengths of wood. It slots across the port side of the aft cockpit section, resting on the aft and centre and side thwarts. So no more trying to sleep on a narrow side thwart. It also gives temporary storage space under it. Or I can put inflatable buoyancy bags underneath to support it should my weight prove too much!  When put away it now resides along the starboard side of the front half of the cockpit, held in place by strong white bungee elastics.

I also fitted two small buoyancy bags either side of the centre case. Some is better than none at all. Again, removable if need be, they are held in place by strong white bungee elastic. The third one I have I may well use as mast head buoyancy on a halyard on the mast. It would work but I don't know about the wind dynamics. It shouldn't interfere with the normal working of jib or mainsail but I will ponder on it some more. I need to rig another halyard anyway for an anchor light.

I also found new storage places along the little side deck strip on the starboard side of the forward centre case for my safety harness. It comprises a long 5m, 12mm rope with a proper blue safety harness attached to that. I've tied it around the centre case area which runs between forward end of centre case and front thwart with a bowline. It is held in place by, you have guessed, some circles of white bungee elastic. The GoPro extension pole also lives along the same little side deck and is now much more easily accessible.

All ropes got trimmed yesterday as well. As some readers will have deduced from posts over many years, the sheer amount of "spare string" on Arwen  has irritated me and so I resolved to get it sorted yesterday. The jib halyard got trimmed so that now there is just enough to tie off with.  The main sheet was trimmed. I pushed the boom out tight against the shrouds and then trimmed the main sheet, leaving some spare length on it. I still managed to remove 5m....ridiculous length! What was I thinking of when it was put it on originally? Other halyards were trimmed or frayed ends cut and redone.

The anchor was extracted and the rope sorted and loosely flaked back in. Its gone a yellowy tinge of off white but still seems fine. I also added a couple more GoPro mounts in strategic places.

The last task was fitting lacing hooks under the bottom rubbing strakes ready for the tarpaulin tent. I ordered a new white tarp and tarp tape with the hope of cutting it to size this weekend but alas it did not arrive in time. So that will be next Saturday's job along with sorting the camping gear, buying food etc.

I have managed to obtain a mooring on a trot up at St Germans so won't need to anchor although I have been told that if the owner returns then I can anchor safely overnight to the east of that trot, taking the ground on level mud. That will be fine as well.

So, slowly but surely everything falling into place.

Arwen's next trip will be our 75th and my 300th hour sailing her. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

powermonkey extreme 12V battery and solar charger for dinghy cruising

Question: how do you charge an IPAD when on an overnight dinghy cruise away from any habitation or friendly pub?

Obvious answer: don't cruise in remote areas away from pubs! Silly boy!

I have had a Powermonkey Explorer for a few years now and boy do I love that bit of kit. It charges my mobile two or three times from one charge quite easily and although slow to charge up using the solar panels (well we barely get sun in this part of the world frankly), it does hold its charge very well if you charge it from the mains before you leave.

But on extended coastal voyages or overnighter's I am now carrying a camera; an IPAD with navigation charts and GPS programmes on it; a GOPro Hero 2 action camera which chews through batteries at a rate of knots; a mobile phone; and of course a marine VHF radio

So how do you keep all of those charged up?

Well the PowerMonkey Extreme 12v will. And I have just taken delivery of one. Sadly my Gran passed away at the beginning of the year and she left each grandchild a small sum of money. I put mine towards things for sailing and some towards a family holiday. I know that would have made her happy as she liked to see us doing fun, active things and getting the most out of our lives.  My new Kiakoura PFD was funded this way.

I had read many reviews and most were very positive. I saw one in action recently on an extended camp on Dartmoor and over the course of a weekend, it charged iphones, ipods and one ipad. It was quite impressive.

Now it isn't the lightest bit of kit I've ever taken with me but I think it will earn its place inside Arwen's lockers. I can probably leave it charging via solar panels for much of the day on nice gentle sails as long as I periodically adjust its position so it doesn't fall in to the shadow of the mainsail.

I chose a bright yellow one so I could find it easily. I've already tested it on most of electrical things I carry and so far, it works just fine which is good to know! I have even managed to get it to charge my wind up radio. Brilliant news!

I also managed to get a good discount price on it as well plus the aquastrap which helps make it waterproof thrown in for free as well. That was a one off deal and the dealer made sure I knew it.

So the upshot is that over my weekend cruise in a few weeks time I should be able to charge the ipad up 50% x once; charge the mobile phone x 2; and charge the VHF x 1 - all from the same battery pack and there should be enough to charge a GoPro battery as well.

I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime if you want to know more about it here are two website reviews.


PS talking of nice little pieces of kit - I love what Steve has bought over at 'Log of Spartina'. Go check it out at      Look for the solar light pillow. I love it!


Tuesday 13 May 2014

Monday 12 May 2014

Pilotage up the Lynher

Initial planning for my May Half Term trip shows details as follows

  • Sunday 25th  Devonport LT 10.03 1.3m;  HT 16.12 4.9m. LT 22.30 1.3m
  • Monday 26th.                  HT 04.35 5.0m;  LT. 10.59. 1.1m. HT. 17.04. 5.1m
So it's basically spring tides. So I need to bear in mind depth for anchoring overnight at St. Germans and also tidal flows up and down the Tamar and Lynher.

the little port of St Germans
The yellow thing is the large viaduct carrying the Penzance - Paddington railway line
Devonport is off to the south east corner, some 6 miles downstream
  St. Germans is very far upriver and I suspect there will be less than 0.5m to anchor in looking at the chart. The chart says 0.7m above chart datum at low water so.........take that away from the 1.3m ......and if I have done this suggests around 0.60m to anchor in. Take off Arwen's draft which is around 0.30m and yep I suspect it will be grounding overnight.......which is fine.  However, as that will be around 10.30 at night I need to be particularly careful in choosing a spot. I suspect I'll be looking for that around 20.30 but will still have approximately 2m of water below me even then.

St Germans is to the north west.
The tributary heading north is up to Boating World which is an alternative destination
Boating World very helpfully publish this handy leaflet

Boating World is just up above the yellow shaded viaduct
This is a better aerial view of Boating World, the viaduct and behind that, the Lynher are in the background
I have taken the precaution of emailing the St Germans Quay sailing club for some advice and also to see if they have a spare overnight mooring berth.

Pilotage will be fairly straight forward up the Tamar. Turning into the Lynher at the port mark buoy, its then a twisting channel. There are some hazards to watch for. Beggars Island and its shoaling waters to the north of it; Jupiter Point, the naval training base. Need to keep north of HMS Brecon moored mid channel and then it is necessary to hug the northerly channel down to Ince Buoy because that's where the deeper water is and it avoids a rather nasty mid channel sandbank that dries out at low tide. In fact from the Ince buoy upriver, you really need to be 2.5 hrs either side of high tide.

Beggars Island can be seen in the middle west of the picture above
The jetties in the south of the channel are HMS Jupiter Point, the Navy powerboat training centre

Dandy Hole, the outside of a large meander has deep water at all states of the tide and is my emergency anchorage point. I could anchor fore and aft and it is very sheltered from most directions.

The rest of the river journey is a narrow channel marked by stripped poles either side. An alternative journey is up to boating world. They have a pontoon which I believe is accessible even on low water springs. They also have toilets and that is an alternative destination.

Now all I have to do is start the tidal height calculations, programme my GPS with waypoints etc and I'll be able to furnish you with more details of the planned overnighter next week.

Two weeks to go.

Sunday 11 May 2014

Pirates day on the Barbican

Not flying a 'Jolly Roger'
The 'Phoenix'
The Phoenix was extremely popular today

All that rigging

the queues just kept going............

and then there be pirates!
of all shapes and sizes!!

including the girls in their pirate ship
and a nice boat to admire
and a lovely little gem in need of some TLC