Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and i am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's battery marina in the barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England.
Arwen has a YouTube channel of her own. Search "plymouthwelshboy".

Monday, 2 June 2014

meandering up the river Tamar part 3

We depart QAB on the falling tide, using the north slip with the permission of the marina yardies. Arwen is packed. All the front cockpit is filled with three waterproof expedition bags; one with sleeping gear and spare clothing; one with food and cooking equipment; the last with tent materials. The clouds are an ominous grey, low, and very wet looking. But my foulies are on, including waterproof trousers and we are ready for anything.

This is my 75th trip in Arwen, our three hundredth hour will be clocked up on his voyage.

The calm before the storm?
Out into Jennycliffe Bay we motor and sails are raised. It becomes clear it will be breezy, some violent gusts but Arwen and I potter about getting a feel for the conditions. We are under mizzen and main only. The sprit boom has been raised to a new position to see if we can eliminate the ‘dreaded crease’. The luff of the sail has been pulled in closer to the mast by using some rope.

More of Kevin Stares videos can be found on his YouTube channel at

We run through some basics, coming into the wind, where Arwen, with her mizzen sheeted in hard sits facing the wind. She never deviates, sails flap along the centreline. She behaves impeccably. With jib out we carry out some heaving too and again she behaves as she should.  And then we potter off to see the submarine anchored in the lee of the breakwater. But getting too close is clearly not being allowed and so our thoughts turn to the expedition.

Under main and mizzen, we head up north west into the mouth of the Tamar, via the bridges at the western end of Drakes Island. The wind is astern and the gusts have us surfing on occasions. It feels both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time; a sort of mildly out of control!    

I think this is 'Double de Ginn', a postboat based at QAB

It's going well. We make around four knots shooting the narrows between Cremyll Battery and Devils Point. Up past King Billy and number one shed of the old dockyards, the aft wind drives us forward towards Torpoint and then suddenly the winds shift, northerly straight down the channel. Caught in an eddy we claw helplessly westwards towards the mudflats. Huge gusts ferociously fill the sail; no time for heave too; no time to reef. Out comes the jib. We tack just in time and head south back down the channel putting distance between us and the accursed mudflats. Many a fine ship has ended her days on Millbrook Lake mudflats but not us. Not this day! With a gunnel and rubbing strake leaning in the water we career down the Hamoze to open water and we tack around once more. The jib is furled, the mizzen eased further and the mainsail eased out. We've achieve a beam reach which takes us through the Torpoint ferries path and past the moored tanker. The mouth of the Lynher beckons.

Being overtaken by a rowing boat...ah the pain and humiliation

sailing past 'King billy' and the number one yard shed

and up past the dockyards

And we safely negotiate the three Torpoint ferries whilst under sail power!

We sail as far as the bridges. After that the wind drops and the channel narrows considerably. The tide hasn’t started to push up river yet and with the wind shifting to NNE it’s going to be hard work trying to tack up a narrow channel which runs north. We are pinching way to close to the wind to make progress. The sails come down and now it’s by motor. Up to Cargreen following the starboard and port buoys carefully. The left hand mudflats extend outwards some distance from the shore. Whilst the tide is rising, it still wouldn’t be fun to get stuck on them. For our first trip up the Tamar, caution is the watch word. Next time we will sail as far as we can, because then we will have ‘knowledge’ of the channel and its vagaries.

Past Weir Quay boat yard, you enter the first of the meanders. This one is massive. The river almost bends back on itself. The pilotage notes are really clear. Hug the outside channel where the deep water is!

Weir Quay Boatyard

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