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

Saturday 26 July 2014

classic boat rally 2

So..........a bacon buttie, cuppa and a read of the newspaper and then it was 10.00am and the pontoons were opened up to visitors. Its the first time I've been onto the pontoons in Sutton Harbour. people were enjoying the early morning sun, some were varnishing woodwork.....a never ever ending task I should think on some of these boats.

Elvin is a motor launch built by Clapson and Sons in Barton Upon Humber in 1937; she is also a Dunkirk Little Ship and so rather special. she is listed in the National Historic ships register. Arriving at Ramsgate ready to go and help at Dunkirk, she had a RNVR officer and a civilian crew. The Navy weren't too happy about this but the crew ignored them, cast off and went on; where they went alongside a pier and rescued 25 French troops and 8 British. They landed their part back at Ramsgate all safe and sound. She is now owned by Hywel Bowen Perkins, which sounds very much a welsh he is doubly blessed!

Lovely mahogany and teak work

I admire the owners of these boats, not because they own such a boat, but because of the obvious dedication they have in conserving such stunning craft. Each is a labour of love and a black hole where money is concerned I suspect.

This is an amazing vessel
A World War One Motor torpedo boat
The only one left in existence!
she was built for the Royal navy in 1916 by Thornycroft and was named coastal motor vessel 9 (CMB9). Another one listed on the National Historic Ships register she is owned by Robert Morley. LOA is 40'; of double diagonal mahogany; and one of twelve such vessels. She could launch a torpedo from a stern tube mounting and she saw action in 1917 at Zeebrugge. in 1918 she was converted to a top secret Distance Control Boat (DCB1); she was the prototype and was fitted with twin screws, bilge keels, radio masts and a small bridge containing wireless controls which could be controlled by an aircraft. The torpedo could also be launched by the plane and she was capable of 40 knots. And there we have it, all her subsequent work is still top secret classified. She remained in service until 1950's and was found in poor condition. She has now been fully restored.

People ambled around; many stopped to chat to owners. I noticed that mooring stern to pontoon is the norm. I always thought it was a 'Mediterranean' thing but clearly it has come across here too. It makes sense, easy to step off and easy to be seen.

I fell in love with this boat; she was well kept and had such pretty lines. I met her owners and they were charming. Apparently she is for sale!
Some nice touches scattered across such elegant craft
Remiss of me but I forgot to get the name of this vessel but I think she is 'Matanga'. If she is then she is a Bermudan staysail schooner designed by john Powell and built by the Sussex Boat Company in 1951. she was completely rebuilt in 2008 by Bernard Yendell of Devoran, Cornwall. her LOA is 33'
her current owners Paul and Brenda Bidmead bought her in 2013 and she is based at Falmouth.
Anyway, I look forward to seeing them sail in the next couple of days.


A few more snaps.........

The boats are sailing the sound tomorrow and Monday. I will try and get out on Arwen and see them under sail.

The plymouth classic boat rally 2014

I had forgotten it was on but providence shone on me as I had decided to do an early morning cycle ride into the barbican for a captain jasper bacon buttie and cuppa. What a pleasant surprise to discover the fleet waking up.

I loved this Dutch looking boat. I will post more photos later tonight


Thursday 24 July 2014

piccadilly circus out in the sound

My what a busy morning. I keep my VHF alternating between channel 16 and channel 14, the long room (Queen's Harbour master at Plymouth).
Well channel 14 dominated the morning. When I drove onto the ramp at 8am there were five warships in the sound. By the time I had launched, all had gone up river to the naval dockyards.

And so much to see.......four tugs in line astern proceeding out to the outer sound to escort HMS Bulwark back in. The Golden Rover taking up a buoy just inside the breakwater; the fire tender on exercise; several ships coming in or departing the cattedown.

Such excitement- a good thing really because there was barely any wind; heavy showers, thunder and lightening for most of the morning!



Monday 21 July 2014

Rain check on tomorrow

Well the cruise up the Lynher is postponed. A rain check.

Because gardening today I disturbed an undiscovered wasps nest as I was trimming the hedge. Twenty five stings and two minutes later, after the swarm had covered me, I was off to casualty.  Suffice to say I'm not allergic to wasp stings but I'm swollen all down the arms, hands and back. Fortunately none attacked my face. My wife says its because the wasps were traumatised by my ugliness!

Full of antihistamine , I'm not allowed to drive for another twenty four hrs.
Day one of my Summer holiday. Lets hope it gets better!

Sunday 20 July 2014

Having just recovered......

From a week of sailing with six teenage boys, who all got RYA level 1 and 2 certificates, I am now thinking of sailing the Lynher on Tuesday. The tides are low tide at 8.30am and are neaps so little tidal flow and going up on the incoming and back down on the outgoing. It will be a long day but it is feasible.

I managed to lose another pair of sunglasses last week as I jumped from one rib into another. I'd temporarily clipped them to my PDF, but not as well as I thought. And they didn't float as they we a cheapie pair!

The boys did themselves, me and the school proud last week. They were cheerful everyday, never moaned, got their heads down and gained success. All had a growth mindset; a very determined bunch.

Joel our instructor was outstanding. Calm, patient, encouraging, quick to praise, fair but firm. Exceptionally knowledgeable and an excellent seaman, the boys made huge progress each day. He was very ably assisted by another student of our school. I've spoken before about how much I admire this young lady. Focused, easy going, on top of her school work, determined and an outstanding instructor in her own right. She has short term and long term life goals and is a typical to be with.

Basically it all fell together nicely.
And so now its time to get Arwen out and about or a few weeks.
Lets hope the weather holds!

Thursday 17 July 2014

Day four.....

Day three I hear you say?
I have no idea where it went............

Anyway day four.......some serious successes. They are doing triangular courses and upwind sailing. It has been seriously gusty today.......ten capsizes, one nasty rope burn, but boy did the boys do well.
And so much laughter too. Good fun under challenging conditions. I'm very proud of my six boys!

Well done Mountbatten water sports centre....what a talented bunch of instructors you are. Thank you!

Wednesday 16 July 2014

day two............

Went much better than day one. By the end of the day, all students can sail across the wind, tack correctly and were even racing each other.

One or two fell out of Pecos on occasions providing me with much merriment. The instructor we have at the Mountbatten centre is outstanding. Patient, calm, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and good fun. He understands teenagers completely. Hence the progress being made.

He also deploys a secret weapon; my young friend! As soon as he thinks someone is struggling, she's out of the rib into the dinghy alongside for some demonstration and modelling of moves before hopping back in to the rib. She is an absolute sailing star.

The two of them are an excellent combination.

In the meantime, I just sit back soaking up the sun. Oh yeah!

And today? Well sailing up wind, gybing, rules of the road and knots.
And rain......lots of rain. Oh joy!

Monday 14 July 2014

Day one.................

I survived three teenagers in a boat. We came close to capsize on three occasions but quick dumping of main sheet and turning head to wind saved the day although on at least two occasions I was straddling the 'on its side' hull!

My young friend who started sailing with me three years ago is starting her dinghy instructors course by doing work experience at the centre we are using. She is sooooo good and such a credit to our school. An immense privilege watching her in action. Her boys did so much better than mine today.

So onwards and two tomorrow!
Oh my!

Saturday 12 July 2014

Getting ready...........

One waterproof dry rucksack
PDF with radio, flares, sun cream, lip salve, safety knife, multi tool
Waterproofs, hats, gloves
Wetsuit and rash vest, Wet shoes, sandals
Towels and toiletries, Spare dry clothes
Gopro equipment and Camera
Packed lunches and Water bottles
Bags of sweets
Medical consent forms and copies
Charged mobile phone
Medicine and care plans
Emergency accident forms and emergency contact numbers
Check the tides and weather forecasts

Getting ready for a week's sailing with year 7 and 8 next I know I've forgotten something!

Wednesday 9 July 2014

planning for the Fal expedition!

In thinking about sailing around the Fal for a few days I decided to put out a plea for information to the Dinghy Cruising Association members via their openboat yahoo forum.  And, as always, the gang came up trumps. Lots of useful tips came forth and my thanks go to Oliver, Keith, David, Alistair and Malcolm. Thanks for taking the trouble to help me out guys. Much appreciated.

So the advice and tips? In no particular order:
·         Contact the north west region of DCA who have a week-long rally there every year

·         Mylor harbour has two concrete ramps, one is free, the other has a small charge. Contact the marina office for charges; the trailer and car can be parked here up the ‘valley’; car goes where there is a space. It does involve a brisk ten minute walk back down the valley and you need someone minding the boat if launching here for the aforementioned reason and also because of the brisk rise and fall of tides in this area.

·         Windsport international next to Restronguet Sailing Club might help with car and trailer if launching from ramps at Mylor.

·         Another possible launch site with car and trailer storage is Pascoes boatyard. Phone a man called Jim!

·         Regarding pubs on the waterside? There is Pandora Inn in Restronguet creek, Smugglers Cottage just upriver from the King Harry Ferry, Heron Inn at Malpas, or I could sail up to Truro and tie alongside Tescos!

·         Other suggestions include: St Mawes harbour and then sailing up Percuil river, anchoring near its head and walking overland to Portscatho; or the Helford river with Gillian creek and the Helford sailing club to port and pub at Helford passage to starboard; on a suitable tide I could sail up past Port Navas to Gweek
One possible option is to go and book myself and the boat onto a campsite for a couple of days whilst I visit and reccy these various launch sites and then choose an appropriate one and sail for three days. That sounds fun. I could sleep on-board the boat, or take a small tent and pitch that.
Thanks to the DCA I now have options to consider. There is a particular joy in planning some trips isn’t there.

Tuesday 8 July 2014

being inspired..........

There are people who inspire me. Robert in New Zealand who built a navigator called 'Annie' and makes the most extraordinary musical instruments out of wood.

Or Joel, an engineer on the west coast of USA who built an extraordinary navigator called 'Ellie' and who always comes up with a solution that is so well thought out and crafted - see his latest blog about his sleeping platform.
Pure simplicity and elegance of design.

There is Steve and his pathfinder 'Spartina'. Steve's penmanship is eloquent; he encapsulates the spirit of 'small adventures'; his sailing skills are honed from many voyages.

There is Bursledon Blogger who's love of all things to do with the sea and boats just shines through every page he writes. Read his lovely blog at  he has such a great knowledge of boats; amazing.

In fact any of the blogs listed on my homepage on the menu on the right. For all these bloggers have been an extraordinary source of inspiration, advice and comfort to me.

And lets not forget my friend who started me off on this whole boat building lark in the first place; his patience, wisdom and encouragement have, frankly, been quite legendary. Its a tough course to follow being my friend. The fact he has managed to do it and stay the course for so many years.....inspiring stuff!

And then there is Dylan Winter.

Dylan 'Keeps turning left' along our coastline and is completing, I think, a slow circumnavigation of our fair isles. When he reaches Plymouth, I look forward to welcoming him into our harbour. Dylan is a fine sailor but he has another talent. He makes extraordinary video essays! Here is a master film maker in action........a master class in film making..........elegant, eloquent, simple and emotional.............enjoy.


Saturday 5 July 2014

Lots of sailing coming up

Well week after next is my annual aspirations week. Six students with me at our local water sports centre attempting to complete their RYAN levels 1 and 2 in a week. This year, my sailing heroine will be in attendance. This 15 year old lady first started sailing with me three years ago. It was her very first time in a dinghy. During this forth coming week, she will be undertaking her dinghy sailing instructors training. In only three years. It is her passion and it all started on one of my aspiration week sailing courses. What a tremendous inspirational little story.

We will also be dinghy sailing in Greece during the summer. Well I will. 'Her indoors' will be doing her windsurfing thingy. My missus is soooo cool!

I will be trying to sail a Bahia in force 4+ no chance really. I ordered a new rash vest since I will be spending most of my time in the water rather than on the dinghy!! Still, one must try these things before one becomes too old!!

I'm torn for my summer trip between

  • Sailing along the coast to Dartmouth and up the Dart to be taken out at Totnes
  • Sailing along the last overnighting at Salcombe, then onto Dartmouth, and around to Torquay 
  • Sailing down to Falmouth, up the Fal, around the Helford river and then towing home from Falmouth, once I've worked out how to get the car and trailer down there as her indoors doesn't like to tow a trailer
  • Towing down to Falmouth, storing car and trailer, sailing for a few days down here and then coming back
  • Sailing up the Lynher to St. Germans and back
Decisions, decisions, so much to do, so little time to do it in!!

Thursday 3 July 2014

Capsizing a navigator.....and more

A must visit site for all those sailing navigators?

Interesting stuff!


Wednesday 2 July 2014

Sailing around Britain..........

I sense a retirement project for Arwen and I, says me with tongue firmly in cheek............

An outstanding achievement