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 31 August 2014

Housekeeping on a wooden dinghy

Takes a lot of time. Arwen had a good scrub out this afternoon. What's more I even scrubbed the small kedge anchor rode which had lain somewhat muddy in its storage crate since our trip up the Lynher. Shame on me!  I also marked off with waterproof tape 1 metre intervals and 5 metre intervals on the main anchor warp as well to help me better calculate depth and scope when anchoring.

I pumped out some summer rain water as well and that got me to reflect on how to get rid of winter rain accumulation this year. Well my friend last night started the reflection when demonstrating his set up for pumping water between water butts in his green house.

He has bought a little whaler orca 500 pump which he is attaching to a Yuasa 12v 12 amp dry cell battery which he is storing in a cheap food storage Tupperware tub. It's water tight when clipped down. He will drill a hole for the wires to exit through a waterproof seal/gland. He will wire up a fuse and a switch and then use a solar panel trickle charger to keep the battery recharged up. It's a clever set up. Details about this little pump can be found here. At the moment various chandlers have them on line for around £14. Good value and they are submersible as well!

I have thought about bilge pumps before. I have often looked at a whaler urchin hand pump but where to mount it? It needs to be somewhere in the aft cockpit and then tubes would need to be drilled through the centre thwart lockers and......well the pump would get I the way even if it was mounted flush in the thwart and too much drilling through bulkheads. The advantage of the orca is its simplicity and minimum drilling required. The battery could be stored in a watertight locker and only a small hole and waterproof seal would be required for wires to exit. The pump could be attached to. Piece of 3mm ply and basically be moveable. As long as the exit tube rises upwards and can form a u bend on the inside of the hull before exiting via a waterproof seal in he sheer plank...which it can....then all is hunky dory so to speak.

I need to investigate it more but for the price of a whaler urchin I could get a simpler more versatile system and if I installed a float switch them over winter it would automatically pump out water. However, for simplicity sake I'm just thinking some wiring and I just connect it up periodically to pump out once a week the rainwater collection.

I'll give it some more thought but my initial thinking is its useful. During sailing it could be also used when its raining to pump out water that collects in floor well as as well!

Friday 29 August 2014

A little fun on a motovespa 125 super

Stacey......a motovespa 125 super

Occasionally makes an appearance here in Arwen's blog. Arwen, Angharad (our wee lap strake canoe) and Stacey all live happily together in our garage cum driveway area.
Stacey was manufactured in 1968 and assembled here in Bristol at Douglas-Vespa in 1970. She gained her registration in 1971. She has a 125 cc engine, two stroke and so requires oil to be mixed in with the unleaded petrol. 

Her top speed on a good day is 50mph; on an average day 40mph and on a bad day 30mph. What day she is having is very hit and miss and we never quite know until we are out on her. 

If you have been a long time reader of this blog you will recall we found her on ebay in a barn so to speak down in deepest west Cornwall and we were somewhat surprised to find our tentative ebay bid won! We duly bought her back in a trailer and then set about stripping her down piece by piece and rebuilding her over the next year and a half. She had new everything except piston and crankshaft. Her body work was bead blasted and primed and resprayed. The seat, an original, stayed as did the speedo but wheels, brakes, exhaust that was all new. The back and front lights had new frames and there was a new horn as well. 

She is a pleasure to drive. Normally very well behaved, she will throw she odd 'over revving hissy fit' which can be quite alarming especially in narrow streets or villages; mor at major traffic junctions and roundabouts. Very occasionally she will argue about going into the gear you want and randomly select one of her own instead! She likes to remind you who is boss!

Anyway today she had an outing to Salcombe, a round trip of fifty miles or so. Lots of hills and the rolling countryside of the South Hams in Devon.  She behaved herself most of the time and it was rather good fun. Blowy but fun!


Wednesday 27 August 2014

Learning to drive a powerboat

Last week I managed to gain my RYA level 2 powerboat certificate......a plastic photo ID card to add to my collection. The instruction from Toby was outstanding, challenging and demanding. He was very thorough. We spend mornings doing slow control using the throttle/gear handle making sure one hand was on the power and one on the wheel at all times. Switching on and off, kill cord procedures, s turns, sharp controlled turns, crossing waves low and high speed, safety equipment and its usage, turning the boat within its own length, coming long side, picking up MOB and moorings. 

Chart work, weather interpretation.........outboards and ribs, displacement and planing boats.

My, there was so much to take in and think about. Lots I knew, some I had forgotten and plenty was new. But we got there in the end. 

Of course, it was great in wind and waves...but the med isn't exactly a tidal area is I must quickly get into a rib in the next few weeks to go do it all again but taking into account tidal's just trying to work out who I know who has a rib and might be prepared to take me out (which after a little reflection is......nobody); or I o hire one for an hour or two at Salcombe.....that sounds a fun option, costly but fun. I now need to persuade her indoors!

Another superb navigator on the water

Go to

Enjoy the navigator and the other wooden boats. 
Looked like a great day out


Tuesday 26 August 2014

Sailing down to the local taverna

In light winds. Hard going but fun.

Monday 25 August 2014

Learning to use a centre main sheet in a laser

Wow. It's tricky getting all the hand coordination right when using a centre main sheet for the first time in a number of years......and that tiller extension.......aargh!

Award ceremonies and flying

'Her in-doors' got an award for being a fantastic, determined beginner windsurfer. Not sure whether she was thrilled to go up on stage but I know and love that persistent, stubborn, 'do or die' streak of hers. 

I duly received my Powerboat level two qualification and identity card along with another level two dinghy sailing qualification. It has been a good week's learning. Most of the theory on safety, clothing, chart work, pre departure checks, trailering etc I knew, obviously. But I still learned new things.....leave your trailer bearings to cool for at least thirty minutes for every hour towed was a new one on me. Learning how to do various tows another useful skill and perfecting some light wind sailing techniques a bonus. Everything in the rib was new to me. Challenging, I like that. Of course, it will be even more challenging going in tidal waters!

It would be nice to do other courses with Neilson but they don't do the ones I want or need. The new RYA dinghy qualification scheme has become a hierarchical modular system as I interpret it. You can't do seamanship and day sailing without having done levels one to three. Consequently it seems daft and very frustrating that Neilson do level one and two and three advanced modules ......performance sailing, beginning with spinnakers and starting racing.......yet they omit level three. As an intermediate dinghy sailor then, I cannot sign up for the other courses because I can't do level three with them. Daft frankly....come on Neilson......sort it out, please!

As I write this, we are over the alps. I am amazed at how much snow there is on some mountains now, in the height of summer. Many glaciers I know and have climbed over, have sadly retreated far more than I expected. At 35,000 feet, it is a geographers paradise............everything I know about my subject can be bought to interpret the landscape below. Ribbon lakes, u shaped valleys, braided rivers with their sinuous meanders. Transchmance farming. Down in the valleys on the small fragments of floodplain, summer arable crops. Away to my left, the Mt. Blanc massif, climbed and scrambled over way back in the early eighties. It seems a lifetime ago.....when I weighed in considerably less and ran mountain marathons for fun..........gee.......what happened?

Having crossed the sun drenched alps with their cotton wool clouds, the landscape has become obscured by a blanket of lower stratus. It thins in places allowing the sun to illuminate below, reflecting off buildings, lakes and rivers. The Swiss landscape. 

I love flying......all geographers's a sort of 'bus mans holiday'. I just wish I'd just once, remember to bring my pocket atlas.......I forget it every time!


As much as we love the hotel, its grounds and especially its staff, 'her indoors' and I felt the need to escape tonight and so we broke out. At the end of the hotel drive we decided turning left looked nicer than turning right.....and so we did. Turn left that is.  The narrow lane went straight for nearly a kilometre. On our left beyond the bamboo thickets, the fields of peppers and the odd private villa and grounds was the golden sandy beach. Golden isn't the right adjective, it's a slightly reddy colour mixed with golden. 

To our right were carefully tilled small holdings. Each one had a simple concrete house, roughly built with a small patio; some with pergolas from which draped vines. A simple plastic table and chair set finished the picture. Some had garden hoses coiled to outside taps. The surrounding small plots Held goats, chickens, a few small olive trees, delicately shaped and pruned, the base of their trunks painted white. Some fields had watermelons, huge green or yellowy green. In some, chrysanthemums were grown. A few plots were left to weeds, the occasional abandoned small truck frame, poking through the scrub.

The soil in a ploughed field strip was well tilled, soft, crumbly and well tended. The furrows were straight and deep. This was earth that had been tilled and cared for for generations. Think black hosepipes ran along the furrow ditches......irrigation a must for crops to thrive. As we ambled along,  the occasional small holder would stop from his toil and flash a smile or a quick wave. 

Half way along two teenagers stepped forward and politely proffered a leaflet advertising their parents beachside taverna 700m away. Their big smiles, polite approach and thanks afterwards won our approval, their manners impressing us immensely.....and so we meandered the roads to search out 'the golden sands taverna'. 

Our lane ended at a 't' junction where we found some market stalls selling fruit and veg straight from the fields behind. A huge net had been sprung high on poles to provide shade across the road and locals pulled up their cars to go buy fruit. Simple wooden tables were piled high with tomatoes, melons, onions, aubergines, figs, peppers; in fact a whole array of produce. Behind the stalls elderly Greek men and ladies sat nattering on upturned crates or plastic chairs under the dim glow of a single light bulb hanging from its wire. Scattered everywhere were crates of produce and plastic carrier bags. Four kilo of tomatoes for one euro. Fresh tomatoes picked that day. Back in the UK we'd pay over ten pounds!!

Turning past the small church the road ran along the beach and past two tavernas with beach bars. They didn't appeal. There was something too touristy about them. We carried on and our persistence was rewarded. As the lane petered out, a small beach bar appeared on a raised deck beneath canvas pergolas. Behind it under the shade of eight giant eucalyptus trees was a car park and a children's play area and beyond that, the taverna we sought. "The Golden Sands Taverna".  There beneath the eucalyptus and four giant palms we found shade and respite from the humid evening air.

We had chosen well. No tourists but a few locals. Some men chatted animatedly under the canvas pergola; just beyond were the women. A few youngsters played on the white stone terrace patio.

Our hosts were gracious, cheerful and good humoured. A lovely table under the palms was ours. Complimentary bread and olive oil promptly served. As dusk descended and one or two more Greek families arrived our food was served hot. A menu of simple dishes but tasty, washed down with iced bottled water, Pepsi and ouzo! As we were allowed to languish at our table and darkness descended, garden lights were switched on to provide a lovely ambiance. Greek radio played softly in the background. Laughter came from kitchen staff and our hosts and insects started their evening orchestrations. A few Greek teenagers sat on the taverna low garden walls and chilled out.  Teenagers are teenagers across the world. These teenagers were good natured, chilled out and impeccably well mannered.

As we chilled out, the taverna owner bought us a plate of complimentary figs........cold from the fridge and so fresh. She good naturedly showed us how to peel them efficiently and left us to our figs..........there are insufficient adjectives; succulent just doesn't do them justice!
A very simple taverna, nothing flash, run by local people, for local people but welcoming all the same. I am so glad we held out for the last taverna along the beach road!

The return walk home was peaceful. With few street lights at all, our eyes adjusted to the night. The stars appeared on cue, undimmed by light pollution. The International Space Station passed overhead, a bright moving star across the sky. Under the dim orange glow of the occasional street light, bats swooped and pirouetted, their shadows flitting across the light grey Tarmac road. The evening breeze bought a welcome coolness and rustled the bamboo thickets, from which emerged periodically the odd solitary cat, out on its nighttime patrol. 

From one of the small holding brick huts came the sweet smoky smell of burning olive wood, its heavenly scent filling the night time air. Someone somewhere was cooking supper over an open oven or grill. As the road rose slightly, the sweeping bay illuminated by the twinkling amber glow of hundreds of tiny street lights of small coastal communities spread away into the distance. 

Tranquility......what a lovely end to a lovely evening. 

The floating mooring pontoon

Lies around four hundred metres off shore. It would be bettered described as a garden decking platform resting on a galvanised steel frame supported by two enormous inflatable tubes. 

It is the meeting point for families, for bathing beauties, daughters and mums, who lie on their paddle boards floating in its vicinity and for the various kids clubs who have kayaked out. The pontoon is surrounded by splashes and laughter. 

But to those who know, just beyond but in its shadow, is another world, a submarine world of crystal clear turquoise waters, small shoals of shimmering small fish, greater launce and garfish. Black spiny sea urchins lumber across the rippling sands below and flatfish wriggle their way into the sandy patches between beds of eelgrass. 

To enter this world requires snorkel and mask, a watchful eye for dinghies, ribs, SUP's and falling bodies. But it is there, hidden away, another submarine world! 

The Neilson beach team at messini

Oh what it must be to be twenty something, fit, good looking, easy going and skilled. I remember those days, from a long time ago. I have had the immense privilege to meet some twenty something's who are an immense credit to the Neilson company. Their humour, passion, skill, coaching abilities, enthusiasm for life shine through daily. They are people people with an extraordinary set of talents, aptitudes, hopes, dreams and ambitions. They work hard, play hard and never tire of providing an excellent service.

My coaching and training this week has been exemplary......and I know what I am talking and training is my profession, and forgive me for my lack of modesty, I am rather good at it. Consequently I know excellence when I see it. The sheer enthusiasm , encouragement and 'have a go' mentality pervades the entire hotel but is best seen on the beach. 

This week I have learned to drive a powerboat to a pretty exacting standard under the watchful eye of a very talented seaman. In a few weeks this man will be off to an internship and taking part in the ARC transatlantic race. Amassing his own qualifications, from ocean master to PADI dive certificates, his dedication,  commitment and ambition is infectious.  His standards and attention to detail are exacting. My learning curve has been huge each day as we do, redo, and redo again manoeuvres until I can do them instinctively. I like being challenged! When he has finished with me in the morning, the afternoon team take over. 

My two level two team leaders are cheerful, optimistic, unstintingly encouraging and enthusiastic. Their enthusiasm shines through. Today, in the lightest of winds, I got to move a laser upwind by standing upright and using my balance to induce a rocking motion. Combining it with pushing and pulling the sails in and out to coincide with downward and upward rolls, I made progress to windward. Extraordinary. Can't wait to try it in Arwen when an appropriate opportunity arises. Both highly skilled, their teaching manner is casual but exacting. RYA standards are RYA standards and are exemplified and adhered to strictly. It has been a joy working with these three people. 

To watch the amazing teamwork on the beach is a privilege. Safety boats update safety watch tower and visa versa. The launch and recovery teams work hand in hand with training crew and safety boats. Everything runs like clockwork under the watchful gaze of the beach boss. And he is genuinely impressive. It is easy to tell he has a deep, deep love of the sea and boats; of the pride he has in his family and their connection to the sea in my part of the world. It was a humbling experience talking to him, an extraordinary twenty seven/eight year old , or so, who shouldered the responsibilities of the largest dinghy beach operation in the med, with care, ease, thoughtfulness and an eye to everyone's well being. 

From the lady off to do her masters at the end of the season to the man who had previously coached a national sailing team out in SE Asia and was as yet unsure what he was going onto next, there was not a single member of that beach team I met this week, who I wouldn't have hesitated to employ when I was running expeditions overseas. It has been an immense privilege learning from all of them. I wish them success in their endeavours and plans.

Neilson Messini Beachclub, Greece

Is in my humble opinion the best of the Neilson beach clubs I have stayed at thus far. The hotel staff are fantastic. Hard working, ever cheerful and confident in what they do. The food was delicious throughout the week. Occasionally a bit Samey some nights but high quality, very tasty, and plenty of choice.

We went for a pleasant bike ride this morning. I don't know much about bikes but what we rode today were far superior to our own bikes at home. We followed a route card provided by the hotel reception which took us, at our level, through farmland, olive groves, quiet villages and along golden beaches

A really pleasant way to start the day.

Well done Neilson. I think it is clear from my previous posts, I am impressed. 

Thursday 21 August 2014

Sailing a laser

Was a new experience....well not quite new but an extremely long time ago.
I have become sedentary in Arwen. Clearly!
Oh my! It was like stepping into a Ferrari! 

Picture the scene. A lovely gently sweeping broad bay, some fifteen miles of golden sandy beaches from one headland around to the next. A vast bay. Onshore breezes, blowing at around force four. The biggest dinghy sailing beach operation in the med and a team of beach crew who are all outstanding in their respective fields. 

Waves out in the bay, some breaking at their tops. Waves breaking onto the beach in regular lines. The beach slopes and suddenly drops a few feet just inside the breaker catches the unwary. The waves come directly onshore in regular lines. They aren't high but they do give tremendous 'surfing' potential for lasers because you are approaching the beach directly downwind!!! You have to turn at the last moment into a beam reach and then pull up dagger board, steer immediately head to wind, release rudder down haul and jump out on the windward side. If all goes well, your laser is pointing head to wind and the breaking wave actually carries it stern first up the beach for you.

Now I am not one to gloat. Honest. But I have to say I was over come with smugness as I watched the advanced laser class come in and five of them manage to capsize onto the beach causing pandemonium for the beach recovery crews.  Whilst they were standing around, the capsized advanced class, feelings somewhat sheepish, I managed to do a textbook landing. It was impressive, it looked good and I have to confess it was sheer blind luck not skill. But as one of the beach crew said...." There is no need to tell the advanced class that!"

I did capsize twice. Mental note to oneself....never, I repeat never, try and gybe as a wave rolls under you! Lesson learned hard way made funnier by the fact that the dagger board fell out and so trying to right the boat became comical but I managed to sort and do it in under a minute which the safety boat said was impressive.  I say desperate men can do amazing things when pushed to extremes!

And all that main sheet stuff sloshing around your feet? Yep it caused the second capsize. I went to dump the mainsail when caught in a vicious gust and was somewhat dismayed to find my foot and leg going with it through the ratchet block, so to speak.........spectacular capsize.  Ever skimmed stones across a pond? Ever seen a human replicate a skimming stone? But, I did hold onto the main sheet even though I was some ten feet away from the boat. They need to trim their main sheets that's all I have to say on the matter.

As a teacher it is always a joy to see young people, from tot's to those in their early twenties, enjoying themselves, learning new things and just having fun. It is what keeps teachers young at heart.  I know what possessed me to get into a laser...the fact that in my head I am still thinking like when I was twenty seven, only with more wisdom and experience. The body, of course, reminds me frequently that actually I am fifty two, short, fat and unfit!

I cannot begin to describe how much fun I had today on the water. I think I have done over a hundred sit ups today trying to keep the boat balanced and trimmed. I genuinely can't move and will pay a huge price tomorrow. If I drop a fork in the restaurant tomorrow morning, I'm in BIG trouble!

The scenery is classic Mediterranean. The mountains on the eastern end of the bay are huge. And they come right down to the shore, their slopes a mix of rock and dry yellows soil and bleached vegetation scrub. between those mountains and the very high hill at the other end of the bay is a large flat plain of farmland, right down to the beach edge. Broken up by olive groves, farmhouses, and some areas of woodland, irrigation is a must. Each little Greek house has trees around it to provide it with shade, all are fruit trees of some form. A little vegetable plot next to that and then the endless fields, all strip farming.

The Greek staff are just as lovely and welcoming as the English Neilson team. I chatted briefly to some of the estates team this morning...broken English between us.......I have no idea what they were trying to tell me about the land either side of the hotel but there were lots of smiles from what must have been a sixty plus man. His skin was nut brown, his hair grey flecked with white. His smile was dazzling and his eyes twinkly and full of warmth and humour. This man was wise, fun and clearly well respected.

My fingers are ceasing up, not the only bit of me to feel this effect I have to confess. My Royal Marine colleague in school is often wont to remind me "remember steve.........'no pain no gain'". And his favourite "remember steve its all mind over matter......I don't mind and you don't matter"
Goodnight everyone sleep tight...and if your time zone is somewhat different to mind......morning folks and have a great day

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Nelson messini beach club

What can I say? Another excellent Neilson centre. The short transfer time yesterday was a great boon, the slight delay in getting into our rooms, a hiccup. Messini is the newest beach club and I have to say I am genuinely very impressed. What brings me back to Neilson time and time again are the staff, equipment, tuition and facilities. They are all top class. That includes everyone from kids club staff to kitchen and restaurant teams and hotel staff and cleaners. Excellence and standards are just the norm.

Today I have been doing day one of my national powerboat qualification. I have never been in a powerboat before....I know....difficult to believe but basically true. The very odd encounter when I have been leading sailing holidays for school students but basically limited experience and so I thought it was time I learned how to drive and control one. My instructor was outstanding. He would be. An extraordinary amount of experience and skill along with an easy going instruction manner. It's just typical of every Neilson staff member I come across. 

This afternoon, redoing some level two dinghy sailing skills and I have polished up some things heaps. It pays to get tuition again and a constructively critical eye or bad habits creep in.  Tomorrow I am in a single handed laser. After Arwen, this should be an interesting encounter. I haven't capsized anything in five years! And now you know why I am redoing some level two stuff for a bit! And centre main sheets......after an aft main sheet....what a kurffle that is! 

Still, I'm chilling at one of the bars, cold drink in hand, lovely breeze, temp of thirty degrees C and here is my current view!

Internet access is erratic so if you post a comment I apologise in advance if I don't reply immediately. 

post 'mini-adventure' reflections

What have I learned from my little jaunt?

In no particular order............
  • spend more time on day sails practising set manoeuvres to build up experience - sailing on and off moorings in various places; sailing onto and off anchor in various places; heaving too; reefing afloat; MOB drills with a fender and bucket; anchoring on a beach; using my anchor beach pulley system until I gain familiarity with its benefits and pitfalls - I just don't do enough of this and should dedicate a set portion of time afloat each trip to doing one of these  
  • on a similar note - spend a bit of time when afloat doing pilotage - taking transects; bearings on things; calculating leeway; calculating speed etc
  • stop off and enjoy places on route and plan more time into extended passages for such things - I should have stuck my nose in around Forder Lake and Tematon Lake; I could have anchored for lunch on one of the other remote beach spots; I should have gone and at least taken a look at St Germans from the water.
  • rethink how I pack expedition kit on Arwen. That inaccessible front locker hatch below deck and blocked by mast is driving me insane with frustration! I need to repack Arwen so that one centre thwart locker is given over to cooking gear and food. The stern thwart locker needs to be reorganised so that clothing and sleeping gear goes in that one. Spare ropes can be stored in one side thwart locker; in the other can go spare lifejackets. Cushions are squashable and lightweight and could be stored in the forward under deck locker.
  • I need to build some sort of raised ring protection on the deck around the mast hole. When washing down the deck water disappears in it and collects in the boxed in mast step way below - a nuisance and something I forget to sponge out quite frequently.
I am sure other things will occur to me as I potter about over the next few days.


Thursday 14 August 2014

Cruising the River Lynher: The movie

First the public had the taster..............the 'movie trailer'......................the 2 minute 'taster' of the mega-blockbuster to come..................

And then came this..............'The movie'......................the much anticipated Mega-blockbuster!!!!!!!!!


Monday 11 August 2014

Dinghy cruising up the River Lynher part three

"Stay close to the Ince buoy and the northern shoreline when passing Black Rock as there is a large mud/sank bank that dries out in mid channel. Deeper draft boats should not proceed past this point 2.5 hrs either side of low tide". I took heed of the RYA pilotage notes on the Lynher and kept close to the green starboard buoy off Black Rock; as did the larger draft boat ahead of me! I of course needn't have worried as much since Arwen only draws 8 inches when her centreboard is up, which it was!

From Ince Point to Black Rock and the Ince buoy had been a leisurely affair. Following the compass bearing of 238M from Anthony buoy had brought me past Ince Castle and a lovely hillside of arable land and Cornish hedgerows. trees lined the bank and in the bay just before Black Rock lay another Drascombe, cream hull and tan sails, riding at anchor no more than 6m offshore whilst its occupants played bat and ball on the gravel beach.....another little isolated sun trap beach. Beyond Black Rock lay the huge mouth of Tredown Lake, its mudflats still exposed; its creeks reed lined. Marshes fringed the upper creek area and wading birds went to and fro across the muds. Flocks of small terns drifted on the incoming tide; herons and white egrets stood motionless on one leg at the waters edge. The winds had shifted again; around to the north and so Arwen was on a close reach, her mainsail pulled in; her jib taut. to avoid crowding in on the boat 300m ahead I allowed the sails to spill air and we cruised along at a few knots aided by the incoming tide. On this point of sail, the mainsail was across the sun and provided welcome relief and shade from the heat and brightness. With Arwen practically sailing herself, albeit slowly, I was able to stretch my legs, stand and admire the views further afield than could be seen from a seated position. To the SW lay Wacker Lake, another muddy creek and mudflats but with a car park and a quay. Popular with SUP people (stand up paddle boarders to the uninitiated), there are one or two good clips of paddle boarders having fun at Wacker Lake on YouTube! one or two clips are aerial showing the great views and relief of the area.

Dandy Hole was clearly in sight. two yachts lay at anchor, well spaced so they could circle when the tide turned. Hugging close to the southern shore and steep tree lined slope, they were well protected and it was clear why the anchorage has such a great reputation. I had feared that it would be crowded, being the summer and with all the fine weather we have had, but two boats? That was a pleasant surprise and bonus.

Dandy Hole proved to be a delight. the sun shone off the water, deep and slow flowing. Arwen by now had turned head to the wind and it was clear there was insufficient tacking room up channel. her sails were dropped, tied and stored within her cockpit. Her mizzen lowered and tied off, her jib furled. Barely drifting in the current I was afforded great views of Redshank Point, a small beach backed by a flat grass bank, then salt marsh and mudflats. It had always been one of my proposed overnight mooring spots. Clearly it was popular for on its grassy bank, three pieces of 2" by 2' diameter scaffolding pipes had been driven into the bank to provide tie up points for mooring warps. we meandered over, passing around the stern of a delightful 18' wooden sail boat with cabin. An elegant craft she had come down channel from St Germans under jib alone.

The beach was stony not rocky. A mixture of mud, small stones and clumps of seaweed. It shelved steeply in only one or two places.  It would be sheltered on this occasion as overnight weather predictions were for light winds from the west and no rain. It was a 'definite possibility'. But the intention was to sail to St Germans and so under the lowest of throttles, Arwen's bow was turned up channel and we voyaged through the channel between Erth Hill and its neighbour on the western shore. Ever conscious of the pilotage advice and work I had put in beforehand, a close look out was kept for the green and white channel edge marking poles; and a close eye on the compass bearing 323M which I hoped would keep me mid channel in the deepest part.

Arriving 400m off from St Germans Quay it became clear that I didn't want a busy anchorage. Redshank Point was calling and so we turned and slipped back along the way we had come....the outboard coughing at its low throttle setting and then cutting out twice.......each time giving me heart palpitations for I knew it would be a tricky sail or a very long row back to QAB!

Ten metres off the beach, over went the Kedge anchor , out the back of the stern on the port side away from the outboard; Arwen gently drifted forward onto the beach with the gentlest of crunches on the shingle. I had chosen my spot carefully, clumps of seaweed, large patches of mud, few stones that I could see. Jumping off the foredeck into 8 inches of water I carried the mooring forward and round turn two half hitched her to the mooring pole. There was another hour to high tide. And so I explored the beach, chose the campfire point and collected the firewood, all the time keeping an eye on Arwen. She drifted around a little as the winds changed direction; and on several occasions I went down to check her. As the tide began to fall around 1600, I started what were several trips to her; each time pushing her down beach a wee bit more and adjusting the stern anchor warp. Eventually I was happy. She settled on a bed of seaweed and mud and came to rest. Arwen's first beaching and overnight stop.
of course, being paranoid, when the tide had fallen significantly more and exposed the anchor in the mud......I waded out, collected it, waded further out and threw it into the just cant have enough Kedge anchor warp out in deep water can you !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dinghy cruising up the River Lynher part two

Having semi successfully sailed off the mooring at Henn Point and located the red port can buoy that marked the entrance to the Lynher, Arwen and I were ready. Before us stretched a sinuous river, one that had flowed over the centuries through a landscape comprising of slates and grits laid down in Devonian times. Ancient woodlands spread down to the waters edge and throughout the Lynher's length, people through the ages had used it as a transport route. This is part of the ancient Tamar Valley Industrial heritage. There were things to see, appreciate and marvel at.

A scan of pilotage notes showed 0.4NM on a bearing of 256M to beggar island buoy.  And so we ghosted into the Lynher past the small craft moorings on its northern side, pushed along by a gentle 2 knot intermittent breeze from the north. That was to be indicative of the passage, gentle shifting breezes that built slightly and then dropped away completely. But time was now on our side and the scenery was stunning, the weather hot, sunny and blue skies; the river empty of boat traffic, peaceful, serene and inviting.

Weardle quay, with its cottages and quayside slipped gently away aft. Now residential properties, there was little from the water view to show that once it had been a major naval training school with its own GWR railway holt above it in the hill on what is now the hidden main line Penzance to Paddington.

Wearde Quay today

HMS Defiance was a 5000 tonne warship built at Pembroke Docks in South Wales. Completed in 1861, she was then already obsolete, made redundant by the advent of the new ironclad warships and thus in the early 1880's the Sea Lords, on deciding that Devonport should have its own Torpedo Training Establishment, ordered that Defiance be converted to a sea training school and moored permanently off Weardle Quay in the Lynher.

HMS Defiance Sea Torpedo and Dive Training School
Various vessels were assigned to her, tugs, pinnaces and tenders, to carry stores, personnel and messages. Other hulks were added to her, connected by an extensive network of footbridges and by 1920 she had a complement of 1000 personnel. But time, water and ever expanding demands took their toll on the Defiance and in 1930 she was towed away and the training school was closed, so ending 45 years of naval training at Weardle Quay.
One other little footnote of interest.............A Captain Henry Jackson met one young Guglielmo Marconi at a war office conference in 1896. They struck up a lasting friendship despite their age difference and so it came to pass that the first ever ship to ship radio communication took place at HMS Defiance training school on the River Lynher. Jackson set up a radio transmitter on a gunboat HMS Scourge. By 1897, signals from the Scourge could be received anywhere she went in the Tamar estuaries!

Beggar Island, slipping past on our port side.
Its extensive sloping rocky platforms hidden under the water, a nasty trap for the unwary boats who try to take short cuts or cut inside of the red port marker. Winds were light from the north east and Arwen's sails were fully out to capture what breeze there was; centreboard was raised and the mainsheet trailed slightly in the water on the port side. Fickle winds gave a slow drift past the island "presumed to be the retreat of the notorious Bampflyde Moore Carew, King of the beggars" according to Nettleton's Guide to Plymouth. We didn't see any beggars but there were plenty of birds and I am sure one or two were spoonbills although I could have been wrong.

Before us now lay a tight turn south west, following the sinuous channel down to sandacre buoy; we were searching for the green starboard can...224M on the compass; ahead lay HMS Jupiter Point, the sail training centre, its small craft moorings and the permanently anchored HMS Brecon in mid channel. She, a Falklands war veteran is now the first taste of life on board ship that all naval recruits get, but as we glided past, she was empty; no action today at the training school. In someway I was rather relieved. Contending with speeding ribs, novice naval recruits and the hoarsely barked commands of the frustrated but eternally humorous Chief Petty Officers would have spoilt the tranquillity.

view across from Anthony's Passage with HMS Jupiter and HMS Brecon in view

The rumbling of a train over a viaduct caught our attention; through the trees on the north bank could be glimpsed partial flashes of a First Great Western Train, southward bound for Penzance. The opening of Forder Lake hove into view with the great viaduct to its rear. I was tempted, very tempted to mosey into the Lake but it would have required starting up the motor and I was unsure of what to expect. Quick reference to the chart and pilotage notes indicated there would be sufficient water to sail in and out again.......but that nagging, niggling self doubt gremlin appeared on my shoulder, whispering away in my ear......"Don't go in Steve; what if you get stuck; keep to the schedule Steve, up river; we go upriver....."  And again due to lack of confidence in my own abilities I erred on the side of caution.....but next time we visit the Lynher....we visit with the intention of sailing in, just as next time we go to Calstock....we sail all the way!

These two photos show Forder Lake and viaduct

The viaduct is a listed building! Forder Lake is an ANOB (Area of outstanding Natural Beauty) and a Conservation Area as well. It has a mill pond and unusually an artificial island made up of old wooden boats! named after a medieval fording point across the brook that feeds into it, the area was an important medieval industrial site with flour and fulling mills, quarries, lime burning kilns and an extensive market gardening area. The flour mill is mentioned in historical documents dating from 1296; it was valued at £24.0S.3d in 1373 when the Black Prince granted the manor to his loyal servant in arms Sir Henry Loring. In the 1600's the fulling mill was weaving cloth, cleaning it, shrinking and thickening it. The quarries were working the 'Blue Elvan Dyke' stone, the internal tramways taking it down to the quayside where it was loaded into Tamar sailing Barges to be used later as road stone in the growing towns of Devonport and Plymouth. 

one of the Forder Mills and the millpond

Forder Lake didn't always smell nice either! Dock dung from Devonport in the form of street sweepings and night soil was bought back to the quayside; a highly valued commodity by the manor farmers....a rich organic fertilizer to be spread across their fields!! As the industrial revolution spread across the country, the 1800's saw the Tamar sailing barges with their long booms and high peaked mainsails bring cargoes of limestone, coal and dock dung; and carry away stone, grain, fruit and veg.....but alas by the 1930's these fine boats had seen their heyday come and go. One remains....the Shamrock.....restored and moored at Cotehele up the Tamar (see previous posts on cruising the Tamar for further details about Shamrock or use the blog search engine box).

Cormorants flew past, low skimming the waves, wings almost touching the shimmering olive green waters. In the distance shrill cries of oystercatchers pierced the early afternoon tranquillity. Ahead, a large yacht (well large by Arwen's standards...around 30'), slowly drifted upriver, cautiously keeping to the main channel. It was reassuring to see, that like me, the skipper was navigating from one buoy to another; religiously keeping to the deepwater channel. From his position towards Ince Buoy, pilotage notes from the RYA suggested that he could only proceed further upstream if he was within 2 hrs of high tide; and he was; timing it to perfection! Arwen with her three sails was gaining ground on him and I made the decision to fall off the wind slightly; to slow down our track; what was the hurry; why overtake; why intrude on his crews sense of serenity and enjoyment?

Not that I had any choice in the matter....fir that fickle breeze had disappeared. We were becalmed. Carried along only by the current and with barely any steerage control on the rudder, we found ourselves mid channel with nowhere to go.........!  Anthony's Passage was aft; through the trees on the hill to the north, slightly aft of us could be seen occasional glimpses of the Motte and Bailey castle....Trematon Castle. Ahead lay Shillingham Point and the wide entrance to Wivelscombe Lake with its creeks, mudflats and salt marshes.  In the wide bay immediately abeam, riding at anchor, a blue hulled wooden drascombe, its tan sails neatly furled on its masts. I scoured the gravel tree backed beaches for signs of life, but the owner didn't appear. It did seem a lovely landing spot though. Inaccessible except by boat, a gentle hillslope leading away to the horizon and the rolling Cornish countryside behind. The farmers had taken advantage of the fine weather, The grain crop had been harvested on the hill; all that remained were the golden stubble. A Buzzard wheeled overhead, periodically dive bombed by crows or jackdaws. Eventually losing interest, the mighty bird disappeared off to the north and the crows returned to their oak tree to saviour their victory. Four on just didn't seem a fair fight somehow!

Trematon Castle

Trematon castle! My what a history. Storage place of Sir Francis Drakes treasures after his 1580 circumnavigation when he harried the Spanish off South America. Gold, silver, previous gems, emeralds by the score.....all stored their prior to being handed to the Queen. He was a pirate wasn't he!  A real interesting character is Sir Francis...pirate or hero? Maybe both? 

Aerial view Trematon Castle

The castle has a 12th century Keep and was built by Robert, Count of Mortain, half brother of one William the Conqueror! The castle is built on the original site of a roman fort.....many have always thought that the romans stopped at Exeter....well not so....they managed to get a foothold in eastern parts of Cornwall! Trematon castle was part of a Caput, a former central settlement in Anglo Saxon times; a multiple estate of an English feudal barony. And then it hit, having lived in this area for over 25 years, didn't I know about these places? Why had we never visited them before? I felt a 'road trip' with number one son coming on........and soon!

And so, after a tiny bit of gentle motor cruising with jib furled and mainsail sheeted in tight so that Arwen's mainsail lay amidships, we reached Ince Point; Black rock buoy 238M lay ahead; and finally a breeze. Not much but enough to guarantee that from now Arwen would sail. From the north east the smooth river waters rippled as the breeze exerted its friction on the surface; Arwen's mainsail eased out languorously to port, her jib fluttered and filled; sagged and filled again. With centreboard up, we slowly made progress south west.........Ince Castle, Black rock buoy and that mid channel shoaling sand bank lay ahead.  Arwen creaked, the sails flapped, the mainsheet dragged limply over the side, sending a small wake astern........1.3 knots......but hey, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, the sun was hot, the river was ours..................serenity enclosed us and the Lynher valley continued to unfold her natural and historical treasures for us to admire...............................

(Please note: health warning: don't rely on these bearings and distances.........on two or three occasions I found I had got them slightly wrong.....pilotage is still a new devious art form to ordnance survey maps - well that's different....those I understand fully!! If you are going up the Lynher by all means use my figures but check them before you go......several times!!)

Sunday 10 August 2014

Dinghy cruising up the River Lynher 'part one'

At long last! On the agenda for many years, I have finally got around to cruising the Lynher.
The Lynher is a beautiful river flowing through East Cornwall before entering the River Tamar just below the bridges at Saltash. Some twenty odd miles long, flowing off Bodmin Moor, it is an SSI and SPA (specially protected area) and is home to some rare species of bird including Kingfishers, Black Tailed Godwits and Avocets. I didn't see any of these but I'm pretty sure I saw a spoonbill on one mudflat but I suspect that was 'ropey mis-identification' on my part. A long time ago I was a member of the Young Ornithologists Club in the RSPB.....but age has dimmed my memory of which bird is which!

Passing along the upper Lynher
The viaduct marks St Germans quay; on the starboard is Erth Hill and at its furthest end, Erth Island and the entrance up the river to Boating World

The Lynher and its tributaries have many intertidal mudflats and coastal marshes; many creeks with little hamlets at their head; and I was looking forward to seeing this stunning beauty. I was also determined to sail its course, unlike my trip up to Calstock, when a lack of adventure and some timid-ness on my part led me to abandon sails from Weir Quay in favour of motoring!

Coming downriver from St Germans
I have no idea what type of boat this is, but isn't she so pretty?
Tides were not in my favour regarding the time of high water. They were, however,  in terms of tidal flows. Low tide at Devonport on the Thursday was 0930 and 1.9m flooding to a high tide at 1519 at St Germans and a tidal height of 4.60m. The evening low tide at 2208 was 1.70m. Then came the tricky bit which caused me quite some consternation (see later)...the corresponding high tide on Friday morning was 0355 and 4.60m. Being neaps, tidal flows were minimal and the risk of stranding too high up a beach  much reduced.

Early morning on the river

Thursday's winds were light 3 - 5 knots or so from the north, north west and north east......just the way I wanted to go! Ce sera and all that! However, the bonus? Glorious sunshine throughout the trip, warm temperatures and blue skies. I'm not complaining.

Um!  All those boats; all those people!
I think I need solitude on this it time to turn around?
Arwen and I departed QAB just after 0800. An early start, but as has been done previously on most of our extended cruises, we wanted to stretch our sails and sort out rigging within Plymouth Sound. A couple of hours sailing to and fro, waiting for tides to become favourable and sorting out equipment, stowage and rigging would benefit us both.
And so it was we tacked to and fro; developed our heaving to skills and generally soaked up the glorious atmosphere of Plymouth Sound until 1030 when the tide went slack and we could enter Devils Point and Cremyll area. As always, a precautionary stop was made to check outboard fuel levels. The lower Tamar isn't the place to be 'caught short' in that department! Tying up at the large yellow buoys north of Drakes Island provided an opportunity to watch some teenagers developing their sailing skills around the buoys and to recap over my pilotage notes in my yellow waterproof note book. Gear was stowed, Arwen was trimmed and balanced; rigging had been tested; all was well and so we set sail across the north of the island heading for the Cremyll narrows.........and the wind 'it did die just at the wrongeth point'!
Fruitless tacking; we were not gaining ground against the current. I have never quite mastered sailing Arwen in very light winds. I just don't quite compute what to do with the sail and the sprit boom to gain any advantage. Frankly I need someone with me to show me what to do but to cut a long story short, with tide building and a need to get up the Lynher to reccy possible mooring sites....I resorted to the motor! I sinnethed!
I did try to sail some parts of the Tamar; I managed a stretch around Millpond Lake but it was short lived. Other boats were motorsailing and so I decided to head for Henn Point at the mouth of the Lynher and moor up between the Cornish Shrimpers.
Moored just off Henn Point downstream from Saltash and the bridges
I was determined to sail the Lynher and for me that meant sailing off the mooring buoy! Not something I have done very often. In fact only once before! Pride was at stake. A Cornish shrimper owner had arrived by small rib and was readying his boat for departure. We'd exchanged waves. He looked an experienced type! I couldn't let Arwen down now! 
Determining wind direction and tide and working out that sails raised safely were best done head to wind, I sheeted in the mizzen and made sure centreboard and rudder were raised. The sails lifted and Arwen stayed put. Her sails flapped along the centreline and I let out some mainsheet to make sure that in the event of any change of heading before departure, she'd sail away very slowly!
Rudder went down; jib was hauled out and backed and gracefully Arwen turned to starboard lining up directly with the gap between planned for departure route. centre board down, she slowly sailed off the mooring. The only incident? The mainsheet had been too loose and had draped over the mooring buoy. Fortunately we had gone only a few metres when I noticed resistance. A quick flick and the mainsheet cleared the buoy couldn't do that again if I spent years practising!  Was it the impressive sail off I was looking I crash into we enter the Lynher under sail.....yes.......was I stressed.......surprisingly no. I'll settle for all of that!

Saturday 9 August 2014

the boring bit....

motoring up the Tamar. With winds coming directly down the channel; and having played around in the sound for a little longer than I was clear that I wouldn't get up the Lynher in time to find an appropriate mooring or anchoring site.

The iconic view known by most Plymouthioans
The Devonport 'Pagoda' flats and 'Number One' shed with King Billy on the right
Dockside tourist viewing boat passes Serco cable laying ship. They have just been laying new internet cables to the Scilly Isles in the last few weeks....she is probably back from that work

Anyway, I've sailed that stretch so many times before. I confess I hate motoring. Things rush by; the noise intrudes; it feels like 'cheating'. On the other hand, tacking endlessly backwards and forwards without making any upwind progress doesn't sound that appealing needs must!

(I guess that maybe if I didn't have such a fixed expedition itinerary about being at a certain place for a certain time, this wouldn't be an issue.........but when you are doing only two day trips....that is more difficult).

passing the South Rubble buoy in the Hamoaze

On the other hand, it is an interesting stretch of water; there is always plenty to see and lots to think about. It develops your 'all round visibility awareness skills'!  Tugs exiting harbour basins; two police boats on station; one police rib rushing about like a demented wasp. Then there are the Torpoint car ferries to negotiate. (I have a deep seated fear of getting caught out between ferry crossings on account of a slight 'accident' I once had in Fowey, when I managed to foul my anchor just as I was passing between the ferry crossing; thus in one fell swoop I stopped a ferry, caused the harbour pilots to have heart failure; caused the captain of an incoming china clay carrier to almost die on his bridge; and a boat hire man to do a 'Basil Flawty' impression as I explained to him that I had had to cut away the anchor warp and so destine his anchor to the deep bottomless recesses of Fowey ria on account of the fact that in moving to a new fishing location, I had forgotten to pull up the anchor and so it had dragged under the boat........and fouled the prop!. In fairness, it was only my second time in a boat. On the other hand, this is an argument for why people shouldn't hire boats to tourists!)

On this occasion I successfully negotiated the ferry.

My other paranoia about motoring is that I can never quite work out how far I can get on one tank of petrol. It seems to vary every trip! I wonder if it is me or if other outboard users have the same problem?  Consequently, any long motoring stint involves me stopping every thirty minutes to check the fuel level in the integral tank. I am getting very adept at working out where I may find an empty mooring buoy for a temporary stop.  I think the old outboard needs a service as well. on three occasions up the river, it suddenly cut out. I suspect fine flotsam had worked its way in somewhere. By throttling it severely, it would suddenly go back to its normal self. However, it doesn't like going at very low speed! My faith in my outboard has taken a little dent!

tied up for a re-fueling stop just north of the Lynher entrance and just below the famous Tamar bridges. Up river lies Saltash, Cargreen and Weirs Quay

My outboard arrangement is simple yet effective. When in confines of marinas, my outboard is left unleashed, free to turn and I turn Arwen by moving the outboard tiller.  When in open spaces, I tie off the outboard, lashing it to the bracket; the outboard locking screw just doesn't seem to hold the outboard in place when motoring for extensive periods. It keeps turning itself to port which makes steering somewhat inconsistent and means that I have to constantly sit far aft on the starboard side with my left arm hung out behind me. By lashing the outboard it stops the rotation and I can steer by rudder. I can sit way forward and once I have set the throttle speed, all is well. I have two kill cords clipped together which means that I can still kill the engine immediately from my more forward position. Arwen balances/trims better; and I sit on a slidy cushion so that I can slip easily aft wards if I need to control throttle speed. I can also stand up centrally and with sails stowed inside Arwen, get good all-round visibility.

of course, on entering shallower water, the lashing is removed. I've run aground before! Once was enough, lesson learnt the hard way!

Night time in the great outdoors

Another first for Arwen and I. We are lying at anchor under a star strewn sky. The church bells a way up river at St. Germans have just chimed three am. As the tide crept in and Arwen re floated I hauled her off into deeper water and returned to the enclosing warmth of my down sleeping bag. And now I look up at the sky, Arwens masts are blacker silhouettes against the twinkling stars. Some stars pulsate. Others merely twinkle. Some shoot across the sky at incalculable speeds to die in a burst of light and spectacular glory. Satellites pass overhead and the great plough constellation sinks down low behind the trees as our planet revolves. The infinite universe revolves around my head, a never ending kaleidoscope of colours and I snuggle down in my cocoon. In the distance oystercatchers are waking, signalling the start of another dawn.

Arwen sits comfortably in the flow. barely a bob. Water gurgles and trickles by; she swings ever soooo slowly. The occasional small branch bounces against the hull with a dull thud. As the sky lightens in the east, features emerge from the night time gloom; the creases in the bark of gnarly old oak trees overhanging the banks; the frilly edges of dried out bladderwrack seaweed; herons emerge from under the bank trees and start to plod ponderously along the waters edge, suddenly freezing with an intent downward looking pose.

A mist is rising off the river. having retrieved one of the hull supporting fenders from the water I was pleasantly surprised to find how warm the water was; tepid bathwater like; which, of course, would explain the mists. They rise a few feet draping over the river, ethereal. I'm almost expecting a delicate female hand to emerge from the river holding a sword!

As the sky lightens before the sun comes up, I busy myself clearing away sleeping equipment and organising Arwen for an early departure. I have enough water under me until around 6am. There is no wind whatsoever. It is perfectly still. Not a rustle of a motoring will be the order of the day.  I have to be back at QAB before 10.00am. After that there is insufficient water to get Arwen out until around 2pm by which time the weather predicts intensive heavy showers. And a weekend of 'Bertha' after effects; the waning hurricane from East Coast USA is crossing the pond and lining herself up nicely with south west England!

Thursday 7 August 2014

I can't remember the last time....

I sat next to a camp fire. Some distant memories of sitting under acacia trees with Masai friends in the Serengeti I think, and seems many years ago. There is something hypnotic about camp fires. That warmth, the crackle of dry wood, the odd spark. The embers glowing deep orange and red and the smell, oh that smell, of different woods and grasses.........magical, comforting, timeless. As the sun sets and dusk descends, in the gloom, I can make out the odd splash and swirl at the waters edge as bass and mullet chase the fry. Crows sound in nearby trees and the odd hoot of tawny owls begin to break the peace and solitude. The moon rising above Arwen, is dimmed by high attitude thin clouds. The river is almost blanketed by darkness now, just the horizon of pine trees on the hill opposite.

Darkness has arrived. Your eyes strain to try and make out shapes but to no avail. As I rest in my bivvy bag on Arwen's port thwart, the sound of water trickling down the beach fills the night. The moon is partially obscured by clouds; the air is still, no breeze, a slight damp chill, so welcome after the intense heat of the day. A train rumbles over the great viaduct at St. Germans, its throbbing diesel beginning to rise in crescendo as it accelerates away.

Stars are filling the black velvet sky. The vast infinity of space stretches above me and evening stars are twinkling, a universe reaching away........or a multiverse, if you believe modern astronomers.  I wonder if some life form above me on a planet far in the deepest reaches of space is looking back at me?

Just so long as it doesn't chose tonight to do interstellar travel to visit me during the night on this remote beach!

A beach to myself

I am sat in a little hollow indentation in the bank at the top of a stony beach. Ahead of me is a tranquil vista. Arwen has grounded on the beach, two large white fenders beneath her to keep her upright. Behind her lies the river, flowing slowly out to sea. Black headed terns skim low across the water as they head downriver. An olive green colour, the river sparkles in the evening sun. I'm facing west, soaking up its last rays as it starts to descend behind the hills in front if me.  Steep and heavily wooded, the high pitched cry of buzzard chicks pierces the quiet. Somewhere in the wood opposite are some very hungry offspring. Their cries are only drowned out by the whistles of oystercatchers on the marshland immediately behind me.

Dandelion seeds float past my view carried on the gentle evening breeze. The light wind ruffles the water surface causing it to sparkle, glittering dancing diamonds. The tell tale v shapes out in mid channel give away the presence of bass. At the surface catching errant flies that skim too close, or the sudden frantic flurry of water as small fry make a desperate leap for freedom from the sleek silvery killing machines. Clever fish are bass. I have just spent ten minutes watching one herd small fry into the beach. Trapped between clumps of seaweed on an ever decreasing tide, the small fry lost the battle. That greedy old bass almost beached himself in his attempts to feed. Only huge flicks of his tail got him out of his predicament. Pity.....for a few minutes I thought bass might be on the menu tonight. It would have been most fortuitous......given I have a rod, line, assorted lures..........but no reel. I remember where I put it in the garage.....and I remember making a mental note to go and retrieve it having loaded up the outboard.......alas senility is catching up with me.  Typical, shoals of hungry bass in casting distance and...........words truly fail me!