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

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Unseasonal weather

Her indoors and I have been up to north devon. Woolacombe and rather nice it was. A sort of surfy place with some former glamorous Georgian buildings and a stunning beach. We liked it. The bike ride over the hills damp near killed us but the views were breath taking and it didn't rain. Murky drizzle on occasions yes.rain no.

Saturday 25 October 2014

nothing particularly boaty................

The chance of getting out on the water this half term looks remote; the next three days are taken up with a very welcomed visit by my sister's family; then its three days away up north with 'her in-doors', followed by a day visit to some historical sites with my son. That leaves the last weekend and alas all of that will be taken up by the seven supermarket re-useable carrier bags full of school work currently residing in the car boot.
Ho hum, that is the way it goes. Every sailor knows the tensions of family and work commitments.

What has been exercising more of what little brain power I have at the moment hasn't been sailing but rather UCAS! Its UCAS application time and my son, along with all his friends at school are immersed in the annual writing of the university personal statement!

For the last few years I have sensed a struggle! The student's struggle to make himself or herself sound passionate about the subject that they wish to pursue at undergraduate level. I'm not saying I don't have passionate young geographers. I do. However, their ability to evidence their passion for the subject beyond what they have learned at school is clearly an issue. I cannot really remember the last time a sixth form geographer burst through my door enthusing about a geographical tomb or article they had read and how it had set their curiosity alight. Such is the life they lead that sixth formers merely want to know what will get them the A grade; the UCAS points to their chosen course; nothing 'extra' matters. Between three A Levels, an AS level, jobs and whatever else life throws at them, that desire to do the extra beyond the syllabi, just for the sake of learning for learning's sake.....seems to have disappeared, despite my herculean best efforts to imbibe them with a growth mindset!

I wonder what that says about us as a nation? Have recent governments with their zeal for targets, comparison indicators and performance related criteria really caused the teaching profession to lose its way? Have we sacrificed 'the process and passion of learning for learning's sake' for just 'looking good' in the performance league tables? Are we spawning a generation who will never go beyond what is demanded of them in their daily work; because all we end up doing is teaching to the syllabus so that they pass exams?

My students are struggling to exemplify how they have pursued their passion for their subject beyond what I have done with them. Their crestfallen faces show they just don't understand the point I am making as I review their statements with them. Perhaps, I am not making it clearly.

After 33 years in the profession, I think I have reached a sad contradictory day. I inspire passion for the subject in my students whilst they are in school. Many want to take it on at university but I fail to inspire them to take it further, beyond what we do in the syllabi....that extra reading of a topic we are not doing for the exam but which is of just brilliant geographical interest anyway......I think it is time to retire as soon as I can, for I fear I am know longer doing them justice.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Getting back in a capsized navigator

I have posted on this issue in the past and I did comment about thinking about some way of putting lines around Arwen to help me get back in should she capsize; along with righting lines that are tied someway around the centre thwart area and then stowed under the side decks.

Well an ingenious fellow, Peter Kovesi, has come up with the way to get in. He posted on the jwbuilders forum the following 

" I saw with interest on John's blog at
his description of the rope sling that is being used for reboarding on a SCAMP.

I recently set up a similar scheme on my Navigator but to keep the rope sling out of the way I elasticated the rope by replacing the rope core with shock cord. It consists of some 12mm rope that runs along the outside of the hull just under the gunwale for the length of the cockpit. It is attached at each end through holes in the hull just under the gunwale and then through holes in an adjacent bulkhead where it is knotted off"

"The rope length is set so that when the rope is stretched out the centre of the sling is about 600mm below the gunwale. When released the shock cord holds it up against the underside of the gunwale. Climbing into the boat simply involves pulling the rope down to under your foot and you step in with very little effort"

I have to say seeing his photos is rather ingenious and certainly the elasticised approach keeps the rope tight against the rubbing strip gunwale. Peter goes on to say that safety wise the ropes give you something to hang onto when in the water alongside the boat.  Some questioned whether his feet would slide under the boat. I have rigged something similar on Arwen over the summer for getting back into her when I had jumped in for a swim. I wrapped a mooring rope across two cleats bow and stern and then let it drop around 700mm. I found it really did work. Your feet do go under the hull initially but then what you do is use your knees to press against the hull and in doing so kick you feet back out away from the hull. From this sort of leaning stand position, you are then sort of tipped forward enough to fall over the side deck. It does involve some hauling yourself over the side.....mainly to do with my excess bulk! But it was so much easier than trying to get a foot onto my brass step mounted on the transom and the reaching up for the boomkin and mizzen mast to try and haul my weight out of the briny.

I think it is an excellent idea. I haven't quite worked out why he put elasticised bungee through the 12 mm rope......why not just get bungee that size......but I suspect there is a really good reason for doing so and I am too dim to have worked it out yet. 

One thing is for is a winter project that will take place on Arwen. Cheers Peter (and John and the Scamp team). An excellent, worthwhile addition to Arwen. Thank you. 


an update on Suzy's blog and the building of 'Elena'

I came across a woodenboat forum post about Suzy's progress. It is embedded below. The link to her blog is in my blog roll menu on the right hand side.

This navigator build is reminiscent of 'Yuko'...and Barret's build a few years ago. Sheer quality of craftsmanship and thought about design principles.

I look forward to all launches of navigators because I am such a big fan of John's boat and design work. I think this navigator is shaping up to be pretty special. But then, all navigators are special in their own little ways.

Enjoy the discussion and much to learn and little time to do it in......

Thursday 9 October 2014

some videos of navigators in action

I occasionally trawl YouTube for videos of navigators in action. Light relief from the rigours of lesson planning, marking and self evaluation in the evenings!

Here are the fruits of tonight's 5 minute search:

Many of these videos feature Joel and his wonderful navigator 'Ellie'. As always, Joel's site is worth a visit at any time. Go to
I promise it wont be wasted time. A mine of information and inspiration. If the link fails, there is a quick link in my right hand side blog roll menu.


Wednesday 8 October 2014

Weekend sailing

Huh.....I forgot! Family calendar....we are away this weekend and next. I could at a squeeze get on the water Sunday afternoon if we get back from travels. I knew it was too good to be true. There is a DCA rally close by and reminded about it by Alistair, I thought ...great.....can do it......then 'her indoors' reminded me why I couldn't and why I hadn't bothered to reply to DCA about attending in the first place.

It is typical. Rushed off my feet like so many in teaching at be moment, I have already missed one meeting this week; double booked myself on another evening.....and forgotten about this weekend and next.

I love my job but not the ridiculous hours and stupid paper work , form filling and silly tasks. Teaching students like those at my school is an immense privilege......but working 6.30am until 5pm and then 7pm until 10pm for four days a week is taking its toll. The to do list never gets shorter and I am not getting any younger and the job is getting infinitely more stressful. Sunday afternoons are written off in marking and planning.  The demand or ever higher examination results has changed teaching and not all for the good. Worrying times ahead I feel. And then I meet my classes each day and think how privileged I am to be able to learn alongside them.....well most of them!

Ho hum. Maybe, just maybe,  sneak a couple   of hours on Sunday......if I work Friday night and take some marking with me on Saturday. I really am missing being out on the water. 

On yer bike!

From two weekends ago........where does time fly?

Tuesday 7 October 2014

so far.....

looking good; it's looking good; come on stay this way!

Images from Frank Singleton's Passage

just finished four hours of

marking at home tonight.......need to go sailing.

Definitely need to go sailing.........

Absolutely, definitely, need to go sailing.............................


What's the betting it will be force eight all weekend?

Being cheered up

It has been a funny weekend. Not funny haha, just slightly strange. Yesterday we were away all over be place and all the day and evening disappeared in an engagement booked sometime ago. When we got back today, all the afternoon from 1ish went in lesson preparation, schemes of work planning and marking; and sadly I still didn't remotely dent the 'to do' list. It resolutely stayed, like an iceberg......75% unseen and unachieved so to speak.

Still a nice surprise awaited. A new boat waterproof. I have been making do with my mountaineering coat but it isn't really appropriate. It was never designed for a saltwater environment. So I bit the bullet, found a good deal and went for it.

I bought a Gill Coastal Jacket. It seemed to have good reviews and seems adequate for the kind of sailing I do along the inshore coastline. Made of Dot 2 fabric, breathable and waterproof, it is also fully taped seamed and comes with a water repellent finish.  It has a number of highly reflective strips, a fluorescent roll away hood which is fully adjustable and a high cut thermal, fleece lined collar with face guard. Large capacity cargo pockets with drains, adjustable hems, fleece lined hand warmer pockets and double cuffs, fully adjustable, completes the spec. Hopefully, I can try it out soon. Anyway, I found a good deal for one, somewhat reduced.

Retail therapy progress! 

Sunday 5 October 2014

Winter plans

Autumnal weather arrived today. Sunshine and gusty winds from the north. The front garden trees are whipping about and leaves are beginning to fall. Arwen sits on the drive under covers. I have promised myself this winter that I will sail in rougher weather. I will need a new waterproof coat but my wellies although somewhat holey, with waterproof sealskinz socks, will keep feet warm. I have sallopettes and the ret of the gear. 

Sensibly, I'd develop rougher sailing skills inside the safety of the breakwater. The sound gives a fair old sailing area! I should be able to keep out of mischief. 

I've bought a new roll mount for the gopro. Replacing the screws it came with now allows me to open it to around 8cm and it will easily fit on the mizzen mast. 

I fancy a day on the water just doing coming alongside, MOB, reeling and heaving to. 

Half term is three weeks away. If the weather holds I may just be able to get a sail in along the coast to Salcombe and back. 

Fingers crossed.