Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my dinghy cruising blog about my John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. Built over three years, Arwen was launched in August 2007. She is a standing lug yawl 14' 6" in length. This blog records our dinghy cruising voyages together around the coastal waters of SW England.
Arwen has an associated YouTube channel so visit to find our most recent cruises and click subscribe.
On this blog you will find posts about dinghy cruising locations, accounts of our voyages, maintenance tips and 'How to's' ranging from rigging standing lug sails and building galley boxes to using 'anchor buddies' and creating 'pilotage notes'. I hope you find something that inspires you to get out on the water in your boat. Drop us a comment and happy sailing.
Steve and Arwen

Thursday 31 December 2015

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you all. May your dreams and ambitions for 2016 come true and to fruition. Don't worry about what you haven't achieved. Life is full of infinite opportunities and possibilities, so don't worry about what you haven't done. Live life to the full, make the most of what you have. Look after those around you, try to do good wherever you go. These are my ambitions, along with lose weight, get fit, sail more. I have no idea whether they are worthwhile or not but I will do my best.

Happy New Year everyone

Thursday 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas

Well another year has passed and so I wish you and all your families a 'Merry Christmas' and a 'Happy New Year'.  If the weather improves from gales I will try and get out sailing over the New Year break and post a video.

May all of you have a good festive break.


Tuesday 22 December 2015

Picavet planning..........

Designing a lightweight  picavet is exercising my mind at the moment. Here are some initial thoughts.

I have some 4mm ply. If I cut the picavet out of a 10" square piece double thickness and then drill holes along the arms to reduce weight, I could then use small galvanised eye hooks instead of pulleys.

The GoPro could lie face down on it with the lens poking through a pre cut hole. Some small half inch side strips forming a square into which the GoPro sits could be lined with some thin foam pieces to act as a cushions. A small backing plate strip with foam backing could be secured across the back of the GoPro with lightweight butterfly screws and nuts. An alternative could be some Velcro straps that have been screwed to the board. The whole lot could be attached to the kite string about 30' down so that the kite already has some lift in it when picavet is attached. I could use simple lightweight carabiners and twist the line around them several turns.

Alternatively, I could just drill through the centre where all arms meet and push through a 5mm bolt and screw and glue a GoPro mount to that. This option would allow me to alter camera angle better. Sounds simpler. I could also leave the backdoor floaty on as well. Wouldn't be much protection for the camera other than the waterproof housing though.

More musing needed......cuppa, toast, marmite........chair in front window overlooking the valley, village and moors.........

Monday 21 December 2015

An epic small boat adventure

I have been following Howard's preparations on the John Welsford Facebook pages and also the specific expedition pages. Steve on his blog has given a good summary of the adventure which you can catch up on here

Thanks Steve for the links and reminder


Sunday 20 December 2015

For all of us who can't get out sailing.......

another classic from eyeinthehand


Saturday 19 December 2015

Kite aerial photography from a boat....part 2

So, here we go, a summary of some of the research I have discovered so far

Parafoil kites seem popular for their simplicity of use. They pack away easily and come out of the pack instantly ready. No struts to pre-assemble. A large sled type seems to be the favoured one. In addition, a stability tail is needed, around 5m in length.

100m of line on a round spool is next. I'm still working out breaking strain but 50-80lbs seem popular choices. Some recommend Kevlar line for additional strength. Single line obviously makes deployment and control from Arwen much easier. 

Attaching the camera 10m down the line from the kite is another popular approach. Attachment methods vary widely. 

One seen involved a piece of small diameter plastic pipe about 30cm long, through which a a GoPro mount had been screwed. The kite string ran through the pipe and was twisted on at each end to prevent the pipe from sliding. String then ran from the upper end of the pipe diagonally down to either side of the attached Gopro. Complicated to explain but when you see it, simple. 

Then there are the picavets made out of a range of materials ranging from old pieces of plastic meccano to highly engineered shuts from lightweight aluminium. Quite a few people have made the picavet cross base from 4mm dis plywood and then used simple lightweight screw in eyes instead of pulleys and this system seems to work just fine. Coat hanger seems to be the material of choice for attaching the picavet to the kite line. 

Tough leather gloves are definitely a requirement, stressed by all kite flyers. Checking all knots twice, is prudent! Some people recommend making up a fishing line lanyard with a swivel clip one end. The lanyard is attached to the actual kite line and should the picavet fail, it will prevent the GoPro plummeting to earth! I hope! Some have a carabiner clip to store the picavet when it is u clipped from the kite line thus preventing tangles. 

Two other home made gadgets I liked were the cleat on a piece of wood, an old tiller extension handle would do. This had a rope lanyard with carabiner clip. Basically the kite line is wound securely and tied off on the cleat. The cleat handle can then be attached around the Mizzen mast using the lanyard attachment. 

Thursday 17 December 2015

Sleepless nights and power sled kites

I promised some Christmas seafaring stories but so far I have failed; too tired to write my own and despite some searching on internet – nothing thus far. But! I haven’t given up yet!
In the meantime, I have had a few sleepless but enjoyable nights trying to work out the intricacies of flying a kite cam off the back of Arwen.  Can it be done? What will it involve?

I blame Joel!

He said ‘you will need to design a picavet Steve’! That did it. Sleepless nights spent surfing the net – what was a picavet; how did it work; how could you make one….questions, questions, questions………..!!

The man just constantly makes me think! It’s unnerving. First there was his simple roller furler – ingenious. Then the collapsible fold away sleeping platform – pure genius. Got to make one of those in the New Year for Arwen.  The tent! Stretched and tensioned by water bottles – simple elegance! Got to alter my tent now!!  Admittedly, introducing me to those odd guys smeared in blue latex splashing paint about on drums…..whilst on ocean cruise liners…….wierd? Scary? Not exactly Bryn Terfel now are they?

Anyway, latest project? Design a picavet, make it, test it!

Now mistakes here could be costly – GoPros are expensive and the floaty backdoor won’t save one that falls off a kite 40m out from Arwen! I have been researching kite type and size; length of line and line storage; line diameter and strength – soooooo much information on the net – now paralysed with info overload.

Of course, many will ask the obvious fundamental question…..why do you want to do it?

To which I reply – why not? I rarely go sailing in company and so I have no shots of Arwen at sea. I have designed a float rack for my GoPro as mentioned in a previous post and that can be set adrift to get waterline shots of Arwen sailing past….but aerial shots….from afar…… that is different and it would be quite nice to see a perspective on her which I have yet to see!

So over the next few days I will post a brief summary of what I have discovered and in the new year I will try and build a prototype; along with putting in a new front deck bulkhead hatch, a new front seat hatch, a new clip on side deck for a mooring pole, painting over the dings, getting the trailer to the mechanic.......and so the list goes on......and on..............

Sunday 6 December 2015

And for those who are auditory learners rather than visual

He is the poem in music.....enjoy

Getting ready for Christmas

This poem first appeared in the Scots Observer in 1888, several years after Stevenson's publication of 'Treasure Island'. The poem depicts, from the point of view of a crew-member, the life-or-death struggle of steering a sailing-ship through winter storms, and contrasts this with a sentimental, spy-glass view of a Victorian family Christmas. The irony in the poem is that the parlour scene the sailor witnesses is taking place in his own childhood home.
So in the run up to Christmas, here is the first of a few Christmas 'nautically themed' poems and stories.

Christmas at Sea

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seaman scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.
They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.
All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.
We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So's we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.
The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every 'long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.
The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessèd Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.
O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china plates that stand upon the shelves.
And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessèd Christmas Day.
They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
'All hands to loose top gallant sails,' I heard the captain call.
'By the Lord, she'll never stand it,' our first mate, Jackson, cried.
… 'It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson,' he replied.
She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.
And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

Saturday 5 December 2015

An interesting new magazine....Barnacle Bill

try this one.......crowd source funded, first edition. I like it. Somehow the editors tapped into my I am going to read it cover to cover over next few days and then I will decide whether to subscribe. First impressions, I like what I see


Friday 13 November 2015

The restorative powers of

A well made cuppa. Tea! What a fantastic drink. Lovely and hot, tea bag left in for two minutes, one sugar, normally don't have any, but feeling the need this morning and hey presto! Normal good humoured, get off your backside and sort the washing out, clean up the kitchen, and do some marking, lesson prep and proof reading kids UCAS draft statements is resuming. All done in a crab like gait with a hangover like demeanour. Never mind Dylan's "keep turning left" expedition; I've got my own " can only turn right" thing going on down here in wet and windy South Devon!

Oh and I've managed to fall down the stairs, bump into a door and broken the string pull light switch in the bathroom because I grabbed it to support myself during a dizzy spell. It's going to be quite a funny day.

In the meantime, the steep drive is a death trap slide with black algae and decaying leaves; Arwen is filling up nicely with rainwater because I haven't managed to pump her out this week or replace the old tarps with the new ones; there are twenty eight logs that need cutting up in the garage to form log reindeer kits for kids to assemble and sell to raise money for charity and.................

Maybe, just maybe, I might just retreat back to bed. Some days it's just not worth getting out of bed until things have calmed down!!
My sense of humour is restored, self pity has departed.....normal service is being resumed.
Sorry about the temporary slip folks 

This week

It started last Friday when a family member was taken into hospital as an emergency. They were discharged the following day with strict advice about behaviour, bed rest and taking it easy. So I went to see them and collapsed with labrynythitis so bad that paramedics were called who sent me to hospital to check I wasn't having a stroke. So going to see them to cheer them up didn't quite go as planned. I just freaked them out further!  Discharged on Sunday morning, by Monday my serious ear infection was getting worse and so my doctor prescribed very strong antibiotics. Which led to an allergic reaction so I had to come off those the day before having an endoscopy to check I didnt have oesophagal cancer. With that done Wednesday under sedation, I barely had time to celebrate the great news that I didnt have cancer and what damage there was could be solved by tablets in short term before my ear infection returned with a vengeance and I started my crab like walking existence leaning against any object I could find for support. Throw in a sore throat, headache, stiff neck and stomach pain from the endoscopy, AND having to take off four days in a row which I have NEVER done in thirty two years of teaching, well I'm feeling slightly jaded as I sit here in bed and my normal cheery good humoured up for anything disposition has deserted me for five minutes.

I know, I know, there are people suffering far worst fates at this moment in time and I should count my blessings. Normal cheery banter will be resumed in five minutes time.........sleep always makes things seem bad first thing in the morning!

Give me five minutes of self pity folks! Normal service will be resumed shortly. Promise!

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Dinghy cruising: equipment packing lists..........

The final packing lists for Arwen

I have been ill and off work for a few days with a serious ear infection and dizziness. But now I am just about upright and I have been trying to keep myself positive by thinking about cruises next year. I have various packing lists for Arwen but have decided to take it down to one comprehensive one based on what I have read in Roger Barnes excellent book on dinghy cruising, the really helpful lists prepared by Joel on his blog about Ellie and some lists that Steve Earley uses on Spartina which I think he got from some annual water expedition in the USA. 
So here goes

When day sailing within the sound or up the various rivers
- handheld compass
- local charts
- first aid kit
- torch and spare batteries 
- spare clothes
- sailing knife
- two anchors and their rides
- my handheld VHF
- SPOT PLB and spare batteries 
- mobile phone
- sun cream and lipsalve
- food and drink
- sun hat or warm beanie
- foulies bag containing waterproof walking trousers, waterproof sailing sallopettes, waterproof sailing jacket, sea boots, spare sealskinz socks, sun hat, wooly hat, sealskinz waterproof hat, spare gloves
- charts
- distress flares
- handheld GPS
- wind anonometer
- logbook
- radio licence and insurance papers
- gopro and batteries and mounts
- spare camera
- a watch
- sunglasses
- waterproof pouch for car keys, bank cards and money

Already on board for day sail
- four fenders
- four big white fenders
- two anchors and rodes
- bucket
- fuel bottles x 2 and outboard fuel funnel
- one five litre jerrycan
- bailer and hand pump
- drogue and rode
- morning warps x 4
- spare mooring warps x 3
- oars 
- fog horn
- spare sail ties
- rowing cushions and side thwart cushions
- folded radar reflector
-  rudder and tiller
- waterproof large torch
- sponges and towels
- odd lengths various widths of rope
- toolbox containing small can oil, WD40, clothes, marine grease, marine select, file, pliers, mole grips, screw drivers assorted sizes, saw, mallet, adjustable spanner, bradawl, hand drill and various drill bits, screws and nuts and bolts, spare blocks of different sizes, duct tape, sail tape, wooden bungs of various sizes, spare cleats, spare kill cord, spare shackles of various sizes
- safety harness
Spare inflatable lifejackets x 3
- emergency grab bag containing fire starting kit, spare water, smoke flare canisters, spare emergency rations, spray hood, spare VHF handheld radio and batteries, spare penknife and sailing knife, wind proof matches
- lead line 

For coastal passages
- steering compass already on board
- passage charts all waterproofed
- my navigation equipment including dividers, Breton plotter, small boat almanac, binoculars, skippers handbook, small flip file of emergency procedures and rescue signals, waterproof notebooks, waterproof pencils, pencil sharpener, 
- solar powered small transistor radio, erasers, speed-distance tables, 
- passage plan documents
- notebook with pilotage notes
- OS map of area
- simple instruction sheets for sail trimming and sailing onto or off moorings etc ........I forget sometimes and it pays to have the info in easy to see annotated diagrams when in doubt as aide memoirs ......awful isn't it!

For sleeping onboard trips
- sewing kit
- spare batteries 
- boom crutches
- boom tent
- sleeping platform although this will be replaced this winter with the ingenious system used and designed by Joel, onboard Ellie
- another jerrycan of fuel
- twelve  1.5 litre bottles of freshwater
- washing up bowl
- cooking box 1 containing transit stove, fuel bottle, paper towel, cooking utensils, bowl plate, mug, knife, fork, spoon, teaspoon, sponges, washing up liquid, scourers, matches, tin opener, small torch on flexi wire stand, aluminium foil, waste rubbish bin liners, spare carrier bags, 
- cooking box 2 containing foodstuff for trip 
- sleeping waterproof bag containing sleeping roll mat, sleeping bag, gortex bivvy bag, sleepwear, washing kit, toilet rolls, pyjamas, three soft cushions, head torch, powermonkey solar charger and cables, reading book, 
- clothes bag containing  underwear, mid layers, spare trousers, and shirts, spare socks, spare waterproof sealskins socks, trainers and or sandals, spare waterproof jacket (lightweight), 

Tuesday 10 November 2015

a short train journey away to the north

is the isolated mountain outcrop and the Monastery of Montserrat. Recommended to me by my sister in law - a closeted geologist - I was expecting big things.......and I wasn't disappointed!

the view from the station

waiting for the lights

getting there early to avoid the crowds

the only passing loop on the rack railway

the train journey up on the little rack railway

the cable funicular - the photo really doesn't show HOW steep that incline was!

Wow! I mean Wow on so many levels!

The train ride out through the suburbs of Barcelona and across the!

The transfer onto a small rack railway funicular and the stunningly steep climb to the monastery - double wow! The views were amazing, the drops, terrifyingly impressive in the odd place or two,  on a par with one or two in the Alps but not quite the same height drop.

The funicular railway up to the highest peaks - insane! Nothing should be able to go up rails at that angle - insane! Wow, wow, wow - we survived and the cable didn't break!

the monastery lying beneath the conglomerate cliffs with the cable funicular in the foreground

a climbers paradise?

And Wow, Wow, Wow, wow and double wow again! The mountain scenery...breath taking. Loved it, absolutely loved it! But firstly the museum................

some of the paintings in the small but rather good museum in the monastery complex

this painting shows all the small churches and retreats across the Montserrat mountains range

the small town of Montserrat
Then there was the monastery itself, well hidden!

the outer facade

the inner courtyard

inside the Basilica
And the mountain scenery? Well a walker and climbers paradise - bought back the days of my youth when knees were stronger!! Quite envious!
my geology is rusty and I didn't have a guide book but I'm going for 'conglomerate'

a conglomerate formed under water with lots of rounded pebbles - so river estuary? Coastline?
lots of conglomerate spires

hidden somewhere are little churches and retreats

somewhere up there is a French climber we met and her partner
so many mountain paths to choose - spoilt for choice

yep they were going to climb it

don't let perspective fool you - its steeper than it looks

I felt quite envious!


Monday 9 November 2015

Passion.....for life

Dimly lit, the lights hung low on long wires from vaulted ceilings, pale terracotta ancient brickwork walls, old roman arches, bricked up doorways, 50's Jazz......all accessed down an arrow alley between five story high ancient buildings.........the cafe atmosphere was warm, soft and animated!

Tables huddled together, it was easy to spot who were American, British, Scandinavian, German.......and who were from the Mediterranean was all a matter of 'proximity'! The former nationalities tend to sit opposite each other, across tables. Lots of smiles, lots of chatter.........but a gap between people, even couples.

Mediterranean nations on the other hand?

 Ooh lala! 

Up close, side by side, same side of the table, animated, heads close, gesticulating hands, facial expressions in overdrive and lots of hugs, touching hands and arms,  stroking knees, caresses of faces and hair.......romance and flirting so tangible in the atmosphere, aided by the intimacy of our surroundings. Food savoured slowly, small dishes and many of them, sharing tapas.....lots of laughter, head shaking, eye phones glanced at, the quick text, but never a loss of focus on your companion, multitasking at its best....its intimate, each couple intent on each other, their universe that small table, the food, wine and the person they are with whether it be friends or partners.

It's passion on display, passion for life, for music, food and each enjoy 'the moment'.......

I probably need to up my 'romanticism levels' My gorgeous wife deserves better!

Then the 'British' bloke bit kicks in............romance....what's that mularkey?

Sunday 8 November 2015

Serenity amongst the stonemasons

It's taken over a century to build and another ten years are needed to finish it. The Segada Familia, a cathedral to atone for Barcelona's previous sins of murdunity.

I made the mistake of climbing up the third tower from the left - oh my!!

Within, 16 pillars soar 15 metres high before dividing into five branches which continue their journey upwards to the heavens. Each ends in a stone canopy, the effect startling. For Gaudi wanted the congregation to be sat under a woodland. If you have ever spent time lying under a tree staring up into its canopy then you will appreciate his efforts.

Before I went in, I'd spent time sat on a bench under a jacaranda tree in the neighbouring park. As I sat there contemplating on whether or not I was eating the best mint chocolate chip ice cream ever, a pretty lady in her late forties walked up to the tree and lay her forehead against the trunk. One arm curled around it, she muttered some words, looked up at its canopy and broke into the most amazing smile. Thanking the tree she walked off, sat on a bench and chatted to her friends. I'm pretty sure I witnessed someone's personal religious experience. Her face lit up looking at that tree. Forty minutes later, sat under Gaudi's masterpiece of religious iconary for an hour and I kind of get it............I'm not religious. But 'spiritual'? I kinda get that bit......... . I was ready to walk out and hug trees.

On Gaudi's certificate for architecture, his teacher wrote "we have either let lose a madman, or a genius......only time will tell".  I suppose your view of architecture is subjective. We will all have different tastes.  For me, Gaudi was the latter, a true genius whose understanding of space, shape, form and style transcended everyone else's effort.

typical Gaudi-esque tiled tops
his stain glass windows are spectacular and the ambient light they create when the sunshine comes through windows is beyond description. This photo does not do it justice

views from up the climbing days are over! Never have I suffered from such bad vertigo before!

New elements still being added and will be for the next ten years!

Glad I'm not one of the builders although this must be an amazing project to work on

Those lovely decorations......

200 steps down in a tight spiral - a nightmare!

trunks into tree canopies - look closely and you can see them

knocking off time and the last shift is waiting for the lift to bring them back down