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 22 February 2015

Some new blogs I will be following

Thanks to Gavin at for drawing our attention to two great little blogs. Although not John Welsford specific, they are worth following. The first is about the restoration of small wooden clinker boats. The second about the cruising of a lovely little cabin finesse 24.


Dinghy cruising: A self steering Arwen

Someone was searching on the blog about self steering and it serves as a nice reminder as the sailing season comes around. Basically the main points are

1. In 10+ knots I should try to trim the sails, starting with jib, then main and finally Mizzen until such time as the luff is just lifting a little. Then.......
2.  Bring Arwen up towards the wind and let go of the tiller
3. If she goes to windward and puffs then ease the mizzen and/or main
4. If she goes to leeward and bears away then tighten mizzen and/or main

All of this is best done between a close reach to beam reach. 

Alternatively, I could use the centreboard. If Arwen heads windward bring the board up slightly and conversely, if she bears away, lower the board slightly.

Excessive weather helm can be tackled by either
A) pushing the mast forward as far as possible when setting her up on the ramp and then allowing the main halyard to dangle. Set up correctly the gap between Hayward and mast should be around 17cm. 
B) whilst out on the water, tightening the forestry and loosening the shrouds should help

On all occasions securing the tiller amidships using some elastic cord will help as will minimal movement around the boat. In the past I have found Arwen to be very sensitive to my weight distribution!!! Going forward sends her rapidly windward, hanging off the stern allows her to bear away rapidly as well. 

So much to remember........!!!

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Having a spring clean 2

I'm rearranging where things go in Arwen. Weight around the centre case, lighter at the stern and bow. So into the stern locker is going spare life jackets, spare clothing, spare foulies and the outboard toolkit along with some towing bridles. In the starboard centre thwart locker will be a collapsible bucket, the radar reflector, foghorn, binoculars, handheld compass, throw line, grab bag and then some spare cloths and sponges. The rest of the space is for daysailing kit......waterproofs, spare fleece, packed lunch and drinks, camera, sun cream and sunnies etc. 

In the port locker will be spare fittings ranging from blocks to screws, shackles, gaffer tape and assorted odd tools, WD40, the little bailer, a mallet etc. 

In the front thwart lockers will go camping gear when I am off on extended gear, food, bottled water, sleeping gear, the tarp and bulldog clamps to hold it in place. 
I am going to buy some more cylindrical fuel bottles from optimist to store spare fuel and they can then go in the lockers as well. 

Under the deck in the bow locker will go the boat cushions I have for extended stops, spare dry bags, some spare warps and two of the four large white fenders I carry. Sadly the big black bucket won't fit through the hatch so that will remain stored under the deck as will the hand pump. 

The kedge anchor and warp will remain in its tray, covered by a large thick piece of black foam matting, strapped on the floor,port side just forward of the centre thwart. It is held in place by bungees. The matting means I can regularly stand on top of it if need be when adjusting snotter on boom. 
The main large anchor is on the floor starboard side, secured in a similar fashion. I will be making a little contraption using a strong painter and loop, to allow its deployment from the centre of the boat. I'll post more on this when I have it clear in my own head how it will work. 
I have some straps either side of the centre case which can be used to secure four 25lt water barrels in place for extra weight when on extended solo sailing coastal voyages. 

The new dry bags will be left in the various lockers and then camping stuff packed into them as and when needed. 
My aim is to declutter the cockpit. I am always amazed at how well Joel manages to do it in Ellie and Steve in Spartina and it is time I learned from them.......some good, seamanlike housekeeping!
For coastal overnight voyages I am also thinking about installing side netting under decks in forward part of friend has offered to make some if I pay for materials and time and actually I am beginning to think they would be much more effective in securing things, especially, God forbid, in event of a capsize. I'd quite like a little net stretching across the back of the aft footwell into which can go the little dry bags with lunch, drinks bottles and flasks, along with GoPro gear. It would stop it all rattling around under the side decks and reduce the need for a rucksac taking up space in the footwell.

Another project I am looking at is how to make my little YouTube videos of daysailing more appealing. I'm looking at story boarding in advance and giving more thought to cutaway sequences. I am also thinking hard about how to get good footage of Arwen sailing on the water from a distance. Two projects come to mind. The first, the creation of a floating frame....a guy running a YouTube gopro channel has a very ingenious design made out of plastic pipe; and attaching a gopro to a small kite to tow behind Arwen. This one needs some thought but a kite surfer friend may well have some answers!
Ill keep you all posted on developments.

Spring clean

Arwen has had her first spring clean. Water sponged out of nooks and crannies. Hatch plates taken off so she can air in the spring sunshine. Some of the black mould removed......still along way to go on that one ....especially under the decks. The starboard centre thwart locker has been cleared out ready for storage of coats, packed lunches, binoculars, etc. the port locker has been re packed containing fittings, tool kits etc. 

I am thinking of commissioning my friend to make some netting for the sides and rear of the footwell to hold things in place better. I am going for the minimalist, uncluttered look this year. Yeah like that will happen.......have you seen my school desk, classroom, study, back room and house hallway? Nough said!

Clutter, I am surrounded by it. It replicates itself when I'm not looking. They say clutter is the sign of a brilliant mind........that's the argument I'm going with. Others, less kind, will say it is disorganisation!

Customer service from Lomo

Well. Impressive quite frankly. I ordered stuff yesterday and it arrived from Glasgow by midday today. Well done Lomo on the first 

First impressions. Nice kit. Well made. 
Specifics......the rucksac. The white material is shiny and has a neoprene plasticy look about it. I'm not quite sure about this, ambivalent is the word.  Design wise it looks great. The outer pocket will hold a drinks bottle, wallet, keys etc. it is secured with a good splash proof zip but obviously the contents will need to be in a little dry bag inside to get full waterproofness and with fairness Lomo did say this on their website. Seams are stitched and welded and it looks pretty sturdy. I couldn't find any gaps or anomalies that would worry me unduly.

 Obviously when loaded and used over time, then I will find out more, but so far so good. The attachment points for straps and shoulder straps and waist belt seem sturdy and waterproof. They are sealed on inside with clear plastic panes which again appear well seamed and welded. It has one large inner compartment. The roll down top seems to work fine although the side strap attachments take some getting to use to if like me you have never used them before. The base seems sturdy but I would avoid sharp objects and gravel to be on the safe side!!! There was more base reinforcement on my old overboard sac and it also had outer mesh pockets and some buggy as well. But hey, it cost almost twice as much and the judgement her is for £25 are you getting value for money from Lomo and I'd say thus far on first impressions, yes definitely. Time will tell on performance. I will duly report back when part way through sailing season. One initial concern is whether it will sag somewhat if only half full so packing may need to be done carefully. 

The large red dry bags
I like these. For the price they are pretty impressive with stitched and glued seams. A good cordura type material which will take general wear and tear well I suspect. The roll clip attachments are sturdy, well stitched, strong plastic clips. These would probably make excellent dinghy buoyancy bags if truth were but known. The black bags are very well made with reinforced clear bottoms. Finally the three small rip stop nylon bags look well made and will be useful for keys, wallet, phone, and sunnies etc.

The full finger gloves are nice , soft, well stitched. A pressie for my wife who will be sailing with me more this she tells me........if the weather is nice!!

Monday 16 February 2015

Getting ready for the season

I had some Amazon gift vouchers and they have now been spent. Arriving in next few days will be some lomo dry bags, lomo sailing gloves (long fingered) and a 30lt lomo dry rucksac. My old overboard waterprof dry rucksac has given up the ghost after four years. The welds have gone in four places and so it is no longer airtight. It will serve duty as a walking sac with dry bags inside but it will no longer float when sealed and so I won't use it in the boat. 

Lomo products have a good niche reputation amongst outdoor instructors, kayakers, I have met and motorcyclists who do touring. I know a couple of long distance cyclists who like their products as well. They are reputedly well made and very, very reasonably priced. So I have taken the plunge and will report back on them when they have been tested. 

I have decided against fitting a hatch in the top of the forward thwart. There is a cross brace in the way making it complicated. I will pack everything in dry bags and use the two vertical side thwart 10 inch circular hatches instead.

If I put Vaseline around the threads it will waterproof them fairly well. It is just a greasy pain doing it everytime I open them!!

In the meantime I sit here recovering from a traumatic experience this morning. Poor old stacey, our aged motovespa died on started back firing, bogged down and lost all revs........from 40mph to nothing in thirty the middle lane of a three lane slip road with traffic doing 40mph either side of me. No one stopped, cars dodged me beeping horns and there I was stopped in the centre lane. I would like to thank the morrisons lorry driver who from 100m away saw my dangerous predicament, pulled to straddle all lanes  gently moving side to side at a slow speed and then used his emergency indicators to slow everything behind him so giving me a space to push stacey to the left hand side verge and crash barrier area before I was mown down.  I think he saved my life this morning. He then passed by with a smile and a wave. What a kind gesture and much appreciated. 

A very traumatic experience.....hence some retail therapy. 
As for stacey, she is very poorly at a scooter mechanic who is trying to find out what is wrong. 
Oh dear!

Saturday 7 February 2015

Another test

I've had a great day. I've had to sit my compulsory basic training certificate again. It expires every two years. So it's been a busy day doing figure of eights, emergency stops, u turns, clutch control etc etc. then two hours road ride through heavy city traffic.

But it is done and 'Stacey' our 1971 motovespa super 125 behaved impeccably. Phew!!