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

Tuesday 28 April 2015

More navigators on their way.............

Some navigator updates
And some lovely ideas and craftsmanship


And then

More navigators on the way

Friday 24 April 2015

The UK shipping forecast

an institution here in the UK......treasured and loved. Gavin sums it up wonderfully


Wednesday 15 April 2015

bits and bobs part 2

Joel has suggested getting an 'anchor buddy'. He and many of his boat owning friends have been using one for years. Based on his recommendation I am thinking of getting one. I think it will be less hassle than the pulley system I have at the moment, although I haven't quite given up on it yet! I still think there is merit in trying to sort it out!
Getting hold of an anchor buddy in the UK is slightly tricky. There is only one supplier that I can find on Amazon/Ebay and through a general web search.

The principles are simple - its a big elastic band. Here is a video clip of how it works

It is for temporary use only and cannot be left overnight or unattended. Better, I suspect in calm conditions, the idea is simple. You attach the anchor to the anchor buddy. 30 feet out you drop the anchor and attached buddy over the stern and carefully motor into the beach, avoiding wraparound on the propeller! The anchor buddy stretches behind you up to around 45 feet. On arrival at the beach, take a bow line onto the beach, and from the beach, allow the anchor buddy to contract. In doing so, the boat is pulled back out to deep water whilst you pay out the bow line. When you want to leave pull in the bowline which stretches the anchor buddy as the boat comes towards you. Step on board and the buddy pulls you back into deeper water from which you can get ready to sail away after retrieving the buddy.

Further details can be found at

On a different matter, check out the video on dinghy cruising by our very own Roger Barnes of the Dinghy Cruising Association. Worth listening to the full presentation. Enjoy.


Dinghy cruising: sail setting on a sprit boomed standing lug yawl

Someone was asking John on the JW builders forum to help them with a sail crease problem they were having on their navigator. I occasionally got that problem on Arwen but through John's help discovered that tying the halyard on the top spar further aft and putting plenty of tack downhaul tension on - the crease disappeared. Joel helped me work out that the angle of my sprit boom needed to be more acute and that the snotter attachment point needed to be higher up the mast. Attaching parrel beads to the sail tack and hauling it as tight as I could against the mast also helped.
So imagine how stupid I felt when I discovered John passing on this advice to said forum member
  • "Outhaul tension on the yard is important, there should be enough tension on there to put a crease in the sail that does not come out until the tack downhaul is on, and the sprit outhaul is on"     what outhaul I hear myself ask - I don't have an outhaul on the sprit boom - the clew is directly attached to aft end of boom (hope I got my terminology right there).

  • "The tack downhaul and halyard in combination put tension on the sail from tack to peak. With the sprit outhaul off, there should be a crease from tack to peak".  Does he mean the snotter - when he refers to the sprit outhaul - is it the same thing? Should I be tightening up tack downhaul and halyards first before then tensioning the sprit boom snotter?

  • "When pulling the sprit outhaul on, it should have enough tension on to just pull the crease out, too much tension will form a crease from throat to clew"ooooh!!  That would explain why a crease appears in the opposite direction.....ah enlightenment hits me six years later.............I am sooooo dim!

  • "One of the things that can affect the set on these is having a yard that is not stiff enough. If its flexing more than it should it wont be possible to get the crease from throat to clew out. (forward top to after bottom corners, the one that is often the problem). Ideally there should be about 70 or 80mm of flex in the yard in 15 knots of wind, you'd just be able to see that from the helm position when sailing to windward.  Any more and you lose control of the shape, any less and the sail wont twist off to reduce the heeling effect in a gust".    FLEX? IN MY SPRIT BOOM? 7CMS? SERIOUSLY??  No one mentioned that to me. My boom is virtually inflexible - I know - its hit me on my head several times! Shape and twist in the sail?  steady on...........I'm still getting over the shock of discovering a boom outhaul that I may or may not have!!  Aargh!

John is an amazing guy who gives so much great advice but before I ask him some really dumb questions....does anyone know anything about the above which they can explain to me in one syllable words?

I feel a trauma coming on....................I need a cuppa!

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Some bits and bobs

The problem of refuelling an outboard out at sea which hangs off the transom was a topic on the DCA Facebook page.
It's a good point. I hate hanging off the back balancing in waves. Up rivers is fine but out at sea it is different. Especially around the mouth of the Tamar when tide is rushing out and wind is rushing in! Trying to keep hold of a funnel, a one litre fuel bottle, a fuel bottle cap.......way too much stress!
 This solution is neat
I think it may well be worth doing although where I would stash the large fuel tank, I'm not sure. Also, I wonder whether the fuel pipe and bulb would get in the way of the rudder?
Is an alternative to just unscrew the outboard fuel cap and insert the hose and then pump fuel in?
Worth giving some further consideration.

Thursday 9 April 2015

The gadget show live

We have just returned from travelling up north to see relatives and to stop off at the gadget show live. For overseas readers, the gadget show is a popular show about technology on channel five here on UK TV. It's rather fun and somewhat geeky but very popular. 
We didn't attend the live shows but did have a good old browse around the exhibition stands at the NEC. 
I'm not sure what I was expecting but what I found didn't meet whatever the expectations were that I thought I had....If that makes sense. I came away neither impressed nor disappointed. I found some interesting tech....clever designs. I was impressed by the 3D printers on show; there were some nifty small camera lense attachments for smart phones. 'Her indoors' was very impressed with some kitchen utensils, which, in fairness, were quite clever and time saving. I liked the new personal transport tech ......... Along the lines of smaller segways....much smaller. One was a single wheel with foot plates either side, which demonstrators whizzed around on....brilliant for city commuting! The son of Clive Sinclair was there launching a new C5 but in a bike format with an integral crash resistant seating cockpit. Quite clever, but will it catch on? 
There were plenty of exhibits selling latest sound technology gizmos. 

I was hoping for some really whizzy tech but I couldn't find it. Lots of drones with cameras in them; lots of new action cameras.......overpriced and/ or similar to the GoPro range but cheaper and of lesser quality. 
So where were the big tech stores showing cutting edge Apple, Samsung technology? Or the latest in wearable tech.....not that I am that interested?  What about the latest in sat nav and GPS technology?

In fact, it is clear that the Southampton boat show is the place for anything nautical tech. And then it dawned on me. I'm not into lifestyle tech and that was what this was all about. I'm into tech to do with the outdoors, photography, video creation etc...and well there just wasn't enough of that. 

Still it was a fun day out supplemented by a very worthwhile visit to the Birmingham museum and art gallery. Some really interesting exhibits there!!

And, somewhat cryptically, Paul, sorry we were not back in time for your visit to Plymouth. I did try contacting you via your email but I'm not sure whether you got the reply or not. If you are down this way again, contact me and we will see if we can set it up so you get a sail in Arwen as well as a look over of her, and yes, she is well worth building in my humble opinion. But then I am biased and know very little about sailing, boats or boat building. I like her, what else can I say?


Monday 6 April 2015

Post traumatic reflections

Boy am I glad I put a hole in the rear of the centre case cap! And that I carry a purposely designed off cut of broom handle to poke down it!

Seriously, the pulley system works, after all, I did manage to haul Arwen out a few metres on the system during my muppet like panic. So I don't want to abandon the idea quite yet. Perhaps a better chosen beach next time, although choices around Plymouth Sound are somewhat limited. Certainly, it was a Lee shore and I was seduced by the small less than a foot high waves periodically breaking on it in flat no wind conditions. Lesson learned the hard way there I think.  In avoiding Cawsand beach where dinghies we readying with gig crews for a day on the water, I may have made an error of judgement. Cawsand beach was even more sheltered and well could have been the better option.
I think, flat, sandy, sheltered beach with no waves so to speak......for next that would be a trip to Salcombe then for its next test. I also think taking the pulley system and an anchor down to the local playing fields to lay it out and work out distances etc would prove beneficial.  Sort out the kedge anchor so that it can just be attached to a fixed known length of anchor warp easily would also help. A fender attached to the drainpipe will keep it floating higher at the surface as well.

Later on after I have marked all the GCSE coursework, I will take a look under Arwen and see what hull damage was done. I suspect there are a few scrapes and gouges which will need sorting out.
Hey ho! Some valuable lessons learned and some useful reminders of what I had forgotten.........not least of which is ................
My friend has legendary patience and stoicism!

Sunday 5 April 2015

It didn't go quite as planned........

Where to start?
Organised, rolled away on time; collected my friend; arrived at ramp, speedy rigging; an awkward moment with outboard where one of the screw tighteners on the bracket jammed and refused to budge. However, we managed to tighten the other one and tied the outboard securely to the bracket. After that, an easy launch at top of tide. All great omens.

No wind. Nothing. Nada. Not a breath!
We pottered out past water taxis and tourist boats accompanying some small seascape yachts and nosed our way around into Jennycliffe Bay. Up went the sails with no problems at all.

Nothing, no movement other than drifting out on the outgoing spring tide. 0.9 knots!
So off we go to Kingsand beach. After all we have a new pulley rig system to play with.

How they must have laughed at Kingsand. As the sun came out and the skies brightened; as temperatures rose, people threw open their balcony doors to survey the scenery......and the muppet on the beach.
All I can say is my friend is a stoic, diplomatic saint!

I am such a muppet!
Firstly I tangled 150' of floating line; seriously tangled it. Floating string has this ability to deliberately tangle itself into multiple knots. My friend patiently sorted it out.

Then I anchored too far off the beach and so the rig didn't reach the shore. So up came the stern anchor....several times.  And then when we did hit the beach.....well how they must have laughed in Kingsand! This time we were too close!!!!

Arwen broached in the waves. Sideways on within seconds with water coming over the stern, the sides, everywhere. In waves barely a foot high! Then because the tide was falling, she beached herself. After 10 frantic, fraught minutes, we managed to heave her off the beach into water and managed to pull her out on the stern anchor. We upped anchor, motored into deeper water and dropped anchor. Several cups of tea and coffee later, nerves were calmed. Sponges came out along with hand pump and the interior was emptied of sloshy water. There was no discussion about a further attempt. Pretty obvious really!

By now the wind had built to a gentle breeze. Up went sails.......and down they came just as quickly. The centreboard was in completely immovable. No amount of knocking downwards with my special pole through the hole I had the good foresight to locate at the back of the centrecase top would shift it.  So we pottered back to the marina. Several cuppas later along with one pole, the top of an anchor and brute force and the centreboard was free. Two pieces of pea sized gravel were the culprits. There are two nasty dents in the aft foil bit of the centreboard. Another job to add to the growing list of things to do at the end of August.

Poor Arwen.
Still, it wasn't a complete write off day. We got a couple of hours sailing during the afternoon. And very pleasant it was too.

Heading towards the breakwater

RFA Fort Victoria on a breakwater mooring

In the afternoon, the sun came out to play

A full jib, what more can you ask for

Saturday 4 April 2015

A slight delay in proceedings

confused weather forecasts have led me to postponing the trip until tomorrow. Across six different weather sites, some predict gale force winds today, some say 18 knots and a few say 10 knots. As a prudent fellow, I decided to go with all six forecasts which all agree that tomorrow will be winds around 8 knots from the North East. I'm a consensus sorta guy!
So apologies to those expecting some sailing video , reports and pics. And, as always, great thanks to my good friend, who, patiently, as always, managed to accommodate my indecisiveness into his weekend plans.
He is indeed a good and very tolerant friend!


Thursday 2 April 2015

a pleasant surprise at the Barbican

Was the tall ship Kaskelot. She is a three masted barque which has undergone a refit at T Neilson's yard up at Gloucester.

She is also one of the largest ships on the water in this type and it must have been some feat helming her through the lock gates and then turning her around past Capt'n Jaspers.

This morning her crew were getting her ship shape. Some people had turned up expecting her to be open as per the website instructions. It was also published in the local paper as well. However, the crew , slightly offhand I thought, just told people that she wasn't ready and they couldn't be blamed for a website error. That was the fault of the website editors.

Anyway, she is beautiful and I am led to believe that all the crew sail her and look after her in a very traditional way.

There is a brief summary at

Kaskelot by the way is Swedish for sperm whale
Just in case anyone was wondering!


Wednesday 1 April 2015

The first sail of the season

L,May well be coming up this Saturday, all being well.
Tides will be a constraint as they are big springs but I am hoping to pick up my friend around 8.30 and then get to the ramp around 9.00. It will take an hour to ready Arwen I suspect, after her winter slumber but the aim is to be departing QAB on the hour at 1000 when the tide will be 3.2 m but falling fast. 

Arwen, last year, tied up at QAB after a lovely sail around the sound

The weather is set to be cloudy, chilly and winds straight from the north around 13 knots with gusts up to 22 knots. With two of us in the boat, there shouldn't be a need to put in any reefs. Famous last words I'm sure. 

The aim, I think, although I haven't chatted this through with my friend and he will have some ideas as well, is to sail over to Cawsand and possibly beach her and grab a quick tea or coffee. There may be an opportunity to try out the new beach anchor pulley system as well.  We should be arriving towards low tide which is 0.9m at 1300.  Leaving Cawsand, if the weather is still playing ball, we can sail down the south side of the breakwater across to Bovisand beach/ bay.  From here, a tack and a close haul run back up to the south of Drakes Island, before taking another tack eastwards to the inside of the Mountbatten breakwater. 

Because the ramp on south side of QAB is shorter, we will have to wait until around 1540 before having sufficient water under Arwen so that she will float onto the trailer. 

I am so looking forward to getting out on Arwen with my friend. New equipment to test includes my new Gill jacket, the new waterproof bags from Lomo, my new wellies and the new sealskinz full knee length socks.....a birthday pressie from last week. 

Lomo gear bought with Christmas money

My new Gill jacket, as yet, untested!!

Please let the winds die slightly, please, please!!!