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

Saturday 30 May 2015

Summer plans

are beginning to emerge. I think I will head east. The rough itinerary is as follows
Day one: Plymouth to Salcombe
Day two: sailing around Salcombe
Day three: sailing Salcombe to Dartmouth
Day four: sailing up to Totnes on the Dart
Day five: sailing from Totnes to Brixham or Torquay

Then I will need to sail back again as I can't work out how to get the trailer up to Torquay. The missus, rightly so, doesn't want to tow a trailer up there, having never towed anything before.  I think the sail back could be done in two days depending on the weather with a stop off overnight in Salcombe.

My other thought is to go west and drive down to falmouth. Camping at Falmouth, I could then do sails over to and up the Helford. A sail up to Truro or one of the other creeks sounds nice as does a sail around to Mevagissy or Fowey and back. I could easily soak up a week down there as well.

Decisions, decisions. 

Friday 29 May 2015

A lovely little video

its a tad old but I came across this lovely report of a dinghy camp cruise. The video shows a lovely navigator under sail about 1 min 34 seconds in

Thursday 28 May 2015

Yesterday's sailing

I was very lucky to get an invitation to sail on a friend's post boat yesterday.

It is a very nice boat. Precisely the same length and beam as Arwen and with a bowsprit as well.....the difference? Well this is a gaff rigged boat and there is no centreboard. The side decks are vastly reduced and in short it makes the boat far bigger inside with a long central walkway area where you could easily stretch out fully and lie on the bilge boards......which would make it a rather good dinghy camping boat!

waiting for high tide and entry into the River Plym

Under the helmanship of my very skilful and experienced friend, the boat sailed comfortably in winds around force three to four. She has a huge amount of lead in a small keel and so weighs much more than Arwen, consequently punching through waves and chop that would have had poor Arwen gyrating.

A Hawk 20 from out playing in the sunshine

On the other hand, with no centreboard, she did make some leeway. Still a very respectable average of around 3.5 knots was kept up throughout the day. I like the fact that the outboard is in a hole inside the boat! In addition, the sheer amount of locker space is amazing and it is so easily accessible.  The build quality was good...a very nice craft and so easy to sail with just the tiniest hint of weather helm on the tiller. 

out she peeks from behind Drakes island......

getting bigger........

....there she is......HMS Ocean after her refit......

taking the turn through the shipping lane into Jennycliffe Bay

she went off to anchor at anchorage 14 in Cawsand Bay
It was a grand day out, a welcome relief from the stress of new car buying. We had the sound to ourselves in lovely sunshine. The wind wasn't cold and the bonus was that HMS Ocean came out to play as well. Throw in some very excitable marines whizzing around in six large rigid inflatable craft at high speed, some tugs, three Police boats, a departing small ship impatient to get the pilot off Ocean and onto his boat so he could depart on the high tide, a good sailing friend and all in all it was rather an entertaining day. Very nice. Very nice indeed.

returning back to HM Drake/Devonport after a busy day

Checking my dimensions!

So I hauled out the plans and went all over them again.
The mast isn't's the correct height.
The top boom and sprit boom are precisely the right dimensions.
The sail has been cut correctly although lacing eyes have been added by the sail mast even though they were not needed.
It has a Gunter yawl sail shape though and I can't find anywhere on the plans a sort of standing lug sail plan type affair!
Anyway, I reset where I had the reefing points on the sprit boom and moved them back a little so that when I pull down on them, the clew also moved back slightly....a sort of ouhaul affair.
Then I moved the sail up on the top boom. For some reason I had it tied lower down , don't ask me why. That should raise the sail a good 30cm further up above my head. I also replaced  the sail lacing. It has been on there for eight years!!

Eight years! Poor Arwen. She needs a new paint job definitely, a spruce up on the mast and booms, some screw holes filling on the sprit boom. Lots of little odd jobs.
Hopefully, when she rigs next time, the mainsail should go higher.
Oh! I also raised the jib attachment up another 30 cm as well so that should really tension the jib.

We will soon find out! 

Tuesday 26 May 2015

My friend....

yes I do have one.....has been researching my problems with the sail and has come up with a couple of useful points.
1.  We think the mast sheave box was put in the wrong place when the mast was built and is actually 7" lower than where it should be . I have never bothered to check but now getting the plans out, the mast builder did put it lower. That explains a lot doesn't it!
2. I have the top of the sail tied on the wrong place on the top boom. If I move it further up the boom that will raise the sail slightly. This in turn will help tension the leech better.
3. I think we can alter the downhaul as well so that it goes up through the deck, thus pulling the sail closer to the mast
4. Reefing....the slab reefing is slightly wrong. The reef downhaul that goes through the first reefing point back on the leech drops vertically to a block on the sprit boom. The block needs to be moved further aft to create an angle so that when it is pulled, the aft corner is tensioned aft.

I guess we will have to see what happens
It's worth a try!

In mourning.............

heartbroken. My beloved Vauxhall Zafira , 12 years old and 101,000 miles on the clock has finally died. The radiator collapsed, the head gasket blew and basically the engine is shot. All without much warning.
I am saddened and traumatised as I LOVED my Zafira. It could accommodate anything, towed Arwen everywhere and saw us through carrying kids and grandparents all in one go on countless occasions.  Since 2003 it has been my mobile school office full of books to be marked, folders of lesson land and schemes of work, resources from maps to cocoa pods. It has been parked in the same school parking bay for twelve years and is recognisable by everyone in school from students to support staff.
Traumatised. How can I get so upset by losing a car? It isn't the money that now needs to be spent on a new one ...that's just downright frustrating, inconvenient, annoying and somewhat curtailing on future holiday plans!

It's the grief......I LOVE my Zafira! It's awful.

So we have been car hunting on a limited budget and have finally decided on a Skoda Yeti. It was going to be a diesel 4 x 4 but then I made the fatal error of reading around all the articles about Diesel engines and the future of diesel cars in UK over next ten years. So diesel got thrown out around 3am in the morning. Can't afford a petrol 4 x 4 ....having looked at Mitsubishi, Toyota rav. 4's and everything inbetween. The problem is simple drive slopes up at a hellishly steep angle and I need fantastic visibility out the back of a car so I can see trailer as it rises up above height of car. Well all new SUVs irritatingly have thick back sides and narrow rear windows and most slant downwards as zero visibility out the back when reversing a trailer up a steep drive!

We have visited twelve garages, sat in thirty cars, test driven eight, researched car buying review sites for hours. Within our budget........Skoda yeti it is. The other alternative is a VW Touran.....pricey for what it is.
Ho hum! Hate parting with money. Hate having to get rid of my Zafira. This one definitely hurts!

In the meantime Arwen will have to sit on the drive for possibly another six weeks before I can tow her off it in a new car! This one really hurts!

Sunday 24 May 2015

Dinghy cruising in France

A lovely event....and one day, when I am good enough.....Arwen and I will day!

Sunday 17 May 2015

Simple pleasures

Simple pleasures include going out on 'Stacey', our 1968 motovespa 125 super.
Today it was a quick trundle in the early morning sunshine over to the Barbican to see the 'Phoenix' before going up onto the hoe for tea and bacon sarnies. The sea was mirror calm at 8am and the morning sun glinted off the sound whilst there was no breeze. Flags hung limply, lethargic, barely able to raise a flutter.
It is amazing how many people were out and about. The city council street cleaning team were out in force preparing the barbican for pirates day. A group of oap's were out for morning breakfast. The crew of phoenix were having their morning briefing. Throw in joggers, cyclists and some walkers and it was nice, relaxed.

'Stacey' behaved impeccably as well.

Monday 11 May 2015

More on weather helm

Simeon gave me a good web link

Apparently we don't talk about weather he ml in polite sailing circles....sorry guys! Major phoopah!


Sunday 10 May 2015

Mastering the dark arts.........of sailing!

I remain, as always, slightly baffled about some elements of sailing. A eureka moment last year was when Joel, over in the USA managed to get me sailing Arwen, without holding onto the tiller. It was a matter of balancing sails by all account.

Sailing baffles me. I sort of get the principles but only just and I do mean only just!
When I let go of Arwen's rudder, she will, all being well, turn up into the wind.....luffing up I think? But I could be wrong on that......nautical terms are another thing I am not hot on either!

I know the principles of effort and resistance come into play somewhere about now. There is, I think, the centre of effort, the lift that gets generated as wind passes over the sails. I can see this marked on the sail plans for Arwen. Then there must be something to do with the sideways pressure of water against centreboard, Skeg and hull. I'm guessing that this is in opposition to the pressure on the sails. The balance between the two forces along with the drive of wind in sails moves Arwen forward?

Alter the balance of the two and that affects what the boat does when the helm is released......I think! I assume that when sail resistance and hull resistance are in line the boat sails straight when rudder is released, although I guess trim comes into play I.e which side my considerable bulk is in poor Arwen.

Now somewhere in here comes weather and/or Lee helm. I know that if sail centre of effort is either forward or behind the centre of lateral resistance then one of e helms comes into play. I think weather helm to a slight degree is better so that the boat would always luff up head to wind.....or at least I vaguely remember someone telling me this......I could be wrong. Is it if the sail's centre of effort is behind lateral resistance then weather helm happens?

Certainly, on my longer coastal voyages in the past, I have had slight weather helm, a pull towards the wind on the rudder. Arwen seems slightly faster when this occurs or maybe it's just my imagination.

It took me some time last year to achieve this balance out in the sound but I did do it. Of course, waves would make it trickier I guess. Yet this is a technique I need to master this year. Holding onto a tiller for several hours one handed whilst trying to navigate, eat, put on and off clothing can be stressful!!!

So this half term I'm off out to develop some serious skills

Sailing onto and off a beach
Mastering the use of some form of anchor buddy or pulley system
Mastering this dark art of fine balancing a boat - raising or lowering centreboard, moving my weight about - anything to learn this dark art of shifting the centre of gravity. Raising the centreboard moves CE backwards I think and this reduces weather helm. Shifting weight inboard and aft  reduces it as does easing the sails. I'm guessing that lowering centreboard, tightening sails, heeling more to leeward, sitting more to windward and forward will increase it?

I'm getting old...I find it so difficult to retain all this. I guess just going out and trying things out will help. Main aim this season? Use the engine and rudder far less. Use the sails, centreboard and trim far more!

Friday 8 May 2015

House keeping.........maintenance

The rudder stock has been fixed. Burgess hydrosol was dribbled into cracks and allowed to dry. Then a clamp was applied to tighten the cracks up and a small mending plate screwed in place. Clamp taken off and the cracks have remained closed. The rudder pivot bolts were tightened up to reduce the play that seemed to have appeared in the rudder blade.

Some iroko has been cut and glued into thick blocks. When dry, they will be cut and shaped and mounted on the side decks tight against the coaming. They will form the base for new cleats for the jibs. Where they are at the moment, mounted on the side seat rests, is basically useless!

Other things to do...well some hole filling on the boom. Then there is the cutting away of an area of rotted wood and fibreglass on the starboard floor, front side.

Busy, busy, busy.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

I cannot believe

how tired I am - OFSTED takes it out of your that's for sure.

I have got a little repair plate - stainless steel - to put across the back of the rudder stock - so that the cracks can be sealed and then closed up.
The pivot nut on the rudder will need some tightening as well. Shroud plates bolts will need checking and I noticed when trying to slab reef the other day one or two holes in the boom where I had removed some fitting but clearly forgotten to refill screw holes with wood putty or epoxy - oops!

Lots of dents and dings - lots of little retouch up jobs for painting - so much to little time to do it in!

Sunday 3 May 2015

Twenty four miles an hour

I guess that was a good reason for coming off the water. The Mountbatten breakwater was recording winds in excess of twenty four miles an hour!
My friend made the right call and we were sensible to come home as we did. When we were coming into Sutton pool, the engine kept konking out because wind was against tide and some big waves were pushing us along from the stern and water was getting up the outboard somehow.

It was definitely a good call.

Discretion is the better part of valour.

The forecast had rising winds for the afternoon. I was going to be off the water by then. It didn't say ANYTHING about squalls, rising winds first thing!!!!

Oh my. It was a good job my friend was helming as he watched me struggle to reef Arwen. I suspect one or two prayers passed his lips as it went to top of force four and nasty gusts well into force five. And all this was inside the Plymouth breakwater.

Oh my. My deed!

I struggled with the slab reeling. The sprit boom had a mind of its. Own and decided to park itself over the side of the coaming. It all went pear shaped.
One of the eyes that the down haul runs through along the centre casing port side, decided to part company with the wood into which it had been screwed. The rudder has taken a hammering. Three nasty cracks have appeared in the runner stock, lower end where the rudder blade inserts. They will need to be dried out and then either epoxy or burgess hydrolsealer dribbled into them. It will then need some form of plate screwed in pulling the pieces tightly together again.

I haven't got Arwensmeanderings wen rigged right. It is so hit and miss each time. That crease appeared today so I am guessing I didn't have the main top boom halyard tied further aft enough.
When you tighten up the down haul, the sail almost comes into the boat and a 12 cm gap appears between luff and mast. I tighten it up with a rope strop with parrel beads on it.

The sail flogs. The top boom never seems to say starboard side of the mast. Today she was banging away up top despite me getting on tension through sweating the line a little.

When reeling, the slab halyard works an the rear of the leech falls. I can move the downhaul to correct luff cringle hole. I can tie the spare sail up but the boom seems astonishingly low. So what am I doing wrong.

The other thing that bugged me was the fact that today the sail base was easily two feet away from the boom. Should it be that much? How do I adjust the sail at its base? Is tha what the snotter does? Because if so, even fully in, the snotter is not moving or adjusting that sail at them base.

Questions, questions, questions!!!

Saturday 2 May 2015

Missing the DCA rally

Life is full of little surprises.
I was looking forward to attending my first DinghyCruising Association rally this weekend. The plan was to launch at Mountbatten ,sail up the Tamar, overnight at Forder Creek and then leave the rally to sail home Sunday morning. I needed to do work bank holiday Monday. 

As it was, OFSTED put pay to that. They descended on us on Thursday and Friday. No sleep Wednesday or Thursday night. A fair and human inspection team but is still an extraordinarily stressful process.

I've slept most of the day. I can't believe how tired I feel. So I've missed the rally. 
Unbelievable really but there we are.
I hope they have a good sail but I fear it will be a damp one