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 29 September 2015

dinghy cruising: Reefing my mainsail

I'm not getting it right am I? A quick view of my last video ( see the post below ) proves that.
So let's go through it and if anyone can spot what is going wrong, please help me. Please, please help me!

  1. I have a sprit boom on a sort of standing lug Gunter rig arrangement...kind of......
  2. I have two reefing rows in the main sail
  3. At the aft end of the sprit boom is a sort of slab reefing arrangement. I can pull each line and it collapses the aft lower end of the sail leech. At the forward luff end, I can detach the downhaul and clip it on higher up the luff at the first or second reefing row. I pull the reefing lines from half way along the sprit boom
So, procedurally, I 

  1. Heave too
  2. Then I pull the topping lift up slightly and lower the top yard
  3. The downhaul is switched to the upper reefing row at the luff edge
  4. The slab reef line is pulled collapsing the rear of the sail
  5. The loose sail is brailled up and tied using reefing lines 
  6. Then I pull up the main halyard hauling up the top yard and the topping lift is released
How high up should I pull the upper yard....all the way back to mast head........or lower?
How much tension should I put back on the downhaul?

And finally one more quest for help. When sailing under just jib and mizzen, I go to tack and Arwen stalls........every time........anyone know why? 

As always, all help is gratefully received


Monday 28 September 2015

Let's try that again

oops! Sorry folks. This one should work.......hopefully!


Sunday 27 September 2015


  • Cut the grass
  • Trim the hedges
  • Collect garden waste
  • Go to dump
  • Fix kitchen draw
  • Power spray back decking
  • Clean car
  • Remove mould from bathroom grouting
  • Spray mould behind bath tap
  • Mark 50 history assessments
  • Go sailing............

I went sailing! Breezy sunny days are going to be few and far between.........can't miss golden opportunities!

And breezy it was...........a 4.8m tide with low tide at midday. Winds around 13 knots with some big gusts. The sea was a dark slate grey, occasional White horses flicking the rolling maelstrom. Wind zephyrs scuttled across the sea roughing its surface and Arwen's stern lifted and plunged as waves rolled beneath her floors.

Out in the sound plastic white boats raced around marks. The huge rumble and flapping of spinnakers being deployed, the shouts as crews tacked and changed sides to counterweight the force of wind and waves. These greyhounds of the sea tipped sideways flashing their bottoms, each jockeying for position. Meanwhile Arwen, hurriedly and untidily reefed under some duress, ploughed her way up and down the sound. More practice needed reefing Arwen but at least I got to sit out on her side decks too!

Monday 14 September 2015

A blog update on a new navigator build

John has updated his blog with building progress on his navigator. Find it at

Well done John, really looking good.


Saturday 12 September 2015

I've been missing out.....

In a previous life, my passion was mountaineering. For me time spent in my beloved Snowdonia, over the glyders, up trefan or crawling across crib goch, well it was dreamlike. Graduating to alpine mountaineering at Chamonix was another level.
Now I sail and I love it, but deep down despite my shot to pieces kneecaps, a little bit of me would love to combine the two..........

So I'm thinking i might take Arwen North next summer...........and combine sailing with my previous passion ice climbing..........enjoy!

Tuesday 8 September 2015

another nice video of a navigator

from EyeinHand. this time it is Kevin and his navigator 'Slip-Jig' I think.

Enjoy more videos at 'EyeinHand' YouTube channel. They are simple, clear, elegant and wonderfully videoed clips of supremely simple sailing at its best


Monday 7 September 2015

A message from Michael

I received this comment from Michael last night

"Hi Steve
My name is Michael and I am clearing out some of my late fathers items. He had almost completed his Navigator project before he died.  As I do not have the time or inclination to complete the project I have been disposing of items. 
I have a complete set of brand new and unused Hyde sails for a Navigator Gaff Yawl that my father commissioned before the boat was completed. 
If you know of anyone interested in them please pass on my contact details. I would rather these be used on a Navigator if possible. The sails are a red colour and I have receipts that show the cost of the three sails/ribs/bags was £1000.
Kind regards 

If you are interested in these sails because you are building a navigator here in the UK, drop me a comment in the box below and I will pass on Michael's details to you. It would be lovely for Michael to see the sails go to a good home and new navigator boat. 


Sunday 6 September 2015

DCA rally this weekend

there is a DCA rally this weekend at Salcombe and I am going to try and make it. It will be my first one. I'm somewhat nervous, I must admit. Having never yet sailed onto or off a beach, rarely onto or off a mooring and similarly onto a mooring buoy, I am feeling somewhat lacking in the prerequisite skills needed. Then there is Arwen, bless her, rigged my way, which is somewhat wrong but hey I guess learning new skills is part of it.
Anyway, I spent this afternoon clearing her innards, sorting out equipment, making lists and doing most of the packing for a one night camp. I'll get food Thursday night and do last bits and pieces then. In the meantime, I need the fine weather to stay through to the weekend and I need Mr OFSTED to hold off visiting us for a fortnight. We are due a reinspection visit imminently and if it is the week after this forthcoming one, then I won't be sailing on the weekend, that's for sure.
So fingers crossed, here's hoping.

Friday 4 September 2015

Last Saturday's sail

Was fun. Particularly fun because I spent considerable time sailing Arwen without adjusting tiller. I'm beginning to get the hang of balancing jib, Mizzen and main. Now I can move forward without upsetting the balance of the boat, well more than I used to be able to. I can alter direction in small shifts from such a position by tugging one jib sheet or other to keep on a general heading. Food can be eaten at leisure without constant recourse to tiller controls. Arwen sails herself rather well when her skipper has worked things out.

Finally I'm beginning to grasp the dark arts of sailing. About time too I hear some folk say. Ah well says I, some of us are slow learners, but we get there in the end!!