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