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 January 2016

New year's resolution

to sail this year in an organised fashion so that Arwen's  interior doesn't look like a bomb has gone off in it. So I've spent a couple of hours sorting out in my head where things will now go when the weather finally allows me to pull the poor old girl off the drive.
My aim is to have a completely uncluttered interior. I think it was Joel who once said that he couldn't have things rolling about in Ellie...things which he would trip over or stand on. My friend Dave has a similar philosophy and he has stoically put up with things rolling around in Arwen without complaint, good friend that he is. I intend impressing him, next time he joins us for a cruise. He deserves a shipshape boat after all the time he has put in teaching me how to try and sail in a semi decent fashion.
 So with all this in mind, some new Lomo dry bags have arrived in 8 and 20 litre sizes. They make storage so much easier and fit through her circular hatches without undue hassle. They also keep contents dry in the front thwart side locker, where, as regular readers will know, due to my annual complaining, the hatches keep leaking because water gets through the tarps and collects down the front of the cockpit because the drive slopes down that direction......and it makes me sooooo irritated!!! Regarding the dry bags, I  have always been very impressed with the quality and value for money from this company. No Lomo product has let me down yet.
So when the weather is better, those side hatches will be permanently sealed up with marine sealant and a new circular hatch installed in the top of the thwart. In the meantime some nice bronze gleaming hatch toggles arrived at Christmas and these will be attached to the front bulkhead hatch which will make life so much easier. For the first time ever, I will be able to use the front under deck locker space. However, it is limited...........the mast stands right in front of the access hatch and the clearance either side is consequently around 6 inches width, if that. As I have said before, as a novice boat builder, I didn't really think through that aspect. Hindsight being a wonderful thing, I do wish I had offset the hatch to one side, pushed the deck coaming further forward, kept its width smaller etc etc......but hey there we go! Lessons learnt for next time!

Saturday 23 January 2016

To lash or not to lash......this is the question

I had to seek advice during a fit of paranoia and as normal John Welsford had the patience of a saint and answered. My dilemma, how to attach the clew to the aft of the sprit boom. Three options came to me as I walked past some boats the other day

Option one: just attach it to an eyepad with a stainless steel carabiner.
Option two: lash the clew to the eyepad using three or four mm white braid
Option three: have it on an outhaul which runs back along the boom to a jam cleat

For years it has been lashed to the boom as per John's plans and this has worked well so I really don't know what bought on a fit of uncertainty. However, after a chat with John I concluded that possibly the best of two worlds would be better i.e have a lashing of braid onto a carabiner which can then be attached to the clew.

Of course I then implemented this action which took a pleasurable twenty minutes to fulfil and then twenty minutes later realised it was a futile gesture because I can't detach the sail anyway because of the reefing system.

Still as 'her indoors' said, it kept me busy and out of her hair for a bit.

I think I have said before that if God had given me a brain, I would have been dangerous!

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Small wooden boat winter maintenance chores

I have been listing some sailing season preparations to do. In no particular order and any question marks after a point means I am still undecided whether to or not... The more question marks....the more undecided!!

Stick some scrap lead flashing I have in locker with bonding glue....additional weight either side centreboard case??????

Tie little loops to all secure rope coils

Sort out front locker hatch and catches Christmas pressie......make it easier and quicker to get on and off

Recut tent and eyelets....sort it out for better fit

Service trailer at local trailer centre. Needs new winch, winch strap....old one finally given up ghost after seven years sterling service

Fit clips starboard side deck for mooring pole and or punt pole.......thinking of getting a 3.5m long bamboo pole and reinforcing ends inside with broom handle and epoxy....useful for summer time creek crawling???

Sort side cleats......bolts not massive screws.....a sudden realisation in night that screws were big and into frame but not same as bolts through to bolt pad underneath??

Add Gopro mounts to centrecase top, thwart top forward, rear thwart top and side wall, rear inside transom coaming, tiller handle top and side, outside rear deck above transom, rear transom

Build boom crutch support stand for use in boat when that boom and yard sit lower in the boat without interfering with tiller and extension and don't swing about above my head???

Alter tying on of outboard............rope through hole or around shaft and then attached to boat not case bracket fails....well dur!

Check Anti ventilation plate is 40mm below hull bottom.....I think it is mounted too low and this is an issue in wind against tide situations at mouth of Tamar 

 Clew of sail tie onto side of boom, same with Mizzen and move clew slightly forward along it......will it help the sail set better on starboard side???

Replacing the elastic on forward part of boom......stronger to reduce bounce

Bigger tell tales like mini flags on shrouds

Tell tales onto rear of leech 

Sand and paint over dings and dents on thwarts and hull sides

Sand blast spare tyre rim and repaint and then get new tyre fitted

Make new cockpit sleep platform as per Joel's Ellie.

Build a camp kitchen box like the ones Roger uses 

Get out more with the Dinghy Cruising Association

Phew! Lots to do and sooooo little time to do it in!

Saturday 16 January 2016

Outboard checks

the season is creeping up.....time for some outboard checks.........a daily inspection routine when I mount thenoutboard on the transom......some obvious things really

1. Fuel ...........check amount in tank; check for debris in any fuel filter; check rubber hoses for any leakage. Make sure spar fuel onboard in small one litre cans with fuel funnel to hand
2. Engine oil level checked
3. Electrics ..........stop switch functions, no loose cords or wires on connection points, spark plug is clean with no wear or carbon build up
4. Throttle system.....carb choke valve works and turning throttle grip ok with right tensional twist set
5. Recoil starter...check for chafing, wear and ratchet engagement
6. Clutch and prop..........shift lever engages engine? Check! Prop not bent or chipped? Split pin still on and looking good?
7. Installing on transom bracket......bracket safe and still strong, clamp screws greased and twisting freely, tied onto transom so not interfering with engine turning. Clamps tight and secure?
8. Cooling water.....discharging on start up
9. Tools and spares...........all there and accessible!!
10. Air vent opened ready
11. Engine out of gear
12. No obstructions to catch elbow when pulling starter cord
13. Kill switch secure and clipped to me

Now given I probably forgot to drain the tank and left fuel I the carb for three months, I suspect it will be worth taking it down to my local chandler where Mick can tut tut me, as he should, shake his head over my slack stupidity, and then try and rescue, clean and  service my lovely outboard.

I know......I meant to drain it but I forgot and got caught back up in school work!
I know, I know! 
It's going to be a tough and expensive lesson to learn and serves me right!

Summer cruising

I was sifting through some old videos a few days ago, partly in response to someone saying that I'd built a good boat but didn't know how to sail it ( my conclusion.......a harsh statement...I do know how to sail it........just not well and not necessarily in the right one of our revered comedians would have said..........) and partly because the weather was so bad and I was just dreaming of getting out in Arwen again.......looking forward to some cruises when the weather improves.

The other criticism that stung slightly for thirty seconds before I dismissed it because I realised I really don't care what people think other than a few people who have so kindly over the years supported me and encouraged me and given me such positive advice and Internet friendship.....was that my videos basically sucked. Well I'm OK with that because they probably do but since I only do them for me, along with this blog, as a visual on line diary of my adventures with my little boat, I have concluded I don't care.

I am a simple soul, shallow, easy going, caring about my family and that I give good advice to those I teach because they deserve it and support to my school colleagues because it is such am immense privilege to teach alongside such a talented bunch of people. I've tried to be a good person all my life, bring my kids up right and be a credit to them and my amazing wife. So what if I can't sail or make good long as I don't endanger anyone else or the environment.......

Anyway, I cam across these two videos in my collection.......2014 seems a long time first proper voyage and overnight beaching...........short version 2 mins. Longer version 12 mins. I'd forgotten how much fun I'd had on my mini adventure.

Hopefully this summer, a cruise back down Helford and Falmouth, a promise fulfilled to a new Facebook friend if he is feeling up to it, some cruises up and down the Tamar with my good friend Dave and maybe a sail along the coast all the way to Dartmouth and up river to Totnes.

Sometimes the planning and dreaming is almost as much fun as the sailing itself

Thursday 14 January 2016

Dinghy cruising: Sail trimming...........the devil's dark art!

Over a few years I have written a few times about sailing Arwen and the intricacies of sailing a standing lugsail yawl, if that is what she is. I'm still unsure to be frank. Although I have been sailing several years now I still feel like a newbie and to all extents and purposes, I really am. I don't spend enough time doing the basics such as sailing onto and off moorings or onto or off anchor. The geographer in me is always yearning to see what is over the horizon, up the creek, in the next bay. This year however, I am determined to master the basics, because, mastering the basics will make me a better sailor, as one very wise member of the Dinghy Cruising Association, rather politely put it, recently. 

Previous 'Meanderings' about sail trimming with some excellent advice from John, Joel and others can be found here at these posts.

So where am I now? 
I have the basics of getting the sails up properly just about coming together

1. Loose snotter on the sprit boom when raising sail but make sure tack downhaul is attached 
2. Raise sail, making sure it is aft heel heavy, so that the yard is tied on in the lower quarter of the boom and parrel bead the tack bottom close to the mast without distorting the luff drop line
3. Raise sail fully until yard comes against top of mast at sheave point
4. Push sprit boom snotter mount higher up mast to just past first tack point line so it is angled
5. Tension tack downhaul and then set snotter to tension sail and get desired sail shape
6. Check boom not bouncing up and down
7. Up to 10 knots reaching and running ........tension mizzen, mainsail, jib last.
     Sheet Mizzen in hard but keep sail snotter looser for slightly baggy sail.
8. 10-15 knots ease mizzen and then main....check weather helm, reef over 15 knots
9. Reaching and running......jib, mainsail and then mizzen trimming order

Of curse, as always, someone is going to tell me I have got this on.........I probably have! So let me know please.

In the meantime, reading some posts on woodenboat forum posted by Todd Bradshaw, I have begun to improve the understanding that Joel and John so kindly took the time to share with me back along.

For a standing lug sail to work, and I think, stress THINK, that is how Arwen is rigged, then there needs to be imbalance! This is bought about by the halyard being tied onto the yard at a point far forward enough to make the yard aft end really quite heavy. Without doing this, the sail apparently rotates such that the boom, aft end of yard etc end up lying in the boat and the forward end of the yard just points upwards. I can't quite visualise this and I may have got it wrong, but the heavy aft tail end....that I do understand. 

Now to prevent rotation of the sail the tack downhaul** is tensioned to counter the imbalance via the sail tack corner. Considerable tension is applied to pull the luff straight and get the yard upwards to its designed angle. This same tensional force then runs down the sail leech, thus lifting up the boom's aft end off the thwarts and into its sailing position. Easing the downhaul tension just lowers the peak yard angle and boom tail, so don't! Similarly tying the yard halyard too far aft thus reducing the tail heaviness makes sail raising more easy but gives less luff and leech tension and as we have all been taught no doubt "a floppy sail is an unhappy sail"!!!! Moreover, sail shape fails, the yard bounces and so too does the sprit boom, and yes I have been experiencing quite a bit of that recently! 

So tack downhaul needs to pull and keep the tack down to generate luff tension and rotational forces to minimum and to stop the boom forcing itself forward of the mast, aided by snotter tension.

One the one hand I understand all this.......and then, five minutes later................


**i re recently inadvertently generated some debate on a small boat forum recently about the proper name for a tack downhaul. This is what I have heard people call it. It is how I call it but apparently it is wrong. The upshot of which is I have no idea what it's supposed to be called and so I will stick with tack downhaul ......sorry to any purists out there.

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Sunday 3 January 2016

Vimeo or YouTube?

i am wondering whether to swap all my videos to Vimeo or whether to stay with YouTube. If any of you have a viewpoint on this, please let me know. I just wonder whether or not the intrusive ads that appear on YouTube ruin people's viewing experience......not that any of my videos are film quality master pieces. Up to now I have merely used YouTube as a depository of my video clips which act as a visual diary of my adventures in Arwen. Peoples comments about what they see in terms of my sailing skills and errors have then been most welcome and constructive.
If you have a view as to which platform might be best and why, do please let me know. Your help and advice, as always, deeply appreciated. 

SJCam 4000 wifi review

For Christmas I was given a Sjcam 4000 wifi action camera. I wanted a cheaper camera for B roll footage and one that I could risk attaching to my float contraption and to a kite cam in the future. I'm not quite ready to risk an expensive GoPro for such activities! But this one, well I might!

The SJCam retailed at around £60 and so far I have been impressed. You get quite a bit of kit for a relatively cheap price.

So what came in the box?
Well on the plus side - a variety of mounts, adhesive pad mounts, attachments, cable ties, various clips, Velcro and strap tethers, wire tether, usb cable, waterproof casing, battery.
On the minus side, the box was missing the battery charger plug adaptor and so far trying to get one from the company off which the camera was purchased has been futile. Fortunately my phone charger has the same USB cable and so charges the camera with no problem. In addition I can plug it into the iPad, my power monkey charger and my PC, so the lack of adapter plug is merely a mild irritation.

And what about the camera itself? I am no techie and so if you want all the details about frames per second etc, this isn't the review for you.........sorry! What I can say is the following:

It records at 1080p x 30 fps and at 720p as well
Saves in mov format
Has a 12mp camera
170 degree field of view wide angle lense
3cm LCD screen on back
X 4 digital zoom
Takes up to a 32gb micro card
Has a USB and HDMI port
Roughly same size as a GoPro
A battery time of around 100minutes of continuous use, in my tests thus far
Can download firmware updates to get video time lapse facility
Has a waterproof casing down to 30m

Good points?
Well so far in some short film tests........
Can alter white balance to improve colour tones in video
Intuitive menu operation and easy navigation through the menu screens
Can use as web cam, car dash cam, motion sensor
Links to app on smart phone which allows control and immediate download of films
Fits into a pocket
Mounts are interchangeable with GoPro accessories
Comes in a variety of colours...if that appeals to you...mine is a nice gold colour
Compact and lightweight
Video playback option

Bad points? Well depends on what you want but thus far I have found
You have to select maximum video clip sizes, 3, 5, 10 minute lengths. For me this is perfect. However, I could see it irritating the hell out of people who want longer footage times
When the card is full, it starts to delete the first video clips
Battery charging takes around three hours
Battery life of around 100 minutes is less than my GoPro by quite some way
No operating instructions... The accompanying manual isn't! And trying to find one on line is complicated and frustrating
When you remove and replace a battery some of the settings you have opted for cancel themselves and revert to factory default settings.......irritating!
There is a 2 second delay between what is filmed and what appears on your smartphone when using the approved app....doesn't worry me but proved disconcerting initially
The zoom is electronic not optical and frankly photos just don't look 12mp quality...sorry but photos look 8 mp ish at best
There is a fish eye quality to horizon and close features in the videos

So in summary, am I pleased with it?
Yes, absolutely. What you get for £60 or so is impressive and the video quality isn't far off my GoPro. This is a really good package for half the price of the cheapest GoPro and its wifi enabled as well. It gives me the option of using wifi enabled attributes to mount it on inaccessible places on Arwen or on float and kite cams and the ability to switch on/off and control what I see and film.

So far, I am impressed. As I road test it more, I will post some video footage so you can decide for yourselves. 

Saturday 2 January 2016

Kite flying

Still thinking about picavets.
Santa bought me another action cam, a SJCam 4000. I'll post my initial likes and dislikes about it at a later date but I feel more confident about risking this cam than a GoPro! In the meantime, kite flying off a boat looks like this.


Friday 1 January 2016

The lifestyle?

i kinda get his lifestyle. Once, a long time ago, for me it was climbing and mountaineering, travelling in offbeat places..........


The love of building and sailing your own boat

My thanks to Gavin for posting this short little gem. Lots we could all empathise with. Happy New Year everybody