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

Sunday 28 February 2016

I really need .

To go sailing. I have just worked my third fifteen hour weekend in a row and there is still a mountain of coursework, essays and books to mark. I still have eleven lessons to plan and mountains of paperwork to complete. In the meantime Michael Wilshaw feels the need to offer 'golden handcuffs', yes that is what he said, to teachers to keep  them from leaving the profession. Handcuffs.......what an interesting choice of words........... Is it any wonder so many are leaving to teach abroad where they earn a third more, have subsidised housing, opportunities to travel and students who are keen to learn with supportive parents. We face a substantial teacher recruitment shortage. Huge numbers of teachers leave thenprofession within three years of their training. In the meantime I will return to fill out my class intervention sheets, do my data analysis report, do my performance management mid year review notes  and ...........................I know I get paid reasonably well, I have thirteen weeks holiday and it is a privilege teaching young people in my school and the vast majority of their parents are so, so, supportive..........But my average working week is sixty hours plus and at my's beginning to take its toll.......

I wAnt to be out sailing, doing charity work, running extra curricular activities for my students, spending time with my family and not waking up at 4am every morning writing out lists of all the things I still haven't done for the following day...........

i know...suck it up, stop whining, be grateful, get on with it........... Sorry.
Normal service is now resumed................but it was a sunny day with a lovely breeze........and couldn't I just have one day?

Saturday 27 February 2016

House keeping

safety torch bracket fitted. New brackets to hold mooring pole on starboard deck........fitted. New catches to make under deck forward hatch easier to take on and off....fitted. New roller on rear of trailer......fitted.
Hands frozen blue without any circulation left.........yup!
Roll on spring time and a little warmth and respite from these chilly North winds! Still, maintenance check list gets smaller and Easter gets closer.
Now if only I could get this weekend's 12 hours of marking done as quickly.......that would be nice!

Sunday 21 February 2016

Trailer maintenance

well, a new winch and strap. The other had corroded badly over seven years. New bearings fitted and greased well. The others had lasted very well given they are dipped in salt water at every launch. The tyre rims are showing rust and flaking but if we cover them in a smearing of grease they will last a little longer. A roller on the rear has broken and I have the replacement but haven't yet got there. I ran out of steam on other bits and pieces and the guy who did my bearings for me also forgot.

The trailer gets washed down after every launch but that rust gets everywhere. The actual galvanised frame is showing no rust externally or internally so that is pretty good. Anyway, should be good to go for another seven years!!!

Meanwhile, I have to sort out new fittings on the forward bulkhead hatch so the under deck locker is more accessible. I want to take off the two circular hatches on the vertical front thwart wall and put them into the seat tops. I will cut two large pieces of circular 4mm ply and stick those over the holes and then paint them several coats of undercoat and then three of white Toplac top coat. That should then solve the problem of leaking water.

All the holes on the boom and yard, where I have moved fixings around have been filled, sanded and sealed, so that job is done.

If it would only stop raining I could sand and undercoat all the hull dents and dings and sand down the rub rails and revarnish all of them. The mast also needs a good varnish before this season.
However, British weather is against me!
Roll on spring time!

Thursday 18 February 2016

Another video from Roger..

I'm not quite sure where he is heading with these, whether it be a regular series or some one off videos, but they are good and useful. Here is his latest. Enjoy.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

capsizing a welsford navigator

see this YouTube. Start it at around 35 minutes in......i guess to stop the centreboard doing this on Arwen some form of downhaul on the centreboard top casing would hold it in the down position. Interesting how high the boat floats!

Right place right time, the Bradford on Avon squeezebox group

so there we were in a small pub in Bradford on Avon, just a short hop from the regency town of Bath. For those readers living abroad, Bath is amazing culturally .......attending balls, taking the waters, 18 century Bath was fashionable and where those of high society escaped to. Anyway....digressing........we had just finished eating lovely home made pies when a group of musicians joined us at a long table. Average age, late fifties or early sixties? Lots of grey and white hair about but those cheerful larger than life personalities that talented musicians seem to have......and then out came accordions, squeeze boxes, penny whistles, recorders, violins, mandolins..............oh my....what a treat. Traditional English song music jauntily  played with depth of feeling and passion......some people are genuinely so talented it is breath taking.........real toe tapping rhythms.

 Two Californians had traveled a long way to meet and play with them added bonus. The intensity of concentration, that lost look, focused on rhythmic  and melodic patterns, a far away look in the downcast eyes as if the well worn, scrubbed deep honey coloured floorboards were the entire universe reduced to a 3 foot length of Georgian oak. Melody after melody poured forth. One musician would take the lead and after a while, another would alter the melody just slightly and others would obediently follow. Few words were spoken if any but the understanding and mutual consent were there.

I have no idea who they were but if by chance any of them were sailors and readers of this blog.......thank you, a big heartfelt thank you. It was a privilege and joy to share your passion, thank you!

Lynchetts hotel in Bath

a splendid Georgian house, a grade II listed building. Period features are found everywhere, from fire places to window shutters, from beautiful varnished floorboards that sag and creak to the oak beams across the low ceilings.

Our bedroom is delightful, roomy but with low ceilings and oak beams. Tastefully decorated in shades of light blue and greys with old trunks and antique furniture and chairs. Accessed down a small staircase it is cozy. The eiderdown is thick and snuggly, the throw cover a glorious chintzy embroidery. Bath towels were huge and soft.

The downstairs lounge has a lovely ambiance. A roaring log basket log fire, lovely rugs across deep honey brown wooden floors. Bookshelves with an eclectic mix of books. A piano sits in a curved arch like alcove. There are recessed arch shelves either side of the substantial wooden fireplace and mantle. Table lamps cast a warm glow and an old fashioned table clock ticks loudly in one corner, it's rhythmic beat slowly fading into the distance as your brain switches off and you relax in the deep Chesterfield winged sofas.

We were served breakfast in our own little breakfast room a few footsteps away from our room. A range of home made marmalades, honey  and jams made by the proprietor. They even keep their own bees in the garden out back.

And out of the front garden gate, Bradford On Avon is a mere fifty metres down the road. The cycle route along the towpath around 400m. Eight miles to Bath along a flat, well made trail, the route is delightful. You pass the permanent barges tied up at various wharfs with their liveaboards. Barge roofs are adorned with bikes, pot pants, bags of coal for stoves, assorted junk and scrap. Some are decorated, others look worst for wear. Occasionally the slow deep putt putt of a Diesel engine as a barge passes by, at just other walking speed and with barely a wake.

Today was one of those crisp winter sun days when there was little wind and the puddles remained iced over for much of the day. Bike tyres crunched through the iced surfaces with a satisfying crackle. Shadows were long as the winter sun slowly rose and breath froze in front of you. Everything was crisp and still and colourful. After so much rain and wind, this cycle trip was a joy and welcome relief. The canal contours the hills halfway up the side of a stunning valley......of open fields and gambolling lambs. The views across Bath rooftops as you approach the last wharves are riveting.

This has been a much needed and welcome short break. It has been a tough term albeit a short one. Next term is going to be intense. Lynchetts bought a welcome respite. The hospitality was extraordinary. Nothing was too  much trouble. warm fires were lit in lounges, freshly brewed tea in our room on arrival. Leaflets about cycle routes found and loaned to us. Radio 3 in our breakfast room. Hospitality was generous and gentile.

We will definitely stay at Lynchetts again and it is rare that i ever go back to the same place twice. 

Tuesday 16 February 2016

And this is why I work with teenagers....

a lovely post from a truly thoughtful blogger and sailor..........a snippet of a log from one of Teresa's students.............
...and when you read it, it isn't just the messages about our's the messages about our youth of today and what we need to do for them.........

Saturday 13 February 2016

What a lovely amazing evening......

it was such an immense privilege to sit in a room and listen to members of the DCA chatting away about their boats and adventures. What an astonishing , lovely group of people.  I am always amazed at how talented people are,. Everything from making cakes, to restoring cars and designing boats. To listen to people talk about their sailing adventures, boat projects...........quite humbling.

I'm not a social person....odd given I spend all my working day locked in a room with thirty other people.........I struggle in social settings, even when out with friends who I have known for years. I understand infants and teenagers better than adults.

I have allowed my own insecurities and worries about my own inabilities to hold me back. A wise person this evening told me I would progress faster If I left my engine behind. That's true but then you need to know how to get yourself out of trouble without an engine and I dont have sufficient experience......but then I won't get that experience until I leave my engine's hard work this sailing mularkey!

A number of rallies are in the diary. I don't know how many I can make given the crushing work commitments at the moment which will only get worse as we move towards the examination period of the summer, but I would like to try and join one or two rallies, even if only for the day. It will be such a great privilege and learning experience to sail with such a great group of people. I look forward to it.

Going to my first Dinghy Cruising Association meeting....

What shall I wear?
What shall I take? 
Do you turn up with biscuits, cake, boat parts?
Do I need a pen and notebook?

I'm of an age where a fork doesn't necessarily always reach my mouth...........and food doesn't quite make it into the mouth on the odd occasion.....hand and eye coordination occasionally suffer and it isn't to do with alcoholic consumption........I don't dribble in fairness.......

Oh dear God, I don't know any jokes. I DONT KNOW HOW to tell a funny joke!!! Help!

I haven't got any great sailing yarns, no epic sailing adventures. I'm not sure my story of singing Nellie the Elephant at the top of my voice in the pitch dark on an open dusty track in the middle of Namibia, to scare away the wild elephants that had been rampaging in the area warrants epic or funny (on had to be was me). Me weeing over a sleeping lion by accident in the Masai Mara.....probably not a good one either.........

I can't sail off a mooring without a disaster. I can't sail onto a mooring....without a disaster. 
I can't leave Arwen with her sail unfurled on a beach ......without a disaster.

 I haven't moored overnight just under anchor...........this is embarrassing.........
I've sailed off an anchor........let's not go there!

I'm socially inept....I hang about with teenagers most of the day and have their sense of humour and least I haven't got any spots..............

I've sprayed my trainers liberally with foot spray so they shouldn't smell if I have to take them off.......well one has to think about these social niceties! Don't you?
Got to buy tissues and mints....and try to remember which ones to use where.......when under pressure.
I don't know any of them ....its a meal around one of their houses...........this is high pressure stuff.......they have seen the blog. More scarily they have seen the videos on my YouTube channel. My incompetency in a boat is laid bare......nowhere to hide...
Did I say I am socially inept....complete inability to pick up on normal social cues!
Why do I say yes to these things?

It will be ok. They are human. They all learnt to sail at some stage. Their emails are witty and funny. Some are incredibly knowledgeable (I know nothingggggggg!) The only way I can get better as a dinghy cruiser is to sail with them and!  Time to get outside my comfort zone. I have to prepare for retirement....more sailing time and no excuses. 

Breath, slowly, positive thoughts, it will be ok.........they are nice, good people....and they already know I'm an idiot........what can possibly go wrong?
(Please God, please, don't let me run over their cat or drop a plate of food on a new carpet!)

Friday 12 February 2016

Howard Rice has started a blog about his voyages Southern Cross.......around the southern tip of Chile
It will be an epic adventure

Thursday 11 February 2016

Living in a cruising dinghy

is the title of a short film by Roger Barnes, President of the Dinghy Cruising Association.


Sunday 7 February 2016

Good house keeping on a dinghy

How to banish the winter blues......empty everything from every locker on board your dinghy. Test all the lifejackets.......which havent been done for years......all worked. Some needed cleaning. Rearming kits ordered. Peace of mind for this sailing season.

Sort out and reduce down the tools and spare fittings. Put into new sealed plastic containers and dry bags. Sorted.

Sort out ditty bags and reduce down to for hats and gloves and one for suncream,  lip balm, sunnies, liquid soap, tissues, spare shackles, multi tool, head torch, whistle and a pack of giant raisins, oh and a small bottle of water. Done!

Clean up the binoculars. Charge up the solar charged small portable radio, sort out various batteries, charge up the two handheld VHF's. Done.

Gosh, makes you feel better straight away. 

Howard Rice's epic voyage of exploration

is getting under way, the pre launch and expedition preparation. Follow it here at

And at

It will an epic small boat adventure.


Hiking boots are old friends............

I don't know why, but I found these opening lines of John's latest blog post, to be imaginative and creative.

Wish I could write like that.......wonderful.

Saturday 6 February 2016

The Garmin etrex 10

Have just spent a fun hour entering waypoint information for South Coast sailing and rivers Tamar, Lynher and Fowey into the new Garmin etrex 10 unit I now have. We invested in one for geocaching and, surprisingly (!!!!!), it does very well for waypoints and sailing as well. Who would have thought it????
I've been getting some hard stares from 'she wot must be obeyed' but as I explained, it's unexpected value for money as it seems to kill two birds with one stone!!!

A wonderful glimpse of dinghy racing in 1950's plymouth

I found this gem of a film in YouTube. I know the launch ramp really well. Impossible for Arwen to use. Can't get a car down to it any more and it would be too steep anyway. What was particularly nice was to see the area without the pontoons there now........a lovely clip. Very enjoyable.

Monday 1 February 2016


i do love john's boat 'scamp'. Well it will thoroughly tested on this voyage by Howard. A blog to watch for the Howard voyages around the foot of South America!