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 March 2016

Casting off.....

Deckies off and dropped in the footwell of the rear passenger seat. Sealskinz socks pulled on and trousers wrapped around lower legs before socks pulled up tight. Feet slide into wellies.
 Bow painter grabbed in left hand, trailer security strop lifted off Samson post and winch gear disengaged. Right hand pushes against stem, right hand rests on starboard bow gunnel. Arwen begins to roll backwards. A gentle splash as her stern enters water. Another heave on the stem and a balancing act stepping onto the cross bars of the trailer and she floats free. The painter coil unfurls as one moves sideways towards the pontoon. One knee rests on the wooden edge whilst the other tenses and then pushes off the slipway. It's not graceful but both knees arrive on the pontoon. Walk along and gently tug the painter forward, Arwen's bow turns and she glides through the water. A quick push of a foot on the bowsprit and she comes to lie alongside, fenders squeak in protest as they rub along pontoon edges. 

And there she lies. I edge back and bend to retrieve the coiled stern line on her starboard aft quarter side deck and using the two warps, she is moved forward along the pontoon and cleated off. A bow spring line is added for security whilst the car and trailer are driven back up the ramp and stowed above the tide line. 

Her side deck bobs as I step aboard, one hand on her furled sails and boom to steady my entry and step down into the cockpit. The bowsprit tackle is tightened. The first of a set of routines in preparation for cast off. Systematically we move stern wards. The downhaul tackle is attached to the mainsail tack. Anchors are checked for secure storage. Centre board tackle is checked, does it run freely?  The mainsail halyard is attached and sail ties checked and tied up.  Odds and ends get stowed under side decks. Camera, hat and gloves starboard behind the coaming with the little ditty bag containing water, munchies, lipsalve and suncream. Binoculars are taken from locker and stowed below the handheld compass rack.  Bungees are checked and tightened. Anything that has come loose during the journey secured in its rightful place. 

Fuel tap on, air vent opened, choke pulled out, throttle set to start, gears in neutral. Starter coil rope grabbed. Three pulls and the muted rumble of a four stroke outboard kicks into life. Choke pushed in as engine begins to race. Good water stream out the back.  Throttle to idle. Bubbles emerge from below the transom. 

The ash/mahogany laminate tiller moves freely. The helm impeder functions correctly. The tiller extension is secure. Rudder downhaul and up haul correctly strung and cleated. The main sheet is flaked into the footwell and is cleated off on the transom block thus preventing the boom from swinging overhead. 

The final check. Glasses on their cord. Sunnies on my head. PFD zipped up, straps adjusted. Radio on and dual watch 16 and port control 14. Knife, anaenometer, mobile phone, car keys and cash cards in waterproof container. A final look around and final check from port aft quarter up to bow and back down starboard side to aft quarter both inside and out. 

A check on wind and tide, what are they doing now? A glance across to the Barbican lock...what's happening there and then the mid ship painter is attached to a cleat and I step up onto pontoon. Forward morning lines are released, coiled and stowed. Ditto aft mooring warp. Mid ships warp is released and Arwen is pushed away from the pontoon. A turn on tiller to starboard and a gentle twist of the throttle and she slowly eases away, her bow pointing along the 'canal' between pontoon moored boats to the open Sutton harbour pool. 

Another day out on the water has just begun!


for a service and cleaning of carb etc. Dirt stuck in jets were to blame as I thought.
Next year I service my own outboard. If you have any website suggestions about servicing your own outboard especially if focused on a 3.5hp tohatsu, please drop me a line via the comment box below.

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Some photos from the last few days.......and some really good news

we have been out and about on our bikes. We visited Fowey a few days ago and then we have pottered around. Here are a few photos from the last few days.

Firstly, it was delightful to see my young friend Jenny's prints on display at the National Marine Aquarium. Jenny is extraordinarily talented and she does tapestries which are turned into prints. It is unique stuff and truly stunning. She has her own website and her work is also on display at the 
Kaya gallery on the barbican 
Jenny's website is 
Check it out. It is worth seeing.

These quick snaps just don't even start to do justice to her work. 
Wait until you see her mackerel shoal, turtle and octopus!

Fell in love with this lovely cottage at the head of  Readymoney beach below

All Fowey fans will recognize this beach. I was checking it out to see if it would make a great overnight dinghy camping stop off  in the summer

The adapted outboard bracket that I discussed in a previous post. The rust staining is irritating and comes from some 'stainless steel' washers I bought off ebay......that will teach me!
This is all a temporary fix until I can save up to buy a new properly made outboard transom bracket

It was nice to see this group getting a drascombe underway

although I am worried that this jib looks to be upside down....
but then I have few years experience so what do I know?

Trust me, Arwen is much more tidier than last year. 
I know its difficult to believe from this cluttered shot.........

String, way, way too much string. Great when the kids were young. Plenty to pull on but now?

She is a pretty boat.....but then I am biased! 

And the view from my table this morning, whilst having a cuppa down on the Barbican Wharves

And what is the good news? Well the Transat Race starts in a few weeks time and it is setting off from Plymouth and guess what...the boats arrive on a Saturday and they set sail on Bank Holiday Monday.....and I will try to be out on the water with camera and GoPro. I will also try to visit the Transat village each evening during the week which also coincides with the Barbican International Jazz Festival. Obviously I will post videos, photos and commentary here.
Quite exciting isn't it.

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Dinghy cruising: Floaty camera platform problems

so how do I prevent it from tipping over? Can it be given some form of ballast below? Maybe a bucket attached to a lanyard...bit heavy? Or I have some scrap lead flashing, but no idea how to safely attach it! Another alternative...a small anchor and rode? That would keep it in the one position and stop it drifting with wind and current........wish I was an engineer or had my Dad's engineering expertise.........still plenty to muse on......

Ha! I was right....

And that is, let's face it, a very rare thing.

The transom bracket for the outboard has sunk slightly although exactly how I have no idea. Bolts are tight. Transom is uncracked, not sagging. So I have no idea what has happened. It's not loose in any way. A complete mystery.

Anyway, I have added a block to it which raises it height several centimetres thus making the outboard now at the correct height as per the manual.

As for the engine cutting out, well a quick test in the water bin revealed a stream of water coming out of the coolant outflow as normal and then it stopped. Our conclusion, some dirt up the intake pipe and possibly I was using old fuel.....which is somewhat stupid. So tomorrow all containers of fuel onboard get put in the car and fresh fuel is put in the boat containers. The outboard is being serviced. I did spend ages trying to Internet search DIY servicing your outboard to no avail. If anyone knows a good website which I can use in future so I can teach myself how to service my own outboard do please let me know. Or a book.....I'm a bigger fan of good guide books!

And serves me right for being so dumb!

Monday 28 March 2016

A once in a lifetime experience......

amazing.........won't see this in Plymouth Sound....all filmed from Steve's navigator.......enjoy

Sunday 27 March 2016

Troublesome outboard

it kept cutting out when I tried to accelerate on Friday so I am worried. It would chug along happily at just above idle speed. So tomorrow I am testing it in the big bin. I have a hunch that it is to do with position on the transom and that will also be checked as well. It should be 30 - 50 cm below the boat hull bottom and I have a feeling mine is much lower! Ho hum, things to sort.

It was so wet.....

Our spell of sunshine didn't last long.  Saturday saw intense downpours. I know! I was in one doing forty miles an hour out in the open!
Stacey our much loved and admired motovespa 125 super needed her annual service and MOT. As I left Westcountry Motorcycles, the heavens opened and the winds rose to violent gusts. I've never been buffeted by wind like it whilst on a scooter. It was as if some invisible hand just stopped you in your tracks. Throttle full on but going nowhere into the vicious headwind.

All rather exciting I must say. Got the old heart rate elevated somewhat. Meanwhile, whilst holding on for grim death, the rain soaked through one berghaus climbing jacket, a North face wind proof jacket, a mountain adventure fleece and a shirt. The Rab thermal, my last line of defence, held it at bay. My berghaus waterproof trousers didn't let a single drop through. Go figure that one.

All in all a rather thrilling Saturday afternoon adventure. 

Saturday 26 March 2016

That 'Good Friday' feeling

Note: tablet devices may not play the captions accompanying the video

The day finally arrived. That day!
The day, when finally after a horrendously wet winter, Arwen and I could get out on the water for her 2016 shakedown cruise.

The only day this Easter break, when Arwen and I will be able to get on the water. Yes, you guessed it. The weather for the next fortnight is………TaDah…………HORRENDOUS!

It always takes a little longer when rigging Arwen for the first time after winterization. Poor memory doesn’t help. I have to re-familiarize myself with rigging halyards and blocks and holes in the deck around the mast base.  And then poor memory kicks in again because I can’t remember where I stored everything after the winter spring clean and re-stowage policy I introduced………the aim of which was to make things easier to find to hand!

There are captions on the video. These don't always appear if playing back on a tablet device

It was a spring tide with high tide around 7am and low tide around 1.30pm. So it was launch on the south slip and retrieve on the north slip at QAB. Not normally allowed on the north slip, but a kindness shown by the yard team for which I was grateful. It was good to catch up with the team and hear their winter news. They had had a busy winter season with lots of upgrading of pontoons.

And Good Friday was gloriously sunny. Down here in the west country, we had been waiting for such a day throughout most of winter!

A breeze of around 8 – 9 knots during the afternoon.  The sea was a slate grey topped by the occasional little white horses. It’s surface, ripped by the wind zephyrs as they raced across the sound from the south west. Naval frigates, both British and Dutch, came and went; the little Police boats that accompany them racing around like mildly irritated small wasps. Inshore lobster pot boats scurried about hauling in their plastic coloured floats. One or two private fishing boats were out for early mackerel. Someone caught a jumbo 2.5lb one last week; reported in the paper it had clearly got some people excited! Brave souls bobbed about on open fishing kayaks. They looked cold despite drysuits, several layers, gloves and hats and facing away from the wind.  Several white plastic yachts joined us mid- morning and with building breeze, they were able to put on a show of leaning away from the wind to reveal their broad bottoms as the raced about.

Arwen and I scuttled along on a beam reach for most of the day, back and forth across the sound. We had no specific plans, it was just good to feel breeze on our face and sails again. We practiced hove to manoeuvres to adjust cameras on floating platforms; and I was reminded how sea sick queasy I can feel the moment I look down or concentrate on something in the boat. Tea and cheese and marmite sandwiches, Jaffa cakes and grapes went someway to alleviating the symptoms bizarrely.

Today was an opportunity to get familiar again with rigging, test out new adjustments and additions and generally reacquaint oneself with bobbing about on the sea. The new tiller extension worked perfectly. The trim and balance seemed fine. There was less clutter around the cockpit. The new submersible filming platform for my SJCAM was fun……a work in progress I think! The rear tell tales on the leech of the mainsail fluttered and streamed nicely, telling me the airflow across the sail was wrong. Huh! Tell me something I don’t know…….like how to trim the sails so that the airflow is better! My MOB retrieval skills improved significantly during the morning although I have yet to master coming to a complete stop alongside……which does seem to put pay to rescuing an MOB…so further work needed on that manoeuvre!  I managed to rig the port jib sheet outside the port shroud instead of inside it. Dur! The second reefing line mysteriously became loose and undid itself….so much for my bowline skills! Still, all minor niggles, all easily solved.

Not such a minor niggle was the outboard. Something is wrong. It keeps cutting out when you go to put on a little speed. It will chug along at a very sedate slow speed but the moment that throttle is twisted……it splutters and cuts out. I’m also thinking that it may be my imagination, but the outboard bracket looks as if it has sagged slightly and so the engine will be lower in the water……..very disconcerting…..given sailing back to the south slip at QAB is not an option! Sailing back to the north slip – yes; the south slip with that tight turn and approach through the expensive boat canal as I call it…nope!

Another thing I was conscious of was the sorry state Arwen looked in and so this year I will take time, as soon as the weather allows, to varnish the mast, sand and paint over the scraps,  sand down rubbing strakes and then reseal them with burgess woodsealer. Poor Arwen, she really needs some TLC!

Tuesday 22 March 2016

A lucky man

People have given me some lovely birthday presents. Some carabiners to attach things in the boat. A new lifeline to clip from jack stays to my harness when I venture offshore outside the confines of Plymouth Sound. A plastic black ball for showing I am anchored; a black triangular cone for when I am motorsailing. Both are collapsible. Some new portable navigation lights incase I get caught coming back late in the evening and finally a nice new waterproof roll lid duffle bag for storing clothes and sleeping gear on Arwen. A few dehydrated food meal pouches, beef stew, Lancashire hot pot and pasta bolognese have also been added to boat stores. Then there are some nice new sail ties....the old yellow ones are looking tatty; and a new signalling mirror for the grab bag. Arwen is now ready to go and I can camp out on a whim.
A friend gave me a lifeboat key ring, a lovely little wooden boat, a book about sailing adventures and a geocache bug. She knows me so well!!

The kids were very pleasant at school and all things considered it's been a lovely day. And I've sinned! I haven't done any school work tonight. Wonderful!

A modified tiller

the old tiller extension parted ways. It split beyond repair and wouldn't glue properly. So a quick trip to get a piece of pine dowel 2cm diameter and thirty minutes later, oiled and fitted. I've now extended my seating position another foot for'ard in the cockpit. Which is rather good I think. 

Monday 21 March 2016

my wonderful daughter

baked me a birthday cake. Arwen, with two crew and I'll give you a clue......I'm not the ginger one!

Sunday 20 March 2016

Dinghy cruising: a dinghy boat tent

well at long last I managed to get around to the boat tent. I was determined to do it this weekend having worked the last three Sunday's, ten to twelve hours each time. I promised myself this would be my weekend task.

The original tent was baggy and had to be secured at the top with boat building plastic clamps. This time, I fashioned a hoop out of gas plumbing pipe and then I attached the starboard side of the tent, stretching it across the boom and down to the other port side. Here, I trimmed it to shape, following the lower rubbing strake. I then spent thirty minutes folding over the cut edges and taping them with strong tarpaulin tape and duct tape. Another thirty minutes was spent marking out, cutting and inserting brass eyes. It was fun bashing them with the metal templates....worked out plenty of built up frustration bought home from work.

The upshot is that the tent now fits far better and there is plenty of room in the cockpit and far less danger of brushing damp sides.  I've decided that the topping lift will stay attached but loosened and pulled back towards the Mizzen mast and then tied off around that mast. The boom crutch remains in use, stored on the port side under the deck. The pipe fits under the side deck threaded along the inside of the coaming on starboard side.

The ends of the tent are tied off with bungee cord and allow sufficient breeze to pass through the tent without it being a gale. The bow end also allows easy access to the anchor well. I can roll back the tent from either end and should be able to start the engine and move the boat in the night should I ever need to.

I also replaced the tiller extension. The other one was splitting and tape and screws weren't holding it and attempts to glue it up again had failed. The new one is dowel and smoother. It has been oil finished. It has been extended slightly by about 20cm and means I can sit further forward in the boat.

The boat tent now fits inside the huge forward underdeck locker, all rolled up and marked so that I know which end is which. All being well, I should be able to assemble the tent in less than ten minutes. Well that is the aim!

Roll on Easter. 

Frank Dye and Bill Brockbank...their 1964 voyage

some one posted this on the dinghy cruising association website. If you haven't seen it, well worth setting aside thirty minutes. It is old and crackly but awe inspiring! The link is here

Enjoy a classic adventure tale.

Sailing a dinghy from Plymouth to Portsmouth

here is an interesting adventure.......

I wish them well. An interesting small boat adventure

Saturday 19 March 2016

A bit more house keeping.......

the front hatch is now operational as is the under deck storage. This now contains stove, cooking gear, food box, spare cushions, sleeping roll, collapsible bucket, a spare clothes bag, a beach foldaway chair and wellies.  Far less clutter about but I still have both anchors stored in trays on the floor either side of forward centreboard area.

Everything else is in drybags in various hatches. If you ignore all the dents and dings, Arwen looks far more ship shape than in the past. I also managed to attach four large stainless steel eyes, two on each coaming, just forward of the rowlock blocks. Why? Well they hold a 3m 15mm diameter stiff but flexible gas pipe which forms a nice hoop over the cockpit. This, I hope, will help spread out the tarpaulin tent when I recut it in the next few weeks.

Every little bit, it all helps. Now all we need is some sun so I can sand down and paint the cockpit dents and dings and some coats of varnish on the mast. 

Saturday 12 March 2016

Wednesday 9 March 2016

Where to mount a bilge pump

my birthday is coming up soon and I am allowed to buy a whale gusher urchin manual bilge pump if I would like one...a pressie from "her indoors".

So, a quandary. I have read the leaflet about installation. I like the look of it. But where exactly would one mount it for convenience and efficiency within Arwen's cockpit? I'm thinking that when in a squall and rainwater is collecting, whilst the wind is blowing and the waves are getting hand for steering and one hand for pumping?

I have no idea......if anyone who knows what Arwen looks like and has some thoughts about whether to get one and if so where to mount it, then I am all ears. Any tips and constructive advice most welcome especially from any Welsford boat owners who have such a thing installed in their own boats


Monday 7 March 2016

Although not a navigator, it is a Welsford boat........

and so I include it here. Useful advice and tips from Osbert, as always

Constructing oars