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 26 April 2016

one man, one boat, one ocean, three urban places!

They started with a race warm up from St Malo to Plymouth. Sailors are national heroes in France and the french crowds loved it.

They arrived in Plymouth for a week of preparations........and Plymouth welcomed them. This coming weekend will be spectacular and fun

I don't know about anyone else - but I am getting quite excited. I'm such a big kid!

And then they will be gone - heading across 3500 miles to the Big Apple. Look out New York.......for the fast boats are coming your way. Have fun!

Monday 25 April 2016

One man, One boat!

The vibe is building.............the flags and banners line the streets

Local cafes are getting in on the act....and why not................

Stranger in town: an unusual boat in an unusual location 

Team Sodebo........ 

60 foot, carbon materials and £8 bn cost to build.......

wide, light and strong............

designed for team or solo sailors....who have nerves of steel...............

can hit 50 knots over the water...........

the winning skipper of one of these big beasties could reach New York in around 7 days

it is the widest thing I have ever seen moored on this pontoon

3500 miles of open water dominated by a line of low pressure systems.........every component had better be superstrong

It takes endeavour and courage for any sailor who undertakes an Atlantic passage

tough on the skipper, tough on the boat....this race is a full on sprint

It all starts on May 2nd around lunchtime............

Sunday 24 April 2016

sshhh! Get ready.................................

They were seen......lurking outside The Boathouse Cafe.............
all chic with sunnies, lattes and and that french 'mystique' 

their vans are taking over our quaysides

The Police are casing the joints......................

and I don't think there is much room past the lock gates.......for the pontoons are being cleared!

Sssssh! get excited.........get very excited........for there is only a week to go to the start......

It starts here, in Plymouth, on May 2nd..................and the french have already arrived!! 

Saturday 23 April 2016

Elegance boats

john has just posted on his blog. Some videos of his designs in action. And what struck me was how elegant, graceful and sleek they all look. Their designs are classic, well thought out designs. And what amazing skills some boat builders have. You can see the post at

The last vid is suspect though. Dodgy amateur with a boat that has that 'my skipper is an idiot but I guess I have to look after him because he's my idiot!' Kind of look about her. Poor Arwen, the things she puts up with.

Sunday 17 April 2016


I never mastered surfing. Could never get the balance right. To not be able to surf, living in Devon and Cornwall, well its not good. Just not the done thing.

For years, when asked, I have fudged an answer....."I can body board"......."I've been known to stand up and step off a wave skimming board before now".......but you can see that look of pity in the younger generations eyes.........."Sshh! Poor guy, no balance, can't ride the waves man!"

8.3 knots.  
8.3 knots!!

I didn't know Arwen, bless her, could go that fast.  At one point I swear blind we were surfing!

Whoaa there fella, what was that?
'Surfing'? 'I hear you say?'  'You were surfing a 14' boat?

My pride is restored. My knowledge is broadened, for yes, Arwen surfs! Well I think she surfs!

Don't ask me how and it only happened twice, but the first time I was standing and fell over with shock. The second time, she just surged ahead, well, basically she surfed the wave. Now I always thought surfing came as you went down wind with following waves and maybe I just caught the turn of the tide right but in the lumpy confusion of Cawsand Bay, Arwen's stern lifted and she rode some wave faces into the felt like surfing to yee ha.........!

Channel 14, the port long-room, gave the wind speed at the western end of the breakwater as an average 15 knots for part of the morning with gusts to 20 knots. The northerly winds built and ebbed but didn't fall much below 13 knots. Our average trip speed was 6.8 knots.

I'm so used to a sedate 3.8 or 4.2! It was all rather exciting for an amateur sailor.

Wind against tide, with a cold northerly blowing off the Hoe and across the Sound. The 4.3 m neap tide built throughout the day and the Sound was 'gently' lumpy. Some waves had white crests and beating up wind would see sparkly diamonds of spray come over the coaming.
Not much, as Arwen rarely allows water over her decks, but enough to salt stain sunnies, jackets and sallopettes.

And it was cold. 10C feeling like 6C despite all the sunshine. Cotton wool white clouds scuttled across light blue skies. Slate grey-green seas bounced us about. Warmth on the face in the sunshine; somewhat colder in the shadows of the clouds. Jacket collar pulled up high to protect your neck; fleecy hat and jacket hood to keep the wind off your head. Crossing the western entrance of the Sound where deep water, incoming tide, fast current and gusty winds met, proved particularly entertaining.

I'd taken the precaution of putting in a reef in the mainsail whilst rigging Arwen that morning. As it was, the main never got raised. We did 8+ knots under jib and mizzen and I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen the GPS screen with my own eyes. On several occasions!! Disbelief, on several occasions too!

I like sailing under jib and mizzen. I can centre the tiller and rudder using the helm impeder and then pick a course and sail it making adjustments to jib or mizzen.....its take a while but I am getting the hang of it.

So, no mooring buoy practise, no floaty camera platform practise. We just sailed broad reaches and hard beats back and forth and up and down the Sound. We went to say hello to Cawsand and Kingsand. We heaved to in the lee of Mt Edgecumbe, where Arwen showed what a well mannered lady she was, slowly drifting with barely a roll. I am always amazed at how 'heave too'.....slows things right down and gives time to pause, think, replenish with cheese and marmite sandwiches and a well earned cuppa. I like heaving too!

As the morning wore on, other boats came out to play. Saltash sailing club came down the river and out into the Sound to race each other around various buoys. Some lovely old turn of the last century wooden boats coasted up and down the northern edge of Cawsand Bay, their sails set full, gaff rigged. They controlled speed by sailing along the wind edge, close enough inshore to get more gentler breezes in the lee of the Mt Edgecumbe peninsula, or so it seemed to me, but what do I know.

The rattling of winches and swoosh sound of spinnakers filling punctuated the early afternoon sound scape. The Admiralty Barge 'SD Newhaven' plied too and fro between Millbay Docks and the moored RFA vessel out near the breakwater fort. At one mile and two miles south of the breakwater, two small coastal freighters waited for incoming tide and mooring slots at the various wharves; anchored , their bows pointing into the wind. An outbound coastal freighter irritatingly sounded its horn several times to clear the small yachts weaving to and fro across the waters.

In only a few hours, I was surprised to see the GPS had logged over eighteen miles distance of zig zagging back and forth. It was a good, fun day out. Confidence building. Only four tacks went to irons, easily got out of by backing the jib and altering mizzen tension. The beat home from breakwater to Mountbatten pier proved challenging but we managed to get all the way into the Cattedown. My intention was to sail back to the pontoons for the first time ever. But that wind screamed straight down the Sutton Harbour and with tourist boats and water taxis and incoming and outgoing traffic from the locks on the high tide, prudence took over and so I started the outboard for the last 150m back to shore.

Maybe next time!

Friday 8 April 2016

Disposing of marine pyrotechnics

one of my parachute flares expired dec 2015 and I bought a new one today to replace it. My local chandler will take the expired one. All the MCA and RYA guidance says get rid of expired flare immediately. So, I am inclined to follow this guidance but what do other people do? Do you hold onto it and get another six months from it e.g keep for this summer season or do you immediately get rid of it? Use it as a backup flare for rest of season?
Any views or comments always welcome

Thursday 7 April 2016

Dinghy cruising: A lazy morning on the river Plym Part 2

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Dinghy cruising: A lazy morning on the water testing a new floaty cam

Sometimes pottering about is just fun isn't it? No fixed plans, no agendas, no places to what you want; go where you want......wonderful.

The sun shone and the breeze built through the morning. I had the sound pretty much to myself. We launched at 9.45 as the tide was falling and it wasn't without slight drama. The newly serviced outboard kept stalling and I had to turn and row back to the pontoon through the narrow 'canal'.
Of course it was my own fault as usual. Note to self, next time turn the fuel tap on! Nuff said on that matter one feels!

Out in Jennycliffe Bay, floaty platform got tested again in less chop. You see what you think about it in the video below. I have devised some weights to attach for next time to try and stabilize it further. Once, the fuel tap debacle had been sorted, my Tohatsu four stroke positively purred and the new raised position allowed it to push Arwen along far quicker at lower revs.

After a hour or so of fun with floaty platform, some time was spent sailing up and down to mooring buoys. I deliberately chose a set just behind Drakes island and down from the mouth of the Tamar river. Here it was a WNW wind against an incoming 5m tide with some gusts being channeled down the river mouth. It took time but eventually we managed to master picking up the buoy using only the head sail. It was quite fun sailing past the buoys into the wind, luffing up, dropping the main and then using only the jib and furler to find our way back down wind. It was also quite a work out raising and dropping sails for thirty minutes. We didn't quite master sailing up on a close reach under jib, main and mizzen. Too many sails for a start!

HMS Ocean steamed about in Cawsand Bay. Apache helicopters, bristling with weapon pods, buzzed about overhead; in various formations they hunted each other and then did landings and take off's on the aft deck of Ocean. Princess Yachts tested their speedboats and floating gin palaces out in the sound. Three cornish shrimpers sailed up the west Mt Edgecumbe coastline and disappeared into Cawsand Bay.  Charter fishing boats came and went, not with very many customers on aft decks, it must be said.

After lunch tied up at the buoy admiring the deserted fort and houses on the island, under jib and mizzen, driven from behind by the westerly breeze, we sailed up the Cattedown and into the River Plym. Past the Hoe and its hotels, fun fair, marine laboratories and Citadel; past the entrance to Sutton Pool, the wharves with their fuel storage tanks and quays for loading English China Clay and tungsten; past the Mountbatten breakwater, watersports centre and old Sunderland flying boat aircraft hangers, now converted to boat building and repair shops. Fuel tankers and fertilizer boats tied up on port side and the new Princess yachts storage pontoons on the starboard side. A restored RAF rescue boat hove into view opposite the new Yacht Haven Drystack boat hanger. Its a long time since I had sailed up the Plym to Oreston. It was rather fun and interesting to see all the new housing developments.

All in all, rather a nice lazy morning out on the water. 

Monday 4 April 2016


winds 7 - 9 knots with gusts up to 12 or 13; from west north west and rounding to west. Less than 5 % chance of rain. Tide is HT at 1730, a 5.1m high tide. Low tide is 0.9m at 1100. My sailing window is from 0800 to1430.

So looks like a possible goer. No family commitments until 1630. Days like this seem rare so I aim to make the most of it. I have no particular sailing plans. I'm thinking

  • Some sailing onto and off moorings by Drake's island or out in the Cattedown if there isn't too much traffic
  • Some testing of floaty camera platform with new weights attached
  • Testing of adjusted rowing oars
  • A sail on the tide up the Plym if there is sufficient water
  • A sail over to the breakwater and back
  • Maybe over to Cawsand for a coffee and test of the new anchor buddy system
Any day out on the water is a good day.

Sunday 3 April 2016

Another new navigator

Another new navigator is launched with some lovely craftsmanship and some excellent adaptations. Robert has also posted some photos of lovely boats...elegant craft

Saturday 2 April 2016

Just back from a quick visit to Weymouth and Swanage

A quick visit for a bike ride and visit to Portland with 'her indoors'

Our view from Redcliff Bed and Breakfast on the esplanade in Weymouth. Highly recommended, both view and guesthouse!

and sunrise the following morning

looking along the eighteen mile storm beach - Chesil

all these rounded pebbles, each with its own travel story to tell

Welcome to Portland, former home of HMS Osprey and the Lynx helicopter

A stroll around the Tout Quarry Sculpture Park

with views along Chesil beach

back in Weymouth harbour

a drop in at Swanage to watch the hang gliders off the far hills

and then a visit to Corfe Castle - wow - what a history.....well worth the visit

and no visit would be complete without seeing steam trains

This visit was all too fleeting for various reasons but we both agreed we need to go back and spend more time in this area again to do it full soon as we can.