Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and i am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's battery marina in the barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England.
Arwen has a YouTube channel of her own. Search "plymouthwelshboy".

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!


robert.ditterich said...

Lovely report for a great day Steve- riveting writing.
cheers Rob

Anonymous said...

Did I see a credit for the singer?

Maybe Ian Campbell.


Joe Fairclough