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

Monday 30 May 2016

The forecast......

Winds 20kts, gusts to 30 kts on BBC met office site
Wind guru says 15 knots with gusts  from 24 down to 19.
Winds from NNW through to NNE.

It ain't sounding that promising is it........

Sunday 29 May 2016

A trip up the Dart

Half term has finally arrived. It has been a long time coming. Exam season is busy with revision classes ongoing before school, during lunch hours and after school. Long days and normal teaching and marking have to continue around these sessions. So I am ready for some sailing R and R. With that in mind, I have been thinking of sailing on the Dart next week. Don't know the river, never been on it but Roger at the Dinghy Cruising Association told me to work the tides and that it would be relatively sheltered and to beware the area above Dittisham as it is like a large inland lake. All very useful advice.

Working the tides! On the two days I have available high tides are around mid afternoon and consequently low tides first thing in the morning around 8 - 9 ish.  I'm thinking of launching at Blackness point just because I really don't know other launch sites that well and they can store car and trailer.

I'm thinking of sailing/rowing up to Totnes on the flood tide and then sailing back down to lower Dartmouth. My slight problem is finding an overnight anchoring spot before nightfall. I can't see many in the lower Dart area. I was looking at Warfleet Creek. Roger recommended along Bow Creek by the pub.

The following day, if I am in the lower Dart, then a sail back up and call in at either The Ferry Inn or The Malsters Arms sounds rather good before retrieving out at Blackness around four-ish.

However, as always wind and inexperience could interfere. The winds are from NNW on the first day and NNE on the second. Rowing Arwen short distances is fine. Longer distances is hard work and not easy.  But then that is the joy of sailing and my aim this week is to not use the engine at all.
Many would say best way to do that is 'leave it at home'.

If you know the Dart and have any tips regarding pilotage, overnight anchor places etc and feel like sharing them, I'd really welcome the advice.

In the meantime, a few fun hours have been spent poring over charts, asking pilotage notes and sketch maps in my notebook, scanning Google Earth and reading up cruising guides. The halyard bags which I have cut out ready to sew lie abandoned.

SWMBO informs me that I have cut them out wrong! Nough said! She's never wrong!

Thursday 26 May 2016

A new video from Roger Barnes President of the Dinghy Cruising Association

Roger Barnes has posted another in his excellent series of dinghy cruising videos. This one is about a recent DCA rally on the River Exe which sadly I wasn't able to attend due to weekend work commitments.

The YouTube link is here

There was also an interesting discussion of sorts on the DCA Facebook page about the merits or otherwise of having an outboard on a dinghy. A variety of views were fairly expressed for and against them.

I use the outboard more than I should and it does prevent me from learning valuable skills. On the other hand when I sail, I need to know I will get back before the end of day. Most Sunday's I have to work. When I retire I will leave the motor behind and develop those skills I currently lack. Latestness back won't be an issue then. I don't see the outboard as a safety thing. Safety is a state of mind, an alertness to the role of weather, tides, topography, traffic and many more things. As I have oft discovered, an outboard can get you into trouble faster than oars or sail! And they aren't always as reliable as one would hope.

Until then, it's a compromise. I try to use it as little as possible but when needs be it. 

Sunday 22 May 2016

Quite an adventure

i think this is one well worth following. Here is the link and I have added it to my blog roll as well

dinghy cruising: making Halyard bags

finally got around to designing some halyard bags for Arwen instead of buying them. Have some acrylic cloth from some other camping project....enough to do one set of bags for front of rear cockpit.......about four connected for centreboard sheet, one for the topping lift, one for the downhaul sheet and one for flask, bottle, gloves and suncream.

It will also do another one for rear cockpit, in this case a double halyard bag; one section for the Mizzen sheet and one for cameras and other bits and pieces.

The main sheet and the main halyard will continue to be loosely coiled across the aft cockpit floor. They have never been a problem down there. Sometimes the main sheet gets flaked onto the rear thwart out of the way. The two jib sheets get flaked forwards across the thwarts either side of the centrecase and again have never been a problem there.

So I just need to find someone with a sewing machine and bags of patience, who can teach me how to use it I wonder who that might be.........? More importantly, I wonder what it's going to cost me!!

Saturday 21 May 2016

A sore shoulder

I hurt my shoulder back along and raising Arwen's mainsail is becoming increasingly more difficult so I have asked for advice on how to make it easier to haul up. The Welsford dinghy group, along with John, have come up with several suggestions. I am now trying to get my head around the arrangement of attaching a block to the top yard and running the main halyard up the mast through the mast sheave box down to this new block on the yard and back.........somewhere. It is the back to wherever bit which has me confused.

Sometime my own stupidity surprises even me............but the patience of the forum group, as always when dealing with me, will prevail and eventually the penny will drop and I will get it. The Internet is amazing. Also amazing is how many people out there give their time so freely to help others. Thanks guys, it's really appreciated. 

Tuesday 17 May 2016

a little piece of local history........

I live not far from a road in Plymouth , along which are many car show rooms, industrial units and even a play park. I was thus very surprised to learn that it was once home to a famous boat building brand.

On 22nd - 24th July this year, Plymouth is inviting Hurley boat owners from all over the world, to bring their beloved boats down to Plymouth for a '50th year anniversary celebration homecoming' sail past Plymouth Hoe and so far 40 boats have signed up.

Now I don't know much about Hurley's and I know only one or two Hurley owners. They talk with much affection about their boats and I learned that over 8000 Hurley's of various forms were built during the golden era which seems to have run during the 60's and 70's.

It would seem that Hurley boats started in Plymouth. George Hurley born in 1910, the son of a Newfoundland master mariner and cornish mother, and formerly of Charlestown; who came to work as a carpenter and joiner come dilutee shipwright in the famous Devonport dockyards. Leaving the yard after the war had ended to set himself up as a self employed chippy and commercial vehicle body builder, he employed two others Ernie Miners and Reg Yates. As a company they set about building caravan bodies and other vehicle bodies and the business expanded and they moved premises. During the 1950's, Ernie sought permission to build a redwing dinghy for himself in one small corner of the factory and this led to him and George starting to build Silhouettes - a plywood cabin cruiser, so I believe.

Business continued to expand with workshops being opened in the Old Grand Theatre on Union Street and Eagle works on the Cattedown, where they began to start manufacturing in glass fibre. By this time the team had been joined by naval architect Ian Anderson, who drew up plans for the successor to the Silhouette - Felicity - followed by Hurley's 18 and 22.

Which led to the building of a new £100,000 factory on the above mentioned road at the start of this piece - which is not more than a stone's throw from where I live! This new factory employed 170 people producing 17 Lloyds certified boats per week during the late 60's and early 70's.  Sadly, the receivers were called in in the mid 70's but the Hurley name continued as the moulds were sold and distributed to various businesses around the world.

And so we have reached the 50th anniversary of the Hurley's....and 40 have signed up so far. If you are a Hurley owner, do please come and show it off to us all in Plymouth in July. There will be a Saturday sail parade past the Hoe and I and Arwen certainly intend being there to welcome you all, in spirit, since I doubt we will be able to get near you and who would want us party pooping the parade anyway.

I was really intrigued to learn about this local bit of history. My thanks to our local historian Chris Robinson who wrote such a great piece in our local evening paper.

And on the note of thanks, I owe my brother and sister in law thanks - they managed to find me a bit of scrap leather to re-leather Arwen's mast where the yard continually hits it. There was enough left over to wrap around where it enters the mast box - so stopping any more grooving of the mast in that area; and just enough to leather over the rear cockpit coaming where the aft mainsheet block keeps dropping onto the edge of the coaming chipping it away. And surprisingly, I still have some left too - so it was a very generous scrap piece!

And final thanks to Alastair, who came up with a simple solution to my voyaging summer problem. Leave the boat on the sand at Exmouth, anchored, or moor it in Torquay marina and then catch the train back down to Falmouth to retrieve the car and trailer......a simple solution, which numpty here, hadn't even remotely thought of! Alastair and other DCA members will be meeting on a local river this weekend. Sadly, due to work commitments I wont be able to join them but I hope they have a great two days sailing and that the weather isn't too wet and blowy. Perhaps I might be able to get up to Beale Park during half term and I can catch up with DCA members there.

Sunday 15 May 2016


Well Arwen's mast has finally been varnished. Three coats of blakes satin varnish. The mast was sanded down, washed down and odd dings filled. Then the varnish was applied last weekend on a sunny day.

The mast now looks a darkish browny grey colour! The dings show through. The mast has a well worn look. I like it......others won't but hey, it's sealed and serviceable. The mast band area is worn and the lip on which the collar sat is worn away so I fitted some temporary blocks for now on which the mast and sits. The band turns and I will put some silicon between it and the wood to fill the gaps and stop the turn. Again a temporary measure until I can talk to an aquaintance who builds masts for a living. He works in alloys but he will have ideas on what to do and how to solve the issue.

In the meantime, it is busy at school. Our busiest time, exam season is upon us, extra revision classes morning, noon and night. As a temporary distraction I plan a possible summer voyage. I'd like to sail from Falmouth to fowey, from Fowey to the yealm; from there to Dartmouth and then around to Torquay. A week of sailing. I'm just trying to work out how to get the trailer back from Falmouth to Torquay or Totnes.

And this is my 999 th post. The blog has been going since 2009. I feel maybe my 1000th post should be special in some way. Or maybe it should just be as normal. The blog is my diary. I write it for myself as a memoirs of my voyages with Arwen and my travels with family. So maybe the next post is just business as normal.

If you have been a follower of the blog, thank you for your kindness, advice, comments and support. It has been deeply appreciated.


Tuesday 3 May 2016

and they are off.......

It was far more miserable than it looks ........out at the start between HMS Kent, south of the breakwater and Penlee Point

Visibility was low and at times the boats disappeared from view on several occasions

Heading into the wind, waiting for the gun to signal the last five minutes 

Making slow big turns and jockeying for position before heading down wind for the final turn before the start 

one of the big crew support boats comes out to see them off

lots of boats came out to see them off. It got pretty crowded out there in the spectators area

final preparations, all support crews off the boats and onto the ribs

and then they were off...........the big gun of HMS Kent signifying the start of Transat Bakerly 2016

It was pretty swelly out there with some chop but our skipper tucked right into the lee of Penlee point

We had managed to obtain the last four tickets on one of the cruise boats - we almost didn't go but I am glad we did. My parents thoroughly enjoyed themselves; no one was sea sick and actually as the gun started the race, the sun came out and the gloom lifted.
All in all rather a good day out!

Monday 2 May 2016

Final 'last minute' preparations................

Leroic will be doing it the old fashioned way......self steering and sextant, no satnav GPS stuff!

Final motifs being added to sails........

start line buoys being towed out.....

RNLI inshore on standby

Team Sodebo getting ready..........and french TV

Marshals assembling.......

Team support vessels gathering

who goes where?

"Have we forgotten someone?"

the crowds are gathering....

and the last teams are going out on the high tide

Sunday 1 May 2016

It's almost time...............


One skipper,  one boat,   one ocean!

Yesterday we met the skippers and saw the boats..............
today we have aero acrobatic teams, wing walkers and the Red Devils Parachute team........
all to the background music of some fabulous jazz bands and performers

Wot's not to like eh?

We almost had a Mediterranean feel down the Barbican........

Strange cooking implements had appeared.........

Bunting and flags draped everywhere.....

Billboards with unknown sailor's profiles along the walkways

Adam Sweet live on stage proved popular with the gathering crowds

People had come for good music and to meet the intrepid sailors prepared to endure discomfort across 3500 miles of open ocean 

Local pubs were doing a trade.....

And then there were the boats

But what most people had come to see were the skippers............

"so you are sure we have enough medals and gin bottles"

Gathering before being announced on stage

Catching the rays

Answering questions.........

Class 40 good cheer.....

Well most of them....some are more reflective......

"Remind me, which port are we racing to...?"

"Have you heard about the guy who is racing the transat in an old boat with self steering, no GPS or satnav and only a sextant for a companion?"

"It seemed such a good idea last year....."

"Well at least they turned out to wave us off..."

Brave adventurous and good humoured people
We were very privileged today to meet the 2016 Transat Skippers
We wish them all Bon Voyage and safe journeys and thank them for returning to our Ocean City after an eight year absence
Its good to have you all back