A blog about sailing a John Welsford
'Navigator' yawl around Plymouth Sound
in South-west England
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 an associated YouTube channel so visit www.youTube.com/c/plymouthwelshboy to find our most recent cruises together.
From Roger Barnes, President of the Dinghy Cruising Association. He promises more to follow. Classic, simple, elegant and packed with sound advice and experience. High quality and well scripted with a unique presenting style. If you have read his book on dinghy cruising, then you know what to expect.
Enjoy, and thanks Roger. Video clips of this quality take considerable time. Much appreciated.
this blog is primarily about Arwen and my voyages in her. But it is in effect, also my on line diary and as such, other things sometimes appear. I am hopeless at writing things down but am more likely to record things at my computer, because, ironically I spend so much time in front of it when not teaching .i.e data crunching, lesson planing, resource preparation, on line marking, answering homework inquiries, emails from parents etc etc etc. So when a few, rare, precious minutes appear when I'm not being pulled in one thousand different directions, I am likely to snatch that moment to 'jot down' experiences and memories other than just sailing in Arwen. I guess this is my apology to any loyal readers about posting on occasions my holiday travel experiences.
Sicily was our summer trip. I've done a few posts on our wonderful experiences. One of the most enjoyable was our visit to a small lagoon island on which one of the oldest Phoenician city ruins can be found. On the other side of the lagoon? The astonishing and famous Trapani Salt pans.
I hope my holiday diaries don't bore you too much
Saline di Trapani proved to be one of the highlights of our trip.
The saline salt pans border a 1.5m deep lagoon known as a Stagnone, off the
west coast between Marsala and Trapani where stunning golden beaches, warm
breezes, the distant Egardi Islands and perfect sunsets combine to provide a
beautiful Rivera setting.
embarkation point! Out of the narrow canal is the lagoon
The short 20 minute boat
journey to the tiny island displayed a high level of seamanship on the part of
the captain as he piloted the boat across the shallow mudflats following the
metal pole markers. Expertly coming alongside a short landing stage in strong
force five winds, the boat barely kissed the painted old car tyres, before we
disgorged onto the Isola of Pantaleo and the Phoenician settlement of Mozia.
Established in the 8th century BC, it was coveted for its strategic ‘trading’
a model of what archaeologists believe Mozia may have looked like
The museum was fascinating with extraordinary finds from the
excavated works. From necropoli to guardhouses; from domestic houses to temple
ruins, we roamed freely. The original town was finally destroyed by Dionysius
of Syracuse in 397BC and it strikes me that in the fourth and third centuries
BC, the mediterranean peoples were an
argumentative lot, intent on grabbing land, slaves, trade routes and just about
the historian in me was sooooo excited....Phoenician ruins......so far back in history......these are the ruins of a guard house
note the ancient open pipes at the side of the steps to improve drainage
so much debate......a port? A fish pond? A ceremonial bathing pool?
what is left of the ancient town centre
Having spent a pleasant three hours walking the island and
exploring the museum we returned to the salt pans.
I was sooo tempted to borrow this to sail back - can you believe it - the island administrators leave this for visiting tourists to use.......unreal!
These salt pans are extraordinary. Covering almost a square
kilometre or so were a series of rectangular and near rectangular ponds of
differing depths separated by small raised walkways on the top of brick walls.
In the corners of some ponds were portable Archimedes screws in long wooden
cylindrical tubes. Dotted at irregular intervals, small brick windmills. Both
are used to pump water from the lagoon into the various ponds. The outer most
ones are the deepest and as you work inland they become progressively shallower
until the inner most ones are less than a foot deep.
From high up, the pans are
a mosaic of colours from blues to greys, from greys to orangey red browns and
then to the various whites of the salt. The different colours are caused by the
varying depth of water and varying salt concentrations within each pan and how
that combines to refract daylight. It is visually stunning. Meanwhile, piled up
on small quaysides are mounds of white salt ready to be cleaned and bagged.
Along some of the walls run tiny narrow gauge tram lines and a
tiny, tiny ‘sit on’ diesel pulls some tiny, tiny, tippy
trucks. The salt is hauled from the outer most landward pans back to a central
collecting area near a road. A series of portable conveyor belts take the salt
from the pan into the trucks. But the hard work is done by hand.
Antonia Trapani's family have collected it the same way by hand
for generations. Men scrap and skim the salt crystals off the shallow water
into small rounded conical piles. From the air, these are in perfect
symmetrical rows. Each pile is then loaded into wheel barrows. The barrow is
turned on its side and long handled spades are used to scoop salt into it. When
three quarters full, the barrow is lifted upright and the last remaining scoops
added. The full load is taken over to the corner and tipped onto the conveyor
belt which carries the salt upwards to be deposited as an even larger conical
pile on the quayside. It is astonishing how hard the men work and how quick
they are to clear a salt pan when it is ready. The salt men come from the same
few families, great grandfather, grandfather, son and grandson. That sense of
family history tied to the land once again shines through. It is a key characteristic
of life in Sicily.
The windmills, stripped of their sails look rather like small
lighthouses from a distance and remind me of those on the ends of Plymouth
breakwater. The wood lattice frames of the sails are tied off with one and a
half inch hemp ropes. The gleaming white sailcloths, of the same fabric as
Arwen's sails, are stored inside on hanging ropes, ready for use. The gears
that drive the milling stones below or in this case the Archimedes screws are
made of wood and iron spindles.
There was a tiny museum built with EU funding and it is well
worth a visit. Slick atmospheric videos showing the processes, original footage
from the 1950s and aerial drone footage from last year enthral visitors. Old tools, a climb up the windmill, stunning
views from the top, and some lovely salt crystal formations add to the sense of
learning. Of all our travels in Sicily thus far, the salt pans of Trapani have
been the most fascinating by far.
After visiting the salt pans, we called in at Santa Maria resort
to discover four kite surfing schools and a host of kites flying across the
shallow lagoon waters. From beginners to advanced practitioners, the air was
full of amazing shapes and colour curved kites. Spray was going in all
directions as surfers shot up and down in parallel designated zones. There was
an extraordinary. buzz about the place. Hammocks between Palm trees and almost
entirely an exclusive clientele aged 16 - 30 or so. It reminded me of my
climbing days when we would congregate in throngs at Chamonix to tackle the
high peaks like the Mt Blanc circuit, the Aguille Rouge and du Midi.
More fascinating, were all the kites stretched across acres of
AstroTurf at the shore edges. Huge 6/7 m kites with inflated tubing, weighted
down by packs and boards so that they wouldn't blow away. All colours, all
logos; a true kaleidoscope of changing colours in the sinking sun. We chatted
with two twenty something year old girls briefly, whose English was impeccable
and watched the surfers having fun before we wound our way out of the resort
and back to Baglio Antico. Secretly I think we both wanted to give it a go but
knew that our kite surfing days were probably behind us. My shoulder is already
wrecked and ‘her indoors’ has a
dodgy knee. The spirit and will were definitely there but the bodies show the
signs of ageing, wear and tear! Never mind, for twenty minutes, we felt 'hip'
again! Thanks Santa Maria for making us feel welcome!
A welshman displaced to wonderful Plymouth in SW England; a novice sailor and boat builder with a passion for all things to do with the sea. My learning curve is vertical....but hey that's what makes life interesting isn't it! So follow my journey as I learn to sail Arwen,grappling with charts, tide tables and passage planning so that I can become 'a dinghy cruiser'
And by the way, just occasionally, little snippets about 'Stacey' our beloved 1968 motovespa super 125 scooter may feature along with odd insights into our family travels< but these will be kept to a minimum, I promise!
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The 'Navigator' is a 14' 9" yawl with a beam of 5' 10". she weighs in at 309 lbs and has a sail area of 136 sqft. She has a standing lug sail. She has side, centre and front thwarts and space for six although she is an ideal single hander. there are a huge number of potential locker spaces. For more details about the design of navigators go to www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz/plans/navigator/index.htm