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

Sunday 25 December 2016

Christmas traditions

in our house I am often the first to rise. I like the peace and quiet. It is my time to catch up on the papers and news online. One of the stories which caught my eye this morning and one that I have been following for some time is the revitalisation of tomb exploration in Egypt. For a few months now, archaeologists have been digging down to discover a new tomb in the valley of the Kings. Last week they managed to break through into an ante chamber and yesterday they managed to break through to a new room in which they discovered a tomb. I cannot begin to image the excitement for archaeologists at moments like this. As a closet historian, it must be so exhilarating. Anyway, I digress. What caught my eye this morning is that they have opened the tomb and discovered a mummy. This is the first discover of a fully preserved mummy for quite some time. What has made this a particularly interesting discovery is the fact that this mummy is very very old, predating many others found in the valley. Even more remarkable is the fact that it was covered in chocolate and crushed hazelnuts. Archaeologists confirmed this morning with much excitement that they have now indeed found the lost tomb of Pharaoh Roche.

Merry Christmas everyone! May your day be full of joy, happiness, fun and love. And may your cracker jokes be better than this one.
Best wishes to you all
Steve and Arwen

Tuesday 20 December 2016

The passing of AA Gill

I was saddened by the recent death of our journalist and critic AA Gill. His writing has been evocative, critical, funny, acerbic.

However, in his last piece for 'The Times', he made this statement.......and I have come to realise it needs to go on my classroom wall in massive font so that every single geography student I teach sees it, reads it and understands it.......... . I hope I have instilled in my own children the same understanding, even if I didn't express it with such eloquence...............

"I have always encouraged my children to be inquisitive, to get out there, to see the world. We only pass this way once, I tell them, this globe is where you live, not just this corner of this one city. See your birthright, meet the neighbours, don't just leave your travelling to the TV and glossy magazines"

Amen to that! 

Sunday 18 December 2016

a winter sail

The fog hung deep in the valley as dawn rose, the grey blanket punctuated by vertical grey irregular pillars of smoke from early morning coal fires. Breath froze instantly in white clouds of vapour and it took more brute force than normal to remove Arwen's tarps. Stiff and unyielding with fallen leaves frozen to their outsides, the tarps crackled, their white frosting shattering into myriads of little jagged fault lines. The thin ropes tying the tarp to the trailer were as unyielding; knots frozen solid, refusing to allow a millimetre of slip in a rope. Fingernails and tips became bent sore and raw as slowly their heat thawed frozen string.

The car door refused to open, welded shut by a white rime of frost. Swirly broad leafed patterns intricate across the roof and windscreen showed how cold last night had been. Once the invisible door weld had broken, the engine coughed into life and then purred quietly, the interior fans coming to life breathing warmth to the windscreen. Before long, trickles of water started, each one a meandering rivulet finding its own path down the screen to the waiting wiper well.

Exhaust fumes lay heavy near the ground, unable to rise through the sinking cold air. The smell of diesel permeated the street's crisp cold air whilst lawn grass, way too long, because its growth had been ignored since September, bowed heavily, each blade laden with frost crystals reflecting rainbow slivers of dawn light. Further down the street the eerie fog blanket muffled the sounds of a waking road, the greyness interspersed with the neon glow of new street lamps, their triangular downward facing arcs giving glimmers of hope in a dull, dull streetscape.

The gossamer delicate threaded spider web that hung between winch handle and trailer coupling was admired for a time, minuscule droplets hanging in perfect formation from its hair like threads, before that too was gently brushed to one side. "Sorry Mr Spider!" I always feel guilty about that.

I have no idea why I decided to get up at 7am this morning and go sailing. Who in their right mind would go in the gloom with a promise of 2 knots of wind and temperatures barely above 2C? Even at QAB marina at 9 am, Drakes island was hidden by a dense grey fog bank where the warmer waters of the Tamar met the cold, cold air from the north. It wasn't exactly appealing!

But I'm glad I did. Sometimes it is worth the effort, for behind that fog bank lay sunshine, gentle breezes, stunning sunny reflections on the water and crisp visibility. An empty Plymouth Sound with an almost mirror like quality to its surface. Sometimes it pays to persevere!

Merry Christmas everyone. I wish you and all your families a good festive break. Thanks for joining Arwen and me this year and please do join us on our voyages in 2017. 

Saturday 10 December 2016

Robert has been remembering when he built 'Annie'. A master craftsman in his own right, it is always worth reading Robert's ideas and take on things. He, John, Joel and my good friend Dave are my 'go to' guys where boat building is concerned.

On a different note, poor Arwen has been neglected and lies forlorn on the drive. My sail trimming skills are taking a bit of a beating on an online forum, justifiably so I guess since most days I have no idea what I am doing when trying to set the mainsail on Arwen, despite expert advice from John, Joel and others. It is pouring with rain; I've got nine or so hours work to to do over the weekend marking, lesson planning and trying to get to grips with the insane workload that seems to befall those in education at the moment and I have just broken a bandsaw blade trying to finish off making dozens of small log reindeer for a charity event on Tuesday......and I don't have a spare blade. It is clearly one of those weeks!

With mock papers to mark, test papers from all other teaching groups to grade and basically around thirty hours marking to complete this week, Christmas is feeling a very long way off. Hopefully, then, I will get Arwen off the drive and go for a sail, irrespective of the weather. I'm needing some 'space' as 'her indoors' puts it