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 31 December 2017

Happy New Year

Well, New Year's Eve and we sit here planning our travelling for 2018. Atlases, maps and newspaper and magazine articles are strewn across the floor; some intense negotiation is ensuing.  Do we do separate trips or get a round the world ticket and do the far east first - Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, China, Japan, New Zealand and Australia? Or do we head west and do western USA, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina?
And what about Iceland? Botswana and Zimbabwe? and what about doing VSO and volunteering for a teaching charity or two abroad for a spell?
Then we need to tour the UK and soooo many places to visit throughout Europe?

Big topic of discussion - have we retired early or are we taking a two year 'gap year' and then going back and getting part-time pay off the travelling mortgage??
Perhaps I ought to do some supply teaching first and build up a pot of travel money, not that this option seems to have been forthcoming thus far, sadly.

So many friends to catch up with - walking, caravanning as well.
In the meantime I have this urge to walk the Dolomites or Pyrenees; no idea why....but why not! Life is short and as far as I know thus far, we only get one time on this planet.  One last hurrah at altitude!

Charity work is important and in 2018 I want to give something back since I was never able to whilst teaching; volunteering for some sailing youth charities and for Age Concern. I may even explore an Open university Course

In the meantime, maintenance on Arwen, which is what the purpose of this blog today was about, continues. The mast rigging has been reassembled; the boomkin cleaned up and boomkin block cleaned. Frayed rope ends have been whipped and secured.

Apart from making sleeping platforms and sorting out anchor buckets, all that remains now is the difficult job......finding a period of time when I can sand interior and exterior of Arwen and repaint her.

So, as the evening progresses, it only remains to say thank you to you all. Thank you for following the blog; for dropping the odd message or comment; the constructive advice and tips. Thank you for supporting my YouTube channel and putting up with the bad as well as the good. Thank you for answering all the dumb questions.

To my Facebook friends, thanks for friending me; thanks for checking in on me as I start retirement; I miss you all and have appreciated all your support and insights in to your wonderful lives.

I wish all of you and your family and friends a really happy new year. May 2018 bring you joy, happiness, success and adventure; may it bring you a sensible work life balance and achievement of your dreams, aspirations and goals in life.

Have a wonderful evening. If you are in the far east - I hope last night was great fun and welcome to 2018.


Saturday 23 December 2017

That maintenance list is slowly growing shorter

New mast base cleat  - done

New mast attachment point for sprit boom - done

Mast band repositioned with new chocks - done

Rudder repainted - done

Tiller extension cleaned and re-varnished - done

Onwards and upwards......
in the meantime

Merry Christmas everyone, Happy New Year. May your festive season be happy and  full of love and joy. Stay safe.

Friday 22 December 2017

Dinghy cruising: restored rudder and tiller

rudder final coats and varnishing the tiller extension. Next on list is sorting out main mast, mast band and mast rigging. onwards and upwards

Thursday 21 December 2017

what is a workman like finish?

Maintenance tasks on Arwen continue. The rudder has been sanded backed, pre-koted and then painted with two coats of international toplac paint. From a distance of a few metres it looks a very good finish but close up - well there are a few shallow dents which I didn't bother to fill; and there are some odd paint runs and blobs on the edges of the rudder board and stock.

Which makes me wonder a little about whether I have been too lazy, insufficiently perfectionist or caring in my work? Does it really matter if there are odd paint blobs and small runs? Should I have aimed to have done a better job rather than a rushed job? Would I have accepted a recently hung door in the house painted in such a fashion.....probably not.......would I have done lesson planning in this way....definitely should I have accepted it on Arwen's rudder? Probably not!

Who knows - I'm happy enough. It will do. I can move on to other tasks and get her back on the water sooner.

But somewhere deep down is that niggling father, as an engineer, would have a fit I suspect! And, somewhere, it irritates me slightly that I have allowed myself to do such sloppy work. Hey Ho! Must be this retirement marlarkey creeping in!

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Thursday 14 December 2017

Dinghy cruising: creating sailing videos: editing your footage and growing a YouTube channel

Part three: editing your footage and growing a YouTube channel.

The first article in this series of three explored the need for a clear rationale for your videos, the kind of camera equipment that might be useful for videoing on a boat and a brief overview of the camera gear I carry on board Arwen, my Welsford designed ‘navigator’ sailing dinghy. In my second article, I discussed how to use mounts and clamps to get interesting video footage, tips on planning your storyline and finally thoughts on how to record good sound for your video. In this last article, I now suggest some tips for editing your footage and growing a YouTube channel. Before reading this article, I would recommend reading article two if you haven’t done so yet, particularly the section on getting relevant footage for your storyline.

How can  thoughtful editing improve your overall video quality?

Let me start by saying I’m not recommending a particular editing software. Personally, I use Moviemaker, iMovie and Gopro studio 2. Some friends use Pinnacle Pro, Adobe Premier and Final Cut  Pro. If you are new to video editing, I suggest starting with an easy to master ‘drag and drop’ program such as IMovie or moviemaker (tip 1). IMovie and Gopro Studio 2 include short movie ‘templates’ along with appropriate titles, credits and music. Great little movies can be created on moviemaker (windows) and this is my ‘go to’ choice. If you have some video editing experience, then there is a whole host of free video editing software that you can download and I have suggested some websites to explore these in figure 1.

Figure 1: some free video editing software

On returning from a boat or sail trip, immediately download your video footage to your PC, organising your clips into folders (tip 2). I have three main folders, introduction, middle and end (see article two where I expand further on creating a good storyline). Each of these main folders contain sub folders entitled ‘establishing shots’, ‘action shots’, ‘transition shots’, ‘interviews’ and ‘relevant B roll footage’. Then rename each individual clip with a descriptive title of what it shows. It sounds laborious but believe me it makes it easier to find the piece you want when dragging and dropping your clips onto your software time line, saves much search time during editing and helps you stay ‘focused’ on your video’s plot line.

Different people have their own ways of editing their footage and to a certain extent it depends on what kind of movie you want at the end; a 30 second clip, a 4-minute feature, something a little longer? Irrespective of my end video length, I always edit a video three times (tip 3).

The first edit is what I call a ‘rough’ edit. Here, I identify and select the essential bits of video for the storyline and rough trim these clips to the crucial ‘key’ scenes, ensuring that I leave a few seconds either side for further ‘polished’ editing. I place these clips into the sequential order I need for the story on the video editing software timeline, (focusing on the key segments of a good story – the beginning, the middle and the end). In each of these story line divisions, I try to ensure I have included some wide scene setting footage, some medium view shots and finally some real close up shots. (see tip 15 in article two for further elaboration).

On my second edit I then start to add in ‘transition shots’ and ‘B roll footage’ to link the key story video clips together so that they ‘flow’ well. ‘Transition’ shots are video clips that move from something related to the main story subject you are about to shoot to the actual main subject itself e.g. from a bow wave, pan through the turbulent water to focus on the dolphin swimming alongside; or going from the mast top wind indicator down the sail to finish with a look to the horizon and the approaching weather front (transitional shots add a professional feel to videos and reduce abrupt subject changes which can interrupt the flow of the video for a viewer). B roll footage is the additional footage outside of your main story shots e.g.  the rudder and its wake; wind indicators flapping; the compass bearing; a flapping sail; the wheeling seabird overhead. It is the ordinary moments between exciting ones that helps create good story in video by putting significant events into a context that makes them stand out more dramatically.  If you followed the tips in article two you will have a number of transition and B roll shots, each of several seconds in length. The trick on the second edit is to select the interesting ones and insert them between your main video clips in a way that helps the clips flow one to the other so that viewer interest is maintained and your story line plot isn’t confused or watered down. B roll clips should be no more than 3 seconds in length, transition shots no longer than seven seconds. Watch your favourite TV drama or documentary and watch how many clips they use that are only two seconds in length!
By now your story should have emerged sequentially on your software time line. Your video, at this stage, is likely to be way too long and so the final, third edit stage is the ‘fine polishing’ and length reducing edit. In this stage a number of things are going to happen
·        Firstly, I go back to my main story line shots and I begin to break them up into natural sections. So, a ten second shot from one perspective and camera may lend itself to being broken into three separate clips. I then search my video footage to find another clip of the same event but from another camera perspective and I replace one of the three clips with this one.  If you watch your favourite drama tv programme you will notice this is a favoured trick, the same event from multiple camera angles and perspectives whilst keeping the plot line moving along.

·        Then I look at continuity between each clip and identify any jerky or annoying cuts and re edit these so they appear softer and less irksome to viewers. At the same time, I will also try to balance the colour and hue of each clip with its bracketing neighbours.

·        Next, I spend some time going through each clips soundscape. If I am unhappy with the sound quality because of excessive wind noise etc, then I will lower that clips volume considerably; alternatively, I may get a sound clip of say gurgling water under a boat and insert that one instead. YouTube Creator studio has a very useful bank of free sound clips. If you have used an external microphone such as the Zoom H1 to record ambient noises whilst out boating, then you can use such recordings across a number of clips – see tips 22 and 23 in article 2 for further details.

·        Now comes the final, hardest bit of editing. What is clear to me over the years of analysing my YouTube viewing data is that people have short ‘viewer attention’ spans because they are busy people and many want just a short dose of boating or sailing pleasure! So, as one friend puts it, rather gruesomely I may add, ‘kill your babies’!  Get rid of those clips of video which you think are great but that in all honesty do little to tell the story! Its harsh but remember ‘less is more’. Cut everything away to only the bare essentials needed to be seen to tell the story. Aim for a 6 mins max length video if it is going up on YouTube and you want it viewed by others. Keep the best clips only, the most important ones to the story.  Be ruthless. Any talking pieces to camera, keep them short. Ditch the long monologues, however interesting and important to you, they are often less so to viewers. Alternatively, break the monologues up and have little clips of video and no commentary between them. Go through each clip and see if you can trim off a couple seconds more. You will be surprised how it builds up. One second trimmed off each of your 60 clips is a full minute lost! Placing any separately recorded audio across a number of these short video clips shortens the film (because you are not relying on the length of commentary in an individual video clip) so it looks and sounds better. 
If you follow this editing model I would strongly urge you to do your editing in short bursts over a number of days (tip 4). Rest your eyes and walk away frequently. It helps you stay focused, alert and able to spot things which irritate or annoy as you repeatedly play back what you have edited thus far.

When should you add music to your video? 
Well, firstly, remember that at the appropriate time silence can be golden, especially if only the ambient noises of the breeze, gurgling water and birds can be heard (tip 5). Pick music to resonate with your known audience and learn the skill of when or where to play it loudly or softly within your video in order to create atmosphere and mood. Alternatively, pick a music track which becomes your theme music and which plays across all your videos, thus triggering instant recognition and familiarity with your viewing audience. 
Make sure your music volume doesn’t mask the ambient sounds in the video. You don’t want to lose the flapping sail sounds, splashing water sounds or creaking of the boat because they give ‘atmosphere’. Check that any spoken commentary can be heard clearly over the music and always correctly copyright any music you have used in your rolling end credits.  
If you use moviemaker, remember that it doesn’t do multi sound tracks. Thus, you will need to a) save your finished video edits once with normal video sounds as a movie file and then b) open a new moviemaker file, add in your just saved movie and this time add the music track and resave as a new movie file. It is laborious but necessary as moviemaker does not allow you to add in multiple sound tracks simultaneously (tip 6). 
Finally, always save your final movie in the highest quality format 1080p for higher definition, even if you are just uploading it to YouTube.

So, what about setting up a YouTube channel of your own for your videos?
YouTube is a convenient way of storing your videos on line for easy access. In the settings you can decide whether to have your video private or publicly listed. If you are intent on setting up your own YouTube channel to allow others to see your videos (publicly listed) then select an appropriate channel name for your work (tip 7). Mine is ‘Arwen’s Meanderings’ (Plymouthwelshboy), the same as my blog title. You can try to think about what words people might use in a google search to find your site and use some of those words in your channel title, or at the very least in your video titles. So, for example, all my video titles start with ‘Dinghy cruising in a Welsford navigator’ followed by the rest of the title reflecting the video content .e.g. ‘Cruising the river Tamar’.  Thus my videos will show up in a search of ‘dinghy’, ‘dinghy cruising’ and ‘Welsford navigator’. Your video title is critical. It is this that will determine whether it shows up in peoples online searches! 
Always fill in the video description box (tip 8). The first three lines are crucial as this is what viewers see first without having to scroll down to see the rest. So, in these first three lines make sure you put your blog site address if you have one, followed by details about what the video is about. YouTube algorithms use the description box to decide if your video is relevant to what users search for.   
Tag boxes for each of your videos are just as critical. Tag words should relate to video content (tip 9). Don’t be tempted to add hundreds. Useless ones will lower your ranking in search engine optimisation. Basically, your video has less chance of turning up in peoples search lists! Think carefully about what your video content is about and what eight key words would sum it up. 
Stay consistent with your channel art (tip 10) by using images that identify, promote and link back to your boat and the purpose of your videos. Channel art is the photo or graphics you use at the top of your YouTube page. Your channel banner photograph is crucial. It should be eye catching and also give an immediate flavour of what your channel is about. Visit YouTube creator studio after you have set up your google and YouTube accounts for tutorial videos on how to sort your channel artwork. 
Alongside the channel art banner is the development of a logo watermark (tip 11) for insertion into your videos. ‘EyeintheHand’ ( )has a striking logo which when clicked upon often takes you to his blog site. I am still in the throes of learning how to create a watermark logo and have yet to add one to any of my videos. 
If you are adding a profile picture of yourself, which you can overlay on top of your channel banner photo, choose a profile picture that shows you off at your best angle (tip12). It took several tries for me! 

Insert social media links across your channel page banner to drive viewer numbers and your brand (e.g. link buttons to your Facebook, Blogger, Twitter account (tip 13). Again, YouTube creator studio has tutorial videos on how to do this simply and quickly.  
Many successful YouTubers create an ‘intro video’ of 60 secs or less to introduce their channel to non-subscribers and write a channel description to introduce themselves and what their channel is about (tip 14). It helps secure new subscribers because it allows you to give a brief summary of yourself, your channel content and your rationale for having one.
As you add more videos to your channel, create playlists (dividing your videos in to categories such as ‘reviews’, ‘vlogs’, ‘how to’ etc).  Viewers and subscribers can be encouraged to download your playlists through the use of ‘cards’ embedded in your video (tip 15) (and, yet again, YouTube Creator Studio has helpful videos explaining each of these things and how to do them). 
Publish and promote your videos regularly (tip 16). This is something I am striving to get right. I currently produce a new video approximately once a month during the summer sailing season and slightly less so during the winter months. This doesn’t really help drive up viewer numbers and subscribers to my channel because YouTube research shows that going weeks without posting a video results in the loss of subscribers. Subscribers appreciate loyalty and dedication from you, so try to upload your video at a regular fixed time during the month e.g. the last Friday of the month so that your subscribers can anticipate when the video will appear and set time aside for viewing it. 
If you create content and then just hope it will turn up in search engine lists, you’ll be waiting a long time for subscribers. Build your YouTube community and bring them to your channel (tip 17). Create ‘expectation’ of a new video upload in the week before by spreading the news of forthcoming vlogs and videos on your social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+). If you haven’t done so yet, join social media forums related to what you do and post actively on them. I am a member of several Facebook groups such as  ‘open boat’, ‘wooden boat’, ‘trailer sailors’, ‘John Welsford’ and ‘Duckworks’. It has helped build a sustainable subscriber base for my channel.

 If you have a blog, create a side bar using a widget to promote your video posts and/or a direct link button which blog subscribers can click on and which takes them directly to your YouTube site (tip 18). In your videos, have subscribe buttons (see YouTube Creator studio etc etc!). Even ask people directly in your video via a caption or you talking to them, to like your video and subscribe to your channel (although I confess this is something I find difficult to do). 
Always respond to comments from viewers; act on what they tell you (tip 19). They appreciate it because it shows you are listening to their views and advice. Do some homework by reading the comments on other peoples’ boat or sailing videos as well as your own. What are people liking, hating, loving? What questions do they ask? Such research gives insight about what to include in your later video efforts. 
A very successful caravan vlogger who built up 10,000 subscribers in only a few months once told me to be mindful of the first 15 secs of my video (tip 20). He suggested the first 5 secs should show something relevant, exciting, attention grabbing; and the next 10 seconds should introduce the film and the story line. In that way viewers would be hooked and would be prepared to invest their time in watching the rest of the film. Its good advice!
Finally, one last tip about your YouTube channel. Think about your thumbnail choice for each video you upload to it (tip 21). The thumbnail is the little picture that represents what your video is about. It is what attracts people to click on your video or not when it appears in front of them. Don’t take what YouTube offer you. Often these are blurry, unflattering or miss the whole point of your video message/story. I put a photo taken on the day of my voyage into photoshop or IPhoto and then play about with colour and fonts. I then upload this as the thumbnail. In this way I can chose an image which flatters me or which is relevant to my video content and which encapsulates what the storyline is about in that one single image. I have also produced a 10 second standard video clip introduction to all my videos, drone footage across the top of Smeaton’s Tower on Plymouth Hoe at dawn. It helps viewers instantly recognise my channel brand. 
In conclusion
This is the last in a series of three articles about how to film good quality videos of your boating and sailing adventures. 
In the first article, I focused on why you want to do boat or sailing videos, what your rationale might be and what videoing gear you might use. The second article focused on mounting cameras, obtaining imaginative video footage and recording quality sound and aerial footage. This last article has looked at editing and growing a YouTube channel. 
I hope you have enjoyed the articles and found them helpful. Good luck in your adventures; have creative fun in your videoing endeavours. Remember, not only will they be a great visual memory bank for you, but they will also serve as an inspiration and useful source of information to many others if you choose to share them on YouTube. After all, that is one of the great advantages of sites such as YouTube. I look forward to watching your video endeavours. If you have enjoyed these articles and would like to read more about Arwen and my adventures in her, you can subscribe to my blog at or watch more of our videos at .
I look forward to hearing your views, tips and constructive advice. If you have any follow up questions about these articles, drop me a comment via the blog.

Thursday 7 December 2017

Dinghy cruising: Creating sailing videos

So, you want to create sailing or boating videos?

Part two: getting interesting shots, creating a story line, recording good sound and using a drone.

In my last post, I discussed having a clear rationale for your videos, useful camera and what gear I carry on my John Welsford designed ‘Navigator’ called ‘Arwen’. Now I share tips on creating interesting camera angles, getting a simple story line and recording higher quality sound on an external microphone.

Let’s start by taking a look at How can you get the ‘interesting’ shot angles on board your boat using mounts and clamps?
Good YouTube videos have many ‘creative’ shot angles that grab the viewers’ attention peppered through them. These are the result of spending time thinking about a) where best to mount their action cams on their boat and b) drawing up a daily ‘shooting list’ as part of their routine passage planning for a trip. 
Give some thought to where you could position some sticky mounts on your boat to get those interesting perspective shots (tip 1). I use GoPro sticky mount pads fixed unobtrusively to Arwen’s bowsprit, mainsail top yard, sprit boom, mid hull position under rub rail and on the centreboard case top, to name a few locations. Such positions get ‘interesting’ perspective shots of me in the boat working the sails, the hull moving through the water, or the whole boat with raised full sails. They also provide some good positions from which to vlog (talk to camera directly) as they not only include me in the shot but also either part of the boat or a view out over the transom as well. 
If you dislike the idea of sticky mounts then try using SJCam strap mounts for securing cameras to mizzen and main masts. Easy to use, these give me overhead shots into the cockpit; great for filming me tacking, reefing sails, or frantically bailing out water! On one occasion they even caught shots of a porpoise alongside Arwen.
Photo 1: strap mount with tether and Gopro clip inserted. For more details about mounts I use on Arwen

Using clamps and mounts eliminates the need to hand hold the camera (tip 2) allowing you to keep both hands for the boat. One of my best clamps, a very strong bulldog clip affair with a long bendy neck, can be clamped to coamings and thwart edges and bent into whatever camera angle I require. Cheap wire tethers (tip 3) bought off the internet secure action cameras and clamps to convenient deck eyes, cleats or stanchion rails so that I don’t lose cameras overboard during any sudden violent pitching of the boat.
Photo 3: a range of selfie sticks 
Photo 2: bendy neck clamp. Note the insertion of 3mm neoprene tape within clamp to help muffle the sounds transmitted through the boat wood.
Love them or hate them, a waterproof extendable selfie stick with long safety tether to your wrist is perfect for those ‘bow or rudder slicing through water’ shots, for those overhead shots of you at the tiller and even shots from outside the boat that look back to you in your cockpit (tip 5).  YouTube viewer feedback told me that one of the most successful shots I did in Arwen was when I was upfront alongside the mast, allowing Arwen to sail herself. The selfie stick shot looking back at me and the entire length of a self-sailing small wooden yawl dinghy raised much subsequent discussion about sail trimming, the use of tiller tamers and the trim qualities of my boat! And yes, there was some discussion as well about the wisdom or otherwise of leaving the tiller unmanned under full sail. 
Remember, the wider variety of shot angles you have, taken from a variety of height and side perspectives, the visually better and more interesting your final edited video will look (tip 6).  As a rule of thumb go for a mixture of close up, medium and wider shots of boat, objects and views.  
Finally, one useful gadget I always carry with me is a ‘SLOPES’. It allows me to angle a GoPro camera on different surfaces to get great ‘unusual’ perspective shots; particularly useful when shore side.
Photo 4: SLOPES – a clever gizmo of lightweight plastic giving you a variety of angles on which to mount your GoPro
On the subject of getting interesting camera shots, don’t forget to use tripods to steady shots and take a suction clamp with you (tip 7). Mine doesn’t adhere well to Arwen’s surfaces but it’s great for attaching to the car to get shots of launches, retrievals, journey to launch site details or me vlogging inside the car at the start or end of a sailing trip.  Tie on a 3mm cord tether which attaches to roof rack or is held in place by your side window so you don’t lose the camera if the clamp un-attaches (I learnt the hard way!)

How do you plan a story line and ensure you get the right video shots to bring it to life? 
How much depth of planning you do for a story line is an individual choice. The simple approach (tip 8) is to just jump on board, have fun shooting random footage during the day and then edit it into a short video showing the day’s highlights to share with friends. Frequently, I have just gone off with no particular plan in mind, shot everything and edited as a short video diary of the day. Spontaneous, the sheer joy and simplicity of the day comes across to the viewer. No longer than 3 or 4 minutes maximum in length and packed with various shots (see later tips on shooting and editing), short, well filmed video clips help build your audience viewing figures and often generate discussion and comment from viewers. I’ve received many a ‘better sail setting’ tip from my YouTube viewers watching a shorter video such as this one 
The alternative approach is to do some pre-planning (tip 9) to develop a storyline and a list of the key shots needed for a video. I always start by identifying the purpose of the video. Is it a location share, a ‘how-to’, a ‘video diary’, a vlog about an aspect of sailing, or a ‘get out there and do’ video to inspire others?  My first article reflected more on the rationale for your video(s).  
I keep a list of possible storylines on my mobile phone. When inspiration strikes, I immediately note it. A few ‘list ideas’ can be seen in Figure 1
Figure 1: ideas for future videos 
·        How to get the crease out of my main sail
·        The contents of a good sailboat toolkit
·        Building a galley box
·        Designing a boat tent from a tarp
·        Using an anchor buddy for beach stops
        Drying out on the mud for an overnight camp
·        Coastal sailing around Start Point tidal race
·        Reefing my standing lug yawl
·        Using a redesigned floaty action cam platform

My most viewed YouTube videos have a well thought out plan or a storyline to them.  I think about the story alongside my normal passage planning work (tip 10), trying to anticipate what the day will bring and simple story lines that might emerge. A good story has a beginning, a middle and an end; or a before, during and after and I use these simple ‘plot’ divisions to think about what footage I need in order to tell the story. For example, I may introduce a day’s storyline through shots of the launch trolley emerging from the water; or the hands freeing the mooring warp at the pontoon; or frying the bacon for the breakfast bacon butty with steaming mug of tea in hand. Maybe, some shots from within the car on the way to the launch ramp will do e.g. reflection of my eyes in rear view mirror; filming what is in drivers wing mirror; a quick shot of passing road signs or a brief vlog to camera introducing the plans for the day.   I then draw up a ‘shots’ list of footage (tip 11) to avoid the frustration of returning from a good day boating without some of the main video I needed for a good story line.  Planning storyline alongside passage planning also allows me to know when the weather fronts might be arriving or when there might be tidal races off headlands, so I can have cameras in place pointing in the right direction before the event happens. Such footage can add drama to a video, especially if it is followed by some bow shots punching through a few waves! Anticipation and walking the day in my head I find is a crucial part of getting the good video footage for those videos longer than 4 minutes. Crucially though, don’t make story planning onerous; I never spend more than around 20 minutes on it.  If you have time, do it in conjunction with perusing Google Earth (tip 12) for some stunning location footage opportunities and at the same time think about where the sun will be during the day. Try to avoid shooting in to the sun as it can cause overexposure and dark shadows in video shots.
Some successful YouTube videographers argue that in your first few videos stick to the same recipe (tip 13).  In your introduction show who you are and what you are after in your ‘story’, how you are going to get there, what gear you are getting ready. In the middle bit tell the bulk of your story but insert a ‘climax’ moment (I’d advise not the ‘when Harry met Sally’ kind, but please don’t think I’m boring, I’m just thinking of the possible trauma on your viewers or relatives); it’s the ‘aah’ moment that elicits some emotion from the viewer. Interweave it with showing the unexpected, the hard to get to places, the spontaneous stuff. The final part of the story, the ending, explains the change that has occurred as a result of that ‘aah’ moment, the ‘victory’! 
If you ever lack inspiration for a video, watch the ones that inspire you and try and note down what it is they do that inspires you so much. (tip14). 
After all the effort of planning a story line and shooting list, it would be tragic to go out and then shoot some poor-quality footage. So, how can you ensure the footage you shoot will be good quality and interesting to watch? 
At my level, a beginner, I am less interested in frame rates or video speeds and more interested in just getting the ‘right’ kind of shots that will be good to view. So, I try to follow some basic rules when shooting video to making my post shoot editing easier and more successful. For example, (tip 15) for each story segment I try to get wide scene setting shoots, medium close ups of things such as sails, sheets, boat interior and close up shots of details, the compass bearing, hand on a tiller, a water bottle rolling along a thwart. 
I have grids set on all my camera screens (tip 16) so that I can apply the simple principles of thirds, having key objects at intersection points of the lines (see YouTube for some good simple video tutorials about using rule of thirds in photography and videography) to give my footage a more professional cinematography feel to it. 
Always, start videoing 5 secs before your main action and then 5 seconds after it has finished (tip 17). It helps give you options when editing later. 
Never wave the camera around and avoid zooming where possible. It usually looks wrong (watch TV and you will see how infrequently they use a zoom shot).  Pan only occasionally, to establish a scene, to film people on the move or to get close up movement of an object (tip 18). A good pan of a great panoramic view is always acceptable. Whenever you pan, always use a steady tripod and pan in one direction only. If videoing something moving, resist the urge to follow it and allow the moving object to run into shot and then out of shot. Continue videoing for several seconds after it has left shot. Where possible, anticipate the arrival of the moving object, videoing the empty scene for several seconds before the object arrives. This extra ‘before and after’ footage allows more creative freedom during the editing process. Panning is good for revealing something interesting, a landmark or a passing boat and remember you can pan up and down as well. 
Some other tips are shared in figure 2
Figure 2: some other tips for taking good video footage
·        Video at 60 frames per second or higher to allow slo-mo editing of spray over the bow
·        If walking and using a GoPro or action cam – stick it on a selfie stick – helps smooth shakiness out
·        Don’t move camera unless you absolutely have to
·        Try to have something in a shot for viewers to focus on
·        If videoing people, focus on the eyes and get close up
·        Check lens before every shot and wipe it clean – one water droplet can ruin a shot!
·        Resist the urge to just leave a camera running – an editing nightmare!

What other footage should you take on the day?
Always get some ‘lead the scene’ or ‘transition’ shots (tip 19). These are shots that move from something related to the main subject you are about to shoot to the actual main subject itself e.g. from a bow wave, pan through the turbulent water to focus on the dolphin swimming alongside; go from the mast top wind indicator down the sail to finish with a look to the horizon and the approaching weather front. Transitional shots add a professional feel to videos and reduce abrupt subject changes which can interrupt the flow of the video for a viewer. Be creative with your transition footage e.g. shoot the yard or sail lowering into the boat from the yard or sail top itself as the lead into arriving alongside a pontoon. Part of the fun for me is finding those creative video shots, from an unusual perspective, that weave the story elements together. 
Point of view shots (POV), using Gopro cameras on head and chest straps, to capture what hands are doing (such as weighing anchor, controlling tiller and mainsheet or bailing out the cockpit) help drawer viewers into the action and your story (tip 20).  But be careful, many a time I have failed to position the camera so that I have missed out my hands or cropped off the anchor as it splashes down. A good rule of thumb is to stand straight and tilt a headcam so that it is pointing at the thighs of a person in front of you of similar size; and then have settings on the action cam at wide or superwide view. In this way, you should catch lower and upper vertical segments of action. 
Many boaters forget this next point at their peril and when they get to editing discover it’s too late. Make sure on the day you get B roll footage (tip 21).  This is the additional footage outside of your main story shots e.g.  the rudder and its wake; wind indicators flapping; the compass bearing; a flapping sail; the wheeling seabird overhead. Don’t forget little things like the harbour bollard you tied up to or the signs you past. B footage is the ordinary moments between exciting ones. It helps create good story in video by putting significant events into a context that makes them stand out more dramatically.  Some call this footage ‘cutaways’. They are 2 or 3 second clips of finer details that break up longer sequences. Remember the shooting rules when filming B roll, video for several seconds more than you need to give you editing ‘wiggle room’. Remember it is B footage that helps break up those boring 20-minute clips of you sailing the same direction with the same unchanging horizon and view. It may have been exciting for you but it can be a big yawn for your potential viewers! 
Take the opportunity to do some time-lapse videoing (tip 21). I converted an egg timer for time lapse panoramic shots by sticking a GoPro mount on it and carefully drilling a hole in the base so that it could thread onto a small Joby Gorilla tripod. Most action cameras have a time-lapse function that you can use for photos and the final edited time-lapse can look stunning and is a great way of portraying the passage of time in your story e.g. the passing clouds, the setting of the sun; the boat at anchor settling onto the mud as the tide retreats.
Photo 5: an IKEA egg timer converted to a panoramic time lapse tool 
Photo 6: The handy Z1 microphone with lapel mic and windsock muff
Finally, not all video is planned, is it? If you see something cool or extraordinary, just shoot it. The moment you were surrounded by porpoise, or that sunfish popping up alongside you drifted along may never happen again. Drop everything, forget the shot list and get the shot of the extraordinary, remembering, of course, to stay safely in control of your boat at the same time!

So, what about improving sound quality in your videos?
My experiences suggest that people will forgive slightly dodgy video footage but rarely forgive poor quality sound. You can produce videos with just the ambient sounds recorded on your camera overlaid with captions and background music added during editing. Many of my videos are like this and have amassed good viewing figures on YouTube.  However, I cannot begin to describe the frustration of finding wind noise on video clips which drowns out everything else. So, for this reason more than most I would recommend that would-be vloggers, in particular, invest in a separate microphone (tip 22). If you have a camera with an external shoe fitting, and you can afford it, invest in a RODE extension shotgun mic. 
If like me, your camera doesn’t have this facility, then try the Zoom H1 and lapel mic which always records good audio. Mounted on a small Joby Gorilla tripod or kept in a plastic freezer zip lock bag in my pocket, it allows me to record the commentary or ambient sounds separately to the video, a great advantage when it comes to editing. I can then run the recorded commentary or sound track across several clips of different video, making the finished video instantly more pleasurable to view as a result, and far shorter in length too! 
Always stop and take time to listen to your surroundings onboard (tip 23). That creak of wood, flap of halyards against mast or gurgle of water racing under the hull are valuable clips when it comes to editing because you can overlay them against video sequences, immediately improving the ambiance of your clip. 
Don’t forget to record yourself being self-reflective. Interview others and get their views and stories.  Record your tears and tribulations as well as the fun times like falling in, laughing over spilt drinks or being covered in spray. Record the seasickness, the frantic sounds of bailing pump. It all helps build the soundscape in your video.

What about filming with drones? 
I fly a Xiro Xplorer Mini (and have just upgraded to a DJI Spark) on occasions around Arwen, normally when she is anchored a little offshore and I’m on the beach! It adds a great aerial perspective to my footage and is great for location setting. There are many YouTube tutorials online about using drones from boats and frankly I am still a novice at it.  
There are a few things to remember when using drones around boats. Firstly, follow the safe drone flying rules for your country (if sailing abroad, know the drone laws for your destination – tip 24).  Secondly, if your drone uses a GPS ‘return to home’ function, remember, you are on a moving boat and so your ‘return to home’ destination could be well astern of where you originally launched the drone. Don’t land it by accident in the water (tip 25)! Obviously watch out for mast, lazy jacks, sails flapping as you approach to land on the boat, drones have a tendency to drift when you least want them to! If capturing it by hand, don’t lean out to snatch it from the air or both of you will go for a swim! 
Go high with the drone but not too high. Altitude brings more details in to view but too high and you lose the detail of movement below. Where possible, stay at 30m max. Drone footage is best during golden hour, those hours just before sunrise and sunset when the angle of the sun produces shadows and texture and the sky gains those lovely hues (tip 26).  Small drones such as the DJI Spark operate best in light winds. They are more stable and battery life is longer. If you need to film in stronger winds, a larger drone with a 3-way gimbal such as the DJI Mavic may well be a better bet for you but the bigger you go, the more storage space they need on board. 
Photo 7: The DJI Spark drone and accessories

Practice, practice, practice in the middle of the countryside before you approach any coastline. Know all the functions of your drone and how to control it. You don’t want to panic and see it ditch suddenly out to sea!  Store batteries in a LiPo fireproof bag, wrapping each battery in a plastic bag before putting them in the bag as this prevents contacts shorting with each other and stops moisture ingress. Carry extra props, gimbal covers and a powerbank for charging on the drone and/or your mobile phone and remote controller on the go. Carry spare SD cards for both cameras and your drone. Go for a high-quality card such as Sans Extreme or Samsung EVO class 10 90mbs. 
In the third and final post of the series I will explore some tips on editing and growing your YouTube channel. In the meantime, below are some web links related to aspects of this article.

Videos good for atmosphere, shot variety, storytelling:  


Thursday 30 November 2017

Dinghy cruising: Creating sailing vlogs and videos

Vlogging, is the art of taking an audience on a story journey through video and thanks to YouTube there has been an explosion of sailing videos and vlogs over the last few years. Some, such as SV Delos and Vagabond, are huge sensations, earning their crews’ serious money and sponsorship via their Patreon funding websites. We all need occasional inspiration from watching others sailing exotic climes, whilst doing adventurous activities and meeting interesting local characters but not all vlog content needs to be exclusive, expensive, highly produced or celebrity driven. 

The YouTube videos of Creeksailor, Dylan Winter, Eyeinhand and Roger Barnes, for example, with their mix of home spun wisdom, reflection on life, small boat cruising tips and simply stunning sailing footage are equally pleasurable and as successful in their own way.  Slow flowing waters in muddy creeks with their slumbering seals and wading birds; reed lined river channels with traditional boat traffic; open coastal scenery with swirling tidal currents and diving birds; in all honesty, this is more naturally where my interests lie.  I am a dinghy cruiser, who has for several years been recording short video diaries and more recently vlogs of my cruises on board my self-built 14’ John Welsford designed standing lug yawl ‘Arwen’.
Arwen about to settle on a beach up the river Lynher

If you are thinking about filming your boating adventures, I would urge you to do so. Whilst steering, sail handling and trying to film content simultaneously isn’t always easy and on occasions can even get in the way of being present in the moment (the ‘here and now’ of the adventure), the benefits of videoing a voyage can be immense.  There is nothing better than a short visual diary of your recent adventures afloat to help while away those cold winter evenings until the new sailing season starts.

However, I would caution you at this point. If you are going to film your exploits, make it a rule now, that you strive to produce high quality video, not just the ‘point and shoot a few minutes’ variety of film. So much material on YouTube is of a poor quality that fails to give a good viewing experience.  The success of the afore mentioned small boat cruising videos shows that there is an appetite for simple, well-crafted boating adventures. A few basic skills, done well, can elevate the quality of a short video.   

In the next three blog posts, aimed at those new or just starting to video and vlog, I share some tips on topics ranging from choice of camera equipment, story planning and taking creative shots through to editing footage and setting up and growing a YouTube channel. Self-taught, I am not a videographer expert, but I start with a simple premise, use what equipment you have got to hand and aim for higher quality, better crafted videos that are simple and enjoyable and which allow your passion, skills and experiences to shine through. Remember YouTube can be a powerful force for education, insight, inspiration and change even at a modest level. Someone, somewhere, will appreciate your efforts because it will have inspired or encouraged them in their dreams and ventures. 

So, let’s get going by starting with an obvious question: why do you want to video your sailing/boating adventures?

Readers of a ‘certain age’ will remember the exciting undersea world of Jacque Cousteau and his adventurous voyages, sharing with us the tantalising glimpses of a hitherto unknown world beneath the waves. On board Calypso with his camera in hand, he left an indelible impression on this easily enthralled eight-year-old. I so wanted to be one of the cameramen filming the reefs.  I pleaded for some relative to knit me Cousteau’s familiar trademark red knitted hat, but alas, one never materialised and it wasn’t until I was in my forties that I got to swim over a coral reef with camera in hand. 
Fast forward 50 years or so and I still want to be an amateur cameraman filming my sailing adventures.  I’m no budding Spielberg or Dylan Winter, nor will I capture the glitz and glamour of the talented SV Delos team but after several years of creating 170 or so short sailing videos (of variable quality I confess), I have picked up a few ideas and tips on how to film in small boats. 
So here is Tip 1: start with a clear rationale for why you want to make videos
Aside of wanting to be the next Jacques Cousteau (oh how I wish…!) my real motivation for starting my ‘Arwen’s Meanderings’ blog and YouTube channel back in 2009 was threefold. Firstly, I wanted to create diary videos and blog content on my boat building and sailing adventure so siblings who were, at that time, scattered across the world could share in my ventures, travels and news. Second, was my desire for an online ‘visual memory bank’ for my future 80-year-old self; a reminder that I had followed my dreams by building a boat, learning to sail it and having micro adventures in it. Finally, if I could produce content that inspired others to do likewise and seek their own adventures on their own home waters, then that was a bonus.  YouTube, being free to use, was the obvious and easiest place to store and share such content. 
Right from the start, have your own clear rationale for why you want to video your sailing adventures because it will help shape what kind of videoing and story line planning you do. I’ve provided some guiding questions to prompt your thinking in figure 1. 
Figure 1: working out your rationale for videoing your adventures
·        What is it you want to achieve? 
·        Which aspects of sailing or boating are you most passionate about? 
·        What could you vlog/video about confidently? 
·        Where do you want this vlogging/videoing adventure to lead you?  
·        Who will be watching your videos and how big is the potential audience? 
·        What type of video/vlog content do you want to create?
o   Video diaries for yourself, family and friends? 
o   A ‘How-to’ series regarding sailing, boat maintenance and navigation? 
o   Videos to inspire others? 
o   Vlogs and videos as a money earning venture?
o   Videos about boating locations? 
Across my channel, you will find a cross-section of videos which I am slowly organising into play lists. Some focus on ‘How to’ e.g. build a galley box or use an anchor buddy. Some are about Arwen and her equipment e.g. what’s in your toolkit? What equipment do you carry on your sail boat? Many are simply about a day sailing adventure or a video diary of a three-day cruise to a local destination. Across most videos, I try to stay true to my original rationale – a dairy for my 80-year-old self to share with my siblings, parents and friends; which might inspire others to do similar things, but in a better way than me! 
Once you have given thought to your rationale for video creation, the next question is surely: What video equipment do you have/need?
I dinghy camp/cruise the waters of Plymouth Sound and her tributary rivers, occasionally venturing along the coast for camp cruising trips to Falmouth, Fowey, Salcombe and Dartmouth. I use equipment that I have built up over many years of mountaineering and travelling.
So, tip 2, don’t rush out and buy camera gear. Start by taking a look at what you have. Will it do what you want with some adaptation, imagination and flair? 
For small boat adventures I try to assemble equipment that fulfils some of the criteria in figure 2.
Figure 2: things I look for in my camera gear
Rugged and shockproof
Simple to use
Compact size
Waterproof and dustproof
Good rear screen size
Image stabilization
Wind noise reduction technology

Facilities for external mic attachment
Good auto focus
Strong build materials
Adaptability and multipurpose use

In-built wifi
1080p recording quality
Range of manual settings

This is all my camera gear used on Arwen, just not necessarily all at the same time 

I am sure other small boaters could add more to the list. YouTube and the wider internet are great sources of information about recommendations, reviews and personal preferences as to what camera gear sailors and travellers like to carry. 
I have personal preferences too.  On Arwen, I routinely carry a compact camera for photography and vlogging; and 4 small action cameras for videoing. On longer trips, a drone for aerial footage and a small range of accessories such as solar battery chargers are also taken along. 
My normal vlogging camera when land based is an old Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ40 compact point and shoot that has an array of intelligent functions, a x20 zoom and records 1080p AVI files.  In a waterproof pouch when on Arwen, it has stood the test of time. Yes, it lacks an external mic attachment (so wind noise can be excessive when out and about) or a flip up screen (so essential for framing that perfect selfie vlogging shot). No, it isn’t particularly shockproof either but it is simple to use, compact and lightweight. Current popular vlogging cameras in 2017 seem to be the Sony RX 100 and the Canon G7x. Remember, you can just use your humble mobile phone as well. Many today take good 1080p footage, allow the use of a lapel microphone with it and come with editing apps that can produce worthwhile, high quality short videos. Whatever camera you use as your main vlogging piece, tip 3 is use a tripod with it to improve stability and reduce video shake. I carry two, occasionally three tripods of different sizes, from mini and medium sized Joby gorillas to a lightweight 5’ collapsible aluminium one with extending top. 

I am a huge fan of action cams. Designed to be attached to helmet, car, surfboard, bike, boat, well practically anything frankly, most are small, tough, simple to operate and can catch some epic video footage. Their POV (point of view) footage is often valued by TV companies in situations where normal video cameras can’t be used.  I have always gone for the market leader GoPro, out of personal preference, who describe themselves as an “experience-sharing company”. My Hero 5 Black lives up to this expectation. Small, light, tough with both 1080p and 4K video, voice control, image stabilization, photo-burst and time-lapse photography, it’s waterproof to 30m and is my on the water ‘go to’ vlog and video camera. Video quality is excellent given its diminutive size and it is inconspicuous when vlogging in public. With an array of mounts, it is exceptionally versatile. Teamed with a chest harness, head strap, selfie stick or flexi clamp and you can practically video most action on board a boat. In-built WIFI controlled from a phone app allows you to mount and control it in difficult to access places such as bowsprit or on the top of an upper gaff yard. It comes with Quik app which simplifies downloading and editing. My niggles? The touchscreen interface is fiddly with cold hands and is often slow. Audio quality is not good in windy conditions and fitting an external mic immediately stops it being waterproof. 

However, today there are now some serious lower cost alternatives to Gopro on the action cam scene and they do just as good a job. If I was starting out now and budget was an issue, then I would take a serious look at some of these. After all, depending on what you want to do with it, do you really need all the bells and whistles like GPS, voice control, WIFI or even a rear screen? My first action cam was a Hero 2 which had none of these features and it is still in use now, giving me great footage at 1080p. if you are thinking of getting your first action cam I have added some useful tech review websites on action cams in figure 3. 
Figure 3: Technical review websites on action cams for 2017 

Tip 4, when using an action cam, for that fully immersive experience, get up close to the subject you are shooting; and if using it for vlogging, be around 30 - 40cms away from it. If standing and you want a selfie of yourself, aim the camera at your thighs area to get all of you and some background in the shot. Keep it steady; being small they move around and vibrate wildly. Time lapse set to 1 second after pressing the shutter allows you to move the camera around and change your facial expressions. Remember too, it is not a distance shot camera. Distant shots on a GoPro or action cam will have a slightly curved horizon. It uses a fish eye lens!
I also carry an old GoPro Hero 2 and two SJCam 4000’s. Cheaper options than a GoPro, they still film in 1080p, are waterproof and can use Gopro mounts. Here is tip 5. Having two or three action cams gives you a major advantage in filming on board your boat. Play the angles by combining shots from different positions to get a more interesting overview of the action on board. After editing, the subject event videoed from those ‘blended’ alternative angles and perspectives leads to more visually interesting story telling. Your viewers will thank you for it! At the cheaper end of the action cam spectrum, I use the SJCam’s in high risk situations on small floating platforms to get out of the boat shots of Arwen sailing by!
And talking of visually interesting videoing, my best move was getting a small selfie drone. Compact, with an array of extraordinary technical features, and controlled via remote controller and/or mobile phone, the DJI Spark has given me the ability to take some stunning aerial shots of Arwen moored or anchored in upper river creeks. If you already shoot videos and have action cams, then perhaps investing in a small drone is a good thing. It elevates your video footage, excuse the pun! Whilst I have yet to master landing the drone on the boat whilst sailing in open waters (something that will take some bottle on my part), shots of Arwen in a hidden anchorage have added visual interest to my videos and been appreciated by some of my viewers. 

If you want to find out more about the camera gear, mounts and drones I carry on Arwen, check out this video at
Some last tips (6) regarding equipment. Firstly, really get to grips with how your cameras work and what functions they can perform before using them onboard. Fiddling about and sailing at the same time is somewhat difficult and bound to lead to disaster! Secondly, carry lots of spare batteries and get into the habit of charging them at night and/or immediately after you come back from a trip. In that way they are ready to go next time. Finally, invest in some reputable 64 or 128 Gb class 10 90mbs memory cards (e.g. Sans Disk Extreme, Samsung EVO) and clear them at the end of every trip after editing so they are ready for the next adventure. 
In the next blog post I explore how to mount your camera on a boat to get creative shots of your sailing/boating activity; discuss how to create a story line with appropriate footage and focus on recording high quality audio for your films. 
The final blog in the series will look at some post production editing tips and thoughts on how to set up and grow your YouTube channel.  In the meantime, here are a favoured few of the many sailing channels I subscribe to. You will have your favourites too.
Two really big player vlogs: 
Favourite small boat vlogs:
Enrico Franconi:
For reflection on the importance of our oceans and waters:
My own channels: