Arwen's meanderings

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

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Pembrokeshire National Park

The family, well most of them, have been staying at a cottage in Pembrokeshire. Blessed by fine weather, our summer, come at Easter time, we have made the most of visiting beaches and castles.

A visit first off to Pembroke Castle for number one son who is in his second year of reading a medieval history degree

Then a stop off at Barafundle beach for ma and Pa

Stopping off at Solva
Me thinks some Guerrilla Geographers have been at work

and then the smallest city in the British Isles...the City of St David's with it's cathedral built on the site of the monastery first established by St David way back in 589 AD.
St David is of course, The Patron Saint of Wales

the Cathedral entrance guarded by these two former Bishops.....

what the photo doesn't show is how the arches actually lean outwards towards the edges of the photo
Nor does it show the steep floor angle rising up towards the alter and organ area

the roof of the main tower and below the roof above the shrine of St David

The shrine of St David. This is my second 'pilgrimage' to the shrine and so it is the equivalent of one pilgrimage to Rome as agreed by a Pope many, many centuries ago. As I have been to Rome several times, I'm hoping that the accumulated pilgrimages are now equivalent to one pilgrimage to Jerusalem

The wonderfully ornate iron gate entrance to the Bishop's Palace found next door to the Cathedral

The ruins of the once ornate Bishops Palace started way back in the early 1200's

And finally an early evening at Porthain below to admire the little harbour, the art galleries and, of course, the famous Sloop Inn

Guardian of the entrance to one of the art galleries at Porthgain

another blog update from Howard Rice

Monday, 10 April 2017

First sail of the year 2017 part 2

Part 2 of First sail of the year 2017 at

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Retirement learning curves and a video of a welsford navigator sailing!

I used to write, lots. Educational stuff, mainly for journals and it was generally well received - both the geographical and educational content. I didn’t earn anything but some journals had a high profile and it was the kudos of being academically published I guess. I just enjoyed doing it.

So, I’d like to try my hand at travel writing, not books, but small, odd articles, for a magazine or a Sunday supplement. I’m under no illusions that it will be hard and that I may be no good at all but if you don’t try, you don’t know and actually whether it gets published or not is frankly immaterial to me. The process of learning how to write, to self-critique, to search for a style, to create………that will be enjoyable enough. And you have to start somewhere!

 I want to start a new blog as well; to run alongside ‘Arwen’s Meanderings’ with direct links between the two. It will be a travel blog, its sole aim to encourage, support, inspire people to travel and meet others, to have micro-adventures. And I think we have an idea for launching it to. By ‘we’ I mean me! ‘Her indoors’ is less enamoured with this idea! ‘We’, are thinking of trying to do 14 holidays in one year around Europe for under £2500. It stems from an article we read a few weeks ago about a twenty-six-year-old who, working in a high-pressure job in London, felt he needed to maximise his downtime and so embarked on trying to do as many mini breaks as he could across Europe without taking time off!

  ‘We’ have rules for this engagement too although they change frequently at the moment. Each trip can only be 4 days long or less. On each trip, we have to pack in as much ‘free stuff to do’ and ‘cheap’ activities as our poor bodies can take. So far so good – ‘her indoors’ is onside. “No posh hotels – hostels, cheap Airbnb rooms whatever, but no ‘nice’ hotels! We have to step outside of our ‘travel comfort zone’ on occasions”. And there it was when I lost her! Don’t get me wrong, ‘Her indoors’ is a good, accomplished traveller in her own right; she’s slummed it and suffered travelling hardship and deprivation on many occasions. But I sense she is expecting something just a little more. When she retires, she’s wanting a little bit more than a hostel floor in the middle of a mosquito ridden swamp or a smelly drop pit toilet in the deserts of Namibia!

Although the blog will be for all age groups, our (my!) real target audience is our age, the fifty somethings. So, nightclubbing in Ibiza, cave tubing in Slovenia, grape picking in Italy, kite surfing in Sicily, a painting course in Paris, rowing down the Danube……..well it’s an idea! It needs refining!! A lot of refining according to ‘her indoors’.

I think I might take up vlogging as well. I have no idea why but I like editing films. Hopeless at it, never been trained, no idea what I’m doing! My YouTube channel attests to that! But I have young friends who are playwrights and script writers so I know where to go for tips and ideas and why should all the twenty somethings have vlogging to themselves?

 I want to create a channel with short videos of my micro-voyages and travel micro-adventures. More face to camera work, videos with a story to tell, a purpose. ‘How to’s’, ‘problems encountered and solved’ ‘tips’, if any, ‘suggestions and reviews ‘, ‘learn from my mistakes’ type features. I want the channel to inspire and encourage others to travel, build boats, sail, break out, pursue their dreams and ambitions, take up something new, explore; generate discussion, provide a little interlude in people’s busy, busy lives; I want it to promote my wonderful ocean city and be full of laughter, fun, warmth, humour and passion; passion for learning new things.

A tall order and I have no idea why I want to try it. I don’t even know that I have the skills or attributes to make it remotely work or of value to anyone but it’s worth a try. Nothing was ever achieved by doing nothing and if no one ever subscribes, I will still have been on a learning journey and that’s half the fun.

In the meantime, my Youtube learning curve remains exponentially vertical……today it was learning how to put in annotations. ‘Cards’ they call them and ‘subscribe’ links. I have no idea whether they work or not, whether people will like them or not. I guess it is one of those ‘suck it and see’ moments!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Retirement fears?

It looms before me and I am very excited in some ways and then not in others. Have we made the right decision? Are our financial calculations correct? Will we have enough money to do what we would like to do for ourselves, family and charity? How will we fill our time?

How will we fill our time?

It sounds silly. Having looked forward to this for so long it seems funny that this is now the question upper most on my mind. It gnaws away at me in the wee hours when I can’t sleep. I’m sure that those who have retired will say ‘don’t worry. Time will have a way of filling itself’.

Many of my retired friends say they are as busy now as they were when working only less stressed and in complete control of how they manage their days, evenings and weekends.

I have some thoughts. Silly thoughts I suspect, but hey sometimes silly thoughts have led to some interesting discoveries, journeys and stories to tell. Life is about living, learning, sharing, giving, loving, supporting, laughing and a whole host of other things besides. So, without much ado, here we go…………….my proposed time fillers

I think I would quite like to  

·        Spend much more time with Mum and Dad; see my sisters more often

·        Visit my brother in New Zealand

·        Bring my gorgeous wife a cup of coffee and breakfast in bed for the rest of her life AND have all the washing and housework done by the time she gets up; and, from now on, sort all the household and car insurance paper work and bills as well!!

·        Spend more time with my friends and be a better, more sociable friend than I have been in recent years

·        Do a learning how to sketch/draw class

·        A day skipper theory course ought to be a priority

·        Do an A level in history – my son has fired my passion for the subject

·        A father daughter trip – I’ve done a couple of father/son ones but daughter and I never seem to coordinate our time and I so want to do a trip or two with her

·        Volunteer for a local children’s sailing charity

·        Actually make it to a Dinghy Cruising Association rally for once

·        Join a pub quiz team

·        Be a film extra – ambition to have a walk by part in ‘Poldark’

·        Bring joy to my neighbours by landscaping and controlling our wild garden

·        In same vein, make their cups runneth over with joy by decorating the house

·        Run a half marathon for charity (HaHaHaHaHa – sorry, overcome with mirth at that thought, given I’m a short, fat, overweight welsh guy)

·        Go on a wood work course so I can make my own oars, turn square yards and booms into circular ones and actually do just one piece of high quality wood work, once in my life

·        Learn to sail properly, I mean really learn to sail; to be able to overnight anchor off beaches without suffering anxiety attacks and self-doubt; to be able to properly trim Arwen’s sails and actually understand what I’m doing with tack, downhaul, outhaul for different wind circumstances – basically to do justice to John Welsford’s wonderful boat design (I feel soooo guilty – sorry John); to be able to actually plot a coastal passage where I, for once, plot tidal drift, passage speed and ETA’s reasonably accurately!!

·        Master some basic sailing skills – sailing on and off moorings and anchor and alongside pontoons; and yes, leave the outboard motor at home A wise man did tell me a year or so ago, it would be the only way to learn to sail properly……get out there and just do it…’ve got oars and anchor if there is a problem. And I guess from September, there is no rush or urgency to be home at a certain time to get ready for school. No more excuses……ouch…….this one is going to be a steep and painful learning curve!!

·        Join the University of the Third Age

·        Find some volunteering work supporting the elderly in our community

How will I fill my time? Possibly this might not be as much of a problem as I fear!

Saturday, 1 April 2017


I am retiring at the end of this academic year. I can't believe it. After 34 years at the chalk face I am calling time. I have handed in my resignation and a week or so ago my replacement was appointed. A strange day in some ways.

I will have worked for the state for 34.5 years, a total of 72,930 hours.  21,000 hours will have been unpaid overtime which equates to 12 extra years -  so I will have worked 46 years in principle.
If I take into account the longer holidays than most of the work force,  then this reduces to an extra 6 years or so free overtime for the state. Since 1984 or so I have worked an average 55 - 60 hour week. Sometimes it has been 45 hpw. Sometime, 80 or so.

It has been a privilege and honour. I have worked with extraordinary teachers, parents and support staff. I have learned so much from thousands of amazing teenagers and colleagues. I had the truly amazing privilege of teaching my own children although I suspect neither of them would quite see it that way from their perspective!!

I've been able to lead school expeditions around the country and as far afield as Africa, do fieldwork in stunning places and train teachers across the nation, parts of Europe and as far as The Gambia.

And so from August a new chapter begins.

I struggle to imagine a life without young adults in it. They have made me laugh and cry; they've both aged me and kept me young; inspired me and left me proud and in awe of their achievements and creativity. For a while though, they will still be with me as I do some regular supply teaching and I am fortunate to have many living along the road in which I reside. And maybe I will volunteer for a local youth sailing charity for a while.

And then time for me and her indoors. Travel, more time with our parents and siblings and of course.......lots more time with Arwen!

I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

further updates from Howard Rice

You may well have been following the extraordinary adventures of small boat sailor Howard Rice who attempted to sail his Scamp 'Southern Cross' around the far south of South America. It was a bold adventure with some extraordinary seamanship.

Follow his updates here. Grab a coffee or tea and get a comfy chair. Set aside some time. It is quite a read.


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Rather Breezy

A short stroll along the Slapton coast to see the semi resident humpback whale which hopefully is taking up a residency over the forthcoming spring and summer. His/her speciality is 'breaches' which do seem rather spectacular when seen from the cliffs along Hallsands.

Recently our cetacean friend made national news by getting caught in one of the lobster pots off Beesands but all is well thanks to British Divers Marine Rescue Unit and the RNLI and some local fishing boats.

Of course, with the sun shining for the first time and spring in the air, we forgot to check the forecast. I know. I know!
Say nothing!!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Pumping out a John welsford navigator.........several times!!

Winter brings constant rain in our part of the world and that brings the need to constantly pump out poor old Arwen.
She sits on the sloping drive under her tarpaulins and the rain finds its way in whatever precautions her skipper takes!

As I have ruefully said many times before on this blog, I wish I had had the foresight to put the forward hatches not on the vertical baulk head of the front thwart, but on the actual thwart seat itself.  that will be this summer's project.

In the meantime, Pumping out Arwen continues to be a regular winter ritual!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

New Youtube channel

Apparently I have qualified for my own YouTube channel url. I'm not sure what I did but for what its worth you can find it at


Monday, 6 March 2017

further update on 'southern cross' and Howard Rice

seems new plans afoot.........

brilliant news and a testament to Howard's resilience, skill and experience

Sunday, 5 March 2017

GoPro Hero 5 Black action camera review

‘Forgive me Father, for I have sinned’.
Well sinned is a little strong, so let’s try succumbed. 

After resisting for several years, I have finally bought a new laptop (Dell XPS 13 13.3 inches) and a new GoPro Hero 5 Black action camera. I’ll review the laptop another time – it is a startling bit of kit, which we bought with an eye to the future. Lightweight, extremely powerful with huge processing speed, we intend doing lots of travelling eventually and this will fit the bill. From blogging to vlogging and from processing photographs to writing articles, skyping and managing our travel plans, this wee beastie will do it all…….fast!

Anyway back to the GoPro. I have been a long-time fan of these. I bought a Hero2 many, many years ago and it has done extraordinary service. I have a couple of cheaper SJCAM’s and these have bobbed up and down on my ‘from water filming platform’. They take regular dunking’s and have also stood up well.
However, with all three the ability to stick them way forward on the boat or up high on the yards or down a long footpath to get ‘walking or biking towards’ shots is difficult. One doesn’t have Wi-Fi; the other two connect intermittently with the mobile phone and so it is hit and miss.
But this new camera?
Well, frankly, it has been a revelation to me. Now I have only had it a couple of days and so I am still learning the tricks, hoovering up any scraps of information I can find on how to set it correctly and how to play with all the options but here is an initial summary of its features and my first impressions.  I will give a fuller report on it with more video when I have mastered the basics. Suffice to say, I am reviewing this camera from two viewpoints   a) using it on an open, slow day sailing boat and  b) as an action camera in my ‘travel kit’
So let’s get started.

Packaging and ‘what’s in the box?’
·         Normal GoPro Perspex box top and cardboard bottom.
·         Mounted on a black plastic plate with moulded mount. I save these. I haven’t found a use for them yet but I know there is a use out there somewhere. First thing to note – loving the new mount clip – gone are the hexagonal nuts, replaced with a flat nut – much better; as is the rubber insert in to the mount which locks the clip securely in place. Again much better than the old white plastic rubbery C clip thingy. 
·         Sadly, and of concern, the perplex box had a whacking big crack in it indicating some heavy impact somewhere – despite it being wrapped well in several layers of bubble wrap. I informed the seller on eBay and made it clear that if the camera malfunctions in any way I am putting it down to this impact and I am getting my refund.  I’ve sent photographs as well (so far it seems to be working on video and photo mode with no problem – touch wood)

·         In the box – the camera, the outer securing frame, one buckle mount, one curved adhesive mount, one flat surfaced adhesive mount, a USB cable

·         Comes with 4K video, at 30fps/1440ps80/1080p120/4k30
·         Waterproof to 10m
·         a 2 inch touchscreen which accesses the settings,
·         Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
·         voice activation
·         12 MP photo/30 fps burst; time lapse;
·         one button control
·         longer life battery
·         one button power up and immediate recording

·         USB C port
·         Two microphones – I think I read it may have three -  so stereo at least
·         Side located mode button
·         Location capture
·         Advanced wind noise reduction
·         Video stabilisation
·         Mic input
·         RAW and WDR photographs

The associated apps
GoPro have a whole host of apps for this camera and I am only getting to grips with these. There is the standard editing suite GoPro Studio, which I am familiar with and use occasionally although thus far all my videos have been done on basic windows moviemaker, which alas, Microsoft, in their infinity wisdom, have seen fit to discontinue support for…….a pity…..I was a fan of moviemaker. Maybe that was the problem….maybe I was the only fan of it worldwide!!

Back to the GoPro apps. I won’t review these here because I have barely got to grips with them but I did install Gopro Capture on my mobile smartphone. It linked instantly with  the camera and hey, it does exactly what it says in the blurb……..I can activate the camera, switch it off, see what views I have got, change settings, toggle between the different video and photograph modes and download the images and video to my phone. Awesome! Initially very impressed.
(It is so sad. Simple things impress me. Clearly I am soooo behind with technology but coming up 55 I never thought I’d be into video editing or using smart phone technology so hey, I’m happy in my little ‘luddite’ bubble!)

  • ·         Quik  - allows rapid cutting of quick movie from photos and video footage; and Splice apps  - offers more control over editing but is only for use with apple systems – I think - still getting to grips with them but seem easy to use. Apps give some simple project themes. Quik analyses video clips, finds the good stuff, allows further trimming, adds transitions, effects, and I think then sync’s to music chosen  - I’ll let you know further!
  • ·        Capture – see what I said above

First thoughts on switching it on in the house

·         Voice activated camera controls are fun
·         Impressive video and image quality at 1080/60
·         Easy to use GoPro Capture app for tethering to smartphone – really useful for framing shots and using from distance
·         Rubberized outer shell makes it grippier
·         Allows attachable filters for snorkelling and diving – useful
·         Can use exposure controls for photos (but I don’t have that expertise….yet!)
·         Ditto - The built-in spot metering
·         Electronic image stabilisation is very useful
·         Easy to understand menu system – based on swiping screen and touch
·         Can use both top and side buttons together to change settings using small front screen when under water etc. This will be useful
·         Can use up to 128mb SD micro cards  - much better than my old Hero 2
·         Being able to go to 5m at least in water without any bulky waterproof casing
·         Good sound quality indoors
·         Will wind noise affect my voice commands?
·         Plastic mounting frame – how strong is it?
·         Lack of protective waterproof case makes it feel fragile
·         Will touch screen work when covered in water droplets? (I think you may need to lock screen before going near water so it doesn’t keep altering)
·         EIS uses up battery juice rapidly; so does GPS, as I discovered within twenty minutes
·         Can’t do GPS overlays to show speed or elevation etc. as video overlays - irritating!
·         Recording lights are tiny and difficult to see so I suspect I will sometimes not realise whether I am recording or not
·         How will managing settings be using touchscreen if camera is attached to helmet? Guess that is where Capture app comes in
·         Doors are pretty stiff to open and took me a little time to work out
·         Scratching the back screen is a concern (so I have ordered two screen protectors)
·         Need to use the ‘bumper’ casing in order to use different mounts but then that is no different to having it in the old waterproof casing I guess
·         I just wish they would come with manuals but that is just my ‘luddite’ tendencies escaping again

It takes a time to get to grips with the swiping touch screen and it doesn’t always work but I think that is more my technique and it will become easier as I get more familiar with it. I like the rubberised exterior. Feels grippy, probably will protect it a little more against knocks. The touch screen is very clear, the commands appear clear in good sized font.  The EIS does, indeed, make the videos less bouncy. I’ve been surprised at how much smaller it is compared to my SJCAM’s and GoPro Hero 2. It is taking time to remember the voice commands!! And it does sound slightly daft talking to yourself out in public “GoPro, power down”, “GoPro, start video”!!

Talking of voice controls, as far as I can work out so far, these are

·         "GoPro, stop time lapse"
·         "GoPro, video mode"
·         "GoPro, photo mode"
·         "GoPro, time lapse mode"
·         "GoPro, burst mode"
·         "GoPro, turn off"
·         "GoPro, start recording"
·         "GoPro, highlight"
·         "GoPro, stop recording"
·         "GoPro, take a photo"
·         "GoPro, shoot burst"
·         "GoPro, start time lapse"

The voice commands are cool.
I tried them on the wife, “her-indoors take the rubbish out”; “Her-indoors, make the tea”.  The bruise on the back of my head is still throbbing. It was worth a try though!
Anyway, lots of homework to do now getting to grips with an extraordinary little piece of technology.
Favourable first impression – well done GoPro.
Please note: I do my reviews as an independent user. I have no sponsorship with any supplier. It is my own independent findings and thoughts 

Thursday, 2 March 2017

a further update on Howard

Wow. double wow and fantastic news he is safe. I admire Howard and his preparation, fortitude and bravery. Read more here


sad news

I am taking this news directly from this website

It would seem that Howard has sadly lost Southern Cross on the rocks. He is safe but had to be rescued by the Chilean Navy. clearly he faced an immense struggle and it is wonderful to see he is safe. I am sure he will share more via the Facebook forums when he is recovered


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Thursday, 16 February 2017

another blog update from Southern Cross

Howard is making good progress. Follow his extraordinary journey at

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

A dilemma

retirement is on the horizon, somewhere, a distant glimmer. And with it comes the hopes and aspirations of lots of travelling with 'her indoors' .
We intent crossing continents, reaching far flung destinations, going off grid and and off track. It is our kinda thing.
Then there is 'Stacey' our vintage motovespa. A few long trips are planned for her across the U.K. And how could I forget 'Arwen' my beloved boat, built by my own hands and many people I love....all her voyages to come as we camp cruise our way across southern England and tour other U.K. Coastlines and lakes.

Which raises a dilemma. I think I need to change my blog format to something more versatile. Something with headings and different page sections so that subscribers can link into the pages that suit them rather than suffer topics of no interest to them at all.

So do I change blog platforms? Do I stay with blogger but change to a more dynamic template? Do I download a new free blogger template? Will it risk losing all the current blog content? Do I stay with what I like, trust and know and just let readers decide whether to read it or not? Will my current subscribers get fed up of non sailing content?

It has never been about blog numbers....those who join me and Arwen on our voyages are most welcome and distance internet friendships and aquaitences have ensued which I deeply value. A sort of Internet family........

So the dilemma........any blog subscribers who have a view, do please comment. What you like, dislike about current blog format (rather than content for the moment), whether you can put up with more varied content in the future or would prefer it to be just about Arwen and our voyages; whether you would prefer a different format with headings to gain easier access to differing blog content.

As always,  constructive comment is greatly welcomed


Sunday, 12 February 2017

I've posted it before.....

...but I post it again. As John Welsford says on Facebook "a little taster" for all those in the northern hemisphere.........

Enjoy and may the spring be upon us all soon


Thursday, 9 February 2017

Howard Rice and Southern Cross update

if you are a regular reader you will know I am following the updates on this small boat expedition with great interest. Howard is sailing a Welsford Scamp around the southern horn.......adventure indeed. An update can be found at


Thursday, 2 February 2017

Howard Rice and Southern Cross

has posted an update. An almost tragedy has been turned into a feat of seamanship. Read more at


Sunday, 22 January 2017

It was going so well

Rarely use ebay so I have been very careful when selling 'Stacey' our MotoVespa to make sure the listing is as honest as possible, detailing what we have done to restore her and what her blemishes are. We included photos of damage, two video clips of her running. We tried to be as detailed as possible.

We had over 1000 page views and 40 people putting her on their 'watch list'. We felt we were asking a fair price but had also said we were open to reasonable offers.

So this morning, I took her for one last very short ride around the village to check all was still running smoothly......and her throttle on the handlebar broke! It turned right over itself so I couldn't shut throttle off. Came as hell of a shock! At a road junction too.

Cut long story short, the little lug inside the headlight casing is aluminium and part of the casting on an old scooter. This had suddenly fractured through old age allowing throttle handle to rotate over itself and so stretch the throttle cables. A real pain and very dangerous.

So I have ended the ebay listing. I am sure I will take flack on this one but it strikes me it was the right thing to do. I could have continued and reduced the price but then someone might have continued to drive her and then caused or had an accident. Although it would have been their choice to do so, I would have felt responsible. I have a friend who can weld a new piece in somehow, he thinks, even though it is aluminium.....he has an idea apparently......but that is a few weeks away as he is snowed under with other work.

We can wait. We can trailer 'stacey' up to hi in a month or so and she can get fixed and then we can start again. She has never broken once since we restored her a few years ago..........and now she does just as we try to sell her.

I wonder if she is trying to tell us something?

Saturday, 14 January 2017

A farewell to 'Stacey'

My son has decided to sell 'Stacey' our much loved 1969 motovespa 125 super. She doesn't get out much, I don't have the time. He is away at university and so never uses her and he wants money for a it is time to hand her on to someone who will get as much fun from her as we have had. She isn't a proper restoration. The toolbox is the wrong one for a start but we were naive restorers. The main thing is it was a good father son project with lots of memories.

Her is a clip of me visiting Tavistock a couple of years ago.

I guess it is time to post her on eBay and other suitable sites and we will try local scooter Facebook pages as well. It is hard but we all move on. God knows what I will be like if I ever had to sell Arwen!