A blog about sailing a John Welsford
'Navigator' yawl around Plymouth Sound
in South-west England
Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and I am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's Battery marina in the Barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England. Arwen has an associated YouTube channel so visit www.youTube.com/c/plymouthwelshboy to find our most recent cruises together.
I have just submitted my on-line application for retirement. My notice is handed in. My replacement has been appointed. There are eleven weeks and fifty five days left in my teaching career. No turning back now.
I am often
stumped or baffled by my inexperience when dinghy sailing. Take the ‘cruising
dinghy tool kit’, for example.
should be in Arwen’s tool kit?
I have tried
to anticipate what might be needed and since I have yet to have a major mishap
or equipment failure, touch wood, then my experience of what to take to sea
towards the overkill…….so here we go………
kit is divided into three – tools, spares and outboard kit. The safety kit is a
different issue which I touch on lightly here but may do in more detail in a
·A small clamp
·Various screwdrivers of various sizes
both Philips and flat head
·An adjustable small wrench; some grip
jaw pliers, some long nose pliers with cutter
·A hand drill and drill bits’ various
·Short length broom handle pole ……for
sticking through the centreboard case top – if centreboard jams……..and
yes…..with judicious use of the hammer…..it works……..and no don’t ask how I
know that…….you can guess!
·Electrical tape, duct tape and Velcro
·Hot sealing cutting knife
·Marine sealant tubes
·Epoxy putty that sets under water
·Wooden bungs various sizes and to add
– flat plywood patches various sizes
The ‘spares’ kit
·Assorted size blocks
·Spare cleats various sizes
·Deck loops and deck eye pads
·Snap hooks and shackles various sizes
·Various size screws, nuts, bolts
·Centreboard bolt; centreboard casing
·Spare rope halyards and control lines
various lengths and diameters
·Batteries assorted sizes for torches,
radio, GPS and nightlights etc.
·Spare anchor / mooring warps various
·Spare fenders various sizes
The outboard kit
·Shear and spilt pins
·Spark plug remover
And that is
it. Oh safety kit? Well for what it is worth here it is
The safety kit comprises of
·Floating grab bag containing spare
VHF radio and batteries, a fire-starting kit; bivvy bag, foil blankets, small
first aid kit, waterproof matches, spare snacks and some bottles of water,
signalling mirror (like I’m going to be ship wrecked on some deserted island
and never rescued!! – Dur!)
·Collapsible radar reflector
·Portable side navigation lights
·Airhorn for fog
·Spare hand held Silva compass
·Safety harness and safety lines
·Portable hand pump – a fixed hand
pump is next item for Arwen when I can save up the pennies
·Safety waterproof torch
·Sailing knife, swiss army knife
·Flares – handheld and floating cans
·Strobe light on PFD
·Power monkey expedition solar charger
·Optional – sometimes carried dinghy
inflatable buoyancy bags
·Spare five litres of outboard fuel
Overkill? Needs pruning?Forgotten
something vital? It is a wonder Arwen ever floats!!
know…….constructive advice always welcomed.
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
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!
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
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
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!
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
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
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
I think I would
quite like to
much more time with Mum and Dad; see my sisters more often
my brother in New Zealand
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!!
more time with my friends and be a better, more sociable friend than I have
been in recent years
a learning how to sketch/draw class
day skipper theory course ought to be a priority
an A level in history – my son has fired my passion for the subject
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
for a local children’s sailing charity
make it to a Dinghy Cruising Association rally for once
a pub quiz team
a film extra – ambition to have a walk by part in ‘Poldark’
joy to my neighbours by landscaping and controlling our wild garden
same vein, make their cups runneth over with joy by decorating the house
a half marathon for charity (HaHaHaHaHa – sorry, overcome with mirth at that
thought, given I’m a short, fat, overweight welsh guy)
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
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!!
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…..you’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!!
the University of the Third Age
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!
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!
A welshman displaced to wonderful Plymouth in SW England; a novice sailor and boat builder with a passion for all things to do with the sea. My learning curve is vertical....but hey that's what makes life interesting isn't it! So follow my journey as I learn to sail Arwen,grappling with charts, tide tables and passage planning so that I can become 'a dinghy cruiser'
And by the way, just occasionally, little snippets about 'Stacey' our beloved 1968 motovespa super 125 scooter may feature along with odd insights into our family travels< but these will be kept to a minimum, I promise!
subscribe at www.youtube.com/c/plymouthwelshboy
The 'Navigator' is a 14' 9" yawl with a beam of 5' 10". she weighs in at 309 lbs and has a sail area of 136 sqft. She has a standing lug sail. She has side, centre and front thwarts and space for six although she is an ideal single hander. there are a huge number of potential locker spaces. For more details about the design of navigators go to www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz/plans/navigator/index.htm