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

Wednesday 27 September 2017

building things....

I like building wooden things. I'm rubbish at measuring, can't cut a straight line even with table and band saw; things never quite seem to go as planned. I'm not Mr.  Bodge Job but sadly neither am I Mr Professional so it looks workmanlike.

It just never quite turns out as accurate as I planned. My poor dad and him an engineer too!

Anyway I have been cutting new sleeping boards as per Joel Bergen plans. The top sides have been cut; uprights just have to be measured and dry fitted but rain has stopped play, probably up until May next year!! I think we skipped autumn somewhere.

So, a side project - the galley box. Facebook followers will have seen my trials and tribulations on that social media site. Anyway, we are now at the building this space!

So, measure out components; check measurements twice; sit down have cuppa. Go back, check all measurements again; discover mistakes - have another cuppa. Go back make corrections - have a cuppa. Do one final check - discover original measurements were indeed right first time. Make alterations - have a cuppa. Check twice more and then finally make the cuts...........only to discover that your first assumption that you had made mistakes was indeed actually the correct observation and you shouldn't have re-corrected the corrections you made.

It is going to be a longggg October!

side tops for new sleeping platforms awaiting their bottoms so to speak

what's in my head.....isn't necessarily what is going to turn out in a few weeks time

CAD version (cardboard aided design) version 3
The left hand side will have a set of pull out draws

Even with precise measuring tools - well its me - there is no guarantee what  measure will actually be accurate..........happens every time.........measure turns out 19 instead.........its a gift..........I have no idea how it happens.......but I am sooooo talented at it.....!!
Measured inaccuracy.....its a real skill!

Friday 22 September 2017

Lessons learned, experiences gained...............

There can be a harmony and tranquillity to a gently rising tidal estuarine flow. In the Lynher the brown, muddy waters creep slowly across the shoreline and up through the creeks and gulley’s; inching their way across the sunbathed mudflats. The brown black ooze sparkles in the sun, iridescent light reflection patterns etched across its flats and depressions. The creeping tides progress is marked by a thin, sinuous, silvery white line of froth. Occasionally, clumps of brown bubbles, sculpted into a myriad of geometric designs snake and swirl across the eddies, the result of fertiliser run off from the surrounding hills. 

Dead leaves surf the very leading edges of this creeping tide, having their last hurrah before decomposing back into life nurturing nutrients; their photosynthesising activity for the mighty shoreline oaks, is done. It is a sure sign that autumn is on its way.

Across the mirror glass watery surface, the odd twig and small branch stick a spidery limb skywards as they float on their last journey, to be eventually washed up on some beach or rocky shoreline. With any luck, they will be retrieved by a beachcomber and dried out and given new life again; as a beachcombing artwork, bought from a local harbour gallery or souvenir shop, thereby gaining a new life in someone’s home. A treasured memory of a good holiday, a pleasant and happy time along a Devon or Cornish coastline.

The natural beauty of the Lynher was deeply welcomed after the industrial busyness of the Tamar.

The haul up the Tamar was a long slog into stiff northerly breezes. Multiple tacks across the channel, confined in places as we past the dockyard; the Police boats quick to edge closer if they thought we had ventured too close to the eastern shore. Progress was slow and on the odd occasion the motor was used to ease us past a tricky spot. Arwen was not designed for rowing and even with the favourable incoming spring tide, rowing into the wind would have been exhausting, if not nearly impossible.

To purists, using the motor is a travesty; the cause of poor sailing skills development; a destroyer of peace and quiet; a foul polluter. And, yes to an extent I agree. After all I am the man who shuns the use of a GPS when mountain walking. I prefer the old ways, the honed craft of simultaneously using map and compass. Shunned too are SATNAV’s in cars……destroyer of basic map and atlas skills. On these fronts, I am clearly a luddite! On the other hand, her indoors is a pragmatist. An outstanding navigator using maps, she knows when to resort to SATNAV, and does so. So it is, that I am the same with the outboard. I’m relaxed about resorting to its use on occasions. I am out to enjoy the journey whether it be by sail, oar or motor and on this particular day, I practically had the water to myself, so I was of little intrusion into others enjoyment.

Progress up the Lynher, via Anthony Passage was easier. The steady breeze, now beam-on, allowed a good reach under jib and mizzen and the incoming tide helped. Arwen ghosted along, the sound of small wavelets slapping her bow; the faint outboard engine sounds from ribs depositing navy recruits aboard their permanently moored training ship fading with increasing distance upriver from Jupiter Point.

Past Forder Creek with its old medieval mills, quarries, limekilns and quaysides. Once upon a time, a hive of industrial activity, flour milling, fulling, market gardening and lime burning, the mill still stands; the area now a conservation area. Formerly of the Trematon manor granted to Sir Nigel Loring by the Black Prince himself in 1373, medieval tenants would have brought their grain to be milled and ground to flour. How much of it they would keep for themselves – I know not. In a later century, the quaysides became dung docks. The night soil and street sweepings from the new Devonport dock in the 1820’s bought across and deposited on quaysides; a prize much valued by the Tamar Valley farmers for its rich organic matter.

That is the thing about the Tamar Valley and its tributaries. They are alive with history. It is a world UNESCO heritage site for its former industrial archaeology; rightly so. Scattered across the far recesses of tributaries that join the Lynher, the old crumbling remains of decaying quaysides lie forlorn; once thriving, now difficult to access due to the centuries of mud that have deposited between them and the tributary channels. Left now as roosting places for birds. Their Tamar slate rocks are now lichen covered and blackened above the water line; and weed fringed below. Grassy and brambles adorn their flattened surfaces; their access tracks overgrown and forgotten.

We were entering the world of tidal, reed fringed marshes and lagoons, tiny creeks and vast, treacherously shallow inlets. I kept a sharp eye on the chart and searched frequently for the red and green buoys that marked the meandering channel up towards the deep-water anchorage of dandy hole.  Occasionally a dull thud reverberated from Arwen’s bilges as centreboard hit sandbank and raised itself, straining against the elastic downhaul holding it in place. A good, yet primitive depth sounder.

Herons and egrets raised their heads; their intense scrutiny of shallow waters momentarily broken by our brief passing. Cormorants, basking in the sun on buoys, bobbed up and down, stretching and contracting their necks and wings, trying to decide whether this interloping boat was friend or foe; should they fly or stay put? They didn’t quite have the courage of two small terns I met earlier. They choose to stay and  ‘fight’.  I’d selected their mooring can at the Lynher. Big mistake on my part. Respect the natural world or it will bite you back when you least expect it. The terns, busy preening and chatting to each other when I arrived, were exceedingly disgruntled about having to give up their yellow, flat topped can. So indignant, they actually refused to move when I tried to thread a mooring painter through the metal loop. I physically pushed them off; they wheeled away upwards and spent a few minutes circling Arwen, their shrill calls making their feelings very plain. I did, with fairness,  feel very guilty for several minutes after.

Our gently sedate progress up river was rudely and abruptly ended as we rounded Dandy Hole and past Redshanks Beach. The mile-long stretch of straight, narrow channel between steep wooded slopes ahead was a seething mass of angry, white topped wavelets, foam and spray. Of course it would be. Poor pilotage on my part. Wind against tide channelled down a narrow passage; didn’t see that one coming. Should have though! Under sail we did try tacking, but centreboard grounded several times and it was clear we were ahead of sufficient tidal depth at this point.  Upriver, an 18’ or so, old wooden motor cruiser gingerly made its way up the channel, its skipper crossing the channel from side to side, clearly following the depths on a depth counter of some form. His progress slow, planned, considered. Under motor, Arwen couldn’t go that slow. The current surged her forward, the wind held her firm. At low revs, she floundered and her bow was pushed off course, back downstream. At some point I knew we would catch up the little cruiser ahead and overtake her. The skill would be to pick the appropriate safe point to do so.

The problem with using a Tohatsu 3.5 hp is that it has an integral 1.5 litre tank; that and the fact that it is very difficult to judge when it is about to run out of fuel and require a top up. Suffice to say, it was a hairy minute or two hanging off the transom balancing a funnel and fuel bottle trying to top up the tank without spilling a drop into the water, mid channel, in a stiff breeze, going broadside, back down the river. We did manage it but it was hairy! I guess sailing is as much about lessons learned and experience gained as it is about enjoying the scenery and being out on the water. Several lessons and much experience was being ‘gained’ on this trip; not least of which was better pilotage and passage planning skills for the future!

As we regained composure and gently surged ahead on sufficient revs to overcome the wind but not spoil the serenity of the scenery, the wooden cruiser dropped alongside.

“Hello, do you know the passage up to St German’s? Can we follow you in?” 

“Sorry, I’m not familiar with it either, but the channel there with its pole markers leads up to the Treluggan yard; the channel up the Tiddy, meanders over to the left; watch for the mudflats on the starboard, they are very shallow and extend out some way; what do you draw?”

I crept forward, eyes flickering from chart to markers; from features on shorelines to transits. Drawing no more than 3’ I wasn’t unduly worried. The tide still had two hours to go; I’d strand myself and float off. I’d rather avoid the boat behind stranding as well due to my ignorance and inability to read chart depths.  Pressure on!!

 I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it was with relief that I tied alongside the little floating pontoon outside the sailing club. There was greater relief to watch the lovely little motor boat edge past me, safe and sound too. I suspect more down to her skipper’s exceptional boat handling and pilotage skills than my ‘pathfinding’! Phew!

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Taking advantage of the weather window - part one

part two to follow. 

Dinghy cruising on a welsford navigator: 'our arrival'!

Our arrival was noticed. It was noticed by the wading birds on the edge of mudflats; the herons motionless and poised to strike, their gaze intense and focused on the shallow pools and runnels that slowly filled with the trickling advancing tide.

The high pitched, shrill, screech of the buzzard announced our arrival as it ghosted through the viaduct arch on its way south; hugging the mudflat marshland on the east bank, it’s wings gently whooshing as it past a few feet overhead; its call a ‘wake up’ to both man and beast.

Arwen’s arrival at St Germans was noticed by the small throng of people gathered at the quayside to admire the view. The welcome, genuinely warm. “How far have you come?” “What a pretty boat, what is she?” “You are planning to camp onboard, excellent, what an adventure”. “Where are you planning on mooring?” “Are you adventuring further up the Tiddy; you should be able to make it up to Tideford….but really hug that first outer bend”.

Advice was proffered about appropriate places to beach but I already had my spot in mind. Wanting to vacate the pontoon quickly for the stunningly beautiful little wooden motor cruiser that had followed me up the last section from the bend in the Lynher where it goes up to the Treluggan yard, I briefly answered questions, made my apologies and dashed across the grassed quayside to the slipway.

Ah, just sufficient tide, but not as much beach as I’d hoped for. A string of small trots lay across the beach and they would impede access. Further north the oak trees had grown down to the water’s edge, a further impediment to landing. But, there was just enough mud/shillet on the north side of the slip for me to slip in and ground Arwen for the night.  

Dashing back across the quay, dodging the boats, ignoring the pretty waterside cottages and their immaculate window boxes, I was well aware that the little motor cruiser was having difficulty manoeuvring. With barely any room or depth of water where boats were moored, her skilfully skipper and crew had picked up a mooring on their second attempt in a gap infinitely smaller than the boat itself.  My shouted intentions to vacate the pontoon and take to the beach were greeted with welcoming, if not relieved, smiles. It had been a display of boat handling and seamanship of a very high order.

Arwen glided to a halt. Her nose gently pushed down in to the soft mud alongside the slipway. Held by her stern anchor, dropped into the channel as I had approached and her bow painter, she slowly moved side to side. I was pleased with the stern anchor location. I’d managed to drop it in enough depth of water to make pulling off next morning easy; yet it was out of the way not interfering with channel, slipway or neighbouring trots and moorings. I’d like to claim it was skill but in truth, more likely down to luck.

As I mused about the intricacies of securing the bow warp ashore in such a way that I could easily retrieve it in the morning, in the dark, whilst afloat, I tripped over the very solution I required. A small metal eye loop buried in the beach. Perfect. A long warp looped through the eye with both ends secured back on Arwen. It could be pulled free easily in the morning.

As I tidied Arwen up after a day’s sail, sponged her out and kept a wary eye on the incoming tide and how far it crept up the shoreline, more people arrived to have a chat, admire Arwen and provide helpful suggestions on how to keep her from drifting up onto the slipway alongside. A few commiserated that the sailing club bar, at the opposite end of the quay, was only opened Wednesday to Saturday nights.
”If only you had arrived Wednesday……..we could have chatted about your boat and the building process…..would love to know how you did it……..”.

“What a marvellous adventure, now that is real sailing, camping under a tarpaulin, splendid”.

“You’ll be fine there overnight, soft mud, not too deep; stick some fenders out so you don’t knock the slipway during the night. You can always loop a rope around the neighbouring trot line to pull yourself slightly clear of the slip edge”.

The viaduct bathed in the warm glow of a setting sun; the birds called; the harsh northerly wind was absent. No noise, no distant rumble of traffic. Peace, serenity, calm; punctuated by the odd rumbling train high in the sky. Ah, the GWR! The Great Western Railway, running from Paddington to Penzance. I’m from a GWR family, father and Grandfather. It seemed so appropriate, to camp onboard under the arches carrying the railway that previous family generations had been so proud to serve. Now if only a few ‘Castle class’ steam engines rumbled across. What a sight that would be to behold from below.

The skipper of the lovely little motor cruiser was called 'Trevor'. He writes articles for PBO (Practical Boat Owner), a popular monthly periodical here in the UK. He has been doing a tour of the British coastline, exploring its rivers, estuaries and ports, heading westwards in his journey; and I think, if I have this right, leaving his boat at different marinas during intervening times when he is not voyaging. He recognised Arwen from her YouTube channel and the very night before had been looking at one of our videos taken last time we voyaged up the Lynher together. 
Our first recognition of YouTube fame!! Go figure. 

Thursday 14 September 2017

wood vice and mock up's of galley boxes

busy morning.....wood vice refitted; galley box for boat mocked up. It will hold leak proof fuel bottle in separate compartment; crockery and utensils; cleaning materials and food. The Trangia will store in its own compartment. The front will lift out to give access to crockery and stove. The lid will fit over the top of the box and when lifted off will form a tray on which to cook. It will have a thin aluminium sheet lining for heat resistance. The galley box will sit forward of the centre thwart on the port side of Arwen's centreboard and be held in by straps. Well that's the theory.....hence the mock up to see how it fits together.

In the meantime, researching whale gusher urchin bulkhead bilge pumps - ones with removable handles. Think I will also fit one of these in Arwen but its finding where is best. I guess ideally it would be in front half of cockpit but placing it somewhere accessible to me when I am helming on either side; and there in lies the problem......precisely where does it go?

The box mock up 

It should hold all cooking gear and food for a two day trip 

There will be a separate fuel compartment in a sealed bottle although I am still thinking about that. Never mix fuel and food seems to be a sensible maxim borne out by experience!

The new wood vice 

Wednesday 13 September 2017

Agreeing a caravan etiquette to avoid divorce

1.      Partner’s should remember that ‘silence is golden’ and that sometimes it is wise and diplomatic to say nothing and/or resist the urge to retort “I suggested that but did you listen…..?”  This is especially the case when your other half claims the handheld control for the motor mover is broken; then blames you for not bringing spare handset batteries; questions the installing engineer’s integrity and workmanship and finally discovers what you already knew, namely that the motor mover hadn’t been switched on inside the caravan.

2.      Partner’s should avoid being a ‘clever clogs’ and never start a sentence with ‘I think you will find……!” Your partner will soon discover what you already know; that the motor-mover won’t work because the handbrake for the caravan is still on. Remember, this is an invaluable opportunity to let them work this out for themselves as it means they won’t make the same mistake a second time! Of course, this supposition is based on the premise that you didn’t marry an idiot in the first place! Remember idiots are people who don’t learn the first time and go on to repeat the mistake again at a later time and place!!

3.      A partner should always be encouraging even when their spouse is being dumb! For example, when you are trying to reverse up to the caravan and trying to align the tow ball precisely under the caravan hitch, be very diplomatic and encouraging when your partner follows your instructions to the letter and goes and stands behind the car, in the only blind spot and then whispers reversing instructions using a set of invisible hand instructions which you can’t see and which work contrary to the way you want to actually go.

4.      And, remember to always thank them afterwards for this invaluable type of help!

5.      Partners should not take things literally!  For example, when I said ‘please can you go to the back of the caravan so I can position the towing mirrors’, I didn’t mean you should actually go and stand directly behind the rear panel of the caravan out of view; where you can’t be seen…..ever…….from any tow mirror……attached to anything other than the space station!

6.      You should NEVER abandon your partner whilst caravanning. Think it by all means but never, never do it in reality even with partners who keep saying “Well if it was me who was doing it, I’d have….”. Resist the temptation to let them find themselves doing it far more quickly than they imagined….. because you will have taken the car and gone home to finish your work bench!

7.      A partner should never resort to shouting or using bad language. In response to the incessant phrase from your other half …..“The manual says…..” a partner should be very diplomatic, count to 10,000 first and then think carefully about what they want to say. “**** the bloody manual” should never, never be uttered, even under extreme duress. Remember a four-hundred-page manual is there to help in those times when water is gushing out of the wrong end of pipes.

8.      One should never distinguish between ‘boy jobs’ and ‘girl jobs’. This is the age of ‘gender equality’. Everyone is equally capable of filling an aqua-roll, emptying a waste water container and disposing of toilet cassette waste at the appropriate disposal point and yes…it is a messy job but that doesn’t make it immediately a ‘boy’s job’!

9.      A partner should NEVER use ‘alluring’ tactics to try and get their own way or preferential treatment from their other half.  Consequently, lying alluringly on the sofa with your arm held up at right angles and wine glass being constantly proffered up for a refill in now banned. Should either partner have an over consuming need for alcohol, then an intravenous alcohol drip can be rigged within minutes thereby allowing the other partner to have peace and quiet so that he can read his very exciting book!

10.   One is to exercise extreme care when going to the toilet at night. Crawling over one’s partner during the night does not necessitate kneeing them in the groin and then sniggering about it with glee.

11.   Likewise, there is to be no unauthorized torch shining. if you shine a torch in your partner’s face at 3am whilst crawling over said person to reach the toilet then yes, it seems only fair that you should expect a stream of invective back.

12.   If you know something is empty, do the decent thing and go and replace it or fill it up. Standing there, knowing that the aqua roll is empty, and giggling, whilst your partner swears blind the pump has broken and ‘it’s a brand-new caravan and isn’t that shoddy workmanship’…….is not sporting! It’s mean!

13.   NO unauthorized duvet rolling. It is mean AND selfish to roll yourself up in the duvet at 4 in the morning to mimic a cocooned caterpillar. You may arise like a butterfly in the morning. Your partner, who froze all night, won’t! That is just plain selfishness!

14.   Buying and equipping a new caravan is very exciting. In the interest of harmony, partners should take it in turn to choose one item for the new caravan and refrain from criticising their partner’s choice or taste. Thus, no partner will be able to dislike every single item of crockery, cutlery, oven gloves, table mats and cooking utensils that the other partner suggests for the caravan in an attempt to assert her tastes on everything! Sometimes your other half may have ‘superior taste’. After all he did choose you! In addition, his parents and sisters now all live in the Cotswolds and shop in Cheltenham and Bath – so naturally, he will predisposed towards good taste.

15.   Agree, straight away not to damage the new caravan. For example, pulling the knobs off the draws on a brand-new caravan on day one is likely to be justifiably met with severe distain from your partner!

16.   Negotiate the opening of doors, windows and skylights. Knowing that your partner gets cold quickly, it is very mean to wait until she is dozing, and then open every window and skylight in the van to let in the ‘bracing fresh countryside air’.

17.   Negotiate and agree the precise place for each item in the caravan and then STICK to this arrangement! Having instructed your partner to load the van whilst you are at work; having listened patiently as he explains where he has put everything; telling him he has done very well, and then whilst he is sorting out water, waste water and toilet cassette outside, you re-arrange everything so he can’t find anything on his return……. that’s just plain childish! Funny, but childish! Telling him that you used common sense whilst he didn’t think at all – is likely to wind him up further!

18.   It is courteous to ask before altering the heating system. Sneaking on the thermostat to raise the temperature, hoping your partner doesn’t notice - that’s devious!

19.   Do not deliberately find ‘character buildings tasks’ for your partner just for the fun of it. Letting your partner go out in the pouring rain at 11.30pm to refill the suddenly empty aqua roll instead of insisting that he stay nice, snug and warm in the cosy caravan………. was not about allowing him to ‘feel good about himself’. Laughing yourself silly inside whilst listening to him outside struggling to connect a water pump in the dark, in the lashing rain, in a quagmire was immature.

20.   Only those who empty the toilet cassette can use the caravan toilet. Those who don’t, rightly deserve to have to trudge through the rain to the nearest toilet block. On their ‘trudge’ they might reflect on their argument about ‘boy’s jobs and ‘girl’s jobs’!!

21.   We are not here to entertain the rest of the caravan/camping site. Seriously? Making silly ‘Happy, sad and bad bunny’ silhouettes against the caravan curtains to entertain the rest of the campsite at 10.30 at night……. Seriously?

We have survived our first mini adventure in our caravan. We clearly need to agree some rules! But we didn’t kill each other or plead ‘justifiable manslaughter’ in either case and we genuinely can’t wait to do it again……caravanning that is…. not justifiable manslaughter.

An estuary entrance reccy

Tuesday 12 September 2017

almost finished; the work bench project

Practically finished.
Rather surprisingly, everything lined up with the table and mitre saws being flush with the surface of the work top. Bottom shelves have been fitted and the bargain flooring stuck down on the work top.

Now, big decision, when the outer rails have been sanded should I leave them natural wood or stain them; or even paint them?

In meantime, also managed to fit a small wood vice as well.

Sunday 10 September 2017

Bailey Unicorn III Seville - Adventure one - day one. So far, so good!

Our first caravan adventure…….only 12 miles from where we live – the market town of Tavistock but it took some getting there. Our caravan is stored elsewhere, some distance away and the best route was to come into the city and out the other side.

We timed it perfectly. Evening rush hour through multiple road works and narrow coned lanes. And of course, let’s not forget the intense rain showers. Amazingly we managed to depart the storage site and arrive and set up between the rain showers. It must have been fate – the sun broke through each time. We’ll take it as a good omen!

There is so much to remember. I created check lists – one for departure or leaving a place. It had everything on it but as Eric Morecambe was fond of saying “not necessarily in the right order”. Hence our departure was delayed by a) forgetting how to switch on the motor-mover b) trying to use said motor-mover whilst the caravan handbrake was still on  c) positioning the jockey wheel so that the caravan wouldn’t steer sideways whilst being moved and so that the tightening arm of the jockey wheel would then be pointing downwards jamming against the wheel when the jockey wheel was lowered - it’s the simplest of things!

Arrival at the site just outside of Tavistock was rather simpler and surprising successful. We managed to level the caravan on a ramp successfully and get water, toilet, electrics and gas etc all switched on and functioning. Working out the fridge took a little time. Getting hot water a little more time than that and getting the heating on……..well that took a very long time and I have several more grey hairs as a result.
finishing the unpacking and deciding where the final bits and pieces go 

We managed to stow everything in the lockers and then promptly forgot where we had stowed things….oh how we laughed…….I think not!

But we are in. The caravan is level. The 230V is working. We have had our first meal. The caravan is warm, the water hot. The toilet works.

We worked it as a team. ‘Her indoors’ unpacked everything so I couldn’t find any of it. I sorted out all the systems and got the waste water pipes wrong so that no water would drain away. It took several minutes to work that one out. At one point I was fairly sure we had discovered an anti-gravity patch on planet earth because water was running back up the pipes in to the sinks.
First meal in caravan.....many more to come......

But hey, we didn’t crash, or watch the caravan run away under its own steam; nor did we kill anyone.  Although it was a grass pitch with just an electric hook up, it didn’t turn into a swamp with all of Friday’s rain. I’d say that was a good start. Adventure One – day one – so far so good.
The magic sound of a whistling kettle

Friday 8 September 2017

Bailey unicorn III Seville

We have just bought a caravan. A slight surprise as we always thought we were 'campervan' types and that was our retirement dream. But, after careful reflection, we decided a caravan would be best for us and the type of travel we want to do. Of course, my dreams of towing Arwen behind the van to far flung destinations just took a major hit but life is full of compromises and I can still take Arwen to these places and merely camp on board her instead. It will of course, be without 'her-indoors'. She loves the outdoors but doesn't do tents, all the result of a promise made which failed to live up to its intentions......I promised the Vendee in France would be wall to wall sunshine with great beaches and pine forests in August. So we went camping. It turned out to be wall to wall rain, gales and floods. And around 4" of water around the tent. Don't ask about inside!  She forgave me but she has never been in a tent since. That was some 15 years ago.  Yet she has slummed it in some horrendous backpacking hostels and lodges across Central America since then with a smile and good will.........go figure.

Our reasons for getting a caravan are simple really. We tend to base ourselves for a week at a time at different places before we move on. We like to get under the skin of a place. There is nothing wrong with a camper and, in fact if someone offered me a free VW camper van, I'd bite their hand off. The issue is we saw so many campervans, large and small, get themselves stuck in Sicily; or restricted on where they could do in Cornwall and Pembrokeshire. We felt every time you wanted to go somewhere you'd have to sort the van before leaving. Yes we could tow a car behind and carry bikes but we came to the view that we liked the flexibility of having a 4 x 4 car, the bigger space interior of the van and awning etc etc. To each their own I guess.

We do plan on towing the van down to the Falmouth area next early summer and then popping back up for Arwen and basing ourselves down there for a fortnight or so sailing the helford etc. Her- indoors is up for that.

Caravanning is so new to us and there has been so much to take on board, from storage sites to insurance, from motor movers toAlko safety features......mind boggling stuff but it has kept me busy in my first week of retirement.

I will blog more about our caravan experiences as we embark upon this new adventure. It won't overshadow adventures in Arwen but I probably will start a new blog about our travels, caravanning, etc on a new site and keep this one just for adventures with Arwen and my wood working projects. I'm rather attached to this blog. It has been going a long time and although I doubt there is much of substance on it, it has been my online diary of my sailing adventures in a boat 'wot I made' for many years. It, along with the YouTube channel have huge sentimental value.

For the record, the caravan is a Bailey Unicorn III Seville model, spacious, tasteful (as her-indoors likes to point out) and about as big as we can tow on our car. Our car was called 'Zebedee'. So there was only one name for the caravan and no it wasn't 'Brian'. We felt our caravan was a 'Florence', 'Florrie' for short.

Ah the good old days of the BBC. They don't make them like that any more. How sad. 

Wednesday 6 September 2017

A small retirement project

I knew when I retired, I would need an immediate project to occupy myself whilst waiting for 'Her-indoors' to join me. The sudden loss of purpose and more importantly of daily contact with my school friends, would, I knew, trouble me.
So keeping busy.........I blitzed the house and did a massive clean up - throwing away 34 years worth of school folders, teaching materials etc. Everything has gone.
We bought a caravan! It's been fun kitting it out and getting to grips with the systems and applications within it.

But that has been during the summer it is term time! And I have been missing people and teaching.

So, the project? Building a work bench.
My garage work benches are narrow and there is never enough space to put things. I can never find enough space to glue things up and let them dry. So, a retirement project - a moveable work bench with under worktop storage. I wanted it to be a joint table saw and mitre saw holder as well. I had a vision in my head but couldn't quite articulate it so I headed over to PinInterest, where, of course, someone had already done some of the thinking.

So this is what I was hoping it would look like, but on a slightly smaller scale. And here in pictures, is progress thus far................

This is the vision and what I am aiming for but on a smaller scale 

so I bought the wood and cleared the space 

treated myself to a new sliding mitre saw - the old one was very old and on the way out...

I measured...several times......and then checked again and re-measured as paranoia set in. I couldn't find any dimensions for the vision bench so I have had to draw out the plans myself .

Took time out to visit a favourite local beach...only to discover my favourite newspaper had sold out so I had to go with this one.......urgh!

Got the corner legs on after constructing the base frame 

Added the castors....which...on reflection was probably a mistake as from now on the bench kept moving around......dur!!

My bargain - light oak laminate flooring - reduced from £24 to £4; laid on top of 18mm shred board

The cut out done for the table saw - I will be able to lift it in and out of this slot.
There is a cover for the slot so that I can have the full work bench surface if needed.
The table saw will stand on a shelf below 

Phew! It has levelled up correctly, was getting worried for a time especially as I was using a new plunge saw and was unfamiliar with how it worked 

And the same happened for the mitre saw shelf. It too has a lift off lid
so that the full work top can be restored. 

I'm not quite finished yet. The lower deck shelves have to be cut and screwed on. The outer edging rails have to be sanded. I haven't quite yet decided whether to stain the frame a light oak colour or just leave it as it is.  The plan is that there will be some stackable trays on one section; table saw and mitre saw on the other bottom sections. I also need to get and attach a decent wood vice. 

So what will the first project be on the new work bench?
Well, in no particular order..........................

  • galley box for Arwen
  • insect/bug hotels for the gardens
  • some reindeer for Christmas sustainable gifts fair? (maybe, haven't quite decided on this yet) 
  • new garden bench for the back decking area
  • restoration of my parents' old garden bench which is much loved
And, most importantly, a sign for the caravan space we are renting - that is a priority apparently!