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

Tuesday 31 October 2017

For a friend, who has a new bike.........

...and, of course, for anyone else who enjoys being out on a bike, enjoying the great outdoors.......

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Dinghy cruising: The galley box is finished

all that remains is to do some touch up painting; a little refitting of the front door panels where paint has made them a little 'too tight a fit' and then of course the testing. Lighting up the stove and seeing what happens. Fire extinguishers at the ready!!

For those who wanted the dimensions - here is a plan - I stress three things immediately
a) the measurements are all approximate and are based on the space I had available in Arwen
b) the drawings are not to scale in any way, shape or form
c) I cannot stress enough - do some CAD - cardboard aided design  - construct a prototype and test its fit in your boat. 

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Winterizing your caravan

Well, it is time to put ‘Florrie’ away for winter. Florrie, by the way is short for ‘Florence’. Our car is called ‘Zebedee’.

Um! I'm thinking of putting it back and actually using the caravan over winter!!

I think we have done things right but there remain questions. For example, if we have a solar charger panel on the roof, can we leave the master electrics on, the battery in place and let the battery trickle charge up during the winter off the solar panel? Do we actually switch off the master electric switch in the fuse box over winter? Will the battery still charge off the solar panel if we do?
Should we chock wheels and leave handbrake off?

Soooo many dumb questions…….. can someone answer any of these for us?

Here is what we have done……………

·        Fitted all the security devices

·        Disengaged the motor mover

·        Secured all windows and skylights

·        Left fridge off and door on open catch

·        Open cooker doors

·        Open all cupboards and lockers in side

·        Move cushions away from walls

·        Roll up carpets

·        Raise the nose and tilt van backwards so roof water drains off back

·        Keep skylight binds open

·        All taps and drain down tap open

·        Outlet pipe covers closed

·        Gas switched off

·        Toilet cassette flap open

·        Everything cleaned and polished

·        Exterior washed and cleaned

·        All rubber locker seals silicon sprayed

·        Toilet cassette flap silicon lubricated

·        All external locks silicon sprayed

·        Dehumidifiers in place

·        Swept floors

·        All rubbish removed

And how often should we go check it over winter – once a month, once a fortnight? Never?

I don’t know!! I’m new to this caravan touring malarkey!!

postscript: members of the Bailey caravan FaceBook group came to our rescue. 
'chock the wheels, leave the handbrake off'
'use your caravan over winter, it has central heating'
'protect your aqua roll tank from icing up - by packing it in cheap hi viz padded jacket and put the water pump down through the sleeve'
'keep a full kettle so you can get tea in morning if aqua roll freezes'
'put a little antifreeze in waste water tank to stop it icing up'
'put aqua roll on bricks and wood raised off the cold ground'

The Bailey caravan Facebook group - what a brilliant bunch of supportive people. Thank you all for answering our dumb questions. 

A brief tour of Hurst castle spit and lymington Marshes

Now I am retired, it is nice to visit the places I taught about for so many years. One such place is Hurst castle Spit. I hope I have done the area justice in what is my first attempt at a case study summary video. It was only our second outing in 'Florrie' our new caravan as well.

Sunday 22 October 2017

'Save me father........'

I am suffering from severe 'Dronusdeadicus'

It seemed a good idea at the time but given the current weather, on reflection, may have been a tad too ambitious?

I am in soooo much trouble when 'Her-indoors' gets back from visiting her mother...................

Saturday 21 October 2017

Before leaving your caravan pitch: a checklist

This is how we do it. We managed to leave our New Forest pitch in under an hour, which for us, is rather good. As always, if we are missing anything, if there is anything we do/don’t need to do, all advice is welcome in the comment boxes below. I'm beginning to think caravanning is like parenting. It seemed a good idea at the time, it brings you both joy and grief and no one prepares you for it!

·        Close all skylights and windows

·        Retract TV aerial and secure

·        Disconnect and empty waste water and aqua roll along with water pump; clean and store

·        Empty toilet flush; empty toilet cassette and clean

·        Remove and secure microwave glass plate

·        Secure all cupboards with sponge inserts so nothing moves

·        Turn fridge to 12v system

·        Open all taps and mains water drain tap and expel water – if winterizing – use water pressure aqua flow tool to dispel all water possible

·        Dust and clean everything quickly

·        Check all cupboards and external lockers and flaps shut correctly

·        Turn off gas

·        Disconnect electric from post; then from caravan

·        Make sure anything stored on caravan floor is secure and cannot move

·        Raise corner steadies and check securely locked in place; blocks in to basket

·        Check nose weight limits and lower steadies and redistribute load if need be

·        Check tyre pressure correct and tyres in good condition; check wheel nut tension

·        Check ball hitch clean

·        Connect car to van, checking green locator pin visible; and stabilizer hitch in correct position

·        Connect electrics and ensure green light on ALCO stabiliser

·        Secure breakaway cable

·        Raise and secure jockey wheel

·        Check road lights all working

·        Check tow mirrors positioned correctly

·        Walk around and double check all lockers and flaps secure and door locked

·        Check rear number plate still securely on

·        Make sure motor mover is disengaged and off

·        Take off handbrake - this is the one I always forget!

Phew! There is so much to remember on this caravan touring malarkey!

Friday 20 October 2017

Hurst Castle spit and Lymington marshes

Hurst castle is 2 miles long, a spit at the eastern end of the Solent, famous for its castle built by Henry VIII and extended during WWII to protect the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth. The shingle is well trod by countless tourists who walk across the rounded flints, cherts and sandstones to each the English heritage site. To the north is the extensive Lymington marshes, small creeks, extensive mudflats, a haven for birds. The marshes face severe erosion, from waves and humankind. They are a protected SSSI site and no wonder why. Truly stunning scenery.
And having taught this as a case study on and off for thirty years, it was rather nice to visit it for the first time.
Lighthouse and lighthouse keeper's cottage at end of the spit

A little ferry plies between Lymington and the end of the spit

Hurst Castle: Henry VIII castle, extended during Napoleonic wars, First World war and WWII

Relics from WWII

Shells for the 38 tonne guns

WWII lighthouse

WWII ablutions block

The 38 tonne guns

Creeks and mudflats, an ecological haven and a SSSI site and National Nature Reserve

packing a touring caravan

being new to this caravan touring malarkey...what do you need to take; where do you put it all?  where does your wife then rearrange it to so you can't find anything?

You may well have read an earlier post about our caravan etiquette we are developing as we start our touring. Part of this has been to have an agreed initial plan of where things go so that we BOTH know where to find things!! And so that whilst I am sorting out waste water, aqua roll and electric hook up, nothing in the interior gets reorganised so that I then spend the next several days trying to find things!!

So, this is our first draft. I am sure it will change with advice from yourselves and as we gain more experience

childhood dream relieved

It's 3am and dark, so dark. I look out through the skylight hatch to the night sky above and it takes me back to my childhood. My dreams and aspirations as a seven-year-old. To be an astronaut, an astronomer, a star traveller. Through that rectangular patch of bright night sky in the pitch black of the van interior, the stars twinkle above; some distant ones explode, colours flickering for an instance across the sky; the constellations slowly rotate away out of my tiny hatch view. There is nothing else. No sound from outside or interior. Just me and the stars and the wide multiverses above.

Occasionally, just occasionally, it really is nice to suddenly stop and return to that awe and wonder; to ask oneself those big questions about space, place, dimension and reality. It was some really cool 40 minutes of stargazing contemplation.

The Mary Rose exhibition

Thursday 19 October 2017

Dinghy cruising: Galley box update

the first of several coats of paint..............................

Getting routines: what to do when arriving at your caravan pitch

We are getting better. Setting up pitch is becoming routine and faster. For anyone else new to caravanning, here are our observations and tips for setting up on arrival at campsite. This is how we do it. Tips and alternatives always welcome in the comment box below.

·        After moving van onto site – draw forward slightly to reduce the ram compression on hitch

·        Apply the van handbrake

·        Turn the jockey wheel six turns

·        Release the jockey wheel clamp and lower to the ground and then tighten

·        Detach the clamp, electrics and breakaway cable

·        Pull car clear

·        Wind down jockey wheel until caravan sits level

·        Lower the corner steadies until almost on ground

·        Level the axel plane and if necessary use motor mover to move onto a stepped leveller under appropriate wheel

·        Level back to front using the jockey wheel

·        Final positioning of the corner steadies – remembering to put wooden blocks underneath each one

·        Turn on gas supply

·        Connect water systems – waste water, water pump

·        Fill aqua roll and put in pump

·        Connect electric cable to caravan; then to electric supply post; store any spare cable in BIG loops under the van

·        Switch on 12 volt system in van

·        Make sure taps closed and water drain system closed and then switch on water pump

·        Test each tap to allow water flow through – both hot and cold on each tap

·        Add flush water and pink fluid

·        Add water to toilet cassette tank and blue fluid

·        Switch fridge over to mains

·        Switch on hot water panel

·        Remove all foam that secured items in cupboards

·        Put up the awning

I am sure there is stuff I have forgotten. I am sure there are easier ways to do it all. If you are new to caravanning like us there is an excellent YouTube channel set of videos called ‘Meet the Trudgians’ with Dan and his family. I have learned loads, so thanks Dan, You have been a life saver with your vid’s.

Our first big caravan adventure

We were late departing. Getting the hang of the Alco wheel lock has baffled me; no matter how hard I try, getting the locking mechanisms aligned takes me an age. Which, I guess, is the point. We are getting quicker at putting on front cover, using the motor mover and hitching up though. Nose weight gauge used and load redistributed, we left 45 minutes after arriving. We aim to get it down to 30mins max.

Of course, the delay was also due to the fact that every time I cross the Tamar bridge I need to find a loo for a pee. I know, ridiculous, but true. What is it about entering Cornwall that makes me need a loo immediately we enter the Saltash tunnel?

Cut a long story short, we managed to reach the A30 heading for Exeter and there lies another point. Which is the quicker route – back to the A38, over the bridge and up to Exeter? Or up to Launceston and then onto the A30? Either way, another loo stop needed at Exeter Services and for the first time, with caravan behind, we had to pull in to the lorry park. A novel experience!

Our destination? Our first big caravan trip to Hordle in the New Forest and a lovely little site ‘The Dragonfly Stables’. A warm welcome from the owner’s daughter and before we knew it, the caravan was on the field, levelled up, the kettle on and we were admiring the horses and the countryside views.

We can recommend Mr Pink’s ‘Fish and chip shop’ at Milford on Sea. Down on the sea front, watching the setting sun and the pink streaks across the sky with odd grey clouds scudding overhead, we ate our chips and watched anglers with bright head torches hurling their baited rigs seawards. Good luck to them too. Let’s hope they didn’t suffer the misfortune that one of our anglers suffered yesterday. Posing for a photo with a 6” sole poised over his open mouth for the obligatory photo……the sole slipped out of his hands, down his throat and caused him to choke and then have a cardiac arrest. The paramedics described it as the most bizarre case they had ever attended in their thirty years of duty! And yes it is a true story which made our national press and news on Friday 13th!!

Monday 9 October 2017

Building a galley box for dinghy cruising......the saga nears an end.

There is something special about constructing something with your own hands from scratch. It doesn't matter whether it turns out perfect or flawed. It is the contemplation, the peace and quiet, the moments of reflection. The rasp of a surform on wood, the smell of wood shavings during planing. The gentle sanding, and bending down to eye the lines. The smell of wood glues, the rhythmic movement of brushes during the spreading of glue on wood. It is the 'internal' visualisation of a product, from simple sketch and plan on paper to a 3 dimensional reality.

For me, it never turns out right but I am OK with that. No shelf is ever level in our house; no picture frame ever  aligns with it's neighbour. I do try hard at what I do but lets face it, I'm the D+ kid - 'tries really, really hard, has plenty of enthusiasm, but execution lacks finesse or skill'. My parents have kept many school reports of mine which say something akin to that.........I turned out to be a late developer. I'm rather hoping that will be the same with my woodworking skills. Maybe I should go and take a woodworking class or two to help make that happen.

If I was truthfully honest, there was no need for a galley box. I have always made do with a large plastic box in a waterproof roll down bag. But I needed something to focus on, to help me overcome the transition from full time working in the thick of it in school to the more sedate life of retirement, especially since her indoors delayed her retirement date by several weeks after mine.  Hence the work bench and galley box projects. There is only so much gardening, long walks, bike riding and housework a man can do to keep himself occupied!!

Previous posts gave details of the start and development of the galley box project. Here we near the end of phase one - the construction. The galley box will occupy a small space forward of the port side thwart, between the centreboard case and the curved hull side. It will hold cooking stove and pans, utensils and crockery, food supplies and cleaning materials. Enough for a three day trip. It can be carried in the car boot as well for picnics on day trips. I think my American friends would call it a 'chuck box'.

Here the lid is fitted. Nothing has been trimmed to size yet or sanded. No glue has been cleared up.
The finished box will have side handles; the front panels held in by brass turnbuttons.

The stove will be kept assembled during sailing. Spare pans and kettle will slip in the space below along with bowl, collapsible mug and utensils. 

The cooking area has been lined, rightly or wrongly with aluminium sheet held by a contact adhesive which was recommended by some FaceBook friends. My Dad will be pleased to know that as a kid I did listen to him......and he swears by this glue - will stick anything to anything ...............apparently................according to Dad! Little wooden sections stop the trangia base from sliding about and there is 3cm ventilation gap all around between stove windshield and galley box walls. 

On the left the top section is a lift out tray. The four holes will have 'rope' through them to act as a lift out handle. The middle box is fixed; the bottom box more of  an elongated hole in which will be tea towel, sponges, rubbish bags, washing up liquid. 

The inside of the lid will have thin heat proof matting laid in the interior so I can place hot pans on it instead of Arwen's thwarts ( didn't hear me confess to that!) 

So next steps?
Lots of gentle sanding and glue excess blob removal. Most of it got cleaned up as I went along. But, as you know, some still seems to escape and gets missed. 
Wood filler in one or two gaps, where gaps shouldn't exist, but somehow seem to!
Then painting - three coats of aluminium flake paint, three of Pre-Kote and three of Toplac burgundy, the same colour as Arwen's top strip. The top of the lid may have a dragon painted onto it or a chess board outline. Can't quite decide which, or maybe even nothing and just left plain. The lid will be fastened using straps which will go all around the box. There will be two runners on the base to lift it slightly above the cockpit floor and out of any spray water or rain that has collected inside. 

If you are interested in the construction steps, the base was cut first and then the back and two sides. The internal wall running from back to front was then cut and along with the five vertical support pillars, all this was glued up first. Afterwards, the cooking area back wall and the cooking area base shelf and also the base shelf for the middle left hand side compartment were cut and installed. Then the two front doors were cut, tested and trimmed to fit. Finally, the box unit and lid were made. 

Costs so far?
Most of the wood I had but I needed a little more so around £9 for the ply; about £10 for the two types of glue I used. Roughly £12 for the two thin aluminium sheets and around £4 for the heat proof matting. Paint I already had plenty of that! All up I guess it is around the £35 mark or so. 

Has it been worth that expenditure in terms of cost effectiveness - nope! Has it been worth it in terms of keeping me busy, exercising my brain and just giving me some simple creative fun, absolutely!!

I'll post pictures of finished product after the sanding and painting - in a couple of weeks time. 

Saturday 7 October 2017

Galley box sagas continue

I have to confess I am enjoying myself in the garage. The new work bench has made such a difference. I still can't measure accurately. Laughable isn't it. 55 years old and incapable of measuring accurately or cutting a piece of wood straight. Ho hum!

This is the situation as of tonight....................................

The aluminium sheet has been cut and loosely put in. It will act as a little heat resistance although to be fair there isn't much coming out of a Trangia on the whole. Shelf supports are in. I've decided that the top one will be a lift out box and then the second one down on the left will be a permanent box affair. The bottom left space will be for tea towels, sponges, rubbish bags etc. The middle one will contain condiments, teabags, sugar and food. The space under the stove shelf will hold collapsible mug, bowl, spork and other utensils. It will also hold food. Water, milk and fruit juice will be in the compartment at the back. Trangia fuel will be rightly stored in the fuel locker on-board Arwen. The Lid has been cut. It will have a deep rim edge which will rest on the outside corner protection pieces of the box. The inside of the lid will have heat resistant matting glued inside it for pans to rest on. 

The front of the box will be two panels which slide out once the lid is taken off. They will be held in place with brass turn buttons. The box will get three coats of aluminium flake paint, three coats of PreKote and then three coats of Toplac. Colour - whatever I have left on my paint shelves!

Friday 6 October 2017

Dartmoor Roaming

It started with a walk and finished with.........

It started with an early morning walk up to one of my favourite tors

where I had the place to myself on a wonderful crisp October morning

with the far off views to the stunning Plymouth Sound 

Then it was back to do some more to the galley box

The day finished with a trip to our old atmospheric Reel cinema and movie night with her-indoors
A perfect day!

Thursday 5 October 2017

creating the plans for a galley box for a dinghy

It started with some ideas. These were put out for 'consultation' via Facebook forums.
There were many, many helpful suggestions and observations. 
I employed CAD techniques (cardboard aided design) and made several mock ups, each one evolving after helpful Facebook discussion.

I revised several times the aims of what I wanted to achieve; these limited by space and weight considerations.  Eventually, the design clarified itself.....a simple galley box to carry stores for two or three days plus cooking and eating equipment. My thanks to all those who helped edit my lists, modify my ambitions, and who brought a realistic pragmatism to my thinking. 

The first measurements were made and then rechecked many, many, many times. Several gallons of tea were consumed during the intervening breaks between re-measurements. Much time was spent sat on 'Rodin's stool' in the garage musing; and then measurements were checked again. 
It seems to have gone much better thus far and I think I know why. I haven't rushed at it. In the past pressures of time and family commitments have made me rush and in doing so I have made mistakes. But now those time pressures are a thing of the past and I am enjoying it more, thinking about it more. A simple measurement can take as long as it needs, or as long as I like it to last. Wonderful! 

The band saw got a much needed clean and overhaul. A new blade, retaining band blocks altered, smoothed and turned over; band saw retaining wheels cleaned; a decade of sawdust removed from inside workings. The saw was re-levelled; the platform re-levelled. It felt good. And then the first cuts were made and they went true and straight. 

Edges were lightly sanded and set squares employed to make sure that corners were true.  Sadly, I came to the realisation that my old jigsaw of 20 years had seen better days. Another tool which has done sterling service but now needs to be retired. Even with new blades, the cut is slightly jagged; the motor strains; the little blower is intermittent and the support frame slightly rusted. Perhaps with another clean, I can get a few more years out of it yet. My jigsaw has been instrumental in the building of several kayaks, canoes and Arwen herself. My jigsaw deserves a  reprieve and I am a sentimental old fool too!

Several cuppas later.........and no I'm not a fan of the company on the cup but it was a present and I rather like the dragon.............

All the pieces have been cut out and sanded and checked for square-ness. Their dimensions as they should be. Well, I have to confess that is a 'first' on any wood work I have done. Strips are measured, cut and glued ready to form the side and shelf supports. Some are added to the base, clamped in place for thirty minutes whilst the quick setting glue starts its initial cure. 

Side runners for shelves are added and one of the sides is stuck and taped in place. At every stage there is a dry run first; measurements are rechecked; the CAD is hauled over and my 'initial thinking' is checked or amended. As my Tanzania mountaineering friends were fond of saying 'Pole Pole', 'slowly, slowly'. 

Well it took a whole day but here is where we pause. The 'galley box' saga will continue sometime this week.