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

Thursday 30 November 2017

Dinghy cruising: Creating sailing vlogs and videos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Dinghy cruising: Camera gear for vlogging and doing personal video diaries

Some people have asked via FaceBook, blog and my YouTube channel for me to share what equipment I use to create my videos about Arwen. So here is the first contribution to answering this question. A video summary.
It is longer than my normal ones so I would say don't watch it unless you are genuinely interested in what I use and because you are thinking about doing videos yourself, or you are a vlogger and want to see what gear someone else uses.

My equipment has been accumulated over several years, as and when I could afford it. Some of it is outdated but still quite functional. Anyway, here it is. As always thoughts, observations and comments always welcome.

At some stage I will do a post about how I set about doing some of my videos - the thought processes behind the filming.

Future directions?

I have been reflecting on why I blog and do my YouTube videos. This self-reflection has come about because of a change in life, from working to retired; and as a result of comments received on FaceBook, blog and YouTube channel.

So, here I am with a blog and video channel that started way back in 2009 and some reflections on the six great questions: ‘why, where, when, who, how and what?’ Not necessarily about to be taken in that order by the way!

Why and what am I blogging and vlogging?

Because I wanted to have a written and visual diary of my trips; something that I could look back on in later years and that siblings scattered across the world (at that time) could dip into.  To keep them in touch with me and something for Mum and Dad to follow so they could see I was trying to live life to the full as they have always encouraged me to do.

Over the years I have tried to write in a way that captures the excitement, frustrations, mistakes and essence of building one’s own boat and then learning to sail it. I am not, nor will I ever be, as proficient a sailor, writer or videographer as I am expeditioner. But I am happy in what I do in Arwen and I try to learn new things and keep myself and those around me safe. Whether I have been successful in the way I write or vlog to myself, I don't know but I have some doubts if I were truthful. 

Whilst writing and vlogging for personal fulfilment, I have been surprised over the years about the benefits that have arisen from it. I have become part of an online community of friends and acquaintances and I am always genuinely surprised that there are people who subscribe to my blog and channel.

But now, I have come to realise that perhaps my blog and channel need to be worked on. Do they need to be much better than they are, if people around the world have taken the trouble to subscribe to both; to invest their precious time in viewing and reading about my adventures?

If the answer to this question is yes, what happens next? Do I intentionally set out to grow the blog and channel by trying to focus my writing entirely on sailing; by improving how I write and video? If so, what do I possibly have to contribute that is of use to anyone? Far from an expert on anything, my naivety and lack of experience in dinghy cruising is there for all to see.

Or, do I keep firmly to my original purpose – to inform family and friends but at same time to try and be a source of inspiration to others; to encourage some to follow my journey of building a boat, sailing it, enjoying the wonderous outdoors, meeting like-minded people – hoping that they do it better than me!

And then there is the issue of money!

I have noticed that many bloggers have monetized their blogs. They write to earn money and I am fine with that. Good luck to them. I hope they succeed. I admire that entrepreneurial spirit.

I have never gone down that road. I write for personal pleasure and self-reflection. I have never intentionally promoted a product or service. I have on occasions commented on equipment I have bought or been given as presents and then really only to sum up what I liked or disliked about it. I will acknowledge and thank people whose services I have used. I refrain from negative comments or criticisms and on the whole, try to be as self-deprecatory as possible.  (I am always amazed at how skilful people are and how really dim I am by comparison but as I age I become more comfortable with the fact that I am basically  ‘nice, but dim’ and I am OK with that).

And so, to the how.

How do I blog and vlog?

Well I use blogger and YouTube and have done so very successfully. But now I am considering whether it is time to switch to WordPress and to buying a web domain and hosting service. This point links back to the previous one about money I guess. 

I have no control over Blogger. Google could take it away at any moment. I can’t see why, but it is a possibility. Although I save each web page, to lose all my diary archive material and videos would be personally tragic to me. The saved pages aren’t the same. The videos on YouTube, less traumatic – I have each one. It would be a case of reloading them but then why bother if they are only for me? Is it back to my sense of ‘obligation’ to those who took the trouble to subscribe and stay with me through the years? I assume they subscribe because they find something in them which interests, attracts them. Over the years their comments and on-line friendships have become valued to me; I welcome and value their advice and constructive comments. They have helped me improve. So, what do I need to give back to them?

Or is YouTube just a convenient way of storing and accessing from anywhere my videos so I can watch and learn from them? It saves carrying a hard drive around. If I was technically a little savvier I could just save them to a google cloud account I guess. Maybe I will investigate this further.

I could start paying out money for a WordPress site and website hosting annually. But why would I bother doing this? I guess it arises from a concern over losing blogger as previously mentioned; and another concern that I have expressed before. I blog posts on my world travels, Dartmoor, dinghy cruising, caravanning, daily life and I find it confusing. I want a sense of order to my on-line diary; discrete sections where I can post videos, photos and blog diary extracts more easily, in higher quality. It is a memory issue. Mine was always useless, as all my students would testify to; and it is getting worse, far worse. (Family and friends are beginning to notice more and more.  I have, already since I retired, lost the car in a car park on eight occasions; as in can’t remember WHICH car park, or level! On the plus side – I know EVERY city centre car park really, really well!)

I think a new website front with discrete menu headings would help me. Anyway, lots more reflection to do on this point. Blogger serves me well and I don’t just want to abandon it without good reason. I don’t want to inconvenience those who subscribe to it; who have made comments through the years that have helped me so much.

How about monetizing the blog?

If I start to pay out, do I need to start thinking about monetizing the blog? The very thought really repels me. At its simplest level, it could be affiliated with Amazon. If I write about a product and provide a link to Amazon for said product and then someone purchases it off that site, I get a certain %. They don’t start paying out until you reach £25 I think. I’d never make much but would it be enough to pay for the WordPress and hosting costs annually? Doubtful if I’d ever reach the £25 threshold, since I rarely comment on products. It has only ever been now and then. But, I could do it. I come from a reviewing background. But could I post a negative review? I have always tried to see the positivity in everything…..tricky! And in addition, would what I say be of any value to anyone anyway? And is there a line crossed philosophically?

Should content change? Back to the what and when!

In reflecting, I have started to think more about content. After 9 years, I have failed miserably at developing any style or format to either blog, my writing or YouTube channel videos. I blog on an ‘ad hoc’ basis, whenever the I feel the need to record something. There is no specific time. Place, experiences and mood often influence when I write, post, vlog. I usually ramble because I don’t pre-plan it! Up until now it hasn’t worried me because I selfishly do it all for myself, family and close friends. But what about those who subscribe to both blog and YouTube? Are subscribers not entitled to something better; that shows improvement over time if they have invested time watching it and commenting on it? If it is personal and for me, should they feel entitled to want and expect something better?  Do they have a right to expect me to post more regularly within a set routine? I don’t know but I feel I ought to consider these issues.

I have tried to record my fascination with the appeal of dinghy cruising; and my ‘development’ journey as an amateur boat builder and fledging dinghy sailor. I’ve tried to record my sense of awe and wonder about places and people I have been to or met through description; to jot down the ‘funny’ side of experiences I have had, especially those where, as normal, I confirmed my self-belief that deep down I’m an idiot! Snapshots, photos, captions recording things I have done, places I visited. A record, something I can look back on when I am old and unable to move. A portfolio of wonderful, and at times, not so wonderful memories……people, places, personal growth, friends, family, trials, achievements, tribulations.  I guess that one thing I have consciously tried to do is actively to promote Plymouth and Dartmoor; and the coastal communities of our SW coast. But now, other topics tug at me….caravanning, walking and cycling, travelling. Do I start to include these in my online journals?

So here I am, 55, early retired after 35 years of teaching and educational consultancy; married to an extraordinary woman and father to two amazing children.

My dream?

To be a good father, son, brother, uncle, husband and friend. To travel more, to meet more people, particularly those who I have developed friendships with over the internet; to grow older gracefully but keeping that youthful thirst for knowledge and adventure and curiosity that so many of my students and colleagues have instilled in me over the years; to find some new purpose in which I can give something back to my local community, who over the years have given so much to me. To keep an open mind, to be quick to question but slow to judge. To value all the people that I encounter on the way. It’s a work in progress, prone to lots of slippage on my part, but I do try to generally head in the positive direction. And I need this to influence what I do now on blog and vlog in the future. 

And so the future of the blog and YouTube channel?

I think it is time to pay for my personal pleasure of blogging and vlogging; to better organise myself and my writing. It is time to learn new skills; how to write better for myself and for those who invest time in reading and viewing what I produce on-line. I want to learn how to write creatively, with skill, brevity, passion and insight - mainly for personal satisfactions sake. I find joy in writing for myself, whatever the inadequacies of this writing are. But I remain very aware of my deficiencies on this front. I need to embark on a journey of self-improvement on this aspect of my life.

I am slowly leaning towards switching across to WordPress but running two sites concurrently. Arwen’s blog will continue. A new one on travelling, caravanning and family will emerge. I may or may not use the same website to access both. I need to research this further. I will need to consult the IT guru, ’her-indoors’. I have always suspected she has had some ‘long time but undisclosed expertise’ in this area of web design! She always has down played her skills!

As to the videos? I am, by nature, a visual person. I use the most basic of camera equipment and good old movie maker. I will never be a Matt Baker, Reggie Yates or John Craven, nor could I ever be. I’m no Dylan Winter either. I have nothing of value to say to people. So, for now, I will keep to this theme. My videos are a conversation with my older self…….me talking to my 80 year old self, reminding him of what I did, where I went, what an idiot I was.

But out of self-development, I really ought to try and improve their quality, in content and post production. I may have to grapple with some video editing software and I know this is really, really going to pain me greatly!

And, where subscribers do comment or ask questions, then I will do my best to answer them. My ‘comment conversations’ with subscribers and members of the various forums I belong to, have been, without a doubt, one of the very best bits of this nine-year video/blog diary. It’s that learning thing……. I never want to tire of learning new things or hearing other peoples’ viewpoints and perspectives…. So many of them, whether they have known it or not, have enriched my life each day.
And I guess, this leaves me at this point wanting to say one last thing.....................

Thank you. Thank you to those of you who have taken the time to comment or contact me over the years on my blog, channel and in the forum groups, who were kind enough to accept me. I really value your perspectives, advice and on-line friendships and acquaintances.  I hope they will long continue.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Dinghy maintenance over winter...........

Winterizing Arwen, ready for her planned refit, progresses in earnest. I'm even having the garage rewired with more lights and sockets so I can see things better and use tools more easily.

If only I could find someone with a large shed for minimal rent. Then I could then paint her undercover at my leisure......

Tuesday 14 November 2017

It sometimes surprises me....... little time I actually spend sailing. I did some record keeping this weekend and to my surprise discovered, whilst updating my RYA dinghy sailing log, that this most recent trip out in Arwen was my 130th with her.  It feels more than that but it isn't. I update the log religiously after every trip. The figures are right.

My average trip length if I am not dinghy cruising, is around 6 - 8 hours. I tend to favour winds between force 2 and 4. I've never been out more than a handful of times in a force 4/5 for example.

My favourite day cruise would appear to be off over to Cawsand; and then around the breakwater and then back across to Barn Pool at the mouth of the Tamar before cruising back home across the front of Plymouth Hoe. My favourite cruising destinations from Plymouth appear to be Fowey, Salcombe, Newton Ferrers, Calstock and St Germans.

I inevitably launch from Queen Anne's Battery Marina. I know most of them. They know me. They are a great bunch of people, friendly, talented, good humoured and hard working.

I rarely practice any skills and it shows. Only occasionally do I find entries specifying things like anchor practice off beach; sailing onto/off moorings etc.

Um. Over reliance on the motor - I think it is time to start abandoning that more and more. And on this point, I discovered I have now got into the habit of motoring out of QAB and up through the narrow Sutton Pool area where all the tourist boats and water taxis are based, straight into the Cattedown where I immediately pick up a vacant mooring buoy for a few minutes. A quick sort out or a quick video introduction to something I am vlogging and then I raise sails and sail off the mooring and out in to the Sound. I haven't yet used oars to get out of that area; nor have I yet sailed out of it. It is a very busy area with marina lock gates, port pilot berths, water taxis, tourist boats and small ferries all converging on that one narrow point. It is a matter of courage and faith in your own skills and just going for it.

Anyway, it is always fascinating what my very brief log entries reveal about my sailing habits. I really should spend more time analysing them and identifying those areas which perhaps need further work on. There again, maybe I should just do what I keep doing....going out for day sails and enjoying it!

Thursday 9 November 2017

Dinghy cruising: Galley Box - video

After much discussion and interest on FaceBook forums about the galley Box, I have done a brief video overview of it. Thank you to all those who contributed ideas and comments. I valued everyone's thoughtful comments.

If you search October in the blog bar on the right, you will find previous blog posts on galley box construction and there is a Duckworks magazine article imminent as well. Arwen is winterized for now and there is a huge amount of maintenance to do on her. A proper test of the galley box will have to wait until Spring time. This is version one. It is rough around the edges. I suspect it will be refined and a version two may well emerge at some stage. 

Tuesday 7 November 2017

Dinghy cruising: using the Anchor Buddy part 2

The sound quality on my last video diary was not good. Sound is an issue that is bugging me badly. I find the GoPro sound quality poor. There I have said it. Many GoPro fans will beg to differ but for me it has always been poor. I refuse to pay outrageous money for a gizmo to plug into the side into which you can then plug a mic, which then doesn't allow the camera to remain waterproof. But there we go, you pays your money and you takes your chance.

To try and resolve these issues I have invested in a Zoom H1 digital portable recorder with mic and windshield. It will record sound and conversation independent of any camera I am using and hopefully improve video sound quality. When I am 90, and not as active, I want to be able to access my video diaries and at least hear what inane commentary I was making all those years ago.

And so to anchor buddy video part 2.......without the help of the Zoom H1. I am hoping that sound quality is better although I am limited by what I can do with it in GoPro studio and Moviemaker. A good friend has suggested I download Audacity and then compress and normalise the sound tracks in that. He says it is simple and foolproof. I say, considering he has been my good friend for nearly thirty years or so, he seems to have forgotten who he is talking to. Foolproof and simple are not words you'd associate with my unique abilities to mess things up.

When I posted the part one video some subscribers were a bit nonplussed to find there was nothing on the anchor buddy in it. I did explain in the video link notes below on YouTube that this video, for some obscure reason, would not load up in it's entirety so I apologise if people felt misled. By the same token, in part two much of the action is filmed on a headcam and as anyone who has used one will testify, they are a real irritation trying to get the correct view and everything in the frame. I rarely use it if truth be told.

so the anchor buddy.......

The Anchor Buddy seems to be popular in the NW pacific coast area of the USA. Given as a thoughtful present from a family member,  I thought I'd try it out. European sailors will know an anchor buddy as something else. For the purpose of clarity, in this context, I am trying out a yellow bungee cord!

So, after a first test, I like it. It worked. Will it stand up to a season's use, I have no idea. How will it perform in choppier water, I need to find out. Will it stretch in a hard running tide and so cause anchoring problems in a crowded anchorage? don't yet know. Is it better than my normal method of pulling the anchor off the deck with a trip line? can't say yet.  Is it worth the money it sells for......jury out on that one for the moment too. And what about tidal range, incoming and outgoing tides - how will it perform in those varying conditions?

So many unknowns but for now I will be using it again all next season when I stop for short on shore picnic breaks. Perhaps then I will have answers to these and other questions.

In the meantime, those who are interested can find out more at

Saturday 4 November 2017

Dinghy cruising: anchoring

Some time ago I was given an anchor buddy as a present. I've been meaning to try it out for some time. Essentially it is a long bungee cord that you attach to your anchor and anchor rode. It stretches about four times its length and allows you to pull your dinghy offshore for a temporary beach stop. In the past I have used the anchor on the edge of the side deck, pulled in by a trip line. Explains all the scratches on Arwen's deck and coaming. So I thought I'd give it a try. Here is the first part of my vlog on using the anchor buddy. I split the video in two because it would have been too long otherwise. part 2 next week.

Dartmoor roaming