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 27 December 2018

Dinghy tribes..........enjoy

Dinghy cruising a little taste of what is to come - collecting footage for forthcoming Salcombe series

Been out filming and getting photos for the forthcoming episodes in the dinghy cruising Salcombe series. Been trying out the new camera and getting to grip with composition and manual mode. Such a steep learning curve!

Looking down river from the Kingsbridge basin

The moorings at Kingsbridge

Early morning

The public pontoon at Frogmore Creek 

The head of navigation at Frogmore Creek 

Looking down river from Frogmore village 

The public pontoon at South Pool

The tide flows away quickly at the head of this creek

Head of navigation, South Pool village and ford

A few shots of Salcombe

Wednesday 26 December 2018

The age of sail by google

My thanks to Gavin at 'intheboatshed' for spotting this one.


Getting to grips with a new video camera

Tomorrow is a camera filming day. Off to the Kingsbridge estuary to visit Kingsbridge itself and then Frogmore Creek and South Pool Creek. I'm hoping to get some aerial footage using the DJI spark drone since winds are supposedly light and from the north. It will form B roll footage in forthcoming videos about sailing the estuary - part of my ongoing 'sailing in Salcombe' series.

I will also be trying out the video mode on my new DSLR Canon EOS 800D. The learning curve today has been vertical regarding camera settings for video etc. I have yet to get a shotgun mic so will be collecting ambient sound from the landscape using my H1 Zoom microphone with wind muff. So it means I need to keep accurate records in my little notebook of which film clip matches which sound clip!!

I past a milestone on Christmas day. My YouTube channel passed the 1000 subscriber marker. Although the channel has been running since 2009 I never really fully focused on it until this year. Within the space of a year I gained over 750 or so new subscribers. I have always maintained that I video as an online diary for my future 80 year old self - a visual diary that shows my adventures in my little boat, my learning journey as a dinghy cruiser and also some of the travels that me and the Missus undertook across our lifetime. I never really thought that others might be interested in my dinghy cruising adventures and I completely underestimated the power of YouTube to educate and inform. I have learned so much from viewers and subscribers, all of it slowly improving my dinghy sailing skills and videography. I am very grateful to you all for your informed advice and encouragement.

Over the next few weeks I will be adding a series of short video clips focusing on

  • our recent China expedition along with some short travel blogs here on Arwen's Meanderings. I try to keep the travel logs to a minimum as this is primarily a dinghy cruising blog but I have always made it clear that occasionally travel blogs will appear alongside. I made the decision last year not to switch over for another year to a Wordpress platform, although this decision will be reviewed every six months or so.
  • some blogs about cruising up the Tamar to Calstock; 
  • some videos about sailing up to Kingsbridge and also 
  • a video, part 2, about the new sail arrangement on Arwen and what impact it has on getting rid of the dreaded throat to clew crease. 

In the meantime, I hope all of you had a lovely Christmas Day and I wish you a happy New Year and great sailing for 2019. Please stay in touch, drop me a comment occasionally and as always, I welcome all advice, thoughts and tips regarding sailing a small open boat like Arwen.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you all and to your families, wherever you all may be


Monday 24 December 2018

Dinghy cruising A new channel trailer

Finally, my new 'first effort' 1 minute long channel trailer at 

To all sailors everywhere, have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and I wish you safe, exciting and enjoyable sailing in 2019. Take care everyone 

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Not getting out

In not getting out to Salcombe because of the horrendous weather (I mean lets face it if a Russian cargo ship can wash up onto a Falmouth beach, it must be rough!!), I content myself with  two things

  • sniffing out any new videos of Welsford navigators in action
  • scripting and editing a new trailer for my YouTube channel (which if you haven't discovered it yet can be found at
so here are some new videos of Welsford navigators in action from this year

Thursday 13 December 2018

Dinghy cruising Reaching the Treluggan Boatyard on the river Lynher

Below you will find the latest instalment of my 2018 summer voyage up the River Lynher to Treluggan boatyard. My apologies for falling behind with the updates.

If you want to read the previous instalments, they are listed in the links below in reverse order (i.e. previous down to first one)

Videos on the cruise up the Lynher and Tamar can be downloaded as a playlist from here

Approaching Treluggan

In the middle of the confluence where the rivers Tiddy and Lynher merge, lies an incongruous sight; an isolated single upright scaffold pole with an upside-down makeshift sign pointing ‘This way to Treluggan Boatyard’.

For boaters and sailors who don't know these waters, this amusing sign provides reassurance that one is heading in the right direction for the boat yard.

To those in the know? The boat sign is upside down and pointing completely the wrong way. It is the product of some mischievous soul’s humour. Follow the sign and the intrepid waterborne explorer will merely meander up the last section of the river Tiddy and arrive at St German’s quayside. Not that this is an unsavoury prospect in any way. It is a beautiful quayside with a large Victorian viaduct beyond, scenic quayside cottages and lime kilns and a rather welcoming small yacht club house. It is not, however, the aforementioned ‘boat yard’.

river lynher

Such musings on ‘signage’ are not helping the skipper of the small white hulled 14’ lapstrake yawl out of his self-inflicted predicament, however. But, at this moment in time, there is little else to do but admire the scenery, muse about upside down signposts and be thankful that the only observers of his current debacle are a flock of Brent geese, two egrets and some crows high in the tree branches above. He suspects they are gossiping about him!

Stuck on some boulders and weed beds at the end of a muddy beach which leads up to a little salt-flat marsh, his rudder is wedged between rocks and weed clumps.  It is a mere temporary state of  grounding! The tide still builds steadily and skipper knows he will float off at some stage in the next twenty minutes or so. After all, he had the foresight to plan an exploration of new waters on a rising tide because of this potential eventuality.

Oar pushing and boat rocking have failed to move the open boat and so, after a few minutes of strenuous activity in the hot afternoon sun, skipper has decided to let nature take its course. He will wait awhile and hope to float off. In the meantime, like many a skipper before him, he replays the previous minutes leading up to the grounding and ponders the inevitable key question…………… ‘What happened - it was going so well?’

The gentle breeze pushes the little John Welsford designed ‘navigator’ yawl on a downwind run up past Erth Island marshes. The mizzen, almost fully out over the port transom quarter, flutters occasionally, its sheet tugging through boomkin block, causing the inboard end to rattle gently against the wooden securing loop under the port aft side deck. It is a familiar sound to skipper. The long loop of slack mainsheet hanging vertically from the aft end of the sprit boom occasionally dips down, dragging in the water; adding ‘ripples’ to the gurgling soundscape running alongside the boats lapstrake hull.

Lazy summer days drifting along on a flood tide. How glorious. 

A swift glance at the little yellow waterproof notebook with its hand drawn pilotage maps and annotations confirms Skipper’s thoughts. “No need to rush, pointless entering the upper Lynher before 1530pm”.  A scrawled annotation reads “enter/exit upper Lynher 1.5 hrs +/- high water”. Pre-trip research done a few days ago.  Drawing only 20” or so with the centreboard and rudder fully down, the welsh sailor quickly calculates tidal heights in his head and concludes that he could indeed enter the channel now, at 14.30; after all high tide is at 1654 and is 4.9m. There should be enough channel depth even if the tide hasn’t completely filled the channel yet.  

He turns a little to starboard towards the upper Lynher entrance and winds shift around to come over his starboard aft beam putting him on a reach. Lowering centreboard a little more, he hauls in the mainsheet a wee bit and the boom, carried by the breeze, settles a couple of metres over the port beam. The rudder is fully down and although mudflats are still exposed on either channel side he should have plenty of water under the hull mid channel and enough room to do some short tacks upriver if needed.

There is no rush. Arwen, the little white yawl with her tan sails, glides northwards, her lone occupant beguiled by gentle breezes and blue skies, the high-level stratus clouds and balmy temperatures of 28C. Relaxed and contented, he drifts along, pushed by the merest whisper of breeze and tidal current.

Reaching for the binoculars from their customary place behind the backrests, under the starboard side deck, he sweeps them left to right; a gentle arc searching out the channel marker poles beyond the lone humorous, mis-directional signpost. He chuckles to himself about some soul’s mischievous nature and sense of fun.  

Optical depth of field brings the low gently sloping hills of Devonian slates and grits with their improved grassland pastures, Cornish hedgerows and scattered clumps of sessile oak woodlands beyond the muddy shingle beaches and marshes into focus.

An unusual feature, skipper reflects, are the areas of intertidal mudflats and marshes. Unusual, because this is a flooded Ria valley and marshes this far up are not a normally expected geographical feature. Their flat surfaces, covered by thin wavy grasses and bisected by tiny creeks and gullies add interest to the scene before him. Geographical oddities, their normal bright green colour replaced by a drought induced wilted yellow/beige shade which glistens silvery when blown in certain directions.  

As the little yawl pushes forward at 1 knot or so, the sailor moves forward to unclip his paddle from the front port fore deck area before returning aft to check that the oars resting in their rowlocks along each side deck are ready to be deployed.  He knows that the local topography around this part of the river has a deceptive influence on gentle breezes. They spill off slopes in sudden shifts of wind direction. At times, they can die completely, blanketed by thick shoreline oak woods; leaving a little boat becalmed; to drift at the mercy of tide and river current.

On this particular trip, skipper has vowed not to, under any circumstances, start the outboard motor hanging off the bracket on the port side of the transom. It is to be three days continuous sailing without using the outboard, once initially clear of the launch site in busy Sutton harbour. Thus far, and feeling rather proud about it, he has managed to keep that aim going; sailing through the Torpoint chain ferries and the long trot lines of moored yachts and successfully picking up and departing from a mooring at the entrance to the Lynher river. He has every intention of sailing right onto the pontoon at Treluggan boatyard later on this early evening. “No motor on this trip. Just not happening” he whispers to himself and the heron standing motionless at the water’s edge.  

Of course, some would say, in order to guarantee this aim, “Leave the motor at home”  To which the reply is always the same…………”Some day; when I have had more experience of river cruising in a wider variety of conditions; and better faith in my own abilities; maybe then. And anyway, it adds some useful ballast!” Skipper has lost some two stone in weight this year. He’s very pleased with this; and he knows that Arwen best sails with around one stone of ballast for every foot of boat length. The outboard engine is the extra ballast required! Or so he kids himself!

As the murmuring breeze further ebbs away, both snotter and downhaul are eased, the sprit boom moves slightly forward and more ‘bag’ appears in the mainsail. Arwen gains a marginal increase in forward momentum but soon the jib flutters and falls limply across the foredeck, its sheets gently rattling the side deck blocks. Skipper hauls on the thin red line leading to the bowsprit furler and the jib obediently furls. For now, it is useless.

Closing on what will be the first of many channel marker poles, he reaches for a water bottle from one of the aft cockpit halyard bags. Cheese and marmite sandwiches are retrieved from a neighbouring bag and with forearm resting on tiller to maintain some semblance of steering direction, refreshments are taken.  Not fully sure of the channel ahead despite his pilotage research, note taking and scrutinising of google earth and local charts, he anticipates that manoeuvring room may be limited,  the final approach up to the yard uncertain and so it seems prudent to eat and drink now in the wider water area of the confluence.  

The makeshift signpost is passed; the red and white stripped port marker pole comes abeam. The starboard green and white pole with its rather marked upstream lean, falls slowly astern. The lone sailor makes a course adjustment and fortuitously the breezes unexpectedly reappear. That ‘cheeky’ local topography! Now, coming from the port aft quarter, the boom idly eases across in slow motion to the starboard side. The rattle of boomkin and block confirms the mizzen has done likewise. He quickly glances over his shoulder to confirm that its sheet has cleared the raised outboard engine and the petrol cap that has so often fouled the sheet in the past. All is well.  The next port marker falls astern. The last leg, the final approach has been started. From now on this is, for skipper, uncharted territory. He has sailed many times to St German’s but never up the Lynher to Treluggan.  It’s a new adventure! It’s quite exciting!

Centreboard is lowered a mite further and skipper keeps a wary eye on waters ahead. Steep, exposed mudbanks stretch down from marshes on the Erth island side to the east. His eyes flick constantly from sketch map in notebook to view ahead, as he mentally ticks off identifiable pilotage features. He navigates by marker poles, ticking them off one by one, criss-crossing the channel from side to side, keeping to the outside of the bends. Positioned on the port side thwart to gain the clearest view ahead of the closing western shoreline, he’s already checked that the little lifting cam cleat securing the rudder downhaul is free and ready to lift should the rudder hit bottom. Centreboard downhaul has been released; it should bob upwards into the case on first contact with any obstruction below.
The occasional flap of the main sail luff, the gurgling of waters trickling alongside the hull; the harsh cackles of Brent geese somewhere ahead lull the boats occupant into a hypnotic state; so, he is somewhat startled by the sudden flap of wings and cries of the rook departing the top of the starboard marker pole ahead. Too close to that pole for his liking and with  rising rafts of weed either side of it, he realises he is running out of water depth. He nudges the tiller towards the pole and Arwen’s bow heads out towards the centre of the narrowing channel. He closes more slowly on the port marker pole on the opposite side of the channel. He is wary once again.

The brush with the shallows did, however, afford him fabulous views of the Erth Island marsh hinterlands. Motionless white egrets in little gullies and dry sea grasses and reeds sighing in the breeze.  A buzzard lifting off the marsh 30 ms inland. A few hundred metres beyond the seaward edge of the marsh, a tree and hedge line and then the sloping Cornish hills. As a geographer he appreciates the vital role these upper salt marshes have in the ecology of the area. Home to 6000 or so fowl and 10,000 wading birds; a vital overwintering feeding spot; a zoned landscape of mudflats, salt marshes, freshwater fens and wild oak woodlands.  He enjoys the utmost peace, tranquillity and charm such places bring.

He skirts the next port marker, sailing close inshore, past the rear of a neighbouring salt marsh and its little beach where a low black hulled barge is moored. High and dry on the upper marsh tussocky vegetation, it is firmly moored fore and aft with thick silvery hawsers, their lower portions a washing line for dried seaweed and assorted plastic flotsam. Seemingly abandoned, closer inspection shows it is well maintained and used at times, for windows and portholes are covered with faded curtains and bleached canvas outdoor chairs rest against the low cabin walls. Perhaps it is a holiday retreat, a place to escape the vagaries of a busy lifestyle.

A grating sound. 

The boat lurches jolting Skipper out of his reverie.  No warning thump of the centreboard hitting its centre trunk cap; no ‘click’ signalling the lifting of the quick release cam cleat on the tiller. A hasty glance over the transom confirms skipper’s worst fears and suspicions. He is aground. Marooned on some weed covered boulders just beyond the channel port marker pole.  How ironic!  The rudder, surprisingly, appears jammed, unable to float upwards. Skipper releases mainsail halyards, dropping the sail into the boat; he does likewise with mizzen. Pushing backwards on an oar placed on both sides of his boat has no effect. Rocking side to side fails likewise. He contemplates jumping overboard into the 18” or so of water beneath the hull. The footing appears to be  thick mud and scattered boulders; the water surface is murky and weed covered; a bladder wrack forest! Um! Maybe not.

Serves me right’ he says to himself. “Less time admiring the view, more focus on what I’m doing and next time be aware of the soporific effects of the sun!” Skipper chastises himself for making such an elementary school boy error!

But he soon relaxes, safe in the knowledge that the little boat will be lifted off by the remaining tide and with luck and good fortune, the rudder will then un-jam and float upwards. The centreboard has been raised, sails have been collapsed and temporarily tied. For the next twenty minutes or so, patience is needed.

He explores his immediate surroundings. Ten metres away, on a gently sloping shingle mud mix beach, sentinel Brent geese eye the boat and its poor watching keeping skipper with suspicion. On the grassy low bank beyond, other geese graze, a few gulls strut about and ever watchful crows discuss the skipper’s antics in a series of shrill ‘clawc’s’. The boat has beached just off an old long forgotten low quayside; a few rotting vertical wooden poles all that remain of a once wood protected low quay wall. Mud built up over the century or so makes what remains of the wall very low indeed.  Driftwood litters the grassy bank; some larger logs bleached silvery grey by years of weathering. An erect heron regally surveys the scene from one of the driftwood tree branches.

And so, it comes to pass. 
A foot or so more tidal height and Arwen floats off the boulders and weed raft. Using an oar, skipper pushes back and fore until the little white boat eventually moves backwards. The rudder rises upwards adorned with weed and a few new scrapes in its white paintwork. Grey scars and gashes, a rather nasty looking gouge but close inspection shows the bottom layer of fibreglass cloth has held and not been damaged. Water tightness has been maintained. But it is a ‘workbench job for when we get back’ thinks skipper.

Standing in the forward port side part of the cockpit, he paddles his boat out into the channel and raises the mainsail. It flutters and fills, setting on the starboard side. He takes a chance, raising both mizzen and jib and the little boat glides forward across the channel towards the next starboard channel marker pole. Ahead, as he rounds the slight bend, the railway viaduct hoves into view. Skirting the western channel side, this time acutely aware of seaweed clumps and sticking up branches in the channel, he slowly glides upstream. Alongside him, hills slope down to wire fences and tree canopies tower above his sails, dangling over the small river cliffs and casting occasional shadows over the rocky beaches below.

The river surface is mirror calm, only the occasional ripple betrays the presence of a breeze. Ahead, the symmetrical arches of the Victorian Brunel designed railway viaduct, a testimony to Victorian ingenuity.  The purple coloured brick parapets, resting on what appear to be large granite support pillars, are covered with grasses and small buddleia bushes; white lime streaks adorn the ceilings of the inner arches where mortar and water have mixed and precipitated out over the years. The slowly setting afternoon sun casts shadows on the upper inner archways and the river surface beyond the viaduct.

Skipper checks the wind direction and speed and mentally plots his course for the middle span. The ‘fairway’ is marked by white squares on two neighbouring viaduct pillars; each white square having a square of red or green paint within it. Clear channel markers. His paddle rests across the starboard side thwart; he is drifting, the sails barely fill. Carried by the last of the incoming tide and faintest of breeze, he approaches the central arch. He knows his raised sails will clear with several metres above to spare yet from his current position, that arch just doesn’t look high enough. It is now a matter of faith! Faith in his calculation of tidal heights and archway clearances. Faith, that the breeze will hold.

He moves further forward. The mainsail sags, the sprit boom hangs listlessly and lolls inwards. Ten metres to go. The trees on the western bank have caused a wind shadow. There is no breeze. The jib, once again, hangs forlornly over the fore deck. The mizzen just tends to itself, amidships. Three metres to go. 

A startled cormorant sunning itself on the bottom wedge shaped buttress at the foot of the western archway pillar takes off and skims across the water down the side of Arwen.  By now the fore deck is under the arch span. The coolness of the air and the shadow within make skipper shiver involuntarily. He cranes his neck back to inspect the roof top above as a small three coach train rumbles overhead.

And then boat and sailor are through and a new world has appeared. On the western shore, a large tidal salt marsh, backed by a small hill and remains of a tree covered large quarry site. Incongruously, between the trees, scattered aluminium masts stand straight and glittery in the early evening sunshine but hulls below remain hidden by vegetation.

Along the seaward fringes of the marshes lie an assortment of large barges and boats. Live-aboards, in various states of repair and conversion. A black hulled Dutch barge with red top strake and rear cabin, its green hatch covers reflecting the light. An old WWII motor torpedo boat with its blunt, near vertically faced cabin structure and long sweeping bow. Its stern deck is covered with off white awnings and frames; the metallic lattice work that held lights and signal halyards and perhaps even radar, rusted and pitted. Beyond these ancient vessels, the first glimpse of an old wooden pontoon, low on the water surface, arcing out and away from the shoreline, its outer end indicated by a small white cabin sail boat moored to its inner side.

Whoosh! Unnoticed by skipper, the mainsail had swung over to the port side during the passage through the viaduct archway. Now, out of the wind shadow cast by this structure, the sail with its sagging sprit boom shoots viciously across the boat to the starboard side, clearing skipper’s head by a mere inch or two at best. He is a lucky man. His reactions are first rate although he doesn’t appreciate the face plant he executes onto the back of the rear centreboard casing. Whilst his skull remains undamaged, the thought of a possible deep forehead impression mark cast by the jib sheet cam cleat he hit, worries him. It will be embarrassing arriving with a dent in his forehead! He rubs the affected area gingerly and once again curses himself for being ‘lured’ by the landscape beauty! Another valuable ‘repeat’ lesson……” keep your eyes on the sail and wind not the scenery”.

Less than 50 metres to go. His perusal ahead shows that there is insufficient water in the channel for him to execute a turn that would bring Arwen’s bow facing downstream when he ties up at the pontoon. It will be a downwind arrival onto the pontoon then. There is insufficient wind for it to be by jib or jib and mizzen alone and so he opts for a mainsail approach. Jib and mizzen are duly furled. He can always drop main closer to the pontoon and arrive using paddle if need be. After assessing his approach, the sailor leans forward and adeptly deploys three black fenders along his port side; he moves the bow and stern warps closer to hand on the thwart top. He is ready.

aerial view of treluggan boat yard

Passing the small closed off creek to his starboard side, with its withies, planted in giant X’s across the channel entrance, he admires the fetching black hulled yacht that has been pulled up onto the shore. Its bow points up the sloping hillside, wooden legs support its sides and the stern is tied off to two mooring poles, upright in the shallows. A long warp from bow to convenient tree secures the front and the mast has been raked back slightly to avoid the overhanging oak tree branches. Tarpaulin covered, with black mould and lichen marks everywhere, the pretty little yacht has clearly been ashore for some time.

Arwen creeps alongside the Dutch barge with its little smoke stacks between hatch covers; she slides past the MTB, its grey paint rust stained.  Skipper eases her over to the starboard channel side as a 35’ ketch suddenly appears as if from nowhere. He didn’t see her and so he is momentarily caught off guard. Her masts must have blended with those ashore and she’d been hidden by the boats moored on the outer end of the pontoon. But no worries, for there is sufficient room for this boat and Arwen to pass each other. The boat’s skipper throttles down as he passes the little open dinghy. Courteous greetings, smiles and waves are exchanged and Arwen’s bows lift and bounce over the small wake.

river channel up to treluggan boat yard

With barely any breeze now present, the dinghy’s skipper eases her alongside the moored boats on the outer edge of the pontoon and past the last grey rib. A quick flick of the tiller to starboard and the little dinghy comes alongside. Main sheet is released, mainsail halyard uncleated and the sail drops with alacrity into the boat. The little boat drifts a few feet to a stop. In one fluid movement skipper has stepped ashore with bow warp and before he knows it has secured it through an iron loop on the wooden pontoon. The stern warp is secured likewise and skipper steps back aboard to raise the rudder. Standing in the rear cockpit, skipper suddenly remembers it is time to breath again. It is a first. He has managed to sail from the Cattedown to the Treluggan boat yard pontoon without recourse to the outboard. For normal sailors, this is an unremarkable feat! For this sailor, it is an achievement.

Stepping once more onto the rickety pontoon of what suspiciously look like old interlocking railway sleepers, skipper re-positions fenders and calculates what length of warp he needs to set. The tide is at its highest. In a half hour or so it will turn. He knows that at low tide the mud banks to his right will be almost 2.5m above him when they meet shoreline and the width of water in the channel will be a few metres at best. He thinks his boat will rest on the bottom overnight or float in only a few inches of water. Gambling that the pontoon probably has a four-foot depth to it, and that it will dry out on the bottom at low tide, he adjusts for enough slack in the warps and rigs a spring line as well.

With boat secure, he stretches his legs by walking the length of the pontoon. Black brown and gouged, where wood has rotted away, it is indeed a series of smaller wooden pontoons chained together. Their surfaces are covered in nailed down chicken wire to provide grip. Grasses grow in crevices along the outer edges; the occasional shrub grows on the inner edge. Electric cabling runs loosely along the surface on the outer edges. A mixture of new and old iron bollard cleats and loops provides mooring fixings. It is antiquated, serviceable and rather charming.

mooring overnight at treluggan boat yard pontoon

Soulful but uplifting country music drifts across the scenery from one of the live-aboard barges, accompanied by laughter and tinkling glasses. It isn’t obtrusive, rather the opposite, homely and welcoming. Skipper ambles back along the deserted pontoon to where an iron girder footbridge rests, its other end linked to the grassy bank by the concrete slipway.  To one side lies an inverted 6’ tender rib, a small fibreglass dinghy, some old tarpaulins, a few tyres and a small portable petrol generator. A coiled yellow hose pipe hangs on a bracket. On the outer pontoon edge, a space reserved for a harbour launch, old white fenders protect pontoon sides and ducks drift alongside; the water beneath gurgles in little eddies and rivulets.

On the inside of the pontoon, a shallow, mud filled lagoon with an old wreck. The transom, a few planks and one side panel all that remain of a small old cabin cruising boat, now breaking the surface of the greeny waters. 

It is time to check in at the boatyard office. Then a boat tidy and an explore of boatyard and quarry before assembling the tarp tent and cooking an evening meal. The local ducks float up to skipper for a close inspection. He concludes that the evening meal is clearly going to be a ‘shared one’. 

dinghy cruising tent

Saturday 8 December 2018

New travel kit

I've written before about the film kit that I take on cruises with Arwen. Recently though, someone asked me about what travel photography kit I carry on my travels.

Well this set me pondering. I am no photographer and in fact I have just put myself on a digital DSLR photography beginners course in January after buying a new entry level DSLR camera - a canon EOS 800D

So what's in the travel bag, ready for our forthcoming Europe trip (which is still in its planning phase but is slowly coming together)?

  • a lightweight amazon basics 50" tripod, a small 10" high tripod and another flexible bendy leg tripod
  • if travelling abroad, my lightweight dell laptop or my Samsung 7" Galaxy tab
  • small portable battery pack
  • Zoom H1 microphone with windmuff
  • canon EOS 800D with 18 - 55mm zoom and 55 - 250 zoom lenses, each with protective filter lenses
  • spare batteries for above
  • manual and quick guide for above camera
  • remote control for EOS 800D
  • cleaning kit 
  • selfie stick bluetooth
  • note book
  • penknife
  • green kneeling matt
  • two GoPro Hero 5 blacks with spare batteries
  • two selfie sticks for GoPro's
  • assorted GoPro clips and fittings
  • egg timer for time-lapse on GoPro's
  • spare memory cards 
  • lightweight ear buds
All of this gear sounds a lot but actually doesn't weigh much. It gets carried in my photography rucksac which still has enough room for waterproof and flask. 

And why the sudden interest in digital photography?
I was disappointed with my photographs from our recent China expedition and I realised I need to learn far more about the basics of photography. I will never be a good photographer but learning the basics to take better photos for blog and future magazine articles will help enormously. 

the new camera will be coming with me when I attend a travel show next year where I have signed up to workshops on vlogging travel videos, taking better travel photos and writing for travel magazines

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Apologies for my tardiness

My apologies for the lateness of this post. A few weeks travelling across SE China led to the delay in editing my latest vlog, hampered by forgetting to actually load batteries into the camera.
Don't say a word 🙄

Saturday 13 October 2018

Dinghy cruising a Welsford navigator: exploring Arwen's rigging part 1

There will be a part 2 forthcoming in a few weeks time. in the meantime.................

Friday 5 October 2018

Dinghy cruising: up the river Lynher with long forgotten lakes, quaysides, castles and chapels

Ince castle, high above Ince Point hoves into view. Off the Skipper’s starboard beam, and passing slowly astern, lies Wivelscombe Lake, a shallow expanse of water ending in several small tidal creeks. And, somewhere beyond the tall reeds that fringe its edges, lie abandoned quarries and quaysides.

new seal repair on steering compass

Skipper falters a little, the temptation to explore this backwater lake gnaws into his consciousness. As his focus waivers, Arwen, his little open boat, loses headway and her bow begins to turn away downwind.

But, a prudent decision is made and the sailor nudges the tiller to port and heads the bow once more upriver. The building tide is carrying him towards the confluence where the river Tiddy joins the Lynher; the point where he will turn northwards up the narrowing Lynher towards the Treluggan Boat yard on the last of the spring tide.  

Wivelscombe Lake will be saved for another day on a similar building spring tide when he can safely nose into reed bed lined creeks, nooks and crannies. Maybe he can even dry out on the mudflats overnight to enjoy the starlight sky and wildlife around him, safe in the knowledge that the following early morning tide will float him off and he can row back into the central lake channel and out to the main river again.

jib sheets back to aft centre-case when single handing

Focused back on his sailing once more, he notes that the westerly breezes whistling down the channel at a steady 8 – 10 kts are still causing the water surface to pile up into steep sided little choppy waves; classic wind against an incoming tide. He tensions the snotter slightly to flatten the sail and eases downhaul to spill off some of the wind in the upper sail. The gusts are unpredictable and they spill off the surrounding hills ahead at some 18 – 25 kts. Skipper keeps his eyes forward watching for the crinkly marks across the small chop that announce the imminent arrival of one of these ‘dry’ squalls. It isn't quite time to consider reefing, not quite yet. 

Ignoring his notebook with its courses, bearings and distances plotted in shorthand, skipper tacks back and forth up the channel, his eyes glued to chart and waters ahead. He is confident that he has sufficient water now beneath him to cross the sand/mud banks that dry out at some 0.50m or so at low water, mid channel.

Ince Castle (well a house really) with its famous four turrets slowly falls astern. He’s makes a steady 5.2 kts but this brings occasional dollops of spray as the little dinghy’s bow plunges into troughs and whilst he is relatively dry, the continual plunge and twist motion is a tad uncomfortable and, after all,  as regular readers know, skipper is prone to the odd bout of sea sickness now and then.

below the deck, all lines run aft

And 'Now’ is one of those times. So, he focuses his mind on the story behind the Ince towers. Built in 1642 at the start of the English Civil war, the house was captured by the Parliamentarians. Ince is Cornish for ‘island’ and the peninsula on which the house is sat is almost one with two quays either-side of a narrow neck of land at its far north western end. Similar in sound to ‘Ynys’, the welsh for island he muses.

Anyway, the story goes that Sir Henry Killigrew, a royalist MP modified the castle just before the Civil War by adding four towers, one tower for each of his four wives! All of them were kept in their own tower, blissfully unaware that in the remaining towers they had three other competitors for his affections! Or so the story goes! Skipper fleetingly muses on the perils or otherwise of having four wives and then wisely decides its best not to pursue that line of thought further. 

securely stowed sleeping boards 

As the green 'Ince' starboard buoy, with its upstream tilt, passes by, skipper searches the channel for his next navigation marker, the red port can ‘Wacker Quay’. The twenty foot yacht some quarter mile behind would probably have to keep to the mid-water channel on approaching the can, for the tide is still building. Skipper, estimating he has at least 1.4m of depth below him now, decides to take a long tack across the channel towards Wacker lake and the tree covered Warren Point. 

On this port tack, he hears the revving of a number of outboards and so ducks down to gain a view under the mainsail. Line astern and approaching fast are four black inflatables, each holding four Royal Marines and their kit. A 'raiding'party, ooh that looks fun!

The lead boat anticipating the fledgling skipper’s course, alters a little to starboard to pass close behind the white dinghy's stern. Waves and smiles are exchanged with each crew as skipper risks several quick glances over his shoulder at the passing craft but his focus is pulled back to the course ahead. If he has read the chart right, and if the muds and sands have not shifted too much, then he should be heading up the little river channel that flows out of Wacker Lake.

Ahead protrudes  Wacker Quay, another nineteenth century agricultural dockside where barges unloaded limestone and loaded up with lime. But what many sailors who pass by may not know is that there are also the remains of a tiny military narrow-gauge railway. In 1886 it ran from the quay up the hill and overland to the south Cornish coast. Horse drawn trams hauled stone up the incline and over the hill to the stone masons building the new Tregantle Fort high on the cliff top. Not for the first time skipper muses on why his brain manages to retain totally irrelevant material and nothing that is of actual importance.
Now the area is a wildlife haven, a popular bird watching site as just beyond the quay is a car park and the main road down to Cremyll on the Tamar.

the channel up to St Germans (and to the final stretch of Lynher up to Treluggan)

Closing as near as he can to Warren point opposite the quayside and at the point where the wind shadow begins to appear, the lone sailor tacks rapidly to starboard, thus giving himself a nice long close-hauled tack back across the channel, through Dandy Hole, towards Redshanks Point. The wind God’s favour the amateur sailor and for a short time skipper enjoys a respite from the constant back and forth tacking that has dominated his voyage up the Lynher thus far. There is just enough time to lock off the tiller and mainsheet, trim the sails for self- sailing and pour himself a much-needed cuppa from his flask. He skirts the large anchored yachts lying in the sheltered lee of the hill and the deep water pools afforded them on the outside of the river bend and mentally notes that one of them looks as if it is permanently lived aboard.

As he turns the river bend, the winds drop to a more comfortable level and, for some obscure reason that Skipper can’t quite work out, it starts to blow from slightly astern. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he takes full advantage of the shift, letting out his sails and raising his centreboard to put himself onto a near downwind run. The chop has gone, the river surface is mirror like. As he leans over the port bow and stares into the greeny-brown water, his reflection stares back. It may be an ugly mug but that smile is something else and says it all! 

approaching dandy Hole

 Through the narrow channel between Beacon Hill and St Erth Hill on the eastern side, skipper gently zig-zags up the channel, spying the Marines pulling their ribs onto the beach, almost hidden beneath the low oak trees on the western shore. Ahead in the far distance two paddle-boarders heading downriver, skirt the eastern tide line whilst somewhere on St Erth Hill lies the chapel that skipper has yet to find. Almost possessing 'Harry Potter' like magical properties, despite several forays out from Redshanks Beach, he has yet to discover this 'mystical chapel. Somewhere, hidden from his gaze lies this  two-storey, late thirteenth century chapel with its faded medieval wall paintings. The lower floor was used as a cider house, and still contains its granite millstone and wooden press; the upper floor, is the chapel itself. Known as Earth Barton Chapel, the only known medieval document relating to it dates from 1413. Now it is a listed building. 

where the Tiddy and Lynher part company 

It is a very hard to find listed building but being the history buff that skipper is, he knows he won’t give in. At some stage in the next couple of years, he will find and visit the chapel, hopefully with son in tow. After all, what is the point of having a son who is a medieval history specialist if you can't drag him along occasionally for a free insightful, enthusiastic commentary or two?

all signs point to Treluggan!

You may have seen it before - if so why not visit
and download another play list?

Thursday 4 October 2018

Dinghy cruising: sail trimming and playing with sails

Playing with sails, and forthcoming a quick look at rigging on Arwen and the the sailing in the Kingsbridge estuary series.

My next bog update will be a continuation of my recent journey up to the Treluggan boat yard.

Thursday 27 September 2018

Dinghy cruising: Fine tuning the standing lug rig - an update

Well, progress is being made. A video is on its way showing some of the subtle differences I have managed to achieve in rigging and sail shape. There is still a way to go but we are getting there, thanks to the help of John, Joel, my good friend Dave and many others out there in the FaceBook community. The Jedi side of FaceBook as I like to think of it.

A quick trip out in the sound last week and another quick trip to Salcombe yesterday tested out some of the rig adjustments.

The moving of the mainsail peak right to the top of the aft part of the yard has let to better upper sail shape although please don't as me to explain why - as I have not the foggiest idea.

The new arrangement of an S hook onto which I can attach the parrel bead loop at the tack of the sail is much better although I suspect I am going to have to move the main mast side cleat position.

standing lug sail configuration

tack downhaul on standing lug sail

The loop keeps getting caught on it as I haul up the main sail and so the sail is being prevented from reaching its highest point on the mast as it should. In the interim, I haul the main sail up and then move forward to attach the parrel loop but it is a pain and unnecessary, so the cleat will have to be moved.

attaching the top yard on standing lug sail

The moving of the tack downhaul has been a great success but has more work to do on it. The tack is now held against the base of the mast, much better! The tack downhaul is now a line which runs down through the deck from the tack S hook and attaches to the block and tackle which lies in front of the centrecase.  It is here that the problem exists. I still cant get sufficient tension on the luff to eliminate the throat to clew crease before the two blocks in the tackle end up meeting each other.  similarly, the line from tackle to tack is a little too short an so restricts the height I can pull the main sail up (by a few inches).

So, tomorrow I will alter the block and tackle positions allowing a greater distance between them and I will alter the length of the line. Next week I will get out again and quickly test them one more time. I am hoping these adjustments will be the final ones and the crease will disappear for good.

The new arrangement for holding the yard against the mast is much better and the steel loops on the yard with the mainsail halyard going through the top one, then around the port side of the mast to tie off on the lower one seem to be doing the trick. I think some further adjustment is needed but I haven't yet quite worked out what it is. I'll get there. I am what some might term a slow learner!

What is definite is that in light winds yesterday at Salcombe, Arwen sailed better than she has in the past. This may be down to the alterations. It may be down to my greater understanding of the rig, developed over this last year or so.

I am going to remove the reefing lines and set them up as I saw Tim do on Facebook. He kindly sent me some photographs of his arrangement, in which he has a line with a hook attached to the aft end of the sprit boom which he can clip onto the first or second reefing cringle in the leech of the main sail. I guess the line with clip is just held in place by a velcro loop when not in use. Similarly at the tack end, he has another short line with another hook that runs from the downhaul hook and this clips into either of the reefing cringles on the luff.  It looks much easier and neater than my current system and is worth a try.

And that is it. Over the winter I will paint the hull again as the trailer rollers have taken their toll. The rub rails need a good sanding and filling in places, there are signs of rot in one or two patches. I will put in new circular hatches on the front thwart seat tops and fill in the hatch openings on the thwart sides. that will make those locker spaces far more accessible.  Little locks have been installed on all hatch lids already so that if I am camp cruising and go off for a stroll it will potentially slow down or hopefully deter any pilfering light-fingered groats!

I enjoyed sailing in Salcombe yesterday. It was far less busy with plenty of space to tack and drift without being mown down by someone. Much better!  Now if only I can find a tide which will be suitable for a bit of camp cruising up the creeks to Frogmore, Southpool and Kingsbridge.