A blog about sailing a John Welsford
'Navigator' yawl around Plymouth Sound
in South-west England
Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and i am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's battery marina in the barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England. Arwen has a YouTube channel of her own. Search "plymouthwelshboy".
There is something exciting about planning a simple camp
cruising voyage. In the preceding weeks leading up to the departure, food
stores are bought on a drip feed basis; a ‘little
something for the trip’ added to the weekly grocery shop. Jellies with
mandarin pieces. Oat muesli bars. The odd packet or two of mixed cashew nuts
with dried cranberries and sultanas, a peculiar mix I know, but one that suits
my strange palette.
Then there is the passage planning. It starts with a vague
notion of wanting to go somewhere. My small craft almanac gets leafed through
to find suitable tides and the family calendar checked. Yes, a few days
unaccounted for in family life that coincide with suitable early morning and
evening high tides. Opportunities to be seized.
Google earth gets pored over. A possible passage route
scrutinised for sheltered anchorages, alternative camping sites, interesting creeks
to explore, mudflats to avoid.
In the few days before Arwen and I set off, Arwen is cleaned,
her equipment and rigging checked and everything unpacked and re-stowed along
with the additional camp cruising gear not carried on normal day trips. Her outboard
gets started up and trailer rollers are greased appropriately.Food stores are assembled, the galley box
packed. The emergency grab bag is opened, its contents individually assessed
In the two evenings leading up to voyage day 1, the pilotage
and detailed planning takes place, based on the most up-to-date forecasts and
tidal information. My little waterproof notebook gets filled in with tide
times, sketch maps, buoyage details, important phone numbers and is added to
the other pilotage equipment I carry in a small waterproof bag, a plotter,
compass, handheld GPS, dividers and a few commercial flipcharts of useful
skipper notes and reminders.
And then departure days dawns. June 25th 2018.
A 0730 departure for the local marina QAB, arriving at 0800.
Arwen is rigged and checked; everything securely stowed. Ditty bag and day
snacks and drink easy to hand. Launch fees paid, a quick chat with boat yard staff,
some of whose children I have taught or wives worked with.
Arwen slips off her trailer easily and floats well, her trim fore and aft well balanced albeit slightly
lower than normal given the extra supplies. She drifts slowly across the launch ramp to lie
alongside the floating pontoon with barely a bump. With little wind and no
other boats launching, she is moored with stern and bow warps only and lies
there in the sun, a pretty boat often admired by those with bigger boats moored
on finger pontoons further along, as they walk by to and from the marina
office and local cafes.
After warming up the outboard, we ease out into the Sutton pool
area and pass the tourist boats and water taxis. No motoring into Jennycliffe
bay today. The moment we clear the old quaysides, sails are hoisted and we set
off across the front of Plymouth Hoe, making for a string of large yellow
visitor moorings that lie in the lee of Drakes Island. Sailing straight onto
the first mooring buoy under mainsail and mizzen in the gentle ESE breeze, I allow
myself a fleeting congratulatory moment. The aim of this voyage is minimal use
of the motor and objective one has just been achieved. The sail was raised the
moment we cleared into the Cattedown. Job done! of course, it will be a proper job done when I raise sails at QAB pontoon and sail out of Sutton harbour. But I have yet to develop the confidence to do that, and yes, I know, if I don't try it one day, then how will I develop that confidence?
Its 9.40am. The little yellow log book says ‘depart mooring cans 10.15 at start of
incoming tide’. The heat is building, the sun intense and shade is little. I
pore over the chart and the log pilotage notes. GoPros and cameras are checked.
A camera mount moved to a new position. A litre of water is consumed; sun cream
reapplied. It is going to be a hot ’un. I try to fix in my mind’s eye the passage
notes and little sketch maps showing key buoys, bearings, distances and times.
Small craft moorings to West vanguard starboard channel
green can 273 deg Mag0.5NM with a tidal
stream of 090 deg at 0.2kts.
Sails get raised, flapping in the building breeze. We drag the big buoy down the starboard side and unclip and stow the short painter with its Carabiner hook. The jib is unfurled and and we drift off to port, leaving the mooring can behind; rudder and centreboard down we pull away on a gentle reach before doing a gentle gybe onto our first course stage. We are off, powered by gentle 6kt breezes from the ESE. The camp
cruising voyage begins.
Well here we are. The first in a series of vlogs/videos. This first one is a slight departure from my normal approach, more commentary and slightly longer length. The sound occasionally has some faint background noise due to a malfunction with my camera and mic that I only discovered on my return but it is audible. Anyway, as always, it is a video diary for my future 80 year old self, but comments are always welcome.
The next leg of the journey, part two, up the Lynher, is less commentary and more sailing in serene, stunning scenery. Look out for that sometime next week along with a short vlog on using the galley box on board Arwen.
Have a lovely weekend when it arrives and 'Com'on England'!
How does one deal with a wobbly bit on a transom bracket? A 300mm long x 3mm across crack in the wood which wobbles under engine vibrations caused some consternation last week when motoring back for an afternoon appointment across a rather choppy, windswept Hamoze against a building spring tide. My how that wind shifted around and built unexpectedly!
Having just repaired and strengthened the transom bracket a few months ago over winter, it is clear I am both a poor designer and carpenter.
Anyway, this morning, several cuppas were consumed whilst I worked out the least amount of work needed to make a better job of it this time around. I have concluded that a new piece of 9 mm epoxied and screwed onto the back of the broken bracket bit, along with some galvanised steel corner brackets to reinforce corners will do the job.
So, the ply panel has been measured and cut with curves cut out along its top where the outboard bracket tensioning screws will sit. The paint has been chiselled off the back of the broken piece so that there is a bare surface for the epoxy to adhere to. Tomorrow epoxy gets mixed, the new piece gets clamped and screwed on. Epoxy fillets at the corners and then the whole thing is left to dry. After sanding, there will be three coats aluminium primer, 3 coats Prekote primer and then 3 coats Toplac.
It should all be fixed by the end of next week. A mildly irritating but necessary lesson about navigating upper creek channels and submerged logs!!
On a brighter note, the new sleeping panel worked a treat. Built over the winter it comprises two uprights which are made of two ply squares which slot together to form an upright cross affair.
the sleeping platform itself - slots just under the thwart coamings
Across these two sets of 'X's lies the flat sleeping board. Everything is cut to shape and contour to fit nicely in one side of the aft foot well.
here are the two 'X' pieces - ignore the piece with the semi circular curve in it - that is a deck mast rest for transporting mast. The two 'X's' un-slot and collapse flat. The flat board rests on them. All is cut in such a way that the board fits under the thwart coaming lips under tension.
It all collapses flat pack style to fit neatly on the floor, strapped in all secure. Thanks to Joel Bergen for this brilliant design - appreciated Joel - thanks buddy.
Scratch the overnight at Torpoint mentioned in the post below. Having hit a submerged log up river above Calstock (despite keeping a sharp eye out ahead), I've managed to put a split across the transom bracket and taken a chunk out of the rudder. It sets me back a couple of weeks worth of repairs. For those of you saying 'will teach you to row', the channel was narrower than I expected and rowing Arwen long distances or for a long time is tricky!
Anyway, I will post blog diaries over next few days and video vlogs will appear in the next few weeks.
Suffice to say it was an excellent trip. I met the crew of one of our MOD police boats who came alongside for a ten minute chat; some Royal Marines in their ribs as they went woodland camping and training; a visit to two lovely old boatyards and an old Victorian quayside. The new galley box got its on-board christening as well.
And, better still, I only used the motor twice and spent much of my time ghosting along under sail 3 or 4 m off the mud banks. Kingfishers, herons, egrets, ducks, moorhens, salmon, salmon netters, buzzards, water voles, gig rowers, a barge community, old boats, restorations and much more to come.
Now, time to clean off the river residue off Arwen and to go repair the transom bracket..............and check the damage underneath the hull.
I am intending to sail around the river Tamar during next week. Monday I will sail up the Lynher to the Treluggan Boatyard. On Tuesday, I will sail up to Calstock, stopping off at Cotehele quay to see the Tamar barge Shamrock before overnighting up at Calstock. Early Wednesday morning - I may motor up to Morwellham Quay before returning down river, hopefully to overnight in the St John's Lake area.
Thursday is a bit open at the moment, depending on whether number one son wishes to join me for a sail to Cawsand; at which point he may stroll around to Barn Pool where I will be waiting on the beach to collect him.
The galley box, built over the winter, will be put to use as will the tarp tent. The weather forecast is for four days of sunny weather with temps around 20C, plenty of sunshine and winds from the E, ESE and S (around 8 - 10 kts each day, with gusts between 10 - 17 kts).
I'm hoping to visit various small boatyards along the way and I will be towing my wee lassie clinker canoe 'Angharad' for the very first time - nothing like a baptism of fire. If any one has any tips for canoe towing, I'm all ears - advice and tips welcome.
Torn loyalties this morning, but in the end everything got done.
Her indoors had been patiently waiting for her lettuce troughs and so this morning I finally cut the uprights and loosely assembled the components. A quick test fitting out back along the decking walkway and then they were disassembled for painting.
She is off to choose an appropriately bright colour and after several coats, they should be ready for final assembly and planting out the week after next.
Having sorted that, it was time to cancel the scooter insurance, having recently sold 'Stacey' our old 1960's motovespa 125 super. those who have followed the blog will know it was a 'father/son' restoration project. Anyway the company shall remain nameless but it is rare I am rendered speechless. with 7mths left to run on the insurance they charged me a £50 cancellation fee, refunded £6 and then offered me a £25 discount voucher should I take out insurance with them again; 'and could we add you to our database to receive offers about our products?'
You really couldn't write it could you.................unbelievable...................... .
To calm down I mended the transom step. On my last day sail to cellars beach, I had stepped onto it to get back into the boat and a screw came out and the step went sideways and buckled slightly.
Step straightened out, holes drilled and new holes drilled, the step has been replaced. I felt calmer afterwards and now sit here planning future voyages at the kitchen table.
Here is the last in the series on the slow passage to the
river Yealm and back again. Over the next month or so I hope to do a couple of
longer trips involving a few days. Several destinations have popped up –
sailing down to Fowey and up to Lostwithiel; sailing over to Salcombe and up to
Kingsbridge and one or two other creek heads; heading back down to Falmouth and
sailing around to the Helford river and up to Gweek etc. Also pulling my
interest is sailing up the Tamar above Calstock, up to Morwellham or beyond. And then there are one or two Dinghy Cruising Association rallies as well.
In the meantime………………………
What did I learn on
my slow passage to the river Yealm and back again?
1.Look before you leap off the boat and remember
it is always deeper than it looks!
2.Have some time calculations for each leg of your
passage plan that go at a knot or two below what you anticipate!
3.Don’t religiously follow the planned route –
sail for speed not shortest distance and when necessary, divert to get the best
speed and winds
4.Spend a little more time using the anchor buddy
to get more familiar with it and the distance you need to drop it off the beach
for it to work effectively
5.Make sure you switch off your microphone when
you don’t need it
6.Make sure you switch your microphone on when
talking to camera!!
7.Don’t accidently put your drink bottle in with
your electronics bag!
8.Mark your position on the chart when doing your
passage plan timing checks – hove to if necessary for a few minutes
9.Clip your anchor back into its securely stowed
position before sailing off after your beach stop
10.Spend some of the trip changing course using
What other things do I need to do
on Arwen before her next voyage further afield?
1.Put in reefing lines before longer voyage
2.Repair the brass step on the transom which broke
3.Consider installing taped jackstays (with
shackles stitched in at each end) for longer voyages so I can clip myself to
them for easy movement around boat
4.Put locks on the two centre thwart lockers
5.Alter the tiller tamer – I have the rope going
through the eye in the wrong direction and it occasionally binds
6.Get an outboard lock, for the longer trips away
7.Paint a ding on the starboard side which has
gone to bare wood
8.Sort out mizzen topping lift
9.Get star washers and refit the port rear trailer
roller which has come loose
10.Give some consideration to whether I also get a
PLB – I have the SPOT messenger which sends regular texts to various family
members saying I am Ok and also allows them to track where I am. Whilst it also
has an SOS button which alerts the rescue centre in USA (and gives them
direction instructions to contact Falmouth Coastguard with my co-ordinates –
since pressing that button means I am in deep trouble), I wonder whether I
should carry one of the other PLB types which immediately alerts UK rescue
authorities – something to ponder over further.
Has the RYA Day Skipper theory course made any difference to Arwen's skipper's sailing skills?
Part three due out some time next week - in which Arwen and her skipper battle light winds. Will they ever reach the River Yealm? Did Arwen's skipper's passage planning skills work out? Did attending the RYA Day Skipper theory course make any difference to him at all? Is Arwen resigned to a life of inadequate sailing due to her Skipper's incompetency......look out for next week's episode............
NOTE: A few people have asked me to do a brief vlog about Arwen's standing rigging and deck fixtures and fittings. This video will appear later this year. In the meantime, this is the first of a series of videos about a recent day trip to the river Yealm and back. This first video looks at the untidy organisation that is Arwen's interior during a day sail!
I always pride myself on providing people with good entertainment value, after all I'm a clown!
And so it was when I approached cellars Beach at the mouth to the river Yealm on Thursday, I lived up to that 'reputation'.
This was a voyage that I had meticulously planned the night before with a detailed passage plan, putting into use the knowledge I had gained during my recently completed RYA Day Skippers course. It is scary how quickly you forget the basics, but more of that later.
The beach wasn't particularly crowded, a couple of small ribs pulled up the beach with families scattered along the beach having picnics or exploring the small expanse of rocks each side for crabs etc. Four large 30' yachts rode their anchors some 40m offshore just out of the small approach channel which wound sinuously back on itself behind the notorious Yealm bar before curving eastwards once more in to the deep valley entrance to the inner river harbour.
Feeling slightly stressed from a voyage that had taken way too long and in which my miserable passage planning skills came to light, I approached with caution, my plan clear..............to approach under motor, to then switch to paddle for the last few metres. Picnic anchor with stretchy anchor buddy attached, ready flaked on the port side deck, I would drop anchor about 10m off shore, paddle in, jump off the boat in 30cm or so of water and with the rear stern mooring warp, hold Arwen against the pull of the anchor buddy; lifting out my drone bag and lunch, i'd slowly release the stern mooring line and Arwen would obediently pull out to the deeper water, I'd stroll ashore and tie off the stern rope on a suitable rock.
It came as a hell of a shock when I jumped off the deck into what I thought was 30cm only to find myself up above my waist in a barely visible pool of water.
That damned eel grass doesn't half camouflage those holes dug by kids on beaches!
A truly 'Vicar of Dibley' moment!
And for readers who don't know that much loved British comedy clip, here it is!
Still can't watch that clip without laughing myself silly. Just like the rest of the nation, comedy gold!
Anyway, as to my passage plan? Well I made several basic mistakes, but that's where the best learning takes place. Firstly, whatever possessed me to do a plan based on an average speed of 4kts per hour? Bonkers given the wind speed and direction. Secondly, I forgot to check when the inshore waters forecast was issued; consequently, the wind seed I was expecting , wasn't what I got! Force 3 it definitely wasn't; becalmed and barely force 1 was what most of the morning was like!
End result, I was around an hour and a half behind my estimated times of arrival at each waypoint.
On the plus side, distance calculations, bearings, tidal stream calculations and course to steer calculations were all pretty accurate.
It did become clear to me, as it does every year, that having a passage plan and appropriate waypoints that can be verified by alternative means (charted marks; bearings to distance objects, transits etc) is one thing. The course you may have to tack is of course completely different. In my plan, I tacked up the side of Jennycliffe Bay, from Dunston Buoy to the eastern end of the breakwater. With ESE winds, that should have put me on a close reach/close haul. But, Arwen tends to point 50 - 60 degrees off the wind for a close haul and in hindsight I would have been better going across the sound and out of the western end of the breakwater. I forgot an important rule 'sail for speed, not shortest course over ground'.
Ho hum, lesson learned, because what I expected to take an hour and a half around to the Yealm, ended up taking 3.5 hrs against a 0.5kt westerly tidal stream, which I had planned to avoid.
Interestingly enough though, the return journey with incoming tide, fair tidal stream and wind from astern, took only 45 mins. When you get all the elements right...................it works!
Here is the last of the vlog videos from last weeks day trip. I'm using new video editing software called 'Shotcut'. You may remember I lost my favourite moviemaker after my laptop crashed and we had to do a factory reset. I lost the touch screen capability s well (something that irritates me no end I might add).
Shotcut is open source software and so far I am very impressed. It is free as well and gets regular updates. It was recommended on a number of tech sites. So far I haven't even dipped below the surface of what it can do but I am finally getting the basics and I have come to learn that it is basically a more advanced form of moviemaker, albeit in a different format. it is a steep learning curve particularly on sound editing but we are slowly, and I emphasise slowly, getting to grips with its complexities.
I got to test out on this trip the new arrangement on the top yard. In previous posts I have mused on what I have learnt (or failed to have learnt) about the standing lug rig. I have put the two links to the articles below:
Essentially, I could never get the top yard to set correctly against the mast. This is because I used a rope loop which I tied onto the yard and when the yard lowered it seized on the mast halfway down.
This time, I did some research on Duckworks Magazine and other sites and tried out a new method. On the yard I lashed on a small stainless steel ring at the very fore end of the yard and another at what I calculated to be around 35% up the yard. This latter one is the estimated halyard tie on position. Now I take the main halyard which comes down from the main mast sheave and pass it through the upper ring, around the port side of the mast (the yard lies on the starboard side) and they tie it off on the lower ring with a bowline.
And hey presto it worked. No more flailing yard; no more knocking against the mast; no more tendency for it to suddenly switch mast sides after a tack; and yes, the lower part of the yard does just sit forward of the mast as it should. Hallelujah!
And yes, you might well ask why it took me so long to sort it out.
I have absolutely no idea!
I hope you enjoy this last video about the Penlee Picnic.
Got myself a handy 'speedy stitcher sewing awl' and have just started using it to create some straps to secure Arwen's galley box in position in front of the port side centre thwart. Haven't quite mastered the stitching yet though!!
I also have some plans to make a bosun's ditty bag off the internet and some nice off-white cotton canvas that I found at a discount store when 'her-indoors' was shopping for material. The ditty bag will be about 10" diameter, about 14" high and will have a 1/2" thick ply base. It will have a rope rim and I will be trying to do proper hand sewn grommets. On the outside will be some pockets for tools as well. And there will be a spliced rope handle. Just thought I might give it a go.
Now ! just have to get the hang of this stitcher tool!
In the meantime, I've managed to acquire a paddle of a suitable length that stores on the port side fore-deck, a small mooring hook pole and some stainless steel deck eyes that have been mounted to the side coamings to take a flexi plumbing pipe as a support for the tarp tent.
Now if only the thunderstorms will pass quickly................................
After all the internal refitting and painting (see previous posts over winter) we finally made it out onto the water this weekend just gone.
Below are some of the pictures. Videos to follow sometime this week. The new top yard rigging modifications, in which I lashed on two stainless steel rings at halyard tie on point and at its forward end, and then ran the main halyard through the rear ring, around the opposite side of the mast and tied off with bowline at forward ring, well it worked a treat and kept the top yard in the exact correct position. this led to some better sail setting, helped by the spars having gone on an enforced diet over winter (I shaved off some wood on each to round them and make them the correct diameter).
The sun shone. We sailed around Plymouth Sound and anchored at Cawsand for lunch and some reading.
I was intending sailing today (Monday) but sadly I ended up in hospital A and E yesterday with mild concussion when I hit the top of my head upwards against a narrow concrete beam outside a beach shop. Several hours in A and E with CT and neck scans resulted. I don't remember much, other than feeling dizzy, sick and having blurred vision and the mother of all headaches. The Doc's tell me I have a two inch long wound and a pronounced 'V' shaped dent in the top of my skull which will hurt for several days. Someone kindly told my wife that my thick skull had saved me. She replied' I've been telling him for years he's thick headed'.
In fairness, 'her indoors' has been unusually sympathetic. Apparently, she saw it happen, says it was extremely impressive and I was severely dazed afterwards. I, on the other hand don't remember much other than the hospital bit!
Ho Hum - it has put a delay on sailing for a few days
At anchor in Cawsand, enjoying the sunshine - my immediate neighbour
in the lee of Penlee point
On the left the village of Cawand; on the right the village of Kingsand
a lovely old trawler against the backdrop of the Mount Edgecumbe peninsula
The old coastguard cottages high on the hill
Hoping I might drop a bit of marmite and cheese sandwich into the water
well the deal was two new wheels and then a tenner to change them over - seemed a very good deal. The reality, two new wheels, two new bearing hubs and a shed load of labour charges and the bill actually went up 120%.
This year I am finding a trailer self maintenance course to go on.......ouch!
So I've painted the interior; done the spars, tided up Arwen, replaced old split cleats, made a galley box, refurbished the rudder, fitted new storage straps for camping gear; fitted hasp locks to locker doors and hatches. Even the mast has undergone a little refurbishment.
Tomorrow I was planning on going sailing. I completed RYA Day Skipper theory all last week.
So I tow the boat off the steep driveway ready for tomorrow and..........................
........I can't hitch up. The car electric tow socket is broken; the tow pin adaptor which goes in it for the boat lightening board - gets jammed and won't come out.
Words fail me!
Not often am I speechless, for I am after all from Wales.
However, after words failed me on the electrics, I became genuinely speechless when I went to inspect trailer tyres. Despite being protected on the drive our harsh winter has taken its toll.
So a dilemma!
I am exactly 1.5 miles away from a trailer centre. Can I make it there with this tyre showing these small side wall splits?
It will take trailer experts to get that wheel off, the nuts are rusted solid. So.......expense and time.
Frustration does not begin to describe where I am right now. How I long for a garage big enough to take Arwen over the winter!
So new tyre and rim; spare new tyre and rim; cost of service. Her indoors isn't going to take this one lying down.
Day 1: Cycled 6 miles to course - took 25 minutes - not bad I suppose. Covered basic chart symbols; bearings (true); distances and directions. Looked at safety briefings; covered buoyage. Buoy lighting codes fried my brain.
All good fun in a masochistic kind of way. Very good course tutor; nice course group. Big issue for me is I know dinghies but not yachts; its geared for yachts and motorboats so some stuff I need to swot up on.
early morning view down river towards the Cattedown
across to the cattedown wharves and Theatre Royal rehearsal areas
getting to grips with chart work
trying to look as if I understand something about the day
Day two and three focused on chart work, plotting courses, calculating courses to steer; getting to grips with bearings, transits and drawing estimated position plots. Throw in safety issues, anchoring issues, engine checks and what to do in helicopter based rescues.
Pilotage, passage planning, SOLAS, using chart plotters, creating waypoints, using almanacs, tidal curves.........challenging but boy does your head hurt.
I passed RYA Day Skipper theory. To all my former students, after five days of 9 - 5 classroom based learning followed by 2 - 3 hrs evening homework doing practice exercises and creating revision notes, if I failed to show you sufficient empathy, sympathy and patience, I am truly, truly sorry.
A welshman displaced to wonderful Plymouth in SW England; a novice sailor and boat builder with a passion for all things to do with the sea. My learning curve is vertical....but hey that's what makes life interesting isn't it! So follow my journey as I learn to sail Arwen,grappling with charts, tide tables and passage planning so that I can become 'a dinghy cruiser'
And by the way, just occasionally, little snippets about 'Stacey' our beloved 1968 motovespa super 125 scooter may feature along with odd insights into our family travels< but these will be kept to a minimum, I promise!
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The 'Navigator' is a 14' 9" yawl with a beam of 5' 10". she weighs in at 309 lbs and has a sail area of 136 sqft. She has a standing lug sail. She has side, centre and front thwarts and space for six although she is an ideal single hander. there are a huge number of potential locker spaces. For more details about the design of navigators go to www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz/plans/navigator/index.htm
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