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

Sunday 29 April 2018

Saying goodbye to 'Stacey' our beloved father/son motovespa restoration project

It is always difficult selling something that is much loved. But we have finally bitten the bullet and posted the following sales notice for our beloved motovespa 'Stacey'. Hopefully we will get her to a new home where she will be just as appreciated and so some of the following details appeared on FaceBook, Gumtree and Ebay selling pages. I felt the same way about each car we have traded in. It never gets any easier. Lord knows how I will be if I ever sell Arwen............................

For sale much loved Douglas Vespa small frame Motovespa 125cc super model year 1971 and first registered July 1972  registration ******K. 

762M***** on engine     Vin frame prefix number 762C***** on frame. Research on various websites shows it to be a Motovespa 125 super 1965 although I cannot guarantee that this is 100% accurate.
Kick start, two stroke, pre-mix, petrol and 4 speed manual gear. Tax exempt (Historic vehicle) and MOT’D until February 2018. Ready to ride with 11,280 on clock; speedo is in mph. Original mileage when bought was 10,200.  V5 and original registration document from 1971 present (matching chassis and engine numbers); previous MOT’s and service history present whilst in our ownership. Has been stored in garage since we have owned it and ridden once per month on average until Feb 2017 when then SORN’d and stored under cover in garage (son was away for year). Has been started every month since with no problems and recently passed MOT with no advisories.   

Restored from old barn find as father/teenage son project over two years. Son is now away from home and saving for car and so this is a ‘reluctant’ sale.  Have receipts for most items – all from SIP, AJ Sutton, Allstyles or Beedspeed. Many original features remain.
Restoration work included:
·        Strip down to bare metal and rust removal; Professionally done primer and new paint job – metallic burgundy red
·        New 10 inch white wall tyres and inner tubes  – original rims
·        New floor panel and floor runner kit
·        Engine strip down and replaced all bearings, seals, gaskets, new piston. Had previous Malossi cylinder headset conversion at some stage and also a CDI conversion by previous owner.
·        New shock absorbers front and rear
·        new speedo cables and gearing (installed by local scooter expert)
·        New fuel tap; petrol tank cleaned out
·        New FACO ET3 banana exhaust and air filter
·        New carb dell'orto SHBC 19/19 and  intake manifold
·        New handlebar clutch and brake levers
·        New wiring loom inserted by local scooter expert along with new headlight glass; new rear brake light holder and gasket
·        New brake shoes front and rear

Original features, as far as we know - speedo, rims and hubs, spare wheel holder, most of engine. Please note: we were new to vespa scooters and so kept as much of the original features of scooter that we bought. We cannot vouch that what we bought was all original – please see note below about toolbox for example.
People should remember engine may need little more running in still.

Runs perfectly – starts on third kick normally. Engine and carb needs slight tuning – Can see videos on Motovespa 125 super or plymouthwelshguy and look for playlist.

Other videos can be found in my playlist on my youtube channel at 
We have tried to describe ‘Stacey’ in as much detail as possible. In good faith please note the following:
1. Minor cosmetic scratches on engine fell off once! See photos/video
2. Being naïve, we had the parts and frame sandblasted and then powder coated…that was before we realised or managed to get plugged in to the local scooter scene and small frames Vespa forum
3. Deep scratch on bottom of rear front mudguard where bolt on front leg shield once caught it 

4. Big note.....when we restored it we didn't know anything about scooters and so didn't realise that bottom of leg shield had small part cut out by previous owner....see one of the photos. May need piece welded back in. We have gone on journeys of 150 miles in a day. It has never been a problem. The ‘hole’ is currently covered with black duct tape which has held for four years!  The back of the hole does have cross piece in it which maintains structural integrity – see photo 
5. The right hand throttle mount on headset broke when an over eager observer leaned against scooter heavily and knocked it over. We had local engineering company cut and bolt in new aluminium plate. Never been a problem, headset fine and throttle and brake works perfectly. However some paint and powder coating lost on edge – see photo

7. The toolbox was fitted at later stage by previous owner and isn't actually the correct motovespa toolbox.....again, we didn't know until much later after the restoration was complete. 
8. Light switch box keeps coming loose and is held on with tape – see photo
9. Crack in paintwork on one part of floor panel  - see photo
We have tried to be completely honest via description, photographs and video clips. But if we can help in any other way, please ask. Thank you for your time and interest. ‘Stacey’ provides a great ride, is much loved and we part with her reluctantly. Looking for an owner who can tune her, restore her further and treasure her as much as we have. UK buyers only and buyer must arrange own collection please. Seller doesn’t accept any returns. Thank you for your interest. Have a good week.  PLEASE SEE BELOW PHOTOGRAPHS FOR PRICE AND PAYMENT DETAILS 

Payment details:
Price is £2,700 : no other offers please.
Payment can be any of the following ways but please note conditions attached.
1.      by PayPal into my PayPal account and monies must clear to my account BEFORE scooter is collected.
2.      By cheque to my bank account – again cheque must clear and monies enter the account BEFORE scooter is collected (minimum seven working days and confirmation from my bank on receipt of money)
3.      Online bank transfer but subject to me being able to confirm that my branch has received monies in to my account
4.       By bankers draft but again cheque must clear (minimum seven days) before you can collect scooter
If you would like to view -  contact me via FaceBook or on this blog comment box below. No tyre kickers or time wasters please. You can see it start up but no asking for rides please as I don't know your insurance details; and my insurance covers it only as SORN'd. Thanks for understanding - there is plenty of video evidence to show it runs fine and it has just passed its MOT. 

Saturday 28 April 2018

Devoran, a potential dinghy cruising destination and Cornish mining history

Devoran, at the upper reaches of one of the Fal tributaries, is an old Victorian quayside. Maintained by the small village (two roads of terraced cottages built of Cornish brown stone, with stunning views across the upper reaches of the estuary and its mudflats and marshes), the quayside includes the old, long abandoned hutchings where copper and tin ore were stored before being loaded onto barges and later small coastal steamers tied up, bound for the smelters in South Wales.

In its heyday, Devoran quayside must have been some place. The Redruth and Chasewater railway arrived at the quay in 1826, replacing the pack horses that bought the copper and tin ore down from the mines inland. Devoran became the principal quay for copper ore on the Fal. Following the railway in 1826, a new town was developed by the Lanhydrock estate – during the 1840’s two long terraced streets appeared; one being commercial with shops, a market house, four pubs, a post office, police station, school, church and chapel. For a time Devoran was the busiest quay in Cornwall, with nearly 100,000 tonnes passing through it in 1853. Several hundred tonnes of copper and tin ore exports and coal imports would be hand barrowed across the quayside whilst rafts of Scandinavian timber would be poled further upriver to be seasoned in ponds, ready for pit props at a later date.

Now the long quayside is grassed over, gorse bushes creep in from the margins and a number of discreetly placed benches are all that is left. The small creek alongside the quayside has silted up although I still thought it would be an excellent dinghy cruising destination on a high spring tide. I could tie up alongside the quay, dry out on flat mud as the tide ebbed and whilst camping isn’t allowed on the quay itself, I’d hope that the village council wouldn’t mid a one-night stay on board under tarp tent.

How did we arrive at the lovely village with its pub, school, chapel and stunning terraced houses? Well we turned south instead of north when we arrived at Bissoe and its bike hire shed and café.  We followed the small brook downstream as it meandered and slowly widened to a stream; down through the old industrial heartland, now a nature reserve of clay pit lakes and heathland. We admired butterflies and soaring buzzards, marvelled at the engineering accomplishments of the great western railway engineers who built such monumental viaducts across the Cornish valleys and sat on the banks of the meandering stream where rushes were starting to grow in the warm spring sunshine and river weeds were a verdant green in contrast to the coppery brown muds and gravels below.

From the upper creek at Devoran, the stream widened rapidly to a river. Wading curlew, oyster-catchers and sandpipers strode purposefully along the waterline dipping slender beaks into the brown ooze in search of tasty morsels. On the far bank, fallen branches, weathered silvery grey with exposure to the elements over the years, provided useful roosts for heron and egret. From the small square harbour with its small yachts and boats, sounds of maintenance – a mallet and chisel; then a drill. Essential refit work being done ready for the coming season.  Way to the south, along the eastern bank, large detached houses with long lawns sloped down to the riverside and somewhere around the far corner lay the port of Falmouth; but that seemed a far, far away distance from this sleepy little village basking in the higher than average sunshine temperatures.

Having cycled south, we headed back north, stopping for salted caramel ice creams before navigating the cycle trails across the old mining landscape to the south of Scourrier. Here the landscape showed the scars of its past industrial heritage; huge slate grey spoil tips stained with yellow and copper brown streaks; piles of old waste slate and mine workings; capped mine shafts with their now familiar conical iron lattice frameworks to stop the unwary from a nasty fall. 

On the skyline the old wheal mines, tall round chimneys and the two-story engine houses with their triangular gable end silhouettes. In places abandoned mine buildings provided exploring opportunities. Yesterday was a leisurely 7 miles. Today we did 12. Building up the fitness for the summer, slowly but surely!

Back at the campsite, we sat out in the sun in the lee of the caravan and an old stone wall covered with grasses, low hawthorn hedges and cow parsley; cuppas and the Saturday papers, the sun began its descent in the far west, a deepening but dimming fiery orangery pink ball casting the same colour palette mix across a linear swathe of the silvery grey Atlantic ocean. It was going to be a spectacular sunset from the dining table tonight!

Friday 27 April 2018

Towing humiliation...........

There is a knack to this touring caravan malarkey and I am still learning it. Our first day of our first trip away this year started so well. We had packed the van the day before and carefully checked nose weight, redistributing caravan contents as necessary to gain the 80 – 85 kg nose weight required.
Up early the following day, mountain bikes had been successfully loaded onto the roof rack, final bits and pieces crammed into the boot and we were away by 9am, where at the caravan storage site, we had the van hitched up and ready to go within twenty minutes of arrival. It was poetry in motion; a finally tuned, well oiled machine. Her indoors and I in harmony, each with our allocated jobs.
One of my jobs was to correctly hitch up the van. Everything went smoothly and in the correct order. I’d written a checklist for departure the night before. Good thinking eh? It included everything and I mean everything. From disengaging motor mover to taking off the handbrake; from making sure the alko secure hitch pin had popped to green to making sure the lights cable went over the top of the tow ball so it wouldn’t drag on the road. You see, thought of everything!
So, as I sat in my fluorescent safety vest on the crash barrier in the layby just south of Liskeard, I mused ruefully on how I had managed to overlook just one item on the list; the one that mentioned the lighting cable going over the top of the tow bar.

Lying at my feet an electrics cable, mortally wounded, its outer tough rubber casing worn through and several internal wires severed and frayed; a testimony to my stupidity.  The cable had dragged across the tarmac for thirty miles. The result? Sadly, cable carnage. The loss of all rear caravan lights only made aware to me by the flashing message on the onboard dash computer display - “WARNING – loss of left hand indicator lights”. That computer sure knows how to make an understatement.

The RAC man, Neil, was very cheerful. Whilst I berated myself, he kindly muttered phrases of solace “it happens to us all”; “you aren’t the first, you won’t be the last”. A true expert he was. He’d stripped the wires, added connectors and taped it all back to working order within 20 minutes of arrival. Sadly, my pride and ego took far longer to regain their composure. That being said, her indoors, who could have had a field day, remained uncannily silent on the matter; unnervingly chilled and relaxed, she didn’t mention it once.
 And whilst that worries the hell out of me, that night's sunset helped calm frayed nerves!

Thursday 26 April 2018

Tregurrian - Camping and Caravaning campsite, Cornwall

Tregurrian camping and caravan club site is clean, well kept and located on the clifftops above the wonderful Watergate Bay. A small site split in two with hard standings at the start and grass pitches at the rear, it has this season received an upgrade. New hard standings, new roads around the site, new drainage and new hosts. The welcome from Jackie and Ian, site hosts, was warm, friendly and made the start to our Cornish adventure relaxed. Good humour, smiles, a tour of the site and then a personal lesson with patient instruction on how to reverse a caravan onto a pitch. A first for me, a man normally quick to use the motor mover. After several false starts, with Ian’s patient instruction, I did get the caravan in the right place.  Later he rescued us when we hadn’t quite got the electric supply to the van sorted. Such extraordinary hospitality from such lovely hosts, we weren’t expecting.  With views out to sea, cows and fields surrounding us, the roar of surf from Watergate bay at night and early morning birdsong from the low stone wall/hawthorn hedgerows; with a view of the setting sun from the front window each evening, it is a lovely location.

Of course, in westerly winds, it is pretty exposed as well. The Kampa rally 200 inflatable awning almost took off several times Tuesday night. Pegs were torn out; the limpets attaching the awning to the van side were ripped off. Some of the inflatable tubes collapsed under the force. Interesting times!!! 

I discovered that adding to our list of boy and girl jobs whilst caravaning (see last year posts), boys jobs now include getting up in the wee hours in the middle of a lashing gale  to bang in extra pegs, grapple with an awning throwing a paddy fit and re-positioning the car to act as a windbreak.

To be reprimanded for getting back into bed slightly wet and very cold.......was the final straw!!

If you haven't come across our caravan Etiquette to avoid divorce then you can find it here. 

If you have anything to add to it, drop us a comment in the box below the post.  Other posts on our caravan adventures - try the RH side folder for October 2017

Progress report

Two more coats of International 'Interdeck' on the cockpit floor and sides; three coats of varnish to the coaming and sanding and painting of the thwarts and all the planned seasonal maintenance will be done. Aiming to have Arwen back in the water for mid May.

Completing an RYA Day Skipper Theory course in next couple of weeks. I know quite a bit wont apply to navigating coastal passages in a dinghy, but it cant harm to update myself, learn some new tricks and exercise the old grey matter.

I know one or two of you have been trying to contact me by Skype recently and have been unable to do so. I am sorry. My laptop crashed itself into a permanent reboot loop that confused everyone including Microsoft help desks. Caused by a bug in windows 10 Edge, eventually it was resolved by having to do a factory re-set. However, we lost plenty, including Skype contact details etc. Basically, if you are trying to contact me via Skype, could you try via messenger instead; or as a comment on this blog and my sincerest apologies for the inconvenience caused. 

It will be good to get back out on the water. I am hoping for a busy camp cruising season. In no particular order I'm hoping to

  • attending a couple of rallies with the brilliant Dinghy Cruising Association 
  • catching up with the planned tour of the 'Southern Cross' and supporting the project in any way when it, Howard Rice and John Welsford visit the UK
  • doing a series of sailing vlogs about dinghy cruising around the waters of Plymouth Sound, the rivers Lynher and Tavy and the upper reaches of the river Tamar
  • towing Arwen down to Falmouth to complete voyages up the Helford and some tributaries of the Fal (see forthcoming post about visiting Devoran)
  • completing an RYA Day Skipper Theory course (note completing, I'm not so confident of passing.......the old grey matter is very rusty since retiring) 
  • completing a voyage up the Fowey, possibly to Lostwithiel
  • some supporting/volunteering for local youth sailing charities
  • lots of practice - anchoring, reefing, rowing, pilotage etc
  • a capsize test drill of Arwen
  • a vlog about using the galley box and the new sleeping platform on my first camp cruise of this season
  • sailing in company with my friend Dave and his new boat
And a potential winter project - designing and making a 'proper' boom tent for a Welsford navigator using gas pipes and tent fabric; and installing a whale gusher urchin bilge pump.......if I can afford them.  

Will have to do some more supply teaching to fund those projects! 

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Arwen gets a new paint job

All the deck loops and fittings have been removed
The sander is ready

The hoover has been emptied and stands waiting

The detail sander is pressed into action

Not everyone is going to like the new look..........cockpit floor and sides will be International 'Interdeck' grey............thwart tops in aft cockpit will remain Toplac brilliant white. The aft cockpit sides and floor will be the same as the front........grey.

Even the cockpit interior coaming will get a re-varnish............and then we start on the fore deck, side decks and exterior coamings 

The Mahogany planks and centreboard casing tops can wait until the end of the season - they will be winter work!

And depending on the weather and sailing opportunities I may, or may not paint the exterior hull. Best not to rush everything at once I always say!!

Monday 16 April 2018

You can take the geographer out of a classroom.....but you can't take the geography out of a 'retired' geography teacher

A short bus man's holiday. For years I have taught about the Isle of Purbeck, both at GCSE and A Level. But, alas, it has been many, many years since I have been there. This weekend with her indoor's and my in laws, we put that right!
First port of call was Charmouth Beach and its thick mudstone beds

.......and the wave cut platforms

...although there are odd metallic 'fossils' of unidentifiable origin.......

From Charmouth we headed east to Lulworth Cove and Stair Hole

......a discordant coastline, if anyone is interested......

.......sea mists were thick and constantly rolling in.............

.....and Lulworth Cove was hidden in the murk........

mass movements in action............

geologists were out and about..........

visitors arrived and anchored...........

.....managed a bit of rock turning and crab hunting...........

lots of shelly rock to examine........

......the gloom lifted.........revealing stunning colours.........

by midday the car park was full as the sun bought the visitors

want to guess what these are?
(psst........fossilised tree trunks....)

.......the adventure centre sent its budding canoeists around to stair hole

and then we went over to Durdle Door........

....before heading off to the Kimmeridge Ledges for more fossil hunting....