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

Monday 28 May 2018

I am so fortunate.................

to live in such a stunning area. Welcome to the South Hams/South Devon coastline

Sunday 27 May 2018

Dinghy cruising: The Penlee Point picnic: part three

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.

Saturday 26 May 2018

starting to learn how to stitch

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................................

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Monday 21 May 2018

The first sail of the season

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

Friday 18 May 2018

The sun is shining and the winds are good

I feel a day sailing trip coming on.....Arwen is packed and ready

it never quite turns out how it seems

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!

Sunday 13 May 2018

frustrations with boat trailers

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. 

Saturday 12 May 2018

Dinghy cruising: how to use video cameras on dinghies - video articles

the second of my trilogy articles on creating sailing videos is now up at

You can find the articles 1 - 3 on the blog if you search folders for November 2017 to February 2018

RYA Day Skipper course

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.

End result? 
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. 

Wednesday 2 May 2018

The end is in sight

Almost there - aiming for week after next .....................

It is a workman like finish...the problem when you paint outside......flies, dust, leaves, insects, dead grass........ho hum! Then there are the brush stroke marks, not visible in the original coats. When I launched at some marina last year down on the Fal, one of the boat painters there swore blind I had sprayed the paint on - he just wouldn't accept that I had rolled it on and tipped it off. this time I just bunged it on, as fast as I could! But at least the thwarts look clean, the dents are painted over and the grey splodges of undercoat no longer show through.

Next year I promise Arwen will get stripped down to bare wood and repainted properly inside some shed....if i can find someone willing enough to loan me one!

Anti-slip grey Interdeck treads on side decks get a touch up 

Rear cockpit interior gets the grey anti-slip Interdeck treatment - three coats 
You can see how bad the thwarts were 

New coat of Toplac brilliant white hides all those dings and the red bungee being re-threaded. It is where the charts get held down on coastal passages. 

The problem with a shiny new top coat is it is now so slippy I shoot off in all directions. Of course, it doesn't help that Arwen is stored on a steep driveway!!

Cleats from left to right - centreboard, tack downhaul, top yard halyard

Deck loops back in place to hold halyard bags in cockpit 

rear thwart hatch fitted with new padlock hasp as locker lid lock has seized up over the years 

final top coats of grey Interdeck non slip paint on front cockpit area 

Food, music, flowers and a remarkable lady

The tenth annual Porthleven food and music festival was packed. In the past it has attracted 30,000 people. Today, the old historic quayside hosted thousands in the spring sunshine. Food and boutique stalls lined the quayside roads; people gathered at small stages to hear local bands; the drink flowed; people laughed; the sun shone bright. And thousands traipsed up and down the hill to the park and ride in the cliff top fields above with smiles on their faces. In the large white marque, we were very taken with a local folk band who played some fast-paced Celtic numbers; sadly, we didn’t catch their name but they got a rousing reception.

More can be found out about what happened at this website and we will definitely be going again next year.

After the hustle and bustle of Porthleven, Trelissick House, a national trust property overlooking the river Fal, proved a welcomed relief. The extensive gardens were at their best. Camellias, magnolias, bluebells and rhododendrons all coming into full bloom. Stunning woodland walks, stupendous views and some very interesting displays and exhibitions about Ida Copeland, one of the first female MPs who gifted Trelissick to the national trust in 1995.

Ida was one of thirteen female MPs in the 1930’s. She served one term as MP for Stoke on Trent, representing the pottery industry. An active and committed conservative MP, she was a supporter of the national coalition led by Ramsay MacDonald. She beat Sir Oswald Moseley in the election. Ida was, according to newspaper reports and peoples’ diaries from the time, a warm, stoic, direct, highly intelligent woman, determined to make a contribution to her community and country. She was against socialism, came from a wealthy, privileged background and supported cuts to benefits. It is widely acknowledged that she worked tirelessly for the people of Stoke on Trent, trying to safeguard jobs and businesses and advocating sensitive management of slum clearances.

I have to say we were rather impressed with Trelissick, its gardens, views and history. Well done NT!