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 28 June 2018


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.

Thursday 21 June 2018

Plans for next week

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.

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Lettuce troughs and transom steps

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.

It has been a busy morning!

Monday 18 June 2018

Dinghy cruising: sailing the river Yealm - last part

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 just sails

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 free
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.

Monday 11 June 2018

Dinghy cruising in a Welsford 'navigator': The slow passage to the river yealm and back again - trying to reach Duke Rock Buoy and the eastern end of the breakwater

Part three: trying to reach the Duke Rock Buoy at the eastern end of the breakwater. I do need to brush up my light wind sailing skills!

The final instalment of the series covers the journey from the breakwater to the yealm and back again

Wednesday 6 June 2018

dinghy cruising in a welsford 'navigator': The slow passage to the river Yealm and back again Part two

Passage planning..............

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

Sunday 3 June 2018

The slow passage to the river Yealm and back again: a pre-departure tour of Arwen's interior

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! 

Dinghy cruising: 'The slow passage to the river Yealm and back again': An Introduction

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 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 works!