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

Tuesday 31 July 2018

dinghy cruising: Dawn.....

It’s the tiny growing awareness of that existence of a miniscule glimmer of light; that dim pinprick glow in the east that penetrates white tarp walls and eyelids. The cockpit interior with all its contents gently emerges from the night gloom with the reluctant opening of one eye; individual objects taking on a form and shape of their own in the greyness of early sunrise. The headtorch, reading glasses, VHF radio and charging mobile on its portable battery bank; the red PFD alongside the powerful hand torch on the opposite side thwart.  

Cool damp air touches one’s exposed face, a drop of condensation coagulates overhead, overcoming gravity. Drip.

Phew……..the tiny splash on the exposed keelson plank below accompanied by an overwhelming sense of relief. It missed. A sudden wet awaking averted, but only just!

Semi consciousness comes with the start of the dawn chorus, well before that dim dawn glow appears. Our ‘’feathered alarm clock friends’ (RSPB) start early, defending their territories and singing to attract a mate, for in that cold dim light of a new morn, effort in foraging is wasted. Insects have yet to warm up, and early morning flight in this dim, grey light risks attracting the attention of a shadowy, deadly silent, night-time predator returning from late night-time foray across woods and creek-side meadows. On these calm, still, mornings, perhaps it is best to stay snuggled in sleeping bag a few minutes more, listening to the blackbirds, robins and song thrushes warbling their symphony far and wide across wooded valley. "The avian Glyndebourne that has welcomed the dawn of our ancestors in similar fashion for countless centuries" as Henry Porter of 'The Guardian Newspaper’ once put it.  “To be alone in the dawn chorus reminds us of how precious life is”.


The light peach glow that creeps across side thwarts and along cockpit length. There is no noise from cars or planes; the sleeping house-boaters moored across the creek have yet to wake and put their radios on.  Such uninterrupted peace is to be savoured. 
The once lengthening shadows shorten and fade as the sun rises and avian chorus reaches a crescendo before dwindling as birds fly in search of the warmed and unwary insects and worms clinging to stalk, bramble and soil cast.

Full consciousness arrives with a start! That realisation that high spring tide is turning, risking  imminent and embarrassing grounding on mudflats below. 'All hands to the deck!' The brain is coerced into ordering body to shed itself of warm night time attire for the ever so slightly damp day clothing; that same clothing so carefully stored in a bag within one’s bivvy bag to keep it……warm! 

Limbs scramble to untangle themselves from sleeping bag and bivvy, an inelegant ordeal of squirming and ducking to avoid condensation transferring to bare torso and the new day’s clothes.
Through the aft end tarp flaps, the first glimpse of emerging day. The grey veils of night time gauze retreat, un-swathing the gently flowing river with its tendrils of fine mist that hang above the warm waters below. The first faint hints of pink and gold caress the upper most branches of mighty oaks high on valley sides as the sun’s warm life-giving rays slowly roll down the slopes. "As form and colour of things are restored, the dawn remakes the world in its antique pattern"; so says Oscar Wilde. 

But for me? 
It is as if as one entity, the entire valley heaves a sigh of relief and contentment. Dawn is bringing her colour palette to reeds and mudflats, meadows and marshes. As John Ruskin wrote “A dawn, truly observed, is a moment of birth, a call to action for the day. Let every dawn of morning be to you as the beginning of life”. 

Of course, it is unlikely that John Ruskin ever had to rush to catch the top of a rapidly ebbing tide!

Saturday 28 July 2018

Dinghy cruising: The latest video vlog series about sailing up the rivers Lynher and Tamar in UK

Below is the latest video vlog in this series:

There are several other episodes in this current series and these can be found at this website

and there you can select playlist and then select the one about the Lynher and Tamar cruise series 2018.

I have two more episodes to add - one about cruising the stretch of the Tamar from Weir quay up to Calstock; and then the last one, overnighting at Calstock and setting off early morning back down the river as far as Halton Quay.

The videos are a change from my normal approach. I have always maintained that they are a visual diary to my future 80 year old self, to remind me when I am old and grey and slower moving, that yes I did build a boat and yes, I did get out and sail it and yes, I did do some camping and exploration on board. However, in using YouTube as a storage/access area, I failed to take into account that others may well view them as well. 

I have been genuinely surprised and humbled by the comments many have left and I have learned a huge amount from kind people commenting constructively on my sailing.  Changing my approach to my video diaries, by spending more time commenting about what I see and pass; about the social, environmental and economic issues surrounding the areas I pass through - has bought a substantial number of new subscribers to my channel. I can only assume, that despite the longer video length (most are around 10 minutes - which seems way too long to me in this day and age), they are striking a chord with some viewers. 

There are now three series to view
  • The Penlee Picnic series
  • The slow passage to the river Yealm and back again
  • The Lynher and Tamar river cruise series
In addition, I have created some new playlists to help organise videos - so check them out. All videos have a 'click to subscribe' button embedded within them along with info cards briefly offering opportunities to click on and retrieve other videos in that particular series. 

I have also created pin boards in Pinterest and Goggle+ - see the websites below where I hope I can build further interest in John Welsford's designs.

If  you decide to watch any of the videos, do let me know what you think. All constructive comment is most welcome. This is a new venture for me, a slight re-orientation of what I was intending to do. 

Do the videos work for you? 
Are they what you would like to see about dinghy cruising? 
What else would you like to see in the videos? 
How might they be improved? 
Should I just stop and return to doing them just as a visual diary for myself...........? 

If you have a view at all, do let me know in the comment box below. 

Thursday 26 July 2018

Bristol Harbourside festival 2018

Some pictures from a very enjoyable weekend - the annual harbourside festival of music, poetry, prose and waterside events

Almost think you were in Paris......................

The Royal Navy Patrol boats proved a popular attraction 

A couple of tall ships 

One of the old dockside houses 

a small boat show

One of these has been converted by the City council into a B and b but I couldn't find which one

maritime details...................

The old heritage of Bristol docks 

For Dad..........

a reminder of his employment roots..........

Original GWR Dad!!

making your live-aboard stand out 

A mug of tea and plenty of wood and varnish - what more is there to life?

Nick Park's take on Brunel?

competitors for the cardboard boat race

Rescuers for said race waiting by.....

Discussing tactics......sink or swim?

calm before the storm

getting the waiting crowds into a frenzy of anticipation................

the start.........a 1940's fire boat from WWII

will the cardboard cutter win?

Time spent out on the water is time never wasted................

A splendid sight...................

the junior cardboard boat event took an unexpected turn........literally...........

Almost ready, starting the count down

it was surprising how many sank on entry to the water..................!!

Valiant effort...........................

superb jet ski stunts from the British and European champion.......

250,000 visited Bristol harbour side over the weekend.......

salvage........I wonder what it is worth............

the most popular attraction on Saturday - the Newfoundland Dog rescue team.....awesome.......

standing by......just in case......