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

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Dinghy cruising: sailing the River Tamar and its tributaries: Episode 1 - setting off

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 and repacked.

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.

Low tide 1.4m 1052          High tide 4.9m 1654          Low tide 1.4m  2315          Tidal range 3.1m
Small craft moorings to West vanguard starboard channel green can 273 deg Mag  0.5NM 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.


Bob Puzey said...

Hi Steve,
this is a delightful description of preparations for and the beginning of your latest adventure. Really enjoying the videos that seem to improve with every publication.

Thank you for sharing. I regularly follow your blog and will endeavour to comment more frequently in future.

steve said...

Hi Bob, very kind comments, most appreciated. The blog and vlogs have always been a future diary to my future 80 year old self. I publish them on the web simply for access and storage but I came to the conclusion sometime ago that if my musings and mistakes could encourage others co dinghy cruise or help others to reminisce about past endeavours and exploits then I had a duty to try and bring a little craft to what I produce. As always it is a work in progress and all comments help me further develop my ideas and style. So thank you for taking the time to comment, and yes, please stay in touch. One of the aspects of blogging I never expected is the growing friendships I develop with people on line in the boating community. a highly valued and appreciated part of my daily life.
Take care stay in touch if you can