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, 27 August 2018

Dinghy cruising: effective sail trimming on a welsford navigator

Sail trimming baffles me at the best of times. Recently, there has been much debate about my inability to trim Arwen's sails correctly. This is due to inexperience as a sailor and not fully understanding sail dynamics.

As one member of the dinghy cruising association Facebook group told me......"it can take years to internalise at an unconscious level the automatic unthinking adjustment of sails"......rather like we all do when driving a car.

A very good friend managed to get some photographs of Arwen out on the water recently. These are the very first photos I have ever seen of Arwen sailing and they have provided me with lots of information.

welsford navigator with standing lug sail

The saggy jib stay. The dreaded throat to clew crease. The not completely set jib. The poor mainsail shape.

I'm not really doing justice to John Welsford's design.

But there are a few things beginning to emerge.  Firstly, whether the mainsail should actually be tied on at the very aft end of the top yard. Secondly, how the tack should be held much closer to the mast. Thirdly, how the down-haul tackle should be attached to the top of the deck next to the mast base.

This last one is an interesting point, since I have tried that arrangement and there was no way I could get any tension on the luff before both blocks had met at deck surface. It just didn't work.
Which raises the question why not and whether I have done something stupid during the build process and got my measurements wrong! Not only did the blocks close too early without applying sufficient tension but that the sail foot also caught up with the coaming top. Ho hum!

So next steps.
1. move the top peak sail tie on point to very aft of yard which may lift the tack a few inches up the mast
2. refit deck mounted down-haul tackle and see if doing 1 above makes any difference
3. do 1 above but alter the down-haul tackle so that a line runs from an S hook on the sail tack, down through the deck, through a turning block and then reattaches to the down-haul tackle which would run horizontally along the front of the centrecase/front thwart top
4. adjust the bobstay fittings to apply tension to the bowsprit so that the jib stay gets more tension on it

welsford navigator arwen

Over the next few weeks, Arwen and I will get out in the Sound and see whether these adjustments work. we could always enlist the help of a local sailmaker to see if adjustments could be made to the sail shape as well I guess, if need be.

Whilst out on the water, we will also spend time doing the following until it becomes better understood and more automatic

  • reefing the main
  • sailing under reefed main only
  • sailing under jib and mizzen only
  • sailing under main and mizzen only
  • dropping mainsail between lazy jacks and down into the boat more quickly that I do now (and finding the best place to store the furled mainsail, yard and boom in the boat so that it doesn't interfere with tiller etc. 
john welsford navigator arwen

I also want to set up a separate area on the rear thwart of my charts - so fitting some thin bungee cord; and sorting out where to put the smaller kedge anchor so that I have more clear space on the bottom boards. I'd like to try and free up room to move the position of the galley box so that I can actually use it whilst hove to at sea, without having to lift it off the floor and onto one of the side thwarts. it was something I noticed in one of Roger Barnes's videos about his homely dinghy. He was able to use his galley box in its original position. Another illustration of his ability to make things simple, effective, functional and seaman like.


momist said...

When I built my little dinghy, I made the mast to the length on the sail plan, and only noticed afterwards that this was measure to the block at the top of the mast, no to the end of the mast. This makes my mast a couple of inches shorter than it should be. It may be worth checking your plans and measuring the spars once more? Good luck sorting it out.

steve said...

Good tip. I'll triple check again. Thanks for the insight 🙄😃