Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and I am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's Battery marina in the Barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England.
Arwen has an associated YouTube channel so visit www.youTube.com/c/plymouthwelshboy to find our most recent cruises together.







Thursday, 27 December 2018

Dinghy tribes..........enjoy

a little taste of what is to come

Been out filming and getting photos for the forthcoming episodes in the dinghy cruising Salcombe series. Been trying out the new camera and getting to grip with composition and manual mode. Such a steep learning curve!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zkt9PLU80b8

Looking down river from the Kingsbridge basin

The moorings at Kingsbridge


Early morning



The public pontoon at Frogmore Creek 

The head of navigation at Frogmore Creek 



Looking down river from Frogmore village 


The public pontoon at South Pool

The tide flows away quickly at the head of this creek


Head of navigation, South Pool village and ford


A few shots of Salcombe










Wednesday, 26 December 2018

The age of sail by google

My thanks to Gavin at 'intheboatshed' for spotting this one.

Enjoy!

https://intheboatshed.net/2018/12/23/the-age-of-sail/

Getting to grips with a new video camera

Tomorrow is a camera filming day. Off to the Kingsbridge estuary to visit Kingsbridge itself and then Frogmore Creek and South Pool Creek. I'm hoping to get some aerial footage using the DJI spark drone since winds are supposedly light and from the north. It will form B roll footage in forthcoming videos about sailing the estuary - part of my ongoing 'sailing in Salcombe' series.

I will also be trying out the video mode on my new DSLR Canon EOS 800D. The learning curve today has been vertical regarding camera settings for video etc. I have yet to get a shotgun mic so will be collecting ambient sound from the landscape using my H1 Zoom microphone with wind muff. So it means I need to keep accurate records in my little notebook of which film clip matches which sound clip!!

I past a milestone on Christmas day. My YouTube channel passed the 1000 subscriber marker. Although the channel has been running since 2009 I never really fully focused on it until this year. Within the space of a year I gained over 750 or so new subscribers. I have always maintained that I video as an online diary for my future 80 year old self - a visual diary that shows my adventures in my little boat, my learning journey as a dinghy cruiser and also some of the travels that me and the Missus undertook across our lifetime. I never really thought that others might be interested in my dinghy cruising adventures and I completely underestimated the power of YouTube to educate and inform. I have learned so much from viewers and subscribers, all of it slowly improving my dinghy sailing skills and videography. I am very grateful to you all for your informed advice and encouragement.

Over the next few weeks I will be adding a series of short video clips focusing on

  • our recent China expedition along with some short travel blogs here on Arwen's Meanderings. I try to keep the travel logs to a minimum as this is primarily a dinghy cruising blog but I have always made it clear that occasionally travel blogs will appear alongside. I made the decision last year not to switch over for another year to a Wordpress platform, although this decision will be reviewed every six months or so.
  • some blogs about cruising up the Tamar to Calstock; 
  • some videos about sailing up to Kingsbridge and also 
  • a video, part 2, about the new sail arrangement on Arwen and what impact it has on getting rid of the dreaded throat to clew crease. 

In the meantime, I hope all of you had a lovely Christmas Day and I wish you a happy New Year and great sailing for 2019. Please stay in touch, drop me a comment occasionally and as always, I welcome all advice, thoughts and tips regarding sailing a small open boat like Arwen.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you all and to your families, wherever you all may be

Steve 

Monday, 24 December 2018

A new channel trailer

Finally, my new 'first effort' 1 minute long channel trailer at 



To all sailors everywhere, have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and I wish you safe, exciting and enjoyable sailing in 2019. Take care everyone 

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Not getting out

In not getting out to Salcombe because of the horrendous weather (I mean lets face it if a Russian cargo ship can wash up onto a Falmouth beach, it must be rough!!), I content myself with  two things


  • sniffing out any new videos of Welsford navigators in action
  • scripting and editing a new trailer for my YouTube channel (which if you haven't discovered it yet can be found at www.YouTube.com/c/plymouthwelshboy
so here are some new videos of Welsford navigators in action from this year





Thursday, 13 December 2018

Reaching Treluggan

Below you will find the latest instalment of my 2018 summer voyage up the River Lynher to Treluggan boatyard. My apologies for falling behind with the updates.

If you want to read the previous instalments, they are listed in the links below in reverse order (i.e. previous down to first one)

https://arwensmeanderings.blogspot.com/2018/09/sailor-is-artist-whose-medium-is-wind.html

https://arwensmeanderings.blogspot.com/2018/08/sailing-up-tamar-local-history-lesson.html

https://arwensmeanderings.blogspot.com/2018/08/entering-hamoaze-on-river-tamar.html

Videos on the cruise up the Lynher and Tamar can be downloaded as a playlist from here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nMUxkZT1Vk&list=PL4ru7c7wAAWwY8eGzSKrRKQTFh7y3jTp8&index=4




Approaching Treluggan

In the middle of the confluence where the rivers Tiddy and Lynher merge, lies an incongruous sight; an isolated single upright scaffold pole with an upside-down makeshift sign pointing ‘This way to Treluggan Boatyard’.

For boaters and sailors who don't know these waters, this amusing sign provides reassurance that one is heading in the right direction for the boat yard.

To those in the know? The boat sign is upside down and pointing completely the wrong way. It is the product of some mischievous soul’s humour. Follow the sign and the intrepid waterborne explorer will merely meander up the last section of the river Tiddy and arrive at St German’s quayside. Not that this is an unsavoury prospect in any way. It is a beautiful quayside with a large Victorian viaduct beyond, scenic quayside cottages and lime kilns and a rather welcoming small yacht club house. It is not, however, the aforementioned ‘boat yard’.


Such musings on ‘signage’ are not helping the skipper of the small white hulled 14’ lapstrake yawl out of his self-inflicted predicament, however. But, at this moment in time, there is little else to do but admire the scenery, muse about upside down signposts and be thankful that the only observers of his current debacle are a flock of Brent geese, two egrets and some crows high in the tree branches above. He suspects they are gossiping about him!

Stuck on some boulders and weed beds at the end of a muddy beach which leads up to a little salt-flat marsh, his rudder is wedged between rocks and weed clumps.  It is a mere temporary state of  grounding! The tide still builds steadily and skipper knows he will float off at some stage in the next twenty minutes or so. After all, he had the foresight to plan an exploration of new waters on a rising tide because of this potential eventuality.

Oar pushing and boat rocking have failed to move the open boat and so, after a few minutes of strenuous activity in the hot afternoon sun, skipper has decided to let nature take its course. He will wait awhile and hope to float off. In the meantime, like many a skipper before him, he replays the previous minutes leading up to the grounding and ponders the inevitable key question…………… ‘What happened - it was going so well?’



The gentle breeze pushes the little John Welsford designed ‘navigator’ yawl on a downwind run up past Erth Island marshes. The mizzen, almost fully out over the port transom quarter, flutters occasionally, its sheet tugging through boomkin block, causing the inboard end to rattle gently against the wooden securing loop under the port aft side deck. It is a familiar sound to skipper. The long loop of slack mainsheet hanging vertically from the aft end of the sprit boom occasionally dips down, dragging in the water; adding ‘ripples’ to the gurgling soundscape running alongside the boats lapstrake hull.

Lazy summer days drifting along on a flood tide. How glorious. 

A swift glance at the little yellow waterproof notebook with its hand drawn pilotage maps and annotations confirms Skipper’s thoughts. “No need to rush, pointless entering the upper Lynher before 1530pm”.  A scrawled annotation reads “enter/exit upper Lynher 1.5 hrs +/- high water”. Pre-trip research done a few days ago.  Drawing only 20” or so with the centreboard and rudder fully down, the welsh sailor quickly calculates tidal heights in his head and concludes that he could indeed enter the channel now, at 14.30; after all high tide is at 1654 and is 4.9m. There should be enough channel depth even if the tide hasn’t completely filled the channel yet.  

He turns a little to starboard towards the upper Lynher entrance and winds shift around to come over his starboard aft beam putting him on a reach. Lowering centreboard a little more, he hauls in the mainsheet a wee bit and the boom, carried by the breeze, settles a couple of metres over the port beam. The rudder is fully down and although mudflats are still exposed on either channel side he should have plenty of water under the hull mid channel and enough room to do some short tacks upriver if needed.


There is no rush. Arwen, the little white yawl with her tan sails, glides northwards, her lone occupant beguiled by gentle breezes and blue skies, the high-level stratus clouds and balmy temperatures of 28C. Relaxed and contented, he drifts along, pushed by the merest whisper of breeze and tidal current.

Reaching for the binoculars from their customary place behind the backrests, under the starboard side deck, he sweeps them left to right; a gentle arc searching out the channel marker poles beyond the lone humorous, mis-directional signpost. He chuckles to himself about some soul’s mischievous nature and sense of fun.  

Optical depth of field brings the low gently sloping hills of Devonian slates and grits with their improved grassland pastures, Cornish hedgerows and scattered clumps of sessile oak woodlands beyond the muddy shingle beaches and marshes into focus.

An unusual feature, skipper reflects, are the areas of intertidal mudflats and marshes. Unusual, because this is a flooded Ria valley and marshes this far up are not a normally expected geographical feature. Their flat surfaces, covered by thin wavy grasses and bisected by tiny creeks and gullies add interest to the scene before him. Geographical oddities, their normal bright green colour replaced by a drought induced wilted yellow/beige shade which glistens silvery when blown in certain directions.  

As the little yawl pushes forward at 1 knot or so, the sailor moves forward to unclip his paddle from the front port fore deck area before returning aft to check that the oars resting in their rowlocks along each side deck are ready to be deployed.  He knows that the local topography around this part of the river has a deceptive influence on gentle breezes. They spill off slopes in sudden shifts of wind direction. At times, they can die completely, blanketed by thick shoreline oak woods; leaving a little boat becalmed; to drift at the mercy of tide and river current.


On this particular trip, skipper has vowed not to, under any circumstances, start the outboard motor hanging off the bracket on the port side of the transom. It is to be three days continuous sailing without using the outboard, once initially clear of the launch site in busy Sutton harbour. Thus far, and feeling rather proud about it, he has managed to keep that aim going; sailing through the Torpoint chain ferries and the long trot lines of moored yachts and successfully picking up and departing from a mooring at the entrance to the Lynher river. He has every intention of sailing right onto the pontoon at Treluggan boatyard later on this early evening. “No motor on this trip. Just not happening” he whispers to himself and the heron standing motionless at the water’s edge.  

Of course, some would say, in order to guarantee this aim, “Leave the motor at home”  To which the reply is always the same…………”Some day; when I have had more experience of river cruising in a wider variety of conditions; and better faith in my own abilities; maybe then. And anyway, it adds some useful ballast!” Skipper has lost some two stone in weight this year. He’s very pleased with this; and he knows that Arwen best sails with around one stone of ballast for every foot of boat length. The outboard engine is the extra ballast required! Or so he kids himself!

As the murmuring breeze further ebbs away, both snotter and downhaul are eased, the sprit boom moves slightly forward and more ‘bag’ appears in the mainsail. Arwen gains a marginal increase in forward momentum but soon the jib flutters and falls limply across the foredeck, its sheets gently rattling the side deck blocks. Skipper hauls on the thin red line leading to the bowsprit furler and the jib obediently furls. For now, it is useless.

Closing on what will be the first of many channel marker poles, he reaches for a water bottle from one of the aft cockpit halyard bags. Cheese and marmite sandwiches are retrieved from a neighbouring bag and with forearm resting on tiller to maintain some semblance of steering direction, refreshments are taken.  Not fully sure of the channel ahead despite his pilotage research, note taking and scrutinising of google earth and local charts, he anticipates that manoeuvring room may be limited,  the final approach up to the yard uncertain and so it seems prudent to eat and drink now in the wider water area of the confluence.  


The makeshift signpost is passed; the red and white stripped port marker pole comes abeam. The starboard green and white pole with its rather marked upstream lean, falls slowly astern. The lone sailor makes a course adjustment and fortuitously the breezes unexpectedly reappear. That ‘cheeky’ local topography! Now, coming from the port aft quarter, the boom idly eases across in slow motion to the starboard side. The rattle of boomkin and block confirms the mizzen has done likewise. He quickly glances over his shoulder to confirm that its sheet has cleared the raised outboard engine and the petrol cap that has so often fouled the sheet in the past. All is well.  The next port marker falls astern. The last leg, the final approach has been started. From now on this is, for skipper, uncharted territory. He has sailed many times to St German’s but never up the Lynher to Treluggan.  It’s a new adventure! It’s quite exciting!

Centreboard is lowered a mite further and skipper keeps a wary eye on waters ahead. Steep, exposed mudbanks stretch down from marshes on the Erth island side to the east. His eyes flick constantly from sketch map in notebook to view ahead, as he mentally ticks off identifiable pilotage features. He navigates by marker poles, ticking them off one by one, criss-crossing the channel from side to side, keeping to the outside of the bends. Positioned on the port side thwart to gain the clearest view ahead of the closing western shoreline, he’s already checked that the little lifting cam cleat securing the rudder downhaul is free and ready to lift should the rudder hit bottom. Centreboard downhaul has been released; it should bob upwards into the case on first contact with any obstruction below.
The occasional flap of the main sail luff, the gurgling of waters trickling alongside the hull; the harsh cackles of Brent geese somewhere ahead lull the boats occupant into a hypnotic state; so, he is somewhat startled by the sudden flap of wings and cries of the rook departing the top of the starboard marker pole ahead. To close to that pole for his liking and with  rising rafts of weed either side of it, he realises he is running out of water depth. He nudges the tiller towards the pole and Arwen’s bow heads out towards the centre of the narrowing channel. He closes more slowly on the port marker pole on the opposite side of the channel. He is wary once again.


The brush with the shallows did, however, afford him fabulous views of the Erth Island marsh hinterlands. Motionless white egrets in little gullies and dry sea grasses and reeds sighing in the breeze.  A buzzard lifting off the marsh 30ms inland. A few hundred metres beyond the seaward edge of the marsh, a tree and hedge line and then the sloping Cornish hills. As a geographer he appreciates the vital role these upper salt marshes have in the ecology of the area. Home to 6000 or so fowl and 10,000 wading birds; a vital overwintering feeding spot; a zoned landscape of mudflats, salt marshes, freshwater fens and wild oak woodlands.  He enjoys the utmost peace, tranquillity and charm such places bring.

He skirts the next port marker, sailing close inshore, past the rear of a neighbouring salt marsh and its little beach where a low black hulled barge is moored. High and dry on the upper marsh tussocky vegetation, it is firmly moored fore and aft with thick silvery hawsers, their lower portions a washing line for dried seaweed and assorted plastic flotsam. Seemingly abandoned, closer inspection shows it is well maintained and used at times, for windows and portholes are covered with faded curtains and bleached canvas outdoor chairs rest against the low cabin walls. Perhaps it is a holiday retreat, a place to escape the vagaries of a busy lifestyle.

A grating sound. 

The boat lurches jolting Skipper out of his reverie.  No warning thump of the centreboard hitting its centre trunk cap; no ‘click’ signalling the lifting of the quick release cam cleat on the tiller. A hasty glance over the transom confirms skipper’s worst fears and suspicions. He is aground. Marooned on some weed covered boulders just beyond the channel port marker pole.  How ironic!  The rudder, surprisingly, appears jammed, unable to float upwards. Skipper releases mainsail halyards, dropping the sail into the boat; he does likewise with mizzen. Pushing backwards on an oar placed on both sides of his boat has no effect. Rocking side to side fails likewise. He contemplates jumping overboard into the 18” or so of water beneath the hull. The footing appears to be is thick mud and scattered boulders; the water surface is murky and weed covered; a bladder wrack forest! Um! Maybe not.

Serves me right’ he says to himself. “Less time admiring the view, more focus on what I’m doing and next time be aware of the soporific effects of the sun!” Skipper chastises himself for making such an elementary school boy error!

But he soon relaxes, safe in the knowledge that the little boat will be lifted off by the remaining tide and with luck and good fortune, the rudder will then unjam and float upwards. The centreboard has been raised, sails have been collapsed and temporarily tied. For the next twenty minutes or so, patience is needed.
He explores his immediate surroundings. Ten metres away, on a gently sloping shingle mud mix beach, sentinel Brent geese eye the boat and the and its poor watching keeping skipper with suspicion. On the grassy low bank beyond, other geese graze, a few gulls strut about and ever watchful crows discuss the skipper’s antics in a series of shrill ‘clawc’s’. The boat has beached just off an old long forgotten low quayside; a few rotting vertical wooden poles all that remain of a once wood protected low quay wall. Mud built up over the century or so makes what remains of the wall very low indeed.  Driftwood litters the grassy bank; some larger logs bleached silvery grey by years of weathering. An erect heron surveys the scene from one of the driftwood tree branches.



And so, it comes to pass. 
A foot or so more tidal height and Arwen floats off the boulders and weed raft. Using an oar, skipper pushes back and fore until the little white boat eventually moves backwards. The rudder rises upwards adorned with weed and a few new scrapes in its white paintwork. Grey scars and gashes, a rather nasty looking gouge but close inspection shows the bottom layer of fibreglass cloth has held and not been damaged. Water tightness has been maintained. But it is a ‘workbench job for when we get back’ thinks skipper.

Standing in the forward port side part of the cockpit, he paddles his boat out into the channel and raises the mainsail. It flutters and fills, setting on the starboard side. He takes a chance, raising both mizzen and jib and the little boat glides forward across the channel towards the next starboard channel marker pole. Ahead, as he rounds the slight bend, the railway viaduct hove's into view. Skirting the western channel side, this time acutely aware of seaweed clumps and sticking up branches in the channel, he slowly glides upstream. Alongside him, hills slope down to wire fences. Tree canopies tower above his sails and dangle over small river cliffs, casting occasional shadows over the rocky beaches below with their mud and flattened slate shingle coverings.

The river surface is mirror calm, only the occasional ripple betrays the presence of a breeze. Ahead, the symmetrical arches of the Victorian Brunel designed railway viaduct, a testimony to Victorian ingenuity.  The purple coloured brick parapets, resting on what appear to be large granite support pillars, are covered with grasses and small buddleia bushes; white lime streaks adorn the ceilings of the inner arches where mortar and water have mixed and precipitated out over the years. The slowly setting afternoon sun casts shadows on the upper inner archways and the river surface beyond the viaduct.

Skipper checks the wind direction and speed and mentally plots his course for the middle span. The ‘fairway’ is marked by white squares on two neighbouring viaduct pillars; each white square having a square of red or green paint within it. Clear channel markers. His paddle rests across the starboard side thwart; he is drifting, the sails barely fill. Carried by the last of the incoming tide and faintest of breeze, he approaches the central arch. He knows his raised sails will clear with several metres above to spare yet from his current position, that arch just doesn’t look high enough. It is now a matter of faith! Faith in his research about arch height. Faith in his calculation of tidal heights and archway clearances. Faith, that breeze will hold.

He moves further forward in the boat. The mainsail sags, sprit boom hangs listlessly and lolls inwards. Ten metres to go. The trees on the western bank have caused a wind shadow. There is no breeze. The jib, once again, hangs forlornly over the foredeck. The mizzen just tends to itself, amidships. Three metres to go. 

A startled cormorant sunning itself on the little bottom wedge shaped buttress at the foot of the western archway pillar takes off and skims across the water down the side of Arwen.  By now the foredeck is under the arch span. The coolness of the air and the shadow within make skipper shiver involuntarily. He cranes his neck back to inspect the roof top above as a small three coach train rumbles overhead.

And then boat and sailor are through and a new world has appeared. On the western shore, a large tidal salt marsh, backed by small hill and remains of a tree covered large quarry site. Incongruously, between the trees, scattered aluminium masts stand straight and glittery in the early evening sunshine but hulls below remain hidden by vegetation.

Along the seaward fringes of the marshes lie an assortment of large barges and boats. Liveaboards, in various states of repair and conversion. A black hulled Dutch barge with red top strake and rear cabin, its green hatch covers reflecting the light; an old WWII motor torpedo boat with its blunt, near vertically faced cabin structure and long sweeping bow. Its stern deck is covered with off white awnings and frames; the metallic lattice work that held lights and signal halyards and perhaps even radar, rusted and pitted. Beyond these ancient vessels, the first glimpse of an old wooden pontoon, low on the water surface, arcing out and away from the shoreline, its outer end indicated by a small white cabined sail boat moored to its inner side.


Whoosh! Unnoticed by skipper, the mainsail had swung over to the port side during the passage through the viaduct archway. Now, out of the wind shadow cast by this structure, the sail with its sagging sprit boom shoots viciously across the boat to the starboard side, clearing skipper’s head by a mere inch or two at best. He is a lucky man. His reactions are first rate although he doesn’t appreciate the face plant he executes onto the back of the rear centreboard casing. Whilst his skull remains undamaged, the thought of a possible deep forehead impression mark cast by the jib sheet cam cleat he hit, worries him. It will be embarrassing arriving with a dent in his forehead! He rubs the affected area gingerly and once again curses himself for being ‘lured’ by the landscape beauty! Another valuable ‘repeat’ lesson……” keep your eyes on the sail and wind not the scenery”.

Less than 50 metres to go. His perusal ahead shows that there is insufficient water in the channel for him to execute a turn that would bring Arwen’s bow facing downstream when he ties up at the pontoon. It will be a downwind arrival onto the pontoon then. There is insufficient wind for it to be by jib or jib and mizzen alone and so he opts for a mainsail approach. Jib and mizzen are duly furled. He can always drop main closer to the pontoon and arrive using paddle if need be. After assessing his approach, the sailor leans forward and adeptly deploys three black fenders along his port side; he moves the bow and stern warps closer to hand on the thwart top. He is ready.


Passing the small closed off creek to his starboard side, with its withies, planted in giant X’s across the channel entrance, he admires the fetching black hulled yacht that has been pulled up onto the shore. Its bow points up the sloping hillside, wooden legs support its sides and the stern is tied off to two mooring poles, upright in the shallows. A long warp from bow to convenient tree secures the front and the mast has been raked back slightly to avoid the overhanding oak tree branches. Tarpaulin covered, with black mould and lichen marks everywhere, the pretty little yacht has clearly been ashore for some time.

Arwen creeps alongside the Dutch barge with its little smoke stacks between hatch covers; she slides past the MTB, its grey paint rust stained.  Skipper eases her over to the starboard channel side as a 35’ ketch suddenly appears as if from nowhere. He didn’t see her and so he is momentarily caught off guard. Her masts must have blended with those ashore and she’d been hidden by the boats moored on the outer end of the pontoon. But no worries, for there is sufficient room for this boat and Arwen to pass each other. The boat’s skipper throttles down as he passes the little open dinghy. Courteous greetings, smiles and waves are exchanged and Arwen’s bows lift and bounce over the small wake.


With barely any breeze now present, the dinghy’s skipper eases her alongside the moored boats on the outer edge of the pontoon and past the last grey rib. A quick flick of the tiller to starboard and the little dinghy comes alongside. Main sheet is released, mainsail halyard uncleated and the sail drops with alacrity into the boat. The little boat drifts a few feet to a stop. In one fluid movement skipper has stepped ashore with bow warp and before he knows it has secured it through an iron loop on the wooden pontoon. The stern warp is secured likewise and skipper steps back aboard to raise the rudder. Standing in the rear cockpit, skipper suddenly remembers it is time to breath again. It is a first. He has managed to sail from the Cattedown to the Treluggan boat yard pontoon without recourse to the outboard. For normal sailors, this is an unremarkable feat! For this sailor, it is an achievement.


Stepping once more onto the rickety pontoon of what suspiciously look like old interlocking railway sleepers, skipper re-positions fenders and calculates what length of warp he needs to set. The tide is at its highest. In a half hour or so it will turn. He knows that at low tide the mud banks to his right will be almost 2.5m above him when they meet shoreline and the width of water in the channel will be a few metres at best. He thinks his boat will rest on the bottom overnight or float in only a few inches of water. Gambling that the pontoon probably has a four-foot depth to it, and that it will dry out on the bottom at low tide, he adjusts for enough slack in the warps and rigs a spring line as well.

With boat secure, he stretches his legs by walking the length of the pontoon. Black brown and gouged, where wood has rotted away, it is indeed a series of smaller wooden pontoons chained together. Their surfaces are covered in nailed down chicken wire to provide grip. Grasses grow in crevices along the outer edges; the occasional shrub grows on the inner edge. Electric cabling runs loosely along the surface on the outer edges. A mixture of new and old iron bollard cleats and loops provides mooring fixings. It is antiquated, serviceable and rather charming.


Soulful but uplifting country music drifts across the scenery from one of the liveaboard barges, accompanied by laughter and tinkling glasses. It isn’t obtrusive, rather the opposite, homely and welcoming; skipper ambles back along the deserted pontoon to where an iron girder footbridge rests, its other end linked to the grassy bank by the concrete slipway.  To one side lie an inverted 6’ tender rib, a small fibreglass dinghy, some old tarpaulins, a few tyres and a small portable petrol generator. A coiled yellow hose pipe hangs on a bracket. On the outer pontoon edge, a space reserved for a harbour launch, old white fenders protect pontoon sides and ducks drift alongside; the water beneath gurgles in little eddies and rivulets.

On the inside of the pontoon, a shallow, mud filled lagoon with an old wreck. The transom, a few planks and one side panel all that remain of a small old cabin cruising boat, breaking the surface of the greeny waters. 



It is time to check in at the boatyard office. Then a boat tidy, and an explore of boatyard and quarry before assembling the tarp tent and cooking an evening meal. The local ducks come up to skipper for a close inspection. He concludes that the evening meal is clearly going to be a ‘shared one’. 




Saturday, 8 December 2018

New travel kit

I've written before about the film kit that I take on cruises with Arwen. Recently though, someone asked me about what travel photography kit I carry on my travels.

Well this set me pondering. I am no photographer and in fact I have just put myself on a digital DSLR photography beginners course in January after buying a new entry level DSLR camera - a canon EOS 800D

So what's in the travel bag, ready for our forthcoming Europe trip (which is still in its planning phase but is slowly coming together)?


  • a lightweight amazon basics 50" tripod, a small 10" high tripod and another flexible bendy leg tripod
  • if travelling abroad, my lightweight dell laptop or my Samsung 7" Galaxy tab
  • small portable battery pack
  • Zoom H1 microphone with windmuff
  • canon EOS 800D with 18 - 55mm zoom and 55 - 250 zoom lenses, each with protective filter lenses
  • spare batteries for above
  • manual and quick guide for above camera
  • remote control for EOS 800D
  • cleaning kit 
  • selfie stick bluetooth
  • note book
  • penknife
  • green kneeling matt
  • two GoPro Hero 5 blacks with spare batteries
  • two selfie sticks for GoPro's
  • assorted GoPro clips and fittings
  • egg timer for time-lapse on GoPro's
  • spare memory cards 
  • lightweight ear buds
All of this gear sounds a lot but actually doesn't weigh much. It gets carried in my photography rucksac which still has enough room for waterproof and flask. 



And why the sudden interest in digital photography?
I was disappointed with my photographs from our recent China expedition and I realised I need to learn far more about the basics of photography. I will never be a good photographer but learning the basics to take better photos for blog and future magazine articles will help enormously. 

the new camera will be coming with me when I attend a travel show next year where I have signed up to workshops on vlogging travel videos, taking better travel photos and writing for travel magazines


Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Apologies for my tardiness

My apologies for the lateness of this post. A few weeks travelling across SE China led to the delay in editing my latest vlog, hampered by forgetting to actually load batteries into the camera.
Don't say a word 🙄