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

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Dinghy cruising galley box update

The second galley box is finished. Straps and all. It will go on on extended voyages of 3 days plus and be strapped into the starboard side of the centreboard forward cockpit area. The paintwork is rather rough - a few sags and runs - not a very professional finish  - but I was hurrying as I am under starters orders to build 'her indoors'  a new bird table! It is merely a box, nothing fancy. A tray type lid and tall enough to hold bottles of water if need be although I tend to strap in a 25 lt jerry can with a tap for long voyages.

alt="Galley box for dinghy"

Arwen has two galley boxes now and if you use the search bar for searching this blog you will find previous posts about the building of the cooking box. 

Monday 25 February 2019

Dinghy cruising a Welsford navigator, everything you need to know

Questions about whether the navigator boat is one for you, this article will help you decide

Dinghy cruising, Cotehele quay and the Tamar sailing barge 'Shamrock'

alt="Dinghy cruising river Tamar"
home made jetties line the river banks

We were able to pay a visit to Cotehele Quay, a long way up the Tamar. having the quay to ourselves, we were able to go take a close look at Shamrock.
alt="shamrock tamar sailing barge at cotehele quay"

Shamrock, a 17.5m or 57' 6" in old money, was built in the Stonehouse yard of Frederick Hawke as a Ketch rigged Tamar sailing barge in 1899. She has a hold depth of 1.62m (5ft 4in) and a main mast that is 12.5m (42ft) high. Acquired from Hooe Lake in Plymouth, not far from where I live, she was acquired by the National Maritime Museum and in conjunction with the National Trust, taken to Cotehele Quay in 1973 as a restoration project.
The restoration restored Shamrock to as she was after being converted to a coastal vessel in the early 1920's and was completed in 1979. She now has the distinction of being the last working Tamar Sailing barge.
Shamrock was named after the unsuccessful Irish challenger for the 10th America's Cup Race in 1899.   At that time she was considered to be the most advanced Tamar sailing barge ever built; a design which would  carry the maximum cargo for her size on the minimum draft and at the lowest operating and maintenance costs.
Shamrock is now listed on the UK National Historic Ships Register, maintained by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
Mooring at cotehele quay on river tamar
You can find out more about Shamrock at her own blog below.
She is currently jointly owned by the National Trust and the National Maritime Museum.

Cotehele is a medieval/tudor house dating from around 1300. Built by the Edgecumbe family, the house is one of the least altered tudor dwellings in the UK and is decorated with tapestries, suits of armour and oak furniture. There are extensive gardens, old medieval dovecotes and a stewpond.

Now visitors come for cream teas; to admire the river views and see ‘Shamrock’ but today it is empty. Its early morning and too early for tourists. Arwen and I tie up at high tide having motored down from Calstock. Birdsong fills the air. ‘Shamrock’ is clean, newly painted and restored. She must have been some sight to see sailing up the river.

john welsford navigator Arwen

Victoriana relics lie everywhere - the ship bollards with VR and a crown embossed on them; rusting anchors streaked fiery orangery brown, the iron oxidising in the river air, lie on the quayside.  Some of the quays have become overgrown, silted up and colonised by the reeds.

The occasional splash of a jumping trout breaks the still silence of the morning air. Another unsuspecting water skimming nymph has just met its maker. The grass is dewy underfoot and every time I board Arwen, a large muddy sandal print is left on her white decks and thwarts. Oops!

Its peaceful and serene. The old Cornish stone warehouses stand silent; the limekilns disused.  But once, a long time ago, the cobbled stone quay would have been bustling; filled with casks and crates; sacks and metal work; piles of stone ore. Cargo would have been loaded and unloaded using the old crane derrick.

Later old paddle steamers came here to see the famous blossoming orchards and small boats departed carrying farm produce back down river to Devonport market. The Tamar must have been a magical place where boatmen yelled greetings and rural folk met weekly to gossip and bemoan the changing produce prices.

Now swans glide by effortlessly, regal, with barely a wake behind. They remain scrupulously white unlike Arwen which seems to have developed a rather dirty tide mark along her hull. Now that will take some scrubbing off I suspect!

Sunday 24 February 2019

Dinghy cruising, Sailing up the river Tavy

In a previous recent post I commented about how taken I was with doing a sailing trip up the river Tavy to Lopwell dam. A little internet research finds that the Tavy rises on Dartmoor and gives its name to one of my favourite small towns, Tavistock and to the villages of Peter Tavy and Mary Tavy on the western flanks of Dartmoor.

Lopwell dam is the head of navigation and is around 10 miles upriver if I launch from QAB in Sutton harbour.
A traditional river quay that served  nearby mines and farmland, it was also used by the monks from nearby Buckland Abbey. The quayside once saw the export of lead and silver and imports of coal and limestone. The mining of lead and silver dates from the 13th C and on the Bere Ferrers bank grew a small community around the Lopwell and Maristow mines.
There was a working mill in the area up until around 1872 and we passed one of the old mill stones set into the wall of the car park. From the mid 19th C to mid 20th C pleasure steamers from Plymouth used to call in as well.

A tidal fording point, a ferry operated up here until around 1930. The dam, built in 1953 by Plymouth City Council, has a fish pass to allow salmon to migrate upstream to spawning grounds. Alongside the old pump house there is now a butterfly meadow, an old barn converted into a camping barn and a SW Lakes trust café block.

This is the little channel up to the quayside at Bere Ferrers

The rich wildlife around the river ranges from ancient woodland and salt marsh, to rare insect life and internationally-important populations of birds that over winter. I have always loved salt marshes with their variety of plants and insects. Along with the mud flats, it is no wonder that this area is a SSSI and local nature reserve.

This is the railway bridge at the mouth of the Tavy

Below, an aerial overview of the area. 

The only photo I could find of a boat making its way up to Lopwell dam. 

Roger Barnes warned me to be wary of the bridge height clearance at high tide at the entrance to the tributary. An old friend Pete, who I worked with and when on expedition to Kilimanjaro with, is a keen canoeist and warned me about how rapidly the tide empties from this tributary; and how there are extensive mudflats everywhere. He said he spoke of these 'out of experience' which I take to mean he got himself grounded in a canoe on thick estuary mud for a few hours! Warnings noted! 

It is a good little day sail and overnight camping spot. Go up the Tamar on a building spring tide. Get under the bridge at the earliest opportunity and then creep up the tributary on the rising tide. 

Saturday 23 February 2019

Dinghy cruising, Galley box 2 update

Three undercoats later, the box is now ready for the final top coats

 Previous posts on this latest project can be found at

Dinghy cruising, Lopwell dam on the River Tavy

Cycling the Bere peninsula in the Tamar valley gave me opportunities today to pass Weir Quay but also cross over the causeway at Lopwell dam at the head of the river Tavy, a tributary of the Tamar.

I have never sailed up the Tavy. I have past its entrance several times where the Gunnislake railway viaduct crosses the river. I was rather taken with the peace and quiet of the place and the nature reserve that can be found there. Tranquillity.

I'll do some research and put it on the list for an overnight stop in the not too distant future.

If anyone has any experience of sailing up there, do let me know how you got on via the comment box below. All tips and observations welcomed. I quite liked the quayside at Bere Ferrers with its narrow channel between quay wall and mud bank but there are equally a number of nice drying out places on a spring tide up at Lopwell.

Meanwhile down at Weir Quay, there were few people making the most of the unusual spring time weather in late february. 16.5C today with ESE light breezes.

Thursday 21 February 2019

Ebikes, Cycling route 27 Lydford to Okehampton

The electric bikes are getting us out almost daily and I guess that must be a good thing from a fitness viewpoint. Still trying to master the new camera though. Today's selection