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 30 July 2019

building wooden oars for a sailing dinghy 11 - Leathering oars recipe

Take two pieces of leather and punch holes at 1 cm intervals around 0.5 mm back from the cut edge. Soak in warm water to soften, stretch and allow to dry in the sun.

Cut two pieces of softer leather into 12 mm wide strips, place in warm water to soften and dry off in the sun.

Do some maths - width between rowlock centres is 60 inches. Divide by 2 = 30 inches - add 2 inches to each length = 32 inches. This is the centre point for positioning the leather on each loom.

Mark position on looms and slightly abrade with fine sandpaper.

Now position the piece of leather correctly. Apply glue to both inside of leather and the loom and allow to go tacky. Whilst waiting, cut waxed twine to appropriate lengths and thread two needles.

Then insert needles into one hole either side - knot the ends together and then start stitching, tightening the stitches every so often - pulling the leather tight together. At end, tie off the two pieces of twine with a series of reef knots.

Take wooden mallet and gently tap the stitching down in to the leather so it doesn't stand so proud.

Now glue strips and loom and tack one strip alongside top end of the loom leather piece. Wind tightly and then add more glue, allow to go tacky and add next strip. Every so often add a small tack pin to hold in place. Six strips later, tack the last end in place and rub away any excess glue that has escaped from the sides.

And leave to dry thoroughly before use.

In the meantime, use any off-cuts to leather the rowlocks

Monday 29 July 2019

building wooden oars for a sailing dinghy 10 - Getting the leather ready for wooden oars

Strips are cut to form buttons

Leather has been cut to size and hole punched ready for the twine

Now they need to be soaked and stretched before applying to the oars 

building wooden oars for a sailing dinghy 8

The oars have been painted - three undercoats and two top coats - that should do.

Now, they have to be positioned in the rowlocks and this position marked off ready for locating the protective leathers.

Just enough to do both oars

Can you smell that leather - wonderful........

I'll leave it a few more days for the paint to thoroughly dry before doing this last job. I should have just enough leather to do the protective sleeves and some strips left over to build up some protective strip button stops - my technical name for them - basically the rim of those black plastic oar collars you can get.

Final verdict? They will pass the 'look great from 20 feet away' test. Rustic rather than professional. A good bit of carpentry learning...which to be honest.....I won't be repeating in a hurry again!

My oar making journey

Bought CLC  plans

Drew out the templates

Cut some thin ply templates

Glued up three pieces of douglas fir

bought some new show respect to the wood you know.......

hand cut out the two oars because the band saw couldn't do it....and three days later 

....started shaping the oars and creating piles of fantastically smelling shavings

and the planing and spoke shaving continued...........

....until eventually oar shapes emerged and I was at risk of making them too light and too thin......

three undercoats later

and two final top coats........

Voila! A pair of rustic looking oars - in perfect keeping with the state of poor old Arwen

Sunday 28 July 2019

Some of the scenes along the south west coastal path around Mt. Edgecumbe in SE Cornwall

I live in a stunning part of the UK

Within Cawsand Bay

Looking along the breakwater towards Bovisand

Pretty Cawsand and Kingsand

Nature along the footpath 

Cawasand Bay 

The iconic Plymouth Hoe in the distance with Smeatons Lighthouse tower

Passing Devils Point at the entrance to the Hamoaze

A Ferry port to France and Spain

The Royal William Yard - once the navy's victualling yard at the time of Nelson 

Passing the orangery in Mt Edgecumbe House gardens 

Plymouth - Britain's only Ocean City 

Saturday 27 July 2019

Gig racing at Cawsand

Arriving on the Cawsand ferry this morning, we found ourselves in the right place at more or less the right time - a gig championship heat taking place. All rather good fun. We couldn't stay for the midday launch and afternoon races but the preparation and setting up, the moving the gigs onto the beaches, the sheer organisation needed to get them down the narrow lanes one at a time - all rather impressive