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, 27 August 2019

Must have gadgets that double for travel and dinghy cruising

John Welsford got me thinking a few weeks ago after a comment he made to me on a Facebook post. It went something along the lines of ‘dinghy cruising is like land backpacking but on water and with a little extra space’

Interesting as we were having a discussion at the time about charging small electronics on a small boat. I was trying to argue the need for packing succinctly and lightweight. John was pointing out that Arwen could handle the weight of a small 12v system installed in a box in her hull!

If you want to follow that argument – see previous recent posts on charging small electronic devices in a small open boat during May _ July 2019

What John set me off thinking on – was ‘what equipment have I got which doubles up as dinghy cruising stuff and for use on travel, cycling, camping and trekking adventures?’

So here goes: some of the essentials I seem to use on all my adventures, irrespective of transport mode

Packing cubes – are such a simple thing but make life in a rucksack or waterproof duffle bag so much easier. Basically, a bag with a zip in which you put clothes – mine are organised in a simple fashion – one bag has one complete set of clothes in it – socks, underwear, shirt, trousers and fleece. I have two or three of those depending on length of trip. Another bag has two spare sets of socks, underwear and shirts. Another a spare fleece and set of trousers. Another holds toiletries and towels. Simple, efficient organisation – each in a dry bag within a larger dry-duffle or each in a dry bag stored in the under deck forward locker.

Cotton sleeping bag liner – used in some dodgy hotels in rural China and Tanzania; in rather humid Gambia and Costa Rica. I sometimes use it instead of my sleeping bag in warm weather on Arwen and then throw a lightweight fleece blanket over the top if there is a chill in the night. My 4-season down sleeping bag can be very hot and uncomfortable some August nights!

 Waterproof 30 lt dry sac rucksack from Lomo – inside it are various sized roll top dry bags. Used in downpours in Costa Rica – this day sac with its various dry sacs has gone many places with me and is frequently on Arwen – carrying camera gear and batteries – even my DJI drone. The rucksack folds down small and tucks out of the way. I can clip it in the rear cockpit or store it on the front thwart under the fore deck.

I rarely prompt products on my blog. However, occasionally I will make an exception to this, particularly when I find kit that is value for money. I have bought only Lomo dry bags for the last few years. Despite some rigorous testing conditions on the boat and whilst cycling, none have ever failed me. In fact, the front zip on the above rucksack suddenly split about two months ago and is now non functioning. The first failure of any piece of Lomo equipment I have. 

Cameras – my Sony HX 90, Canon 800D and GoPro’s travel in air and watertight plastic boxes inside dry sacs inside the Lomo rucksack. Triple layer protection against water ingress in event of capsize.

Canon 800D starter kit came with 18 - 55mm and 55 - 200mm beginner lens
I have posted before about taking photographs from boats and my camera gear and tips for photography from a boat can be found in this previous post.

I adore this lightweight compact camera - the only draw back is it wont take an external mic

Portable power banks and solar charge panels – see recent posts on small boat electronics but in essence I travel with a combination of big Blue 28W solar panel charger and then a combination of power banks depending on my needs – iMuto 20000mAh and/or Power Monkey Traveller Extreme (5v and 12v outputs). It is one of the most used gadgets I have – taken on all my travels. One bank charges all the batteries and mobile and android tablet during the night and I can often get two- or three-nights worth of charging from one power bank. The solar panel charger then charges up the power bank during the day sail or cycle ride.

My posts about using this can be found here

The Imuto 20,000 mAh - so far it has charged my mobile phone 7 times before I needed to recharge the pack itself

PowerMonkey Traveller expedition extreme - indestructible - love it!

My stretchy Mountain Equipment balaclava – yup – it goes everywhere – even hot climates if I intend getting up in early mornings, during the night or am tempted to do some mountain climbing. It acts as a beanie, balaclava and neck covering. Don’t go anywhere without it! Now 20 years old – it is still going strong – you get what you pay for – it cost a lot – its been worth it.

A first generation original Gortex bivvy bag – bought in the mid 1980’s I goes with me if I am off-road travelling in any country, on any camping or mountaineering trip and always on an overnight cruise on Arwen. Lightweight and small size it is an extra layer at night. I can camp on a beach without a tent, being inconspicuous. Brilliant piece of kit – love it.

A set of Helly Hansen base layer thermals – depending on the season but often go with me on Arwen and regularly in my expedition kit - it can get cold at night even in the tropics, the Med or stuck up a creek up the river Tamar in August.

My beloved small Trangia stove – if I am camping, cycle touring or dinghy cruising – this goes with me. How attached am I to it – when I climbed Kilimanjaro both times – it came with me! Lightweight, compact, with a small bottle of meth’s, this stove has never failed to work or cheer me up with its bright flame and hiss – even in the most desperate of situations! Sadly, it no longer looks as gleaming as the one below but you can see many videos of it in action on my associated YouTube channel -

My spork – well two of them in fact. A spork for the uninitiated is a spoon, fork and tiny knife in one. I use it for street food when travelling abroad, an eating utensil on camping and cruising trips. A tip - take two. An individual spork is next to useless - wait until you come to cut a pork chop with it!! Then you will understand!

Waterproof case for my mobile phone and a waterproof, submergeable plastic credit card holder  – both AquaPac – if I’m heading anywhere wet, monsoonal, near the coast, on a river – these goes with me. I always encase my phone when on Arwen. 

Quick dry micro fleece towels – normally I take two of these – one extra, extra large and one smaller – they dry quickly, pack down tight, weigh barely anything and double as sarongs, slings and lord knows what else over the years.

LuminAID solar powered inflatable light – I think it was Steve Early who put me onto this one a few years back – although I will have to check with him. Anyway, an inflatable, collapsible light giving LED light during the night with a built-in solar panel. Attach it to backpack, cycle panniers or thwart during the day in the sunshine. Simple and clever – amazing gadget which now goes with me on off-road trekking, travelling and camping trips.

SPOT PLB messenger – goes with me on every sailing trip; goes with me on any wilderness cycle, trekking or travelling trip – here and abroad. Can send simple ‘I’m OK’ messages back to designated mobile phones. Hit the red button and summons help, irrespective of wherever you are in the world. Relies on Satellites not internet or mobile networks.

Mine is the generation 2 version - I can send regular update messages to the Boss's mobile phone just telling her I am OK. The tracker function sends regular updates of position which she can follow on a laptop. All very useful if I happen to be out of mobile phone range or in a non mobile phone connectivity area. I can hit an SS button and it relays messages to an emergency centre which then alert UK emergency services that I need emergency help at a specific Lat/Long location. I am, in truth, also thinking of investing in another PLB which just immediately alerts emergency services. 

Swiss army knife and Gerber small multi-tool – go everywhere with me on any travels or dinghy trip – hidden away in hold luggage if travelling internationally – the Swiss army knife is of very high sentimental value – I’ve had it for over twenty years now.

Well there are some of my favourite items which cross all my adventures. I could add more and I am sure you have many of your own. What pieces of kit do you take on/across most of your outdoor adventures? Share them in the comment box below.

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