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

Friday, 7 August 2020

Sloppy seas and poor seamanship

I have to face up to the fact that I am nowhere near as good a sailor as I was mountaineer.
The evidence to support this assertion is overwhelming M'Lud and I beg the court's leave in allowing me to submit the following video evidence to the world wide web jury.

So M'Lud, without further ado, I cite the following failings in seamanship:
  • poor preliminary passage planning - in which I failed to spot the inherent dangers of SSE winds, shallowing sea floor and onshore winds.
  • the FIRST testing a of a 'simplified' reefing system in 'fresh' winds
  • diabolical reefing of the main sail
  • choosing the wrong sail plan configuration from the start - main and mizzen - oh I say M'Lud, the joys of hindsight eh?
  • a failure to trim all cordage within the boat to its correct lengths thereby causing instant tripping hazards and excess of 'string' within the boat
  • over-complicating, what was in essence, a simple system proposed by the boat's designer
  • running all halyards and cordage back to the aft cockpit area, instead of following the plans, which had most halyards securing at the base of the mast, the fore-deck, or along the sprit boom itself 
  • a complete memory loss when feeling nauseated (no excuse man - stiffen one's spin for heaven's sake - of course M'Lud, absolutely right, deserved admonishment, absolutely) so that I forgot to release the mizzen sheet just before tacking AND forgot how to get oneself out of irons by reversing the tiller and swinging the mizzen sail to windward
  • trying to tack a boat in a stiff breeze and small waves by tacking on the front of the wave rather than on its top!
  • being sick overboard to M'Lud, you are right sir, I didn't make that mistake a second time, I ensured I churled over the leeward side, the second time, Sir.
  • a complete lack of attention to detail, inevitably leading to a tack to clew crease, (Yes M'Lud, that is the same crease as in all 144 other videos. Yes M'Lud, I do feel the moncker you propose, 'bit of a slow learner and chump' would be aptly appropriate for me). Yes M'Lud, the sprit boom was poorly set, the braille in the reef sail was poorly executed, and yes M'Lud, your eyesight is excellent, you did correctly spot a five second clip of one of the reefs coming undone, Well done M'Lud, well done, most observant Sir. 
'A Bottle of gin and can of tonic' M'Lud, to cure sea sickness? An excellent suggestion M'Lud, thank you, yes Sir, I will take note of it. Is that to be taken before or after being sea sick M'Lud?

Sorry M'Lud, I assure you no flippancy was mean't!

'What have I learned from this sorry debacle of poor seamanship' M'Lud? 'Lessons for next time?'

  • 'stick to mountaineering, expeditions and adventure travel and don't go near boats?' Wise advice M'Lud, wise advice, most learned Sir, most learned. 
  • 'Write to the boat's designer to apologise for my sheer incompetency in sailing his well designed boat?' Consider it done M'Lud, consider it done - to be fair I apologise to him in my prayers daily M'Lud
  • I'd better check next time the implications of tides, tidal streams, sea floor depth and wind direction and strength before passage planning a route
  • better to sail under jib and main, jib and mizzen and just main - 'think more carefully about an appropriate sail configuration for the route and conditions one sails in' - yes M'Lud - wise words, wise words
  • learn to sail without using my rudder by remembering that the jib forward of the centreboard will help me turn away from the wind; the mizzen aft of the board will help me turn into the wind; and don't push the tiller right over, as, most correct sir, most correct, it will act 'like a bloody big brake'
  • 'try backing the main sail occasionally' - well M'Lud, that is a new one on me, but I'll give it a go M'Lud - always keen to learn new skills
  • yes M'Lud, I had forgotten that if I had only reached up over my head, grabbed the mizzen sprit boom and pushed it to leeward, the mizzen sail would have gone to windward and helped turn the bow of the boat through the wind and onto its new tack. 'Memory problems?' - er yes M'Lud - I am well known for my absent minded forgetfulness - 'in one ear and out the other with nothing in-between to absorb anything?' - yes M'Lud - a fair description, most kind sir, most kind. 
  • 'And tidy up the bloody boat man - have some pride!'  Of course M'Lud - the first thing I do this weekend M'Lud. 

Still on the positive side.............

I like my new Garmin InReach Explore. 

I'll do a complete post on it at a later date when it has been extensively tested but on four long walks, three long bike rides and one disastrous sailing day - it has proved accurate and fun to use. The controls are simple enough to use one handed. The menu screen shows up in bright sunlight; the trip odometer seems accurate as does the compass. The tracking can be set at various intervals and is remarkably accurate. The 'I'm OK' ping messages got through to the boss about 10 seconds after I sent them - far better than my old SPOT device which took up to thirty minutes! The interface between InReach and the mobile phone app works well via bluetooth and doesn't seem to empty the phone battery too quickly. 

The downloaded maps are not that good - it will never replace the OS maps app I have on my mobile. Garmin maps are very basic but are accurate when compared to the OS map onscreen. Out at sea, there is no detail on the Garmin map, but it did place Arwen on every occasion, exactly at the correct point, in relation to near land mass and features, as the navionics app showed. 

So, is it better than the SPOT - yes in terms of accuracy and speed and other basic features like trip logging details etc; also in terms of the number of messages that can be pre-set up and used (although remember there is a subscription charge for each track - currently 10p per track point recorded an sent. As a basic GPS and compass it is better than my handheld garmin etrex. Its a back up if I lose my mobile phone navionics app - for any reason. You can set waypoints in it back at home via a laptop and then sync it to the InReach - I haven't done this yet. 

It also acts as an emergency PLB and the rescue services can send you text message updates about what is happening rescue wise - whilst you are waiting. You can also text them if circumstances allow. You can also cancel an accidental activation of the SOS button as well. 

Where it does come into its own is the two way texting that can be done in areas where there is no mobile signal. We did find one such area down near Porthcothan in Cornwall a couple of weeks ago whilst walking and I was able to send and receive texts via the InReach with the boss. Obvious there was a charge for each text sent both ways - but it was reassuring to know that either she or I could get in contact with each other when stuck up a creek or on some tor with no mobile coverage. Which happens more frequently than I care to admit!!

In a few weeks time, I will give a more detailed review but thus far  I like it - but then I am a bit geeky about my gadgets!!


Nick Vowles said...

I would say that passage was a great success. I hope you get the opportunity soon to consolidate all that learning by putting it into practice.

Robin said...

Looked like a great day sail, sea sickness apart. Thanks for posting.

steve said...

Nick, robin, thanks for the confidence boost...appreciated.lots learned ready for next time 😁😱😄