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

Saturday 22 May 2021

Rudder repaired

 The rudder is repaired and repainted. Time to go sailing again. Time to see if once and for all I can get to grips with proper seaman like sail trimming ...... Feels like such a dark art 😱. I just don't get why I don't understand how to do it properly.

So frustrating. 

Tuesday 18 May 2021

The Ioptron Skytracker Pro

 As well as a telescope for my newly found hobbies of astronomy and astrophotography (which by the way still hasn’t arrived yet and I ordered it back at the start of January and its now May as I write this blog), I have just received an Ioptron skytracker Polar Pro.

Copyright: Ioptron

It is basically a compact, motorised one axis mount which precisely tracks the stars as they pass overhead of you. It has a maximum payload capacity of 6.6 pounds; weighs 2.5 lbs and is made of die-cast aluminium covered by ABS plastic. It has an internal battery (2000 mAh) which is rechargeable using a micro USB cable and it has 4 tracking speeds.


And when I mean compact, I really do mean compact. It fits in my hand and my camera bag with no problem.

Well packaged it arrives in a padded bag. It is a snug fit. I struggle to get it in and out but I guess that means it won’t shift around!

Unpacking the kit, I discovered the mount, an alt-azimuth base, a brass 3/8 and ¼ inch threaded ball head mount plate, a charging cable and the polar scope. People will also need a ball head to mount their camera to the tracker. I just used one I had off my Joby Gorillapod.

Copyright: AstroBackyard

I’ve spent a couple of hours fiddling around with it working out how to set the latitude angle and also how to alter the horizontal plane as well and I think I have these worked out now. The polar scope has proved troublesome. This little scope has a scale reticule inside it which you use to line up the tracker with Polaris in the night sky. Sadly, my reticule seems to be a 90-degree angle to what it should be which does my head in when trying to do the simple alignment adjustments needed. I have contacted Rother Valley Optics and Ioptron to see if one of them can send me a new one.

Here is my problem. When the polar scope is correctly inserted into its holder as per the instruction manual, my reticule scale is not in the correct position. It is 90 degrees off to the left! 

I have yet to have a clear night where I can now get out and use it but I am assured by various astrophotography groups I subscribe to that I should now be able to take longer exposures of the night sky without any star trailing and that I should be able to capture images of distant nebulae and galaxies.

with the new tracker and some more on-line learning, I should be able to capture images like this using just my DSLR and the basic lenses. Above is the horsehead nebulae of Orion's belt and below the core of the Milky Way

I’m rather excited by this prospect. Anyway, the kit is coming with my Camera gear every time we now travel in Bryony (our motorhome) or Arwen (my 14’ cruising dinghy). I have the dark skies of Norfolk and North Wales beckoning me in the next few months along with planned voyages around the Fowey, Fal, Helford and Tamar rivers!

And now you can see why we have gone to the trouble of up-plating Bryony! It was the tow bar, the e bikes, the bike rack, the telescope and the camera gear wot did us in. Maggie would like to point out that when we recently went through all the stuff we could ditch out of Bryony, all she had that was her’s …. were her clothes and ………. a tiny 12v hair dryer!

I am still trying to live this down!


On Arwen, I haven’t yet decided whether to take the telescope in the boat. I am still trying how to keep it safe and waterproofed during a capsize. However, the tracker will come with me on each overnight trip now.

I will let you know how I get on with the tracker. This could be the start of a new interest group: ‘motorhoming astronomers!’

Clear skies, live long and prosper motorhoming buddies, and fair winds to all you sailors.



What are my initial impressions of the tracker?

Pros: Seems lightweight, portable, easy to put in camera rucksack. Fits on my standard photographic tripod. Has a good padded travel case. Construction seems solid. Well designed. Procedure to align tracker with Polaris seems straight forward from the videos I have watched thus far. Can be used in either northern or southern hemisphere – so will be taken on our future international travels as well. Easy to adjust. The associated app for locating Polaris works well. The motor is soundless, very impressive. There are four speeds – one for tracking night sky; one for night sky with landscape included; and two others for sun and moon tracking.

Cons: without the optional counterweight stem, then the payload is only 2.4lbs which is basically a DSLR and 50mm lens max so o telephoto lenses on it without the counterweight. Need to take all straps off your camera so they don’t catch the polar scope. Similarly make a little bag to hold your intervalometer so that it can be velcro’d to a tripod leg. That stops the cable from catching anything as the mount rotates.

If you would like to know more about how he tracker works, these videos should help

Sunday 9 May 2021

A much welcome 'shake down' cruise in a John Welsford designed 'navigator' called Arwen

A much needed shake down cruise

 At last. It has been a long, long wait but finally, finally, I have been out on the water in Arwen.

The log details are simple enough:

  • Force 3 winds with gusts to 17knots; SE around to SSW
  • Low tide at 10.00am; high tide at 16.00pm
  • passage plan: to sail across to Cremyll, just inside the entrance of the river Tamar and then back out into Plymouth Sound, with possible end of day trip up the river Plym before returning to Queen Ann's Battery marina. 
In a shake down cruise I would expect to do sailing on various points of wind, practise some reefing and heaving to, re-stow some of the onboard equipment and possibly practise using the anchor buddy by landing on a near by beach.

All that went out the window. The winds were perfect for just settling back and reaching back and fore across the sound. And why not?

So, I am baffled as to how I managed to take chunks out of my rudder! A mystery; but tomorrow is clearly going to be another 'repair' day! 

Ho hum!