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

Monday 26 July 2021

Main sail creases

 One of my YouTube subscribers Chris has been very observant and may be onto something. He noticed my near permanent crease from throat to clew. Regular readers of my blog will know about my love-hate relationship with my mainsail and my complete inability to trim it correctly. Whenever I sail, this crease is a sign to all those out on the water that I am an idiot, devoid of sail setting skill. 

Chris noted the following points: 

  • Arwen has the yard on the starboard side of the mast and the sprit boom on the port side. This arrangement seems to be creating a twist in the foot of the sail on the port side  and then another twist in the top part of the sail on the starboard side near the yard. These two twists manifest as a crease.
  • He also asks whether it is a crease or a 'fold'....which makes sense because if you watch the videos of my main sail....that fold runs down the inner edge of the half battens in the upper sail down to the clew and the top part of the sail, especially in light winds, looks as if it is 'flopping' over.
So, what solution did Chris pose?
A simple one - switch the upper yard over to the port side so that it sits above the sprit boom on the same side. He observed that a sail is flat until the wind fills its belly; the boom and the yard pull the sail tight in line with the flatness. With yard and boom on same side, it might allow the tightness to be applied on a flat plane in line with the if to 'iron out' the crease. 

Now, if I was truthful here, I'd say I have no idea what he is talking about. But I understand the instruction 'try switching the yard over to the other side'. I also understand his instruction ' try to adjust the lines so that the boom lies more horizontally'. 

And, I definitely liked his analogy 'this might reduce the indigestion of your sail'! 

So, last week, the boss decided the weather was sufficiently nice enough to embark on her annual boat trip over to Cawsand. The fact that there was barely any wind, the temperature was 30C+ and it was an outgoing tide were mere trivialities. 

excuse the slight fuzziness - a photo off my phone taken through an aquapac case

We motored across to Cawsand and beached Arwen. While I held her bow to the small wavelets, the boss went in search of coffee and freshly baked croissants. A yachtie type ambled down to admire Arwen and ask all about her; a local strolled down to warn me about the submerged rocks immediately ahead of me (which I already knew about). 

After threading our way through swimmers (who seem oblivious to the need to get out of the way of a small boat powered by an outboard) , we went three hundred metres out and along Penlee point, where we anchored twenty metres offshore. 

The sea was crystal clear and the sandy bottom could just be discerned through the aquamarine waters. Compass jelly fish floated by on a regular basis. we were visited by some kayakers and paddleboarders. 

I donned wetsuit and went for a swim. I checked the centreboard casing from below. A jellyfish hitched a ride on my back for a few minutes. 

Eventually after an hour, there was sufficient breeze to go for a short sail along the southern outer edge of the breakwater, where we put to the test Chris's theories.

And then the winds died completely so we motored down Jennycliffe Bay and into the Plym river. 

The boss declared it 'a perfect day'.

I'll take that! 

As for the crease? Well, on the first test of the new rigging strategy, it was definitely far less than it has ever been before. So thats a good start! 

Getting a new boat trailer

 I spent two hours this morning discussing a new trailer spec for Arwen with the owner of a local trailer manufacturer. 

Initially I think he was hoping for just a quick show of trailers and the components  - thirty minutes at most. 

I arrived with plans and photos and some issues to resolve. The engineer within my host eventually took over as we explored photos of my current set up and the boats hull measurements and configuration. All of a sudden we were in deep discussions about trailer types, trailer components and Arwen's unique hull design. Before we knew it, two hours had passed. 

He was a very, very patient man. A very knowledgeable, kind, tolerant gent. I was my normal dumb, overthinking self! At times I can really hate myself with frustration and loathing! 

He is a dinghy sailor himself. However, as a trailer maker, he had some conundrums regarding the best trailer set up to fit and support the hull correctly, given my driveway limitations. 

Conundrums to take into account:

  • if Arwen rests on keel rollers, her sides must clear the top of the mudguards - so what height do keel rollers have to be at; and what are the implications of this for launching and retrieval?

  • the new regulations for the coupling. Legally, the coupling on a boat trailer has to be 400mm off the road when horizontal. News to me and many others I suspect. Hence, technically all new boat trailers must look like this below.......and he doesn't understand how most boat trailer manufacturers are getting away with NOT doing this arrangement. Anyway, the conundrum...... will this lower frame bar clear the driveway i.e. not ground, as I reverse the boat trailer up onto the 14 degree angle driveway? Especially given the car will still be on the horizontally flat road!

  • will the T frame trailer design need different keel rollers to what are normally supplied - two fixed height wider ones around the centre-case area and then two narrower V shaped ones which are height adjustable at the bow and stern end?

  • to keep the bowsprit on - the winch/snubber post will need to be adjustable in movement along the central box section. With this in mind, how much boat overhang will there be at the aft end? 
  • with a T shaped trailer where there is a long central box section ending in a single aft end keel roller - how easy or hard will it be to line Arwen's bow up so it rides  on to that first roller and goes straight onto the remaining rollers further forward?

  • for side supports - rubber chocks rather than wobble rollers he feels, and these would need to be height adjustable and able to pivot. As to where to position them and in what orientation, that would be trial and error on the day Arwen first goes onto the trailer

We discussed lighting board attachments, the length of the lighting board support rods; how much overhang of the boat hull here would be in relation to the lighting board position (the legal maximum overhang is 100cm from the lighting board position. 

In summary then - a T frame trailer, taking a 500kg payload with a 750 kg coupling, unbraked. 5.4m in length with 10" wheels. Four keel rollers, two adjustable; support side chocks which pivot and are orientation and height adjustable. A winch and snubber post - adjustable along the box section.  A spare wheel/tyre combination. Plastic mudguards. Light weight trailer around 140kg maximum unladen. Tapered unsealed hub bearings - easier to annually maintain, he says. Maybe I just imagined the gentle, good natured, twinkly eyed hard 'Paddington bear' stare (he had seen the photos of my current trailer). Or maybe, it was me feeling guilty and silly because I know I have neglected trailer maintenance and so I'm now in this position because of my own stupidity.  The wheels on this new trailer will definitely be going in the water regularly and will get annual maintenance on the bearings and flushing and washing down after EVERY trip!

It will end up looking something akin to this one but with the adaptations mentioned above

It was about now that I was feeling stupid and not because my host was making me feel that way. Far from it. 
It's a normal feeling I get due to self realisation. I am no engineer. I'm no sailor either if we were really being honest. It struck me throughout the conversation that I was taking a huge amount on trust because I just didn't know enough about boat trailers. 

That the side chocks are better than the rollers? That a T frame would suit Arwen's hull shape? That the legal requirements regarding lighting board and coupling attachment arrangement are correct and essential to meet?  That tapered, unsealed bearings are the better option in the long run rather than sealed ones? That the boat would be easily guided onto that first roller during recovery?

I honestly don't know, but I am going on faith and trust. The gentleman clearly knew his stuff, he spotted problems quickly, he articulated solutions well, he was passionate and proud of his trailers. He kindly invested considerable time that he didn't have,  in me. He put up with my stupid questions. Its not my distrust of him, far from that. He was amazing - great customer service at initial enquiry point. Its the knowledge of myself - I'm a simpleton! Shallow, boring, unable to see complexities; blessed with a unique ability to overthink and over complex the simple! 

Anyway, just as we were coming to an end with the discussion; and at a point where I had just about got my head around things, my good natured host threw a spanner in the works. 

"Some Salcombe yawls have a road/combi launch trailer system" and he wondered whether this might be a better option.  (Salcombe yawls cropped up in conversation because the day before I'd been down Salcombe and had met some owners rigging them. All were on launch trailers made by this company; and all the sailors I met were very vocal in their praise of them). 

We discussed the road trailer design - far shorter in length with a rolling tube around the axle bar on which the launch trailer would 'roll across'; we discussed launch trailer design - it would need two keel rollers. We discussed how we could work out the balancing pivot point in Arwen when she was fully loaded with dinghy cruising gear and what the implications for this would be if she wasn't full of dinghy cruising gear.  How easy would it be to lift the launch trolley on and off its load retaining safety spigot at the front? What shape would the launch trolley side supports have to be? 

We discussed the advantages of this type of trailer - shorter in length, the wheels would never go in the water. The launch trolley would roll over a rotating bar on the axle - it could be easily winched on. I could launch and retrieve Arwen in very shallow water on very shallow ramps. The launch trolley just has to be lifted and pushed and gravity apparently does the rest. It is still attached to the free spooling winch and the steel launch trailer sinks! So it won't suddenly disappear off somewhere at the end of the ramp. Recovery - send the launch trolley into the water, float Arwen over the top, pull her bow into the V shaped snubber at the front. Secure her to the trolley and winch the whole oat and trolley back onto the road trailer. designed in such a way that as the front of the launch trolley reaches the front part of the winch post on the road trailer, it slowly descends and the spigot engages with the hole!

He made it sound so easy.  It sounded perfect, especially as I slide into my 60's. 

The disadvantages - getting the weight distribution in Arwen correct each time so that she was just slightly aft heavy when on the trailer system. My ability to lift the launch trailer off/onto its retaining spigot without killing my back. 
Then there would be a huge boat overhang, possibly 1.6m from the trailer wheels. 

And there the conversation came to a sudden stop as we both realised that the sloping driveway could now become the potential issue that stopped us going for this trailer type. As I reversed the trailer up onto the driveway slope....would there be a risk of the bottom of the transom hull area grounding on the driveway because of such a long overhang. And, the lighting board would now become an issue as well. The length of supporting rod for the board would be so long that the board would just continually bounce around when under way. So, the only option would be to hang the lighting board off the back of the boat instead. 

Which, apparently, is illegal!

And, is exactly what I have been doing the last ten years! 
I have been followed by Police cars, but never been stopped. If they did stop me, chances are they would be more concerned about the state of the trailer, the state of tyres and wheel rims, the security of the boat on the trailer itself. As long as the lighting board was working and the lights and number plate were clearly visible, it probably wouldn't be an issue to them. 

It definitely would be though if I ever wanted to take Arwen abroad! 

So there we have it. I thoroughly enjoyed the two hours and learned heaps. My host, probably less so. I suspect he was glad to see the back of me although he did admit that it was an engineering issue he occasionally liked to grapple with. He was full of patience, integrity, thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit. 

Later that afternoon, I emailed him with some measurements and angles regarding the road, path and driveway angles. 

As it stands at the moment, we are trying to work out the maths involved in finding out whether the combi road trailer boat overhang will be an issue on the driveway. We also need to check that the coupling arrangement with the lower box section doesn't ground when the car is on the road and the trailer about to go up the driveway slope. 

The slightest doubt and we have both agreed that we will opt for the safer bet - the T frame. That can be adjusted in all sorts of ways. The combi trailer system has no adjustment potential. Get that wrong and it would be a useless trailer for me and I won't be getting my money back as every combi trailer design is semi bespoke to the boat it will carry! 

Phew, it is really brain taxing stuff, this new trailer choosing malarkey! And if I get it wrong....... the Missus has made it clear.....something about 'nuts nailed to my forehead'? I didn't stay around long enough to hear and 'take in fully', the implied 'promised sanctions'!

Saturday 24 July 2021

Boat trailer woes 3 and thinking about a new trailer

 Well, I managed to get the boat trailer down to the local trailer centre a mile away.  A tank with tracks on a tarmac road makes less noise! Those bearings rumble and are clearly shot. 

Chris and Jason, two experienced trailer service engineers came out with clipboards and tape measures. They crawled underneath, walked around several times, did a lot of sucking in air between teeth and gave each other furtive looks. 

Having taught for over thirty five years I have become adept at reading body language. This was not going well. 

"You sure you want to look at refurbishing?" queried Jason.

"Yup" I replied, already well aware of the futility of my position. 

Chris merely shook his head in disbelief. 

The upshot. It can be refurbished but the trailer needs a complete new axle assembly. Two keel rollers are semi collapsed and need immediate replacing. The forward keel roller is shot completely and a new adjustable one will be required, along with a new winch. The Jockey wheel is fine. The tyres are good - the wheel hub/rims are shot. Easiest option - two new wheel/tyre set.  The wobble rollers all need servicing and resetting. 

Throw in labour charges as well and it will be close to £900. 

Split in decision - One goes for refurbishment. The other thinks its best to just invest in a new trailer. They will price it all up more accurately over the weekend and get back to me early next week. 

Overall judgement...can I drive it five miles to the local marina to do a launch and then bring it back - safely in its current state?

Their conclusion -  "We've seen worse but the support suspension arms on the axles are bad; but driving sensibly and taking it easy, then yes, it can be done but not often".

So, I risked it, drove sensibly and managed to get to the marina and back without mishap. The boss accompanied me and we went for a short boat trip when the wind light, the sun bright and the temperatures 30C+. But this is the subject of the next post......for I am digressing. 

In the meantime, back to trailers, I have now been busy researching new trailers. 

Which proved to be far more time consuming than I was expecting. 

Four companies got back to me with suggested trailers after I sent them details about Arwen. Four just didnt bother to reply or answer my messages left on answer phones. 

I sent initial emails expressing interest, giving a web link to an article about the navigator design (see end of this post), some photos of the current trailer set up I had and the problems it is causing and then a list of tentative thoughts and requirements for a new trailer that would better fit Arwen's hull configuration. I included her dimensions, my driveway dimensions and restrictions and the measurements of my current trailer.

Two got back to me the same day with phone calls. Four didnt reply at all to email or phone message. Two replied by email. 

Initially I was drawn to a tilt chassis trailer with a good spec. However through six or seven emails it began to emerge that the two trailers suggested to me had problems, from my viewpoint. The first was just too light - taking a weight of only 380 kg. It also wouldn't accommodate the bowsprit being left on without a rear overhang of at least 1200mm. It didn't matter how I did the measurements or configuration of the trailer, Arwen would not be going onto that trailer, despite the dealers reassurances it would. His second trailer was too big for the driveway and was a roller or bunk configuration and very heavy. 

The issue that dealers seemed to be struggling with, and that was despite having photos, videos etc to see, was that Arwen's existing trailer is 5.30m long and she fits on it perfectly with an overhang on the back under 600mm.  The driveway space available is 5.90m length and 2.0m width. Walls and steps are the restrictions here.  Arwen's overall length from end of bowsprit to end of outboard bracket is 5.89m. these figures they just couldn't compute for some reason. 

One dealer could adapt one of his trailers but insisted wobbly rollers were best not keel rollers ad 8" wheels would be better. 

Two dealers had read all the email, examined the photos and both agreed they could design something bespoke that would better fit Arwen's planking configuration. They both discussed options and the pros and cons of each - support rubber chocks or carpeted bunks; wobble rollers or extra keel rollers; fixed or adjustable height rollers. They discussed lighting board attachments as well. 

Only one however, immediately homed in on the issues to overcome though. 

  • setting the boat up on keel rollers but having enough height so that the hull sides clear the mudguards
  • having sufficient end clearance between bowsprit and coupling end so that the car rear window doesn't get broken 
  • looking carefully at side support so that rollers, chocks or bunks don't cross overlapped plank seams and cause stress points so that dings and flaking paint occurs. 

 Interestingly, he was the only dealer who also said "Look why don't you come up one morning and let me show you the components and lets look at some plans and configurations".

He was also the one who sent price lists, spec sheets and options details by return email. 

Regarding prices - the highest one I was quoted was £2020, admittedly for a tilt chassis and ALKO axle. High spec stuff. 

Other prices were £1695, £1495 and £1071 (and then optional extras but with everything on e.g. better winch, wobbly rollers, spare wheel and storage bracket £1300). 

You can guess who quoted the lowest price...the man who invited me to visit!

Here are three examples of his trailers we can look at next week and decide which is best for Arwen. 

He is suggesting a T frame arrangement with a 500kg payload rating.
Four keel rollers rather than three. The foremost keel roller being height adjustable. 

Subsequent discussions will focus on black rubber chocks, wobble rollers or carpeted bunks as additional supports and the pros and cons of each. 

Another issue is the coupling arrangement and whether this will cause grounding issues as I transfer the trailer from the road onto the steep driveway. My hunch is the bottom tubing and possibly the jockey wheel will ground. 

If you have a view as to which would be best - chocks, bunks or wobbly rollers, please let me know your thinking and rationale. Your thoughts would be most appreciated. Drop me a few lines in the comment box at the end of this blog post. 


Today we went for a walk, coffee and read of the papers in Salcombe. My wife's suggestion not mine. 

As we were walking through the town, she said "Isn't there a boat storage yard further along by the car park by the launch ramp?"

"Yes there is darling" I replied, my ears perking up. 

"Show me what you are thinking about regarding a new trailer then"

Whoa there - who are you - what have you done with the old missus? 

It was a fruitful trip because fortune shined. The first trailer we came across was the smaller version of the one I am seeing next week. And we got to talk to the owner for ten minutes, who, as it happens, was fulsome in his praise of the company. 

This is the smaller version of one of the trailers being proposed to me. However, it would have three or four keel rollers and then the option of wobble rollers, bunks or side support chocks. There would only be four sets of wobble rollers, not the six shown here. Initial thinking is the rear most ones would be closer to the trailer centre line and so directly under the flat bottom of Arwen and her skeg would be resting on the keel roller. 

He sent me along to the storage yard to see the Salcombe Yawl owners, several of whom were rigging their boats. Their boats all sat on launch trollies, made, by you have guessed it, the same company I am seeing next week. 

Although they are launch trollies, it was interesting to see how they had solved keel roller issues and side supports. Lots of photos, quick discussions and I am armed with some interesting material for discussion next week. 

I have reservations about this coupling and jockey wheel arrangement but I can't articulate why - other than I foresee a potential 'grounding' issue on the driveway as it raises up from the pavement. 

A launch trolley which supports the weight of a 380 kg Salcombe yawl.
Would something like the above but as flat black tubular rollers be a better support arrangement to stop lateral movement of Arwen on the new trailer? 
And, would that rocker keel roller system be a better arrangement as the rear most keel roller set up?  

Most importantly, they were all fulsome in their praise of this company as well. "Go talk with Tony" was a common refrain! 

Armed with my measurements of Arwen and her trailer and a list of questions and issues to discuss, I am looking forward to this road trip next week. 

You know how you put things somewhere safe and then can't remember where?
I have done that with Arwen's plans. I had one sheet out, but where I put the rest I cannot for the life of me remember. So I had to start out again with a vague memory from studying them two months ago for something else. Then I remeasured her on her trailer - three hours of my life I won't get back. Joel Bergen kindly offered me to send photos of Ellie's plans but by that time I had done most of the drawings. Just wish I had had the intelligence to ask him in the first place (thanks again Joel by the way). In the meantime, I know sometime next week, I will remember where I've put them! 

The most important measurements? The driveway ones, because if I get a trailer which is too big and doesn't fit on.....'I'm a dead man'...... She phrased it far stronger than that and so I paraphrase but you get the gist!

So, refurbish or new trailer? 

Tough dilemma. 

Lesson learned? Trailer maintenance is as important as boat work!

Tuesday 13 July 2021

Boat trailer woes 2

 Some photographs which sum up the situation. 

Living on a narrow road which has a bus route does pose problems. As does a steep driveway. If I knew everything would go OK and I could get new wheels and hub assemblies on without any problems, then I would do this on the roadway during the day and then get the boat back on the drive before the evening rush hour. 

However, the chance of a problem which would mean the boat staying on the roadside for a few days is a no-no - from the council, bus, neighbours viewpoint and rightly so. Parking is very difficult along the road as it is. 

The issue has arisen because I didnt show due diligence. The boat has practically been on the drive for two years. During the pandemic I have been out about six times in two years. Very infrequent and so I didnt keep an eye on the trailer as I should have and normally would do. 

All the wobble rollers need to have washers and split pins replaced

the wheel rims are rusting; the hub studs and nuts are very rusted
So, wheels and hubs need replacing

here is my real dilemma. The box section on the left is part of the trailer assembly - a permanently welded on section. The hub spindle is knocked into this box section between four rubber bungs. This spindle/hub/suspension section is showing suddenly very bad corrosion. I have never seen it like this before. The outer layers are flaking off. 

Some of the keel rollers have suddenly collapsed or broken - so the skeg isn't resting correctly on the rear roller. One of the little rollers has managed to break off as well!

The trailer is fourteen years old (I checked last night) and I am wondering whether the sensible thing would be to just replace the whole axle assembly completely

would some work with a wire drill brush clean the spindles and spindle suspensions arm up enough? 

This all needs replacing with a proper adjustable bow keel roller assembly

these wobble rollers are beginning to cause paint damage - I think some need to be removed completely up towards the bow and then the aft sets could be moved so that they are under the flat hull base 

despite religiously washing down after every trip! 

These just need to be moved completely inwards

Refurbishment could be around £500 if I get someone to do it and I replace all rollers and brackets, hubs and wheels. A new trailer is £1600 approx. 

Meanwhile the sailing season is sliding by. Serves me right - my head has been in motorhoming and house hunting not sailing and trailer maintenance. This is a very painful lesson to learn! 

Monday 12 July 2021

Boat trailer woes

 It is easy to forget with a wooden boat that not all your time should be spent touching up boat dings and scratches. Trailers need TLC too. 😟

On our last trip out several weeks ago, Arwen's trailer lost a roller. I only noticed it when I went to retrieve the trailer from the top of the slipway to haul Arwen out of the water. One of the big blue and white wobble rollers had come off. 

You can see why I lost a roller. 
The washers have corroded badly and I haven't been diligent in trailer management.

In forlorn hope, I sprinted won the slipway to see if it had washed down in the tide and collected somewhere at the bottom in the little pool area, but sadly not. I searched the slipway and the patches of seaweed on it. Nothing.

Now I had a problem. The wobble roller arm was uneven and the empty bit was sticking up. There would be no way I could get Arwen back onto the trailer without that arm doing serious damage to her hull. I solved the problem by lashing it down tight, but this of course, elevated the other side of the arm. 

After hauling Arwen back onto the trailer, as I was flushing out the wheels, bearings and rollers with the slip way hose pipe, I took a closer look under her hull.

What a disaster. There was a deep scratch, no gouge, down her starboard side bottom plank. Clearly the roller had come off during the launch and the damage had been done. In my keenness to depart, I hadn't noticed! 😢

Back at home, I decided to try and put a spare roller back on. Stupid idea of course because the boat was still on the trailer but I'm slightly caught here because I'm worried if I launch Arwen again the wobble arm will do more damage! 

A deep concern. The torsional suspension stub hubs are completely corroded. More worrying is the the box section that the hub fits into (between rubber bungs) is also showing rust. 

Having jacked the trailer up and rested it in a stack of concrete blocks, I also took a look at the wheels. My worst suspicions were confirmed. Turn the wheel and it just rumbled. And, worse still, there was slight wobble play in the wheel on its hub and it wasn't anything to do with loose stud nuts. The wheel rims were showing signs of rust and flaky paint.  Below, Arwen's hull had some dings caused by pressure points where wood had rested awkwardly on rollers; there were worn streaks where the grey base paint was showing through and in places the top coat was flaking off as well. 

You can see the problem of these rollers. They are just not quite positioned correctly. 

The rear keel roller wasn't turning properly. The forward keel roller had shifted its position somehow. 

More concerning is when I reversed Arwen back up onto our sloping drive way, it took me 30 minutes to disengage the trailer hitch off the tow ball. It just wouldn't open and I had to reverse and move forward a few inches back and forth several times until it would disengage. First time this has happened! 😱

Trailer TLC - it is vital and this is a tough lesson to learn. The trailer is thirteen years old and I had it serviced two years ago. 

And I also noticed yesterday that one of the little black keel side rollers is also MIA

Arwen's trailer was never designed for her. It was an off the shelf one and the best I could find and afford at that time when we had other pressing family financial commitments. 

So, now it is decision time. Do I refurbish the trailer or invest in a new one?


  • the galvanised trailer is pretty sound although where the hubs join is showing rust but I think it will clean up and is fairly secure
  • new wheels rims and tyres
  • new torsional suspension hubs, bearings and new rubber bungs
  • two new keel rollers
  • one new rear keel roller which better lines up and allows the bow to rise up onto the trailer
  • convert it to bunks/skids - so two new skids
  • will need to remove all the roller arms and wobble wheels
  • will need to buy/borrow/hire an angle grinder because things have rusted on firmly!
  • have limited space to do this - on a residential road which has a local small bus service
  • will need to get Arwen off the trailer and secure somewhere for a day or two
  • need to research how to change torsional stub hubs, how to renew trailer hub bearings and whether I can fit bearing buddies
  • the one last issue is the rear keel roller is a bolted on one. The two roller support lugs are an integral part of the trailer frame, so I will need to angle grind these off 
  • disadvantages of the current trailer - I have to dip the wheel bearings every time to get Arwen on and off the trailer
  • advantages of current trailer - its rollers and one shove and she is off; once the bow is on the rear keel roller correctly, she is easy to winch on single handed
Buying a new trailer: 😕
  • could get it customised to better fit Arwen's hull shape. (Her hull has slight rocker on it, what some would unkindly call a 'banana bottom'. Basically she has a flat middle to front section but the aft section rises slightly towards the transom as does the skeg).
  • I'm not 100% sure but suspect, that bunks/skids would be better for this boat bottom than wobble rollers on arms. (It is a chine boat and so the rollers are difficult to get placed correctly). 
  • possible things to consider
    • break back design
    • 8" or 10" wheels (8" ones would make the boat lower when launching?)
    • using support bunks 
    • several keel rollers to take the main weight of the boat
    • lower winch post so that the bow sprit goes over the top
    • a winch post with a groove in the rubber snubber so that the bobstay can be left on (is this possible?)* 
    • metal wheel arches*
    • meeting European trailer requirements
    • sealed bearings or suitability for bearing buddies (even better AL-KO bearings?)
    • better attachment of hubs to trailer via bolt plates
    • adjustable skeg and bow keel rollers
    • better lead on keel roller arrangement
    • walkway*
    • spare wheel holder*
    • whole trailer cannot exceed 6m due to driveway restrictions
    • galvanised or...?
    • stainless steel fixings, bolts, nuts etc? 
    • side guide poles*
    • removable lighting board
    • not a pressed steel hitch
*optional additions

My requirements for a trailer 😀
  • easy to launch and retrieve in a variety of tidal and wind conditions, in differing water depths and on differing gradient ramps
  • easy to tow long distances
  • doesn't damage the hull
  • can carry outboard on transom bracket in its upright, vertical position safely
  • better quality bearings
  • last another 20 years with a better annual maintenance regime imposed by me!!

So what weight does the trailer need to support? 
Oh my what a question to try and answer because truthfully I have no idea. 😟

I am guessing that Arwen empty but with masts, yard, boom and sails probably weighs 380lbs. I built the coamings slightly higher; I put in bigger coaming backs into the boat. I used sustainably source Brazilian mahogany for rub rails, centre case top and centre case area leading to mast slot.  Probably used far more epoxy than I needed to! John's website suggests 310lb.

When she is loaded up for a five day dinghy cruise, well then we have to consider lost. The two anchors with chain and rode probably weigh in around 40lbs or so. The outboard is around 40lbs or so. Galley boxes, spares, clothing, bedding, food, water, fuel, warps, anchor lines, safety gear; so much but never have I weighed it.

So summing up, I am reckoning that the boat fully laden with all gear will be somewhere around 500lbs+ 
So, I have been looking at un-braked trailers which will carry a laden weight between 280 - 350kgs. That surely must cover me with no problem at all. 

I have contacted several boat trailer manufacturers so far, giving them details of the issues, an article about John's navigator design (with dimensions, measurements and photos), details of the issues of my old trailer and my restrictions and potential trailer desires. 

Three have got back to me thinking they could do something. Two recommended bunks. One recommended rollers. two said ten inch wheels; one recommended 8 inch wheels. One said break back design; two don't offer that. 

All three warned me stocks are low given people went bonkers during the pandemic buying or building small boats! I could be waiting for several weeks if I order now! So delivery end of August at earliest.

I've listed websites and some of the trailers they have suggested could be adapted to meet needs. Most were recommended or mentioned to me by various members of the Dinghy Cruising Association.
 If you have any thoughts on any of them, please, please, please do drop me your advice in the comment box below. 

PDMS trailers

White trailers

So I finish this initial blog on a set of questions and a dilemma.

The questions:

  1. refurbish existing trailer (cost around £400 if I do it myself; £700 if I get someone to do it for me) OR take the plunge and buy a new one better suited 
  2. which are better for Arwen - bunks or rollers; 8" or 10" wheels; fixed or break back? 
  3. material - galvanised, steel, aluminium? 
  4. if bunks - what kind of bunk surface material is best? 
The dilemma:

The slipway I use is five miles away in the car. If I lash the roller arm back down, can I risk doing a few day launches with wheels where the hub bearings have gone? I've certainly done a few this year with the bearings in that state, but not realising it at the time. 


Friday 2 July 2021

Forgive me Neptune, for I have sinned

 Forgive me King Neptune, for I have sinned. I did hire a motorboat when out on the broads!

We have been touring Norfolk and Suffolk in our motorhome Bryony. It has been our longest trip to date and we have spent a few days around Hickling Green and Hickling Broad. Most of the time we have been cycling but today we felt somewhat sore (having cycled over 150 miles in seven days) and so opted for a day on the water. 

SWMBO wasn't confident about hiring a day dinghy and when i saw what was on offer, neither was I to be fair. The little boats were barely water-worthy! So, we opted for an old motorboat with a diesel inboard engine. Hired from Whispering Boats at Hickling Green, we got a white painted plywood hulled boat with varnish rails and coamings. A bit dilapidated, with a patched hole in one corner, the varnish was peel in places and the screws rusting badly. The bow painter was blue knotted polypropylene string; the stern warps black 12mm plaited rope. It wasn't neglect but it was in need of some TLC. But then when people see Arwen they say the same thing, so who am I to judge?

Our intention was to spend four hours gently motoring across Hickling Broad and up through the cutaways into Horsey Mere before going up the river to Horsey Mill for a coffee and cake at the National Trust owned windmill. If there was time we would then head back down for a quick tour of Heigham Sound. 

The Whispering Boats yard is traditional; a few staithes with some permanent liveaboard boats alongside; some boats out of the water on hard standings; a narrow gently sloping ramp and a large corrugated boat building shed. Clean and organised it has an air of old fashioned competency about it; a place where apprentices once learned their craft from master boatbuilders. But now, trade isn't what it used to be. 

After a quick briefing, a warning about getting too close to the reed bed margins (clog the prop) and 'watch out for traditional sail boats coming around the bends' we were duly shown to our boat and left to our own devices. The first problem, how do you turn an 18' motor launch 90 degrees out of its stern to mooring in a staithe canal channel which is only 4' wider than the boat length; and with two other launches of identical dimensions moored gunwale to gunwale either side of you!

I should at this point, just in case you were all saying 'easy'......tell you that the steering was a steering wheel and then a wire and pulley affair to the rudder. A system so stiff, you physically had to yank the wheel one way or another. Think a steering wheel on a tank - non power assisted! 

Then throw in a throttle which was at best temperamental; stiff, unruly, prone to slipping and not holding its position! Truly hilarious. The only positive was the engine. Its regular chug chug beat and tempo just spoke reliability, trustworthiness, integrity. 

It took ten minutes to work out how to caress the throttle; a further ten minutes on how much effort to put into turning the wheel one way or the other to get some form of turn in the bow. Subtle steering it was not! Gauging speed wasn't an issue! There was slow, dead slow and stop!

Gently chugging out of the narrow yard entrance canal past moored boats of all descriptions and sizes, we entered between the first of over forty 12' tall square posts that marked the centre of the broad. Depth gauges on some of the posts suggested we had around 8' under us at the centre of the broad. With gentle breezes bow on, I was able to stand upright leaning on the top of the windshield with left hand on the steering wheel and right foot nudging the throttle down or up as required. A rather cavalier approach I am sure but given we had the whole broad to ourselves, I wasn't unduly worried. We were only doing 3 mph max. 

We passed flocks of swans cleaning themselves and shooing their broods of cygnets out of the way. Marsh harriers swooped above the reeds and out in the distance in a secluded corner of the broad, inaccessible to our boat an enormous bird of prey flew above the water in lazy circles. Was it an Osprey? It looked like one from a distance! 

At the yellow and black marker post we turned to port and started up the narrow channels that ran between marsh and reed bed islands. The channel was barely 20' wide and we were hemmed in by thick tall green reeds. Our horizon was those reeds punctuated by the odd oak tree or distant windmill. A closed world, a fascinating world, a gentle world.

Time slowed down, it practically stood still. The sun shone; the breeze whispered through the reeds. Reed buntings provided a sound track. A blue damselfly landed on my hand and stayed with me for twenty minutes up river. Ahead, huge dragonflies, the 'Gazelle helicopters' of the insect world buzzed and darted frantically across the water, skimming low and evading the sudden rises of Chub and Roach. Past motionless herons, their faces downward, peering in to the dark waters, waiting to rapier any small unsuspecting fish, we chugged along, our soundscape being enhanced by the repeated call of a distant cuckoo. 

You know when sail boats are approaching. You can see the tips of their masts and pennants streaming out at mastheads. Some are motoring, their masts devoid of sail. But then there are boats that are sailing, with acres of tan, cream or white sail clothing billowing in the breeze. Around the corners they creep, their booms invariably hung out over mid channel. In such circumstances, I found the easiest thing to do was to wait, throttle into neutral and then judicious use of forward, neutral and reverse gears to hold station as close to the reed margins as I dare, allowing them sufficient room to drift by silently. 

There is a grace and beauty to the traditional broad cruisers with their cream hulls and varnished topsides. You could get a suntan just from the reflection in that varnish work. 

Arriving at Horsey Mill staithe is tricky. Along the starboard side of the channel are private moorings. On the port side public tie up points. The channel between the moored boats either side is around 10' in width. The channel is a dead end with a right angled bend just before the mill. And, it is in the full glare of the public gaze, for this is a popular attraction. There is no place to hide. 

It is grown up pants time! You have to moor into the wind or the river flow, whichever is stronger. To try and moor going downwind or downflow is to invite disaster.  Today, I have to turn the boat in the channel for the wind has shifted to come from astern and its picked up! There is a 10' long gap between boats on each side. That is my turning point! 

Now, I do have Level 2 powerboat qualifications but frankly they are of bog all use here. It is an inboard with a temperamental throttle and antique steering system. The boss makes encouraging 'you've got this' noises. Her death grip hold on the coaming says it all really. She of little faith! 😆 

Its like doing a three point turn in a car only you are using a balance of reverse, forward and neutral in quick succession and, of course, you are turning the wheel counterintuitively at the same time as engaging reverse. It sounds more complicated than it is but unbelievably, and I do still have to pinch myself as I remember this, I actually did it. I turned a boat with only 1' surplus distance at each end of it and then bought it alongside a staithe without even bumping it; to a complete stop alongside a mooring ring. 

And I got a round of applause from some passerby's, walkers, who told me they had seen some horrendous foul ups on their walks along the various river channels. 

I didn't quite bow but internally I was jumping for joy. Boom, mic drop! 

Five minutes later and two experienced sailors managed to wedge their 20' cruiser with bow sprit in that right angled bend. I did get there before the impending disaster happened; I did plea with them to throw me a stern line so I could slow the boat and spin the stern around quickly. But they listened not and I was left to try and free their bowsprit, the bow sprit tackle and various other bits and pieces from the quayside ladder. The wire bobstay had dug itself  into one of the wooden staithes. That took a few minutes to retrieve! A husband and wife team, where the wife was the skipper, there had clearly been some disagreement on the best way to proceed as they made their final approach. 

Ah well, easily done and there but for the grace of God went I a few minutes before. And I didnt have their length or windage issues. It is an unforgiving sailing ground, these narrow broad's channels! 

At Heigham sound, we mooed up alongside a near empty staithe for a picnic and watched a couple tack their boat up the channel, gracefully and with confidence. A master class, even if their sail had that same familiar crease that Arwen's main sail has!!

Our return trip was serene with the same wildlife to see. Our arrival back at the yard was tricky. More boats had arrived and had moored directly opposite the turn into the little staithe we had to occupy. Moreover, two motorboats had occupied my space, leaving me right on the end. I didn't hit anything but it took three tries to get that boat in, turned at a right angle and stern moored onto the staithe. 

It pays to be humble and I'm glad I didnt gloat up at Horsey Mill. I learned a long time ago that it doesn't matter how good you think you are, how experienced or inexperienced you are - the water shows no mercy to those who don't show it due deference and respect.