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 30 August 2021

Cheering myself up with a little astrophotography

Having recovered from sea sickness, I managed to snatch an evening of stargazing down at Wembury Beach. Not the best viewing skies, but its close to home.

Taking the photograph is getting easier. Processing them to bring out their best - frankly that is a dark art worse than sail trimming! 

processing attempt 1 above; processing attempt 2 below

non processed photos from the night 

The problem of having always suffered from memory problems is this.......just as you have learned the main stars and constellations in an go out a few weeks later and have forgotten them all 😂

Still, its all good fun. In the images above, due to our position in the milky way, we see the rest of it as if we were looking at the edge of a plate. To other life in the universe, the galaxy will look spirally disc shaped! 

Meanwhile, these are the best shots I could get of Jupiter. Still learning how to use a smartphone and DSLR on my new telescope. 

I learned afterwards that it is better to video planets and then use a programme to split the video down into individual photo frames and then stack them to get a best detail composite image!

I'll try that next time. 

Thursday 26 August 2021

When you have that 'feeling' and ignore it

 The plan was for a three day jaunt over to Salcombe, to finish filming my 'sailing the Kingsbridge estuary' series of vlogs. Yes I know, it has been a series four years in the making - sorry about that! 

The plan was simple: 

  • Depart Plymouth on an outgoing spring tide
  • Head east at an average of 3 kts using the favourable tidal stream in the morning before it turned westwards in the afternoon
  • Overnight at Frogmore creek
  • Spend Tuesday sailing around Start Point into Slapton bay and returning to Salcombe to overnight up at Kingsbridge area before 
  • Return home on Wednesday
The weather forecasts are favourable with winds and conditions. 


Normally I spend a week or so planning such a cruise but this time I put it together in two days. A rare case of impulsiveness for me and so it feels slightly rushed!

I'd like to tell you I'm confident about this trip but that wouldn't be true. I've done Plymouth to Salcombe several times before and so know the sailing area well. But this trip is different. For the first time ever, I have some niggly little doubts right at the back of my mind.  Don't know why, but there they are. 

I've not been feeling well recently, a long term medical condition has been flaring up and catching me off guard. The state of the trailer (see previous posts) has rattled me slightly as well. Cleared for 'a few more short four mile journeys to and from the local marina' by a local trailer servicing company, I have my niggly doubts on that assessment. Will those wheel hub bearings really hold up for one last trip before the new replacement trailer arrives at the end of September? 

And, most irritatingly, I've forgotten most of my passage planning skillset, so long ago is it since I have done an inshore coastal passage anywhere. 

Now when I used to do lots of mountaineering and expedition work, niggly doubts had me going back to the drawing board to reassess everything! So why don't I do it now? 

Moral of this tale? Listen to those inner voice warnings and don't ignore them!

I pack Arwen the night before and pull her off the driveway. Onboard are the normal camp cruising gear, food for three days and some astrophotography gear and a drone.  I have a quick getaway in the morning, on the slip at 8am and am launching by 8.45am. High water was around 0715. 

The inshore weather forecasts predict: 

  • N/NE, variable F2/3; slight to smooth 
  • Changing in afternoon to variable F2 - 4, E/NE, smooth to slight 
  • General forecast is for sunny spells, 21C, gusts force 3 or 4, visibility VG; showers at 5pm
  • Tidal flow is easterly and then slack water for the morning changing to a westerly flow for the afternoon (The last few miles will be against the tidal flow and if need be I will use the outboard) 

My passage plan is simple with escape points at the River Yealm, Burgh Island,  Thurlestone Cove and Inner Hope Cove. I estimate a 6/7 hr passage coinciding with arrival on an incoming tide. I can enter Frogmore Creek from around 1730. Evening high water is 1954. 

Everything is fine until I reach Burgh Island. Progress is a little slower than anticipated  but enjoyable and Arwen averages around 2.8 kts. Many yachts are motor cruising for the faster passage. I have gone slightly further out to sea than I anticipated and I'm around 3.5 miles offshore. I did resort to using the outboard for a two mile stretch across Stoke Bay when the winds dropped away to practically nothing (and again when the tidal flow changed and I was practically at a standstill). Despite all this, my passage plan waypoint times are not that far out and I arrive off Burgh Island just over 20 minutes past my ETA. 

But now the north easterlies have changed to easterlies and are bang on the bow and earlier than predicted. They are far stronger too. Big gusts and patches of white horses combined with some big wave troughs and crests (lumpy seas). Arwen tacks 60 degrees off the wind when close hauled and whilst the yachts around me are holding a shorter better course, closer to the wind, I'm not fairing so well.. It's bouncy to say the least. 

Inevitably I'm  sea sick just past Bolt Tail. Violently so. I'm two miles off shore now. Closing inshore doesn't seem to have helped either.  I make little to no progress eastwards and the hoped for calmer waters inshore don't seem to exist. But then 'calmer waters' is a relative term isn't it. It depends on what you consider to be calmer. I am pretty sure sea sick people don't make sensible judgements on that score! 

A set of conditions are now coming together and a potential disaster could be imminent:

  • I've been violently sea sick three times
  • I'm heaving over the leeward side in lumpy conditions in an open boat with a small freeboard
  • We have a nasty corkscrewing motion AND 
  • I don't think I have got Arwen's trim correct. She is plunging down into the troughs and clambering slowly up the peaks. I think there is too much stowed upfront. 
  • Spray is inbound over the coaming and yet it isn't overly windy whilst weather-helm is acceptable. I haven't felt the need to reef yet but I am getting wet.....and cold
  • When I try to motor-sail and then motor with the sail furled, the outboard is protesting. The shaft is in and out of the water, sometimes over revving; and then it has started to cut out and struggling during restarts. Ominously, smoke periodically appears from under the cowling to be rapidly whisked away on the winds 
  • The westerly currents are building, 1.4kts against me now

I consider my options. Some four miles to go; 2 miles offshore and struggling. It is time to seek some 'sheltered water' for a calm down and rethink and so I tack Arwen around gingerly and head back downwind for Inner Hope Cove. 

I am feeling defeated. The conditions aren't that onerous. Lumpy yes, dangerous not really. 

Anchored a while in the lee of Bolt Tail and considering my options, that inner niggly voice is chastising me. "You should have listened! Your passage planning skills are rusty. You KNOW you get sea sick!! You NEVER seem to sail well or cope with these conditions. It happened t you before two years ago!" 

The imp on my shoulder is whispering in my ear "You are such a lightweight defeatist whoosy".

I try again, but within a mile of leaving Inner Hope, I am once more sea sick. Is this my characteristic dogged persistence (family would say stubbornness by the way) or just plain stupidity at work? Common sense now needs to prevail. 

I admit defeat and turn back west and downwind. I can make for the Yealm and overnight there. (Why I didn't just overnight at Hope Cove, I have no idea but during times of stress and illness, you don't always make rationale decisions do you?)  

Salcombe can wait until tomorrow when winds are predicted to be from the north and of far less gusty power. I'm working on the self delusional principle that good seamanship is about judging conditions, skill level and health and making sensible pragmatic decisions. 

In reality, I've had enough for one day, but, even as I surf downwind, I feel I have given up too easily and, on reflection, I am disappointed with myself. 

(Now, I am not a brilliant experienced sailor, as anyone who has read my blog or seen my videos will know. Coming to boat building and sailing late in life, it isn't my natural environment in which I feel most comfortable operating in.  My boat handling is ok- ish; my general safety and navigation skills good. Sail setting and trimming skills are, lets be honest, dismal. Despite years of trying, I have never quite understood or mastered these arts. I'm an amateur sailor who plays safe, knows his limitations and doesn't take risks (which is daft really, because you only gain experience by testing yourself, which is what I did in my mountaineering days and why I used to be really, really good at it). I have, however,  made passage to Salcombe several times before in calmer sea conditions and with southerly or South westerly winds. I've sailed down to Fowey several times as well, so I know, deep down, that I do have sufficient skills to undertake such journeys safely in settled conditions). 

Anyway, I have been digressing. Let's continue the day's story. It gets worse! 

By now my trusty outboard is refusing to cooperate. It goes for a few minutes before cutting out. Not wanting to damage it further, I raise it out of the water onto its bracket, in the knowledge that I am now going to have to sail and row into the Yealm and up river for an overnight anchorage. This will test my seamanship skills to say the least but I'm not  unduly alarmed. Uncomfortable and feeling very poorly yes (bit like having high altitude mountain sickness but knowing you have still got to manage a safe descent). I'm heading downwind, surfing some of the waves and making 4.8 kts. I'm in control, I'm still feeling sick but I've grown accustom to the downwind conditions. Confidence is growing. Of course I can sail into the narrow Yealm entrance channel, fitting through the gap between the bar end and the rocky foreshore. Rowing up between the rows of moored boats? No problem, its an incoming tide. Easy! 

It's all so frustrating to be honest, but sometimes you have to go with the flow, literally.  Why battle upwind in troughs, big gusts and against a tidal flow for a few more hours while being sea sick? That's not fun or necessary; or at least that's what I keep telling myself in an effort to justify my decision making! With Oesophagus related health problems already, my chest is taking some punishment and I know I can't sustain much more. 

(As an aside, weirdly in a nice kind of way, I'm comforted by the number of larger yachts who have opted for motor sailing to Salcombe or who had given up and turned around, heading back to the Sound, just like me). 

As we approach Wembury Bay, a few afternoon PAN-PAN calls show that other vessels are not faring so well either. Two small leisure fishing boats report transmission failures and request help from Falmouth coastguard regarding tows from larger yachts back to Plymouth. Ahead I watched one large yacht standing 30m  off a small fishing boat, eventually getting a tow onboard it. On shore, its sunny with gentle breezes. A mile or to offshore and its steady force 3 winds with some huge gusts! Funny though how this has turned the sea lumpy!

I enter the Yealm area, and I'm violently sick once again. This time its exceedingly painful, akin to heart attack pain, as any Dysphagia sufferers will know.  Discretion is the better part of valour and all that. Although I'm lined up for the narrow channel entry,recognising its practically head to wind with limited tacking options because of the state of the tide and the narrow channel between bar and cliff edges, I'm up for it, ready to row the short distance to Cellars Beach. 

But, I'm not really, for within my head, this little voice is saying, 'Head for home Steve. Sail another day'. 

With no working outboard, this is going to be a first. All the way back into Sutton pool and then making the turn eastwards into one of the QAB marina ramp canals, all under sail. Never done this before! Its going to be so much FUN!

Wind from the NE, I'm confident I can do this and I prepare Arwen in Jennycliffe Bay, attaching fenders and sorting mooring warps for coming alongside. Unshipping oars for the last 50m row up the north slip entrance canal. I certainly wont be sailing up the southern slip canal that's for sure! Way too narrow for sailing or rowing!

Just before Mountbatten pier, I'm sick one final time and finally, I realise I am beaten. I mean how many times can a man be sea sick? There isn't anything else to bring back up (forgive that potential unpleasant mental image - I apologise).

 Dizzy and with chest pains, I sail to a vacant mooring in the Cattedown, picking it  up first time (wind against tide conditions - the number of times I have tried that before and failed in the past - go figure). Exhausted, I try to regroup and recover sufficiently for the last 400m into Sutton Pool and around to the north slip. Warps and fenders are ready, as are oars. Can I really do this? Course I can!  

I tentatively eye the outboard, and before I know it, I've drop it into position and give it 'one last pull'. 

It splutters, it smokes, it coughs. It cuts out twice and then starts on the third attempt, holding a steadier 'phutt phutt' than it has done all the rest of today. It carries me the 400 metres or so across the Cattedown, past the tourist boats and water taxis and into the south canal.  All my warps and fenders are on the wrong side but who cares at this point! I don't thats for sure! 

Within 15m of the pontoon, it finally splutters, coughs, judders violently and dies.  But, crucially, I have enough 'way on' to slowly drift in! I come to a gentle stop against the pontoon with barely a bump, lined up alongside a mooring cleat. It looks a really good and professional arrival!

I cannot begin to describe the feeling of relief as I step shakily onto the pontoon. My legs are wobbling, my stomach contracting. People in the distance seem to be dancing but I think its my eyes! 

As I try to regain some composure and stop myself from hurling over the slipway, a fellow small boat dinghy cruiser, packing away his Swallow Boats 'Bayraider' comes across to introduce himself. Chris, from Dorset has recognised Arwen from my blog and Youtube channel. He and his wife have just finished a lovely six day cruise from Torbay, via Dartmouth, Salcombe and up the Lynher to St Germans. They have clearly enjoyed themselves and listening to their adventures actually has a calming, soothing, restorative effect on my battered soul. 

I try to sound coherent, relaxed and enthusiastic. In reality? I'm just thankful that I don't introduce myself by hurling up over their feet. Their trip sounds wonderful, their enthusiasm is infectious. Their boat is truly stunning. 

(Chris, if you are reading this, thank you for bringing a wonderful sense of order and calm to my chaotic day - I'm forever grateful and it was a great pleasure meeting you both. I'm glad you had such a great time cruising my local waters). 

The 'boss' duly arrives at QAB, concerned for my welfare. My poor oesophagus and stomach have taken a severe battering and we know its going to be an unpleasant few days with a possible hospital check to assess the damage done. (As it is, I have managed to recover far more quickly than we were all expecting, and although I've had severe chest pain for a few days, it is fading and no long term aggravation to my existing condition seems to have been done. Perhaps that 'cowardly' decision to turn back downwind probably saved me this time). 

I'd like to say the stress of the day stops here but sadly it doesn't! 

We manage to get to within just under a mile of the house before there is an awful crunch sound followed by the loudest knocking I have ever heard. One of the wheel bearings has collapsed completely. At 2 mph we limp home through residential roads sounding like a 'rumbling tank with a transmission problem'. My heart is pounding! The Boss? She is just her calm, normal stoic self! I married an 'absolute keeper'!!

And so here we are. It is the early hours of the next day and I have been unable to sleep. time for some rueful reflections. 

The trailer is back on the sloping drive but it will not be coming off it again. Literally as we went over the kerb stone at the drive entrance, the other hub collapsed. The axle stubs are not looking good. The bearings have popped at the back. The castellated nuts are the only things holding the wheels on. 

The 'Yep there are a few more trips in her yet' assessment of the local trailer centre engineers is out a bit. To be fair, they did a through check and both hubs seemed as if they would last for a few more trips. They had, they said, seen far worse. However, I think, unwittingly, I am the cause of this final collapse. In packing Arwen the night before, I  added in extra weight from her normal day cruising load - astrophotography camera gear and a drone. I carried more water than was necessary (why, I have no idea but I rushed the planning you see. I didn't give it due thought, care and diligence!)  

I think this extra weight was the final straw! 

So now what to do?

Come end of September, I have a new trailer arriving and an old one that is not roadworthy and cannot go back on the road (well I can just about pull it off the drive and park it on the road outside the house but that is literally it). 

A conundrum.  'How do I get an empty boat off one trailer and onto the other?' 

And then, 'how do I get rid of the old trailer?' 

Answers on a postcard. 

So far we have 

  1. getting eight neighbours to lift Arwen off the old trailer onto the driveway and then out onto the road and onto the new trailer. Then cutting up the old trailer with an angle grinder and getting a local scrap merchant to come and collect it. (I can use the same neighbours who twelve years ago, helped me get her out of the garage and rolled her over and onto the first trailer. As for a local scrap merchant, that will be more problematic I expect). 
  2. as above but then getting the local scrap merchant to bring a low loader and the ease the old trailer off the drive onto the road with the car so that he can then load it up and take it away.
  3. find a low loader driver who could winch boat and trailer off the road and take it to QAB marina where I could attach it to the car, back it down the slipway, float off Arwen and then have the old trailer winched back onto the low loader and taken off to the scrap merchant. 
The moral of this particular bit of the day's story is about effective trailer maintenance. Serves me right! A painful lesson learned. 

In the meantime, Arwen was emptied of everything. The garage is now full of boating gear. Trips are on hold until the trailer transfer dilemma is resolved. And,  I am wondering whether my 'south coast passage adventures' are behind me now.

Sea sickness is becoming a real threat to my health and previous Doctors have warned me about the damage sickness bouts can do. I am very careful with what I eat, leading a boring culinary lifestyle out of necessity. I am very careful about food hygiene and menus when I travel, especially abroad.  

A new trailer enables me to tow Arwen to new sailing destinations. I could travel to the Fal, stay at St Just and do a number of day cruises in the area. I could do short overnight trips in fair conditions e.g. across to Helford for example (and then explore for a few days the Helford estuary). I could tow her further afield. I have always wanted to sail around the Milford Sound area, the Broads and some of the Lakes in the Lake District. Poole Harbour looks an interesting destination as well. 

But, the days of dreaming about coastal sailing Plymouth to Salcombe, Salcombe to Dartmouth, Dartmouth to Torquay and beyond; or heading west down to Fowey and on to Falmouth? Those dreams may be on hold.  Sadly, I am coming to the realisation that from a skill level and just a medical viewpoint, unless done in calm conditions, these coastal voyaging days are probably now behind me. Anyway, lets face it, we all know I really suck at coastal passage planning and in confused seas, I get really, really ill!  

And besides,  what do I have to say in any vlog or blog I do? My vlogs have always been video diaries for myself, saved on YouTube out of convenience. My blog is not exactly literary gold is it?  I'm just a very amateur sailor with questionable, dodgy sailing ( and boat building) skills. My stuff is the kind of stuff used to show people 'what not to do'

Its time to go, to try and catch some sleep. I'm shattered, bruised, battered and, not surprisingly, feeling very hungry and thirsty 😊.  I'm sure after a good night's sleep (please God, there isn't much of the night left, so help me out here.....?), I will return to being my normal optimistic, well balanced, self. Always the optimist, when I'm feeling better, I will have probably changed my mind. After all, I've always been an adventurous independent traveller type. When under a boom tent or in my treasured bivvy bag, cooking on my beloved Trangia, that's when I'm really happy and chilled.  

Normal service will be resumed in a few days........... I think! 

In the meantime....... ALWAYS, ALWAYS listen to the niggling doubts and do another rethink based on them! It doesn't mean don't just means 'have you been diligent and careful enough in your thinking and your planning?' 😟

Wednesday 11 August 2021

MOB and capsize drills in a cruising dinghy

 It is with interest that I have been reading on two different forums, peoples views on MOB procedures in a dinghy and whether to wear a buoyancy aid or a life jacket.

The issues associated with whether to wear a buoyancy aid or a life jacket, along with what to carry on my person, have exercised my thinking over the years and I still find myself slightly ambivalent and unsure as to which is best. I have been leaning towards wearing the lifejacket when I'm voyaging along the coast, with a tether line to keep me onboard; and then wearing the buoyancy aid within the sound and up the Tamar but without tether. I have no rationale to justify why - sorry! 

Previous posts on my musings can be found at

But now comes more serious consideration of the issues of MOB and capsizing Arwen. 

I confess, I have only ever done one capsize test on Arwen, long ago in the first couple of years of sailing her. I emptied her almost completely and then sailed her across to a local beach with negligible current and just normal incoming/outgoing tidal activity. She floated, slightly high but I could access the centreboard, right her and get back in, with difficulty. I did it wearing a wet suit and a buoyancy aid. Conditions were very calm and 'controlled'. Totally unrealistic frankly!

I think at the time I was more concerned about whether all hatches were watertight or not and what she was like full of water when upright. 

From this experience, I then started to think about how to get back into her more easily and with speed. 

But these recent forum discussions have bought me to my senses. I need to capsize her when she is laden with dinghy cruising equipment to see how she behaves then and to assess what my capabilities are when wearing dinghy cruising clothing. 

I've been foolish, I should have done this regularly every couple of years at least. 

I've spent sometime perfecting re-boarding loops, prompted by the clever thinking of Joel Bergen, another navigator owner on the west coast of the USA. These side loops have been tested and adjusted regularly as I go for a swim around Arwen pretty much annually,  when she is anchored over at Cawsand Bay. I have also added a 4m long 14mm diameter knotted braided rope either side, to help right her. There is also the transom step which I can use in conjunction with the boomkin. Getting back into her, from the water, has never been a problem, although again, a note of caution is needed. It is dead easy to do in calm, sunny conditions, in the shelter of Cawsand Bay, at anchor, close to a treelined shoreline! 

You can access posts about the boarding loops here

The Open boat yahoo group forum started one thread on MOB procedures and recovery and it set me thinking. I last dealt with MOB drills when I completed a refresher RYA level 2 dinghy sailing course and an RYA L2 powerboat course some six years ago. On both occasions, instructors focused on what to do, how to return to the casualty in the water and how to position the boat for retrieval. I don’t remember them teaching me how to recover an unconscious adult in full sailing clothing from the water, although I have vague memories about dipping the boat side and ‘rolling’ them in.  Apparently, it is taught on the advanced course called ‘Seamanship skills’ and I wonder whether I should find such a course and enrol. I do remember sailing a laser in force 4/5 conditions once in Greece – exhilarating stuff and great fun but every time I capsized, the boat drifted away far faster than I could swim and the safety boats were kept very busy that day. I need to assume that Arwen would do the same out at sea. Perhaps a refresher course is due again and then some practise with my own boat. 


Forum members on the yahoo group raised some pertinent questions and the subsequent discussion was thoughtful and informed.


·        How do you get back to a MOB victim fast and safely?

·        How do you get this waterlogged adult (could be child) out of the water back into a dinghy?

·        How do you avoid capsizing the boat whilst doing so?

·        If you couldn’t get them back over the side or transom, would you deliberately have to capsize the boat and try and scoop them into it as you re-righted it?

·        Or, is it an immediate May-day situation and you just assume you will need urgent outside help as a matter of course in this eventuality?

·        What do you do about the issue of you being the MOB and leaving an inexperienced crew left in the boat to get back to you? 

Subsequent discussion: 

·        If in easy reach of land, consider towing a casualty if they were wearing a life jacket? (Could it be done if they were in a buoyancy aid? And what is ‘in easy reach of land – what distance and conditions is that?)

·        Long harnesses, clipped into the boat, with self-inflating life jackets should be considered, especially if you are a solo sailor (i.e. preventing you from becoming the accidental MOB (but what about possible entanglement, being towed downwind, trying to go back over side deck or coaming with large inflated pillow in front of you?)

·        A solo sailor should carry clipped to them a waterproof VHF, a mobile phone (in waterproof pouch)and a PLB – so you could immediately instigate rescue help (how long would such electronics survive immersion?)

·        A permanently mounted small rigid ladder to aid re-boarding (on a personal note, not sure where that would go on Arwen given the transom has a boomkin, rudder and outboard already off it; many semi flexible ladders end up disappearing under the hull where water pressure forces them against the hull making it difficult to get feet on the treads)

·        Coming alongside the MOB and immediately tethering them to the windward side of the boat and then doing a May-Day call. In F4+ conditions, heaving to as close as possible and throwing a floating cushion/fender to help the MOB keep afloat, before doing May-Day call and then trying to stay as close to them as possible until rescue arrives?

·         Towing a small inflatable dinghy behind bigger dinghies – these are easier to clamber up into and can be hauled back alongside the original dinghy. It is easier to get from inflatable into boat than from waterline?

Meanwhile, over on the members forum for the Dinghy Cruising Association, a similar discussion was coincidently taking place about how to get back to a MOB, how to get them alongside and how to retrieve them back into the boat.

Members came up with various thoughts:

·        Towing a long floating rope with a fender attached at the end – inexperienced crew overboard could grab hold of the rope as you passed the boat by them

·        MOB drill should be practised regularly, like picking up a mooring under sail, remembering that you need to approach upwind, with the wind around 50 – 70 degrees off the bow, just ahead of the beam, and with sufficient space to slow down, speed up etc and aiming to bring the MOB to the leeward side

·        Immediately there is a MOB, is a quick stop is needed – letting go of sheets and pushing tiller to leeward and bringing the bow into the wind? Is this better than the taught RYA method of a close hauled approach?

·        Alternatively, a heave to immediately to windward of the casualty will allow the boat to drift down onto their position

·        Is there merit in bringing the MOB to the windward side of the boat for easier retrieval?

·        Would approaching from upwind require a gybe and would this be practical in lively conditions – would it be better to go off on a broad reach and then do a ‘chicken gybe’ re-approaching MOB on a beam reach?

·        Should solo sailors use a tether and prevent themselves from being a MOB? If so, what length tether? Should it be long enough to avoid you becoming entangled? Will you being dragged through the water slow down the boat’s drift rate? Could excess tether be stuffed in a pocket on your Buoyancy aid? There would be a need to carry a knife on one’s person as well – just in case the tether needs to be cut! OR, should it be less than 2m long, to keep you on the boat even during a capsize – will being towed by a longer tether cause rapid drowning?

·        Foam buoyancy aids are better than the ‘inflating’ life jacket types and that seems, according to some DCA members to be borne out by RNLI research. In addition, it seems it is easier to get back into a dinghy after righting it wearing one of these. On the other hand, if you are knocked unconscious by the boom, and then fall out of the boat, the inflating life jacket will roll you onto your back, face out of water ad support your head out of the sea. But then, when the weather turns and you want to put a jacket on – you have to take it off, or put it on over the life jacket – which raises the question of whether it would then inflate correctly when needed, if you were wearing a coat over the top of it!

·        Sea temperatures were discussed. In the cold waters of the seas around the UK, you have a maximum of an hour in the water before you die. So, a buoyancy aid, which is easier to swim in, seems the sensible solution, as you can get back to your dinghy more quickly and at least try and right it unhindered. But then , if you need to swim back to the boat and are close to it, you could deflate the ‘inflated life jacket’.

·        Someone did suggest as an alternative, a fisherman’s Fladens’ floatation suit for buoyancy. 

So where does this all leave me?

Firstly, I need to clarify my thinking about buoyancy aid or life jacket and then stick to one.  Secondly, I need to capsize Arwen fully laden in safe waters and practice re-boarding; I can also assess how she behaves and check the water-tightness of the lockers. Thirdly, as part of this practice, I should experiment with different length tethers attached to my jack stays and see what the outcomes are - which is best and safest length etc. Fourthly, I definitely need to get out and do some MOB drills on a vacant mooring buoy in strong tidal flow, variable wind speeds and various states of tide. I should try several different approach vectors alongside some crash stops, heave too's etc, to gain experience of them all. Fifthly, and most problematic, I need to gain some experience of trying to lift some very, very heavy weights over the side of the boat - the MOB recovery bit. At this point, I really have no idea how to go about this. 

Ho hum! Some thinking to do. I am aiming to be out on the water in the last weeks of August for some overnight camping trips. I would like to try and get my thinking and strategies straight by then.