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 24 February 2023

what pre-season boat safety checks do you need to do?

 Its that time of year again. The annual pre season sailing checks.

I always do it in three stages:

1.       Arwen herself – a thorough inspection of hull, fittings, sails and rigging. Then there is a detailed trailer inspection; finally the safety equipment and clothing check - PFD’s, safety equipment carried etc.

Today has been safety equipment check day.

So, what have I done?

1.       Garmin InReach Explorer PLB – checked subscription and the settings I use; the people who receive my tracking updates; personal details and description of Arwen; its attachment points to my PFD

2.       Ditto with my RYA safetrx (still got a bit of sorting to do on that one later – I’ve done something wrong somewhere so it isn’t working as it should).

3.       Keeping my Navionics chart subscription; it does need updating but I manage another year with just the existing charts I have downloaded

4.       Handheld ICOM M23 VHF radio – every year I seem to forget something about how it works or what channels to use – so I’ve been reading the handbook, again!  

5.       My flares expire in August 2023 so they will be good for this season. I need to research and give some thought to buying an electronic visual distress flare – such as the ODEO mk 3 distress flare. I’m growing increasingly more uncomfortable with carrying pyrotechnics on board. Difficult to handle and even more difficult now to dispose of. Maybe I will keep some of the floating orange smoke cans? Most of my sailing is in daylight hours.

6.       Reflective emergency heliograph and LED strobe light - checked. I will carry the former in a pocket on my buoyancy aid. Not sure about the strobe light. I’m trying to avoid cluttering my PFD so that I don’t hamper my re-entry in to Arwen after a capsize.

7.       Waterproof torches are working and undamaged. New batteries in each. One is clipped to the inner transom below the rear small deck. The other is stored in a locker.

8.       Aerosol foghorn needs replacing.

9.       Small folding radar reflector is showing some salt corrosion but it will be OK for this year. To be truthful, I can’t ever remember hoisting it anyway!

10.   Buoyancy aid - all the belts and webbing straps are sound, no loose stitching. The pocket zips on two out of the four pockets have corroded but I don’t keep anything in them anyway.

An old photo - most of that stuff has gone. 
On my PFD now is just my PLB, my VHF radio, the knife and a small heliograph mirror and whistle

11.   Folding sail knife in one of the other pockets is fine and a little WD40 has made it easier to open. The lanyard attaching it to an inner pocket loop is fine. I also checked the spare one in the grab bag in the safety locker. I wonder if I should actually attach this one to the inside of the boat somewhere instead?

12.   Lifejacket - unpacked it, checked the canister and the stitching. The outside valve shows it is still ‘green’ and safe. No chafing, no frayed stitching. Buckles and D ring are shiny and not corroded. Securing Velcro is as it should be, no loose stitching, no pulling away from any fabrics. The cylinder isn’t rusted and I can orally inflate the jacket and it seems to be holding its air. The firing cord is not frayed and although I haven’t pulled it, I can’t see anything to stop it from firing as it should.

13.   boat insurance - renewed

14.   Outboard - checked and started. I always winterize it carefully so I wasn’t expecting any issues. Nothing to do – no oil changes or filter cleaning. Everything green across the board. I have spare kill cords – one permanently attached to the boat near the outboard mount.

15.   Safety jack strap running lines that can be installed into Arwen - the stainless-steel deck D attachment points are fine. Still solidly attached. The red woven straps are as new.

16.   Safety harness is as new as well; no frayed stitching and the safety hook works easily. I’ve never actually used any of it but I carry it on inshore coastal passages – perhaps I don’t need it? It is a great topic of debate isn’t it – whether you should have a harness on when sailing solo on inshore passages?  May be I need to go talk to people in the DCA and see what their views are. For now, it will all stay in the safety locker.

17.   Sea anchor and its rode got a check and a clean. The swivels work. It deploys. The rode is well coiled.

18.   Tool kit for the engine has been checked as has the toolkit for the boat. Everything as it should be.

19.   The fire extinguisher will expire this year but I’ve given it a good shake to move its contents about. Maybe I will replace it this year with one of those ‘firesticks’ that everyone is talking about. Very popular in motorhomes, I’m not quite convinced about how well it will work on an outboard fire in a stiff sea and breeze. I could see it being effective under the cockpit tent though in the event I knock the Trangia over!

20.   The First Aid kit is well stocked and everything is in date. Thermal blankets are still in sealed pouches.

21.   Safety light sticks I carry have expired. I need to make a decision on whether to replace them or not. 

22.   Spare batteries for the spare VHF are still fine in their sealed containers and the radio itself is also OK – they sit in a sort of grab bag in the safety locker.

23.   Oars were redone at the end of last sailing season – re-varnished; the leather collars restitched and the blade tips fibre-glassed and repainted – white!  Rowlocks are secure, their lanyards un-frayed.

24.   Although attached to Arwen, I include them here as safety equipment – my re-boarding straps and my ‘capsize knotted throw over the hull ropes’. These need a clean with soapy warm water and I need to reconsider where I stow them. Last season, I went swimming off Arwen whilst she was anchored, several times. On each occasion, I could just reach an arm over the side deck to get the straps from under them but it was hard work. In a rolling sea and strong wind, it would be even harder. So I need to consider whether they can be stowed out of the way on the side deck attached to the coaming in some way that facilities ‘quick-release’ by me but not by the occasional wave sluicing down the side deck.

25.   I threw the throw line a few times. Always better to practice at something like that rather than assume you can do it correctly at the time of emergency use. It’s been re-stuffed back into its sack and all is well with its condition.  

26.   Bilge pumps! I still haven’t got this properly sorted on Arwen. The portable kayak one stored under the side deck is fine. It works as it should and I stick the outflow pipe into the top of the centreboard case opening. The bailing bucket is also fine as is its lanyard. But I still suffer this niggly doubt. I should install a proper small manual bilge pump on Arwen – a whale urchin type. I also need to sort out where to mount my portable electric bilge pump set up. It is still working – battery is recharged etc. Major ranking on the priority ‘to do list’ is this issue surrounding bilge pumps!

A small 7 amp 12v battery goes in the box. 
There is a reinforced clear plastic hose that attaches to the pump and this goes into the top of the centreboard casing. The red toggle switch is being replaced with a waterproof one. 

27.   I carry two navigation compasses on Arwen and a spare handheld walking compass in the grab bag. The former two have been cleaned and checked. They are still accurate and haven’t sustained any damage.

28.   I have a set of portable battery-operated navigation lights that I can attach to Arwen’s shrouds when doing inshore passages where I might be arriving at dusk. They’ve been cleaned and new batteries inserted. The white anchor light torch I carry has had the same checks as well.

29.   All my charts are still usable; pencils have been sharpened. Last Year’s small craft almanac will do another year. Binoculars have been cleaned.

30.   Anchor warp got a scrub and a check. The two anchors likewise – rode's were re-flaked back into their respective storage boxes.  At the same time, I checked the spare 30m anchor warps as well along with the mooring lines. New whippings done on two of them. Fenders have been cleaned and their lanyards checked – their whipped ends had frayed as well – all replaced! The anchor buddy has been washed to remove sand and grit and the shackles greased lightly. 

31.   The boat hook has been silicone so that it twists out, extends and ‘locks’ more easily.

32.   The paddle needed a good scrub but the varnish is sound and so it will do another year without any maintenance.

I think that’s it.

Next week, Arwen will be taken off the driveway and given a thorough clean and hull/fittings inspection. The trailer, although new, will be done at the same time – tyre checks, bearings, winch and rollers greased.  

All her sails and running rigging are in the back room at the moment – so that’s an evening’s work as well. I already know a trip to a sail maker is on the cards – some cringles need replacing and some stitching is fraying badly. By the end of next week, I will re-rig her ready for a shake down new season cruise in early March.

Of course, I need to repack everything back into Arwen. This was my original packing plan. no doubt it will have changed again by the end of next week!!

Friday 10 February 2023

I'd forgotten about this one

 A blog post I remember reading but just came across once more. Steven is inspirational and his new pathfinder with cabin is exquisite. I'm really looking forward to seeing him out on our local waters in it

Thursday 9 February 2023

Near Shore Anchoring

 I am always interested in this topic. I sail in a tidal range of around 5.8m at high spring tides. The beaches I land on range from steep shingle ones to long shallow mudflats. I carry a Bruce claw affair, a Danforth and a small grapnel anchor. And two spare warps of 30m each in length. 

I frequently use my anchor buddy and this is well explained by Joel

If you haven't yet come across the outstanding blog 'Joel's Navigator site' then where have you been? Joel built a navigator of extraordinary beauty and he sails it extensively in his home waters. His site is at

His most recent post will be of interest to all small boat sailors who anchor close inshore and want to go ashore occasionally without recourse to pumping up a dinghy. 

Its all great swimming ashore in the really hot summer months.....
.....but I'm struggling to remember when we last had them!

Visit his site and download an excellent PDF on 'Nearshore Anchoring Techniques'.