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

Thursday 17 August 2023

A new watermark logo for Arwen's vlogs.

 I have been playing about with free software, trying to design a simple watermark and/or copyright/subscribe logo for our vlogs on YouTube. 

Here are my efforts so far! Since retiring from teaching, it is surprising how much of my ICT knowledge and skill I have forgotten! Ho Hum! 

This one is a transparent one - so the video will be seen through it

These two re solid backgrounds and will be small circular logos in the bottom left hand corner of all vlogs in future - perhaps! 

When is 'prudence' really just an excuse for 'sailing fear'?

 So, I have spent the last week preparing for a voyage of five days up the Tamar. I've brought food, packed galley boxes. I've disassembled and reassembled the broken jib furler and successively rewound the 4mm cord back onto it. It works perfectly now. 😊

I've packed clothing for five days along with sleeping gear and bivvy bag. Fuel containers have been topped up for outboard and I have given the latter a quick service. 

I selected two anchors - my smaller danforth and a chunky collapsible four pronged grapnel (which I tend to use as a stern anchor in very sheltered areas - so far it has held perfectly). My anchor buddy always comes with me. Mooring warps and extra warp ropes, recoiled carefully so that when thrown they'll uncoil perfectly during flight! Bound to be some helpful tourists on some of the quaysides I will be visiting! 😆

Trailer has been checked; some bolts tightened; some rollers moved to sit better beneath the hull. Axle hubs have been repacked with grease. The hitch has been given some TLC.  I spent two days sorting out my charts, passage plans and little notes and sketch maps for my waterproof note books. I pored over Google Earth for alternative sites to dry out on or shelter in. 

It is surprising how quickly I have forgotten the stuff I learned on my 'Day Skipper' theory course in 2019. But, it came back quickly to me. The route planning is similar to what I have done in my mountaineering. The tidal charts work I sort of understand. I did, however, forget to plan around tidal streams and flows! How hum! 

The itinerary was roughly as follows - nothing overly ambitious; but some tight river channel sailing, some open channel exposed areas. Some new sailing areas for me - the Tavy, Kingsmill Lake, Millbrook Lake and the river above Calstock. Venturing into the salt marshes and creeks of Egypt Bay and Wivelscombe lake - tricky. 

Day One: HT 0715  LT 1340  HT 1930

  • depart Queen Ann Battery marina for Cattedown
  • finish rigging, setting up cameras and final adjustments to trim and balance
  • set sail for mouth of Tamar and sailing back and forth along Plymouth Hoe to check all is working  into Millbrook Lake to visit the cafe at Southdown Marina for lunch
  • on the filling tide - sailing up the Hamoaze, up past the Dockyards to the mouth of the Lynher, taking up a vacant mooring at Henn Point to allow the tide to build further
  • sail to Forder valley inlet and quick exploration on building tide; ditto into Wivelscombe Lake marsh and creeks
  • then up the Lynher to Dandy Hole; and if possible, an overnight on Redshank Beach. I haven't been up there for almost five years! 
  • The alternative should weather be fickle was to moor alongside St Germans Sailing Club pontoon. Andy, their mooring officer being very obliging and in that circumstance, offering to come down and see me onto the pontoon safely. 
Day Two:  HT 0755  LT1400  HT 2000
  • depart around 0715 and proceed downriver back to Henn Point vacant mooring
  • breakfast at Mooring watching the Tamar river traffic passing by
  • leisurely passage up river calling in at Weir quay on their pontoon for an hour or so until tide built sufficiently to carry me up to Cotehele
  • dipping into the little reed inlet south of the quay for a couple of hours before being able to tie up alongside for afternoon tea at the quay cafe
  • departure on last two hours of tide up past Calstock to Morwellham Quay - overnighting on one of their basins; and if not there, then back down to a swinging mooring at Calstock Boatyard, arranged with them as a back up option. Another Andy, at the this yard, offered to come along in the yard boat to welcome me onto the mooring. I could use their toilet and shower on shore during the evening. 
Day Three:  HT 0830  LT 1430  HT2040  LT 0250
  • departing Morwellham on top of tide after breakfast, either for trip under motor up to Gunnislake Weir OR back down to Calstock town pontoon and tying alongside
  • coffee stop and walk around Calstock 
  • mid afternoon departure down to Cotehele - into the little inlet in the reeds to wait for sufficient water in the basin behind 'Shamrock' barge.
  • Overnight at Cotehele   - depending on time - stroll up to NT trust house and exploration of quayside locality 
Day Four:  HT 0900  LT 1500  HT  2100
  • depart Cotehele quay around 10 am after breakfast in cafe
  • down river to Cargreen and quick dip into Egypt marshes and creeks opposite
  • down river to Saltash pontoon for stop off
  • at turn of tide - sail back up river heading for either - Kingsmill Lake and Moditionham quay  OR up the Tavy river to the quayside at Bere Ferrers for overnight stop.
Day Five:  HT 0935  LT 1530
  • depart 0730 and take last of building tide up to Lopwell dam, if possible
  • return on ebbing tide down Tavy into Tamar river
  • down river stopping for lunch at Southdown Marina cafe
  • out into sound and sail around the sound
  • retrieving boat out of water around 1730 at QAB

So what's the issue? 

Well, firstly, exactly how much gear do people carry on a trip of this length? I seem to have acquired a mountain of it. In weight terms - its about 30 kilos max. On previous trips - it has all disappeared into the foredeck locker, centre thwart lockers and front thwart lockers. A couple of dry bags are then strapped along the hull low down in the forward cockpit area. The 10 litres of water in various sized bottles gets stored low down in the forward thwart lockers as well. 

Galley box with tea, coffee, a few snacks and one meal plan
The 'food supplies' box on the left carries four other meals, all the breakfasts, water, lunches and 'treats'

Once upon a time - I used to run mountain marathons - carrying everything I needed for four days in a tiny rucksack on my back. what the hell has happened to me in 30 years? 

But is it too much?  

I mean there is a fair amount of electronics - three Gopro plus batteries plus accessory clamps. A drone and spare batteries and charger. Four small power-banks and a solar panel. And a small compact camera as well and a handheld microphone. 

And how many mooring warps and extra log ropes do people carry? 
I have two 30m spare warps and then two 10m mooring warps. Too excessive? 

Perhaps it is time to do a vlog update on what I carry in Arwen and see what viewers think! 

I was lucky to see the old Tamar barge 'Lynher' sail up to the Cotehele quayside a few days ago. The only photo I got as I was on the shoreside bow warp duty - catching the thrown warp and then rapidly coiling it around the granite bollard and helping adjust it as the crew hauled their end to get the bow into the quayside. 

The video above is just a quick capture. In previous conversations I was told the barge would go into the dock behind 'Shamrock' but it became obvious as the barge turned into the river that this wasn't going to happen and that she was going to come back alongside us on the Crane quay. So it was all hands to action as two of us dashed forward ready to receive stern and bow mooring warps. The plan seemed to be to bring the barge in and secure immediately the stern line so that the downriver movement was taken off the boat. The bow rope would be wound around the bollard and tied off and then the crew would haul in the bow line slack and secure the boat alongside.  You will be please to know that the crew and 'volunteer' quay hands carried out the plan perfectly! 
It seems the change of plan is due to the amount of mud that is in the big basin! 

And then the big question: When is 'prudence' really just an excuse for 'fearful'? 

The weather changed in the three days before the trip. By yesterday, winds had risen to 12 - 15 kts with gust from 24 - 29kts; and that was for the first three days. Throw in the torrential rain warning on the TV weather forecasts - not quite a yellow warning but Friday night really bad and then heavy showers and possible thunder storms on day three and four. 

The boat can handle all that with no problem at all. The navigator is such an extraordinarily well designed, sea-worthy boat! But, alas, Arwen's skipper? Not so well designed! 

Most important in my review of the weather - the wind direction. Easterlies shifting around to South-easterlies- shifting to south Westerlies across the four days!  Previous experiences and the experience of a sailing friend Steven show that the river Tamar and Lynher are not always comfortable places to be in these wind directions, in stronger breezes.  Above Halton Quay, the river can be calmer but the issue is getting up there. 

Last week Steven had a very rough night in southerlies and heavy rain up at Cotehele and had to move in the middle of the night from the basin to an inlet deep in the reed beds to the south, where he lay at anchor for much of the night that was left before returning to the basin on the top of the morning tide. 

Wabi IV - Steven's pathfinder with adaptation - a cuddy. He has also added twin skegs. The workmanship and 'thought' that has gone into this boat is amazing. 

St Germans and Redshank beach would be exposed, as would Cotehele. 

The boom tarp would leak badly in torrential rain as I learned a few years back down in Falmouth. Serves me right for not investing in a proper boat tent some years ago!  During some summer stormy showers, there was a constant trickle of water in three places and I had two very rough nights on that trip emptying buckets and pumping out water from the bilge floor area several times each night! 

You can see where this is going. I decided to delay the trip. I think it is the right decision having watched the winds battering the trees in our garden this afternoon. It is always a good indicator of what conditions will be like out on the sound in northerlies or easterlies. (We are very sheltered from southerlies and westerlies). 

But, I am left with a niggly feeling - have I bailed too early; did I give up too early? Should I have sailed in the squalls and the showers and gained some good sailing experiences? Have I allowed some bouts of ill-health this year to play on my fears? 

I think I am regretting the decision. I think I have been cowardly and hidden it behind 'prudence'! 
Damn - when did I become so soft? I sit here now kicking myself badly. I rarely make wrong decisions like this. I hate myself when I do! 

Postscript update
Perhaps it was a good call after all. They have just announced on local news that the Falmouth Tall Ships sail by scheduled for today has been cancelled because of the weather. Tonight winds will be on average 25 kts with gusts in the high thirties/early forties. Rain is 90% chance and torrential. Tomorrow the weather is 18 kts winds and gusts around mid thirties. But, it will be sunny. The day after tomorrow, it will be dropping to 13 kts and gusts in mid twenties but lots of rain showers. 

Sailing is meant to be fun. It is important to occasionally go out in testing times as well, for skills development; but, this afternoon and tomorrow is just barmy, especially up the rivers where there are fewer boats to come rescue me. A lifeboat crew would take at least 30 minutes to get to me in their fastest rib.

I have sailed in winds around 15 kts on several occasions but the gusts were only around 15 - 18 kts and also from the north rather than southerlies and easterlies. On each of these occasions I sailed along the coastline and the cliffs offered some protection. Arwen handled it all with ease, as you would expect with her design pedigree. 

I have been reflecting on what I learned from Helping Steve Yates recover his boat on a slip way up river. One of the things he has is a fold out draw bar extension. And what a difference that makes to launching and recovery. I don't need a folding one but a 1m extension would make all the difference - allowing me to get more of the trailer in to the water without having to put the exhaust just above the water surface. So, I am off to explore how much extension bars cost and whether it is cheaper to make my own. I'll keep you all posted about this development. 

Friday 11 August 2023

Plans are afoot

 Planning for a big trip next week - assembling a week's worth of food supplies is the start! 

Sunday 6 August 2023

Just pottering

 So this afternoon I pottered onboard Arwen. Simple stuff. And it was so enjoyable after yesterday's gales.

I bailed and sponged out water from the bilges that had got through and under her tarp yesterday. 

I repaired the tarp tears.

I sorted out lockers and thinned out what I carry on-board for just day sails. 

I thinned out the tool and spares kit a little. I sorted out a new fire blanket and fire extinguisher. 

I have re strung the tiller tamer because it kept snagging.

All simple five minute jobs, but rather pleasing to do. 

Great stuff! 

Saturday 5 August 2023

Dinghy cruising refreshment for the soul

 Here is the second part of our recent day sail out on Plymouth Sound after a long, long, long winter hibernation! 

Nice to see given today I sit at the kitchen table watching a Yellow weather warning out side - 60 mph gusts. Drizzle and violent gusts. Our little woodland back garden is taking a real hammering. We took the precaution yesterday of  lopping several large branches off the tree at the front of the garden to reduce the weight. Probably unnecessary, but prudent! 

In this video you can see briefly a couple of modifications I have made over the winter. One is the installation of a small electric bilge pump. It is portable as in I can move it about the boat and just shove the outlet pipe down the centreboard casing. It is powered by a small 12v battery and I did two videos on how I set it up on our YouTube channel - search for the playlist on modifications to Arwen. 

This hole drilling was 'wear my big pants time' I must say! 

waterproof box, 12v battery, fuse and 1m long wires to pump

And yes - it has been pointed out that a jubilee clip would be a good idea but it was one hell of a tight fit and thus far it seems to be holding! 

The second alteration has been to the lazy jacks/ topping lift. when erecting the boom tent I have always had to haul through sufficient slack in the topping lift to be able to take them forward to tie out of the way on the mast - a right pain. Now I can just unclip the lazy jacks each side and haul those bits forward - so much quicker and simpler. I can't remember whether it was Tim or Joel (two experienced and highly skilled navigator builders/sailors in the States) who shared that idea with me. Which ever one of you it was, guys, thankyou! 😆 You can see the modification in the video above around 6 minutes in. 

Another idea I have is to put in a mounting for my kayak stirrup pump affair - somewhere close to the rear end of the centreboard case so that I can access it easily from the rear cockpit area. Given the weather we seem to be having, rain is now part of our summer! It seems a prudent thing to do! 

Finally, I have always admired how decluttered Tim and Joel's cockpits always seem. I think we can all agree Arwen's interior always looks as if a bomb has gone off inside it. So, I'm going full on Marie Kondo and Stacey Solomon - putting things away so poor Arwen has at least some semblance of shipshape appearance. I also think declutter means - "lay it all out, go through it and be sensible about what you actually need to take!"  Ouch - I'm a natural hoarder come - "you never know when you might need it so be prepared" kind of guy! This will be sooooo hard! 

The boss says, given the state of my study, she will believe that when she sees it! 😂