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 25 September 2023

Friday 22 September 2023

September visitors

 Joining us for tea tonight, a new deer family. We already have one family of two adults and one fawn. This is the family where one of the adults has only three legs. But tonight, this group is different, a mother with two fawns. 

Welcome to the garden guys. Make yourselves feel at home. What is ours is yours but don't eat the Evening primroses or marigolds - OK? 

Sunday 17 September 2023

Capsize recovery in a welsford navigator?

 Own a navigator? Thinking of building one? Helpful and reassuring video here by Josh although note he did it in calm conditions and all that comes with that caveat.

Thanks Josh. Great video as always. Really illuminating and well filmed. Appreciated 👍

Mudlarking at midnight part 2

 0530 and I can feel the water lapping the base of Arwen's transom. Its creeping silently up the beach, the line between muddy water and muddy beach, difficult to discern. As I peer from under the stern tarp tent flap, my eyes struggling to make sense of the dark, Arwen lurches gently from side to side as more water creeps under her hull. Slowly, over the course of twenty minutes she floats off the beach. 

Now is the moment of truth. Has last night's re-laid kedge anchor held? Do we lie bow to the beach in this position? 

First impressions? The tidal flow is nowhere near as fast as it was last night. How strange is that? It lacks the speed, forcefulness and malevolent intent which saw me having to hold the boat bowsprit at right angles to the beach on the water's edge for a few hours last night. 

And, I cannot describe the sense of relief this news brings. It is so tempting just to crawl back into my snug sleeping bag and catch a few more hours of much needed sleep. But I'm awake, alert, restless, watchful. I won't sleep now! 

I crawl back and forth between bow and stern watching carefully my position against a transit that is just appearing in the dawn. From the permanently grounded upright scaffold pole back across the channel to a fallen tree on the opposite bank, Arwen is holding her position on this imaginary line. I ease bow and stern warps to take account of the rising tidal column and retrieve the large fender that that kept us upright on the beach overnight.  

The dawn is beautiful. Daylight is just peeping over the eastern horizon, downriver. There is plenty of cloud cover - greyish, foreboding but in places, a few are beginning to take on a peach blush along their base. This will deepen over the next half hour, I'm sure of it. Shadows are melting away and shoreline features take on sharper lines, shape and definition. The little marshy bank, the hedges and trees further back start to come alive. The dawn chorus, on some magical cue, starts and insects begin to drift up from their ground based night time hidey holes.  

The flattened beach area under the marshy bank is covered. I am now afloat ten metres offshore. I change, shave, clean teeth and set up the galley box for a brew. The white boom tent, soaked with dew on the outside and condensation on its inner surface has been folded back. There is nothing worse than getting 'wet' before the day has started properly! There is no wind but the air is chilly and I've donned an old thermal duvet jacket. To the east, the river surface is silvery, like liquid mercury, but streaked peach, pink and lemon yellow. Ripply colourful whirls, ever morphing. An abstract, Dali like water surface. Perfect. Stunning!  I pack away sleeping gear, collapse the sleeping boards and have a general tidy up, always glancing up to try and capture the ever shifting landscape vision before me. It always amazes me how quickly a view changes early morning; blink and you miss some subtle aspect and change. 

Fish jump, clumps of bladder wrack float on the surface. The trangia hisses, the kettle lid rattles. I love my galley box/stove 'percussion' performance - hisses, rattles, bubbles and whistles. Happy memories of a life time of micro-adventures - mountaineering, camping, dinghy cruising and expedition travelling. Coffee or tea? Tea! And a porridge pot with added handful of sultanas. A breakfast fit for a king spoilt by a chill dank air. I wish the sun would rise more quickly so I could feel those first tendrils of warmth. 

Nothing moves. There is a stillness. A stillness of air; of water movement; suddenly of wildlife; of the moored yachts midstream. Even tideline flotsam has ceased movement. Everything suspended in time but accompanied by a wonderful avian  orchestral symphony. I try to freeze the vista tableaus in my long term memory. 

I pack away, careful to avoid any noise. Don't want to disturb my neighbours moored mid channel. Things are stowed back in the 'lomo' dry bags and forcibly squeezed through the narrow gaps in the foredeck hatch either side of the mast. I inwardly curse under my breath about THAT hatch arrangement, once again, for the thousandth time. Wish I'd had the foresight at the start of building Arwen to turn one central hatch in this foredeck bulkhead into two smaller ones either side of the mast position. Life would have been so much easier accessing the locker under the foredeck. If only I'd been borne with the gift of foresight that most other humans seem to have! But way back then I lacked boat building experience. I didn't know then what I know now. Perhaps I should be a wee bit kinder to myself! Nah! I was an idiot with a father and father-in-law who were both engineers. I should have asked for advice - serves me right! 😆

Bags stowed, galley box tidied away and secured. Tarp tent folded and stored under the foredeck. I stand up and untie various halyard and sheet lines from the mast and reconnect the topping lifts into their correct positions. The boom is raised slightly. Everything is ready. We are shipshape. Sort of! I inwardly cringe at the amount of dried mud that coats the foredeck and the front part of the cockpit. Thick, glutinous, treacle like Tamar mud! A reminder of my poor understanding of spring tides. And that mud is whats left AFTER I had rinsed myself down earlier this morning at 0200! 

Hey, you aren't a real small boat sailor until you have waded knee deep through mud to re-lay or retrieve an anchor, are you? 

Today's departure plan is simple. To go forward and untie the bow warps. There are two of them tied together in one long loop.  Each loop 'end' is secured to the stem post. The warps snake away to the beach scaffold pole/stake, eight metres away on the marsh bank. The theory is that by pulling one end, I can haul all the mooring warp back around the post, through the water and back into the boat and then haul the stern anchor rope along the starboard side to the bow where I can then pull myself in to deeper water.  That's the plan but of course it depends on remembering which side of the pole the big sheet bend knot is tied (that joins the two warps). As it happens, I remember and the warp comes back quickly. I'm able to untie the sheet bend and coil and stow both warps easily without Arwen drifting too far. 

In fact Arwen has drifted backwards a little into the deeper water and is now lying bow facing upstream. She is held, as planned, by her stern kedge anchor. I carefully walk the warp down the starboard side and slowly Arwen turns bow into the last remaining incoming tidal flow. 0815. We are ready for departure. The tidal flow is lessening. High tide by 0900. Barely a breeze. A quick zephyr running down channel. Insufficient to overcome the last bit of incoming tide. I ship oars and row a little but Arwen isn't built for distance rowing. I know I will have to resort to outboard before long but it would be polite to try and clear the moored yachts so as not to disturb their morning lie in.  

We round the little spit and hug the shoreline down to the start of Tredown lake entrance, a distance of around sixty metres. The little outboard finally splutters into life. The sea surface is glassy but colourful. It truly reflects, like a shining mirror, the streaked sky above. Fluffy ribbon like banner streaks of colourful cloud. An artist's palette; shades of peach and amber, pinks and oranges, yellows and lemon. A few early morning illuminated high altitude jet trails. All is reflected in these still waters. It is tranquil, still, beautiful. A soundscape of gurgling water lapping against hull. The barest hiss of wake left by a rudder. The sound of the dawn chorus from every hedgerow lining the riverbanks. The Canadian geese flocks who begin to make their noisy presence heard. 

Off black rock point, I tie up at a vacant mooring buoy and await some morning wind. It will be here soon, I'm sure of it. The sun just needs to rise a little more; it's rays just need to heat the land a little. I snooze awhile; still in my duvet jacket with a fleece blanket over my knees. I slept fitfully last night. A few winks now are appreciated. 

And just like that, thirty minutes pass. A flutter in the mizzen sail penetrates my sleepy senses and I come to abruptly. The starboard shroud tell-tale flickers, rises and falls and promptly repeats the sequence again. And again. And again. 

A breeze. A mere flicker - light, negligible. But, a breeze all the same. I rapidly unfurl the mainsail and raise it quickly, sweating the halyard to gain the highest upper yard position I can; right up against the top mast sheave box. Tension the downhaul, adjust the snotter; get some belly in the sail. Loosen everything a tad. But despite this effort, the sail stays stubbornly along the midship line.  Ho Hum! 

I push it out across the starboard beam and it fills a little. Is it enough? It fills and flutters and fills once more. Painter is slipped. We start to drift downriver carried by a combination of the first ebb of the tide and a northerly VERY light breeze. Jib unfurled; it fills a little and then sags across the middle of the foredeck, its sheets hanging uselessly below. Mizzen downhaul and outhaul are eased. The mizzen sail fills a little. "Every little bit counts", as they say! 

Yes, movement. A distinct gurgling along the hull line.  Now time to turn attention to the huge rafts of floating flotsam. Twigs and branches even trunks; draped in rafts of seaweed. Flotsam clunks off centreboard, hull and rudder. Arwen and I steer a course avoiding the biggest debris rafts. The wind dies. The ebb tide strangely falters. We resort to outboard once more; nervous, vigilant, seeking out those dangerous floating wood laden flotsam rafts. One of those trunks hitting the outboard and one broken prop pin later. I shudder involuntarily. It doesn't bare thinking about.

It is, of course, a slow morning's progress back down the Lynher under an ever changing combination of motor, sail and just bare poles drifting. Switching between the three modes keeps me busy and fit.  Off Wearde quay we almost come to a standstill. No wind, barely any tidal movement. Plenty of time to watch the bass herding small fry to the surface. It is a savage carnage. No mercy is shown by the marauding bass. They chase and harry. Mackerel and whitebait jump out of the water to escape. Seagulls dive bomb the surface picking off any stragglers not quick enough to return to the deep. 

On the shore, right under the trees, with the high tide almost cutting off his escape route back to the quayside, a lone fisherman casts and retrieves; casts and retrieves. He switches lures and immediately grabs a bass and gives a shout out to his mate. I missed him. He is camouflaged so well, against the trees and low hanging bushes, he is almost invisible. I'm impressed though, for both may be in thigh waders but each wears a life jacket. Sensible precautions! These guys are experienced! 

It is 1200 midday. I'm back on the buoy I was on yesterday; the one in the middle of the mooring trots just a way downstream from Saltash quayside. Kettle is on. I'm grabbing a brew. Sun is shining but I'm still a tad chilly so I've grabbed my old duvet jacket once more. One of those favourite pieces of kit; like an old friend, it goes everywhere with me. Grimy, threadbare in places, it is a well travelled jacket. An extra layer when stargazing; my go to outerwear on early mornings wherever I am in the world. 

Traffic is a steady stream across the bridges. There only occasional boats passing up and down the river. In the far distance, one of the MOD Police boats does lazy slow circuits around the dockyard frontage. A few minutes later and I am caught by surprise when I glance up to see the same boat entering the Lynher. It seems that Jupiter Point naval training station also falls under its remit. The MOD Police are very skilled at 'sneaking about' unnoticed! 

Three hours into the outgoing tide and I am able to slip the mooring and drift down the line of trots under mizzen sail and into the confluence of the two rivers. The winds are shifting once more, this time to the east, so I should get a sort of beam reach sail down most of the river. Easy sailing with steady 7 knot winds. 

Of course that doesn't happen. The winds drop completely. I have to use a combination of bare pole drifting, drifting under mizzen and occasional use of the outboard to make any progress. Its nice lazy boating. No dolphins at the Millbrook shoals but three small private fishing motorboats slowly trolling between the trots. Plenty of bass and small mackerel again. I've stopped once on the way down to tie up at a vacant buoy so that I can refuel the outboard. It has a small internal tank and I can't fit an external one to it. So I buoy hop! 

Now on a buoy at Wilcove, I catch the first stronger breeze. The afternoon winds are kicking in. I'm able to sail off the buoy and so make the remaining journey down through the Cremyll narrows under full sail. By the time we reach Drakes Island, the winds are a steady 12 knots. 

The afternoon passes with some lovely sailing around the sound. Up through the gap between the breakwater and its round fort; along the windward side of the RFA Tide Spring - not so close as to cause them alarm but close enough to get a good explore of the superstructure. Down through the Bridges on the western side of Drakes Island, avoiding the dragons teeth antisubmarine traps - for now it is 1500 and almost completely low tide. 

Some bosuns whizz by, hard sailed; expertise on display from their double crews. The winds are picking up. It gets lively across the northern face of the island and back towards the Cattedown.

Arwen and I play all afternoon. The earliest we can retrieve back at QAB marina slip will be 1700. And then I make my mistake. A silly one really but there we go. I decide to go for late afternoon coffee and cake at Mountbatten water sports cafe. I'm directed to tie up at the very outer end of the outer pontoon face. I'm informed that I should still have 10" of water under me even at very low water. 

I return from delicious coffee and cake to a disaster! Firstly, Arwen is in 8" of water. Secondly, no one told me about the rocks and mudbank. You'd have thought the team would have mentioned that! But here I am, sandwiched between pontoon and an exposed rock and mudbank. I cant go forward. I can't go backwards. I cant push off the pontoon. Trapped! I'll need to wait at least an hour before there is sufficient water around me to enable me to escape! Very frustrating! 

But, I'm not the only one. For the work boat from the Tectona Trust - the situation is worse. Because they couldn't move me, they had come in to drop off some crew on the very edge of the pontoon and now find themselves well and truly stuck. They had pushed off, gone 3 metres and run onto the same mudbank which was trapping me. 

The work boat is around 20' long, 8' wide with a large inboard engine. A real workhorse gaff rigged sailing boat. Traditional carvel hull and the two crew really know their stuff. Proper salty seadogs. I am treated to a master class in how to free your heavy boat from a mudbank. the crew stand on the side decks; they run from side deck to side deck. That boat rocks side to side; the engine is engaged and driving hard; the stern waves and wash are truly impressive. They use poles and oars to push and level themselves side to side, backwards and forwards. 

It is truly exhausting to watch their exertions but nothing! That boat does not move one iota. Zilch. Well and truly stuck! And then out comes the anchor - it is thrown forward, pulled taut and they try to haul themselves off. Nothing! They can't get it far enough. A boat pole probes the depths. A decision is made and one brave soul jumps overboard, wades forward many metres up to his waist and buries the anchor. 

The boat engine is reversed and forwarded; reversed and forwarded. Both crew haul and haul. Nothing! 

A passing dory with a huge outboard is called across. Tow ropes are attached. The dory skipper tries everything. I beat  hasty retreat further back down the pontoon, I swear blind that boat cleat is going to be ripped off its dory deck! Nada! Nothing! After thirty minutes of these antics, the crew resign themselves to, like me, having to wait for the tide to rise! 

The take away lesson I have from this incident is that I give up way too easily when things get tough! I could have waded out and probably got Arwen off the mud and into a metre of water. I just couldn't be arsed frankly. The Tectona crew? Oh my they are impressive, good humoured and determined. And highly. highly skilled. They had to be places. There were more people to collect and drop off.  They waited 15 minutes!

That crew member waded out once more and under a combination of engine, anchor rode hauling and poling off - that boat was freed. It was genuinely impressive. An absolute master class in seamanship and experience. It was what it was. They held no ill grudge towards me being stuck at the end; no ill grudge against the centre for not being informed about the mudbank. These things happen - part of life's rich tapestry - some thinking, a rizla fag or two - some hard effort. Anything can be resolved. 

After they had left, I made a quiet promise to myself. For the master class I'd been given in how to free your stuck boat, I have promised that next time it happens to me, I will wade in to the waters, I will try all the techniques they showed me. I owe it to them and their organisation and outstanding community work. 

When the tide had reached 70 cm depth, I was able to pole Arwen over the mudbank and lower the outboard safely. we motored across the short distance to a vacant buoy. I packed away various bits and pieces, stowed sails properly and untied shrouds. All ropes were tied to mast in preparation for its collapse back into the boat. I arrived back at QAB at 1730 and there was just enough water to allow me to tie up alongside the pontoon. By 1750, Arwen was back on her trailer being washed down at the top of the slipway! 

You know what? It had been an adventurous weekend and we'd had fun! 

Saturday 16 September 2023

Mud larking at Midnight up the river Lynher

 Well not quite mud larking. Mud bathing? Mud sliding? Stuck in the mud? 

Anyway, "whatever", as my teenage friends say, at 0100 on a Sunday morning, under a stunning orange waning gibbous moon, I am knee deep in thick, oozing, squelchy Tamar mud, trying to re-lay a stern (kedge?) anchor.  

But, wait, as normal, I am getting ahead of myself , am I not, for there is a journey first to reach this muddy haven. 

2023 has been a wash out where sailing has been concerned. I have had to cancel several trips due to rapidly changing weather conditions and/or medical appointments. But that is the way it is.

Now, I have two days. Two precious days, when I can get a quick sailing trip in. More than enough time to revisit an overnight destination I last visited some five years ago.  Big, BIG spring tides (I should have known better 🙄). Today, 0730 HT, low tide at 1330, evening HT at 2030. Dropping springs - from 5.9m at launch to 5.3m on retrieval tomorrow.

Launched at 1000, Arwen and I have edged out of QAB marina and headed the short distance across Sutton harbour to the dinghy pontoon below the Barbican arches, where I've grabbed a coffee and a bacon bap from Bertie's. Quick chat with Phil, the owner and then a pleasant 30 minutes sat on the granite steps overlooking the Pilot and harbour master berths, reviewing in my head the weekend plans and also the earlier launch. 

Something still isn't quite right with the new trailer. Today I had to attach a rope to the trailer snubber arm and car tow ball to give myself 'an extra metre and a half'. The trailer had to be submerged before Arwen would come off her. 

I think I have spotted the problem. it is partially to do with shallow ramps. On steeper ramps it doesn't happen. I'm digressing - one keel roller needs moving forward by around 10 centimetres so that the wider skeg area beneath her centreboard rests on it. At the moment this wider bit just goes forward of that roller and so when I come to push her off, it digs into the roller behind and so refuses to budge. I also think that if I move this roller and also put another 20 centimetres of rear hull overhang over the last roller, the stern will hit the water earlier and so float off better. I can just about accommodate this overhang change on the driveway, just! So next launch, some trailer modifications before I retrieve Arwen back onto it. Maybe I need to make up a one and a half metre tow bar extension as well? Probably not. I think the minor adjustment will cure the issue. 

Thirty minutes of lazy reflections and musings and now it is time to cross to a vacant mooring in the Cattedown under outboard. We nosey out carefully from the narrow entrance between cafe pier and pilots landing stage. A huge four legged rig is moored immediately off Elphinstone Quay. It makes visibility tricky; can't see what's coming around the corner from the Cattedown very easily. 

On this outer yellow mooring buoy, I set up GoPro cameras, shift some gear around to better balance boat trim and remind myself of my planned passage plan for the afternoon.  It is busy out on the water. Everyone who owns a boat in the area has decided to head out to sea for the day and why not - 26 Celsius forecast and sunny skies. One last 'hurrah' before the school holidays end and everyone is back to school and work routines. And, it does look a beautiful day out on the sound, which is now the nation's first ever new marine national park, as of last year. We are rather proud of that in Plymouth. Lots of great conservation work going on. 

Today's passage plan, sketched out in one of my little yellow waterproof notebooks, is simple - a pootle up the Tamar on the incoming tide, turn left (west) into the Lynher river and head up it to Dandy Hole to overnight on a delightful little mud shingle beach called 'Redshanks'. Backed by a low grassy bank and then a steep field full of cows, it has lovely views upriver to the the St. German's viaduct and the river Tiddy, and back down the river towards HMS Brecon and Jupiter Point (the Royal Navy small boat training station.) Morning sunrises here are sublime! The early sun will colour the waters shades of lemon yellow which turn to burnished copper and gold as the sun rises higher.  

With a bit of luck, I will have the beach to myself. Gurgling waters, splashing fish in the shallows, some scuttling crabs. sat on a boat cushion with my back against the low bank, I'll brew coffee in the little coffee pot, prepare my evening meal and watch the sun descend.  Later, stomach full and wearing some warm layers, I'll collect drift wood from the strandline and have a small fire as the sun sinks below the horizon. It will be a clear sky and so I can set up the cameras - Gopros can do time lapses of the milky way; the DSLR, some Milky Way photographs with Arwen and the fire in the foreground. I'll shoot the foreground just after blue hour and then a few hours later, the sky when the core of the milky way will be at its highest. 

That's the plan!  

Meanwhile, back in reality and now in the habit of sailing off one of the Cattedown vacant moorings (why did I ever used to motor out into Jennycliffe Bay to raise sail?), today is proving a little tricky. The wake of so many passing motor cruisers and big yachts makes it bumpy and standing on the thwarts to undo the sail ties is a perilous affair at best! I cling to the furled mainsail on its sprit boom, arms around around it as one particularly large wake from a big motor cruiser rolls under Arwen's port forward beam area. 

For this trip, I have re-routed the mainsail halyard back to the cockpit. Normally, I will raise sail at the foot of the mast and tie off the mainsail halyard at the mast base cleat but narrow river channel work demands I be able to drop it or raise it more quickly and without clambering over the centre thwart. Hence the temporary re-routing. 

Mainsail rises rapidly on a few strenuous heaves; the mizzen is pulled in tight already. Centreboard and rudder are up. Arwen settles bow into tide. There isn't much wind to contend with at the moment. I walk the yellow buoy back amidships, starboard side, slip the bow painter and Arwen drifts backwards on the outgoing tide. Rudder down, mainsail out, centreboard down and jib unfurled, she lazily turns through a northly arc to settle onto a beam reach out of the Cattedown towards the end of Mountbatten breakwater. Sedate, calm, professional looking. I'm getting better at this 'sailing off mooring' malarkey! 

And so it comes to pass - we sail the 'sound' for a few hours. Winds are light, around 4 knots, from the north. They give some nice slow beam reaches back and forth between Jennycliffe and Fort Picklecombe. The old throat to clew crease that plagued me for years in the main sail is gone. The broken jib furler from last trip (recently disassembled, cleaned and reassembled) performs perfectly. An eased downhaul and sprit boom give a good belly in the sail. The sun shines. Plenty of boats out on the water. A huge RFA vessel 'Tide Spring' lying at anchor by the breakwater. So much to see and enjoy. We make 2.5 knots in light fickle breezes. I'm happy with that. There is no need to rush today. 

Arwen and I reach back and forth across the sound avoiding the dense rafts of seaweed and driftwood which have been flushed down river by the outgoing large spring tide. A dead dolphin drifts by. Sad, there are propeller scars on its back. Clearly from its bloated size, it's been dead a couple of days. I have heard of frequent sightings of these small dolphins being up the Tamar in the Millbrook area. They've been seen herding mackerel onto the exposed mud flats and shallow areas. I might call in later and see if we can find them. 

Warm up sailing and fine tuning done, it is soon time to proceed up river.  Arwen and I enter the Tamar and the Hamoaze at 1330 just around low tide.  Fortuitously, the winds ease around to the south. Perfect given the orientation of the river north - south!  It will be a downwind passage up the Tamar - it sounds contradictory doesn't it! 

(I won't bore you with all the details of this passage. If you want to know more about sailing the Tamar and Lynher, these previous blog posts will give you ample knowledge about the sights and history of the foreshores we pass. )

Through the Devil's Point narrows, past the Cremyll gun battery on the western, Cornish shore. Opposite in Devon, the Royal William yard. A huge victualling yard for the Royal Navy in the 19th century, that barely got used).  The waters here are notorious. Close on the Devon shore mid tide and you are caught in a nasty eddy jut off the Admiralty barge steps. 

someone took a photo of us as we were just getting ready to proceed upriver! Rarely get photos of me and Arwen sailing together! 

On the western shore, dangerous rocks extend outwards beneath the gun battery. There is a reason for the Cremyll red port marker buoy! 

And beware those fierce mid channel tidal streams that can flow at 1.5 up to 2.5 knots. 

Tempted to land on the stony beach and call in at the Mount Edgecumbe Arms for a drink, I am conscious that the tide is building and we are in its first hour of flood. Subsequent hours will see huge volumes of water tearing through these narrows. It is best to continue our journey upriver.  Up past the entrance to Millbrook Lake, just past the old boatyard 'Mashfords', at the end of Cremyll quayside, I nudge Arwen's bow westwards. Southdown Marina/boatyard up at the narrow entrance to the lake has a lovely cafe within its confines. An old boatyard, the berth of 'Tectona' and its trust of wonderful volunteers, the yard is owned by the Huggin's brothers.  I wandered around it a few weeks ago and had a lovely breakfast at the cafe.

The channel entrance into the lake is very narrow. And it goes due west, running beneath a heavily wooded hill on the southern side.  A classic wind shadow area today with very limited tacking room when the tides are fully out, like now. This does not feel prudent! Anyway, I am distracted by dolphin. A small pod are shoaling mackerel onto one of the sandbanks to the north as I expected. Dusky brown tops and white stripes, these clever creatures blend into these muddy waters and they prove frustratingly elusive; almost mocking me as they quickly rise alongside Arwen's hull, before disappearing off  a great distance. 

Did I catch one on a GoPro camera? Did I heck, the crafty critters! No sooner do I switch one on, than they are gone! Skittish, teasing, playful, frustrating! Nearly had several mackerel jump in the boat to avoid them though! 

I cast an eye back towards the deeper channel and carefully thread my way through the moorings that line the western mudflats. Red port cans warn me that water depth will be very little here. In the calm waters, the line between exposed mudflat and actual water is difficult to discern! I can just see this line between mud and muddy incoming creeping waters because of periodic piles of frothy buff coloured bubbles and the occasional shoaled piece of driftwood. There is at least 300m of shallow exposed mudflats between the moored boats and the shoreline north of the marina. At high tide it will be covered by about a metre or so of water. Ready to catch the unwary small boat sailor! 

Further north, and having clearer these moorings, navigating the Torpoint ferries becomes the next 'pressing' pilotage issue to consider. Under sail though the ferries is always nerve wracking - well for me it is. Three large chain ferries between Devonport and Torpoint; the trick, to time your arrival mid channel,  when one is stopped on a shore disgorging cars and the other two are approaching opposite shores, leaving a nice gap between. 

Of course it doesn't happen today - don't be silly - its me! When have I ever demonstrated such seaman like skills?  I arrive just as two ferries cross in the middle and so I immediately turn to port - a leisurely gybe for a change, and stand off by beam reaching across the channel. Not that there is a lot of space to do so, for on the eastern shore is the great Devonport naval dockyard, now owned by Babcock. Getting too close to this shoreline incurs the wrath of the ever vigilant MOD police marine unit. And they will see you! And, they will pay you a visit! And, they will be 'irritated' if you go within 50m of those dockside quays.  To the west, lots of mooring trots with rather large yachts and very, very narrow gaps between. Tricky then, is it not? 

I tack back and forth in the northerly winds a few times and when the gap has opened sufficiently, I proceed through the ferries. As chance will have it, the third ferry has yet to depart its particular shoreline. A bonus then! A good omen for the trip perhaps? 

During this stretch of sailing I always switch channels on my VHF to channel 14 to listen in to the KHM traffic. It gives me fair warning if there are any larger naval vessels proceeding up or down river, not that I have ever encountered any doing so in all the years I've been up and down this stretch of the Tamar. I've clearly been lucky. Anyway, all that will happen is that the MOD boats will come alongside and gently encourage you to go westwards in the channel until the vessel has past. 

Past the sunken pleasure boat, a notable feature on the Torpoint shoreline and past the vast frigate sheds on the eastern side. Shed is a misnomer. Three gigantic, HUGE buildings with a dry dock in each - each capable of holding a frigate or a destroyer. Today there seems to be a frigate in the outside dry dock, possibly another in the middle shed.  Ahead, towards Weston Mill basin, I can see a couple of decommissioned subs, a frigate tied up by HMS Tamar and possible the tall superstructure of what may be a destroyer. Within the inner basins there seems to be a very large vessel - an assault ship perhaps? And just up by the new incinerator - another vast vessel - is that HMS Albion? Another assault ship? 

Something is missing. It is irritating me. I am aware that something on the waterfront has changed. I can't quite put my finger on it - something familiar, a feature of the shoreline on the Torpoint side. 

Ah ha! Got it - the big refueling tanker is missing at the end of the Yonderberry refueling jetty - and what's this - the long jetty is looking shiny and new? The end equipment of pipes and derricks look new. The pier has finally been refurbished. I'm guessing the navy ships can now tie up alongside once more. This old pier had for many years been suffering from concrete cancer. Lots of new shiny white concrete support beams. Great to see but wow when did it happen? Have I been gone from this part of the river for so long? 

Up past Wilcove and the two Tamar bridges appear around the corner ahead. The noisy MOD dogs barking at Bull Point as always. But wait, whats this calamity? How can this be? A boat tied to my favourite yellow mooring buoy at Henn Point? This has never happened before. Not in the last fourteen years have I ever seen a boat on this buoy? This is a travesty! I need to send a very strongly worded email...somewhere, to someone. How dare they!! 😆

This yellow outer mooring buoy is always my stopping off point before going into the Lynher. I stop here to eat, to boil a brew, to adjust sails or overnight gear. I stop here to snooze, to watch what is happening in the dockyard a quarter mile down river.  Its a great place to watch egret and herons. Nooooooooo! This is not how it is supposed to be! Outrageous! I feel traumatised. Violated in some way! 😂

Plan B needed and so I sail further up towards the bridges, 20m out from the long line of mooring trots that line the western shore. All seem occupied; but wait, right in the middle, one single, vacant, lonely mooring buoy in need of a boat! 

Can I sail up to it? Er - no - major catastrophe potential! It is literally 7m off the rocky shoreline. I'm bound to mess it up! Can I row to it?  Er - no - fierce tide and those trot lanes do seem rather narrow! Can I drift up to it? Doubtful. Never done that before and probably not the time or place to give it a try now as it sits, did I say this before, about 8m away from a rocky shoreline and an incoming tide which is building in flow rate! 

 Damn!  Its going to be outboard then. 

I point Arwen's bow eastwards. We tack around, sail down wind into the big wide open area where the Lynher and Tamar join, before gybing back around to point northwards into the wind. I'm very conscious that the tide is now an hour and a half in and the water flow heading north is fast!  Is it faster than the northerly wind coming towards us? We are about to find out! 

Sometimes I surprise myself at the sudden speed of movement I can put on when feeling imminently threatened by something dangerous - like two moored lighter barges and the sudden realisation that tide does indeed trump wind today. The mainsail is dropped rapidly and loosely tied up. Centreboard almost fully up; mizzen sheeted in hard. Now is the time not to have problems starting the outboard. We will be on a downstream approach. Not the best approach to be fair but circumstances dictate so!  I lower the outboard back into the water, apply a tiny amount of choke, send up a prayer and pull the starter cord. It starts on the third pull, conks out, starts on second pull and holds. Phew! 

We have drifted up river towards the two bridges; quite some way, so a gentle sweeping broad turn to the west and we enter the trots. I slide down past the mooring can to give it the once over. Good oh! She has one of those tiny side buoys attached to a giant hawser loop. It will reach up nicely and fit over Arwen's stem post. No fiddling with mooring warps. Nice, simple, I've just got to judge approach and flow rates correctly!

Five minutes later, a perfect pick up, by hand, without use of mooring pole. I literally stop alongside the can and just reach down. Love it when a plan works! Not the view I want, but it will do. A food stop, a nice cooling breeze. Thirty minutes passes nicely. There is now around three and a half  hours to the top of the tide. The winds have shifted to southerlies but not of course in the Lynher. Rivers are notorious are they not, for the winds to run down their length, irrespective of the wind direction elsewhere along the coast. As more often than not on this river, the winds come westerly straight down the channel. It will be a late afternoon/early evening of tacking back and fro to make progress up river. Hey ho - good exercise harms no-one. 

I slip the buoy and motor back to the confluence area, raise sails and point Arwen into the Lynher. A quick check of my yellow notebook of sketch maps to remind myself of the channel and hazards in this first section and we start the first of what will be endless tacks upriver. Steady winds at 5 - 7 knots will assist. 

Barely a ripple. Just above a glassy state, slightly ruffled water surfaces that boil as fry are chased from beneath by mackerel and bass. This is an area rich in fish but this year the mackerel seem very small. Several fishermen line the northern shore, a few fly fishing, some spinning and several bottom fishing. The occasional shout of glee indicates some are successful. Fish for tonight's BBQ then.

The water level in the Anthony Passage small harbour is low. Thick mud banks appear through the narrow entrance with its menacing sign 'Private harbour KEEP OUT'. Quite an intimidating sign given the late afternoon sunshine which makes the waterfront houses and cottages look radiant and serene. A stunning area to live but for me a little remote perhaps? 

Jupiter Point, the RN small boats training station with HMS Brecon lying mid channel, hoves into view. I've many fond memories of accompanying CCF teenagers from my last school here, including my own daughter. The naval contingent did their small boat training here; the instruction superb, good humoured and demanding. My daughter and her friends flourished!  But, it seemed to me that many of the moorings are emptier than I remember. Where are all the small naval motor launches?  They seem to have gone, replaced by an extensive array of ribs, pulled up onto floating mooring platforms. Changing times eh? 

A quick mooch into Forder Creek entrance and a hasty retreat - not a lot of water in there yet - and whilst it is a rising tide - I don't want to be sat there - grounded for an hour or so. A similar pattern on entering the narrow channel into Wivelscombe Lake - the centreboard bounces, the rudder drags and suddenly kicks up. I grab the paddle, push myself back off and turn the bow seawards - some quick paddle strokes and we are back in deeper water and catching the wind once more. Another time perhaps. Next year I will sail into these two areas on a rising tide. There are old quays and ancient mills to visit. Fabulous old industrial and agricultural  heritage and archaeology; an interest of mine. 

On this stretch of the Lynher, it is important to look back often, otherwise you will miss the stunning vineyards that come right down almost to the water's edge. Shoreline bushes and trees hide them from view on the way up but if you look backwards, gaps appear. Tiny, derelict, crumbling buildings right at the water's edge betray the position of old former quays and beach hard's where smaller boats arrived to collect produce to ship them out onto the larger barges in the channel; or to sail and row them down to the quaysides at Saltash, Forder and Anthony's passage.  

The vast expanse of the Lynher opens up beyond Shillingham Point and opposite Tredown Lake. A vast open water area with some shallow depths and shifting sandbanks, flat glassy waters, the hue of burnished pewter.  Centreboard and rudder watching is crucial here as the waters are murky.  And, today, a new hazard, huge rafts of driftwood. These big spring tides have flushed out every nook and cranny on every single part of the river shoreline. The rafts gather where the current is strongest and lazily they progress up or down river depending on tidal state. It is interesting to note that there are several large branches and even some small tree trunks in these weed rafts. One or two clunks under Arwen's hull make me jump! 

Vast colonies of Canadian geese on the far distant southern shores make their presence known; wow that honking is loud! Some fly overhead, just skimming the water surface in tight 'V' formations like avian Red Arrow display teams.   Mackerel jump and bass swirl the surface, their dorsal fins flashing in the sunshine.  Tractors can be seen meandering up the hillslopes, delivering cattle feed, spraying slurry or turning over newly mown grass. Several large yachts and motor cruisers are anchored mid channel, some with sides adorned by small ribs, sit on kayaks and SUP's; or, sadly, the now too ubiquitous jet ski.  It is a safe haven for larger boats, with stupendous scenery and plenty of kayaking opportunities. All those creeks and shallows to explore. 

We tack lazily back and forth up river. There is sufficient water depth over the vast sand and mud banks for Arwen to meander quite a wide range across the channel. But I still keep an eye on her centreboard. Its those 'invisible' tree trunks that worry me most! Occasionally, the winds are deflected by coastal geography so that we get an easier beam reach section for a while; a break from the relentless upriver tacking we have done all afternoon.  Still, the winds are steady, consistent. Fantastic slow sailing at its best! To be savoured, valued and enjoyed. As the afternoon turns to early evening, the sun lowers in the sky and so starts to illuminate the tips of the northern shore woods that carpet the steep slopes of Dandy Hole. A 'golden gilding' to the bright green foliage. Beautiful! 

I count twelve boats at anchor mid channel in the sweeping curve beneath the steep river cliffs.  As I round the bend under sail, the high pitched wailing buzz of two jet skis assault my ears. They are whipping around at high speed up and down the channel between here and St Germans. A peaceful, tranquil anchorage shattered. Surely I cannot be the only sailor here at this moment in time who is grossly offended by this. The jet skis could go half a mile further down river and have the entire wide area between Wacker Quay and Tredown Lake to play in. Not a yacht in sight down there. An area almost a mile in width, where they would disturb no one and have the entire area to play in. The sandbanks have at least a metre or more of water covering them now, so it wouldn't be an issue. But no! The nautical equivalent of 'boy racers' are feeling entitled. They have rights too don't we know? And they want to buzz everyone around them. Its their right to be here as well you know! 

I am clearly becoming a grumpy old man and deep down I know I am being unfair. They are entitled to enjoy the water as much as I am but I am, frankly, bereft. I was so looking forward to a peaceful night shared with Canadian geese, shoreline crabs and possibly a nocturnal otter or fox. But it clearly isn't going to be so. Hey ho! I am being selfish and grumpy! They are having fun. They probably have to go back to work next week. I'm retired. I can sneak up here any time I like. I'm being childish and unfair! 

Having picked my beaching spot, four boat lengths off the strand line, I drop sail, raise rudder and centreboard and loosen mizzen. The pre-prepared stern anchor is dropped off the transom and the warp uncoils as I drift inshore. 

The tidal flow is stronger than I anticipated and I am swept slightly upstream and broadside on to the beach simultaneously. Some strenuous paddling repositions me but its difficult to maintain.  I jump out, grabbing bow line,  and dash up the small remaining beach, looping the rope around the large scaffolding pipe banged upright in the ground. Previous explorers have generously placed four of these posts deep into the top part of the beach. Convenient mooring poles. 

Arwen is slowly swept into the beach on the strand line line. The stern anchor isn't holding. It is dragging up tide and inwards towards the tide line.  This is a first for me and leaves me head scratching for several minutes. Frankly it is a little terrifying! I have never experienced such tidal flows here before. Neither have I ever seen the tide come in so fast or so high. It is clear that the marsh bank at the top of this little beach will be inundated within the hour. Fascinating. Terrifying! I am genuinely surprised and slightly perplexed! 

Not what I was planning. Dreams of a camp fire are dashed. That will not be happening tonight. 

I off load the galley box, reposition Arwen and pull her up the beach a little more and quickly get the Trangia stove assembled. Everything is on the top of the marsh bank and I have about forty minutes before it is inundated. A brew is on and for several minutes I dash between Arwen and the stove. Phew! It's exhausting! Arwen is just being swept sideways and upriver at the same time. I set up a new stern line to another of the mooring posts. It stops Arwen from being swept upriver but not from being broadside right on the tide line. At least she holds a stable position, for now! 

Tonight is a boil in the bag camp meal. It's on. It takes seven minutes to heat up. I have around three metres of beach left before the water laps the base of the marsh bank in which the galley box rests. 

And that pretty much sums up the next two hours. A frantic mixture of eating, packing away and stopping Arwen from drying out too high up the beach. Towards the top of the tide, she settles nicely in the water. The tidal flow has fallen away and she is in a metre or so of water. It is a falling spring tide and tomorrow it will be 50 centimetres lower. The top of this beach flattens substantially and I need to make sure that Arwen is dried out at least seven metres back down the beach on the sloping part. The waters is draining away rapidly and silently and I spend much of the time lifting her bowsprit and pushing her back into the water to float. At least she has stopped her swinging to broadside up river. 

It's exhausting, this shuttling between galley box and boat malarkey 😆. Where is my 'collecting firewood' stroll? Where is my 'seashore rock ramble'? And those Jet skis? At 2130, well past dusk, they are still zipping around. But, I think this is about to be resolved. Unknown to them, three small ribs have departed three separate yachts. As the jet skis return to their boat base to swap passengers, there are heated words. The three ribs have converged. Feelings and dissatisfaction are made clear. Loud voices carry across the water.  Jet skis are 'neutralised'. Threats about contacting the coastguard and giving boat details and all that seems to have done the job! The jet ski crew have taken up singing folk songs loudly and playing guitar! To be truthful? They are pretty good and I can hear the kids joining in. Lots of laughter - I'll settle for this. Everyone is now happy! 

And, at long last, Arwen has dried out on a gentle slope on a mud shingle mix. I've managed to get a large white fender beneath her so she sits upright. My problem is now tomorrow's early morning incoming tide. It is clear without a stern anchor, she will drift inwards and end up broadside on the strand line again and that fills me with horror although I cant explain why. Completely irrational! But, I have to be back home tomorrow, for the day after, I have a vital early morning hospital appointment. 

I resign myself to a late night. Around 0200 tomorrow morning, when it is low tide, I will need to re-lay out a kedge anchor. It will need to go at least 20m out and I will need to dig and bury it in under some obliging rocks, which, at this particular moment, have yet to be uncovered.  But, I know they are there! It is imperative that this anchor holds tomorrow morning otherwise I am going to be swept sideways and upriver and possibly stranded if I don't wake up in time!  And, moreover, if I want a bow mooring warp that slips off around the scaffold pole tomorrow, I definitely need a stern anchor that holds. 

0200 and I am still managing to smile - just! 

And so, here we are. It is 0210 and you find me knee deep in squelching mud. All is quiet on the moored yachts. Their anchor lights, along with a full moon, give me plenty of light to work by. I've been arse over face twice. Mud is everywhere on my clothing. My wellies are full of it. And I am being bitten to death by midges! Twenty five metres down the beach from Arwen's transom, the mud suction is so great, I can't physically pull my feet out of it. On the plus side, the anchor is buried under three large boulders that I have spent the last twenty minutes pushing into place. 

Tawny owls hoot in laughter at my antics. Bats swoop low over my head to inspect my precarious position. Bass jump in the shallows. I'm sure they are laughing at me! 

It's pitiful isn't it. I am a useless sailor, am I not? Seriously, there is a risk that the coastguard will come out tomorrow and find my body stuck in the same position with my head just above water! 

I manage to wriggle both feet out of my wellies. I am free. Ten minutes of tugging and wiggling frees the wellies. I squelch, slip and slide up the slope back to Arwen. In her front cockpit section, I strip off, wash myself down, clean myself up, hang my boots off the stem post and crawl under the boom tarp tent and into my Rab down bag inside its Gortex bivvy. I am exhausted but old buckets of water sluiced over my lower half have woken me up somewhat! I have to be up around 0600! I need to sleep!! No stargazing tonight! 

Above, a little white anchor light casts a warm glow over the white tarp. Below seaweed pops, mud splutters and crabs scuttle. I'm oblivious to it all. I fell asleep quicker than I thought! My fate, Arwen's fate, is now in the laps of the Gods.