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 October 2023

Dinghy cruising Mudlarking up the river Lynher Day two

here is day two of our recent little micro adventure cruise up the river Lynher to Redshanks Beach. it is the morning after the night before and if you watched the other two episodes then you will know what I mean! 
You can access the other two videos on my channel  or look back over the last few posts on this blog. 

Anyway here we go:

Monday 23 October 2023

Arwen may well be joined by........

 We are locked in a great family discussion about buying a 'family' tandem sit on top Kayak. 

My daughter has taken up surfing and wants to learning to stand up paddle board as well. She was as a youngster and teenager, a water baby, to be fair. Happiest on a beach - mainly rock pooling with her old Dad. And now she is an ecologist!  Her husband is an 'outdoors' kind of guy. He prefers walking and camping but is happy to be on top of the water rather than in it. But, a double sit on top that could be paddled solo as well - he'd be up for that! He could accompany his wife whilst she was on the paddleboard.

My son is a mountain walker and he also loves wilderness canoeing. He has done canoe expeditions down our river Wye. He would be definitely up for a sit on top kayak as would his partner as well. She is up for anything outdoorsy as well. They live near some great large river systems over the east of the UK. Plenty of kayaking opportunities over that way. 

As for me and the boss - well - when I was in my twenties, I was actually quite into kayaking and gained some level three BCU qualifications and participated on an instructor training course as well, although it was so long ago now that I cant quite remember all the particulars, other than I did courses at Calshot, somewhere in Pembrokeshire and Plas Y Brenin - along with a whole host of training and courses on summer and winter mountain leadership across the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia. 

The boss enjoyed her paddle in a double sit on top across parts of Lake Powell and parts of the Colorado river when we toured the SW USA states last spring. She would accompany me for a paddle on days when it was 22C+, the water temperature was 18C+, there was no wind whatsoever and the sun shone all day. Through in a coffee, a wine bar, a beach and a good view - she'd be well happy. 

And we have such great areas to paddle. The whole of the Tamar and Lynher river systems. Then there is the Erme, the Avon, the Dart and the Fowey, all within easy driving distance. All of the Kingsbridge estuary. The whole of Plymouth Sound. Along the coast, from Wembury to Cellars Beach; or around Burgh island. 

So to cut a long story short - I've been out and about looking at tandem sit on kayaks and what an investment in one might mean for us and the family budget. 

I've built two wooden kayaks in the past and sold both on after a while
This one, Aneira, was lovely and tracked really well. I added a homemade rudder to it controlled by pedals within the hull. I also made a 'Greenland' style kayak paddle

I was able to indulge my hobby of pyrography as well. I have no idea where this design came from. It wasn't mine. Someone sent it to me and I loved it. 

The wolf design was mine, sort of!  I based it on several different drawings I found on-line and combined very similar ones into one final 'composite' image. 

I've also built a Wee Lassie canoe as well
It was 'fun' but a little too close to the water line and also a bit of a tight fit

Angharad's pyrography designs were all based on celtic designs - crosses, borders, patterns etc

Anyway, getting back to the more modern versions. We have narrowed a new sit on top kayak down to two possibilities, although if you know of a third we should look at over here in the Uk, then do please drop me a comment in the box at the end of this post: 

  • the Feel Free Corona
  • the Feel Free Gemini Sport

NOTE: I am not endorsing this particular supplier in any way - but they had good pages which describe the two kayaks well. 

the gemini sport 

Fee Free Corona
A 'three' person kayak but one that can be paddled 'solo 

Both of these would be deluxe packages with more comfy seats and fibreglass paddles. equipment wise, I have most of the stuff I would need but a preliminary list of new purchases looks like this:
  • the sit on top kayak
  • two paddles
  • two seats
  • skeg
  • portage trolley
  • scupper bungs x 4
  • small kayak anchor
  • roof rack ties
  • roof rack pads
Clothing wise - as I will be hoping to paddle regularly throughout the season Spring to Autumn - I will need to invest in some new clothing: 
  • a kayak jacket with adjustable neoprene waist, neoprene cuffs and a decent adjustable hood - breathable of course
  • Neoprene trousers with a higher waist/back cut (I don't like full wetsuits or sleeveless wetsuits or wetsuit shorties)
  • wetsuit rock boots
  • a new PFD for Maggie - I will continue to use my old but perfectly functional Palm Kaikoura - famous in so many of our videos 
  • Possible invest in a 2mm neoprene rash vest 
  • some thin 1 or 2 mm neoprene gloves 
  • and, optional, depending on whether I go coastal rock gully and cave exploring or not, a helmet
It has taken quite some time to arrive at this decision. I have sat in many, many sit on top kayaks. I eliminated sit in kayaks - the rest of the family don't feel confident in them. Ditto for canadian canoes although my son and I would have easily gone for one of those. A great excuse for building a strip canoe - maybe another time for that project!  I have had to think carefully about what I would want to do as a solo kayaker. essentially I'm not looking at heading a few miles off shore on one. Up the tidal rivers, along more sheltered coasts, some inland flat rivers and lakes. It has to be big enough for two and easily manageable by one! I want to be able to take overnight camping gear with me on occasions as well. Something that tracks well and is very stable. As light as I can get it. Easy to turn. 

Inevitably it all comes down to compromises! The biggest issue as it turns out is whether I can single handedly lift it up onto the roof rack of a Skoda Yeti! 

I was very reassured talking to the very experienced staff in my local kayak and canoe shop. They were immediately happy that actually I was doing the correct thinking, asking the correct questions, evaluating the advice given and demonstrating I had good safety, weather, water knowledge. They have been very patient as I have already made three x 1 hr trips to their shop to 'talk' things through. 

As I see it, most of the safety on the water and around other users knowledge I already have. Navigation knowledge is fine and many of the principles of mountain navigation and sailing pilotage are the same for kayakers. Weather understanding - yep - all good; water temperature rather than air temperature being a major factor for kayakers - noted! Need to develop my 'reading the water' craft. I agree - sailing a dinghy up and around the rivers is slightly different to kayaking directly at water level - ferry gliding, rip currents, eddies etc will affect me on a sit on far more than in Arwen - so some work to do there. Similarly with some of the techniques - entry and exit, landing/leaving a beach.  
Lots of homework then before making a final decision. On the other hand, there are good deals on at the moment so I need to get a move on! 

So why now I hear you all ask?
Several reasons I guess, but one of them is that I am not very fit and I need to get fitter. Rapidly! And, sailing Arwen doesn't get me fitter. Regular viewers of my YouTube channel will know that this year I haven't been particularly well and frankly I've struggled a little at times. Been the worst year for illness since I retired six years ago. So, if I can get out on the water quickly and paddle a few miles regularly during the week, this should help. 

A second reason is that we own a motorhome and we often pop down to Cornwall in it - within an hour and a half we can reach Lands End. We can't get a kayak on the motorhome. Impossible! But it is easy just to take the car as well. So we could then access some great beach, coast and river kayaking further south as well. I won't feel guilty about taking the car. The motorhome has been kitted out to be totally off grid now via solar and extra battery capacity. We wont be plugging in very often. We can leave 'Bryony' on site and then just use the car (Zebedee) to pootle about, if we want to carry the kayaks somewhere. Otherwise we just use the E Bikes. 

And when we go abroad in Bryony?  Well, we will just have to hire a tandem kayak on those southern Spanish and Croatian beaches and those lovely northern Italian Lakes, won't we! 

I'll let you know ho I get on over the next few weeks. 

In the meantime, if you own a tandem sit on kayak in the Uk and have some recommendations or pointers, then do please let me know - drop a line in the comment box below - thanks in advance 😀

A postscript:
And then there were three. We visited another Kayak shop and they threw a spanner in the works.

So more to think about. Initial thoughts - Pros of inflatable - storage, transport, load carrying, no costs of roof racks, roof bar accessories etc.  Cons - cleaning, drying, tracking in wind or strong currents, puncture risk?
So, some more homework to do. However, I can take one for a test paddle up along Exeter Canal and that is a great bonus! 

Tuesday 17 October 2023

Trailer update and a to do list for winter

 The new trailer is working well on steep ramps. It needs to have the 'rope' treatment on shallower ones i.e. I have to chock the wheels, tie a rope between tow bar ball and snubber arm on trailer and then draw forward and let the trailer fall back on the rope. The trailer has to be almost fully immersed and then Arwen floats off easily. Its just an extra five minute job at a shallow ramp and I've become quite practiced at it.  On steeper ramps, it isn't necessary. 

I always rig up and allow the wheel bearings to cool before immersing the trailer. I also pump in additional grease into the bearing hubs using a grease gun if need be. I always do this after washing down the trailer after a launch and before putting the boat back on the driveway. Such quick tasks will look after the bearings and prolong their life. 

Occasionally on a launch, Arwen gets stuck on her trailer. Not always, but occasionally and I've worked out why. Her centre case bottom slot area is quite wide and it occasionally sticks against one particular roller so stopping it from rolling off. Thus the trailer needs one more quick modification. All I need to do is to move the snubber arm assembly aft by around 10 -15cm. This means that the wider slot base will then sit firmly on the last but one roller. This will also increase the rear overhang of the boat and so the stern will get into the water and float off more quickly. Hopefully, I won't then need to use the 'rope' trick on shallower ramps. I just need to find the time to make the adjustment.

Retrieval has never been a problem. Arwen comes on straight if there is no wind and cross currents. The water level has to be just below the base of the first roller onto the trailer. 

Getting a trailer for Arwen was a difficult task and as you can read in previous posts, I looked at lots, consulted a few companies and only Admiral trailers came back with ideas and thoughts on how to adapt one of their stock trailers to meet her 'unique' bottom and hull configuration. They did a good job! 

As always, at the end of a sailing season, Arwen will need some maintenance over the winter and into spring. The list this winter is as follows: 

  • touching up the hull bottom in places where there are odd scrapes and dings from beaching, odd contact with rocks etc. A sand to the undercoat, and then three top coats should do it. 
  • sanding down and re-varnishing the inner coaming area. It is looking 'worn'. Doesn't need to be done but cosmetically it would look better
  • the trailer modification as outlined above
  • a re-varnish 'top up' coat on the mast - done every other year
  • rubbing down the rub rails and resealing with burgess sealer - done every other year
  • a thorough clean before 'wintering her'
  • Not necessary but I might just do it - is to take off the centre board top cap and lift out the centre board so I can check the centre board casings. I did this during COVID lock down but that is now two years ago and little bits of gravel etc will work their way up the sides, so it is always worth checking every couple of years. May need a quick repaint on the inside of the centreboard slot. 
If I had the space, I'd empty her completely, roll her over, sand the entire hull and repaint it, not because it is damaged but because after 14 years, she is looking slightly 'dull'. But then, its only going to get scrapes again next year, so is it worth it? 

I have some white Toplac and I might recoat all the thwart tops etc inside the cockpit. I did the floors with grey Interlux paint and sand additive just over a year and a half ago - so the cockpit soles are all fine. Grubby but fine. 

I don't know about how other boat owners feel about their winter maintenance lists but I always enjoy it. Arwen has done remarkably well - fourteen years sailing and only minimal touch ups. 

Dinghy Cruising Mud larking at Midnight up the river Lynher

 Part One of three about a recent cruise up the Lynher. You can read the blog posts about the trip at  and about day two at

This link will take you to our YouTube channel and the video below if you cant play this one underneath in your browser. 

Up the river Lynher 
'Mud larking at midnight Part 1'

And the part two installment can be found at: 

Up the river Lynher
'Mud larking at midnight? Part 2'