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 April 2014

a definition of ironic

the other day I asked Steve of 'Spartina' fame to explain how the ship had come aground.....he'd posted another superb photo of a very large freighter just stuck on a beach. I wondered if it was error, a storm, a dragging anchor etc. He later posted an explanation....storm and dragging anchor.

So the irony bit.........I ran aground today in South Pool creek in the Kingsbridge estuary!  Now those of you knowing Salcombe will know that Easter is a busy time. Lots of people on beaches, especially during the spell of warm weather we have been having.

And there I was.........stuck on a mudflat.....sails up........going nowhere fast. 

How I arrived at this ignominy  is slightly hazy. Caught in one of those shifting wind positions as a wind squall came off a hillside in a totally opposite direction to the prevailing wind direction; I tacked rapidly to avoid some boats and..........there we were. No warning, no centreboard kicking up......just stuck in four inches of water.

I think it was quite funny......well I do now. At the time it was humiliating!  Still, an oar was deployed as a pole punting tool and slowly we drifted off...only to run aground against five metres further along. The wind had us pinned on that mudflat and the tide was still receding!

Sails were dropped; centreboard and rudder raised; outboard lifted out of water and slowly I poled Arwen head to wind. Then slowly using the oar as a punt pole Arwen began to shift off the mudflats; four inches of water..........eight inches..........oh awesome twelve inches of water beneath keel and suddenly we were free.


Sails raised rapidly and we headed for deeper water. Like towards the outer estuary kind of deeper water. An outgoing tide pushes us along; huge mats of green strand seaweed float by keeping pace with us.

I should have known it was going to be one of those days. I had to wait at the launch slip for  a tri-maran to be craned in. It was impressive boat handling. Anyway, digressing. Back to the fairway

 The East Portlemouth foot ferries ply to and fro across the fairway. Little ribs shoot by, the screams of glee from teenagers carried away on the wind. Families stretch out across the beaches; windbreaks are never seen at East one would be that common! Minimalist is how the Salcombe  beachergoer operates. Shoulder bag and straw mat.

The wind continued to be fickle. The topography of steep cliff sides and valleys between caused nasty sideways gusts. But Arwen coped; she heeled occasionally.....but carried on sailing through. Out in the estuary, away from the cliff sides, winds steadied and Arwen went to 5 knots. We sailed across the outer estuary towards Prawle Point before heading back inshore.

And then we joined the beach brigade.  It was really quite pleasant.



Tuesday, 15 April 2014

a short video of yesterday's sail

found here at

Apologies in advance for the slight fogginess. I need to get some new GoPro anti fog inserts. The cheapies I bought just don't seem to be working. Really irritating. I guess lesson get what you pay for


Sunday, 13 April 2014

out on the water today

we managed 5.6 knots this morning into Cawsand Bay.  Low tide was around 12.30 ish and high tide around 6pm. Just the start of the springs.

Looking at Cawsand

This is Kingsand. In the far right is the clock tower that during the winter storms nearly collapsed into the sea but was saved during frantic through the night engineering efforts

The intention was to sail up the Tamar, turn into the lynher and sail up to Boating World, up one of the Lynher's tributaries. The winds put paid to that....I sort of knew they would.  Straight down the Tamar - north and north, north west.......impossible journey. You'd spend so much time tacking into the wind. So plan B went into operation..........across to Kingsand and then over to the Yealm. The sun shone; the breeze stayed steady at around 10 - 12 knots. It was a really decent sailing day. 

heading out towards the Yealm with the Great Mewstone off the port bow

The new handheld VHF radio (ICOM M-23; floating, small and lightweight) worked really well. It was able to pick up Falmouth coastguard quite clearly which really surprised me. It clips securely to the buoyancy aid. I've still to work out all the various channels and permutations but its waterproof so no more aqua-pack flapping about.

Entrance of the Yealm ahead

I love listening to the waves sliding beneath Arwen's hull. Almost hypnotic, that hissing and gurgling.
It was a good day. Any day on the water is a good day I guess.

Heading deeper into the Yealm, looking for the harbour masters pontoon

found it at last and botched the approach into the pontoon....mental note - always approach into the tide!!



Saturday, 12 April 2014

Some more navigators on their way

Joel reports about a new navigator in Germany. You can read his post at his blog 

One is being built at the Guildford boat yard. Read about it here at 


Friday, 11 April 2014

Casa Batllo

We really liked this house..................

full of curves and a triumph of design and function

lots of surprises..........and 'oh my's!'

Its a fire place

huge amount of care and attention was paid to how natural light would pass through the house

this was the main room

the oak wood style and craftsmanship was exquisite

everything was themed around the sea and water

there was a central light well that carried light from high up off the roof down through all areas of the house......a brilliant piece of design that channelled light throughout the house

the tiles started off darker blue at the top and became increasingly lighter towards the bottom

Space was so well utilised

Huge attention was given to ventilation throughout the house; in the above photo the slots on the right hand wall open into the central 'well' area around which spirals the stair case - air and light came from this central well to all parts of the house

I was rather taken with the design of this sink

and even the ceilings were works of art

in the  garden and out on the roof....the trade mark broken glass and pottery artwork

chimneys cleverly disguised

can you guess what the roof work represents?

think mythical sea dragons.............

Gaudi......artist, architect extraordinaire and genius......

There yesterday and home today.........

Our last morning in Barcelona. But we will be returning.
An early breakfast followed by a walk through the narrow streets of the El Born quarter. I love watching cities wake up; delivery vans manoeuvre for position and drivers rush about with the old porters wheeled trollies delivering all manner of goodies; drinks crates, boxes of fresh fish and veg, barrels of something delicious.  Shopkeepers crouch down to insert keys and the electronic security shutters slowly rise, each decorated with a logo, a mural or some graffiti art work. Workers grab a quick cafe at a local tabac or cafe stall chatting about the football and the local teams.

Outside the cathedral this morning, council workers were already hard at work replanting some small gardens either side of the steps. Large bags of fine, well worked soil were dropped into the area and spread out by rake. Trays of flowers were offloaded from small open backed vans and laid out on the pavement, rearranged and shuffled many times until the head honcho gardener was happy with the planting scheme. The C dels Comtes was empty, other than the odd scootering sneaking across the wide paved expanse.  Tourists had yet to wake but already the temperature was rising and La Catedral offered peace, shade and solitude.

Although not religious myself, perhaps being one of the 'reluctant Christians' I have always been moved by religious building. Monuments to such devotion and belief, their craftsmanship and artistry move me.  La Catedral soared high, huge straight columns reaching into the very heavens whilst around the outside lay the small chapels and nooks devoted to saints. Some of the carving and painting dated back to the 1400s. Lit by gentle warm lighting, the early morning faithful came to pray, to ask for a blessing and to hear the priest incant a religious song. No incense, no pomp, mere simplicity and genuine belief.

From outside the air horns and chants of an approaching demonstration march across the way. Some 'special' police wait around vans, good humoured, a token presence. Perhaps it is a march in protest against austerity measures or perhaps in protest against the Spanish governments refusal yesterday by 299 to 47 votes to accede to the request of Cataluna to have greater independence and autonomy. Certainly the region protests as witnessed by the sheer volume of Catalonian flags flying or draped from balconies across the city. Or perhaps they are just patriotic, like us welsh, who will display our 'red dragon' at the drop of a hat!!

From the religious sanctity of La Catedral to the early morning bustle for La Ramblas.......ah the hunt for a small present to take back to the children......number one daughter ......easy.........a scarf.......number one son........never the airport will supply inspiration!

Back along the sea front to soak up the last of the Mediterranean sun before cutting up through the maze of alleyways and out by the Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar and our favourite little Placa. Sat on our stone bench, under the trees we watch the world walk up......a group of noisy Spanish children, two by two, troop by on a school trip.....well behaved, good natured, all smiles and waves.  Wherever we have been, school trips have been in abundance; animated but well behaved, respectful of other pedestrians. Their teachers still wear the look of 'the frazzled'. And the naughty ones are held by the arm by the oldest matriarchal teacher present....the naughty destined to spend time in their company. Ha!

Tiny little street cleaning cars, known as " noo- noos" in our family, after the teletubbies, wash the streets clean of dust. And Barcelona streets really are clean...well all the ones we have walked along have been.

And so it was time to leave, reluctantly. Another few days would have been grand but that is for a return visit.  Into the uber clean and empty Estacio de Franca and onto the ultra clean train that departs on time. First Great Western....take note!  A quick change and a prompt arrival at the airport. From station to cafe in terminal two.........40 minutes.....easy!

Good bye sunshine; good bye 22 Celsius...........

was it only yesterday?

A good day in Barcelona always starts with a coffee on a street corner somewhere

followed by a stroll along the streets to see the sights

not quite as old as our motovespa "Stacey" but still quite cute....if you like vespas that is

a shrink wrapped beastie which I was unable to find out more about

and then I managed to find some proper wooden boats

the helmsman was excellent on this vessel.......clearly an old seadog

emerging between the palm trees....was a lovely view!

as usual I have no idea what type of ship she is......but she is beautiful.....and very well maintained

there was even some nautically themed street sculpture to admire as well