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, 5 November 2015

Life is meant for sharing

A coke zero with ice and lemon slice, a roof top terrace bar with comfy chairs, two divinely tasting forentinas and a view across roof tops towards the setting sun.

The silhouettes of cathedrals, the bells of churches ringing out across the city at sunset. A sky of purples, pinks, greens and blues. Below the noise of life, traffic, car horns, the odd siren.

It doesn't get any better than this.........well yes it does..........when you are sat next to the one you love and your best friend rolled into one......sunsets are definitely made for sharing cuddled up with the missus on spectacular rooftops


Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Barcelona waterfront life

love it or hate it, Barcelona's waterfront is indeed thought provoking on so many levels....from the densely packed narrow streets of Barceloneta to the Olympic marinas, cable cars high across the docks, IMAX cinemas and novel sliding bridges.......plenty to see, gasp at, shake your head over in deep consternation.................

So the Missus and I were lucky enough to have an old friend offer us her boat for a week. A modest affair, a sort of up market cruiser with skeleton crew. Hey, who are we to turn down a luxury freebie!

I confess I found it rather ostentatious in all truth; drinks at the Ocean Club each evening! Only so many G and T's  a man can take!

Ok! Ok! I'm lying. We stayed at a budget hotel in the El Born Gothic quarter.....but a man can dream can't he? Had some of you going though didn't I!!!!

To be truthful I can't stand boats like this. Give me a classic wooden boat any day. Mind you, I wouldn't have said know to a trip on this one................

....and I did like this little boat as well....although I can't articulate why.......!

Can't say this sculpture particularly grabbed me........

and let's face it - I found this 'thing' down right weird................

It was nice to see old traditional craft being moved about.................

And I would certainly recommend a visit to the maritime museum..........

wooden subs...........

glorious wooden models

rather inspired use of shipping crates as exhibit displays and cases

an excellent history of surfing at Barcelona exhibit

here is a nice medieval galley.......a model

and here it is fully lifesized!

some nice sculpture..........

Outside on the waterfront was a very interesting standoff between immigrant street traders - about 100 of them and 14 maritime port police officers who clearly had the audacity to move the traders across the road so that they became the city police problem, not that of the maritime police.......tense but fun!

and then of course, the tourist entertainers......just plain impressive........

Pretty sure I taught him last year!


They came from all quarters, on scooters, walking, riding on the back of pushchairs, on the back of mopeds. The streets were filled with lively chatter and laughter; of intense conversations, parents bent low whispering intently. Smiles filled the streets competing with the early morning sun's rays.
They came dressed in all manner of clothes, Asian saris, burkas, track suits and jeans. Little backpacks depicting cartoon characters gripped tightly. Mothers stopped at the gates to chat, fathers gave children big hugs before heading to work. Children skipped through the school gates. The large tenement blocks disgorged their young inhabitants into the monastery school at the heart of the housing estates, the tenement quarters of El Raval district. At the school gate all religions met, from Sikh to Catholic, Islamic to Buddhist. All ages, all races, all religions, a multitude of languages. 

School gates are the same the world over. 'Be good'. 'Have a great day'. 'Do some good learning'. 'Have fun, work hard'. As we sat, lost in unfamiliar surroundings, we realised they weren't unfamiliar at all. To two teachers with 64 years teaching experience between them, it was business as normal. Tag was played in the playground. Football dominated the centre, children whispered conspiratorially on the fringes, all smiles and laughter. Another school day with humour and fun and intense inquisitiveness...and always the possibilies.........the next diplomat, nurse, engineer, inventor, architect, pilot, astronaut, care worker, business woman, firefighter, cafe waiter, artist, musician........endless possibilities, how exciting is that?

Three things struck a privilege it is to be a teacher.....and two........on that street today everyone was Spanish, European, another nationality too. Most were bi-lingual, many tri-lingual.  All seemed comfortable with their multiple identities. 

And three? Isn't it a privilege to be part of a continent of such diversity...............we are all European citizens.....and in Britain we need to be prouder of that than perhaps we are.

We are back in Barcelona......already lost.........and loving it!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

It started so well

.......but ended in trauma. A twenty mile ride out on 'Stacey' our 1971 motovespa across the moors started the day. Wales losing by four points to South Africa. Traumatic. Deeply traumatic, especially when the boys played their hearts out.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Life lines

I've discussed life lines before. Now here is one which is simple and effective I think! I may add this to the winter list of things to do!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

All done....

compass repaired, rather nicely, if I say so myself. New mounting position with all holes filled and sealed. The downhaul cleat for the centre case has been offset to one side. Moisture has been wiped away and cushions removed to the garage. And that has got me thinking about winter jobs

  • Sail batten pockets are unstitching so they need to come out and over to a local sail loft for some TLC
  • The trailer needs TLC too......bearings need checking; one of the rollers has broken and one has come lose. 
  • Having moved fittings around on the boom, I forgot to fill some holes! Don't say a word, very poor boatmanship. 
  • My sleeping platform needs attention and to be truthful, I'm thinking of trying out Joel's flat pack version which sit on the cockpit floor when not in use
  • I'm looking to recut the tent as well to make it easier to put up and down. I am taken with Joel's idea of hanging water bottles as weights
  • The mast needs resealing in places too. 
Then there are spring Easter sailing plans. I would next year like to

  • Sail from Plymouth to Darthmouth and up the Dart, taking the boat out at Totnes. 
  • Go the other way down to Fowey and up to Lostwithiel and back again
  • I'd like to trail the boat to other places too. Milford haven looks interesting. I'd quite like to sail a big lake as well and further along the coast Poole Harbour and the Solent..... And finally the Helford......that one is unfinished business left over from the summer

Saturday, 10 October 2015

A mishap

Last time out in Arwen I fell abruptly and managed to bash my kneecap. My poor old steering compass took the brunt of the fall and somehow, and somewhat inexplicably, the sealing ring around it came off. The actual compass glass ball remained intact and works. So a quick scrap away along the ring of old sealant and a quick dash to the marine chandler for some new stuff, now sees the compass repaired and functioning again. I also broke the clip that holds it in place and that has been successfully superglued. Now I have to fix it back on the boat but I want to find a new position for it. I am thinking of mounting it on the centre case cap but I wonder if the lead in the centreboard will affect it; or the screws that hold the centre case cap down. I guess the only way is to hold it in place and use another hand held compass to check the deviation on this one. So it's time to go testing!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Dinghy cruising: GoPro floaty cam - version one

well here is version one

Dinghy cruising: How to get video of your boat sailing!

build one of these! Cost just about a tenner. Made of plastic gas pipe and push fittings and a swimming noodle. It floats. It's stable. You can adjust camera position. It doubles as a stable camera stand in the boat or on the deck.

You just have to get over the first hurdle! Throwing it into the water and then watching it drift off! On the other hand, it will certainly sharpen up MOB drill and retrieval won't it!

You can see more here on Kyle Martin's GoPro channel.

I'll let you know how I get on with it! Am in the middle of making one now!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Feeling dim but getting a handle on things............

So I'm can I have sailed Arwen for seven years and still not worked out reefing? Well lots of fair weather sailing. Nough said!

So what have I just learned?

Keep the snotter loose when raising the sail. Then tighten up using downhaul and then tighten snotter to move boom aft until sail sets nicely with no creases. No wonder I get creases in the sail! Joel thinks this will loosen the leech and allow the yard to stand more vertically. Yes it will. Pity I didn't see that over the last seven years. 

Making sure the throat is lashed tight to very bottom of the yard and halyard tied at one third up the yard will help.  The loop of parrel beads needs to be a little tighter to keep the yard closer to the mast. I need to make sure that the parrel beads are down at the tack as well!  Next, after reefing the tack returns to its normal position with lots of downhaul tension but not so much that it causes creases. Then the yard goes back up but not to its higher original position.

On getting into position, I tend to heave to but Wayne suggests I go head to wind, furl the jib and sheet in the mizzen. He also noted that after easing the snotter and downhaul, I should lower the halyard by the same amount as my reef. Moving the downhaul up to the reef grommet, the halyard should then be raised until the tack regains its original position and then really tension the downhaul. Then my slab reefing pulls the aft end of the boom up to the clew grommet. Finally the snotter is re tensioned. All I need do then is tie up the reef lines in the sail.
Avoid tightening the snotter before the downhaul to ensure no I've been doing that the wrong way for seven years. Well there we go......amazing how stupid I am!

My deep thanks to Paul, Alan, Wayne and Joel. I never ceased to be amazed at how kind and generous people are in giving their time and advice so freely.