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

Sunday, 22 January 2017

It was going so well

Rarely use ebay so I have been very careful when selling 'Stacey' our MotoVespa to make sure the listing is as honest as possible, detailing what we have done to restore her and what her blemishes are. We included photos of damage, two video clips of her running. We tried to be as detailed as possible.

We had over 1000 page views and 40 people putting her on their 'watch list'. We felt we were asking a fair price but had also said we were open to reasonable offers.

So this morning, I took her for one last very short ride around the village to check all was still running smoothly......and her throttle on the handlebar broke! It turned right over itself so I couldn't shut throttle off. Came as hell of a shock! At a road junction too.

Cut long story short, the little lug inside the headlight casing is aluminium and part of the casting on an old scooter. This had suddenly fractured through old age allowing throttle handle to rotate over itself and so stretch the throttle cables. A real pain and very dangerous.

So I have ended the ebay listing. I am sure I will take flack on this one but it strikes me it was the right thing to do. I could have continued and reduced the price but then someone might have continued to drive her and then caused or had an accident. Although it would have been their choice to do so, I would have felt responsible. I have a friend who can weld a new piece in somehow, he thinks, even though it is aluminium.....he has an idea apparently......but that is a few weeks away as he is snowed under with other work.

We can wait. We can trailer 'stacey' up to hi in a month or so and she can get fixed and then we can start again. She has never broken once since we restored her a few years ago..........and now she does just as we try to sell her.

I wonder if she is trying to tell us something?

Saturday, 14 January 2017

A farewell to 'Stacey'

My son has decided to sell 'Stacey' our much loved 1969 motovespa 125 super. She doesn't get out much, I don't have the time. He is away at university and so never uses her and he wants money for a it is time to hand her on to someone who will get as much fun from her as we have had. She isn't a proper restoration. The toolbox is the wrong one for a start but we were naive restorers. The main thing is it was a good father son project with lots of memories.

Her is a clip of me visiting Tavistock a couple of years ago.

I guess it is time to post her on eBay and other suitable sites and we will try local scooter Facebook pages as well. It is hard but we all move on. God knows what I will be like if I ever had to sell Arwen! 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

just occasionally I get lucky

It doesn't happen very often. Only twice to be fair. Once, a long time ago,  I walked into a MUSTO shop and they had a rack of sallopettes priced at 80% lower than what they should have been. An absolute bargain, seriously rock bottom mis-priced and I bought one pair there and then. The store manager put up all sorts of objections but in the end had to sell me them for that price because legally that was the price on the ticket, even if it were a mistake! I did feel guilty for several days afterwards but with time the guilt has faded. MUSTO have done well out of me over the years! And to be fair - I could have bought all eight pairs mis-priced and resold them on ebay...but I didn't because I felt some ethics were needed somewhere. Two other people behind me got a bargain as well before the correct prices were put on remaining items. I suppose I could have bought the lot, sold them on ebay and donated profits to charity but at the time I didn't think of that.....wish I had.

Anyway, for only the second time, another piece of luck.
 I was very pleasantly surprised to discover a DB action camera 1080HD reduced from around £70 down to £15 on a well known website! I did do a double take several times but I took a punt and it arrived today. And very nice it is too - it isn't a GoPro quality but it will do for what I want. It came with a good array of accessories and the film quality is pretty decent, certainly up there with my SJCam 4000.

So now I have three action cameras and that means I start doing a bit more creative videoing. Very thoughtful Christmas pressies from my parents - gopro clamps and tripods will also help enormously.

 I like videoing. It is my visual diary of the trips I do. I can analyse them for mistakes, of which there are plenty. Good people like Joel and JW occasionally feedback on them with really helpful tips on what is wrong and what I could do to correct things. Some people just criticize them openly without offering any constructive help and hey that is fine too. I still learn.

I intend this year to try and make my videos more professional and thoughtful. I don't have much sailing knowledge to be fair and limited experience in terms of sailing so perhaps I don't have anything useful to say or show. On the other hand, when I started out knowing nothing and basically almost self teaching myself, any video clips from anyone were really useful, inspiring and thought provoking, showing as much what to do as what not to do, if that makes sense.  Some gave me great insights in to areas that I could sail in as I built up my skills, a sort of passage planning tool and insight to go alongside google earth, google maps, charts etc.

I am limited by the software I use - mainly microsoft moviemaker - but it does the job. Occasionally I use GoPro Studio or one or two bits like Imovie on my ipad....but moviemaker is intuitive and I use it a lot as a teacher, so I stick with what I know for now. Eventually when I retire, then I will have more time to play about with something more versatile and complex.

This year I will just focus on trying to get ' a story' for each video clip; perhaps a more defined focus and purpose for a trip. Maybe the sharing of a trip's experiences and what I learned or failed to learn and should have.

The videos on my YouTube channel have always primarily been for me, a visual record of our voyages together, Arwen and me; a place to store them and access them easily from any device. Some people like them, some don't. That's fine.
However, if you like them or think they have any use at all; if you think they can be improved or have any suggestions for video content, remembering my limited sailing knowledge and skill level, then drop me a comment. As always, constructive advice and thoughts are always most welcome and I will try and act upon them.

In the meantime, I will while away a few 'snatched' hours thinking of different camera angles and positions and possible storyboards for this year's sailing trips and videos now made possible by three cameras and some thoughtful Christmas present clamps. 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

So here I am.....

Sitting at home under the duvet with a severe head cold. Blocked nose which streams, weeping eyes, mother of all headaches and chest infection. It is exhausting being ill! A good start to 2017. So New year resolution one......take multivitamins each day, eat more fruit, eat less rubbish and move more!

NYR 2: remember to tie on the main halyard further forward because that makes the yard aft heavy and removes the diagonal crease in Arwen's mainsail, which has been a consistent feature for several years.

NYR 3:  ....and these are in no particular order by the way..........start work at 6.30am. Finish at 5.40pm. Work through break and lunch and if it can't be done during a full working day, then don't do it......because idiots are asking you to do the impossible.

NYR 4: stop working five hours every Sunday.

NYR 5: spend the weekend doing exciting things. Plan it a week in advance and spoil her indoors more......she deserves it.......take her out mid week after work (do people actually do that kind of thing? I've seen it done on the continent......but here in the UK? Wow!)

NYR 6: try to attend one dinghy cruising association rally this year.

NYR 7: do five 'Friday night launches' and camp on boards......returning Saturday afternoon so that you can then work five hours the next day because you know you are a teacher and NYR 4 is pie in the sky, wishful thinking! As is NYR 3. But Friday night camps.......well that is possible!

So in summary, eat less, move more, take the missus out frequently, sail often, do good things for others every day and stop being a boring workaholic fart! Now how hard can this be?

Happy New Year everyone. May you achieve all your resolutions and I hope 2017 brings you happiness, prosperity and fulfilment.


Sunday, 25 December 2016

Christmas traditions

in our house I am often the first to rise. I like the peace and quiet. It is my time to catch up on the papers and news online. One of the stories which caught my eye this morning and one that I have been following for some time is the revitalisation of tomb exploration in Egypt. For a few months now, archaeologists have been digging down to discover a new tomb in the valley of the Kings. Last week they managed to break through into an ante chamber and yesterday they managed to break through to a new room in which they discovered a tomb. I cannot begin to image the excitement for archaeologists at moments like this. As a closet historian, it must be so exhilarating. Anyway, I digress. What caught my eye this morning is that they have opened the tomb and discovered a mummy. This is the first discover of a fully preserved mummy for quite some time. What has made this a particularly interesting discovery is the fact that this mummy is very very old, predating many others found in the valley. Even more remarkable is the fact that it was covered in chocolate and crushed hazelnuts. Archaeologists confirmed this morning with much excitement that they have now indeed found the lost tomb of Pharaoh Roche.

Merry Christmas everyone! May your day be full of joy, happiness, fun and love. And may your cracker jokes be better than this one.
Best wishes to you all
Steve and Arwen

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The passing of AA Gill

I was saddened by the recent death of our journalist and critic AA Gill. His writing has been evocative, critical, funny, acerbic.

However, in his last piece for 'The Times', he made this statement.......and I have come to realise it needs to go on my classroom wall in massive font so that every single geography student I teach sees it, reads it and understands it.......... . I hope I have instilled in my own children the same understanding, even if I didn't express it with such eloquence...............

"I have always encouraged my children to be inquisitive, to get out there, to see the world. We only pass this way once, I tell them, this globe is where you live, not just this corner of this one city. See your birthright, meet the neighbours, don't just leave your travelling to the TV and glossy magazines"

Amen to that! 

Sunday, 18 December 2016

a winter sail

The fog hung deep in the valley as dawn rose, the grey blanket punctuated by vertical grey irregular pillars of smoke from early morning coal fires. Breath froze instantly in white clouds of vapour and it took more brute force than normal to remove Arwen's tarps. Stiff and unyielding with fallen leaves frozen to their outsides, the tarps crackled, their white frosting shattering into myriads of little jagged fault lines. The thin ropes tying the tarp to the trailer were as unyielding; knots frozen solid, refusing to allow a millimetre of slip in a rope. Fingernails and tips became bent sore and raw as slowly their heat thawed frozen string.

The car door refused to open, welded shut by a white rime of frost. Swirly broad leafed patterns intricate across the roof and windscreen showed how cold last night had been. Once the invisible door weld had broken, the engine coughed into life and then purred quietly, the interior fans coming to life breathing warmth to the windscreen. Before long, trickles of water started, each one a meandering rivulet finding its own path down the screen to the waiting wiper well.

Exhaust fumes lay heavy near the ground, unable to rise through the sinking cold air. The smell of diesel permeated the street's crisp cold air whilst lawn grass, way too long, because its growth had been ignored since September, bowed heavily, each blade laden with frost crystals reflecting rainbow slivers of dawn light. Further down the street the eerie fog blanket muffled the sounds of a waking road, the greyness interspersed with the neon glow of new street lamps, their triangular downward facing arcs giving glimmers of hope in a dull, dull streetscape.

The gossamer delicate threaded spider web that hung between winch handle and trailer coupling was admired for a time, minuscule droplets hanging in perfect formation from its hair like threads, before that too was gently brushed to one side. "Sorry Mr Spider!" I always feel guilty about that.

I have no idea why I decided to get up at 7am this morning and go sailing. Who in their right mind would go in the gloom with a promise of 2 knots of wind and temperatures barely above 2C? Even at QAB marina at 9 am, Drakes island was hidden by a dense grey fog bank where the warmer waters of the Tamar met the cold, cold air from the north. It wasn't exactly appealing!

But I'm glad I did. Sometimes it is worth the effort, for behind that fog bank lay sunshine, gentle breezes, stunning sunny reflections on the water and crisp visibility. An empty Plymouth Sound with an almost mirror like quality to its surface. Sometimes it pays to persevere!

Merry Christmas everyone. I wish you and all your families a good festive break. Thanks for joining Arwen and me this year and please do join us on our voyages in 2017. 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Robert has been remembering when he built 'Annie'. A master craftsman in his own right, it is always worth reading Robert's ideas and take on things. He, John, Joel and my good friend Dave are my 'go to' guys where boat building is concerned.

On a different note, poor Arwen has been neglected and lies forlorn on the drive. My sail trimming skills are taking a bit of a beating on an online forum, justifiably so I guess since most days I have no idea what I am doing when trying to set the mainsail on Arwen, despite expert advice from John, Joel and others. It is pouring with rain; I've got nine or so hours work to to do over the weekend marking, lesson planning and trying to get to grips with the insane workload that seems to befall those in education at the moment and I have just broken a bandsaw blade trying to finish off making dozens of small log reindeer for a charity event on Tuesday......and I don't have a spare blade. It is clearly one of those weeks!

With mock papers to mark, test papers from all other teaching groups to grade and basically around thirty hours marking to complete this week, Christmas is feeling a very long way off. Hopefully, then, I will get Arwen off the drive and go for a sail, irrespective of the weather. I'm needing some 'space' as 'her indoors' puts it

Monday, 14 November 2016

Hold onto your hats

enjoy this film of a navigator sailing in, er, challenging conditions........!

Thursday, 10 November 2016

A few more videos.....

From Roger Barnes, President of the Dinghy Cruising Association. He promises more to follow. Classic, simple, elegant and packed with sound advice and experience. High quality and well scripted with a unique presenting style. If you have read his book on dinghy cruising, then you know what to expect.
Enjoy, and thanks Roger. Video clips of this quality take considerable time. Much appreciated.