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

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

A long overdue spring clean

A spring clean - some thirty years overdue - very nice to do. Basement is now cleared and reorganised. Study has been cleared out and is now about to be refilled with what we want to keep - so decluttering all downstairs rooms - wonderful! the garage will be cleaned, decluttered and organised tomorrow and Thursday. And then I can start building a workbench on wheels in preparation for my building wannigans for Arwen.

I'm beginning to like this retirement malarkey thingy!

stages in the filling of a skip

The paint pots got removed and what could be taken to the local recycling centre was
We made over twenty trips to our recycling centre - filling the car each time

The basement finally organised after 30 years...with dust sheets ready to cover all the shelves. There are another 10 similar shelf stacks in the basement!

When you have reorganised, there are bound to be things left over - 50 crates and around 60 lifetime shopping bags - now where exactly do we store these?

The first few weeks............

It has felt like a very long time since I have sat down and blogged. So much has been going on in recent weeks.  

My end of term retirement didn’t quite go according to plan. On the Tuesday in the final week, I felt it was unlikely that OFSTED would call so at 8.00am I dumped all remaining teaching folders, assessment data folders etc; I stripped the walls of displays ready for the new teacher.  The school received the OFSTED ‘We are coming tomorrow’ call at midday!

My retirement party for after school laid on by the geography team got cancelled in favour of an OFSTED pre-visit briefing meeting. So did the year 7 pastoral team ‘goodbye’ down the pub on Wednesday after school.

I got one visit…. rather funny really. When asked to present any lesson plans, assessment data, data about who our SEN or pupil premium students were I couldn’t. I had tried. Let’s face it being found dumpster diving in a large school bin on wheels in the pouring rain on a Tuesday afternoon around 5pm must have seemed especially funny; given the guy in the bin was in a suit! I did trawl through the day’s detritus but to no avail; those folders were deep, deep, deep at the bottom of that bin!

To be truthfully honest, I found the whole affair very funny. And I am really glad they came. The inspector who visited me was human and saw the funny side of the whole affair. She went off evidence of good progress in all my students’ exercise books. I think the banner across the back of the room made by my head of geography and his wife, God bless them, probably hinted to her where I was….it read ‘happy retirement Steve’.  It meant that all my wonderful colleagues didn’t have to go in to their summer break worrying about coming back to an imminent inspection. We won’t know the result until September but they won’t be coming back for three years or so and the school has been making huge progress over the last year or two.

The Friday of that week was sports day and that turned out to be funny. We do sports day off the school site at a proper athletics track over the other side of the city. Many coaches ferry over the students in convoys and it’s a big event in the school calendar. The field is raised about 25m above another smaller field and car parking area below and a large, steep grassy embankment separates the two. On this lower area, we were rather surprised to find some police officers, an airport landing land rover with flashing lights and some rather black official looking cars, one full of plain clothes police officers. Cut a long story short, Royalty was visiting the city in the form of Her Royal Highness Princess Anne. As the helicopter duly approached all sports ceased and nearly a thousand students lined the grassy embankment peak to wave her in. One of my colleagues snapped a photo of me and the helicopter in hover mode behind me with the tag line ‘Princess Anne coming to thank Mr P for all his years of service’………the rumour spread like wildfire, students immediately reached for phones ready to tweet to the world……. we just managed to stop an embarrassing moment for the school from spreading across the world. Phew!!  Well, we found it funny, I guess you had to be there. Her highness waved at us all, the pilots came up with the local police to see what was happening up top; we all waved her goodbye when she left. We all got another royal wave. None of us were quite brave enough to pop down and invite her up for a tea and a medal presentation or two…. maybe next time!
HRH Princess Ann calling in to say 'thank you' to me on my retirement after 35 years teaching service to the nation.......or maybe not!!

The following week, activities week proved to be excellent. Water sports with the Mountbatten water Sports centre at Plymouth is always guaranteed to be a huge success. Sailing, gorge walking, canoeing, SUP’ing………. the only incident I managed to break my very expensive waterproof SONY mobile phone when leaning against a bulkhead to rescue a student about to slip off the deck……. the phone was in my outer PFD pocket and the screen fractured badly along with the touch screen – beyond repair. ‘Her indoors’ was not, I repeat, NOT impressed. I was allowed a new phone but I have been severely, severely demoted in the phone stakes. I think the new one is clockwork! I lost all my navigation charts – they didn’t copy across – very annoying!

My first week of retirement was spent with family, one of whom had to spend a few days in hospital but was eventually discharged and is now recovering at home. It was good to catch up with family despite the circumstances.

The second week was spent rescuing a collapsed fence outside the back door. Our outside seating area seriously dilapidated, it needed a quick make over. New fencing, some shuffling around of garden furniture and hey presto – our eating area is back. Sad, it is mainly showers during our summer isn’t it!
Before, with ivy stripped back - the crumbling fence and collapsing concrete old fence from the 1960's

The 'cleared' back run along the house rear

the refurbished seating area

And now here we are – week three of retirement. The garage is ready to be emptied into a skip; the upstairs bedroom, a study full of shelves and folders and books for the last 27 years is now empty, ready for skipping. All that could be recycled has been done so. The basement, untouched for 27 years has been emptied, huge piles waiting to be skipped. My canoe build, ‘Angharad’ has been found against under a mountain of old cushions and duvets.

Over the next three days we will skip everything, and I do mean ‘everything’ that hasn’t been touched or used in the last five years. The kids have been dragged back from university and their job to go through their bedrooms too!
There are another 'sixteen piles' like this one...and the skip arrived as I am typing this blog update...and we don't think it will be big enough...oops!!

Come the wet months in November, each room will be redecorated. New carpets in some rooms. We haven’t decorated for over a decade! New start, new beginnings, next phase of our lives beginning anew. Looking forward to it. Planning trips to China, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and West Coast USA…. not all at once I hasten to add!

Oh, and I have ‘booked’ four days cruising in late August in Arwen. Very big spring tides, early morning high tides, perfect for beaching overnight. Just haven’t decided where to go……. along the coast…. Fowey up to Lostwithiel? Or Salcombe and over to Dartmouth and up to Totnes? Or maybe up the Tamar to St German’s and then up beyond Calstock? Three days sailing and overnight on board….so needed!!!


Monday, 17 July 2017

And finally retirement arrives

Well I taught my last lesson on Thursday.
And OFSTED arrived for those last two days as well so both my retirement do's got cancelled.

Well it was inevitable! I was responsible for cursing the school and thus us getting the phone call mid morning Tuesday. I relaxed and threw away all my assessment folders, assessment data intervention plans, last of the teaching folders and my mark books 8.15am that morning in the school's dumpster bins!

It was bound to tempt fate too much! Ce sera sera.

I worked an average 55 hr week for 34 years - some 73,000 hours. 20,000 hours were unpaid overtime - it comes with the territory. It was a privilege and immense honour to work across such great schools and with so many fantastic students and teachers.

And now there is one week left doing sailing, SUP, kayaking and gorge walking activities at our local water sports centre with a great group of teenagers. Thursday is my last day and then it is over. I have no plans other than to sail a bit, redecorate the house and clear garages and basements; then whatever 'her-indoors' has on her list!!!!! So that will be 2017 over!

I will be building some wannigan bins for Arwen's front cockpit; plus a galley box for stove and utensils; and a provisions box for....well food provisions and water. Watch this space for further details.  Hope to be out on the water in Arwen next week with a few days camp aboard

Monday, 10 July 2017

flying on Sheepstor - flight four

getting to grips with it slowly!

I am so lucky to live in such a stunning area.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

navigator for sale here in the UK

If you like the design, and I hope you do, here is your opportunity to buy one in the UK.
A lovely looking example, built just after Arwen I think

over on ebay at

I hope the gentleman is able to sell her easily and that 'Cariad' goes to another good home. 'Cariad' is welsh....a term of endearment!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Dinghy cruising: cruising equipment - What do you carry in your boat?

I know........there is bound to be something I've missed off.  Charts, navigation equipment, it is all there somewhere!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Xiro Xplorer Mini drone - unboxing

New toy - possible retirement present. For travel voggling.....well that's what I tell  myself. 

A portable 'selfie' drone. Never flown a drone before - this should be very funny!!

First impressions - angry looking cyloptic wasp!

Packaging - so irritating - the wastage - must be better ways?

Portable - will fit in backpack. Can be carried on in 'carry on - hand luggage' on plane (I checked!!)

Don't go a bundle on colour but it is pretty rigid and will do the 'protecting' job

Well designed - drone will fit snuggly and be well protected. Space for little screw driver but not spare battery. I carry this kind of battery in a fire proof bag anyway so it isn't a problem

Came with two batteries but getting spares is proving to be a nightmare. Despite all their literature promising excellent service with service centres across the globe, plus all their support videos 'Just get in touch with us' - it took ten emails and harassing them on Facebook before I got a reply to be told they won't do spares for the mini drone - despite all their literature hinting otherwise. frankly, very poor form and manipulative....a pity it has had such excellent reviews but clearly all the reviewers never look at issues like obtaining spares. Lesson learned!! And their XIRO customer service thus far has been, to say the least, poor! 

Another minor irritation is that the battery takes an hour to charge, which is pretty good, for a drone of this type; the 12 minutes flight time is pretty good as well but the irritation is the fact that it has to be a wall charger and there doesn't seem to be any provision for in car charging, or charging from a laptop or a mobile/tablet battery pack like my solar power monkey expedition. Hmm! Who are these designers - have they no understanding of peoples' needs? How hard is it to provide a battery that can be charged in multiple ways?

Well - maybe. All the reviews and YouTube video reviews were pretty positive and all we want is to be able to do some aerial shots and selfie shots and some closing in and flying away scenery watch this space.

in the meantime if anyone knows where they sell spare blades and batteries - please, please let me know!
Get your act together - start sourcing spares for the mini again!
Or change your literature to be less misleading!

Thank you.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Getting to grips with technology

testing the 'follow me' programme on the drone.........

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Test flight three

number one son enjoyed it! I had to 'extract' the mobile from his hands. Worryingly, he picked up the flight basics within a minute or two. So I think I will need to hide this drone away when he is around!!!!


creating an introduction for my Youtube videos

I am trying to improve my YouTube channel; no idea why - just feel the need to!
There has been new channel art; new social media contact buttons and now I am playing about with channel branding. One possibility is to play the same intro clip or a slight variant on it at start of every is my first effort using the most basic of video editing software, and actually my favourite, moviemaker.

Drop me a comment and let me know what you think if you feel inclined. As always, constructive feedback always welcome.