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, 26 July 2018

Bristol Harbourside festival 2018

Some pictures from a very enjoyable weekend - the annual harbourside festival of music, poetry, prose and waterside events

Almost think you were in Paris......................

The Royal Navy Patrol boats proved a popular attraction 

A couple of tall ships 

One of the old dockside houses 

a small boat show

One of these has been converted by the City council into a B and b but I couldn't find which one

maritime details...................

The old heritage of Bristol docks 

For Dad..........

a reminder of his employment roots..........

Original GWR Dad!!

making your live-aboard stand out 

A mug of tea and plenty of wood and varnish - what more is there to life?

Nick Park's take on Brunel?

competitors for the cardboard boat race

Rescuers for said race waiting by.....

Discussing tactics......sink or swim?

calm before the storm

getting the waiting crowds into a frenzy of anticipation................

the start.........a 1940's fire boat from WWII

will the cardboard cutter win?

Time spent out on the water is time never wasted................

A splendid sight...................

the junior cardboard boat event took an unexpected turn........literally...........

Almost ready, starting the count down

it was surprising how many sank on entry to the water..................!!

Valiant effort...........................

superb jet ski stunts from the British and European champion.......

250,000 visited Bristol harbour side over the weekend.......

salvage........I wonder what it is worth............

the most popular attraction on Saturday - the Newfoundland Dog rescue team.....awesome.......

standing by......just in case......

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Dinghy cruising: Leaving Treluggan boat yard

Episode 5: an early morning departure from Treluggan boat yard

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Dinghy cruising a Welsford navigator: Episode 4 - reaching our overnight stop at Treluggan boat yard

I hope the videos are not too long or boring for people. Let me know if they are. Constructive advice is always welcome. 

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Dinghy cruising: episode 2 - sailing up the lower river Lynher

I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did sailing it ...........................

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Dinghy cruising: sailing the River Tamar and its tributaries: Episode 1 - setting off

There is something exciting about planning a simple camp cruising voyage. In the preceding weeks leading up to the departure, food stores are bought on a drip feed basis; a ‘little something for the trip’ added to the weekly grocery shop. Jellies with mandarin pieces. Oat muesli bars. The odd packet or two of mixed cashew nuts with dried cranberries and sultanas, a peculiar mix I know, but one that suits my strange palette.
Then there is the passage planning. It starts with a vague notion of wanting to go somewhere. My small craft almanac gets leafed through to find suitable tides and the family calendar checked. Yes, a few days unaccounted for in family life that coincide with suitable early morning and evening high tides. Opportunities to be seized.  

Google earth gets pored over. A possible passage route scrutinised for sheltered anchorages, alternative camping sites, interesting creeks to explore, mudflats to avoid.
In the few days before Arwen and I set off, Arwen is cleaned, her equipment and rigging checked and everything unpacked and re-stowed along with the additional camp cruising gear not carried on normal day trips. Her outboard gets started up and trailer rollers are greased appropriately.  Food stores are assembled, the galley box packed. The emergency grab bag is opened, its contents individually assessed and repacked.

In the two evenings leading up to voyage day 1, the pilotage and detailed planning takes place, based on the most up-to-date forecasts and tidal information. My little waterproof notebook gets filled in with tide times, sketch maps, buoyage details, important phone numbers and is added to the other pilotage equipment I carry in a small waterproof bag, a plotter, compass, handheld GPS, dividers and a few commercial flipcharts of useful skipper notes and reminders.  

And then departure days dawns. June 25th 2018.

A 0730 departure for the local marina QAB, arriving at 0800. Arwen is rigged and checked; everything securely stowed. Ditty bag and day snacks and drink easy to hand. Launch fees paid, a quick chat with boat yard staff, some of whose children I have taught or wives worked with.  
Arwen slips off her trailer easily and floats well, her trim fore and aft well balanced albeit slightly lower than normal given the extra supplies. She drifts slowly across the launch ramp to lie alongside the floating pontoon with barely a bump. With little wind and no other boats launching, she is moored with stern and bow warps only and lies there in the sun, a pretty boat often admired by those with bigger boats moored on finger pontoons further along, as they walk by to and from the marina office and local cafes.

After warming up the outboard, we ease out into the Sutton pool area and pass the tourist boats and water taxis. No motoring into Jennycliffe bay today. The moment we clear the old quaysides, sails are hoisted and we set off across the front of Plymouth Hoe, making for a string of large yellow visitor moorings that lie in the lee of Drakes Island. Sailing straight onto the first mooring buoy under mainsail and mizzen in the gentle ESE breeze, I allow myself a fleeting congratulatory moment. The aim of this voyage is minimal use of the motor and objective one has just been achieved. The sail was raised the moment we cleared into the Cattedown. Job done! of course, it will be a proper job done when I raise sails at QAB pontoon and sail out of Sutton harbour. But I have yet to develop the confidence to do that, and yes, I know, if I don't try it one day, then how will I develop that confidence?

Its 9.40am. The little yellow log book says ‘depart mooring cans 10.15 at start of incoming tide’. The heat is building, the sun intense and shade is little. I pore over the chart and the log pilotage notes. GoPros and cameras are checked. A camera mount moved to a new position. A litre of water is consumed; sun cream reapplied. It is going to be a hot ’un. I try to fix in my mind’s eye the passage notes and little sketch maps showing key buoys, bearings, distances and times.

Low tide 1.4m 1052          High tide 4.9m 1654          Low tide 1.4m  2315          Tidal range 3.1m
Small craft moorings to West vanguard starboard channel green can 273 deg Mag  0.5NM with a tidal stream of 090 deg at 0.2kts.

Sails get raised, flapping in the building breeze. We drag the big buoy down the starboard side and unclip and stow the short painter with its Carabiner hook. The jib is unfurled and and we drift off to port, leaving the mooring can behind; rudder and centreboard down we pull away on a gentle reach before doing a gentle gybe onto our first course stage. We are off, powered by gentle 6kt breezes from the ESE. The camp cruising voyage begins.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Dinghy cruising: sailing the river Tamar and tributaries - the start of a journey

Well here we are. The first in a series of vlogs/videos. This first one is a slight departure from my normal approach, more commentary and slightly longer length. The sound occasionally has some faint background noise due to a malfunction with my camera and mic that I only discovered on my return but it is audible. Anyway, as always, it is a video diary for my future 80 year old self, but comments are always welcome.

The next leg of the journey, part two, up the Lynher, is less commentary and more sailing in serene, stunning scenery. Look out for that sometime next week along with a short vlog on using the galley box on board Arwen.

Have a lovely weekend when it arrives and 'Com'on England'!

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Dinghy cruising: Fixing the cracks and building a dinghy sleeping platform

How does one deal with a wobbly bit on a transom bracket? A 300mm long x 3mm across crack in the wood which wobbles under engine vibrations caused some consternation last week when motoring back for an afternoon appointment across a rather choppy, windswept Hamoze against a building spring tide. My how that wind shifted around and built unexpectedly!

Having just repaired and strengthened the transom bracket a few months ago over winter, it is clear I am both a poor designer and carpenter.

Anyway, this morning, several cuppas were consumed whilst I worked out the least amount of work needed to make a better job of it this time around. I have concluded that a new piece of 9 mm epoxied and screwed onto the back of the broken bracket bit,  along with some galvanised steel corner brackets to reinforce corners will do the job.

So, the ply panel has been measured and cut with curves cut out along its top where the outboard bracket tensioning screws will sit. The paint has been chiselled off the back of the broken piece so that there is a bare surface for the epoxy to adhere to. Tomorrow epoxy gets mixed, the new piece gets clamped and screwed on. Epoxy fillets at the corners and then the whole thing is left to dry. After sanding, there will be three coats aluminium primer, 3 coats Prekote primer and then 3 coats Toplac.

It should all be fixed by the end of next week. A mildly irritating but necessary lesson about navigating upper creek channels and submerged logs!!

On a brighter note, the new sleeping panel worked a treat. Built over the winter it comprises two uprights which are made of two ply squares which slot together to form an upright cross affair.

the sleeping platform itself  - slots just under the thwart coamings

Across these two sets of 'X's lies the flat sleeping board. Everything is cut to shape and contour to fit nicely in one side of the aft foot well.

here are the two 'X' pieces - ignore the piece with the semi circular curve in it - that is a deck mast rest for transporting mast. The two 'X's' un-slot and collapse flat. The flat board rests on them. All is cut in such a way that the board fits under the thwart coaming lips under tension.  

It all collapses flat pack style to fit neatly on the floor, strapped in all secure. Thanks to Joel Bergen for this brilliant design - appreciated Joel - thanks buddy.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Dinghy cruising: sailing up to Cotehele, a taster!

'Good things come to those who wait.........'

In the meantime a snippet reward for your patience

Blog and vlogs to come over this month