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

Monday, 18 January 2021

The new astronomy....sorry.......... coffee table

 To accompany the garden chairs, we need a folding coffee table. Having just invested in a new telescope, which will be used on the terrace in the upper garden area, the furniture will forthwith become known as the 'astronomy' furniture. Hence it isn't a coffee table - its an astronomy table. 

I may even smuggle it onto Bryony our motorhome!

The two Kentucky stick chairs
You can find details about how to build them at 

Putting in the cross struts on the coffee table top

Sanding done on the top - time to sand all edges and the base

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Lucky to live where I do

 A few photos from my daily national lock down bike ride circuit

Looking southwards out over Bovisand Beach - often sheltered from Easterlies

Looking west towards Rame head peninsula, out over the eastern arm of he breakwater

Caffeine fix.....sssh.........I'm banned from caffeine! 

Looking across an empty Plymouth Sound towards Cawsand Bay and SE Cornwall

Looking north west over Drakes Island to the entrance of the River Tamar. Plymouth Hoe is to the right in the distance, Rame Head and Cawsand are to the left hand side on the horizon

Chancing one's luck down on Mountbatten Breakwater at high tide

The end of  Mountbatten Breakwater - the white tower recognisable to all local boat people 

The hidden nooks and crannies around Turnchapel on the southern shore of the River Plym

The public landing steps at Turnchapel 

The entrance to Hooe Lake on the eastern flank of the River Plym in the Turnchapel/Oreston area

Down at Oreston, further up the Plym 

Saltram Country Park - overlooking the tidal flats area and looking down the Plym towards the Cattedown

All the photographs were taken in superview on my new GoPro Hero 9. Not bad for an action camera are they? 

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Kentucky Stick chairs and national lock downs

 Well it was inevitable really.

I was bound to finish the Kentucky stick chairs and cushions on the day that a new national lock down was suddenly announced, with no chance to get out and visit the local timber yard. 😀

So I'm out of 'projects' to do over what will be at least eight weeks. I am off to raid the 'odds and sods' bin to see what I can turn up and then, off down to the local beach area around two miles away, to scavenge what flotsam driftwood I can find. I am very lucky to live an hours walk away from a small tidal inlet beach. It isn't the cleanest, safest or best viewing beach but it does provide plenty of driftwood due to its orientation at the end of an estuary. 

Three projects come to mind 

- some shelf units for our motorhome to go in the bathroom wardrobe at the top 

- a small coffee table to go with the Kentucky stick chairs (although initial searches online have turned up no free plans whatsoever, so I may have to wing it and design something........and we all know how that option on various things has turned out in the past 😟

- a driftwood fish, porpoise, bass, sea horse or some such marine creature; an attempt to tap into any lurking artistic side of me (not holding out much hope there given my abysmal drawing efforts) or perhaps some pebble sculptures. I found these on a brief internet search and can say categorically now I won't be attaining these high standards. 

Fortunately I am also signed up to an online website design course as well. 

Arwen sits forlornly on the drive. Last year I managed only five trips out in her.  I have had to cancel one planned new year eve's overnight trip due to local restrictions and now a planned trip along the coast to Salcombe, for next week, falls by the wayside as well. I will not be able to get out on the water until March if the Port Authority implements the same monitoring and restrictions it did in the last major lockdown last March and April. 

so, adding to the list 

- maintenance opportunities on Arwen

- extensive trailer maintenance programme 

- and possibly, a boat tent - if I can get suitable material at a reasonable cost; and/or a cover to slip along the furled sail on the boom so that if it is wet, there are no drips coming into the boat under the cockpit tent

I am very fortunate. Retired with an intelligent, warm, funny,  wonderful wife who makes me laugh every day; a lovely house with a massive garden, a variety of wildlife and with stunning views from the front window; plenty of local walks and bike rides to keep us both fit and sane on our doorstep. 

I am very pro this lock down. Here in the UK the virus is now completely out of control, particularly the new variant. We have over 50,000 new cases each day and sadly, our death toll is once more rising rapidly. A failure frankly, by government, on many fronts, not least on our supposedly 'world beating' track and trace system; and frankly, also the stupid behaviour of a whole swathe of people who failed to use common sense or follow social distancing rules in the lead up to Christmas -  but this isn't the time to recriminate. 

It is now the time to stay, home, protect the NHS and save lives. 

I am thankful that my colleagues still working in schools won't be going back into very dangerous situations with minimal PPE, having to administer covid tests on all their students - such a stupid, impossible demand anyway. There just wasn't sufficient people available to do this and as for the idea of asking students to administer their own tests? Well with no disrespect to our nation's teenagers - have you ever watched them trying to stick a worksheet into an exercise book? I rest my case! 

I am glad the government has come to its senses and cancelled examinations and moved to teacher assessment. I feel sorry for all those pupils and students who will miss school and their social networks and particularly for those examination groups with the uncertainty this now causes for them and the possible impact it may have on university applications. Having taught for thirty six years, I really do know how much that one will hurt them all. I am hopeful that schools can bring in vulnerable and at risk students and those of key workers and perhaps there is a case to bring in disadvantaged children so that catch up programmes can be implemented. 

And, I definitely understand the impact facing all parents today, unsure about work, trying to work from home and juggling online home learning with, in some cases, minimal technology available. The prospects of rising heating, food, utilities and technology bills for many will be overwhelming. 

As for those who live in inner cities - in flats and apartments, bed-sits and small houses with no garden's, my thoughts are with them all. I cannot possibly begin to understand how tough that will be on these people and families. 

Our hopes now lie in the roll out of the vaccine and on our wonderful NHS staff and other key and front line staff whether they be in the public sector or in our care homes; in our supermarkets and shops  keeping our food supplies rolling and on the shelves or across our road network delivering goods and keeping our technology and utilities operating. 

We are ahead of the curve on vaccinations compared to the rest of Europe. However, the promised 2 million vaccinations a week seems an impossible hurdle to achieve; a promise from a government which has overpromised so much and underdelivered on just about everything thus far. The shortage of glass vials and only having one national vial filling entre will compound this further. 

The complete loss of confidence by this country in its government is  astounding but not surprising. The most recent polls show that if there was an election tomorrow, the government would lose its 80 seat majority and the PM would actually lose his own seat. Confidence in him is at a record all time low.  

With children, nieces and nephews and sisters all being front line NHS, teaching and key workers, I worry about them all. With so many friends in nursing, police, social care and education, I worry about them as well. They are all remarkable people and once more, as a nation, we are asking them to do the almost impossible; which they will do yet again with professionalism, kindness, decency and integrity. 

When all this has cleared, when we return to the new normality, I sincerely hope our nation does not forget the debt it owes our key workers - our shop and supermarket staff, our delivery drivers, our care workers, our farmers and pickers, our public service staff in all areas of health, social care, education, law enforcement, accident and rescue and armed services. Some of my friends and colleagues working in these areas are some of the lowest paid in our society and this has to change. 

This pandemic has taught us who the nation really relies on in a time of great crisis. It is time we rewarded them appropriately with proper pay, status and professional development opportunities. It is ridiculous that so many of our key workers suffer from 'in-work' poverty and have to rely on food banks, in what is still the nation's sixth most wealthiest economy. The average care worker earns less than the minimum national wage and has practically zero professional development opportunities. And yet, we charge them with one of the most important tasks in any nation - the continuing care, enrichment and development of our elderly citizens.

Let 2021 be the year that as a nation we come to our senses. We stop over paying our politicians. We stop the stupidity of pay in the premier league. We stop CEO's of companies earning such stupid bonuses when their employees are on minimum wages. We stop the curse of in work poverty. We eliminate the need for food banks. An we stop the silly talk about there being more people in jobs than ever before. It isn't jobs we should be providing - it is careers! People want to know that whatever employment they do there is a sensible level of pay, sensible career options, respect for that particular field of employment - from both the public and employers. This needs a complete mindset change. 

Here is an idea - why don't we take all the government planned investing in infrastructure (other than for housing and green renewable energy developments) and invest it in social capital instead. No more new roads, bridges and railway lines for five years - more housing, more teachers, more doctors, more nurses, more better paid care workers; investment in community projects, community enrichment programmes. Putting people and social capital right at the very heart of any investment project for the next decade; building our national resilience for the next pandemic. Lets devolve more powers to the regions and ensure that central government is forced in law to listen and consult with them more formally and frequently. And lets make sure we get to grips with the issues of climate change - lets make COP21 count for something when it takes place in Glasgow later this year. And finally lets diversify our economy so that we are more resilient to such future events. 

Of course, I am naïve. I know I am. It is wishful thinking on my part, but I just wish we could learn from 2020 and make the changes for the benefit of all parts of our society. That we have the courage to break with old political dogma and ways of doing things and we creatively use and build on the opportunities that have been given to us. 

As I said, I'm very naïve. 

Friday, 1 January 2021

Happy New Year

 Well glad to see the back of 2020. My plans for being out up the Tamar tonight and tomorrow night took a tumble as well as we were placed into tier three and so no overnights anywhere. I have had mixed reports that the MOD/marine Police are/are not enforcing that with boats on the Tamar - so basically I have no idea there! 

So, I guess it is time to do some maintenance on Arwen and also start thinking about building a new boom tent. I was going to buy a shed load of material to do the job until my wonderful wife had an inspirational idea. we have a caravan cover which we have never used. It has been boxed up in the basement. Never yet seen the light of day. So, later on today I will investigate what material it is. There is the possibility that I will get out of it a boom tent, a boat cover, two covers for my new garden chairs and a new cover for the existing garden furniture. 

Just have to hope that 'her-indoorses' sewing machine can cope with it. 

Meanwhile January 1st brings us iced roads. Where we live has two steep-ish short hills at each end of the road. neighbours have been out gritting the road from the grit bins strategically placed along the road but conditions are still treacherous. We may be stuck in a couple of day as we are on the northern facing slope of the valley and with steep garden slopes and woodland behind us, the winter sun can barely rise high enough to get into the garden! 

Anyway, I wish you all a happy new year and sincerely hope that 2021 brings you better fortunes and joy all round. 

Meanwhile off to feed the squirrels (again) and rescue the local small bird life. The little pond needs de-icing. And then, I have thirty house steps to de-ice - oh joy! 😄