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

Saturday, 27 November 2021

Winter cruising up around Cotehele Quays

 Had the opportunity to pop up to Cotehele with my parents last week to see the annual Christmas garland in the main hall. 

This year they have gone for a minimalist look and it works well 

At the end of the day, I always think Cotehele is still my most favourite National Trust property

Loving the mosaic art work this year
Be nice if I could get sharper photos with my smartphone but today my handshaking seems slightly worse. Ho Hum. 

Took the opportunity to pop down to the quay as well. Thinking ahead to some winter cruising up the Tamar. 

Surprised to find the Tamar Barge Lynher stored up here under wraps for winter
You can find a video of her out on the sound here:

Meanwhile 'Shamrock' remains under wraps but all the exterior awning over her has been removed. I am assuming they have finished restoration work on her. 

I have often tied up at the quays at the top of a spring tide on my way up or down to Calstock but I have never dried out at Cotehele. This was a great opportunity to see what I might dry out on, if I were to contact the NT and ask if they would mind me doing so one night. 

From above, it seems that the three quays have an area of flat mud at the top of a sloping mud bank, just wide enough for Arwen to be tied alongside. 

The steps area where I normally tie up are out of action. Fencing has been put across the steps in several places thus making access to the quaysides difficult. 

Of course, the moment you stand sideways on - it becomes a little clearer. Those slopes are quite steep and the area of flat mud at the top of the slopes, not as wide as one thinks 

The plants continue to thrive in the limekilns 

I have some plans for some winter cruising around the Tamar and its various tributaries, particularly to some old quaysides that might provide some really good dark sky areas for stargazing and astrophotography. 

Friday, 26 November 2021

Should I be worried?

 SWMBO: "Now you have a new trailer you ought to take Arwen out"

Me: "I will in the next few weeks. I've missed sailing"

SWMBO: "You ought to Take Arwen out this weekend. It would be a good blog post 'Arwen goes out in storm Arwen'. You are well insured so I won't be worried".

😨 !

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Trailer modifications all done by Admiralty Trailers of Honiton

 A 'well done' shout out to Admiralty Trailers. We always knew getting Arwen to fit on her new trailer would be by trial and error. She's a 'beamy' lady to say the least. 

This morning, on arrival and after brief initial discussions,  I was dispatched to a local cafe for an hour .... The Aviator at Dunkerswell aerodrome ..... coffee, a bacon roll, a chat with a small plane pilot and some banter with first time skydiving jumpers on their coffee break. A very pleasant, good-humoured and informative hour. I learned loads. 

On my return the team had fitted three spacer bars to lift the frame higher up on its axle. Now there is plenty of hull clearance over the mudguards.  They also moved the wheel axle forward to give better balance and nose hitch weight. They adjusted the support bunks to a better position under a junction point where three internal thwart bulkheads meet and I got some tips on how to tie Arwen down better and more securely as well, so that she wouldn't move forward or sideways under extreme braking conditions. A winter project will be to make some side deck support blocks which are slightly higher that the coaming and the full width of the side deck. The ratchet straps will go on these rather than across the coaming. 

The drive back was quite illuminating. No rattles, less swinging (although that was very marginal anyway); the trailer is a single beam one so it does flex slightly more than the old one. In the rear view mirror the bow looks as if it is permanently shaking very slightly but its only the beam flexing a little.

 This had already led to a discussion earlier about where to store the two anchors, their chains and rode when going to and from the slipway. A bit of a fiddle but the anchor trays will now go amidships either side of the centre-case and then on arrival at the slip I will move them forward and strap them in their normal place. It will take just a few minutes. 

We couldn't find an appropriate place to bolt on the spare tyre and apart from which we all had mixed views on whether the spare wheel should go on the trailer or not. They are easily stolen unless locked on with a bike lock; if put horizontally they collect rainwater and the rims start rusting etc. I'm opting to just carry it in the car boot. 


So, all being well, back on the water from the end of next week. And, an added bonus, practically all of the hull is now accessible for sanding and painting touch ups.  

My thanks to the Admiralty Trailer team and Tony in particular. Well done guys. Much appreciated. 

 Before shots - you can see that the gap between hull and mudguard was marginal to say the least. When you started to push Arwen along the trailer, the beam midships hull area just scrapped the top of the mudguards. 

After shots - the spacer bars under the spine and the outer frames. This gives around 4.5cm clearance above the mudguards now and the boat slides along without scraping the very top of them. The bunks were moved further outwards as well. 

Again, its trial and error and we will see how we get on this this new arrangement. is the gap big enough? Only at the slipway next week will we finally know. 

At the end of the day, I have got a good quality trailer for the budget I could afford. Yes, it will require practice at getting her onto that first roller and lined up during retrieval but if I take my time and chose my slipways and tidal conditions wisely, I should manage reasonably OK. 

The whole process from discovering my stupidity over neglecting my trailer during the last year and a half of various lockdowns, through to trying to understand what trailers I could get for the budget I had, through to understanding the various in's and outs of hull configuration and trailer design have been a steep learning curve. Regular readers of this blog and viewers of my YouTube vlogs will know that my understanding of anything mechanical or engineering' technical; or anything to do with boats frankly, is 'limited'.  Ask me to solve a problem relating to such matters and we could be there for sometime given my unique ability to overthink and overcomplicate the simplistic 😀

However, on this occasion we got there in the end. My deep thanks to Tony and the Admiral Trailers team, to various blog readers and to some members of the Dinghy Cruising Association forum for contacting me privately to give me tips, advice and encouragement. Your discretion in sparing my blushes and showing up my complete lack of nous and knowledge is deeply appreciated. You all know who you are - thank you. 

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

CAD plans for John Welsford boats

 Good news - if you want to build one of John's boats - you can now get the CAD plans. Working with Joel Bergen, the plans are available for purchase and download. Go to Joel's site at

for all the details and some examples that can be downloaded. 

Absolutely brilliant news and well done to Joel and John. 

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Final trailer adaptations

 The final trailer adjustments have been made before we head the 60 miles up the road to the trailer manufacturer to have the new spacer bars fitted. 

Both me and the trailer team have agonised over the best way to do this and we concluded that fitting spacer bars and adjusting the trailer bunks and rollers to fit Arwen's unusual bottom shape would be best.

The issue is that sat on her keel rollers, Arwen only clears the top of the mudguards by around a centimetre. So under the advice of the trailer team, I have been cutting up closed cell foam camping mat into layers and duct taping them to the top of the mudguards. This is to prevent them scrapping the hull. 

adjusting the support bunks one more time using the car jack

I will then drive up 'slowly' later this week and we will fit the axle spacer bars and do the final adjustments. 

I'm just hoping the tape will hold things in place when we go up the A38!!

That means that from the end of the week I can start sailing again. I have several winter overnight trips planned locally; some of them will be specifically to do star gazing from some dark sky beach areas. 

As always I will post here my trip logs, photos and vlogs. 

It will be good to get back out on the water again. I've missed it. 

Sunday, 14 November 2021

Whilst waiting for the boat trailer to be sorted

 Well, sometimes you have to give new things a try ....... 😄

..... and welcome back Orion. 
First effort this season .... still much to learn. Not so much with capturing images but the post processing of them. 

Looking forward to some winter overnight sailing trips up the rivers to some little dark sky beaches I know where I can dry out and have a go at some more landscape and celestial astrophotography.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

How do you configure a new boat trailer?

 Collective wisdom of hive mind please. And be kind please! Remember 'we don't know what we don't know!' 😁


Arwen is on her new trailer and I have to decide what to do with these bunk supports to get her to sit correctly and safely. The entire boat weight during trailering will be all on the keel rollers.

So I'm guessing these bunks just help stop the boat tipping one way or the other? Should they also be arranged to stop lateral movement of the hull when on the trailer as well (even though she will be tied on securely midships and at bow)? 😕

With no engineering nous whatsoever, how should I best orientate these bunk supports?

1. as they are, running length ways or turning them 90 degrees so that they run width ways across the hull bottom? And a) if width ways...with the post lean in towards the skeg or outwards towards next plank chine? And b) the actual bunk beam with its pivot bolt head  facing forward or facing the stern?

2. keeping them running along length of hull but moving them either inwards or outwards? And again, if so, a) leaning inwards..or leaning outwards? And b) the bunk pivot bolt head facing inwards or outwards?

3. moving the entire bunk position so that it is clamped to the outer part of the trailer 'A' frame near the mudguard and so that it runs lengthways along the hull and goes under the next plank up, just past the chine join with the hull bottom boards?

4. Are they correct length if they aren't bearing much weight?

5. Are there any other options with the configuration I have missed?

Similarly, with the keel rollers, I need to move the one with the side rollers as well - back to its original position at the very rear of the trailer - because thats where it belongs. But, do I need to (A) put an extra roller under the wider centre case area to support the centreboard when travelling - or if I have winched up the centreboard tightly into its case and secured it - (B) do I need to support it beneath at all?

As always, having only ever owned one boat trailer before, I clearly have no idea!

Any help and guidance much appreciated. The trailer manufacturers were very helpful but they did warn me that some fiddling around would be needed to get Arwen secure on the trailer given her bottom configuration.

Sail trimming and trailer setting up - dark arts - dark arts indeed 😕😁


After asking for advice on two dinghy cruising Facebook forums, I gained the following useful advice

1. move the bunk supports outwards and also forwards so that they go under the bulkhead at the rear of the centreboard case

2. if possible angle them so that they go up to the next plank up and face slightly inwards - this way they will act as lateral supports

3. leave a 2mm gap between each support and the hull side

4. if possible get longer supports - 750mm and two extra vertical supports and then set up as above

5. try to turn down or tape the ends so that they don't dig into the hull as the boat comes onto the trailer

6. wrap them in foam and also some carpet off cuts

One or two people suggested rotating them 90 degrees and placing them under a bulkhead area in the boat. this was a minority suggestion. The overwhelming view was to lengthen them and add additional uprights forward. 


Well when we pushed Arwen along her rollers - the hull hit the mudguards as we expected. A phone call to Admiral trailers and plenty of after sale care reassurance. They always expect issues with every boat trailer outside of a specific class design. They were expecting that there might be an issue but weren't sure. 

Two solutions were proffered with a favoured one.

A) spacer bars under each of the keel rollers

B) make up a three layer, 40mm thick, galvanised spacer bar to rest across the top of the axle. The whole trailer frame sits on the axle top - so it and the boat would be raised up by 40mm. 

B is the favoured method. Fortunately a neighbour may be able to help. He restores old minis and VW campers and has axle props, trolley jacks and a very impressive tool chest of all sorts of sockets and tools. All being well, if I can persuade him to help, we lift up the main trailer frame with the boat still on it and put it on axles prop stands. We then drop the axle, slide in the spacers and with new U clamps and bolts, clamp it all back together again. The idea is the frame will sit 40mm higher on the axle, giving sufficient clearance over the mudguards.  

Watch this space! 😄😟😀

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

A new boat trailer and how to transfer a boat from an old trailer to a new one

 Well, before I could get out the camera to take one last photo of my old trailer, the scrap guys had lifted it onto a low loader and whisked it away. A blink of my eye and it had gone. 😥

Not before they had wobbled each wheel and declared " the bearings and hubs are shot to pieces bud". 

Really? Go figure, I didn't know that! Dur! 😉

Arwen sits on her new trailer. There are still a couple of adjustments to do regarding height adjustable rollers at the front so that her skeg sits properly on the rear most keel roller. This will also require further adjustments to the bunk supports. 

But here is the thing.....this morning I pushed Arwen on her new trailer back off the car ball hitch on the flat road outside the house   ..........  with just one hand. 

Seriously, one handed, the entire boat and trailer moving backwards with barely any force from me. I reckon the new trailer is half the weight of the old one. Now, okay, Arwen is empty. But even so.....the trailer rolls sooo smoothly! 😁

My new trailer is from Admiral Trailers up at Honiton. Regular readers of this blog will know I don't promote any company but on this occasion I am going to do so. 

From the moment I made contact, the discussion and service has been exemplary. Tony gave me two hours on a recent visit discussing my boat configuration, dimensions and what kind of trailers might be suitable. We looked at a fair few types discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each. He got to grips fully with my particular problems of limited road turning space and steeply sloping drive. We examined the 'grounding' potential of different trailer designs, did loads of measurements on different trailers and slowly weeded out the inappropriate ones. Tony proved thoughtful, knowledgeable, curious and reflective. 

Suffice to say, the new trailer reversed back onto the sloping driveway with no problems at all. Plenty of clearance at the front and rear. 

The video below gives a little overview summary of the trailer and the adjustments I had to make to get Arwen to sit correctly. 

Essentially, I altered

  • the winch post and winch post snubber arm for a better fit and to allow the bowsprit to be kept on permanently
  • the support bunks height relative to her keel depth
  • the position of the various keel rollers along the length of her keel

Arwen's transfer from one trailer to another was done by three of us and went reasonably well. There was that one unfortunate moment when for some unfathomable reason the old trailer suddenly dropped down, leaving Arwen partly suspended. She immediately dropped suddenly onto the rear most keel roller and immediately bent it out of shape so that the roller couldn't roll. That needed a repair. Having positioned the various rollers I also decided one more keel roller needs adding under the centreboard case area. Fortunately a trawl through my 'spares' box found one that will do the job well. 

At some stage in the next week or so I will go down the local slipway and float Arwen off the trailer so that I can make the final adjustments and check that all works as it should.  I will also get the opportunity to work out the best, easiest ways of launching and retrieving Arwen. 

I also bought a spare 10" wheel for the trailer and have to decide whether to attach it to the trailer frame (there is room between winch post  and bow bottom for it to lie flat across the main centre beam). There are pros and cons to this. At the moment I think, for me, the cons outweigh the pros. I'd have to find some way of fitting a simple number dial bike lock to it to stop people from removing it when the trailer is left after launching. lying flat, the wheel rim is likely to collect water which will lead to rusting.  Maybe it is just easier to bung it in the boot instead? 

Thank you to the Admiralty Trailer team and to those of you who follow the blog and/or are members of the Facebook Dinghy Cruising Association group. Your advice, encouragement and tips were invaluable. I learned lots. Thank you. 

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Unable to sail so I divert my attention elsewhere

 With a trailer off the road, a lovely long spell of nice northerly winds and autumnal sunshine and pods of Atlantic porpoise off the Great Mewstone just outside the breakwater, it is very frustrating at the moment. 

Very frustrating indeed. 

So I have taken the opportunity of cloudless night skies to do so more astrophotography down at my local beach, Wembury. 

It is a Bortle 4 sky with the orangery glow of Plymouth light pollution to the north. But over the last few nights I have been blessed with some lovely views of a crescent to half moon, all orangery-pink, low in the sky; so low in fact, it has set by around 10.00 ish pm. Lovely silvery yellow tracks across Wembury Bay. 

My equipment is simple enough

  • a skywatcher discovery 150i WIFI telescope with GOTO mount
  • an ioptron skytracker pro tracking mount
  • an unmodded canon 800D with two kit lenses (18 - 55mm and 55 - 250mm); and then  24mm and  50mm prime lenses
  • a carbon fibre tripod
  • a joby gorillapod
Over the last couple of nights I have been targeting deep space objects on the tracker whilst enjoying wonderful views of Jupiter, Saturn, globular clusters and various nebulae on the telescope. 

Astrophotography is a completely new hobby to me and I only started it six months or so ago.  There have been lots of dark cloudy skies since but below are the efforts from the last two nights. Enjoy. 

This is a shot of the galactic core of our own galaxy, the Milky Way and I was very lucky to get it. The galactic core is now disappearing from our view over winter and there is only an hour or so when you can get a shot of it at this time of year . Even then it is low on the horizon. 
Camera settings: ISO 800, 24mm F/2.8 50 photos at 45" each on ioptron tracker

Our Milky Way galaxy is a barred spiral galaxy and if we could look down on it we would see a central bulge area and four rotating spiral arms out of it. The galactic core is the rotational centre where a black hole exists. We are 26,000 light years away from it. The photos of light hitting my camera sensor on Sunday night started their journey 26,000 light years ago, so the image you see is what the galactic core looked like 26,000 light years ago. 

Our Milky Way has a visible diameter of between 100,000 - 200,0000 light years; contains an estimated 100 - 400 billion stars and at least as many planets. Our solar system travels at 515,000 miles per hour and would take 250 million years to go around the entire Milky Way. 

Andromeda galaxy
ISO 800  at 180mm, F/5.6 50 photos at 50" each
All stacked with dark and bias frames in DeepSkyStacker and then processed using Affinity Photo

and here is the finished processed image
Sadly I have no idea about the fundamental workings of Affinity Photo - it is a steep learning curve even with the textbook and YouTube tutorials so this is my first effort and it does show

Andromeda is the closest spiral galaxy to our own; 200,000 light years across in diameter, it lies 2.5million light years away from us and can be seen as a distant little smudge in the sky just below the constellation Cassiopeia. 

Last night I had a crack at M45 Pleiades otherwise known as 'The Seven Sisters'. It is an open star cluster in the constellation Taurus, containing very hot B-type stars which are blue and luminous. They formed 100 million years ago and the blue reflection nebula around them is thought to be an unrelated dust cloud. 

Photo capture details were ioptron tracker and then 200mm F/5.6 ISO 800 and 40 photos of 50" each. As you can see, my post processing skills are lamentable and progress is slow, but hey, I'm I have the time to learn eh? 

First effort and I over sharpened things and stretched the image too much

Same data but second processing effort

Same data, third effort. No special effects. 
If you look closely you can just see a slight discolouration outside of the immediate blue. I think there is more data to process there, but I have absolutely no idea how to do that without losing the data I have already processed in the image

Have I said its a steep learning curve is this astrophotography malarkey?
It is almost as dark an art as trying to efficiently set and trim a standing lug sail yawl! 

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

A new trailer update

 The date for collection has been arranged. The trailer has been built and some adaptations to a base model have been made. You can see what the base model looks like here in a previous post at

There are some adaptations being made to the base model and these include: 

  • 750kg weight and 500kg payload
  • a gap between mid tow ball to horizontal road below 430mm (so that when reversing onto my sloping driveway from road and pavement I should have 130mm clearance between base of trailer neck and road/pavement to prevent grounding
  • four keel rollers (the middle two fixed height and the fore and aft adjustable; and with the middle two rollers being wider ( 7” or 8” width rollers) due to the centreboard casing width)
  • 10” wheels and a spare wheel to carry in the car
  • two black rubber chock supports (possibly roller type) – adjustable height and tilting angle – able to fit either lengthways along hull or across the hull for additional support and lateral stability
  • The entire boat on trailer length fitting into a space 590cm long by 190 cm wide. (This includes the provision for the bowsprit and outboard bracket (BS = 94 cm long forward of stem and with addition end gap to coupling front edge to protect rear car window; OB extends 35cm further back from the transom rear.) This may necessitate fitting a longer central box section spine than on normal TL500 trailer
  • hull sides clearing the mudguard tops
  • there may be some boat overhang and I will need to adjust the boat along it to account for bowsprit clearance – so the overhang cannot be yet calculated – but we were talking of a trailer length of 5.40m and a possible overhang in the region of 50cm maximum in order to fit onto the driveway space of 5.90m
  • exploring whether there would be a way of ensuring that the boat stem engaged with the first roller immediately when retrieving to make the process of getting the boat back onto the trailer straight – more easier

All the measurements are based on our discussions when I visited the factory plus the A2 plans I provided at that time.  Also, I received lots of useful advice, tips and encouragement from some members on the Facebook Dinghy Cruising Forum. 

We have looked carefully at how to transfer Arwen from her old trailer to the new one and this is the plan we are going with. Simply, we will have the old trailer with Arwen still on her outside the house in front of the sloping driveway. The rusted nuts holding the winch stem post in place will have been soaked with WD40 for two days previously. The new trailer attached to the car will be placed in front of the old trailer.

We will then remove the winch post off the old trailer and lower this trailer down at the front onto a block so that the coupling is below the back of the new trailer. The new trailer will be reversed to overlap it slightly and then the jockey wheel on the old trailer will be removed. 

All being well, we will then attach the winch strap on the new trailer to Arwen's bow eye and then winch her forward so that her bow comes to rest on the rear roller of the new trailer. With people supporting her either side, we will then continue to winch her forward.  

At this point we then will probably have to do some adjustment to the front keel roller height and the winch post position on the new trailer.  As we move Arwen forward onto the new trailer, we should arrive at a situation where most of Arwen is on the new trailer and only her transom is left resting on the forward keel roller of the old trailer.  Hopefully by then, we should be able to pull the old trailer backwards and finish winching Arwen forward to the winch snub post on the new trailer.

Then we need to do the last adjustments on the new trailer so that she sits correctly against the winch post snubbing block; sits correctly on the keel rollers; adjust the height of the rear most keel roller and then sort out the side support rollers.  The critical dimension is simple. Arwen sat on the new trailer, from the tip of the coupling to the rear of her outboard bracket cannot exceed a length of 5.85m. Any more and she will not sit on the driveway. 

(The alternative, probably better method, is to just allow her to slide off the trailer down onto some car tyres or cushions and then winch her up onto the new trailer from there. However, with a very narrow road and limited space, and the need to be able to move either trailer immediately in the event a bus comes along, I will go with the transfer from trailer to trailer method. In this way, unless the bus comes along just at the very wrong moment (boat midway on both trailers), I should be able to quickly move boat and trailers around to create sufficient space for the bus to squeeze by.)

I have found a scarp dealer who will come and collect the old trailer on a low loader for free and take it away. We are keeping it around until the following week just in case any problems with the new trailer crop up, although there shouldn't be. I supplied careful measurements (quadruple checked) on an A3 drawing plan showing not only her length and width dimensions but also the rocker curve on her bottom hull. 

I think we have covered everything although I have to say I am quite nervous. At the moment my greatest worry isn't her fitting on the trailer. She will with some adjustments. Its that funny coupling connection and the angle of my sloping driveway up from the pavement outside. I am just praying that as I reverse the trailer off the road, over the kerb, off the pavement and onto the driveway, that the front part of the trailer doesn't 'ground'.

If it does, the only think I can think of is to cut up some old car tyres and strap it to the base of the trailer to take the abrasion. It will literally come down to a matter of two or three centimetres! 

Fingers crossed then! 

If all goes well, I hope to be doing a few short winter sails before the end of November, weather permitting. These include

  • finishing off my sail around the River Plym and all its hidden little corners
  • overnighting up the river Tavy at Bere or Lopwell dam area
  • overnighting up Kingsmill creek on the river Tamar
  • launching at Salcombe and doing an overnight up at Frogmore Creek and/or Kingsbridge itself