A blog about sailing a John Welsford
'Navigator' yawl around Plymouth Sound
in South-west England
Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and i am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's battery marina in the barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England. Arwen has a YouTube channel of her own. Search "plymouthwelshboy".
Our arrival was noticed. It was noticed by the wading birds
on the edge of mudflats; the herons motionless and poised to strike, their gaze
intense and focused on the shallow pools and runnels that slowly filled with
the trickling advancing tide.
The high pitched, shrill, screech of the buzzard announced
our arrival as it ghosted through the viaduct arch on its way south; hugging
the mudflat marshland on the east bank, it’s wings gently whooshing as it past
a few feet overhead; its call a ‘wake up’ to both man and beast.
Arwen’s arrival at St Germans was noticed by the small
throng of people gathered at the quayside to admire the view. The welcome, genuinely
warm. “How far have you come?” “What a
pretty boat, what is she?” “You are planning to camp onboard, excellent, what
an adventure”. “Where are you planning on mooring?” “Are you adventuring
further up the Tiddy; you should be able to make it up to Tideford….but really
hug that first outer bend”.
Advice was proffered about appropriate places to beach but I
already had my spot in mind. Wanting to vacate the pontoon quickly for the
stunningly beautiful little wooden motor cruiser that had followed me up the
last section from the bend in the Lynher where it goes up to the Treluggan yard,
I briefly answered questions, made my apologies and dashed across the grassed quayside
to the slipway.
Ah, just sufficient tide, but not as much beach as I’d hoped
for. A string of small trots lay across the beach and they would impede access.
Further north the oak trees had grown down to the water’s edge, a further
impediment to landing. But, there was just enough mud/shillet on the north side
of the slip for me to slip in and ground Arwen for the night.
Dashing back across the quay, dodging the boats, ignoring
the pretty waterside cottages and their immaculate window boxes, I was well
aware that the little motor cruiser was having difficulty manoeuvring. With barely
any room or depth of water where boats were moored, her skilfully skipper and
crew had picked up a mooring on their second attempt in a gap infinitely
smaller than the boat itself.My shouted
intentions to vacate the pontoon and take to the beach were greeted with welcoming,
if not relieved, smiles. It had been a display of boat handling and seamanship
of a very high order.
Arwen glided to a halt. Her nose gently pushed down in to
the soft mud alongside the slipway. Held by her stern anchor, dropped into the
channel as I had approached and her bow painter, she slowly moved side to side.
I was pleased with the stern anchor location. I’d managed to drop it in enough depth
of water to make pulling off next morning easy; yet it was out of the way not
interfering with channel, slipway or neighbouring trots and moorings. I’d like
to claim it was skill but in truth, more likely down to luck.
As I mused about the intricacies of securing the bow warp
ashore in such a way that I could easily retrieve it in the morning, in the
dark, whilst afloat, I tripped over the very solution I required. A small metal
eye loop buried in the beach. Perfect. A long warp looped through the eye with
both ends secured back on Arwen. It could be pulled free easily in the morning.
As I tidied Arwen up after a day’s sail, sponged her out and
kept a wary eye on the incoming tide and how far it crept up the shoreline,
more people arrived to have a chat, admire Arwen and provide helpful
suggestions on how to keep her from drifting up onto the slipway alongside. A few
commiserated that the sailing club bar, at the opposite end of the quay, was
only opened Wednesday to Saturday nights.
”If only you had arrived Wednesday……..we could have chatted about your boat and
the building process…..would love to know how you did it……..”.
“What a marvellous
adventure, now that is real sailing, camping under a tarpaulin, splendid”.
“You’ll be fine there
overnight, soft mud, not too deep; stick some fenders out so you don’t knock
the slipway during the night. You can always loop a rope around the
neighbouring trot line to pull yourself slightly clear of the slip edge”.
The viaduct bathed in the warm glow of a setting sun; the
birds called; the harsh northerly wind was absent. No noise, no distant rumble
of traffic. Peace, serenity, calm; punctuated by the odd rumbling train high in
the sky. Ah, the GWR! The Great Western Railway, running from Paddington to
Penzance. I’m from a GWR family, father and Grandfather. It seemed so
appropriate, to camp onboard under the arches carrying the railway that
previous family generations had been so proud to serve. Now if only a few ‘Castle
class’ steam engines rumbled across. What a sight that would be to behold from
The skipper of the lovely little motor cruiser was called 'Trevor'. He writes articles for PBO (Practical Boat Owner), a popular monthly periodical here in the UK. He has been doing a tour of the British coastline, exploring its rivers, estuaries and ports, heading westwards in his journey; and I think, if I have this right, leaving his boat at different marinas during intervening times when he is not voyaging. He recognised Arwen from her YouTube channel and the very night before had been looking at one of our videos taken last time we voyaged up the Lynher together.
Our first recognition of YouTube fame!! Go figure.
busy morning.....wood vice refitted; galley box for boat mocked up. It will hold leak proof fuel bottle in separate compartment; crockery and utensils; cleaning materials and food. The Trangia will store in its own compartment. The front will lift out to give access to crockery and stove. The lid will fit over the top of the box and when lifted off will form a tray on which to cook. It will have a thin aluminium sheet lining for heat resistance. The galley box will sit forward of the centre thwart on the port side of Arwen's centreboard and be held in by straps. Well that's the theory.....hence the mock up to see how it fits together.
In the meantime, researching whale gusher urchin bulkhead bilge pumps - ones with removable handles. Think I will also fit one of these in Arwen but its finding where is best. I guess ideally it would be in front half of cockpit but placing it somewhere accessible to me when I am helming on either side; and there in lies the problem......precisely where does it go?
The box mock up
It should hold all cooking gear and food for a two day trip
There will be a separate fuel compartment in a sealed bottle although I am still thinking about that. Never mix fuel and food seems to be a sensible maxim borne out by experience!
should remember that ‘silence is golden’and that sometimes it is wise and diplomatic to say nothing and/or resist
the urge to retort“I suggested that
but did you listen…..?”This is
especially the case when your other half claims the handheld control for the
motor mover is broken; then blames you for not bringing spare handset batteries;
questions the installing engineer’s integrity and workmanship and finally discovers
what you already knew, namely that the motor mover hadn’t been switched on
inside the caravan.
2.Partner’s should avoid being a ‘clever
clogs’ and never start a sentence with ‘I
think you will find……!” Your partner will soon discover what you
already know; that the motor-mover won’t work because the handbrake for the
caravan is still on. Remember, this is an invaluable opportunity to let them
work this out for themselves as it means they won’t make the same mistake a
second time! Of course, this supposition is based on the premise that you
didn’t marry an idiot in the first place! Remember idiots are people who don’t
learn the first time and go on to repeat the mistake again at a later time and
3.A partner should always be
encouraging even when their spouse is being dumb! For example, when you are
trying to reverse up to the caravan and trying to align the tow ball precisely
under the caravan hitch, be very diplomatic
and encouraging when your partner follows your instructions to the
letter and goes and stands behind the car, in the only blind spot and then whispers reversing instructions using a
set of invisible hand instructions which you can’t see and which work contrary
to the way you want to actually go.
remember to always thank them afterwards for this invaluable type of help!
not take things literally!For
example, when I said ‘please can you go to
the back of the caravan so I can position the towing mirrors’, I didn’t
mean you should actually go and stand directly behind the rear panel of the
caravan out of view; where you can’t be seen…..ever…….from any tow
mirror……attached to anything other than the space station!
should NEVER abandon your partner whilst caravanning. Think it by all means
but never, never do it in reality even with partners who keep saying “Well if it was me who was doing it, I’d
have….”. Resist the temptation to let them find themselves doing it far
more quickly than they imagined….. because you will have taken the car and gone
home to finish your work bench!
should never resort to shouting or using bad language. In response to the incessant
phrase from your other half …..“The
manual says…..” a partner should be very diplomatic, count to 10,000 first
and then think carefully about what they want to say. “**** the bloody manual” should never, never be uttered, even under
extreme duress. Remember a four-hundred-page manual is there to help in those
times when water is gushing out of the wrong end of pipes.
should never distinguish between ‘boy
jobs’ and ‘girl jobs’. This
is the age of ‘gender equality’. Everyone is equally capable of filling an
aqua-roll, emptying a waste water container and disposing of toilet cassette
waste at the appropriate disposal point and yes…it is a messy job but that
doesn’t make it immediately a ‘boy’s job’!
should NEVER use ‘alluring’ tactics to try and get their own way or
preferential treatment from their other half. Consequently, lying alluringly on the sofa
with your arm held up at right angles and wine glass being constantly proffered
up for a refill in now banned. Should either partner have an over consuming
need for alcohol, then an intravenous alcohol drip can be rigged within minutes
thereby allowing the other partner to have peace and quiet so that he can read
his very exciting book!
10.One is to
exercise extreme care when going to the toilet at night. Crawling over
one’s partner during the night does not necessitate kneeing them in the groin
and then sniggering about it with glee.
there is to be no unauthorized torch shining. if you shine a torch in your
partner’s face at 3am whilst crawling over said person to reach the toilet then
yes, it seems only fair that you should expect a stream of invective back.
know something is empty, do the decent thing and go and replace it or fill it
up. Standing there, knowing that the aqua roll is empty, and giggling,
whilst your partner swears blind the pump has broken and ‘it’s a brand-new caravan and isn’t that shoddy workmanship’…….is
not sporting! It’s mean!
unauthorized duvet rolling. It is mean AND selfish to roll yourself up in
the duvet at 4 in the morning to mimic a cocooned caterpillar. You may arise
like a butterfly in the morning. Your partner, who froze all night, won’t! That
is just plain selfishness!
equipping a new caravan is very exciting. In the interest of harmony, partners
should take it in turn to choose one item for the new caravan and refrain from
criticising their partner’s choice or taste. Thus, no partner will be able
to dislike every single item of crockery, cutlery, oven gloves, table mats and
cooking utensils that the other partner suggests for the caravan in an attempt
to assert her tastes on everything! Sometimes your other half may have ‘superior
taste’. After all he did choose you! In addition, his parents and sisters now all
live in the Cotswolds and shop in Cheltenham and Bath – so naturally, he will predisposed
towards good taste.
straight away not to damage the new caravan. For example, pulling the knobs
off the draws on a brand-new caravan on day one is likely to be justifiably met
with severe distain from your partner!
the opening of doors, windows and skylights. Knowing that your partner gets
cold quickly, it is very mean to wait until she is dozing, and then open every
window and skylight in the van to let in the ‘bracing fresh countryside air’.
and agree the precise place for each item in the caravan and then STICK to this
arrangement! Having instructed your partner to load the van whilst you are
at work; having listened patiently as he explains where he has put everything;
telling him he has done very well, and then whilst he is sorting out water,
waste water and toilet cassette outside, you re-arrange everything so he can’t
find anything on his return……. that’s just plain childish! Funny, but childish!
Telling him that you used common sense whilst he didn’t think at all – is
likely to wind him up further!
courteous to ask before altering the heating system. Sneaking on the
thermostat to raise the temperature, hoping your partner doesn’t notice - that’s
19.Do not deliberately
find ‘character buildings tasks’ for your partner just for the fun of it. Letting
your partner go out in the pouring rain at 11.30pm to refill the suddenly empty
aqua roll instead of insisting that he stay nice, snug and warm in the cosy
caravan………. was not about allowing him to ‘feel
good about himself’. Laughing yourself silly inside whilst listening to him
outside struggling to connect a water pump in the dark, in the lashing rain, in
a quagmire was immature.
those who empty the toilet cassette can use the caravan toilet. Those who
don’t, rightly deserve to have to trudge through the rain to the nearest toilet
block. On their ‘trudge’ they might reflect on their argument about ‘boy’s jobs
and ‘girl’s jobs’!!
not here to entertain the rest of the caravan/camping site. Seriously?
Making silly ‘Happy, sad and bad bunny’
silhouettes against the caravan curtains to entertain the rest of the campsite
at 10.30 at night……. Seriously?
We have survived our first mini adventure in our caravan. We
clearly need to agree some rules! But we didn’t kill each other or plead
‘justifiable manslaughter’ in either case and we genuinely can’t wait to do it
again……caravanning that is…. not justifiable manslaughter.
Rather surprisingly, everything lined up with the table and mitre saws being flush with the surface of the work top. Bottom shelves have been fitted and the bargain flooring stuck down on the work top.
Now, big decision, when the outer rails have been sanded should I leave them natural wood or stain them; or even paint them?
In meantime, also managed to fit a small wood vice as well.
caravan adventure…….only 12 miles from where we live – the market town of
Tavistock but it took some getting there. Our caravan is stored elsewhere, some
distance away and the best route was to come into the city and out the other
We timed it
perfectly. Evening rush hour through multiple road works and narrow coned
lanes. And of course, let’s not forget the intense rain showers. Amazingly we
managed to depart the storage site and arrive and set up between the rain
showers. It must have been fate – the sun broke through each time. We’ll take
it as a good omen!
There is so
much to remember. I created check lists – one for departure or leaving a place.
It had everything on it but as Eric Morecambe was fond of saying “not
necessarily in the right order”. Hence our departure was delayed by a)
forgetting how to switch on the motor-mover b) trying to use said motor-mover
whilst the caravan handbrake was still onc) positioning the jockey wheel so that the caravan wouldn’t steer
sideways whilst being moved and so that the tightening arm of the jockey wheel
would then be pointing downwards jamming against the wheel when the jockey
wheel was lowered - it’s the simplest of things!
the site just outside of Tavistock was rather simpler and surprising
successful. We managed to level the caravan on a ramp successfully and get
water, toilet, electrics and gas etc all switched on and functioning. Working
out the fridge took a little time. Getting hot water a little more time than
that and getting the heating on……..well that took a very long time and I have
several more grey hairs as a result.
finishing the unpacking and deciding where the final bits and pieces go
to stow everything in the lockers and then promptly forgot where we had stowed
things….oh how we laughed…….I think not!
But we are
in. The caravan is level. The 230V is working. We have had our first meal. The
caravan is warm, the water hot. The toilet works.
We worked it
as a team. ‘Her indoors’ unpacked everything so I couldn’t find any of it. I
sorted out all the systems and got the waste water pipes wrong so that no water
would drain away. It took several minutes to work that one out. At one point I
was fairly sure we had discovered an anti-gravity patch on planet earth because
water was running back up the pipes in to the sinks.
First meal in caravan.....many more to come......
But hey, we
didn’t crash, or watch the caravan run away under its own steam; nor did we kill
anyone. Although it was a grass pitch
with just an electric hook up, it didn’t turn into a swamp with all of Friday’s
rain. I’d say that was a good start. Adventure One – day one – so far so good.
We have just bought a caravan. A slight surprise as we always thought we were 'campervan' types and that was our retirement dream. But, after careful reflection, we decided a caravan would be best for us and the type of travel we want to do. Of course, my dreams of towing Arwen behind the van to far flung destinations just took a major hit but life is full of compromises and I can still take Arwen to these places and merely camp on board her instead. It will of course, be without 'her-indoors'. She loves the outdoors but doesn't do tents, all the result of a promise made which failed to live up to its intentions......I promised the Vendee in France would be wall to wall sunshine with great beaches and pine forests in August. So we went camping. It turned out to be wall to wall rain, gales and floods. And around 4" of water around the tent. Don't ask about inside! She forgave me but she has never been in a tent since. That was some 15 years ago. Yet she has slummed it in some horrendous backpacking hostels and lodges across Central America since then with a smile and good will.........go figure.
Our reasons for getting a caravan are simple really. We tend to base ourselves for a week at a time at different places before we move on. We like to get under the skin of a place. There is nothing wrong with a camper and, in fact if someone offered me a free VW camper van, I'd bite their hand off. The issue is we saw so many campervans, large and small, get themselves stuck in Sicily; or restricted on where they could do in Cornwall and Pembrokeshire. We felt every time you wanted to go somewhere you'd have to sort the van before leaving. Yes we could tow a car behind and carry bikes but we came to the view that we liked the flexibility of having a 4 x 4 car, the bigger space interior of the van and awning etc etc. To each their own I guess.
We do plan on towing the van down to the Falmouth area next early summer and then popping back up for Arwen and basing ourselves down there for a fortnight or so sailing the helford etc. Her- indoors is up for that.
Caravanning is so new to us and there has been so much to take on board, from storage sites to insurance, from motor movers toAlko safety features......mind boggling stuff but it has kept me busy in my first week of retirement.
I will blog more about our caravan experiences as we embark upon this new adventure. It won't overshadow adventures in Arwen but I probably will start a new blog about our travels, caravanning, etc on a new site and keep this one just for adventures with Arwen and my wood working projects. I'm rather attached to this blog. It has been going a long time and although I doubt there is much of substance on it, it has been my online diary of my sailing adventures in a boat 'wot I made' for many years. It, along with the YouTube channel have huge sentimental value.
For the record, the caravan is a Bailey Unicorn III Seville model, spacious, tasteful (as her-indoors likes to point out) and about as big as we can tow on our car. Our car was called 'Zebedee'. So there was only one name for the caravan and no it wasn't 'Brian'. We felt our caravan was a 'Florence', 'Florrie' for short.
Ah the good old days of the BBC. They don't make them like that any more. How sad.
I knew when I retired, I would need an immediate project to occupy myself whilst waiting for 'Her-indoors' to join me. The sudden loss of purpose and more importantly of daily contact with my school friends, would, I knew, trouble me.
So keeping busy.........I blitzed the house and did a massive clean up - throwing away 34 years worth of school folders, teaching materials etc. Everything has gone.
We bought a caravan! It's been fun kitting it out and getting to grips with the systems and applications within it.
But that has been during the summer holidays.......now it is term time! And I have been missing people and teaching.
So, the project? Building a work bench.
My garage work benches are narrow and there is never enough space to put things. I can never find enough space to glue things up and let them dry. So, a retirement project - a moveable work bench with under worktop storage. I wanted it to be a joint table saw and mitre saw holder as well. I had a vision in my head but couldn't quite articulate it so I headed over to PinInterest, where, of course, someone had already done some of the thinking.
So this is what I was hoping it would look like, but on a slightly smaller scale. And here in pictures, is progress thus far................
This is the vision and what I am aiming for but on a smaller scale
so I bought the wood and cleared the space
treated myself to a new sliding mitre saw - the old one was very old and on the way out...
I measured...several times......and then checked again and re-measured as paranoia set in. I couldn't find any dimensions for the vision bench so I have had to draw out the plans myself .
Took time out to visit a favourite local beach...only to discover my favourite newspaper had sold out so I had to go with this one.......urgh!
Got the corner legs on after constructing the base frame
Added the castors....which...on reflection was probably a mistake as from now on the bench kept moving around......dur!!
My bargain - light oak laminate flooring - reduced from £24 to £4; laid on top of 18mm shred board
The cut out done for the table saw - I will be able to lift it in and out of this slot.
There is a cover for the slot so that I can have the full work bench surface if needed.
The table saw will stand on a shelf below
Phew! It has levelled up correctly, was getting worried for a timeespecially as I was using a new plunge saw and was unfamiliar with how it worked
And the same happened for the mitre saw shelf. It too has a lift off lid
so that the full work top can be restored.
I'm not quite finished yet. The lower deck shelves have to be cut and screwed on. The outer edging rails have to be sanded. I haven't quite yet decided whether to stain the frame a light oak colour or just leave it as it is. The plan is that there will be some stackable trays on one section; table saw and mitre saw on the other bottom sections. I also need to get and attach a decent wood vice.
So what will the first project be on the new work bench?
Well, in no particular order..........................
galley box for Arwen
insect/bug hotels for the gardens
some reindeer for Christmas sustainable gifts fair? (maybe, haven't quite decided on this yet)
new garden bench for the back decking area
restoration of my parents' old garden bench which is much loved
And, most importantly, a sign for the caravan space we are renting - that is a priority apparently!
A welshman displaced to wonderful Plymouth in SW England; a novice sailor and boat builder with a passion for all things to do with the sea. My learning curve is vertical....but hey that's what makes life interesting isn't it! So follow my journey as I learn to sail Arwen,grappling with charts, tide tables and passage planning so that I can become 'a dinghy cruiser'
And by the way, just occasionally, little snippets about 'Stacey' our beloved 1968 motovespa super 125 scooter may feature along with odd insights into our family travels< but these will be kept to a minimum, I promise!
subscribe at www.youtube.com/c/plymouthwelshboy
The 'Navigator' is a 14' 9" yawl with a beam of 5' 10". she weighs in at 309 lbs and has a sail area of 136 sqft. She has a standing lug sail. She has side, centre and front thwarts and space for six although she is an ideal single hander. there are a huge number of potential locker spaces. For more details about the design of navigators go to www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz/plans/navigator/index.htm
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