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.
Occasionally makes an appearance here in Arwen's blog. Arwen, Angharad (our wee lap strake canoe) and Stacey all live happily together in our garage cum driveway area.
Stacey was manufactured in 1968 and assembled here in Bristol at Douglas-Vespa in 1970. She gained her registration in 1971. She has a 125 cc engine, two stroke and so requires oil to be mixed in with the unleaded petrol.
Her top speed on a good day is 50mph; on an average day 40mph and on a bad day 30mph. What day she is having is very hit and miss and we never quite know until we are out on her.
If you have been a long time reader of this blog you will recall we found her on ebay in a barn so to speak down in deepest west Cornwall and we were somewhat surprised to find our tentative ebay bid won! We duly bought her back in a trailer and then set about stripping her down piece by piece and rebuilding her over the next year and a half. She had new everything except piston and crankshaft. Her body work was bead blasted and primed and resprayed. The seat, an original, stayed as did the speedo but wheels, brakes, exhaust that was all new. The back and front lights had new frames and there was a new horn as well.
She is a pleasure to drive. Normally very well behaved, she will throw she odd 'over revving hissy fit' which can be quite alarming especially in narrow streets or villages; mor at major traffic junctions and roundabouts. Very occasionally she will argue about going into the gear you want and randomly select one of her own instead! She likes to remind you who is boss!
Anyway today she had an outing to Salcombe, a round trip of fifty miles or so. Lots of hills and the rolling countryside of the South Hams in Devon. She behaved herself most of the time and it was rather good fun. Blowy but fun!
Last week I managed to gain my RYA level 2 powerboat certificate......a plastic photo ID card to add to my collection. The instruction from Toby was outstanding, challenging and demanding. He was very thorough. We spend mornings doing slow control using the throttle/gear handle making sure one hand was on the power and one on the wheel at all times. Switching on and off, kill cord procedures, s turns, sharp controlled turns, crossing waves low and high speed, safety equipment and its usage, turning the boat within its own length, coming long side, picking up MOB and moorings.
Chart work, weather interpretation.........outboards and ribs, displacement and planing boats.
My, there was so much to take in and think about. Lots I knew, some I had forgotten and plenty was new. But we got there in the end.
Of course, it was great in wind and waves...but the med isn't exactly a tidal area is it.....so I must quickly get into a rib in the next few weeks to go do it all again but taking into account tidal flows........it's just trying to work out who I know who has a rib and might be prepared to take me out (which after a little reflection is......nobody); or I o hire one for an hour or two at Salcombe.....that sounds a fun option, costly but fun. I now need to persuade her indoors!
'Her in-doors' got an award for being a fantastic, determined beginner windsurfer. Not sure whether she was thrilled to go up on stage but I know and love that persistent, stubborn, 'do or die' streak of hers.
I duly received my Powerboat level two qualification and identity card along with another level two dinghy sailing qualification. It has been a good week's learning. Most of the theory on safety, clothing, chart work, pre departure checks, trailering etc I knew, obviously. But I still learned new things.....leave your trailer bearings to cool for at least thirty minutes for every hour towed was a new one on me. Learning how to do various tows another useful skill and perfecting some light wind sailing techniques a bonus. Everything in the rib was new to me. Challenging, I like that. Of course, it will be even more challenging going in tidal waters!
It would be nice to do other courses with Neilson but they don't do the ones I want or need. The new RYA dinghy qualification scheme has become a hierarchical modular system as I interpret it. You can't do seamanship and day sailing without having done levels one to three. Consequently it seems daft and very frustrating that Neilson do level one and two and three advanced modules ......performance sailing, beginning with spinnakers and starting racing.......yet they omit level three. As an intermediate dinghy sailor then, I cannot sign up for the other courses because I can't do level three with them. Daft frankly....come on Neilson......sort it out, please!
As I write this, we are over the alps. I am amazed at how much snow there is on some mountains now, in the height of summer. Many glaciers I know and have climbed over, have sadly retreated far more than I expected. At 35,000 feet, it is a geographers paradise............everything I know about my subject can be bought to interpret the landscape below. Ribbon lakes, u shaped valleys, braided rivers with their sinuous meanders. Transchmance farming. Down in the valleys on the small fragments of floodplain, summer arable crops. Away to my left, the Mt. Blanc massif, climbed and scrambled over way back in the early eighties. It seems a lifetime ago.....when I weighed in considerably less and ran mountain marathons for fun..........gee.......what happened?
Having crossed the sun drenched alps with their cotton wool clouds, the landscape has become obscured by a blanket of lower stratus. It thins in places allowing the sun to illuminate below, reflecting off buildings, lakes and rivers. The Swiss landscape.
I love flying......all geographers do.....it's a sort of 'bus mans holiday'. I just wish I'd just once, remember to bring my pocket atlas.......I forget it every time!
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!
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