Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Locked down, but safe

We were due to relaunch Maunie on Monday 23rd March but, seeing the news of crowded parks and beaches that weekend, we reckoned that the lock down would be coming soon; it was in fact announced that evening. We'd therefore made the decision on the Sunday to leave Maunie ashore in the yard and we're very pleased that we did. By the end of the week the Dart Harbour Authority had announced that it was closing the river to all non-essential traffic so, had we launched, we'd now be worrying about Maunie on her mooring, with no access to her for checks.

Of course, like all sailors, we are missing the boat dreadfully but we are very thankful that we aren't in the middle of a trans-ocean crossing right now. We are reading about boats stuck in anchorages in the Pacific, allowed ashore only once a week for provisions (and, understandably, not getting a warm welcome from the locals) and with nowhere else to go.

We are therefore getting on with maintenance jobs in the house and garden but have managed a few boat-related projects as well. We brought the Sailrite sewing machine home and also packed up the mainsail to attend to some minor damage.

Taking advantage of a dry day and the newly-mown lawn to spread the sail out for inspection

Chafe at the ends of the battens where the topping lift had rubbed against the sail, exposing the leech-line

We removed the plastic batten fitting, applied self-adhesive sailcloth patches and re-assembled it. Perfect!
We've found a supplier of acrylic canvas fabric and have ordered enough to make new dodgers (side screens for the cockpit to protect the crew from wind and spray), so that'll be our next boat project.

Meanwhile, we're very pleased that Practical Boat Owner has just published an article that we wrote about the deck replacement project last month.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

'We'd have got away with it, if it hadn't been for you pesky sailors!' The Maunie crew foils a major burglary

The rapidly-escalating news of the pandemic dominates everything at the moment but it seems that some people are continuing with their normal activities as though nothing has changed. Burglars, for example.

We came down to Maunie at the Baltic Wharf yard on Friday to do a few jobs (more on these below), ready for the mast to be re-stepped on the Monday, so we slept aboard. Early hours of Sunday at 03.00 we woke to hear the clank of someone climbing up the aluminium ladder onto our boat, which came as quite a rude awakening, as you'll imagine! Whoever it was climbed up to remove the rope lashing the top of the ladder to Maunie's rail, we later realised. Graham immediately went up into the cockpit and could see lights from a couple of torches below us in the otherwise pitch-black and our ladder was being carried towards the back of the storage shed. When he shouted, the two people in the shadows dropped the ladder and ran off so, having realised it was more than someone just mucking about, we called the police.

Once the two officers, plus dog, arrived at about 03.40 they put the ladder back, so that Graham could climb down, and we then found a substantial pile of power tools, plus three outboard engines at the back of the shed beside a hole made in the back wall. We think that the burglars were planning to use our ladder to make a bridge across the ditch behind the building so they could transfer their loot to a waiting vehicle. They were very unlucky (or stupid) to choose the ladder belonging to the only occupied boat!

The thieves' entry point - they'd cut two of the vertical slats and pushed a gangplank across the ditch behind the building to gain access. We think they brought the wooden ladder, just visible below the hole, with them.

Some of the tools and engines they'd assembled at the back of our shed, ready to carry up our ladder to a waiting vehicle behind the boatyard.
The police dog followed the scent to the workshop of Dave Sharp (who did our paint repair) and Graham walked around the yard with police but there were no more scent trails for the dog to follow. We contacted Dave and the boatyard team and they came in early on Sunday morning; Dave identified that all the tools (several thousand of pounds' worth) were from his locked tool store, where the padlocks had been cut, and the engines belonged to his customers. Thankfully, we scared the thieves off and they got away with nothing at all for their trouble so they had a night of wasted effort and a good scare. Mind you we had a good scare, too, and didn't get to sleep again once the police left at 05.00.

Investigations are ongoing and CCTV footage is being studied - we were very impressed by the response from the nightshift police and from the dayshift team who followed it up on Sunday. However, they warned that the thieves would probably have another go, so they urged all boat owners to be vigilant and to increase their security precautions; the yard has already upgraded its security arrangements.

Apart from that little excitement, we had a typically busy few days on boat jobs as we took advantage of having Maunie under cover for the long weekend (to let her new paint harden). So, we did some more varnishing, re-sealed a couple of deck fittings that we weren't completely happy with and replaced the navigation light power cables in the mast. The latter job is a 'curse of the engineer' one - something that most boat owners wouldn't even think about but Graham couldn't ignore. We'd replaced the masthead light fitting last year and, upon wiring it up, discovered that the copper wire in the cable was black rather than shiny copper.

The black corrosion is a warning of potential failure as the wire (now 23 years old) becomes brittle due to age-hardening. Failure would mean loss of the vital tri-colour (green to starboard, red to port and white astern) navigation light and the steaming light and deck light lower down the mast

The replacement cable - proper marine-grade tinned cable (the individual copper strands coated in solder during the manufacturing process) which is much more resistant to corrosion

Having the mast off the boat is the ideal time to pull through the new wiring - it was still a bit of a challenge!
As the last photo shows, we AT LAST had a sunny and calm day on Monday so this was the ideal time to re-step the mast and refit the solar panel arch. There's another short time-lapse video of the process - click on this link: VIDEO

Out in the sunshine, the paint repair is nothing short of amazing. It's absolutely impossible to see where the damage was on the bow. Andy the painter and the team at Baltic Wharf Repairs have done a fantastic job. Here are the before and after photos.




We are absolutely determined to protect the paint from any more scratches so have made protector covers to go over the shackles on the mooring lines and we got the sewing machine out to make new anti-scratch fender covers.

Now we are just waiting for a set of seals to be delivered this week, so that we can refit the engine water pump, and then for the first suitably-high tides, next week to relaunch. We're just wondering what movement restrictions there might be in place by then..... Fingers are crossed.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Removing the mast and other fiddly jobs

It's sometimes said that the complexity of a boat increases roughly in proportion to the square of the waterline length and we have certainly discovered this to be true with Maunie. With our first 21-ft keel boat, the process of raising and lowering the mast was something we could easily do ourselves, using a hinge-pin at the base of the mast and the trailer winch to control the movement. On Maunie, by contrast, the mast is nearly 16m long, it's heavy and it has no fewer than 14 wires supporting it, so removing it requires the use of a big crane and specialists.

Over the weekend, we dodged the sleet showers to take off the sails, boom and rigging ready for the yard crew to come and remove the mast on Monday. We filmed a short time-lapse video of the process and you can see it on YouTube by clicking the link HERE

Whenever the rain rolled in, we moved onto a few below-deck jobs, one of which was to check the engine cooling water pump. The pump has a nitrile-rubber impeller which pumps sea water into a heat-exchanger to cool the fresh water / antifreeze solution that circulates around the engine (as an alternative to the radiator you'd find on a car). We replace the impeller annually but we'd noticed a slight seawater drip from the shaft seal so this seemed like a good opportunity to replace the seal as well.

The pump with its end-plate and impeller removed. The rust on the bolts below shows where the seawater had dripped 
However the 'complexity and waterline length' rule applied to this job, too; the pump was mounted in such a way that it was impossible to access two of its four retaining nuts because the bracket connected to the rubber engine mount was in the way.

The black and rusty bracket with the engine mount's adjusting screw in the foreground
Graham scratched his head for a while and came up with an idea which he ran past Steve, the on-site engine specialist, who agreed that it should work. He wound-down the nuts on the engine mount until the engine was just supported on the other three mounts and then unbolted the black bracket which allowed him to unbolt and remove the pump. Most of this was done by feel rather than by sight, but it was a successful mission and the pump is now in the workshop to be disassembled, checked and fitted with new seals. Once refitted, and with a new impeller in place, it should be good for another few years. 

Maunie is now in the paint shop having her scratched hull sanded and repainted so we should be ok to re-launch in a couple of weeks' time when the next spring tides give us enough water at the launching ramp. Meanwhile, there will, of course, be more jobs to do....

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Not exactly planned....

With gales and sleet showers all around us, we motored up the Dart in the early hours of Friday morning for another lift-out at Baltic Wharf.  The reason? Two weeks after our relaunch in September, there was a southerly gale and our trot mooring (10 boats in a line of fore and aft mooring buoys) surged upstream; as the most upstream boat, Maunie scraped up against our bow buoy and its chain scratched her shiny new paint. We could have cried but the harbour authority admitted liability so the repair won’t cost us, apart from the considerable hassle.

Scratches above the shiny blue stripe 

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Enjoying the Calm before the very big storm!

We've been watching the forecasts carefully for the past week as Storm Ciara heads our way. We're now in the thick of it with huge gusts and driving rain.

However, we spotted a couple of days of relatively settled weather on Thursday and Friday so decided we'd make the best of it and actually go sailing for once, with the added benefit of being able to leave Maunie trussed up with extra lines to face Ciara's worst.

We had a lovely, if cold, sail round to Salcombe to find the place pretty much deserted, both on the water and ashore. Unlike the River Dart, Salcombe harbour is pretty open to southerly gales so everyone seems to take their boats ashore for the winter. In the 'normal' sailing season, visiting yachts have to pick up a mooring and use their dinghy or the Yacht Taxi to get ashore but we were given permission to go alongside the Normandy Pontoon for the night, with walk-ashore access.

In the summer this view is full of boats of all sizes

Morning after a chilly night. We were able to plug into shore power, however, so had a 500W electric heater running to keep things cosy down below
The Normandy Pontoon is so names as this was a key embarkation point for US soldiers for the D-Day Landings and the concrete loading ramp that the Americans built is still there.

In the early summer of 1944 there were over 2,000 troops and 66 ships here so the silence when they left for Normandy on the 4th of June must have been acute. There is a good account of the time when this sleepy Devon village was at war on the Salcombe Museum website - click here for more information.

We headed back to Dartmouth on Friday afternoon as the tide turned in our favour. Start Point always promises the risk of some bumpy wind-against-tide conditions but it was the smaller tidal race at Prawle Point that gave us the greater entertainment.

There's a short video of the trip on YouTube here which we hope you'll enjoy.

Monday, 3 February 2020

More jobs ticked off the list....

Since our last blog update, we've had several trips down to Maunie, staying on board for two or three nights each time but there's been precious little sailing. It is winter after all! Last week, however, Di went up to stay with her dad up in Lancashire so Graham spent the week aboard, dodging the heavy rain, to crack on with more maintenance jobs.

Re-varnishing the woodwork in the cabins is a fairly major project for us this year so we've been bringing locker doors home to do as much of it as possible in the warmth and dry. The rest of it has to be done in situ, of course, so Graham had a not-so-much-fun week of sanding and varnishing. It's a slow process but we're definitely making progress:

Lockers in the forward heads half-way through the first coat of varnish

The nav table, stripped and sanded
 While the varnish was drying - and we're trying a water-based varnish which means the cabin wasn't filled with toxic fumes - there were lots of other things to do, including cleaning
and re-greasing the winches:

Winch-maintenance is a once-a year job and takes about 50 minutes per winch. We have 7 winches!
Other jobs included: draining the engine coolant, flushing it and refilling with new antifreeze; completing an oil change on the generator; replacing the broken engine compartment extractor fan; splicing a new mooring line to replace one chafed by winter gales; re-organising the storage of spares and tools; topping up the electrolyte in the batteries; replacing the heads door-catch. Plus lots of cleaning and tidying, as usual. 

Living aboard in such rainy weather, the de-humidifier was a vital bit of kit and the amount of water it captured each night was fairly astounding.

I had one day of sunshine mid-week so was more than ready to get off the boat to stretch my legs. A walk up the steep hill above Kingswear (on the opposite side of the river to Dartmouth) delivered some great views:

Whilst maintenance work isn't the most fun bit of owning a boat, it's good to keep on top of it and to be ready for the new season. We're planning a trip in May so are beginning to start the enjoyable process of looking at charts and pilot books. Roll on summer!

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Cold weather sailing with the Ithakas

We were delighted to have Colin & Ana join us for 4 nights aboard Maunie over the weekend. We first met them in Panama, where they bought Ithaka, their 43ft aluminium Ovni,  and then sailed with them, or near them, for about 3 years before their epic crossing from NZ to Chile. From there, they navigated the channels down to Cape Horn and then  returned to France via the Falklands. Epic adventurers, indeed, but they have now sold the boat and have been working very hard to renovate a cottage in Scotland; we were glad to be able to drag them away from the building work.

Sunny but cold conditions as we sailed from Dartmouth to the Yealm

After a lovely, fast sail in 16-20 knots of northerly wind (making it bitingly cold but delivering a very smooth sea) we moored up in a deserted River Yealm, had a quick lunch then went on an energetic hike over the hill to the South West Coast Path for a circuit back to the boat in the fading light. A restorative beer or two was needed in the pub before we returned to Maunie for a fish pie supper.

Looking east towards the Mew Stone, with Rame Head in the distance. The entrance to Plymouth Sound is to the right 

The tranquil River Yealm at dusk. The heating system on Maunie earned its keep in the evenings and early mornings.
 Saturday dawned wet and windy but, as forecast, the skies cleared for a while to give us another good coastal walk before a relaxed long lunch in the Ship Inn. Back aboard for the evening, Colin produced Doh! Cranium, a game that we made for them for their crossing from NZ to Chile. Based on a Canadian game called Cranium, our version just involved describing the given clues (all based on Ithaka's voyage) through the medium of Play-doh sculpture. 
The yellow 'sculpture' was supposed to be Easter Island!
The return sail on Sunday started fairly gently but we had a bouncy time in the Start Point tidal race, with wind against tide. Maunie took it in her stride and Ana helmed us expertly through the waves.

Approaching the tidal race in calm conditions, but we could see the breaking waves ahead of us

Maunie punches her way through the waves

A fun weekend with great company and it was good to have made the best of some pretty changeable weather.