Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall charting our adventures as we sail around the world. This season we spent 5 months exploring Vanuatu and are now on the east coast of Australia.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

"GTD" and a great reunion

Our sailing friends are sending Facebook and blog updates from sunny tropical islands so we're feeling that kind of envy that many people expressed about our voyage stories. Never mind, though, we are keeping ourselves entertained.

Sarah on the American catamaran refers to her husband Mark as "GTD" - short for "Get Things Done", he's a real dynamo on the boat, always doing something. So we've adopted the GTD mantra here and create long lists of things to do, taking some real satisfaction in ticking them off. Graham's enjoying the job at Thatchers Cider (working four days a week) so Dianne is working through redecorating jobs and gardening jobs whilst he's at work so that we can do the big team-effort tasks at the weekends. We feel that we seriously underestimated how much there was to do but we're making good progress. A few photos follow to give you an idea!

The tenants had allowed water to sit on the sink worktop until it de-laminated (aargh!!) so a fun-filled weekend saw us remove the sink and cut a new worktop to replace it

The trellis up at the summerhouse was in danger of toppling over due to the weight of the growth on it 

After much hacking back, the archway is restored and Di repaints the trellis
The 15 year old summerhouse was suffering from a bad case of wet rot at the front

Cutting away the rotten wood begins
Finished - a two-day job but the pressure-treated timber should give it a new lease of life

Our first BBQ of the summer 
A great place to sit and watch the sunset

Graham with a hired rotavator, digging over the area previously taken over by weeds and brambles

A couple of weeks later and the grass seed is working!

Graham demonstrating his builder's bum cleavage as he works on another job...

The new paved plinth behind the (freshly repainted) garage will be the base for a new storage hut to be delivered next week
As you will gather from the photos, it's pretty full-on but of course we have time to enjoy the garden when the sun shines.

The view from the veg patch
Anyone for lettuce? The veg patch is doing really well
And we did have a wonderful full weekend off from the GTD jobs when we had VIP visitors over from Germany. Regular readers of the blog will remember Peter and Heidi on Stormvogel, with whom we shared some amazing adventures across the Atlantic and Pacific. They returned to Hamburg, via the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean, last year so it was brilliant to see them and share some memories over a glass or two.

Heidi and Dianne on Kilve beach, just 3/4 mile from our house

Being pursued by a combine harvester

Heidi and Peter at the Kilve Cricket Club

Colour coordination in the gardens of Dunster Castle
Anyway, it's not the same as sailing but it's all entertaining. Now, must get back to those lists. GTD!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Flying the spinnaker, sealing a leak, laying a new deck and enjoying a different drink

The title of this update might make you think that we've suddenly teleported back to Maunie but, no, we are still back in the UK and adjusting to life on land. With the terrible news of the terrorist attacks in Manchester and now London dominating the media, it's taking some adjusting to. There is enough written and spoken elsewhere so we won't dwell on the subject here, save to say that in our 5 years of travel to some often remote places we have found that 99.9% of the people we have met were good, kind and decent; the radicalised hate-mongers responsible for the senseless killing don't represent anyone but themselves.

On a lighter note, then, here's a bit of an update on the last few weeks to explain the title. The spinnaker-flying bit was up in Galloway, south-west Scotland, where we got to sail with Graham's dad, Geoff, in his new boat (and to celebrate his 80th birthday of course; we hope we'll still be buying new boats when we're 80!). 

The estuary of the River Fleet is where Graham learned to sail at the age of 6; traditionalists might point out the wisdom of Geoff learning to sail first before teaching Graham but they sailed, and sometimes swam, together and, 47 years later, they still demonstrate the almost telepathic communication technique that they use when sailing together: 

"Do you think..?", says one
"Reckon so", says the other
and, lo, the spinnaker is up and flying!

Other crew on board find this mildly disconcerting.

Geoff's boat Svala, a Swift Explorer built by Swallow Boats - she boasts carbon fibre masts and water-ballast so her traditional looks hide some very clever design features
The boat lives on a drying mooring (annual cost £40 a year!!) and in the photo above, Ardwall Isle (after which Maunie of Ardwall is named) is just visible in the distance.

An at-sea selfie - gorgeous weather but a bit chilly as the sun went down
Flying the asymmetric spinnaker

Geoff in his element
We were delighted to see our old Dart 18 catamaran on the beach; we had some great times with that boat. Looking pretty good in spite of its age (probably about 20 years old)
After a great party and a second sail in rather bleak but fast sailing conditions, we drove back down to Somerset, with a stop-off at Di's sisters in Holmes Chapel, to continue with the long list of jobs on the house and in the garden. The latter was a priority whilst we had a few days of lovely sunshine and an unusual easterly breeze to allow us to build the mother of all bonfires to clear all the branches and weeds (and, incidentally, to create a minor but heart-stopping bushfire through a huge area of brambles. Well, they needed clearing!).

Graham with chainsaw, having felled a huge fir tree that was threatening to push over the summerhouse

The fir cleared and a nearby dead apple tree felled and chopped for firewood
The bonfire still smouldering - note the burnt leaves in the middle of the photo after the unplanned bushfire

Some time-off down at the cricket club (in the rain, of course); it was great to meet up with old friends in the village and to meet some newcomers
As the weather changed we moved into indoor jobs and the biggest was to tackle a large patch of damp in the shower room downstairs - the plaster and the wooden boxing around the pipes looked awful and, of course, tenants don't have the same kind of "I'll just investigate the cause of that" mentality as home-owners do. So, we stripped away the sodden wood and were shocked to find a pool of water under the shower tray - the cause was simple, the seal at the bottom of the tiles had failed, but it was quite a job to fix.

The wooden support beams for the shower tray were sodden

Just like a boat - out with the sealant gun!

The repair in progress - new plaster (luckily all the walls are pretty uneven so Graham's rudimentary plastering skills were good enough) and new boxing being made 

Nearly finished
Finally, this weekend we progressed onto the new deck (something we've worked hard to avoid fitting on Maunie by replacing all the sealant on her deck). We plan to pair down all of our goods and chattels this summer so that when we return to Maunie in November, we can store them all at the house. The plan is to partition the garage to turn it into a workshop / store for our tenants whilst giving us enough space for our furniture and the things we really need to keep. Stage one was to build a deck on the joists of the pitched roof so that we could get some useful space for boxes and bags:

The deck completed

The first boxes in place 
These big projects now have to be shoe-horned into weekends because Graham has just started a new job! He's working for a family-run cider business for 4 months as a project manager to help with a big expansion plan. His first week has been taken up with introductions and a full induction, which included a day as a delivery-driver's assistant on Friday.

G in his delivery uniform. The car comes with the job, which is a great boon
Good job G has been using the gym since we returned home!

The focus on house re-decorating and ongoing gardening now falls to Dianne, so it looks as though we'll both be pretty busy for a while!

Thursday, 11 May 2017


The most common question we are being asked is, "How does it feel to be home?" and, having been back at Parkhouse Cottage for a week, we are just about getting to grips with the question. The main answer, in truth, is, "It's a bit weird!".

After nearly 5 years living on a 38ft boat, the sudden access to all the living space in our, admittedly, modestly-sized house is taking some getting used to, as is the access to fresh (and hot) water at the turn of a tap without worrying about water tanks and the almost-forgotten responsibility for managing a garden. More on the garden later.....

A well-packed van!
We spent two full and exhausting days on Thursday and Friday shuttling back and forth in a hired van to collect all of our 'indoor' belongings from the storage unit in nearby Bridgwater (generously provided to us by our friend David) and another day collecting mower and other 'outdoor; things from a lockup at Holt Farm in the Yeo Valley (thanks to Tim and Garth). We really thought we had been pretty good at divesting ourselves of unnecessary clutter before we embarked on the voyage and, indeed, did a further cull when we were back here briefly a couple of years ago, but unloading everything into the house and garage was quite a shock; we clearly hadn't been trying.

The hallway filled with carefully-wrapped framed photos and art
A few years ago Graham attended a marketing briefing at Yeo Valley where some researchers presented their thoughts on world-wide trends in consumers' attitudes. One of the themes they highlighted was an increasing feeling that we are all becoming overwhelmed by 'stuff' - either physical possessions or electronically-delivered information. So much so that many people feel suffocated by it all and are starting to try to simplify their lives by divesting themselves of some of said stuff. The marketers (who like to do this sort of thing) came up with a snappy title for the trend - 'stuffication' - and that's what we are feeling right now. Our sailing friends Bob and Sue on Mawari were in our position a year ago when they flew back to England from Australia and have sent us a message saying "You'll wander down memory lane as you unpack everything and then take 75% of it to the charity shop!".

Apart from the issues of stuffication, our biggest challenge has been to start tackling the results of the house having been rented out for 5 years. We guess that we have been relatively lucky with out tenants but there is still a lot to do, inside and out. We have therefore moved abruptly from 'boat maintenance in exotic places' to 'house maintenance in Somerset'. The garden, which is pretty big, has certainly suffered from neglect, in spite of our paying a gardener to try to keep on top of it. The tenants of the past 2 years apparently had no interest in gardening at all so the mild climate and fertile soil has resulted in some astonishing and unwanted growth that has gone largely untamed. 

Thankfully, the mower, strimmer (Graham much prefers the American name of weed-whacker!), hedge-trimmer and chainsaw all started first time after 5 years, thanks to some careful moth-balling, and all have been used a great deal in the past 3 days of wonderfully sunny Spring weather:

The grass was pretty long so the first run of the mower revealed some unhealthily white stalks

The evergreen trees reshaped 

Sunset after an exhausting day
 At the top of the orchard, where we would usually enjoy a view across to the sea from our summerhouse, the hedges and trees had completely taken over, with an evil intertwining of wild rose and thorny brambles ready to inflict flesh wounds on us as we tackled them. Here is the 'before' and 'after' comparison after another busy day:

Before: Where did the view go?

After: The smoke from the bonfire drifts across
The good news is that we are making very obvious progress and are remaining stoical about all the boxes that remain, as yet, unpacked, as well as the increasingly long to-do lists that we are creating. It's probably not a bad thing that we have some welcome family diversions coming up - Di has just taken the train up to Lancashire to spend a few days with her sister and father and then we have Graham's dad's 80th birthday to celebrate up in Scotland next weekend. The maintenance jobs and the reduction of 'stuff' can wait a few more days.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Back in Blighty again

To quote the late, great Douglas Adam (author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), we aren't quite home and dry, but we are home and vigourously toweling ourselves off. We are currently zig-zagging our way across southern England and Wales and will finally land at our own house in Somerset on Wednesday.

In the meantime, and since arriving at Heathrow Airport on Easter Monday, we have been enjoying some wonderful hospitality of old friends and are slowly acclimatising to the the somewhat bracing Spring temperatures here. Lovely of Theresa May to announce a snap General Election, too, so as to ensure that we really can't listen to the radio or watch the news for more than 5 minutes without shouting at the smug politicians who are entirely missing the point of what's really important. The British Government was obviously getting miffed at all the attention that Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un and the French have been getting recently so thought they'd start a diversionary tactic of their own. 

Anyway, politics apart, it has been just great to see good friends and to enjoy the things that we've missed whilst we have been away: buildings older than 140 years, real ale (sorry, Australians, that cold fizzy stuff you drink straight from the bottle just isn't beer and you should stop calling it that) and the joys of the countryside bursting with blossom. We've done a fair few railway journeys, learning, in the process, the nonsensical fact that a pair of tickets from, for example,  Hemel Hempstead to Caersws, in mid-Wales, via Birmingham costs £150 if booked as a single jouney but only costs £15 if you buy each leg of the journey as a separate ticket (Eh???). And we are now the very happy temporary guardians of goddaughter Amy's Toyota Aygo whilst she is travelling abroad, so are loving the freedom to travel without a timetable.

Here are a few photos of the UK journey so far, with huge thanks to Richard and Jenny, Fergus and Helen, Richard and Naomi, Steve and Barbara and Simon and Kerry for their wonderful welcome.

Proper old buildings at Aldeburgh, on a walk along the seafront with Jenny

The boating lake at Thorpeness Mere - we weren't tempted!

Fergus takes Di for a spin in his 1955 Austin Healey. Fergus sailed across the Atlantic with us in 2012

spring blooms

Di with Naomi and Richard (and Radley the gorgeous Springer Spaniel); Richard was the other crew member across the Atlantic
Richard, founder of the wonderful business Snowbility, which puts Autistic and other special needs kids on skis with amazing results, surprised us with a skiing lesson of our own!
Graham getting to grips (sort of) with the slippery stuff...

... and with Holly the dog in mid-Wales

Di, meanwhile, gets a training session on the quad-bike from Steve....

... as a precursor to some hard labour clearing wood

Rewards for hard work - proper beer (and NZ wine)
setting off to Cornwall

Bluebells in amazing full bloom near Truro, Cornwall
We'll post another update once we get back into our house; we regain possession of it from out tenants on Wednesday and have a van booked for Thursday and Friday to collect all our gear from our storage units. There is some hard work ahead to get the cottage re-decorated and re-furnished, the garden sorted and some general maintenance completed.