Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall charting our adventures as we sail around the world. We're sailing up and down the east coast of Australia after a summer back in Britain.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Our last sail for a while - and regaining Maunie's balance

We excited and slightly stressed - there are various lists being added to and ticked off as we prepare to leave Maunie safely on her mooring in Opua (with regular checks by Mike, a local chap who looked after her for us last year when we were exploring South Island by car) to fly home to our first taste of winter in three years. How will we cope?!

Anyway we took time out for a really good day-sail on Monday out in the Bay of Islands. With a good Force 4 (about 16-18 knots) to beat into, it was the ideal test to see if we'd improved Maunie's balance.

Sorry, for non-sailors, this post will be a bit full of boat-speak but hope it'll make sense.

Most of our voyaging from England has been with the assistance of the Trade Winds pushing us along from behind but the passage down to NZ from Fiji was nearly all to windward, with the sails hauled in tight and the boat heeling over. The 8 days gave us time to experiment with the setting of the sails and the balance of the boat and we came to the conclusion that Maunie just wasn't really happy in these conditions. All monohulls have a degree of 'weather helm' which means that if you let go of the wheel or tiller they will turn into the wind and stop. Too much weather helm isn't good as the rudder starts to act as a brake and it's just tiring to steer.

We were finding that Maunie just didn't feel properly balanced and that we had to reef the mainsail earlier than expected to ease the pressure on the wheel. The yankee (the front sail) was hard work to winch in and just felt too powerful for us in anything above about 15 knots of wind.

So on our arrival in Opua (and with the benefit of experience of being here before and knowing whom to turn to) we talked to a couple of local experts and explained our thoughts. The first was Roger Hall of North Sails who's been sailmaker for about 30 years and runs the repair loft in Opua pretty much single-handed. He came aboard, looked at the rig and said "The yankee clew should come to about here when you're going to windward.", pointing at a spot astern of the mast and above the cabin top. The clew is the back corner of the sail where the sheets (ropes) are attached, by the way.

"Ok, but it actually comes to here" said Graham, pointing to a spot about a foot further astern and a foot below Roger's pointing finger.

"Graham, you're not listening to me, it should come to here!" said Roger, his finger unmoved. 

It's probably easier to explain with a photo. 

Maunie is cutter-rigged, which means she has two foresails, the yankee and the staysail. Normally in these rigs the yankee is shaped 'high' so that the bottom edge rises up from the bow. Stormvogel's yankee is a perfect example:

Stormvogel beating to windward with the yankee and staysail complementing each other 

Maunie's yankee was much more like a genoa (the foresail of a sloop which has no staysail) as you can see from Jo Murtagh's great helicopter photo:

Maunie's lower and larger yankee

We took the sail off the boat and laid it out in Roger's sail loft where he took measurements and inspected the sail closely. The yankee was still in amazingly good condition so he felt it was worth investing some time to re-cut it. Using a computer programme which allowed the sail to be shown in its curved state, rotated at any viewing angle,  he came up with a revised shape which would sacrifice about 8% of the sail area but should achieve a better-balanced sailplan. We took a brave pill and said ok, let's do it.

Meanwhile we weren't entirely happy with the rigging either. Just before we left the UK we were advised to replace a spacing bar on the forestay, just below the roller-reefing drum.

The replacement spacer....

....also just visible below the furler drum - the line to the left rotates the drum when pulled so rolling the sail up like a blind

The design of the original had been known to fail without warning after a few years so this was definitely good advice. However, Graham had become increasingly certain that the new spacer had been made about an inch too long and so the mast was raked (leaning) back too much.

Step forward expert number two, Paul Smith who has just set up his own rigging business, NZ Yacht Services, in Opua. We worked with him last year when he was with a bigger rigging company and knew he had a very good reputation. Paul climbed aboard and had a good look at the mast and rigging and agreed with Graham. "We should get better forestay tension and the weather helm should reduce if we shorten the spacer by 20mm", he said, so that's what we did.

So, Monday's sail was the first proper test of our theories and would tell us whether the best past of £550 had been spent wisely.

The re-cut yankee, setting well

All three sails nicely set
We're delighted to report total success! Maunie felt beautifully balanced and for the first time could be helmed with just two fingers on the wheel. We were able to carry the full mainsail in wind strengths were we would have previously had to put in a reef and the slightly smaller yankee tacked around the front of the staysail much more easily (it used to get stuck mid-tack) and was easier to winch in. 

So much relief that this has all worked and we're indebted to Roger and Paul for their advice and skills.

Now we just have to resolve the puzzle of the under-revving engine, but that's another story for another time.

Better get back to the lists and the packing!

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