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.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Lottery of Breezes and the delight of Good Clouds

Each morning we send a short update to Bob McDavitt, our weather router who's based in Auckland. We update our position and weather conditions and compare them to the original predictions in his suggested course; if things change dramatically, he'll then issue a new routing but otherwise he just returns a few pithy comments of encouragement or suggestions of minor course changes.
Yesterday morning, as we sailed into lighter winds, he commented, "Not of lot of breeze, unfortunately. More like a lottery of breezes." Well, thankfully we seem to have won that particular lottery because, after a couple of hours motoring first thing in the morning, we found a lovely 12 knot following wind and calm seas so were able to fly the Parasailor until dusk and then continue with goose-winged white sails through most of the night. Having expected the worst, every hour of sailing, rather than listening to the clatter of the engine, was a bonus of peace and, of course, meant about four litres of diesel saved.
The wind finally dropped to about 5 knots at 4.00am and we started the engine. There was just enough breeze, from our starboard side, to fill the sails as we motored, however, so they gave enough drive to allow us to run at economical (and quieter) engine revs and, almost more importantly, to keep a steady pressure on the mast so we don't roll. Apart from the noise of the engine, which isn't so bad really, it's been pretty comfortable and the surfeit of electricity from the alternator has allowed us to run the breadmaker and watermaker.
If you  have been following the progress of the Volvo Ocean Race (and we're sorry that our bandwidth doesn't allow us to compete with their amazing videos and photos streamed from the boats to the website) you'll have read about the crews' obsession with clouds, particularly in the last leg to Newport. They talk about Good Clouds and Bad Clouds, meaning that the increased winds under rain-bearing clouds can either help or hinder their progress, depending where they meet them. We're seeing lots of cloud activity around us, with heavy rain clearly visible as it pours from them, but this morning we had a Good Cloud to windward of us that gave us an hour of respite from the motor as the wind swept down from it towards us.
We take the ability for exchange emails at sea almost for granted now but it's still pretty amazing, really, and every now and then we're reminded how fragile that link to the rest of the world can be. We received an email this morning from a friend in Whangarei who reported that a French boat Reine Marguerite which had left there on Sunday was able to send emails but couldn't receive any due to a problem on board; this meant that they had received no weather forecast updates since they left New Zealand and they were struggling to hear the daily weather bulletin from Gulf Harbour Radio which has become an important part of our daily routine. We were able to make good contact with Reine Marguerite this morning on our SSB radio net so Graham could give them an updated weather forecast from our GRIB forecasting files, downloaded the night before. Unfortunately his news wasn't great – they would be facing 36 hours of brisk adverse winds beginning on Saturday evening but at least Bernard, the skipper, had some warning and could plan his strategy and sail plan accordingly. The addition of 'old' technology of the SSB radio is certainly a pretty vital one for yachts sailing these waters and we continue to be delighted with our set which was aboard Maunie when we bought her and is one of the better installations around in terms of power and clarity.
Back to email, it's great to receive comments and emails from those of you following us. Comments that you add to our http://www.yit.co.nz/yacht/maunieofardwall page get emailed through to us automatically (unlike comments added to the bottom of this blog which we won't see until we get back to Internetland). It was lovely to see a note from Ian & Jessica Given who we met up in the wilds at the north west tip of South Island last year – great to see that you are following our progress and we'll definitely see you in Tauranga this summer!
Well, better get on with a few boat jobs. Oh, and there's a magnificent rainbow close on our starboard side – could be another Good Cloud on its way!

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