Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall charting our adventures as we sail around the world. The boat is now on the east coast of Australia while we spend a summer back in Britain.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Maunie's ready to go again!

We're back in the sailing business! Maunie had fared really well under her covers for the past 7 months, with our great friend Brian checking on her periodically. There really wasn't any winter weather here this year so she was dry and well-aired and it didn't take us long to move back into boat life. Which means, of course, tackling a longish list of maintenance jobs. 

We'd booked in to the Boat Works yard for 5 days ashore to attend to the annual below-the-waterline jobs and, once again, the team there looked after us very well. The yard's reputation seems to be growing, though, as it was really busy with boats hauling out for their early-summer maintenance.

Maunie is guided towards Sid, the seventy-tonne travel-lift

In spite of 7 months of inactivity, the hull only had a light coating of slime so the Coppercoat antifouling is still doing well in its 7th year. Putting a plastic bag over the propeller while Maunie was moored up was a good move.

Teamwork and practice to avoid blasting your work-mate! 3000psi pressure washers quickly had the hull clean
The list of jobs didn't look too onerous but, of course, it's a boat so there are always surprises to deal with. The Brunton's Autoprop feathering propeller needed some extra attention to take up some slack in the bearings and we decided that our batteries, showing initial signs of losing capacity, should be replaced; last time we kept them too long and they began to fail quite dramatically in Tonga. Fitting them is quite a challenge - lots of cables to deal with!

The trick is to label each cable and take lots of photos before disconnecting!
Apart from these moments, it all went to plan and a $30 car polisher and a long day's effort in the hot sunshine resulted in a shiny hull and superstructure and saved about $400 compared to a professional polish!

Nice hat, eh? Note the reflection in the cabin top.
Once again we were able to borrow one of the courtesy cars for the full weekend and this year it wasn't the little city car but a mighty (and thirsty) 4-litre V6 pick-up (they are known as 'utes' around here).

So, as well as doing some shopping runs and dropping the old batteries off for recycling, we were able to drive an hour south to surprise Brenda, Di's aunt, for lunch. Her best friend Claire had once again arranged it so Brenda was expecting to meet some fictitious friends of Claire's when we walked in.

Claire, top left, is gaining a reputation for organising surprises!
So, on Monday afternoon, a clean, shiny and serviced Maunie returned to the water.

We're now anchored inside the man-made Sovereign Island off Paradise Point and, as we motored round the island to the anchorage, we could compare the architectural 'qualities' of the multi-million dollar houses:

Prime waterfront living for the hard-of-imagination

Not sure what the radar scanner's for but there's plenty of work for the window cleaners

This only has five bedrooms, apparently!

Italianate styling, anyone?

Looking in an estate agent's window this morning, we saw that a 485 sq m building plot on the waterfront was for sale for a mere $1.8M so we kind of understood the motives of the owner of this last example who clearly said to himself, "I'm paying for the view, so just build me a pre-fab barn and punch a few windows in it.":

Anyway it's absolutely great to be back aboard, in spite of a few sweary words this morning as we tried to pull a new VHF aerial cable through the mast. The mousing line parted at a critical moment so we had to do some hard thinking to resolve it but, thankfully, we now have a fully-functioning radio once again.

We plan to start sailing south in the morning; the weather is very settled and the sea-state is calm so we'll aim to do a long day (with a 5.00am start) to get to Ballina (some 70 miles south) by dusk.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

A premature baldness scare but we're back in Brisbane

We're back in the sunshine and 27 degrees after a good flight but a potentially disastrous car journey.

The Ford Mondeo hire car for the journey from Bridgwater to Heathrow Airport looked very shiny but as soon as we hit the M5 it was clear that it wasn't quite right; the steering wheel pointed about 15 degrees to port to keep it straight. Luckily we'd already planned a pit-stop for an excellent brunch at the Yeo Valley HQ Canteen which allowed us to investigate. We were pretty shocked to find that the inside edges of both front tyres were scrubbed through to the cord and wire reinforcement:

Not many miles short of a dramatic blow-out

The hire company handled the somewhat agitated phone call extremely well, arranging a replacement car from the nearby Bristol Airport, promising a full investigation as to why the fault hadn't been spotted and refunding the full hire cost before they'd even seen the tyres for themselves.

After that minor setback, the rest of the journey went remarkably well and we arrived in Brisbane on Saturday evening. Jet lag kicked in with us both waking up at 4.00am but our plans for a gentle, not-doing-much Sunday were very nicely re-written with a great lunchtime meet-up with Kerry, Adam & Cindi and Lionel & Irene who all had an awesome season of sailing in Vanuatu and New Caledonia. It was brilliant to catch up with them all and we'll see more of them over the coming months. 

Having left a foggy and cold London, it's great to be back in Summer sunshine.

So, after a second night in Brisbane, we'll be back aboard Maunie tomorrow. Can't wait, though our arrival will coincide with a southerly gale, just to ease us back into the world of sailing!

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Final painting and polishng

We're in the final few days of manic packing and house-decorating before we fly back to Australia on Friday. Graham finished work on Tuesday (on a bit of a high, having successfully presented to the Thatchers' Board the main investment project he's been working on) and we're now busy packing everything into storage and doing final painting and decorating to leave the house and garden in near-perfect order.

Our efforts have been slightly delayed but very enlivened by visits from Bertie the cat, who belongs to near neighbours; he's the most affectionate moggie and stops us from working for enough time to make us enjoy the autumnal sunshine:

We've also had a weekend away in mid-Wales to return Pippi, our god-daughter's car. A lovely supper with Barbara and Steve was followed by a very enjoyable tasting (Graham will certainly miss the malt whiskies in Australia!):

Finally, we had a great Sunday lunch at the local pub with Duncan and Elisabeth, complete strangers linked only by sailing (as is often the way, these days). They have bought 'Quahog', the Vancouver 38 built straight after Maunie, and plan to sail off into blue waters next year so we spent a lovely afternoon sharing tips and enjoying hearing their plans. 

The aforementioned 'local pub', The Hood Arms has been a complete joy, sitting at the top of our lane. The publicans are so welcoming it will be tough to drag ourselves away. At the end of our Sunday lunch, Paul, one of the owners, came along and offered us a drink 'on the house'. Cheers to The Hood Arms and wishing them a successful and not too exhausting festive season!

The next update will be from Maunie. Can't wait to be back aboard her!

Saturday, 7 October 2017

One month to sunshine

G'day from a windy and distinctly chilly Somerset. It's suddenly sinking-in that, in only 26 days, we'll be back in a place where G'day is regarded as a normal greeting, so the pressure's on to finish the house jobs and start packing things away for our return to a 38ft home. Actually, we have to say that the house and garden are now looking lovely and we hope that the letting agent's optimism will be rewarded with some wonderful tenants signing on the dotted line soon. 

As British readers will know, it hasn't been a great summer - the weather has been 'changeable' (pretty crap actually) and the mood of the newsrooms has been overwhelmingly downbeat. The Prime Minister told us that the country needs a 'strong and stable' government back in May when she rashly thought that a snap general election would be a fine and dandy idea; she's now (at the party conference) downrated our needs to 'calm' government, prompting the question of where her team now sits on sliding scale from 'inspirational' at one end to 'dire' at the other. As we feared, the machinations of the Brexit negotiations and internal party bickering have rather taken the politicians' eyes off the ball when it comes to dealing with the pressing short and long term issues that the country faces. 

Anyway, enough of all that. Despite the challenges, we've enjoyed being back at home. Graham's job at Thatchers Cider has proved to be challenging but enjoyable and its scope has expanded over the months. Initially focusing on a huge investment project to build a new automated warehouse (due to begin building next May), he's now looking at all sorts of other things that have him investigating areas that are new to him. Thatchers is a great business, family-owned like Yeo Valley, that's growing very quickly thanks to very loyal existing cider drinkers and many more newcomers to the brand. A few weekends ago about 8,000 of them turned up for an open day at the cider mill (5,000 more than at the last event two years ago) so Graham returned from the day having totally lost his voice after five hours of non-stop tour-guiding around the canning plant. Here's a little video of the day:

He finishes the job on the 24th October, so the week after will be a flurry of packing and stowage!

Meanwhile, Di has been very busy sorting lots of house and garden jobs so the odd weekend off has been particularly welcome for us both. We did a mini Northern Tour to catch up with both our families (and, for Graham, meeting great nieces and nephews for the first time), We also got to meet Sweep, the latest addition to Norma (Di's eldest sister) and Mick's household; too cute!

Then, last weekend, we had a visit from Colin and Ana from the yacht Ithaka. You may remember that we waved them goodbye on Christmas Day 2015 as they set sail from Auckland to Chile (an amazing 6 week voyage) and, thanks to our SSB radios we managed to chat to them almost every day of the crossing. Here's a reminder of sailing with them just before they left: CLICK HERE

Their journey was awe-inspiring and saw then sail down the coast of Chile, down to the very chilly southern tip of South America and then up to the Falklands and on to Brazil, the Cape Verde islands and back to France where Ithaka is now awaiting new adventurous owners. Actually, we're rather hoping that Colin and Ana's plans will be just as unreliable as ours and that they keep her for a few more seasons - well, there's the French coast to explore, then the Baltic and, well, after South America, Iceland would be pretty straightforward! If you're interested here's a link to their YIT blog Click here

Both yacht crews really enjoyed swapping sailing stories and photos of our respective trips; when you have so much in common, conversation never falters. We managed to get some good walking in and a proper Sunday lunch at the Hood Arms so it was a great weekend.

Colin and Ana by the dramatic cliffs of Kilve Beach, less than a mile from our house

Ana in photography mode

Her view. Not quite the white sand tropical beaches that we've become used to but pretty dramatic with layers of igneous rock and oil-bearing shale
Colin summed up the feelings that we share about how it's sometime difficult to talk about our sailing experiences, to folk who've not 'been there and done it', with a great little poem in our visitors' book. I hope he won't mind us sharing it!

They think we come from outer space,
The 'normal' folk of human race,
Little they know of GRIBs or chain,
Of bommies, kelp, cyclonic rain.
To Kilve we drove, for kindred spirit,
In Di and Graham, we find no limit.
Talk and walk and eat and drink,
and reminisce, with time to think,
Of voyages new, and thing to do.
We drive away, refreshed in mind,
Feeling less unique among mankind. 

Of course, loyal blog followers like you don't fall into the 'normal folk' category! Thanks to Trish (Maunie blog super-user) for the prompt to add this post.

We'll do one more UK update before we fly back to Australia but, for now, best wishes from us both. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

A (not so brilliant) British Summer in the Countryside

It's odd, for once, to be on the receiving end of sailing blogs from tropical islands whilst we endure a pretty mediocre British summer so it's a case of getting a taste of our own medicine, we suppose. We are certainly missing the sailing life, such wonderful photos of Vanuatu on Bravo's blog, for example, (http://svbravo.blogspot.co.uk) are making us a a little jealous but at the same time serve to remind that it's only a couple of months before we are back aboard Maunie.

Mind you, after a warm and dry start to the summer here, August's wet and often chilly weather has come as a bit of a change but it's been good for the garden as we continue to work hard to get it back under control. Didn't expect the timber from a dead apple tree that we felled to be loaded into the wood-burner so early, though!

In between the rain showers, Di has been digging for victory up at the top of the garden to re-shape an earth bank that was just full of weeds. Turned out it was full of other things as well:

The rusty remains of about five car exhaust pipes were unearthed!
After this major excavation, the bank was re-shaped and we bought lawn turf from a local grower for an instant improvement. A month of rain later and it has bedded in very nicely.

The patio umbrella in the last photo shows that the weather hasn't been all bad and, for once, the August Bank Holiday has delivered warm sunshine rather than the usual disappointing rain so we've really enjoyed a brief return of summer. BBQ's on the patio, drinks with old friends in the garden and a wonderful walk along the coast, then up to the village for a traditional Sunday roast lunch reminded us that, in the right weather, this part of Somerset is really one of the best places to be. Certainly the fruit on the trees and bushes thinks so; our apples are getting ready to pick:

.... but there are rather more arriving hourly at Graham's work:

Katy apples (the earliest variety) in the hopper at Thatchers Cider
Meanwhile the hedgerows (and, unfortunately, some of our garden borders) are full of ripening blackberries. Blackberry and apple pies ahoy!

Our circular walk took us through the ancient hamlet of East Quantoxhead, a place that hasn't changed much with time and which also provided an automotive memory-lane moment for Graham:

East Quantoxhead duckpond

Thatched cottages, all belonging to the Lutteral Estate

The first family car that Graham can remember was a Bedford Dormobile like this (though ours was red with a white stripe). It had a 3-speed, steering column mounted gearshift - known as "Three on the Tree"......

..... as opposed to "Four on the Floor" for the Morris Minor, a later and equally rust-prone Keating family vehicle.

The newly re-opened Hood Arms in Kilve - great food!
Just as with sailing, though, these moments of sunshine, relaxation and good living are interrupted by maintenance jobs, all of which turn out to be more challenging than expected. "I'll just have a go at a couple of little patches of loose paint on that wall", said Graham......

What did I start here? More to do...
Job done

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!