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.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Still sailing - and catching up with sailing mates

We've certainly joined the ranks of the time-poor! Where do the weeks go, exactly? After our extended sailing trip, where time each year seem to last at least eighteen months, we are back into the familiar routine where a year chopped up into working weeks seems to last about six! This working-for-a-living malarkey is all well and good but it does get in the way of the sailing rather.

Still, whilst our sailing is reduced to weekends and the odd extended weekend, it's lovely to be back on the beautiful southwest coast of England. We're also enjoying the Somerset countryside which had turned an unusual shade of parched brown at the end of the amazingly hot and dry summer but is now back to its more common lush green. Our links to the Pacific sailing world remain strong, with regular contact with sailing friends and even a couple of visits.

Firstly we had Ana and Colin (ex Ithaka) who had a family get together in a cottage in Dittisham, a couple of miles up the River Dart from MAunie's mooring, and joined us aboard Maunie with their two grandsons for coffee.

Then Kerry (ex Sel Citron) came to stay and enjoyed a mix of local hikes and some good sailing.

Kerry & Di on Kilve Beach

Low tide geology
 Kerry also did a great sketch of our cottage:

Graham's work has been rather time-consuming for his first few months (warm sunshine = record cider sales!) but our own apple orchard has deliver a pretty good crop this year so we have also been busy harvesting:

Apple pressing, on a rather smaller scale

Very tasty pink juice from the early crop of Discovery apples

Whilst we haven't managed a planned trip across to southern Ireland, we did have an excellent, four-day mini-cruise to Falmouth and back which reminded us just how good the local sailing is around us.

Approaching Start Point

Di enjoying the sail as we beat to windward. 

Approaching Pendennis Castle in Falmouth

The beautiful River Yealm with two smaller Vancouvers on moorings near us

The Yealm visitors' pontoon

A great spinnaker run back to Dartmouth
It definitely feels suddenly quite autumnal, so sailing now involves waterproofs and warm layers which comes as something of a shock after six years of t-shirts and shorts. However Maunie is definitely the right boat for these conditions and the central heating has been tested already!

Finally, we drove down to Southampton on Friday to visit the Boat Show. We were mostly looking for kit suppliers and ideas for the refit that well be doing to the boat over the next year or two but, of course, we had to look at a few other boats just to compare. We genuinely didn't find anything we'd want to swap Maunie for apart, perhaps, for this beautiful wooden 63ft yawl built by Spirit Yachts in Ipswich.

Access to these kinds of boats at the Show is usually reserved for those who have pre-arranged a private viewing (and presumably passed the finance test) but one of the Spirit Yachts team saw us admiring her and invited us aboard.

For those interested this link gives more photos: https://spirityachts.com/spirit-dh63-launch-southampton-boat-show/

Thursday, 14 June 2018

A different kind of sailing altogether!

We're avid followers of the amazing Volvo Ocean Race, where seven identical 65ft racing boats have already covered over 40,000 miles around the globe. Makes our pace on Maunie look a tad slow but there you are.

Anyway, for the first time in ages one of the stop-overs was in the UK this year so last Saturday we drove over to Cardiff to visit the race village and see the fleet.

We were really delighted to meet Dee Caffari, the amazing skipper of Turn the Tide on Plastic. We last met her in Auckland 3 years ago when she was one of the crew of an all-women team on SCA and this time she's led a young and pretty inexperienced crew in the world's toughest yacht race.

Dee's boat - rather wider than Maunie!
The following afternoon the boats left Cardiff for the start of the 1300 mile race to Gothenburg  in almost flat calm. In the early evening we could see a couple of their sails, moving very slowly on the horizon, from our garden. They have been moving rather faster in the last 26 hours as they race across the final miles to Sweden.

The website for the race is here: https://www.volvooceanrace.com/en/home.html

Sunday, 27 May 2018

After a short geology field trip, Maunie's back in Dartmouth

The last couple of weeks have been eventful! Having unloaded Maunie from the ship (and finding, to our relief, that she was in excellent condition) we moved her across to Hythe Marina for a week and promptly started dismantling her. Well, her steering system at least. 

Pedestal and gearbox, restored to smooth operation, ready to be refitted.
Graham, ever enduring the engineer's curse of hating it if something doesn't work just as it should, had tried to adjust the steering in Australia - we had an annoying inch of play in the wheel at the straight-ahead position and the wheel brake (vital to keep the rudder locked when we are using the Windpilot to steer the boat) was slipping. Unfortunately, the vital component that is supposed to slide, easily, off when four bolts are undone had decided that it didn't want to part company with the pedestal after 20 years in situ. So the first job on our return was to unbolt both pedestal and gearbox and take them to Cliff, a local engineer who specialises in Whitlock steering systems. This, of course, was easier said than done as one bolt - and it had to be the most inaccessible one, didn't it? - refused to undo and had to be treated to the application of an angle-grinder. Anyway, after that hot and dirty afternoon spent upside down in the cockpit locker, the kit was finally removed and delivered to Cliff who, three days's of work later, pronounced it fully refurbished and good for another 20 years.

Of course, having no steering for a few days meant that we couldn't sail anywhere so we were very lucky that friends Steve and Barbara (veterans of several sailing trips on Maunie and our previous boat across to Ireland, up to Scotland and in NZ) had booked a National Trust holiday cottage on the Isle of Wight for the week so we took the passenger ferry across to Cowes and had two lovely days doing long walks on the island.The cottage was once used by coastguard staff at the Needles, at the very western tip of the island, so we had splendid views and no shortage of wind.

The row of coastguard cottages is just visible on the ridge at the left hand side of the photo

The evening light, looking down on the chalk stacks of the Needles

The cottages, looking back across the Solent towards the mainland

Another view of the Needles, from our second-day hike. The old coastguard station is now staffed by volunteers of the National Coastwatch Institute and around it are the remains of huge defensive gun emplacements from the 1870's through to WW2
On the south side of the Needles promontory are these huge concrete structures which were once top-secret testing bays for Blue Streak missile engines in the 1950's
We absolutely loved the Isle of Wight. The geology is fascinating and the land, in many places, is definitely on the move. There are some huge landslides, old and very new, around the coast which must make the owners of some otherwise-delightful holiday houses feel distinctly nervous. At the NE end of the island we found woodland that had slipped into the sea, leaving the trees suddenly drowned in sea water and, apparently, rooted in a beach.

After a great couple of days with Barbara and Steve we returned to Maunie, collected niece Laura (ace crew from NZ to Vanuatu a couple of years ago), refitted the steering and headed west in gentle winds and calm seas. 

Laura back in her element
A stop-over in Poole allowed us to catch up with Sue and Laurie, Graham's aunt and uncle, and then, with weather conditions remaining benign, we had two nights at anchor in Lulworth Cove to continue the geology field trip.

Maunie anchored at the far side of Lulworth Cove. The land in the distance is an Army firing range so the otherwise peaceful spot had the rattle of machine guns and the crump of artillery as a soundtrack at times
The amazing arch of Durdle Door, a mile to the west of Lulworth

For those wanting more geology details (click on the image for larger text)

Looking back towards Lulworth - a popular spot.
From Lulworth we moved round to the lovely Georgian port of Weymouth, where we berthed on the pontoon featured early in the recent film Dunkirk, and that allowed us an early morning start to round Portland Bill. The Bill has a well-deserved reputation for dangerous sea conditions - tides can run at up to 10 knots in the shallow race just off its tip so it's vital to round it at just the right time of tide. The options are to stay very close to the shore to stay inside the race or else to go about five miles off. Naturally we opted for the inshore option and did it under sail.

Approaching the Bill at slack water but still with a knot of current trying to push us south into the race

Rounded! The technique is to pass so close to the flat rock that you could throw a biscuit to the seagulls sitting on it.
Finally, at 14.40 on Thursday 24th May, we returned to our home port of Dartmouth, just under six years after we left. It felt a little anti-climactic, to be honest; we'd hoped to be returning having done the whole circumnavigation (in which case we'd be expecting brass bands and naval salutes) but it still feels that we've had quite an adventure.

Homecoming celebration
Maunie's new mooring on the Dart, on a fore and aft trot mooring, alongside a 40' boat called Olive. The pontoon upstream is for visiting boats.
So, this chapter of our lives draws to a close for now. We're looking forward to re-discovering some more wonderful sailing destinations on this beautiful coastline but, sadly, our time will be limited to weekends and the odd week here or there. We'll post the occasional update on this blog but, for the moment, would just like to thank you for following our voyage and sending supportive comments. We hope that you have enjoyed the adventure as much as we have!

Friday, 11 May 2018

We have Maunie back!

It was a very exciting day yesterday as we were re-united with Maunie. The mighty Damgracht had put on a burst of speed in the last few days so arrived in Southampton on Wednesday evening which allowed us to dash down from Scotland; fellow Vancouver 38 owners Duncan and Elisabeth very kindly let us stay with them and we took the passenger ferry from Hythe across Southampton Water yesterday afternoon.

Our first view of the Damgracht from the ferry

From the dock - Maunie nestled up at the bow

On deck it was a busy scene - a Halberg Rassy 46 is hoisted up and Maunie would be next

Lift off!

Ready to splash
We were on the ship for about an hour in total and chatted to Arnold, the Dutch captain who was about to complete a 4-month stint in charge. The unloading process went very smoothly apart from one heart-stopping moment - the key broke off in the padlock on the main hatch which (despite being advertised as rust-proof) had seized solid. A patient application of easing oil and pliers eventually had us into the cabin and we were delighted to find the boat in great order - nothing broken or damaged and the engine fired up first time.

We've moved Maunie to Hythe Marina for a week to allow us to get her ready for sea - sails to re-fit, halyards to reeve and navigation to think about. It's so good to be back on board but it is distinctly chilly so we are going to have to dig out the fleeces!

In the meantime it's back up to Cheshire for niece Amy's wedding so it's all go.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Back in the cold and damp

We've been back in England for a week now and, though the jet lag has passed, we're still feeling a little shell-shocked. Very green fields, lovely pubs, stupidly congested (and potholed) roads, lots of rain and temperatures that are struggling to get above 10 degrees centigrade. This is supposed to be the start of summer, right? It's certainly quite a shock after Australia! Actually, to be fair, we arrived into London last weekend at the end of a 3-day heatwave so, as we emerged from Green Park tube station on Saturday, the park was full of people having picnics and general fun on the grass but since then the weather seriously deteriorated.

This blog will, for obvious reasons, start to describe some less exotic adventures now we are back but we will continue to update it every now and then with sailing stories once we are reunited with Maunie (see later). In the meantime, here are the last few photos from the land of sunshine and the latest update on the boat's voyage towards us.

A coastal hike at the Noosa National Park

Just to remind us what sunshine looks like!
 We had a wonderful few days with Andy and Sue up in Noosa, caught up with Kerry in her new home town of Sunshine Beach and had a couple of days back in Brisbane (a city we really like) before flying to Adelaide for 3 nights. The reason for the stop-over was that Graham had a meeting with the team at Coopers Brewery (who distribute Thatchers Cider in Australia) but it also gave us a chance to see a new part of the country.

As luck would have it, our arrival in town coincided with the Special Olympics, a food expo and a big tourism conference so we couldn't find a hotel in the city for love nor money. Instead we were offered a room in a pub / hotel in Stirling, 30 minutes' drive out in the Adelaide Hills, which is a wine region. Wine region, you say? That'll be fine!

Stirling main street - the autumnal colours are arriving

Some relevant street sculptures

The hotel was once a stage-coach stop, with stables behind it, and is one of the oldest buildings in town

The hotel today - very comfy rooms 
After Graham's day of toil in the Brewery (and a very lovely meal out for us both with Nick the operations manager and Michael, the sales manager and his wife Jo) we had time to explore a little of the countryside (and, of course, sample its produce) before spending the day in the university city of Adelaide.

Old and new University buildings

By now, dear readers, you'll know that our sailing trip has given us wonderful friendships and connections all around the world so you won't be surprised to hear that we had friends to meet in Adelaide, even though we'd never been there before. Peter and Catherine are lovely people whom we met on the SSB radio a couple of years ago. They have just completed their circumnavigation on their catamaran The Southern Cross, finishing in style with an epic anti-clockwise trip around Australia from Bundaberg, so we had a great meal with them. Meanwhile Harry, who joined us on Maunie with his dad Karl in January, is doing a year at Adelaide University so we met him for a drink too. 

So, we're back home and, whilst we're sorry that this amazing adventure is over (for the moment at least), we are looking forward to the next chapter. Graham is spending a few days at Thatchers to get back up to speed with the amazing pace of change there before we head north to visit family (Graham's Mum's 80th birthday party and niece Amy's wedding being highlights of a busy and social week). We then dash south to meet Maunie as she's unloaded in Southampton and will have a couple of weeks aboard her to sail her back to Dartmouth. We won't regain access to our house until the 11th June so the ability to live back aboard the boat is good!

In the meantime we've just spent a busy couple of days searching for a 'workhorse' car for Di, a process which sadly reinforced the worst stereotypes of used-car salespeople until we found a genuinely refreshing owner-operator business in West Sussex and bought a very tidy 7 year old Subaru estate. Thanks to Zoe, an ex-colleague of Graham's and now marketing manager for a holiday business called Darwin Escapes, we are currently residing in a holiday park lodge near Cheddar and enjoying the freedom to cook our own meals, wash laundry and use the gym. Almost normal life.

The new car and our latest temporary residence
We'll update you when we're back on Maunie!

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Australian critters

Someone posted this image on Facebook recently and it served to underline the fact that we've barely scratched the surface of Australia.

We've only sailed down the east coast (from just north of the Russia / Ukraine border down to northern Egypt, in northern hemisphere terms). Having picked up a hire car in Brisbane we were able to revisit some sailing haunts and catch up with good friends before heading inland.

With Irene and Lionel in Yamba. They have just bought a beautiful house there so, sadly, the wonderful Kiapa is up for sale

In Kingscliff, to visit Di's aunt Brenda (seated in front of Di ) - we were introduced to her gang
Driving north, we stopped at Byron Bay

Another lighthouse moment - this is the most easterly point of mainland Australia

The car's boot is loaded with all the important things

The little inland trip of the past couple of weeks has introduced us to a whole new climate and a complete change of animal life. Luckily this handy species identification chart hasn't been needed too many times:

We spent a night at an Airbnb house up in the hills inland of the coastal town of Mooloolaba (which has such a great name that the spell-checker wants to convert it to Hullabaloo) near Melaney and were delighted to find that Lex and Marie, the owners, are huge wildlife enthusiasts and have three generations of 'pretty face' Wallabies visit them each morning and evening.

'Ziggy' is very partial to the odd gift of a cracker. The bulge in her belly shows that there's a joey in there, but it has yet to show its face.

 The bird life around the house was pretty good, too:

Fluffy kookaburras 

Marie puts seeds out for the parrots and Rosellas 
Lex turned out to be another engineer who used to work in the brewing industry in Melbourne so he and Graham swapped stories. These days his passion is restoring rare motorbikes so Di got to jump on another old British bike - this time a 1950, 1000cc Vincent:

Leaving Melaney we stopped for a walk at a national park to marvel at the rain-forest trees that were spared the loggers' saw when much of this area was cleared for farmland - today, Melaney's warm, moist climate makes it one of the best areas for dairy farming in Australia.

Extraordinary buttress root structures

There's always something trying to kill something else in Australia - a huge vine is slowly encircling this tree

This is a Booyong, or Brown Tulip Oak

Huge bats roosting in the canopy

The view across the plains towards the sea. These are the Glasshouse Mountains, so named by Captain Cook.
We are now in Noosa, having stayed with our lovely friends Sue and Andy and their daughters, Hannah and Emma for a few days of relaxation and more exploration. Our time here is rapidly running out, sadly!