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.

Saturday, 24 December 2022

Using the right size hammer

With Maunie safely ashore in Totnes, sheltering from the rain under her winter covers, we are able to go down to do a few winter maintenance jobs. The latest one tested Graham's nerve, it must be said.

Maunie's four-cylinder Yanmar diesel engine is, like the majority of boat motors, cooled indirectly. What this means is that the engine has a fresh water (with added antifreeze) cooling circuit just like that of a car. However, rather than using a radiator, there's a heat-exchanger that pumps cold sea water through bronze tubes that pass though the coolant in a header tank on the top of the engine. 

The coolant header tank is at the very bottom of this photo

Over time the heat exchanger tubes can become clogged with encrusted salt and other debris, reducing its efficiency and, possibly, resulting in the engine overheating. It was time to take it apart for a good clean and, initially, the process seemed to be going pretty well. I had to remove the exhaust mixer elbow first, to allow access to the aft end cap and to allow the tube-stack to be pulled out. The exhaust elbow and end cap came off without a fight and it was good to find that the bore of the exhaust was nice and clean (they can get a build up of coke which restricts the gas flow).

Flow and return sea water pipes removed at the back of the heat exchanger

The end cap removed, revealing a bit of crud in the tubes

However, this was a boat job so, of course, things then got tricky. The cap at the forward end of the tubes also had to be removed to allow me to prise out both O-rings to allow the tube-stack to slide out. Unfortunately, it showed no sign of shifting once the bolts were removed. I was nervous about applying too much force and possibly breaking something expensive so chatted to the resident engine specialist, Steve, at New Wave Engineering, who has come to our assistance in the past. He climbed aboard and was surprised that the end cap was stuck. However, armed with knowledge and experience, he selected a big hammer and a steel drift and whacked it far harder that I would have dared; thankfully, the recalcitrant cap flew off, undamaged.

With both caps and O-rings removed, the tube stack slid out easily

I had read that brick cleaner (a fairly aggressive acid) or vinegar were both options to soak the tubes in order to clean them but Steve has an ultrasonic cleaner in his workshop which he prefers for the task so offered that as an option.

After a couple of cleaning cycles, the tube stack yields all its hidden bits of scale and muck

The ultrasonic cleaner also removed all the paint from the caps so Steve primed them, ready for a topcoat of Yanmar grey

As good as new

We've bought new O-rings and gaskets so next time we'll refit the heat exchanger and refill the coolant circuit. It's good to know that this job is done and we should be good for another few years. On to the next job on the list!

Monday, 10 October 2022

The new instrument project is completed!

We are very pleased to report that the rewiring and chaos is over with! Here are some short videos of it all:

This is the second installment of the video story, as we remove the remaining cables and start to add the new network instruments:  https://youtu.be/WuF3mtxmMPA

and here's the final bit of the installation https://youtu.be/cgdZEfe70gU

We finally took Maunie out for a sea-trial at the weekend and were delighted that everything worked as it should. Unfortunately there was no wind at all but the calm sea and sunshine were perfect conditions for testing. https://youtu.be/b-cV8XV-t_E

We'll hope to get a final few days of sailing, weather permitting, before the end of the month. We'll be hauling out at Baltic Wharf in Totnes again this winter so she'll be snug under her winter cover and we'll be able to continue with a few maintenance jobs. Hopefully not too many!

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Taking the boat apart and sailing something rather bigger.

 We've bitten the bullet and decided that now's the time to upgrade our 25-year-old Autohelm navigation instruments, the ones that show us speed, depth, wind speed and direction, and so on.

The old kit was still working fine, with the odd hiccup, but it operates on a different language than that used by the chart plotter and autopilot, so requires some electronic trickery to translate between the two systems. We had realised for a while that, at some stage, we'd need to upgrade and recent galloping inflation in the electronics supply-chain finally made up our minds for us - we needed to order the new Raymarine equipment before the 1st of September to beat price increases of up to 35% on some items!

The next challenge was getting someone to fit the kit. All the local experts were busy (and, of course, expensive) so we started to think about tackling the project as a DIY job. Luckily, one local marine electrician could spare us an hour to come aboard to go through the plans; an hour of his time was money well spent to be sure we were on the right track and he took Graham's hand-drawn diagram and uprated it to something much more professional!

Graham's sketch - the red dots are new bits of kit

The professional version

Having ordered all the components, it was simply a matter of removing the old instruments and wiring to be ready to fit the new. It wasn't simple, of course!

Which of these cables needs to be removed?!

Here's a short video of the first stage of the process:


It was all a bit challenging but we are making progress. There'll be another update shortly as we start putting all the new kit into place.

Meanwhile, as a break from all the wiring, Graham has just been sailing on something altogether bigger - a 72' Global Challenge yacht of the type that we both raced around Britain. Scarily, it's 19 years since the Round Britain Challenge, so the opportunity to sail aboard the Challenge Wales yacht was something to jump at and Graham has now volunteered as a crew member for the charity, which focuses on delivering team working skills to 14-25 year olds. Sunday's sail was a chance to meet the team and enjoy some autumnal sunshine in the brown, tidal waters off Cardiff.

Here's a 2-minute video of the sail:


Tuesday, 16 August 2022

A final video from the Caledonian Canal


We've just finished editing some video and photos from the Caledonian Canal so here's the link -it's a 10-minute film, hope you enjoy it:


Wednesday, 10 August 2022

A new video - sailing in Orkney

We're back home and struggling a little with the combined effects of Covid and the hot weather. The lawns are parched brown and the ground is rock hard.

The village church with the graveyard parched brown

Looking south past the house - it'll be a good harvest for grain, at least.

Still, the lack of energy to attempt anything too strenuous has given Graham the opportunity to do some editing of video that we shot up in Orkney.

Here's the link: https://youtu.be/MO9MnKTLmcI

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

The End of the Cruise


The final 258nm passage back to Dartmouth was fast and eventful - we completed it in 39 hours. A perfect beam reach across the Irish Sea saw us pass north of the Isles of Scilly at 09.00 on Saturday and we then turned to port, hoisted the Parasailor and had a great day's run east, passing very close to Wolf Rock lighthouse, south of Land's End.

We enjoyed several dolphin convoys and even had a pilot whale pop up alongside us. Di was still pretty exhausted from her Covid but was able to do short watches to allow Graham to get some much-needed sleep but, to be honest, tiredness meant that the skipper's decision-making process wasn't as sharp as it could have been. The sensible thing to do would be to drop the Parasailor before dark and continue under white sails but we were lulled by the moderate breeze and excellent progress into keeping it up. Of course, the wind built substantially more that forecast so we had a very high speed sail in up to 22 knots of wind.

We decided that it would be safest to wait till first light to drop the sail and Constance our amazing autopilot did an excellent job to keep us on course. However,  sailing much faster than planned, we arrived at the tidal gate of Start Point about 2 hours too early and had to fight a 2-3 knot adverse current which also built up the seas. It would have been much more sensible to be under more easily-controlled white sails, with the option to heave-to (effectively parking the boat with the sails opposing each other) to wait for the tide. Ah, well, we never stop learning, and that experience is salted away as reference for future passages!

Anyway, by 07.00 on Sunday we were safely back on our home mooring and retired to our bunks for a few hours. 

On Monday morning Graham, still testing negative but feeling tired with the onset of a head cold, masked up as a precaution, took the train back to Taunton. In a completely full carriage of 92 seats he was the only person wearing a mask which goes a long way to explaining the recent peak of the Ba5 variant; roughly 1 in 17 people in England are currently infected, according to the Zoe Covid Survey, so statistically you'd expect 5 people in that carriage to be positive.  Anyway, a taxi ride completed the journey back to Kilve to collect the car, which started first time (we love that Subaru!). By the time he got back to Dartmouth, though, he was feeling distinctly ropey so took another test.

So, a full 6 days after Di first tested positive he now has Covid and is feeling pretty rough. The timing could have been a lot worse, however - if the symptoms had kicked in on passage we'd have probably had to divert to Scilly or Falmouth to rest at anchor for a few days.

Apart from the Covid ending , it's been an amazing cruise, even if the weather in Scotland and Orkney was distinctly poor. Overall we sailed 1936nm at an average speed of just over 6 knots and, as always, our faith and trust in Maunie was never shaken.

A final note from the First Mate (as is tradition).......the skipper should not beat himself up for the Parasailor decision. To look after a very 'under the weather' crew, sail Maunie, take on extra watches and everything else was pretty incredible. Yes, we'll both learn from the experience but, as ever, Graham's skills as a skipper are unquestionable.

Friday, 29 July 2022

An Update from Isolation Cove


A quick update from our isolation anchorage at Courtmacsherry (or Courtmac, as we locals call it). We've had calm weather and, this morning, a beautiful sunrise and we've had time to rest and recover over the past three days. 

Maunie's new home

The anchorage at low tide, looking towards the mouth of the estuary

Sunrise this morning

As we approach spring tides, we have a rise and fall of nearly 3m but our Bahamian mooring has kept us perfectly spaced between the local moorings. The estuary is deceptive, though, and arriving near high water you could easily be fooled into thinking there is deep water where, in reality, shallow sand banks lurk to snag the keels of the unwary. We saw it happen last night when an incoming yacht strayed too far to starboard of the channel and ended up having an uncomfortable few hours on the mud.

The yacht heeling over as the water drains away

Luckily for them there was no wind and the water was completely calm so no damage was done, other than to pride.

Dianne has been feeling pretty groggy but has managed to catch up on sleep so is feeling a lot better, though she's certainly not fully recovered yet. Graham, somehow, is still testing negative for Covid so his being banished to the aft cabin seems to have worked so far.

So we've decided that we'll set off this afternoon for a 40-hour passage to Dartmouth. Di's well enough to keep watch though isn't up to anything too strenuous. Thankfully, the weather looks as good as it's going to get for us - the shipping forecast gives the wind as SW Force 3-5 (which means we'll be reaching, the fastest and most comfortable point of sail) and the sea state is mainly slight.

Departing Courtmac at 15.00 today,  we should reach Land's End around 18.00 tomorrow and, hopefully, a large blue spinnaker will be involved!

Our passage plan is such that the tide will then turn in our favour to take us past Lizard Point and on towards Dartmouth. The next 'tidal gate' (where adverse strong currents would be a challenge if we get the timing wrong) will be Start Point, just west of Dartmouth, so we'll aim to get there around 06.00 on Sunday, just as the tide turns in our favour.

That's the plan, at least. We hope that it'll all work out nicely and we'll be back on our home mooring by mid-morning on Sunday.