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, 16 September 2023

Perfect day for some aerial photos

Yesterday was a memorable day. Leaving Swanage just before midday, we had insufficient wind to sail (again) so motored round to Lulworth Cove for an excellent lunch stop.

Thankfully, the wind began to fill in after lunch so we were able to set the Parasailor.

We decided to be brave enough to fly the drone to get some aerial shots. Landing it safely would be tricky as we'd have no way to quickly stop the boat if it all wen wring. Happily it went to plan!

There's a very short video of the photoshoot here: https://youtu.be/oI54WjKdDwg?si=MJSpMeSMVPQiCB-x

Friday, 15 September 2023

More light winds but Maunie has a clean bottom

After the excitement of the Ocean Globe Race start, we headed into Gosport for a couple of nights in the excellent Haslar Marina. The stop-over gave us the chance to restock the galley and to use the amazing piece of kit called the Boat Lift. This is a submersible platform into which you motor the boat; two vertical columns, one either side, then move together to hold her upright before a huge compressor fills ballast tanks with air to lift you clear of the water.

Once high and dry we watched Stuart and his assistant meticulously pressure wash the weed, slime and barnacles from Maunie’s bottom; anything washed off was gathered into a sump to be pumped through a filtering system - an hour later the valves were opened and the ballast tanks filled to return her to the water. The difference in boat speed is really noticeable - we get an extra ½ to ¾ knot for the same engine speed!

From Gosport we took a while to honour a final request from Di's dearly departed dad, Brian. We scattered his ashes at Spithead, a place where, in 1953, his Royal Navy destroyer had taken part in the Spithead Review for Queen Elizabeth's coronation, so it's a fitting spot.

After thinking about this lovely man with fond and happy memories, we hoisted the sails and had a nice beat westwards down the Solent (at last some decent wind - thanks, Dad!) We came to a nature reserve at Newtown on the Isle of Wight for a peaceful night on a mooring before setting off with the following morning’s tide to Poole Harbour. We flew the spinnaker for about half the passage, until the wind completely died (again!) It’s the most wind-free cruise we’ve ever experienced.

We managed to secure a visitors berth in the Haven at Poole Yacht Club, thanks to the super-helpful manager Stan, so had a lovely catch up with Graham’s uncle and aunt, Laurie and Sue, who are members there. The following morning dawned foggy but it quickly burned off to reveal a sunny day with enough breeze to sail round to Swanage. It’s an open anchorage with moorings provided by the sailing club and we dinghied ashore for a great walk out to the Anvil Point lighthouse.

Beating past Old Harry Rocks

The Great Globe at Dulston Country Park

Anvil Point lighthouse

Today promises a little wind so we hope to be able to fly the spinnaker round to Weymouth then we’ll head west around Portland Bill on Saturday. We’re eying the forecast for next week with some caution – brisk SW’lies are on the cards as something of a contrast.


Monday, 11 September 2023

And they're off - slowly!

This hasn't been a good sailing year for us, so far. Graham's work has definitely been a factor, but the weather (no wind in June, lots of wind in July and August) has meant that Maunie hasn't moved much. However, we now have a 2-week break and, unusually for us, set off eastwards for the Solent.

We usually avoid the south coast sailing Mecca because of the crowds and high mooring prices but we had someone important to see. So we left Dartmouth on Friday to motor in glassy, windless conditions for an overnight stop in Lyme Regis.

Our progress was slower than we'd hoped - Maunie was moving at only about 80% of her normal speed so clearly her time on the mooring had attracted klingons on her hull. Graham jumped over the side with snorkel and scraper and removed weed and a surprising number of mussels and barnacles which definitely improved things but we'll be looking for an option to get the boat lifted for a proper pressure-wash before we go much further.

Saturday dawned equally calm but at least this allowed us to get a drone photo as we passed the Needles at the western tip of the Isle of Wight.

We arrived in darkness into Ocean Village Marina in Southampton, the very same place where we started and finished the Round Britain Challenge race 20 years ago. Our pontoon berth was right next to the boats we'd come to see; the following morning was to be the start of the Ocean Globe Race.

The OGR is a new round the world race, based on the old Whitbread Race of 50 years ago and featuring many of the original race boats including Pen Duick and the Swan 65 that Claire Francis skippered. Our old friend Fergus McDonald is taking part on a South African boat, a Swan 53, called Sterna. It was wonderful to see him and to be in the midst of the slightly chaotic start - we motored out with the fleet and followed them in very light conditions:

Fergus' boat, Sterna

The oldest (59) and youngest (23) crew members - Fergus and Aurora, who was at school with one of Fergus' daughters

If there was a prize for Best Dressed Crew

The all girl crew of Maiden

As we motored down towards the start in wet conditions, we passed our old boat, Gentoo!

Fergus' wife Helen (in the white cap) on another spectator boat

A slow start under spinnaker

Fergus contemplating the tidal challenges ahead - the tide would turn against them a couple of hours after the start

There's a little video of the day here : https://youtu.be/LCUNxJ63BzI?si=lNQf5vCZu8ta-cYx

Thankfully the breeze did materialise enough to allow the boats to beat the tide (we thought they might have to anchor at one point!) and they are now off on the first leg to Cape Town.


Saturday, 24 June 2023

Dinghy McDingface has a new look

In 2016, back in New Zealand, we replaced Maunie's old and leaking dinghy with a brand new one - a French-made Zodiac. This was about the time of the Boaty McBoatface story (where the British Antarctic Survey rashly and hilariously decided to let the British Public vote for a name for its new exploration vessel that subsequently became the Sir David Attenborough), so Maunie's new boat became Dinghy McDingface, or DMD for short.

The original story of the launch can be found here

Though the boat worked really well we soon began to realise that its build quality wasn't great and the PVC tubes began to degrade quite alarmingly in the fierce Pacific sunshine. Not quite as alarmingly as the storage cover, though, which seemed to dissolve before our eyes under the glare of UV light, so a complaint to Zodiac resulted in their sending us a replacement which we then covered with Sunbrella acrylic to make it last.

Making a new cover for the cover in Australia

By the end of last year the boat was no longer useable, leaking both water and air and with the safety barrier between the two air chambers leaking as well. Clearly it was time for a change but our dilemma was that the hard-hull, folding-transom design was just perfect for Maunie's foredeck and, having gone to all the effort of making the cover, it would be a waste, not to mention an environmental disaster, to throw it all away.

Thankfully there's a brilliant business near Dartmouth called Tilley Inflatables which specialises in re-tubing and repairing inflatables. Mike Tilley has taken the business on from his father and he had a good look at the boat, made a few "mmm, looks tricky" noises but agreed that the old tubes were beyond repair and he could replace them in Hypalon - a much higher quality material far more resistant to UV than PVC. It wasn't a cheap option - costing more than a brand new Zodiac - but we decided to go for the re-build. It gave us the option to move to a more, ahem, eye-catching colour scheme and Mike did some great work to re-position the lifting handles which, in the original design, were stupidly placed right where the tubes folded so were coming unstuck. We also cleaned up the design, to remove unnecessary extra handles and fittings, and the old tubes could be sent to be recycled.

Yesterday Graham collected it and launched at Darthaven.

A sneaky reveal as it's unpacked 

No chance of not spotting that on a crowded pontoon!

New look, vs the original, shown below on its launch day:

The dusty cover needs a bit of a clean but DMD is now reunited with the mothership

We are really pleased with how it's worked and it's great to know that we have given the boat a new (and hopefully long) life. 

Sunday, 18 June 2023

Big boats but very little wind

The dominant high pressure may be bringing us hot, dry weather but it also means that there is precious little wind to be found just at the moment. However, we've just had a lovely long weekend aboard Maunie and a few vessels that we met certainly made things interesting, even if the sailing was pretty tame.

This was the view on the River Dart on Thursday evening - a fleet of 'traditional' superyachts anchored after the first leg of a race series called the Richard Mille Cup. Richard Mille (I had to look this up) is a brand of designer watches for people who think it's socially acceptable casually to strap a timepiece that costs more than a boat to their wrists. More than a very flash boat, actually; the cheapest model comes in at a mere $84,000 and most sell for about $200,000.

Anyway, forgetting the social injustices of superyachts and their owners for a moment; the star of the show was Adix, a 286 footer built in 1984, currently valued at about $25M and owned by a Spanish Billionaire Jaime Botin, Chairman of Groupo Santander. Senor Botin is clearly a man of taste to buy such a yacht but in 2020 he was charged and sentenced to 18 months in jail after attempting to smuggle a Picasso painting out of Spain aboard the boat. Sorry, I forgot to forget the social injustices of superyachts and their owners for a moment there. Anyway this is a photo from Superyacht Times of Adix, enjoying more wind that she did this week.

Back aboard the more modestly priced Maunie, we had a motor passage in calm waters west past Salcombe then a lovely couple of hours with the Parasailor flying.

We arrived at the River Yealm mid-afternoon and enjoyed a relaxed night on the visitors' pontoon, chatting to the crews of neighbouring yachts. As the light was beginning to fail, a charter yacht with a father and his two teenage kids aboard rafted alongside us; unfortunately when they left at 08.00 the following morning the fast-running current got the better of their inexperience and they nearly wrapped their boat around Maunie's stern. Thankfully there was no damage, apart from their pride, but it very nearly went very wrong indeed.

We waited for favourable tide to help us back towards Dartmouth so spend the rest of the morning relaxing and doing a few little jobs that we somehow never seem to get around to. Vital things, like relabelling the halyard clutches so that crews unfamiliar with the boat can find the right rope easily.

Nautical terms that all mean something important!

Unfortunately our return passage was all under engine as the wind never rose more than about 4 knots. At least we had about 2 knots of favourable tide scooting us around Start Point and, as we headed in towards the Dart, we had another Big and Expensive Vessel encounter:

This is a ship called The World where wealthy folk who don't buy superyachts instead buy a suite on board and then join the ship wherever, and for as long, as they fancy. We first saw her in Sydney Harbour and then again in Falmouth where she was temporarily laid up during the Covid crisis.

Overall, a very pleasant weekend on the water - just hope for some wind next time!



Thursday, 18 May 2023

The 2023 season begins

 After the usual fun of winter maintenance jobs (which, to be fair, were fewer than in previous years), we had a very smooth relaunch on the 24th April. It was an early start to catch the tide but Maunie was the first boat in (of about 5 that morning) and we had glorious, if chilly, sunshine.

There's a short video of it all here: https://youtu.be/z-SK36Y2I_E

Since then, we've been aboard for a couple of long weekends; we had a good shakedown sail a couple of weeks ago and, today, introduced the next generation of Maunie crew to the delights of messing about on the River Dart. Our niece Amy, herself once a regular crew in our various boats from the age of about nine and into her late teens, is now all grown up with two young boys of her own (it makes us feel old, but there we are). She and her husband Joe are currently on holiday with her parents only a few miles from Dartmouth, so they joined us aboard for a gentle motor up the the river for a picnic lunch in the cockpit at Dittisham.

They arrived in style on the Dart Valley steam train and, once Benjamin (aged 3) got over the initial fears over the impending life as cabin boy, we had a lovely day together. 

 Meanwhile Charlie, aged just 6 months, approved of the sleeping arrangements in the mid-cabin :

The forecast looks very settled for the next couple of days but that means precious little wind. We might therefore partake in the delights of the Dartmouth Music Festival! Whatever happens, it's just great to be back afloat.

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!