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.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Beautiful Brittany

A careful study of the charts meant a change of plan yesterday - rather than a passage round to Binic in the St Malo Bay, we opted for a shorter but much more interesting hop round to the Ile de Brehat. Shorter, as in just 15 miles, and interesting, as in "how many rocks?, how much tide?!".

It is extremely rocky and tidal around these parts so the navigation is challenging. We took the very narrow and shallow Passage de la Gaine out of the Treguier estuary, saving about 5 miles. This takes you just inside Les Heux de Brehat lighthouse.

The following tidal streams were building as we completed this passage so, feeling brave, we then turned hard a starboard into the rock-strewn and swirly Mosie Passage into the Trieux estuary. At La Mosie beacon we had about 3 knots of tide so worked our way crab-wise along the leading line to Ile de Brehat.

The Ile de Brahat is inexpressibly beautiful - a low-lying island only 3/4 of a mile from the mainland. It has some extremely desirable holiday houses,a couple of tiny shops and cafes, a lighthouse and a coast-guard signal station. No cars allowed, just tractors and bicycles.

We anchored off the west side, as close in to the entrance to a drying harbour called La Corderie as we could without risking grounding at low tide. We inflated the dinghy and went for a long walk ashore. These photos won't do justice to the place but it really is pretty special, especially in a boat.

We had a quiet night at anchor then set off this morning up the Trieux to Lezardrieux marina. Another friendly spot, though most of the shops seem to close on a Monday. Still we had a good lunch ashore and found the supermarket for supplies of wine and cheese, as one does.

We'll eat aboard tonight and plan to set off for Guernsey in the morning - force 5 NW is forecast which should suit us fine.

Finally, just as I started writing this, a Vancouver 34 Pilot, Telo, appeared, followed by two more V34P's in convoy. They have come over from Guernsey and had a fairly fresh sail - we'll no doubt catch up with them later.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Enjoying France at last!

After some false starts we’re now safely in France after an almost perfect crossing from Dartmouth to Treguier yesterday.

On Thursday the weather front with its associated gale warning was still blowing though so, after dodging the showers in the morning we had a great walk along some of the coastal path, heading west. We also stopped to visit Dartmouth Castle – an English Heritage site that was a fortification from the 13th Century and was still in use defending the port in WW2.

On Friday we were up at 4.30 and off the mooring just after 5.00. The wind seemed ominously light at first but, after clearing the shelter of the land, we had the predicted north-westerly – perfect for a broad reach. We had the spinnaker up for a couple of hours but the wind and sea state continued to build so, to prevent another crisis, we dropped it and carried on under white sails.

Though we crossed well to the west of the Traffic Separation Scheme, there were plenty of large ships to worry about, the longest being over 700ft. It’s their duty to keep clear of sailing vessels so we watched our AIS system (which receives digital broadcasts of their speed, direction and identification and send out similar details of our own) to see when they altered course to avoid us. The nearest CPA (closest point of approach) for one ship was less than a third of a mile so if he hadn’t altered course we’d have been onto the VHF to make sure he’d spotted us.
Once past the shipping, we had the sea to ourselves and made a steady 6-7 knots to the entrance of the Treguier river. The coastline here is incredibly rocky and very tidal so it’s not at all clear from seaward how the entrance should be approached. However the red Basse Crublent buoy appeared ahead of us as planned and we followed the dog-leg route into the river (which is absolutely beautiful) just as the sun set.

The marina is about 3 miles up-river and the pilot book warned that the tide runs strongly through the pontoons so it was very pleasing that we arrived almost exactly at slack water and motored straight into an empty berth. 6 hours later 9 racing yachts from Guernsey arrived but it was a sign of our tiredness that we didn’t hear a thing!

Today we’ve been exploring this medieval town, had a great lunch of galettes (savoury crepes stuffed with all sorts of good things, including an egg), with local cider, and are planning a meal out this evening. Tomorrow we plan to do a 5-6 hour coastal passage eastwards round to Binic – plenty of rock-dodging navigation required so we’d better not overdo it tonight!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Ready to go again, just need the weather!

Well, the non-cruise continues! Having returned to Dartmouth we spent Monday putting Maunie against the quay wall to dry out onto the mud over low tide – we’d heard a worrying rattling noise from the propeller and suspected that we’d got a line wrapped around it when recovering the liferaft aboard. The propeller has a Stripper - a set of knives just in front of it - and this had neatly sliced through the liferaft painter but it was possible that there was a rope tail still wrapped around the shaft. When the tide finally dropped away, though, there was nothing to be found – whatever it was had been thrown off, so we could stop worrying.

On Tuesday we drove over to Plymouth to leave the liferaft with the very friendly people at its manufacturers, Ocean Safety; if the raft isn’t damaged they’ll be able to service it, re-fill the gas bottle (which inflates it) and supply a new canister but it’ll take a couple of weeks. We then visited the offices of Pantaenius, the insurers, who were also very friendly and helpful so, after lunch at Queen Anne Battery marina, we returned to the boat.

Not having a liferaft aboard would put a stop to our plan to sail to France but our friends Jayne and Joe have come to the rescue – they’ve really kindly loaned us their raft from Claire Louise, so we’ve promised not to drop it! So we’re now planning ahead again, but watching the weather forecast with interest. Whilst Wednesday was a lovely sunny day, the wind was resolutely from the south and the forecast for today was for a Force 5-7, possibly Force 8! Sure enough we had really heavy rain last night as the front passed over and it's cold and windy today so we’re going no-where for the moment.

We’ve made good use of our time in harbour, though. Yesterday we refitted the cockpit bimini (a posh sunshade for use in hot climates) having repaired it. It came with the boat but looked as though a mouse had got into it whilst it was stored in the original owner’s garage so we had to replace several panels with our fantastic new Sailrite sewing machine. It looks as though it’ll be really useful (but perhaps not for this holiday having looked at the latest weather).

Today we’ve been ashore for a slap-up cooked breakfast at CafĂ© Alf Resco, a Dartmouth institution, and are now hoping that the rain will clear so we can go walking along the coast path. A huge square-rigged cruise ship has just come into harbour – apparently they were supposed to be visiting Scilly but aborted this plan due to the weather, so we’re not the only ones frustrated by adverse conditions.

All being well, we’ll be off tomorrow for Brittany Take Two – the forecast is NW F4-5,which would be perfect. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The start of our summer cruise - not quite to plan!

On Saturday we started our early-summer cruise, with a plan to head for Brittany and the Channel Islands.

Saturday had winds from the south which would have meant slow beating into the wind but the forecast for Sunday was for a westerly which would be ideal. So we had a great sail down to Plymouth, anchoring in the Barn Pool just inside Drake's Island at about 6.00pm with a plan for a very early start the following morning.

We were up at 4.14am on Sunday and the wind, as forecast, had veered to the west, blowing Force 6; the forecast gave the sea state as 'moderate to rough' and we certainly had a brilliant sail, close reaching and averaging between 7 and 8 knots.

All was great until a huge rogue wave popped up and broke across the cockpit. Luckily Constance, our autopilot, was driving at the time so we were both sheltering under the sprayhood but, as Maunie shook herself upright and the water drained out of the cockpit, we had an awful realisation.

The weight of water had burst the eyelets of the cockpit dodgers, which now flapped over the side, but far worse, it had somehow dislodged the liferaft from its cradle on the transom and dropped it into the sea. In almost slow motion, we watched the liferaft canister drift away behind us until its painter pulled up short and, with a hiss and a bang, the thing inflated!

It took us about 3/4 of an hour to retrieve it back on deck, deflate it and stuff it into the cockpit locker. For a while it seemed that we'd be defeated and have to cut it loose but we were aware that this would have severe consequences - potential false alarms of lifeboat call-outs, etc. - so we were very relieved to get it back.

We decided that, even though we were almost half way to our destination (Treguier)the prudent thing would be to abort the passage and return to Dartmouth so that we could get the liferaft back to its makers for checking and re-packing. So we turned back, had a fantastic reach back into Dartmouth and, after a meal aboard, slept solidly for 12 hours!

So we're now in the process of sorting out what we do next. Will keep you posted!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Easter and Avoidance of the Royal Wedding

The amazingly sunny weather over the Easter holiday brought predominantly light winds but it was just great to be out enjoying it. Barbara and Amy joined us for a few days for a lovely sail down to the River Yealm and then on to Plymouth, returning to Dartmouth for a delicious meal at the Anzac Street Bistro.

At the Ship Inn, Newton Ferrers, River Yealm

Anchored off Sugary Cove, at the entrance to the Dart.

Barbara and Amy left on Easter Monday and the following day we were joined for a daysail, with lunch in Brixham,by our friend David.

The weather finally began to break at the end of the week, just in time for Dan & Kim to join us for the best sailing of the week as the wind turned Easterly. On the morning of the wedding we sailed over to Salcombe where we were greeted enthusiastically by the harbour master (everyone else was watching TV it seemed; we had the radio on for Jerusalem as we sailed into the harbour). We stopped for lunch before a good beat back to Dartmouth.

On the Sunday it blew up to a Force 6 so we had a great sail in the bay.

All in all a great week and a chance to make sure everything works before we head off for our summer cruise to France.

The 2011 season begins

Actually, we haven't really stopped since last season, with the boat staying afloat all through the winter. We haven't managed a huge amount of winter sailing this time, for one reason or another, but have steadily completed all the maintenance jobs (engine servicing, winch re-greasing, general cleaning, etc).

One new job was to fit a second, flexible, water tank into an empty space behind the forward heads moulding. This provides a separate 50-litre source of fresh water, hand-pumped, in the unlikely event of a problem with the main 300-litre tank or pressurised pump. With a deft bit of re-using old kit, we employed one of the original cockpit dodgers from our first keelboat, Osiris (a Parker 21) as a sort of protective hammock for the tank to make sure it doesn't abrade as the boat heels.

In mid-April we were blessed with lovely weather for the annual antifouling chore. Once again, we used the Dartmouth scrubbing grid to pressure-wash the hull of its layer of slime and weed before applying two coats of antifouling paint between tides on the Saturday and Sunday.

All went well and we were able to complete everything, including replacing anodes, servicing and greasing the feathering propellor and polishing the hull on time.