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, 24 June 2012

Our Voyage Plan!

Some of you may be new to this blog so, with apologies to regular viewer, we thought we should recap a little as well as giving you a bit of an overview of what we plan to do this autumn. The blog has quite a lot of history so you can scroll back in time if you wish!

Anyway, as you’ll probably know by now, we're taking a career break to go ‘blue water’ sailing, after 13 years at Yeo Valley for Graham and five years running Wavelength HR for Dianne. Having sailed around Britain a few years ago, we have been thinking about this for a while and the dream began to crystallise into reality about 3 years ago. We bought our boat, ‘Maunie of Ardwall’, as a restoration project – she’d been left unused and unloved for several years following the death of her first owner so we got her at a ‘bargain price’ (perhaps less of a bargain if we work out how many hours we’ve spent fixing her up!) – and she’s the perfect yacht for two of us to handle. This is an outline of what we plan to do.

Our first goal is to sail to the Canaries, 1350 miles from Falmouth across the infamous Bay of Biscay, with stops en-route in Spain and Portugal. We need to be there by early-November, which is when the trade winds kick in to take us across the Atlantic, so we aim to leave the UK before the end of August to reduce the risk of gales across Biscay. Mind you, with the current weather patterns who knows what the weather will do!

For safety and shared knowledge, we’ve signed up on the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) which has been running for a number of years. This year a record 270 boats will be setting off from Las Palmas to St Lucia on the 25th November.
Click here for the ARC website
With the ARC comes lots of support – daily weather forecasts and safety reporting, shared technical knowledge and a few parties at the finish. It should be a good introduction to crossing the ocean – which should take about 21-24 days for a boat of our size (and we’ll be on the smaller end of the scale; the average boat size is nearly 50ft). Two friends, Fergus McDonald and Richard Fetherston, both experienced sailors, are going to join us for the crossing which will make life much easier in terms of night watches and sail trimming. You’ll be able to follow us on the ARC website since each boat is given a ‘Yellowbrick’ – an automated satellite transponder which sends hourly reports of position, speed and course to the web tracker. More generally, whilst we’re away we will have email access via a clever satellite phone and share details of that nearer the time; it will allow us to upload the boat blog and to send photos.

Once we get to the Caribbean for Christmas (sounds nice), we broadly have two options:

1. Spend 4 months exploring the Caribbean then head north in April (to avoid the hurricane season) and return to Europe via the Azores. This would be a 12-month adventure

2. Leave the Caribbean in February, transit the Panama Canal and head for the Pacific for a circumnavigation. The route would look something like this:

Broad timings would be to arrive in New Zealand in November 2013, to spend 4 months there to avoid the cyclone season to the north. Depart March 2014 and aim to be in South Africa by November 2014, on to the Caribbean (probably via Brazil) in April 2015, back home via the Azores in August 2015.

The timings are all pretty prescribed to take advantage of the prevailing trade winds and currents. We can’t use the old ‘short cut’ via the Suez Canal and the Med due to the political situation and our route via Mauritius would keep us well away from the Somali pirates! It does add almost 6,000 miles to the trip, though.

Our choice of option will depend on how we feel about the life on board after a few months – we’d like to go for the circumnavigation option but we’ll see how things progress.

In the meantime, as you’ll imagine, we’ve still got a lot to do in a very short time but we've made good progress so far. Di’s completed her 9 day medical course so is very eager to apply ointment and sutures. Graham’s been to the World Cruising Club’s 3-day Blue Water symposium (which has added to the to-do lists) and has completed his Long Range Radio Certificate. We’ve both done an Ocean Safety training course in April and are busy updating all the safety kit on board. As you'll read elsewhere in the blog, we've installed a water maker and a satellite phone.

A video test

This video show Fergus helming Maunie downwind in a Force 6-7 from Darthmouth. These are the sorts of conditions we'll face on the crossing from the Canaries to St Lucia (but with much bigger waves!)

Other boat news - we had a daysail on Saturday and tried out the watermaker. An amazing bit of kit - it produced wonderfully clear fresh water from a particularly cloudy looking sea.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Jubilee Celebrations aboard and the water-maker is installed!

As previously mentioned we got involved with a call from the Coastguard on our way back to Dartmouth - this 24ft gaffer has got into difficulties in fairly heavy seas. They given up sailing and were motoring towards Salcombe but we think the bumpy conditions had stirred up sediment from the bottom of their fuel tank so the engine lost power and then, as we approached them, died altogether. We had quite a log tow into the harbour where the harbourmaster's launch took them on and towed them to a mooring. They were very pleased to be in!

Back on our mooring, we completed the installation of our new water-maker in the generator room (the generator is now free of leaks, thankfully!).  The raw seawater comes in from seacock in the hull (just visible middle-right of the photo below) and into a 12v pump / filter unit (bottom of the photo) before going into the high-pressure pump and membrane. Here it's forced, at nearly 1000psi, through a long tubular membrane (easier to see in the second photo) - fresh water comes out, in relatively small quantities (about 30 litres per hour) whilst a greater flow of salt water goes out of the boat through a second seacock. We're run it on its fresh-water cycle (it's not a good idea to try the seawater in the harbour in case there is oil or other contaminants around) so next time we're aboard we'll go our into the bay and test it fully.

While Graham was busy with the plumbing, there were all sorts of Jubilee things happening on the river, including a parade of 60 boats of all shapes and sizes:

Maunie was 'dressed overall' for the occasion - the flags have to be hoisted in a very specific order!!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

An idyllic anchorage and a rescue at sea

Our last night in the Scilly Isles was spent at anchor in St Helen's Pool, between the inhabited islands of Tresco and St Martin's but surrounded by rocks and uninhabited islands.

Maunie is the white dot mid-left, looking from St Helen's with Tresco to the right and 
St Mary's in the distance

The return passage to Falmouth was fantastic - a very long spinnaker reach with some top speeds. The skipper needed a light snack just to keep his strength up:

Positively flying along!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Some photos of the voyage to Scilly

Our week ended with rain and wind but luckily we were safely back in Dartmouth before it got too unpleasant and we left Maunie today before the Force 8, perhaps Severe Gale Force 9 arrives tomorrow night!

So back home (ah, well) we've a chance to post some photos of the last week:

Fergus helming in brilliant downwind conditions from Dartmouth to Fowey

Arriving at Falmouth - not much wind for the working boats' race (and they don't have engines!)

Crossing the shipping lanes off Land's End and we had to alter course to give way to this beautiful vessel,
which looks even better from this angle:

Once safely into the islands, this was our anchorage in Porth Conger:

The old lifeboat station is now The Turk's Head and the most south-westerly pub in the UK. 
We ate well there. The (inactive) lighthouse is our dream home.

Over on the exposed west coast of St Agnes, the views out to the rocks are spectacular and the boulder-strewn beaches an indication of the ferocity of the winter gales here.

Boulder-stacking seems to be a bit of a past-time here so this is our effort. Quite pleased with it!

More photos to follow! 

Friday, 1 June 2012

A shake-down cruise

We’re on an 8-day shake-down cruise; our last extended sailing trip before we head for the Canaries at the end of August. It’s been a great opportunity to check that all the things we’ve added or changed over winter work ok and to plan how we’ll stow everything aboard for our big trip.

So far, everything looks pretty good aboard Maunie. The generator was refitted, its water leak sorted, though we now find it has a small fuel leak to be attended to when we get back to Dartmouth. The installation of the new water-maker is nearly completed (I’ve been doing an hour here and there to plumb it in) and the new chart-plotter (a free upgrade from Raymarine after we suffered various faults with its predecessor is brilliant. More importantly we’ve had some fantastic sailing!!

We were joined for the first weekend by Fergus, who’s signed on as crew for the ARC in November. Incidentally, Rich, who came for a weekend’s sail as described in the last blog, has also signed up for the ARC so we’ll be a crew of 4 which will be ideal. Fergus is a great sailor (he and Graham raced Laser 2 dinghies at Oxford and did a couple of memorable bareboat charters in Turkey together) and the Saturday forecast of Force 6-7 easterly was a perfect introduction to the kind conditions we may experience on the Atlantic crossing, complete with Dolphins but without the 15ft swell. We had a superb reach and run down to Fowey, with Maunie taking the downwind conditions in her stride, even when the anemometer showed a few Force 8 gusts around the headlands.

After a meal on the mooring in Fowey we turned in early for a 6.30am departure the following morning, to catch the favourable tide. The wind wasn’t favourable, however, more nonexistent so we motored the 25 miles into Falmouth, arriving just as a fleet of Falmouth working boats were ghosting along in a race just off St Mawes.

Fergus returned home by train and we headed on west. Our original plan to sail to Brittany was aborted by a forecast for three days of light or southerly winds so instead we decided to take advantage of the settled weather to go to the Isles of Scilly. On Monday we did a six hour passage to Newlyn then had a 5.15am start of Tuesday to cross to Scilly in light winds, motoring for much of the passage, anchoring in the beautiful Porth Conger between Gugh and St Agnes at 11.00. The afternoon gave us the chance to explore St Agnes which is delightfully unspoiled; the weather-beaten rocks and boulder-strewn beaches on the western side give you an idea of the effects of winter storms here. Recreational stone-stacking seems to be a bit of a pastime here so this is our effort:

Wednesday saw the settled weather continue so we motored over to St Mary’s harbour to get provisions in the islands’ capital town before anchoring in St Helen’s Pool which is between Tresco and St Martin’s, surrounded by rocks and accessible only by crossing sand bars at a suitable rise of tide. A few boat jobs completed, we dinghied ashore onto the uninhabited St Helen’s to climb the hill to take in the view then circumnavigated Tean before supper.

Finally, so far, yesterday we had one of those sails that will definitely go into the Top 10. We left Scilly at 9.00am for return to Falmouth, the spinnaker went up at 10.00 and stayed up for over 7 hours until we reached the Manacles Rocks buoy on the way into Falmouth. We had a consistent Force 4 on a beam reach (the fastest point of sailing) so clocked over 8 knots regularly with a peak at a whisker under 9. Now for those of us used to motorway speeds, 9 knots (about 10mph) may not seem fast but for 14 tonnes of boat (the weight of a sizeable laden lorry) powered only by sail, it’s a very good result!

Sorry, slightly dodgy internet connection so can't upload the photos at the moment - hope to get them loaded at the weekend!