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.

Friday, 31 August 2012

First night passage completed, shipping avoided

Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, we can send emails from anywhere at sea and, more importantly, get weather updates via the satellite phone. More of this later.
I'm writing this at 06.40BST and the sun has just risen over a grey and slightly lumpy sea. We're 25 miles from the French coast, just to the east of the Ushant Traffic Separation Scheme, one of the busiest shipping areas outside of the Dover Straights. Ships heading out of the English Channel and turning south for Spain and beyond must follow specific traffic lanes heading east and west. We're crossing their paths outside of the TSS but it's still pretty busy around here; during the night we had ships as close a half a mile.
We left Falmouth as planned at 18.00 and had a pretty brisk Force 6 blowing us out past the Lizard and into the channel. Unfortunately the wind was pretty much dead astern the whole way so the boat has been rolling and pitching quite a bit, making off-watch sleep rather difficult and the wind lessened as the night wore on. The full moon lit our path beautifully but also mean that we're in spring tides with the currents at their strongest. Our track on the chart describes a perfect S-shape as the channel tides took us west for 6 hours then east, with the current close to 2 knots at times. We've planned our passage so that when we arrive at Ushant, the south-going tide will scoot us along past Brest.
Our new friends Peter and Heidi in Stormvogel are not far behind; the boats have been pretty-evenly matched for speed but we've eked out a 4 mile lead (I know it's not a race but....). It's been good to have another boat for company.
So, planning ahead. I've just downloaded the latest GRIB files (gridded binary; a neat way of transmitting a lot of weather information as economical binary, which is then translated in the pc into a map showing wind arrows for 12, 24, 36, 48 and 60 hours ahead). What our forecast shows is that the winds in Biscay are going to be pretty light for the next couple of days but with a bit of localised strong easterly wind as we approach La Coruna. Maunie needs a decent bit of breeze to make her go so this suggest that we'll have to do a fair amount of motoring. I'll have a conference with the First Mate when she wakes up to decide if we go for it anyway or whether to stop in somewhere like Loctudy, south of Brest. we'll keep you posted!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Going for it!

Can't take this weather anymore! Last night saw more torrential rain so we're really pleased that the new window seals that we applied on Tuesday solved the persistent leak from one of the pilot house windows. Mind you, it'd have helped if we hadn't accidentally left one of the hatches open! A small flood in the galley was the result.

The good news is that the high pressure system is heading our way, giving brisk and cold northerly winds. This means we'll be blown southwards so we are leaving tonight to sail through the night to reach the busy shipping lanes off Ushant in the early morning light. The tide there will scoot us southwards and then we have a full 50 hour passage to La Coruna in northern Spain.

We met a really nice German couple in a beautiful 48 ft cutter called Stormvogel. They are doing the same as us and we compared passage plans. We'll set off at the same time so it'll be good to have another boat for company and photos, though their extra length should make them quicker than us (we'll see!). If your German is up to it, they have a really nice website www.wiedekamm.com 

Last shopping in Falmouth then we're off

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Getting encouraged by the weather

How did you spend your Bank Holiday Monday? Indoors, probably, judging by the weather and wishing you were somewhere sunny! We spent the Bank Holiday Monday morning aboard the boat, with the wind howling outside and the rain absolutely pouring down. We were moored up in the River Fal, just below Truro, so were well sheltered but we're studying the weather forecasts with extra interest.   The long range forecast suggests that we might get away on Thursday as a rare thing – a big high pressure system – heads towards Britain; in the meantime there's still plenty to do.

Since Graham left work, we just haven't stopped working towards the sailing project. The time and effort required to sort out our house – emptying it completely for rental and sorting the contents for storage or disposal – has been a lot greater than we expected if we're honest. We only have a little house and no children so how difficult could it be, we thought? Well, having lived there 13 years we'd amassed all sorts of stuff, lots of it stored in the garage and loft 'in case it might come in handy'; most of it hasn't come in handy after all so it's been E-bayed or given to charity. Anyway having finally moved aboard our new floating home, we definitely feel we've cut the ties with normal life: no car, no house, just us and a boat.

On Monday we took delivery of our medical supplies, thanks to our Best Man who's a GP in this part of the world. Dianne took a 9 day Ships Medical course earlier in the year so we're licensed to carry prescription drugs such as antibiotics; the wet Monday was spent sorting out the storage and cataloguing of these.

So we're definitely on our way and it's an exciting and slightly daunting prospect. It feels odd to be of no fixed abode and not to have the daily routine of coming to the office but it's good to know that lots of people are following our progress. We're now in the luxury of the Falmouth Marina, with a big Sainsbury's close by for our last shopping in Blighty! Tomorrow will be all about planning the passage and securing the boat for sea. We've met a German boat also bound for Spain so will probably set of together early on Thursday,


Saturday, 25 August 2012

In Falmouth, watching the weather fronts roll in

The 40 mile passage from Plymouth to Falmouth was pretty uneventful, after a very peaceful night at anchor. The wind was light so we motor-sailed for most the day, the engine running on economical revs with the mainsail just helping us along by harnessing any available breeze, and we arrived at about 18.30
The phrase ‘calm before the storm’ was amply demonstrated to us on Thursday night– we had a very still evening then at about 2.00am the weather front hit us. Not a storm, it has to be said, but we were hit by a wall of wind and heavy rain that had us straining against the mooring lines. As Friday wore on, the weather eventually improved and once again we had a calm evening, with a Force 7, possibly Gale 8 forecast for Saturday night, then a calm on Sunday then another gale on Monday.

We’ve all sadly become accustomed to a rotten summer but these low pressure systems aren’t what we need right now for our passage to Spain. So we’ll sit it out for a few days and watch the forecasts carefully! We’re in the very sheltered Visitors’ Yacht Haven, just across from the excellent Maritime Museum at the moment, but will probably move to a quieter and cheaper anchorage further up the Fal Estuary at the weekend.

In spite of a full load of water, fuel and all our kit, Maunie doesn’t look too low in the water!

Stunning aerial photos of Maunie!

We’re absolutely delighted with Joe Murtagh’s brilliant shots from the helicopter – he’s got some video, too, so we’ll hope to find a way of posting that onto the blog or YouTube. Thanks Joe!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The adventure has begun!

After weeks of planning, moving, storing and saying our goodbyes we're finally off on our big adventure. We left Dartmouth at 9.00am and sailed out into Start Bay to be greeted by sunshine and a good Force 4-5 westerly wind (coming from exactly the direction we wanted to go, of course, but hey, ho).

As we headed towards Start Point we had a visitation from our friend Joe who was on a photography job in a helicopter further down the coast. He asked the pilot to do a detour and circled around us a few times from not many feet up. We've yet to see his photos of the boat (and can't wait) but here's the man at work (well, he calls it work!):

We had hoped to be flying the new Yeo Valley spinnaker as he flew over but it was just a tad too breezy for us on day 1. We'd probably have been ok but in sailing we've learned that there's a fine line between looking good and making a proper balls up of it. Incidentally, the daytime international signal on ships for 'I have run aground' is 3 balls, one above the other, hoisted up the mast - could be the origin of the 'balls up' phrase!

Having waved goodbye to Joe we sailed on for our first overnight stop in Plymouth, some 40 miles or so. We were beating to windward the whole way but still had an excellent sail with 'Winnie' (the Windpilot self-steering gear) doing some of the hard work to keep us on course whilst we consumed hot Cornish pasties and admired the view.

We've anchored in the Barn Pool in the entrance to Plymouth, looking across to the Mayflower steps where the Pilgrim Fathers embarked on their great voyage. We're starting as we mean to go on by avoiding costly marinas whenever we can (though we still use their wifi). There are a few other boats here, including a rustic but well-used ferro-cement yacht. Ferro-cement seem an unlikely boat-building material but it was very popular for self-builds since you make a wire frame of the hull, cover it with chicken wire then dollop in layers of cement. The results are often a bit rough and ready looking but the hulls are very strong. Anyway our neighbouring cement boat is called Maid of Portland, which we rather liked.

Tomorrow we'll spend the morning in the continuing quest to find logical and memorable places to stow all our belongings (the aft cabin is a temporary dumping space at the moment) then will head off for Falmouth when the tide turns in our favour around lunchtime.

Monday, 20 August 2012

We've moved aboard!

After a pretty frenetic week, the house is empty and polished ready for its first tenant; we had a viewing on Friday so our fingers are crossed. It took us two car journeys to bring our 'essentials' down to the boat so we're now scratching our heads and wondering where we'll stow it all!

After last week's gale (apparently Thursday night was really wild with white water and wind-blown spray in the harbour) the weather has calmed down. We plan to spend the next couple of days here, sorting the boat and buying food stores, before heading down to Falmouth. There we'll meet our Best Man Simon, who's a GP in Truro, to collect our medical supplies then we'll watch the forecast with great interest to find a settled 3 or 4 days to sail down to Spain.

We've had wonderful messages and cards from friends - thank you all for your support. Just got to get on with it now!

Monday, 6 August 2012

A pre-departure celebration or two

We're now only a couple of weeks from the off (though you might not believe it from the chaos at home - boxes everywhere, packing at a frantic pace!) so we decided to have a little drinks party on board Maunie at the weekend. I think we probably broke some records for the number of people aboard - at one stage the tally was 16.

L-R: Jacqui, Neil, Amanda, Sean, Karen, David, Sue, Gerard, Dianne

L-R: Neil, Jacqui, David, Karen, Andy, Lucinda, Anita, Cora, Will, Sean

Andy, Dianne, Lucinda

Dianne, Cora, Tim, Will, Anita

With a glass or two of champagne to celebrate our voyage it was great to have friends aboard and it was a great opportunity to show people our floating home.

It's not been all champagne and strawberries though. During last weekend's sail we discovered a leak from the deck above the galley as we beat to windward with waves washing over the leeward deck. We found the source but getting to it involved taking apart the locker above the cooker and we then discovered that the microwave (yes we have one of those aboard!) was pretty rusty, indicating that this leak has been dripping gently for a while.

A new microwave cooker has been purchased and fitted and the leak sealed; a job we weren't expected but better to find it now than when we're in mid-ocean!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Atlantic Crew Meet and the Parasailor Flies!

We've had a weekend with Fergus and Rich (the brave crew joining us for the Atlantic crossing in November) aboard Maunie. It was the first time they had met (luckily they seem to get on!) and on the Saturday we went out for a sail from Dartmouth in bright sunshine and a Force 4-5 north-westerly. This provided us with the first opportunity to fly the new Parasailor spinnaker.

As you'll see from the photos, it's a novel sail - part spinnaker, part paraglider. It has an inflating 'wing' across an open slot in the upper third of the sail which makes it very stable and generates some lift at the bow of the boat. The slot also allows any sudden gusts of wind to vent through it, making it much more resistant to the sort of conditions we're likely to encounter in mid-Atlantic.

The sail also has a certain logo that you may recognise! We really needed another boat close by to take photos of us.

We're really pleased with the sail - the boat was very stable and went like a train. The wind got up a bit so getting the sail down a bit dramatic. We had a long beat back to Dartmouth for a well-deserved meal at the Royal Castle.

Here's the crew




On-board pirate (made by our friend Jenny in the village)

We're now back home madly packing and sorting the house. All being well we will move aboard in a couple of weeks - yikes!