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, 30 September 2012

Video of Winnie doing her stuff!

This was filmed yesterday as we sailed in a Force 6, with the rig set up 'goose-winged' (main and poled out yankee on opposite sides). as you'll see, we were going well!

She will be a great ally during the transatlantic and unlike Constance, our electric autopilot, she seems to thrive in big waves. The steering wheel is locked off in the straight-ahead position and Winnie own rudder, mounted on the stern, does all of the work.

Into Portugal with Winnie at the helm

Well we really feel that we've started the next chapter of the voyage, after a great time in Galicia.

We left the anchorage as dawn broke; the Islas Cies (where we anchored a week ago) looked beautiful in the morning sunshine:

We had an absolutely cracking sail south, with the wind right behind us. Our extra crew member, Winnie (the Windpilot) did fantastically well in the challenging wind and sea conditions. For a while we had up to Force 7, with 3 metre swell and breaking waves so we reefed down and charged on. Winnie is great in that she steers the boat without the need for electricity, food or sleep and does it silently too. We've filmed a short video of her in action so will post it when the wifi here is less busy
We decided to keep going south rather than stopping at our planned destination so as to take advantage of the free transport. The forecast suggested the winds would die early this morning and, sure enough, we had to start the engine at 4.00am for the last 5 hours of the 27 hour, 169 mile passage. We've come to a small marina at Nazare, about 80 miles north of the entrance to Lisbon; it's run by an English couple (from Dartmouth, originally) and one of their cats came aboard to complete the rodent check!

After the green hills of Galicia, it's suddenly very brown and dry here. Hot, too, so our sunshades have been rigged. We're planning our next move; the harbour master recommends this as an ideal location from which to head for Madeira and he warns that the weather tends to change in mid October so we should not delay too long.   

Friday, 28 September 2012

I canna give you more power, Cap'n; the dilithium crystals willna take it!

Ever since the exploits of the USS Enterprise way back in the 1960's, vessels have faced the challenge of delivering power to supply increasing amounts of electronic equipment on board. I can remember small sailing yachts where the main bit of electrical kit was a Seafarer echosounder, powered by its own PP9 battery, whose flashing light whizzed noisily around a dial to give a rough estimation of the water depth.
Our recent problems with the failed engine alternator have brought into sharp focus the challenges of power management that we now face. Maunie has a network of instruments (with rather more modern LCD displays) giving us all sorts of useful information about wind speed and direction, boat speed, water depth and so on. She has no fewer than 3 GPS systems, giving our position to within a gnat's whisker, a chart plotter and radar, an AIS transponder and an electronic autopilot; on top of that we have our two fridges, navigation lights, electric water pumps, interior lights and even an extractor fan in the galley. We also plug in our laptop and satellite phone when we need to contact the outside world to update the blog and receive vital weather forecasts.  A PP9 battery certainly wouldn't cope with that lot so we have three large 110Ah 12v batteries under our bunk to run it all (and there's a fourth dedicated solely to starting the engine) but, of course, we have to recharge them.
In a marina it's easy - we just plug into the shorepower 240v and an onboard 'smart' battery charger tops the batteries up without us giving it a second thought. On a longer passage, though, (more than 12 hours or so) we have to apply some careful battery management. We therefore watch our battery monitor gauge with great care - it tells us how many amps we're using at any time and the cumulative number of ampere-hours we consumed and it warns us when the battery voltage has dropped to a level that, if we didn't recharge them, we could do lasting damage to the battery cells.
If the main engine's running, it normally (more later on this!) provides up to 70 amps of charge so a couple  of hours of motoring will restore the batteries to full health; however if there's a good sailing breeze it's a very inefficient use of a 56hp diesel engine to be running in neutral with only the load from its alternator. So we also have a small diesel generator which provides about 40 amps and uses a quarter of the fuel (it's a lot quieter too) and we'll run that for a couple of hours in the evening to ready the boat for the high electricity usage at night and then again in the morning to replace the energy used.
We're trying to be green on this trip, however, so burning diesel is something we're aiming to minimise. So we've replaced all the light bulbs with high efficiency LED's and we've installed two solar panels which will deliver up to 5 amps in full direct sunshine. Some boats add a small wind turbine mounted on a pole at the stern (we've decided against that at the moment  as they can be really noisy and add yet more weight where we don't want it) and there are some clever generators which have a small propeller hung over the stern to use the energy of moving water to create charge (they are pretty expensive and slow the boat down); we're hoping that a combination of careful energy management and our solar / generator combination will work ok..
The postscript to our alternator story is that, although it's generating electricity once more, the recharging regime is not working as well as it did previously. We managed to get hold of Antonio the electrician again, via the very helpful yacht club in Baiona, so did an unscheduled stop there this morning. Antonio came back aboard, this time with his helper, and spent a good 45 minutes checking everything. I'd already come to the conclusion that he reached, which was that when the the alternator failed it also destroyed an add-on 'Sterling' charge controller. This clever bit of kit fools the alternator into delivering more power than its own regulator would call for, thereby shortening the engine running time to recharge the batteries. Replacements aren't available here so we will have to contact the makers to see if we can get one shipped to a suitable location. In the meantime, though, we're still  a going concern so are planning to head into Portugal tomorrow. Antonio was apologetic that he couldn't resuscitate the Sterling controller and refused to take payment for his extra time today.
We're currently anchored off a beautiful beach at the north side of the entrance to Ria de Vigo after a brilliant sail across from Baiona ( a beat in a Force 5-6 so we reefed down); we're ideally placed for an early start in the morning. Graham took advantage of the evening sunshine for a swim and snorkelled around the boat to give the hull a good clean for that all-important extra tenth of a knot of boat speed. We'll check the wind forecast again this evening but it looks pretty good so we hope to be in Povoa de  Varsim before dusk tomorrow.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Rain in Spain stops at last

Dianne made a phone call to her father in Hambleton (near Blackpool) this morning on the satellite phone and he was saying that the village had suffered some serious floods after days of really heavy rain. It's been pretty similar here (though it's difficult to identify any floods from the boat!); we've had absolutely torrential downpours and, last night a really loud and close thunderstorm.
The Spanish for 'thunderstorm' is 'tormenta' and last night's certainly did that in our anchorage. The time between the flash and the bang was very short, and there we were with a tall metal mast..... Thankfully we didn't get struck.
We left Baiona yesterday afternoon and motored right to the top of the Ria to a big shallow lagoon called Ensenada de San Simon. This afternoon, at last, the weather began to clear and we had our first glimpse of the sun for several days. To celebrate, Di's making plum crumble as I write; the food is good aboard. Last night's supper was a truly international affair - locally-caught fish (flat fish, no idea what they were called) with Spanish spinach and the last of our home-grown potatoes.
Tomorrow will probably our last full day in Spain. We'll head to a marina in Vigo to go to the chandlers for various bits and pieces that we need. The most important is a new VHF aerial for the top of the mast – we've been getting poor reception on our inter-ship radio so Graham climbed the mast for about the 5th time today and brought the fitting to deck level to find a split in the mounting. We don't think that the application of Araldite has sorted it, unfortunately so at the moment continue to use the emergency spare, mounted at the stern.
The forecast suggests that the northerly Portuguese Trade Winds will resume their normal service by Friday so we'll hitch a ride on them southwards. We're aiming for Lisbon, about 300 miles away, so will probably break the journey just north of Porto (about 12-14 hours from here). From Lisbon we'll probably make a break for Madeira (about 4 days sailing in good conditions) then head on to the Canaries. The big unknown on this coast is the size of the Atlantic swell, particularly after this unsettled period of weather, so plans may change once we've studied websites in the marina tomorrow. We'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Antonio the electrician has done the trick!

Just a quick update to say that Antonio returned to Maunie at 10.30 this morning with a rebuilt alternator in one hand and the old rotor in the other - its electrical windings had failed.

All is now bolted back together and seems fine - a 275 Euro repair, including his time, which is a lot of money but there we are. We need to spend the next few nights in free anchorages and catch some fish to make up for it!

We'll enjoy the final luxury of the high-pressure showers here at the Yacht Club, get some provisions in town and then we'll head out to explore up the Ria beyond Vigo. It feels good to have Maunie back as a going concern, so we're looking forward being back out in the elements (which continure to be chiefly rain at the moment - better weather is forecast for the end of the week).

Monday, 24 September 2012

Avoiding the rain and gales with a long Sunday lunch!

Atrocious weather here yesterday! The rain arrived with a vengeance and the wind increased to a full gale. Even though it was coming from the south west (so we were sheltered by the main town to a degree), the boats in the marina were all straining at their mooring warps and Maunie was bouncing around a fair bit. The only thing to do was to go and have a very long lunch in the Yacht Club!

Heidi and Peter from Stormvogel joined us for an excellent lunch. Peter updated us on their delights of their engine removal and the uncertainties of what will happen next - have a look at their blog for photos: www.wiedekamm.com

Outside, meanwhile, the wind was screaming through the masts and the rain was bucketing down (or sideways actually!).

We spent a fair amount of time adding extra mooring lines and adjusting them to get Maunie to stop careering round the pontoon. Thankfully the wind began to drop as we went to bed so this morning it's still pretty cloudy but we are mercifully still!

After reading up everything I could find about alternators, diodes and batteries, Graham has done all the checks he can think of so our hopes now lie with finding an electrician who can come to take over the investigations. Meanwhile we'll take the opportunity to use the washing machine and dryer and explore more of the town. 

Saturday, 22 September 2012

A (relatively) quiet night at anchor before the gales

We took the decision to leave Combarros yesterday, after a final shopping trip ashore. We finally took the brave pill and bought some fresh fish (which, to our relief, was experly gutted and filleted for us) and some wonderful bread and pastries. The rain and stong winds are still forecast to arrive on Saturday evening so we thought we'd head towards Baiona but anchor in the lee of Las Islas Cies, at the entrance to the Ria de Vigo.
There was no wind for the 18 mile passage but we enjoyed an Empanada (a Galician flat pastry pie with savoury filling - tuna in our case) and cheesecake at lunchtime as we motored along the rocky coast. We anchored 100m off the shore of the island, which is a beautiful nature reserve with white sandy beaches, rocky points and thick forrest, and settled down to a bit of reading and boat maintenance before setting about the cooking of the large dorada (a fairly blunt-nosed but meaty fish) that we'd bought. After debate we decided on oven cooking in a foil parcel containing onions, butter, white wine, cherry tomotoes and tarragon; the result was pretty good but should have added some lemon!
Supper over, we turned our attentions to increasing our comfort at anchor. As a heavy displacement, relatively narrow yacht, Maunie is a brilliant sea boat in windy conditions but, at anchor, she has bit of a tendancy to roll. It's not just a steady rolling motion, though; she starts gently and then builds momentum over four or five rolls then does a biiiig roll before stopping momentarily and then restarting the whole sequence. It can be a little wearing.
Our anchorage was windless but we had a little surging swell so we tried, for the first time, deploying the 'Sea Brake'.
As its name suggests, the Sea Brake is a sea drogue, designed in Australia to provide control and safety in extreme sea conditions; it would be let out on a 100m rope behind the boat to slow her down and let big breaking waves slide past us rather than having us careering down their faces like a large and mildly out-of-control surfboard. We therefore hope it'll never have to be used for this purpose but we were told that it does have a secondary use as a roll-reducer at anchor.
With a small anchor and some chain hanging below it to make it sink, we deployed it over the side and hung it from the end of the main boom which we swung out as far as it would go. The results were brilliant! As the boat rolled towards it, the Sea Brake would sink further below the surface then as she tried to roll back, the small vents in its 'funnel' would restrict the flow of water out of it so it restrained the upwards motion of the boom. It didn't stop all movement of course but we had a much steadier night so we'll use it a lot in the future.
This morning we had an amazing "red sky in the morning, shepherds' warning" sunrise so we left our anchorage late morning to head across the bay to Baiona. As forecast the wind swung sound to the southwest rapidly increased so, as we beat towards the harbour, we had gust of up to 40 knots across the deck. Drama over and where we've settled in to the plush potoons of Monte Real Cub de Yates, a very smart yacht club.
Baiona sounds lovely - much less urban than it's much bigger neighbour Vigo, with a well-preserved castle and old town - so we had a walk around the castle this afternoon and look forward to exploring it more tomorrow. Hopefully we'll find an electrician here to investigate our non-charging problem on Monday but, if not, we'll move up to the boatyards in Vigo.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Horreos and schoolwork

A feature unique to Galician villages is the traditional use of horreos, stone-built barns which sit on stone pillars to prevent mice and rats getting in. The sides, of wood or stone, have narrow slits to allow the air to flow through the grain or other produce stored inside.

Here in Combarro, there a lots of them, of all different sizes, and most are apparently still used. A few look more like small temples:

Di's sister Norma, who teaches at Copp Primary School in Lancashire, is today presenting the story of our voyage to the school in morning assembly. She's planning to develop some Geography coursework around us (so we'll be sending special updates to the classes as we go) as well as plotting our course on a large world map. Hello to everyone there; we hope that you enjoy the voyage!

Seafood and wine

As mentioned previously, this corner of Galicia is a hugely important fishing area.

In the Ria de Arousa, there are hundreds of bateas which are used to farm mussels, but loads of small one-man boats line-fishing as well:

A less industrial, but still very prevalent, process is the collection of cockles and clams from the beaches. Apparently it's very jealously self-policed, so you can't just turn up with a garden rake and have a go yourself, and, judging by this photo, it needs some careful male supervision whilst the women do the work!

The other half of the culinary experience is also excellent here. The local wines are good and excellent value. Last night we enjoyed a very good Tempranillo that cost 1.49 Euros!

The weather has definitely turned - rain in the night and heavy grey skies all around us. The stronger winds will be here on Saturday and Sunday so we're debating whether to go to Ria de Vigo today or find a sheltered anchorage here and sit it out until Monday. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Learning about Spanish Time!

We arranged a visit from the local marine electrician yesterday – he promised to arrive at the boat at 10.00 this morning. At just after midday Graham lost patience and walked round to the office and to find he was 'just on his way'! We found that we shared no common language so we did a bit of a comedy routine of typing in sentences into Google Translate on the laptop; we'd checked all the obvious problems with the engine alternator and batteries so Jose tinkered about but didn't find anything obvious and said (via Google Translate) that he couldn't spend any time on the problem before the weekend.
We're only a day's sail away from the major nautical centres of Vigo and Baiona so, having confirmed that we won't do any damage by running the engine in its current state, we'll head down there to find an electrician on Monday. The forecast for the next couple of days isn't great – rain, shock-horror, and wind. We are very pleased that we got round Cape Finisterre when we did as they are forecasting 40-45mph south westerlies there on Sunday. The calm waters we experienced will be anything but!
The internet connection here is very slow but we'll try to post some more photos in the morning

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Another video - and our first technical hitch of the trip

Here's a short video of the Parasailor in action:

After a perfect day's sail down the coast to Ria de Pontevedre, we've come up against our first technical hitch of the trip. The engine alternator has stopped charging the boat's batteries, though there are now warning lights or obvious reasons. The local marine electrician (we're in a small town called Combarros, with a very smart marina) will come 'a manana' so I've used Google translate to give him the details of the problem (I hope!). An enforced extra day here but  never mind, as long as we can solve the glitch - if not, the next Ria has Vigo and Baiona where there are lots of yachts and related trades. The town here has some amazing architecture though is definitely on the tourist trail - we'll upload some photos.

Monday, 17 September 2012

DIY in Vilanova

Here are a few photos of our work today - hopefully the results will be well used in the tropics. We plan to make a couple more to shade the side windows of the pilothouse but we'll keep the solar panel in the full glare of the sun.

Eating well in Galicia

This region of Spain has a very good reputation for fresh food, particularly seafood. The Ria we're in is the main centre of mussel farming - it's full of moored wooden grids called bateas from which hang ropes which are seeded with baby mussels. Once the rope is in full production, the large and impressively maintained fishing boats come alongside with a crane to lift each rope and its precious cargo, to be sorted on deck through a large rotating stainless steel sieve.

Whenever we've been ashore we've found local grocer, bakers and butchers so a typical lunch is a fresh salad with chorizo or serrano ham:

We've mostly eaten aboard but last night went out in search of seafood in Vilanova. We arrived at the cafe / restaurant at 9.00pm and it was full of locals, mostly families, drinking coffee or wine but nobody was eating. Food only started to arrive about 9.45 so we had a selection of rationes (larger versions of the tapas snack) including calamares (squid), pulpa (octopus cooked in garlic with prawns and brandy), coquetas (mashed potato and prawns deep fried) some chips and a very nice bottle of local Albarino white wine. Absolutely delicious and good value at 28 euros, but eating this late takes a while to get used to.

Today we again had no wind so decided to stay here and get on with some boat jobs. The main was to make some sun awnings to go over the cabin so our trusty Sailright sewing machine was hoisted from its locker (could do with a hoist actually, it's very heavy!). We used some sides of a long-defunct gazebo from home that hadn't been used so, apart from the reinforcing webbing that we added, the result cost us nothing but our effort. Photos to follow.

We're hoping there may be some wind tomorrow; if so we'll move down to the next Ria which looks lovely

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Exploring Ria Arousa

After a night at anchor at Muros we were planning to be in a marina in Ria Arousa last night – at a town called Pobro do Camarinal. We moored up but then, as we walked up to sign in and part with cash, we saw a big funfair in the park just next door. “I say old chap, what time does the fiesta go on until?” we asked in our best Spanish. “A dos horas de manana!” shrugged the Mariniero. “Thanks awfully, we’ll be off!” He didn’t take offence and we found a much better place – an anchorage off a small beach where we’ve just watched four horses being exercised in the sea – they swam to within 100m of us (we’re only in 4m depth at low tide). A magical spot and a completely calm night so it was real bonus to discover it.

Here are a few photos of Muros to give you an idea of the place:

Today we're in a small marina called Vilanova so we're off to explore! 

Friday, 14 September 2012

Discovering the delights of Muros

A very short downwind sail this morning across the Ria from Portosin to Muros; so short that we didn't bother with anything but the yankee foresail. We've anchored just off the town and took the dinghy ashore to explore and go food shopping.
It's a really attractive town with some ancient buildings. The ones along the waterfront have covered arched walkways along the front so there are lots of shady (as opposed to dodgy) places to stop for a drink. In the almanac and our pilot book, the harbour doesn't sound at all useful for yachts but we've discovered that a whole new yacht harbour, with shiny pontoons and all the fittings, has just been built. Reading the big sign outside, with our modest grasp of Spanish, this was a 4 million Euros project supported by the EU that began in 2010. It's all ready to go but has a bit of a ghost marina feel to it, only about 4 yachts there; the last hurrah of the false economy. We motored Maunie in to have a look and the marina chap looked very pleased to see us. Less pleased when we turned around and motored out to anchor!
English isn't widely spoken here so shopping is fun. We've enjoyed going to butchers and bakers and working out what's what. Food here is cheap by UK standards and there's excellent choice. The local cheeses, quesos, are good and the cured meats fantastic. We have to admit to not being brave enough to make a purchase in the fish shops – there's a huge range of fish, squid and shellfish but we don't recognise many, let alone know what to do with them.
We'll post some photos when we next get wifi. Tomorrow we're out to sea again but only a 25 mile hop down to the next Ria, Ria Arousa. It's bigger that this Ria so we'll have a few days there we think as the wind forecast looks pretty light into the middle of next week.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Safely round Finisterre and all alone again

To be honest, we'd been slightly apprehensive about Cape Finisterre - it juts out into the Atlantic swells and the prevailing northerly winds accelerate round it to produce some pretty unpleasant sea conditions. Received wisdom is therefore to go offshore by at least 4 miles into deep water.

We rounded it yesterday, less than a mile offshore in absolutely perfect conditions! We had a following northerly wind, up to Force 5 at times, but a flat sea so with the sails goosewinged (foresail poled out one side and mainsail out the other; the Germans call it 'butterfly') we fairly sped along with no rolling. Wonderful!

The local fishing boats were pretty active all along the coast (the the fresh fish here is amazing - last night we had the most delicious baby squid and razor clams at the little restaurant in Camarinas marina).

To make a pretty special passage even more memorable, we were joined by dolphins again:

Finally we rounded up into Ria de Muros, the most northern of the four Rias Baixas which indent deeply into this coast for a nice beat in flat water up to the little marina at Portosin. Pretty much a perfect 44 mile voyage so we really enjoyed our post-sail beers in the very smart yacht club here.

Sadly we've parted company with Stormvogel, for the moment at least, this morning. It's been great to have their company (and Peter's brilliant photos) but they are making south to Vigo to meet up with family and, they hope, resolve the engine overheating problems that they have so far been unable to solve.

We're going to take our time and explore the Rias for the next week or more with hopefully more great sailing and fabulous scenery. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Video of the dolphins

Thought you might like to see this!!

In Camarinas - and a taste of on-board cookery

We left La Coruna yesterday morning, having explored it pretty well.

Plaza de Maria Pita

Dawn from the breakwater

An evening promenade - the tower is the Coastguard centre

We had a great 37 mile sail westwards along the north coast to a little fishing village called Laxe where we anchored in drizzle (the first rain since Falmouth); it was quite a challenging passage, with the wind accelerating off the land at every headland and a long final beat to the anchorage, though we had another gang of dolphins for company. Today, by contrast, there's been no wind so we motored 18 miles to a little marina in Camarinas and have spent the last couple of hours eating tapas and drinking Galician beer with Peter & Heidi.

Torre de Hercules - originally a Roman lighthouse

Dianne in her element

This is the perfect jumping-off location to get round Cape Finisterre which we plan to do tomorrow. The wind has begun to swing from south-west to northerly so we should get favourable breeze but it tends to accelerate around the Cape so we'll triple-check the wind and waves forecast before committing ourselves.

Our friend Carlos Rojas, another Vancouver 38 owner (La Farandole is moored in Brixham) has written a brilliant pilot book on Galicia so we're finding it invaluable as we navigate this unspoilt corner of Spain. Thanks Carlos!

Finally, we thought we should give you some insights of the life below decks on Maunie. Just as the kitchen is the heart of any home, Maunie's galley is a pretty important place and this photo shows the breadmaker in action but you can see the 3-burner cooker, microwave and sink in a compact but very usable space. The dishwasher and washing machine are hidden from view behind the locker doors! 

We're meeting more and more boats heading for the ARC, including a British boat called Rafiki with two children aboard, aged 8 and 9. They are getting used to concept of boat school! On that note, we hope that Jasper Hitt (who joined sister and brother, Martha & Henry for his first week at school) enjoyed it and has already gone to the top of the class in geography as he's following us on the World map!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Heading West

Our plan is to sail about 30 miles west to a little anchorage called Laxe later today, after a dash round the local supermarket for provisions. We're trying to avoid the temptation of eating out as that's soon get pretty expensive but we're eating well on board - we even made our own bread yesterday (yes, we found space for the breadmaker!).

The wind is forecast to be from the south west today then goes round to the north east tomorrow which should be perfect for blowing us round Cape Finisterre and then south. Finisterre has a bit of a reputation for big waves and strong winds so we'll pick our moment with care.

We will update the blog with photos next time we get decent wifi connections; in the meantime it's been great to get emails and comments. A couple of people have said they've tried to add comments to the blog unsuccessfully; please let us know if you're having difficulties via email. 

Graham & Di xx

Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Yeo Valley Organic Big Pot is unveiled

As the wind eased as we approached the Spanish mainland there was a VHF radio conference between Maunie and Stormvogel: "shall we try the light wind sails?"

Stormvogel hoisted her 'Winakker' first:

We then launched our Parasailor (the two designs are very similar and both feature an inflated wing, which adds stability to the sail, and a vent which allows the sail to absorb sudden wind gusts). Our sail proudly flies the Yeo Valley Organic logo:

The sail is 125 square metres, roughly 4 times the size of the mainsail so it's quite a beast! Happily it has a launching system which uses a 'sock' which allows it to be hoisted and lowered relatively easily. The following photos show it in action:

Many thanks to Peter Wiedekamm for these photos.

Back to the present and we've had a busy day in La Coruna - lots of chores such as cleaning the boat and doing two loads of washing in the launderette but we've also had a good walk round the city. It's a really interesting place, straddling a promontory. On the east side, where we are, there's a big commercial dock but just half a mile away on the west side there's a long sandy beach facing out towards the Atlantic where, on a Saturday afternoon, the locals lie out to absorb the sun.

There's no wind forecast tomorrow so we'll stay here and do the sights and practice our Spanish (we're on Module 3 of 'Spanish for Beginners'!). We need to watch the forecast carefully to get round Cape Finisterre to the west before we head south down the coast; there are local wind acceleration zones which can make it a bit of a challenge.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Safely into La Coruna - and dolphin photos

After a really excellent two and a half day passage, we arrived safely into La Coruna at 15.30 after 330 miles, tired but elated. Amazingly, after all that distance we were less than a mile from Stormvogel for most of the voyage so had the comfort of seeing each others' masthead navigation lights in an otherwise empty sea.

Last night saw the wind increase to Force 6, again a broad reach, so we carried full sail and fairly romped along, pretty much at hull speed (around 8 knots). In these higher winds, Stormvogel's extra length meant she began to leave us but Peter and Heidi were finding that their autopilot was struggling to keep control of their huge rig so they reefed down their foresail and stayed with us. We are really please with how Maunie performed, though; to stay with a boat 10 ft longer is no mean feat. Peter commented "I'm glad that your boat is in a different division to ours in the ARC!"

This morning we suddenly had some big ships and erratic fishing boats to deal with as we approached the Spanish coast and then the wind began to ease so we had another play with spinnakers. Photos of these to follow, but in the meantime, here are a few of our friendly dolphins from the first night:

Thanks to Simon Raine for his appearance here (read his comment on the last update for details!)

One final wildlife photo for you. When we launched the spinnaker this afternoon, out of nowhere arrived a large bat which flew at it and around it for ten minutes or so:

When we finally dropped the spinnaker, Graham was stuffing it into its sailbag when the bat emerged from it (must have been clinging on grimly!) and flew off towards the shore.

More news and photos to follow tomorrow when we've hopefully had a full night's sleep without boat noises! The marina at La Coruna is very new, smart, half empty and fairly pricey but we'll be here for a couple of nights at least whilst we plan and check the weather. The Rias (long inlets, a bit light Scottish sea lochs) of this part of Galicia are said to be beautiful so ideally we'll spend a few days exploring before we head further south.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

A surreal world in the middle of Biscay

Current position: 45deg 37.3min North, 6deg 27.2min West. In other words right in the middle of Biscay, about to cross into Spanish waters, 156nm from Coruna.
We left at 11.00 yesterday (Wednesday) and have covered 164 miles so we're over half way there. We'd send you a picture but there's just lots of waves and sunshine so it'd be pretty dull. We've seen a few fishing boats and that's all. We still have Heidi and Peter in Stormvogel for company, though, and they are only two miles away so our boats are pretty well matched for speed; it's good to be able to chat on the VHF radio every now and then to compare notes.
Our world is slightly surreal at the moment. Our 38ft, 14 tonne home is surging down the waves at around 6.5 knots, the autopilot in control whilst we go about a few jobs after lunch. The wind finally arrived at about 8.00pm so we were relieved to turn the engine off and, as darkness fell, the navigation light at the top of the mast described large arc across a very starry sky as we rolled and pitched our way towards Spain. Down below the boat creaks a little and the water is noisy as it surges past the hull so off watch sleeping is still more like lying still and trying to sleep.
I think tonight we'll be so tired, and accustomed to the strange noises, that we'll sleep very well in our 4-hour off-watches. At least the bloody shallow water alarm won't keep going off! I should explain that were currently in water that's 4700 metres deep so our echosounder has no chance of spotting the seabed. Instead it chooses a random number to display, between 2.5m and 4m. Unfortunately we had it set with a shallow water alarm at 2.5m for when we're cruising in coastal waters so it kept going off in the night until Graham eventually found the right sequence of button-pushing to disable it.
The other wonderfully surreal moment yesterday evening was the Arrival of the Dolphins. We counted over 30, circling Maunie and charging under the bow, and could hear their squeaks through the hull. They obviously enjoy the interaction with a boat and I watched one perform a perfect underwater barrel roll beneath my feet at the bow. They stayed for about 30 minutes (and some returned in the night) so we'll have some photos to share with you (and evidence for Laura) when we get into port (which should be early Friday evening all being well.
Anyway, must go, sails need trimming and that sort of thing.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

About to leave France, but we have a yogurt crisis!

After a brilliantly relaxing few days on the Brittany coast it'll be hard to leave France.

However we need to get south across the Bay and the forecast looks as good as it's going to get over the next few days. We're promised F4 NE to E winds so that should give us a chance to fly the spinnaker but we'll see; at the moment it's pretty calm.

We've used the day's stopover in Loctudy pretty well: visited the market for some local cheese and meats; restocked on general food and wine (of course - 5 litre boxes of very acceptable Merlot are 10 euros!); continued to reorganise stowage on the boat (Graham has a mild fixation about fore and aft trim so has been moving heavy objects into the forward lockers) and did a bit of admin.

Thanks to the wonders of wifi (and a wifi antenna which is currently clipped to the end of the boom) we can get high speed internet on the boat in the marina so did a Skype conversation with Graham's parents in Scotland last night. We also have all the kit to print and encapsulate important documents so now have a complete list of our medical supplies, organised by key symptoms.

So all's pretty good aboard Maunie except for one thing: we have a yogurt crisis! The last pot of Yeo Valley Organic was consumed this morning at breakfast.

We'll have to contact Yeo Valley HQ to see if an parachute drop can be arranged for the middle of Biscay. If not, the thought of inferior French yogurt is almost too much to bear!