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 May 2013

Land Ho!

After  a day of purgatorial rolling in no wind, the breeze began to fill in last night and we managed to sail for about 10 hours; the relief from the constant sound of the engine was considerable! As dawn broke, the island of Fatu Hiva could be seen and what a dramatic sight it was; it rises from 2000m depth water and looks like a slightly green but very craggy Ayres Rock.
As we write we are sailing again, but rather slowly, and closing on the southern tip of the island. Once clear we'll motor up the western side to the anchorage in Baie Hanavave (also known as 'Bay of the Virgins') to try to find a good spot – we've just talked to another boat already there and they report that it's beautiful, sheltered but deep so they took about 3 attempts to get the anchor securely set.
The celebratory beer's already in the fridge!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Photo of the Pacific Swimming Club

Hopefully this photo will make it through the ether this time..
Day 20 – Thursday – hasn't started well. The breeze, such as it was, backed round to dead aft so we started rolling and the mainsail was flogging from side to side. We took it down this morning only to find one of the new and expensive batten cars fitted in Las Palmas has sheared in two – aargh! We have an old one as a spare but it's a tricky job to fit them – certainly not something we want to try at sea so we're hoping that the wind will fill today to allow us to hoist the Parasailor, leaving the mainsail stowed away.
Good news is that we have only about 24 hours to go but the relentless motoring (85 hours and counting!) has been a rotten way to finish this passage and we are both pretty fed up. At least we won't still be at sea on Monday as the forecast is talking about a 4-5m swell which would not be nice. Roll on Friday!

Day 19 - still motoring!

Our position as at 23.30 GMT, Wednesday 29th May:
09 degrees 52 minutes south, 134 degrees 55 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 125nm
Distance to go 220nm
Still no wind to speak of, though every now and then a light breeze allows the sails to reduce the load on the engine as Maunie plugs painfully slowly towards Fatu Hiva. Yesterday afternoon Graham pumped 45 litres of finest Galapagos diesel from jerry cans into the main tank; mindful of Stormvogel's blocked fuel filter, our filter funnel trapped various foreign bodies that would otherwise gone into the tank. One small 10 litre can had been delivered separately from our main fuel purchase and was a rather disconcerting shade of dark brown and when Graham, prompted by who knows what, tasted it on a finger it was very salty so it wasn't used. The process will be repeated this afternoon with another 40 litres from cans under the forward berth which we hope will be enough – surely we'll get some wind soon???
Tonight we'll cross the less-than-200 miles line which will be great and we can start thinking seriously about our landfall.  It would be fantastic to finish the passage on a high with the spinnaker flying so fingers are crossed.
We had an error message with yesterday's blog post so the photos we attached on the Pacific Swimming Club may not have worked. Just in case, we've re-posted one.

Day 18 - The Anglo-German Pacific Swimming Club

The gremlins seem to have been a work so it sounds as though the last 2 blogs haven't worked – we're resending them now without photos
Our position as at 23.00 GMT, Tuesday 28th May:
09 degrees 29 minutes south, 132 degrees 47 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 122nm
Distance to go 345nm
The sun is shining, the sky is blue, the clouds are white and fluffy and there's not a breath of wind. The sea is mirror calm, though there's still a lazy half-metre swell, and we've been motoring for 45 hours now so we really would like some wind again, please!
However we took a very enjoyable hour's break from the noise of the engine at midday to hold the very first session of the Anglo-German Pacific Swimming Club; we stopped the boats about 100m apart and Peter and Graham swam to the middle of no-man's sea to chat whilst Heidi and Dianne  stayed aboard just in case the wind suddenly filled the mainsails. The water was very clear but we couldn't see the bottom, due to the fact that we were in around 5000m depth, nor, thankfully, any sharks or other predatory sea monsters. There was a very definite thermocline, though, as the top 15cm of water was really warm but below it was appreciably colder and, looking down with our masks, we could see a weird haze, almost like a heat haze on land, where the different water densities met.
What we could also see, to our shock, was the amount of sea creatures adhered to the hulls of the boats – Maunie has hundreds of little goose barnacles (rubbery suckers) around her aft quarters and the waterlines were green with slime and weed, in spite of the fast flowing water for the past two and a half weeks. So, as well as an energetic swim around and under the boat, Graham gave Maunie's waterline a good clean – we need to make the right impression when we arrive, after all.
The absence of waves means that the engine isn't having to work hard so we are on a reasonable economy drive at just 5 knots (we reckon we're doing about 10mpg which isn't bad for a 14 tonne yacht, fully laden) but we will have to decant diesel from our spare jerry cans into the main tank later today. Stormvogel's engine began to stutter last night and Peter and Heidi completed a very quick fuel filter change to resolve the problem so the quality of the diesel bought in Galapagos probably isn't great. We have a special filter funnel which removes water and dirt so we'll use that to prevent the same problem (we hope).
The wind forecast doesn't give much room for optimism unfortunately so it looks as though we have another 24 hours of motoring ahead of us at least. All being well, though, we should get a gently breeze on Thursday and a half-decent one on Friday (which is when we think we'll arrive).

Monday, 27 May 2013

Day 17 - Motoring

Our position as at 20.00 GMT, Monday 27th May:
09 degrees 06 minutes south, 130 degrees 26 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 140nm
Distance to go 485nm
After flying the Parasailor for no less than 31 hours, the wind died yesterday afternoon and we took it down before the rolling of the boat wrapped it around the rig. Since then we've motored through the night at economical speed (5 knots) and this morning have the foresail out to try to catch the light breeze to aid the engine's efforts. The swell has dropped to less than one metre so we're not rolling too much and Dianne is currently making Graham's Mum's recipe for a fruit loaf that doesn't need eggs.
Graham has been doing calculations on our fuel consumption and thinks that we don't have quite enough diesel to motor all the way to our destination so we are banking on the forecast of slightly better winds to come back on Wednesday night or Thursday to give us a final spinnaker run into Fatu Hiva, arriving (we think) on Friday at the earliest.
The engine is providing us with fully charged batteries and hot water so we're also running the water-maker and doing some clothes washing, though we're banking on there being a laundry ashore for our bedding and towels. We can, once again, see clearly through the pilothouse windows after cleaning them of the encrusted salt (a 25% solution of white vinegar in hot water does the job brilliantly) and the cockpit has benefitted from a fresh-water wash to remove the sticky coating of salt. Most of the other boats on the SSB net have reported big rain showers to do the job for them but so far we've only had about 10 minutes of very light drizzle since Galapagos and much more sunshine than they have experienced.
Whistling for the wind, Graham & Dianne

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Day 16 - the Yeo Valley Big Pot's flying proudly

Our position as at 22.00 GMT, Sunday 26th May:
08 degrees 49 minutes south, 128 degrees 32 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 156nm
Regular readers will know that our fantastic Parasailor spinnaker carries a very large Yeo Valley Family Farms logo on its front. The secret of good marketing is to create a very vivid message and broadcast it to as many relevant people as you can. Out here the 'blue monster', as Peter described the sail yesterday as crept up on Stormvogel yesterday, certainly presents a very vivid image but unfortunately the audience is rather limited.
Anyway we have now been flying the Parasailor (known as the Big Pot on board) for more than 28 hours and had a really good night's progress in spite of the slowly diminishing breeze. When we decided to keep it hoisted through the night we realised that this would probably mean us parting company from Stormvogel after all this time together but both skippers agreed that it made absolute sense for each boat to make as much speed as possible before the wind died. Sure enough, Stormvogel's navigation light slowly disappeared into the bright moonlit night as they took a slightly more northerly route; we hadn't considered their determination, though. Peter hoisted all his white sails, goose-winged  and switched to his electronic autopilot which followed a much more accurate course than the wind vane so this morning our wakes crossed again with the boats less than a mile apart; the Biscay / Atlantic / Panama / Pacific Alliance continues!
The wind has swung round to the north east so is currently taking us somewhere south of the Marquesas at the moment but we are concentrating on keeping the best boat speed in roughly the right direction. The weather files predict only 6 knots of wind from tomorrow for a couple of days so we'll re-evaluate our course then (we'll probably have to motor sail a bit until the waves die down as they'll just shake the wind from our sails). At least the forecast is a bit more optimistic (it was predicting a flat calm before) and we have around 600 miles to go; the fishing line is about to be deployed so we're hoping that our luck will hold.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Day 15 and a nice photo

Our position as at 20.00 GMT, Saturday 25th May:
07 degrees 59 minutes south, 125 degrees 45 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 156nm
Well, the wind may be doing a steady disappearance act but we were rewarded last night with a beautiful sunset as we ate our Thai fish curry (very tasty). At the start of the night Stormvogel were just ahead of us, after we'd rolled away the foresail for a couple of hours (we'd been slowly leaving them during the day); during the night however, with us back to full rig, they steadily left us (how did that happen?). Anyway, this stirred us into action after breakfast and we hoisted the Parasailor using, for the very first time, two spinnaker poles; the result is a rock-steady sail as we head dead down wind and Maunie's catching up nicely with very little rolling.
We both had trouble keeping awake on our night watches, though the view on deck was lovely with a nearly full moon lighting our way. Dianne says she started singing Oliver! songs in the cockpit (other musicals are available) whilst Graham reverted to his phone's timer giving a melodious bust of harp music every 15 minutes to keep him from dozing. However even off watch he's obviously still dreaming about the sailing as he suddenly got up having clearly heard Dianne shout his name for help only to find her calmly sitting in the cockpit having done no such thing.
As we write we have 770 miles still to go. At current speed that would take just under 5 days but who knows how much extra time the calms ahead will add. This journey seems a lot longer than the Atlantic crossing but we guess that with just two of us aboard there are fewer entertainments and conversations to be had; we haven't even had a film night yet. By the way, Fergus emailed us to say that one of his photos taken from the masthead on the ARC features in the latest World Cruising Club magazine 'Latitudes' so Maunie's fame continues to spread. So we'll just keep counting down the miles and enjoying the lovely sailing whilst we can.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Day 14 - making hay while the sun shines

Our position as at 21.00 GMT, Friday 24th May:
07 degrees 22 minutes south, 123 degrees 22 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 163nm
We had a nice boost of extra wind last night so yesterday's mileage is much more like it. We're still goose-winged and surging down some big waves but we've remained in lovely sunshine, with the odd ominously tall cumulus cloud bringing gusts of wind as they pass. We're both fit and well and life aboard has assumed a nice, if rolly, routine.
We feel it's very much a case of making hay while the sun shines, however, as the weather files predict a large wind hole that's going to get us on Monday. There's no way around us as it drops down from the north so, just like the Atlantic crossing, we're likely to be becalmed 3 days from land; all very frustrating. This time we won't have ARC parties and family members waiting for us to arrive so we probably won't burn every drop of diesel to get in but we're just hoping that the waves drop quickly when the wind does or we'll be rolling around helplessly.
There is some good news from the two boats suffering rigging problems. Matcha, whose forestay parted from the connector at the top of the mast, is back to normal after her hero skipper climbed up and managed to reinsert two pins; he said this morning that he's black and blue from the climb. Meanwhile Leeward has managed some jury-rigged ropes to stabilise the mast and is motoring slowly for Fatu Hiva.
Finally we have to report a major disaster on board. Dianne had grated the carrots for another of her wonderful carrot cakes and then discovered that all our remaining eggs are off! Aaaaargh!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Day 12 - and you should have seen the one that got away!

Very proud fisherman!
Our position as at 20.00 GMT, Wednesday 22nd May:
06 degrees 28 minutes south, 118 degrees 19 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 142nm
We'd come to the conclusion that the fish weren't in a biting mood yesterday evening so Dianne had opened a tin of mackerel to add to the risotto when the reel suddenly gave a very load shriek and the line starting rushing out. It took quite some time and effort to land this lovely fish, much bigger and very much livelier than the last, so it was gutted and divided into two for supper tonight and tomorrow.
On the sailing front, last night and this morning weren't great as the wind dropped away and backed to the ENE so we found ourselves rolling badly and heading further south than we'd like, making much less distance than we've grown used to. However we've just dropped the white sails and hoisted the Parasailor and we're making much better progress whilst, most importantly, we're not rolling any more. Stormvogel have just done the same about 2 miles to the south of us.
This morning's radio net was all very dramatic and it highlighted the safety value of these daily sessions. An American boat called Leeward, about 300 miles ahead of us, reported serious rigging failure during the night and when they explained the problem, it quickly became clear that they had been very lucky not to lose their mast.
A quick explanation of the terms for non-sailors before we relay the story: The mast is held in place by a series of stainless steel wires (each one made up of 19 strands of wire, tightly wound); these are flexible so only work in tension so they pull down on the mast and work against equal ones on the opposite side of the boat to keep the pole in place. Furthermore they have to balance the varying loads placed on the mast by the sails and by the effect of the boat crashing into the waves. Just one wire failing suddenly can see the whole rig come down; Leeward had 4 fail simultaneously.
At the front and back of the mast are the forestay and backstay whilst at the sides there are the shrouds; on a sailing dinghy there will be just one shroud each side whilst, Maunie has no fewer than 5. The cap shrouds come from the very top of the mast, and are pushed out by horizontal struts called spreaders to help stop the mast bending, whilst the inner shrouds start about three quarters of the way up. Further down are the lowers, which also brace the mast forward and aft from just below its middle to stop it 'panting' as the boat goes through waves and it was these that failed on Leeward.
Actually what failed was not the shrouds themselves but a single bolt going through the mast to hold four metal tangs to which the shrouds are attached. This is a pretty poor bit of design since the single component failure resulted in all four shrouds falling to the deck; on Maunie each shroud has its own, independent attachment mechanism. Anyway, luckily for the crew of Leeward, the failure (probably caused by metal fatigue) of the bolt occurred when the wind and waves had calmed down so the rig was relatively unstressed so the cap and inner shrouds, plus forestay and backstay, kept the mast up. They now have to find a way to re-fit the lowers as they are still 1000 miles from land and have to sail. Hopefully we'll get good news on the radio tonight and the episode highlighted the importance of the regular rig checks that we carry out

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Day 11 - a bright light to starboard

Our position as at 19.00 GMT, Tuesday 21st May:
06 degrees 05 minutes south, 115 degrees 51 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 168nm
After days of Force 4-5 winds, the breeze has dropped a little and with it our boat speed. The waves have reduced in size a bit but we're still tolling a fair bit as the wind is now pretty much dead behind us which is never the most comfy direction. We are toying with the idea of putting the Yeo Valley Big Pot Parasailor up in the hope of a bit more speed and stability but will wait till after lunch to a) give the wind time to decide what it's doing and b) let Dianne catch up on some sleep after her two night watches.
After 10 days of seeing no other shipping, we were startled to see a very bright white light to our starboard at about 3.00am this morning. The boat (we assume a fishing vessel) passed us about 2 miles away, heading in the opposite direction.  Peter and Graham compared notes over the vhf (Peter could see a second boat on his radar away to port which Graham couldn't) and were both relieved that the vessels didn't require us to take avoiding action (the 'steam gives way to sail' rule that most people know doesn't apply to vessels engaged in fishing, we have to give way to them).
Talking of fish, our line is deployed again so we're hoping for a fish supper.

Day 10 - past the half-way point

Our position as at 23.00 GMT, Monday 20th May:
05 degrees 58 minutes south, 113 degrees 48 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 182nm
Another important milestone has been passed – we are over halfway there! Yesterday's mileage increased as we found some slightly more favourable wind and we regained the Equatorial Current. We celebrated with a small beer with our lunch in the cockpit on a brilliantly sunny day.
We've also moved time zones so put the ship's clock back an hour yesterday; we are now 8 hours behind British Summer Time and, by the time we get to the Marquesas, we'll be 10.5 hours behind.
Passing half-way marked a change in our daily vhf conversation with Stormvogel (currently half a mile ahead of us) as we started to look forward, talking about our options for anchorages in the islands and possible timings for our next moves. We all agreed that we'll want a decent few days to unwind after the passage and we're really looking forward to the landfall.
The sailing's been pretty special over the past 24 hours, though, so we're enjoying the experience. The night sky is becoming more familiar to us – we see the Southern Cross clearly to port (it's shaped like an old-fashioned kite) but now the moon is growing so from about 23.00 until 03.00 its light drowns out the smaller stars. We should have a nearly full moon when we arrive so that should make navigation a bit easier if we arrive at night.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Day 9 - the first Pacific fish!

Our position as at 18.00 GMT, Sunday 19th May:
05 degrees 59 minutes south, 110 degrees 09 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 168 n
We're very pleased that the very lumpy conditions of yesterday morning have subsided somewhat and so we on longer feel as though we are in a washing machine. We still get the odd rogue wave but progress is a lot easier at the moment. It sounds as though other boats are experiencing interesting sailing, though; on this morning's SSB net a German yacht called Hestia about 300 miles behind us describedhow they were hit with a huge wind and wave combination last night which spun the boat through 180 degrees and seems to have destroyed their autopilot. The thought of hand-steering for 2,000 miles doesn't bear thinking about so hopefully they'll find a fix at sea.
Peter and Heidi remain is view and, occasionally, the slightly random nature of our wind vanes sees the boats crossing wakes - last night Stormvogel passed about 50m behind us so we were beginning to get worried about a collision! Peter has apparently posted a good photo of us in the waves on www.wiedekamm.com
We were delighted to catch our first fish yesterday afternoon – a lovely 2lb Mahi Mahi which Graham cooked in white wine, butter, garlic and herbs, accompanied by roasted Galapagos organic potatoes and Carrots and stir-fried green beans with soy sauce. Delicious and Dianne was very relieved that the alternative tin of 'Spam with Garlic' (yes they do upmarket Spam now) was left in the locker!
Though it's good to chat with strangers on other yachts we are missing your news so do please drop us an email (comments on the blog can only be read when we arrive) at maunie (at) mailsail (dot) com. We have been sending quite a few emails to individual friends recently but not hearing back from some so either a. You don't want to talk to us or b. our emails our getting lost in spam (with or without garlic) filters so please would you check your junk folders just in case. Graham's concerned that Yeo Valley's work filters are blocking these emails so if you read this at YV please could you check and, if necessary, have a word with those nice chaps in ISD?
Anyway, better get back to the sailing – the wind seems to have shifted and we are now on a course for not the Marquesas.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Day 8 - on a rollercoaster ride

Our position as at 21.00 GMT, Saturday 18th May:
05 degrees 59 minutes south, 107 degrees 49 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 170 nm
Hello from a very bouncy Maunie! The wind has increased this morning and so has the size of the waves (about 3 metres now) so we're on a bit of a rollercoaster ride at the moment. We've been sailing goose-winged (with the foresail poled out) for 24 hours and making good progress though, unfortunately, the favourable current seems to have left us at the moment; hopefully we'll regain it soon as, according to the pilot charts, it should be here still.  Since yesterday's blog we've been going due west so are pretty much on the same latitude as this time yesterday but our slightly reduced 24 hour run reflects the reduced current.
In site of the lumpy conditions, we're fairing pretty well; we both managed to sleep during our off watches and Graham had a busy first night watch. The generator was run so the bread-maker was pressed into action (great to have toast for breakfast for a change) and the watermaker topped up our tanks. Dianne's watch was enlivened by all sorts of electrical alarms as the Raymarine chart plotter rebooted itself as a protest against something or other. Graham is currently re-reading The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and now believes that Raymarine is really a subsidiary of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, responsible for Marvin the Paranoid Android, and that, as a result, our plotter has some unexpected hormones programmed into its circuit boards together with, possibly, a terrible pain in the diodes in its left side. More likely it's actually related to Microsoft software – "Microsoft Navigator has found a problem and needs to close" – but whatever the cause it's slightly unnerving when the screen goes blank for minute or two! A chat on the SSB net this morning revealed another boat who has experienced the same problem with a similar plotter.
Life on Stormvogel hasn't been so good over the last day, judging by the vhf conversation after breakfast. Their Hydrovane, now tentatively called Elizabeth pending the outcome of a challenge to find a better name on Peter and Heidi's blog, has really struggled so they had a night of disturbed sleep; the boat kept charging off in random directions, the mainsail or yankee back-winding with an unnerving and noisy clap. It doesn't sound as though they are alone, though, as a couple of boats about 1000 miles ahead of us reported difficult conditions thereon the SSB radio net . One skipper described himself and his crew as 'a bit frazzled' whilst an Australian boat tantalisingly close to the Marquesas said simply "We've had enough now!". So much for the reputation of this leg as being long but tranquil; the Pacific is showing it can do rough too.
Still, the sun is shining so Graham is going to film the seascape on the GoPro so will hopefully be able to get internet access at our destination to put it onto the blog.
Best wishes from us both
Graham & Dianne

Friday, 17 May 2013

Day 7 - One third of the way there!

Our position as at 18.00 GMT, Friday 17th May:
05 degrees 58 minutes south, 104 degrees 36 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 184 nm (a new Maunie record!!)
As you'll see from the 24 hour mileage, we are still making very good progress, though last night was very rolly so we didn't sleep as well as usual. The wind backed to a more easterly direction so we were sailing with the wind almost behind us to try to keep on our 'pretty much west' course. This morning we rigged the pole to pole out the foresail on the port side, with the main on starboard, allowing us to go further down wind without the foresail collapsing in the wind shadow of the main and this has steadied the ship somewhat.
There's further good news on Maunie, we're glad to report: firstly, Dianne's flapjack was superb (a sugar rush in every bite, but with plenty of slow-burn energy from the oats so the very thing for dark night watches) and secondly we're about to pass another important milestone. This afternoon we'll have covered more than 1000 miles and will be over one third of the way to the Marquesas – we'll have our first beer since Galapagos to accompany our supper.
Hopefully the photo of the chart is legible enough for you to see the scale of the voyage; most of our navigation is on the electronic chart plotter but it's prudent to have paper charts to back it up and it's another daily ritual to mark our position and extend our track-line a little further west. As you can probably see from the track-line, we haven't made a straight line course for our destination but did a dog-leg south west to find the trade winds and will now stay along the 6 degrees south meridian to keep the favourable winds and the brilliantly helpful current.
Thanks to those of you who teleported aboard yesterday and reported back – lovely to hear from you. Thanks especially to Sarah – we'll be in touch for some of your easy cake recipes but remember that Graham used to run a cake factory in Bolton so if the recipes don't involve 250kg mixes, automatic depositors, 60m long ovens and in-line wrapping machines, he'll be at a bit of a loss. Luckily Dianne is rather more adept at the hand-made variety.
Stormvogel is less than a mile from us, amazingly, and we know that quite a lot of friends of Peter and Heidi also follow our blog (hello to you all), just as many of our friends follow their very witty blog www.wiedekamm.com (with or without the help of Google Translate) so there's an opportunity to see two different perspectives of the same voyage. For us, it's great to have the reassurance of another boat close by and we enjoy out twice-daily vhf conversations which are becoming increasingly funny (we have to make our own entertainment here).
Only 2,000 miles to go!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Day 6 - so this is normal, is it?

Our position as at 21.00 GMT, Thursday 16th May:
05 degrees 37 minutes south, 102 degrees 01 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 175 nm
Another cracking 24 hour run and life aboard has settled into a steady routine. We're now acclimatised to the sea conditions and the weird sleep patterns so are able to tackle a few more things than the basic eat-sleep-read routine of the first few days. However, what has become normal us is still a pretty different experience from 'normal' sailing so if you were teleported aboard right now, even as the most experienced coastal sailor, you would find it quite a shock and would probably comment along the lines of:
  1. Wow, it's hot
  2. The sea's really pretty rough
  3. The boat's really rolling
  4. I can't see anything but waves and sky (no,wait, there's Stormvogel a mile away)
  5. The boat's flying along
  6. Why isn't anyone steering?
Yes, we'd say, it's a bit warm but shorts and no shirt is a comfy rig and there's at least a breeze across the boat. We daren't open any hatches for fear of rogue waves so our cabin is a bit stifling at times unless we run a fan. The sea is quite scary at first sight, big waves and lots of white caps where the wind tears the crests off them. On the south coast we'd describe this as rough but actually here the waves are regular and Maunie just lifts over them so the deck is mostly dry; the rolling isn't so bad when you get used to it but we move around her with one hand holding on at all times. The horizon is pretty vast (and wait till you see the night sky) but, apart from a procession of white cumulus clouds, the reassuring sight of Stormvogel's sails, bright and white in the sunshine, is the only thing to break up the view. Keep your eyes peeled, though, Dianne saw a whale only 50m away this morning. And, yes, we're sailing at nearly 7 knots with full main and yankee on a broad reach with Winnie doing the driving, effortlessly, so we only look up when a rogue wave knocks her off course – most of the time she recovers but very occasionally needs a helping hand on the wheel.
So, while you are taking stock of your new temporary home, holding on tight, you'll see us move relatively easily around the boat, accustomed to the motion and oblivious to the rolling which would probably have you feeling a bit nauseous. You'll notice us getting on with things – Dianne has just finished cleaning out the hanging locker where the life jackets and (currently unused) waterproofs hang (there was a bit of mildew forming in the warm, tropical air) and is now weighing out the ingredients for flapjack, though 'weighing' is more like guesswork as the scales don't work in a moving boat. Graham is at the laptop, checking the weather files and writing the blog, and is about to set up the fishing line after making up some new lures and traces. The short run of the generator during the night, just to give the batteries a boost before the solar panels took over in daylight, means that there's hot water from the immersion heater so showers in the cockpit are also on the agenda. Once she's finished baking, Di will go and get some sleep this afternoon before supper (the second portion of our sausage casserole from 2 nights ago) and then get ready the first of her two night watches. You'd be welcome to stay for supper, of course, but you'd probably want to be teleporting back to somewhere where the floor doesn't move and the smaller horizon has a few more things in it to see and do. It was lovely to have you aboard – do drop us an email to let us know what you thought of the experience.

Day 5- eating up those miles

Our position as at 23.00 GMT, Wednesday 15th May:
05 degrees 27 minutes south, 99 degrees 24 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 174 nm
A quick update to report that all's well on board Maunie with fantastic progress westwards. We're unsure how to celebrate reaching 100 degrees west but we'll come up with something as the milestones are important on this passage. We certainly won't be looking how far we have ahead of us but will enjoy ticking off the 1000, 2000 and 3000 markers!
Winnie remained in full control last night, allowing us both to get to know the amazing night sky packed with stars. Hoping for more of the same tonight.
Heidi and Peter on Stormvogel are just behind us and they're doing fine. It's great to sail with them but we'd better check that they haven't secretly rigged a towing line!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Day 4, after a rather trying night

Our position as at 22.00 GMT, Tuesday 14th May:
05 degrees 09 minutes south, 96 degrees 21 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 168nm
Last night was a bit tough, particularly for Dianne on the midnight to 04.00 watch. The wind dropped a little but the waves had built up so Winnie wasn't coping at all well – Dianne tried the HR head-to-one side, sympathetic-voice-and-tissues routine but couldn't coax Winnie out of her malaise so she had to resort to hand-steering for most of the watch. This morning Stormvogel reported similar issues with their Hydrovane self-steering (which, as far as we know, doesn't have a pet name – in German it's probably something like a windstoffensterspilenvanegevichenmachin but we think she should be Helga) so everyone sounded pretty tired when we chatted on the VHF.
As dawn broke, the wind improved and we've had an excellent morning's sail. At 6.00am we crossed the 5 degrees south line and turned right a bit, heading pretty much due west after 3 days of sailing south-west. The theory is that we are far enough south to be into the SE trade winds, which should increase over the next few days, but remain in the wonderfully helpful west-going Equatorial Current so we'll continue at 5 degrees south for a few days before working our way further south towards the Marquesas. On this point of sailing (a beam reach) Maunie and Stormvogel are back to being completely evens on boat speed so it's nice to have them a mile to windward in an otherwise empty seascape.
As I write, Dianne is preparing supper – sausage casserole using 'Italian Style' Panamanian sausages (can't wait to see what they are like!). We have a wonderful cooking pot called a Mr D which is a tall stainless steel saucepan which fits into a thermally-insulated outer pot. So the meal is started on the cooker top and, once it's simmering nicely, is transferred into the outer pot to slow-cook for up to 5 hours. This saves a lot of gas and makes it very easy to prepare meals in advance. We're running low on fresh meat (just one portion of minced beef from San Cristobal left) so a job for this afternoon is to rig the fishing line. Our friends Sally & Mike on Jacaranda caught a 26lb Wahoo on this leg a month ago – we're not quite sure what we'd do with such a monster so we'll settle for a serves-two tuna, preferably ready-gutted and filleted.
Many thanks for all the emails – it's been lovely to hear news.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Day 3 - steady progress

Our position at 18.00 GMT, Monday 13th May:
3 degrees, 42 minutes south, 93 degrees 28 minutes west
We are happy to report that all is well aboard Maunie after an uneventful night – uneventful is good! We reefed down as the light faded so that we could enjoy Di's excellent Lemon and Honey Chicken at a not-unreasonable angle of heel and also to stay within sight of Stormvogel (who are still slightly slower than us in these conditions) through the night. The wind was a nice Force 4, the waves relatively gentle, the current helping us along at nearly 2 knots and the was sky full of stars – the Plough is only just visible (upside down) on the horizon and so we are now getting to know the new southern hemisphere sky.
Graham woke in his off watch and describes the feeling of Maunie underway as 'reassuringly composed'. Hearing the noise of the water rush past the hull was the only real indication of progress – it was a bit like being on an express coach at night (with comfy bunks rather than the normally cramped seats) where the noise of wind, tyres and engine merge into a comfortable hum and the suspension converts bumps in the road into gently, swaying undulations. The waves were at an angle that didn't impeded Maunie's movement but you could feel her rise and fall gently as each one approached from the side and she just felt, well, solid and secure. Very reassuring.
Today has dawned bright and sunny again and we continue to sail a south-westerly course. A New Zealand boat on the radio net relayed weather information from their Pacific weather guru back home. He advised sailing to 5 degrees south, 110 degrees west then to head west, using the maximum current, to 5 degrees south, 124 degrees west before turning further sw towards the Marquesas (around 10 degrees south, 135 degrees west). This was good to hear as it is pretty much what we are planning to do based on the weather Grib files that we have.
As I write, Dianne is asleep in the bunk after her two night watches and the generator is humming away, providing subdued engine noise to complete the express-coach-at-night analogy if she's awake to hear it (I suspect not). More importantly it's powering the breadmaker and watermaker as well as producing hot water for showers later and recharging the batteries.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Towards the Marquesas - Days 1 & 2

Our position as at 17.00 GMT, Sunday 12th April:
02 degrees 2 minutes south, 91 degrees 10 minutes west
We left, as planned, yesterday lunchtime after a quick run around the veg market. We've really enjoyed being in based in Baquerizo Moreno and have been fortunate that the anchorage has been pretty calm the whole time (a wind from the north would make it very rolly). Tourism is obviously a key activity on the island but it's very strictly controlled by the National Park authorities so there seems to be a reasonable balance at work. That's not to say there isn't a row of souvenir shops selling mementos of varying taste and quality; the t-shirts featuring the Blue Footed Booby and the phrase 'I love boobies' seem popular but we laughed out loud in one shop when we saw a pile of cloth badges with the phrase misspelled as 'I love bobbies' - one for fans of the British police there!
We set off, with Stormvogel, in a steady Force 4 SE so were on a close reach heading south west in the hunt for stronger winds to the south, a group of large dolphins under our bow. The forecast for the first few days is for light breezes and sure enough the wind died in the night and we had to motor for 4 hours but we're making reasonable progress now, helped by the Equatorial Current which is pushing us along at almost a knot. The sun is shining and the sea's calm so we both slept ok on our off-watches, particularly for a first night at sea. This morning we joined a new SSB radio net and it sounds as though there'll be a group of about 10 yachts in our vicinity (most leaving Galapagos in a couple of days' time) so it'll be good to compare notes on weather and sea conditions.
We'll keep you informed of our progress! Do email any questions or comments but we can't open attachments at sea.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Another video - wildlife on land

Our last day in Galapagos

Today (Friday) is our full last day in San Cristobal so we're doing a final day ashore, with a run to the laundry and some final shopping; we'll have a final meal ashore here tonight then come back in the morning to go to the surprisingly good veg market t stock up on perishables.
We aim to weigh anchor (another nautical term for you) at midday tomorrow and then we're off on a 3,000 mile passage to the Marquesas where the working language will change from Spanish to French and the currency from US Dollars to Central Pacific Francs (we think!). The voyage is actually longer than our Atlantic crossing but, we hope, we should get steadier winds and a very helpful Equatorial Current pushing us along at around one knot. So it'll probably take us around 20 days.
We'll post quick updates on the blog with our position but store up photos for our next wifi opportunity in the islands.
We're sad to be leaving Galapagos but our friends on Jacaranda, a month ahead of us, tell us that the Marquesas are beautiful and the people very friendly so we have something to look forward to!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

A video of the Kicker Rock dive

sorry, if you're viewing on an iPad this video won't run!

Underwater world - and water restored aboard Maunie

Yesterday saw us join a dive trip out to Kicker Rock. Graham joined a divemaster plus three others for the dives whilst Dianne was with twelve people snorkelling along with a guide. Now you'll all be feeling sorry for us, we're sure, when we tell you that the water around Galapagos is much colder than we're used to because of the effect of the Humboldt Current; as a result we wore wet suits!

Before we even jumped in the water at the first site along the coast we were treated to the spectacle of male Frigate birds performing their mating display, ballooning their bright red throats- very impressive. Alongside them were Blue Footed Boobies.

Underwater, the sea life was just as impressive, especially for Dianne and the other snorkellers who were able to list turtles, manta rays, Galapagos, Black Tip and Hammerhead Sharks, as well as mother and pup sea lions swimming with them. Graham's dive was successful but not quite as full of sea life. However, he did capture some video of turtles and brightly coloured fish. Next time, the Go Pro camera will be carried by Dianne with her snorkel.

This morning was spent aboard with Graham dismantling the watermaker (no easy job) to find why it kept tripping out. With the excellent support from Jim McDonald, the Schenker agent based in Weston Super Mare, the parts kit and one of the interdental tools kindly provided by Becky Armer, we are happy to report that the watermaker is now working again.

 The disassembled watermaker with a bewildering array of o-rings
The re-built machine

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Bird life and organic coffee

The bird watching is pretty special around here. At sea we've seen lots of Pelicans (surprisingly elegant flyers in spite of looking like close cousins of the Pterodactyl) and Frigates.

On land we've seen Mockingbirds and Boobies and a Finch so yellow it's almost fluorescent (but too quick to capture on camera so far).

On the boat, meanwhile, we've had another feathered visitor. Yesterday morning Graham awoke early to see a small heron perched on the flagstaff. He crept slowly towards it, camera in hand, but in hindsight could probably have marched straight up to it whilst blowing a trumpet as it was completely unperturbed. These photos were taken from about a metre away from it.

The natural way of the island extends to the agriculture here too. In the middle of the 19th century land was cleared and turned over to farming so bananas, papaya and other fruits grow alongside some veg crops which are sold in the busy town market - everything is organic. There is also a thriving business here producing Galapagos organic coffee which is very good, though Peter's 'coffee with chocolate' at the internet cafe was perhaps a little more organic than he was expecting.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The Galapagos wildlife, eye to eye

We had a brilliant tour of the island with Carlos, a taxi driver who for 25 years was in the Ecuadorian Navy (and sailed a tall-ship to Norway and Germany). As we hoped, we've seen lots of wildlife and not all of it terribly wild.

First of all the sea lions and fur seals are everywhere; playing around the boat and snoozing on the benches along the sea front:

We were tipped off to use the very good water taxis rather than inflating the dinghy to get ashore as they tend to take residence aboard unattended dinghies, presenting the returning owner with an interesting challenge:

Our tour took us first up into the highlands, with a hike up to an extinct volcano with a freshwater lake in it. The scenery and plant life reminded us of Scotland and, for the first time in 8 months, we were a bit chilly:

Next on the itinerary was a tortoise reserve.The Giant Tortoises of Galapagos became dangerously near extinction (there were originally 13 different species) as sailing ships of old discovered that the huge animals could be stacked in the hold, staying alive without food and water for months, to provide a steady supply of fresh meat for the crew. It's estimated that 250,000 were taken in a 30 year period. On San Cristobal, the remaining 3000 animals are all in the north-east corner of the island, very much at risk, so in 2002 a new reserve was built and a captive breeding programme started. Young tortoises, at the age of 5 (when they are about twice the size of 'British' tortoises), are being returned to the wild and the oldest inhabitant is about 100 years old.

Hearing a group of giant tortoises munching fresh greens, their deep breaths coming as contented sighs, is a delicious sound. We'll hope to post a video of the scene soon.

Finally we headed to the surf-pounded, black rocked coastline where the Marine Iguanas hang out to warm up after surfing. These really are dragons!

So, all in all, a pretty amazing day and there's a lot more to see!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

A video from the voyage

Here's a little video shot on Graham's new GoPro toy:

Safely arrived in Galapagos

We are delighted to report safe arrival in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal at about 16.00 local time. The wind died this morning so we had to motor for about 5 hours but it gave us the chance to have showers and tidy the boat en route.
We were still in the process of anchoring when a water taxi arrived alongside and Karmela, our local agent / fixer came aboard. She speaks not a word of English so Graham's dreadful Spanish was called into action; we gave her the required bits of paper and she said she'd return within the hour with the officials. Sure enough, 30 minutes later the taxi returned with Karmela plus a lady from the National Parks office (who manages the strict quarantine regulations), the Port Captain (an Ecuadorian naval officer) and Pablo. Not sure what Pablo's role was but he smiled genially, especially when we offered beers all round.
Karmela did her stuff with consummate ease so the form-filling needed little input from us. The quarantine officer eyed our net of oranges hanging under the spray-hood and explained that they were not allowed here and therefore we had to make them into orange juice "NOW". We nodded and agreed and then said we'd rather do it in the morning if she didn't mind, which seemed to be ok after Karmela said a few calming words; I'm sure some of the oranges will be converted to juice. Apart from that it was all very jolly and we are now officially legal visitors to Galapagos -  though Karmela will take our passports to immigration in the morning for the final act of bureaucracy. The downside is that it's cost us $600 US dollars, including the obligatory $100 each for National Park permits so, as we knew  in advance, a visit to Galapagos ain't cheap! Still, we just couldn't sail past the place.
Already we have a taste of the wildlife, with sea lions swimming around the boat (they try to climb aboard if you have a bathing platform at the stern!) and Frigate birds wheeling above us. The anchorage has perhaps a dozen yachts, several of which we recognise, and the town looks small but inviting so we're heading ashore for a meal with Heidi and Peter from Stormvogel. We'll tell you more and upload some photos in a couple of days' time.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

To Galapagos - Day 8 and Maunie crosses the Equator

Maunie leaves the northern hemisphere (see position,top left) with Stormvogel (grey triangle) not far behind
Our position as at 10.00 UTC, 1st May:
00 degrees 11 minutes SOUTH, 88 degrees 48 minutes west
We crossed the Line (as we seasoned explorers call it!) at ten minutes to midnight. We could not have possibly asked for better conditions; we had a steady Force 3, calm sea, a sky bursting with stars (the Milky Way very bright) and phosphorescence in the water creating a glowing wake behind Maunie as though she had some of those underwater bling lights lit. For those not familiar with said bling lights, I should explain: there are certain types of boat owners (usually motor yachts) who like to demonstrate their wealth and disregard for environmental impact by lighting their boats like Christmas trees, thereby demonstrating the power of their on-board generators. The latest toys are underwater spotlights which leave an anchored boat sitting on a cushion of glowing water – quite a striking view but utterly pointless and presumably confusing for the native sea life. Anyway, I digress; Maunie's illuminated wake was totally natural but no less eye-catching.
There are certain important rituals to be observed upon crossing the Equator for the first time. Chiefly amongst these is the offering to King Neptune. Dianne and Graham celebrated the moment with a bottle of sparkling Normandy Cidre (bought in Martinique) but we felt Neptune would expect something more exotic and fitting.  A delve into Maunie's not very extensive drinks locker revealed the very thing – a bottle of Becherovka (a wonderful aromatic gin-like spirit) from that well-known seafaring nation, the Czech Republic (hello to Jiri, Nina, Mik and Adela in Prague). A liberal tot was poured into the sea and we felt that Neptune was happy. Thirty minutes after our crossing we were hailed on the VHF by Stormvogel who completed their own.
It was quite a special moment and we still can't believe that we are here!
However, import things lie ahead, like reaching port before nightfall. We had been making good progress but as we write the wind is fading away with 60 miles to go so it seams that we'll have to start the engine for the final leg/ Ah well, we've done pretty well (there are tales of some boats having to motor nearly all the way from Panama to here if they are unlucky with the ITCZ. We'll do a quick post when we arrive.