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 June 2013

Acclimatising to the pace of life in Papeete

above: The Quai des Yachts and one of our smaller neighbours
Pepeete is a busy French city with a noisy dual carriageway boulevard (quieter at night, thankfully) running close to our pontoon moorings. Shops, cafes, bakeries and a very good supermarket are within walking distance so we've been able to do a bit of a restock and take in the sights. Yesterday (Saturday) was some kind of national holiday so the streets were eerily quiet in the afternoon as all the locals headed out to the beaches and everything shut at midday.
Our plan is to spend a couple more days here before heading down the west coast of the island for some quieter anchorages. Stormvogel will be here for a couple of weeks getting various boat jobs done (they will be hauled out for paint repairs and new antifouling next week) so we'll meet up with them in one of the other Society islands.
Tidal fact fans will be interested to hear that the society islands are situated on what is called an amphidromic point where the tides are not affected by the moon. Instead there is a solar tide so high water is at midday every day of the year. Something for you to drop into lulls in conversation.
Anyway, must get on with a few jobs on the boat today. The trusty sewing machine is coming out for repairs on stitching ravaged by UV on the sprayhood and dodgers; never an idle moment (well, hardly ever) on Maunie.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Tahiti - Land Ho!

Stormvogel passes the north coast of Tahiti
After the tiny, low-lying atolls of the Tuamotu, Tahiti looks very impressive (it's mountains range up to over 2000m). We closed in at Point Venus (where Captain Cook set up an observatory to study the planet) at about 7.00am and we are now sailing down the north west coast towards the very industrial looking port.
It's been an excellent, fast passage and we can almost taste the fresh croissants!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

On passage from Fakarava to Tahiti

We left Fakarava at 4.00pm yesterday and have had a good sail through the night, with Stormvogel in close proximity. The long range forecast is still predicting large southerly swells in a day or two so we hope that by setting off in good time we'll avoid them; we should arrive in Pape'ete tomorrow morning.
Those of you also following the Stormvogel blog (www.wiedekamm.com), with or without the aid of Google Translate, will know that the 'slight delay' we mentioned in our blog when they left the Kauehi anchorage a couple of days ago was, in fact, a pretty scary episode. Only 10 minutes after we took the photo of Stormvogel motoring off into the dawn there was a frantic VHF call from Peter – they had run hard aground on an uncharted coral reef. Stormvogel is an aluminium boat with a lifting keel (retracted at the time); her hull shape meant she rode up onto the reef but did not come to an abrupt stop as she would have with a fixed keel.
We lifted our anchor immediately, conscious that every second counted as the tide was falling, and motored across as quickly as we could. We knew that the only chance of re-floating Stormvogel would be to run a rope from the mast-head and pull her over onto her side to reduce her draught in the water so Peter rowed out to us in his dinghy with a line. After several unsuccessful attempts we were beginning to think that this wasn't going to work but we did one final manoeuver where we set off at full speed at 90 degrees to the stricken boat, the slack rope tightening with a bang and Stormvogel heeling over so far that water flooded onto her side decks (a scary moment for Heidi and down below things were flying across the cabin).  With a sickening noise of rock on metal, she slid free. Peter and Graham immediately jumped in with snorkel gear to check the hull and, thankfully, found only paint damage.
Both Peter and Heidi were understandably pretty shocked by the episode but pressed on to Fakarava to meet Ole at the airport. Peter has written a fuller account of the incident on his blog and is being very hard on himself. However the important thing is that no one was hurt and Stormvogel suffered only superficial damage as far as we can tell – she was already booked for a lift-out and new antifouling in Tahiti so will soon be as good as new. We were just glad that were were there and able to help.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Among the sharks and whales....

Here are a few more photos of our finned friends:

We seem to have a good weather window for a couple of days before big southerly swells come to the Tuamotus at the end of the week so we plan to leave Fakarava this evening for the two day sail to Tahiti.

More photos - and moving on to Fakarava

We are now anchored off the small village in the NE corner of the huge Fakarava lagoon after a 39 mile motor in no wind. Still, we used the time well - Graham serviced two winches, Dianne made another of her brilliant Nutella cakes and we saw a whale and calf only about 20m from the boat!

Here are a few more photos from the last couple of days:

 One of the many 'come on if you think you're hard enough' land crabs

 The low-hanging fruit (fishing buoys, actually)

 Stormvogel leaves the Kauehi anchorage at first light

 Breakfast with a view aboard Maunie

A 5 knot tide sluices out of the entrance pass at Kauehi

Monday, 24 June 2013

Difficult to find the words to describe this but ........

Yesterday afternoon we left the anchorage next to the village and motored the 7 miles across the glassy Kauehi lagoon to find an anchorage close to the entrance pass at the southern end. Peter & Heidi wanted to do an early start this morning to get across to Fakarava to meet the plane from Tahiti and so this move would make the voyage shorter.
Having peered into the gin-clear waters as we anchored in the fading light, the Maunie crew decided we'd have a second night here to do a bit of snorkelling so Stormvogel left us at 07.00, after a slight delay, and we've had an amazing day.
Our anchorage is sand with dark blobs of coral heads all around and it's quite disconcerting to walk along the side decks; the clear water makes it feel as though we are suspended in mid-air, 30ft above the ground.
Once into the warm, clear water we were mesmerised by the wildlife all around us. The rather menacing-looking Black Tip Sharks that also seem to favour this spot didn't put us off too much, though Graham had a bit of a moment when a 4ft one, complete with Ramora Fish hiding under its belly, came straight towards him (inquisitive rather than aggressive, Graham thinks!) and only turned away about a yard from him!
The coral is like a garden here – full of rich colours and home to at least 50 different species of fish. We swam into the shallow water and glided over the coral heads just a few inches below us. The clams have incredible colours in their 'lips' and some of the fish are simply beautiful, though an hour later we were hungry again.
We've posted a few small photos here but will add more when we get to Fakarava tomorrow evening. The forecast is for a couple more calm days then a reasonable breeze so we'll aim to set off for Tahiti (a 2-3 day sail) on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Enjoying Kauehi

After a couple of blowy nights, things have settled down here and the wind has dropped too! Graham is back to full fitness and we have both regained our lost sleep. Last night it went so calm in the anchorage that Graham woke up at 03.30 and took the photo of the neighbouring yacht by moonlight.
The standard of living in the village here is much poorer than in Takaroa; the solitary shop is sparsely stocked and there isn't a bakery. However a recent addition to the island is an airstrip so a weekly flight from Tahiti is due in this morning and apparently it brings air-freighted baguettes! Yesterday we walked over to the windward reef of the atoll (only about 1000 metres from the lagoon side) to find the surf crashing onto the coral and, unfortunately, lots of plastic waste blown in from who knows where. At the tide line the plastic was ground down to tiny pieces – digestible by fish – so you can see how this stuff is getting into the food chain.
The plan of today is to sail (or motor, probably) the seven miles back down the lagoon towards the entrance pass. We'll look for a suitable spot to anchor near it as there is said to be some spectacular snorkelling there. Tomorrow we'll set off early to the neighbouring atoll of Fakarava which is much bigger and boasts hotels, restaurants and dive shops so it will be a useful acclimatisation before we hit the bright lights of Tahiti a few days later. Peter & Heidi's youngest son Ole is flying into Fakarava tomorrow afternoon (via Hamburg, Paris, Los Angeles and Tahiti!) so they are looking forward to having him aboard for the next month or so..
Fakarava will also have internet access so we'll post a few more photos and catch up with emails – thanks to Geoff, Amz and Simon for their news over the past couple of days. All news from home is very welcome – not having internet access for a few days means that we have no idea what's happening in the rest of the world. This can have its benefits, of course; the other day we chatted to the oldest resident of Takaroa, who spoke good English having spent some time in Australia, and he said "The good thing is that we don't worry about what's happening in Syria out here!"

Thursday, 20 June 2013

An action-packed 24 hours

We decided to leave Takaroa yesterday afternoon even through the forecast was for a reasonably windy 24 hours ahead. If we were to wait a day or so, though, the wind was forecast to disappear again and we decided that we've had enough motoring.
So the morning started with a trip ashore in the dinghy to collect fresh baguettes and we were pleased that we brought a large roll-top waterproof bag with us as the dinghy trip back was into the teeth of the wind and the anchorage had some fairly sizeable waves which soaked us. After a morning of preparing the boat for a 20 hour passage to windward we then faced the challenge that we'd been fearing – recovering the anchor and chain from the seabed that was infested by large coral heads. Sure enough both Maunie's and Stormvogel's chains were well and truly wrapped around big lumps of coral (and Stormvogel also had a sunken mooring buoy and its rope wrapped around theirs) and it took us a very unpleasant 40 minutes of boat manoeuvring, chain easing and tightening before we finally escaped. We were lucky not to damage our electric windlass which hauls in the chain and we would have had no chance without it.
We eventually left at 2.00pm with reasonably benign current in the pass and set reefed sails for the 90 mile overnight passage to the atoll of Kaeuhi. The first couple of hours weren't a lot of fun as the last of a weather front rolled over us and we we beating into some very steep seas so were wearing waterproofs for the first time in weeks. Cooking would have been nigh impossible but we had planned ahead and made a corn beef stew ("oh yum, yum" we hear you say) in our insulated slow cooker and it was very tasty, eaten up in the cockpit. Unfortunately Graham had added a small tin of mushrooms into the mix and thought, as he did so,  that they looked an unusual shade of green but assumed that this was from some herbs. Dianne didn't fancy the look of them in her dish and jettisoned them overboard but Graham ate them with gusto. 3 hours later he was violently sick over the side and had stomach cramps for the rest on the night. As a result he stayed in the cockpit until about 3.30am and perversely said he enjoyed the sailing as it took his mind off the retching and gurgling in his stomach and Dianne tried, mostly in vain, to get some sleep below. The wind shifted a bit so we got a more friendly close reach and arrived at the pass into Kaeuhi only just after slack water so had an easy entrance into the huge lagoon – it took us another hour of fast sailing to reach our anchorage off Tearavero Village (position 15 degrees 49.3 minutes south, 145 degrees, 03.3 minutes west). We were relieved to find a much better anchoring spot in shallow water with plenty of sand between the coral heads so could pick our spot.
We're pretty exhausted so a sleep followed by a swim is probably as much as we'll achieve today but we look forward to exploring the village tomorrow. Graham's recovering from his attack of the killer mushrooms but doesn't feel up to a chilled beer to celebrate our arrival, so it must have been bad.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Village life

The tiny village is has two beautifully kept churches and the Mormon faith seems to dominate here - so much so that there is no alcohol sold in the village shop. Luckily for us we discovered that if we walked across the bridge onto the next bit of the atoll, the shop sells Tahiti-brewed beer which is very good (albeit about £3 a 500ml bottle) so we can stop worrying!

Here are a few more photos:

 An all-female strimming team keeps the verges tidy!

The Supply Ship Arrives at Takaroa

Yesterday was a busy one in the village as a second supply ship arrived in the afternoon. Unloading this one was a very labour-intensive affair as it just had very old-fashioned derricks (a long pole hinged at the bottom of a mast, with long block-and-tackle lines to control it) rather than a modern crane. We was everything from wheelbarrows to bicycles to plants being unloaded and it seemed that the whole village gets involved.

The school kids (school starts at 8.00 and finishes at 12.30 it seems) wasted no opportunity to use the ship's mooring lines as a climbing frame and were very keen to show off for the camera. No health & safety controls here! They all came crowding round to look at the images, chattering away in French; if we get time, we'll make some prints and take them to the school before we leave:

Graham chatted to one of the mothers who was keeping a gentle eye on them all and checked that she was happy for photos to be taken but she was a keen as the children to see the pictures and seemed completely unperturbed as the kids scampered up the ropes. Meanwhile, back on Maunie, Dianne could hear the shrieks of laughter.

Boat photos

One of the may great things about sailing in company with Stormvogel is the opportunity to exchange photos of each other's boats at sea. Last night we had a memorable Pizza Night aboard - Heidi's pizzas are wonderful - and copied photos from Peter's pc. Here is a selection which give you an idea of the sea conditions:

Downwind sailing, with poled-out yankee plus mainsail and staysail:

The 'Blue Monster' as Peter calls our Parasailor:

A rainbow as we arrive at Fatu Hiva:

A dolphin escort as we leave the Marquesas:

The Irish Flag spinnaker:

More photos of atoll life to follow