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.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Safely into Rarotonga after a brilliant passage

Above: Leaving the pass at Maupiti and the dawn view of Rarotonga
We arrived at Avatiu, the only harbour in Rarotonga, at nine o'clock this morning, completing probably our most enjoyable passage to date. Last evening we saw an ominous line of dark clouds ahead of us – the frontal trough that had been forecast on the Grib weather files was exactly where it was supposed to be. Through a good dose of luck, though, we crossed the trough at a narrow point so only had about an hour of heavy rain and confused winds as we motored through it; another boat ten miles further south experienced several hours of rain and gusts of wind up to 50 knots.
Once we were through the trough, the wind swung around by about 180 degrees to the south east so for the rest of the night we could sail on a close reach at around 6 knots so we were spared the hours of motoring that we'd been dreading.
Rarotonga is another beautiful island with steep, rainforest-clad hills. Our brief exploration of the town has shown it to be very friendly and quite different in character to the French islands. Just as French Polynesia was full of French holidaymakers, Rarotongan shops echo to the chatter of Kiwis. The authorities, meanwhile, are a lot more thorough than the French – we've had no less than 4 officials come aboard Maunie to complete customs and immigration, confiscate any fresh fruit and veg and to spray the cabin for insects. This all involved us writing the same information on four different forms, of course, but we getting pretty quick at this now and can even remember our passport numbers without referring to them. It was all completed with plenty of good humour and laughter, though, so we warmed to the Cook Islanders even before we stepped ashore; if customs officials have a sense of humour, the normal folk must be a riot.
We're both feeling pretty tired after the voyage so tomorrow will be our first proper day of exploring; we'll update the blog with photos in a couple of days.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Emergency plumbing and brilliant sailing

Our position at 02.30 BST 27th August:
20 degrees 17 minutes south
158 degrees 38 minutes west
84 miles go to Raratonga
Bob Diamond (the plumber, not the banker) was overweight, fifty and looked slightly dishevelled and sweaty after the journey. "Blimey, you took some finding out here! Got lost three times an' 'ad to stop fer directions twice!" he said in a strong south-London accent, mopping his brow with a red handkerchief and flashing the gold-toothed smile of a man who knows that all mileage will be recharged at an exorbitant rate. He took a sip from his mug of tea ("Three sugars, luv, ta") and handed over his card as way of introduction:
Plumb Bob Ltd
Plumbers and Heating Engineers
Bob Diamond I.G.M.O.V.
He chuckled at my quizzical look. "Mate o' mine said it looks better if you 'ave letters after yer name. Stands for 'I got me own van' but most people don't ask." On the back of the card there were further details:
Diamond Geezer
Second hand and antique jewellery
"That's a bit of a side line, somefink for when I get too old for the plumbing caper. Keeps the missus happy, too."  he added, with a conspiratorial wink at Dianne.
His mug drained to the sugary dregs and introductions completed, he turned to the business in hand and started to investigate Maunie's plumbing system. His head deep in the echoing bilges he exclaimed "Strewth! Oo done this plumbing? Right old cowboy job I'd say." Then, to himself, "Terrible access – ow you s'posed to get yer 'and in there?". He emerged a minute or two later, red in the face, and sucked air through his teeth, shaking his head and tutting in disbelief before exclaiming, "It's not the worst job I've 'ad to do but it ain't pretty, I can tell ya."
Clearly this was more than the normal 'softening them up for the Final Bill' that tradesmen do so well (with each tut and shake of the head signifying another £20), so we braced ourselves for the worst and asked him to do his best....
Of course this is all fiction as, try as we might, we couldn't find an emergency plumber in this bit of the Pacific. It fell to Graham to solve Maunie's water problem whilst Dianne, sensible girl, retired to bed to recover from her night watch and to shield her delicate ears from any indelicate words. The fault was self evident and should have been simple to fix but boats tend to make the simple complicated so Graham knew he was in for a battle and left the autopilot to sail the boat whilst he worked.
Maunie has a 320 litre fresh water tank deep in the lowest part of her bilges, amidships. It's shaped like a wine glass in cross section to fit into the hull above the keel and you can only access its top by removing a wooden locker (used for biscuits and other night watch nibbles) under the pilot-house floor and reaching down, about another 15 inches, into the void below. There's a flexible hose that leads from the tank to an in-line filter and then splits into two other hoses. One leads to the hand-operated pump in the galley sink (so you can get water even if the electrics fail) and the other goes to an electric pump under the floor near the aft heads. This pump has an accumulator tank and it pressurises a ring main so we get running hot and cold water to the sinks and showers in both heads, the cockpit shower and the galley. Normally this pump hums away a couple of seconds after you open a tap and stops a few seconds after you close it, having re-pressurised the accumulator. Our first sign of trouble yesterday was that the pump just kept running and then no water came out.
We'd worked out that the fault was likely to be caused by one of three possibilities: the electric pump was faulty; the pipe from the tank was blocked or split; there was an air leak from a fitting between tank and either pump. It took Graham nearly three hours to find out which. The problem was one of very difficult access, made worse by the fact that the builders had made all the flexible hoses exactly the shortest length possible so there was no slack to allow him to reach the joints and undo the jubilee clips. Eventually, he managed to find that there was some kind of air leak in the tube leading to the hand-pump so was able, with much difficulty, to bypass this and connect the electric pump directly to the filter and, hurrah, it worked once again! The shower in the sunshine in the cockpit was well-deserved after that!
Anyway, plumbing aside, we've had the most lovely sailing! We finally took the Parasailor down this morning after 49 and a quarter hours, the first time we've flown it for two consecutive nights. Yesterday afternoon the wind dropped away to only 8 knots and we were ghosting along at 2 knots on a beam reach, the spinnaker only just remaining filled, but the breeze picked up again and we had 15 knots and 6 knot of boat speed through the night. The forecasted calm hasn't hit us yet but the wind is continuing to go ant-clockwise and we are now beating against a north-westerly. If we believe the latest forecast it'll continue to change direction and we should get a favourable south-easterly again after midnight.
The sea has been calm and the night sky stunning, with bright stars then a 3/4 moon illuminating the boat in a silvery light that makes torches unnecessary on deck so we hope tonight, our last night on passage, will be equally as good. All being well we'll be in Avatiu Harbour, Raratonga, tomorrow morning.
Post-script: Today Graham, sufficiently recovered from his plumbing ordeal, decided to investigate the pipe line to the galley hand-pump to try to find the air leak. It didn't take much finding – the jubilee clip on the end wasn't tight and the pipe had come off the bottom of the pump (presumably moved when we were accessing cooking pots in the locker)! His response was remarkably calm: "For Bob's sake!!" was all he said.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

On Passage to Raratonga

Current position:
18 degrees, 58 minutes south
156 degrees 24 minutes west
Just a quick update. We left Maupiti (the pass through the reef fairly spectacular with huge breaking waves either side) on Friday morning and so far have made very good progress in near-perfect sailing conditions. We hoisted the Parasailor spinnaker 25 hours ago and it's still giving us good speed and a nice, relatively roll-free motion. Unfortunately the wind is forecast to drop away today and swing around the compass – when we started it was a southerly, then south-east and now it's north-east, due to go round to north-west by tonight so we're making the most of what we have.
We have an engineering challenge to deal with today. For some reason the main water pump isn't lifting drinking water from the main tank so Graham is about to go bilge-ratting to try to find the cause. Before we left we installed a small second tank against this very eventuality and we also have emergency supplies as well as the ability to fill jerry cans directly from the watermaker so it's a nuisance rather than a serious problem but the resolution may involve some grazed knuckles and bad words! We'll update progress tomorrow.
This aside, all's well though we're both still a bit sleep-deprived as usual for the start of a voyage.

Friday, 23 August 2013

A video for shark fans

Graham's just got round to tidying up various video clips so he's edited together some footage of the Black Tipped Sharks which followed us around when we were snorkeling the gin-clear water in Kauehi atoll back in the Tuamotus Archipelago.

Click here to view it.

Tomorrow is our last day in French Polynesia (we'll leave at lunchtime) so we bid a fond farewell to the French Polynesian Franc:

Ten thousand francs is equivalent to about $90 US and the ATM's have a habit of just giving you one 10,000 F note if you ask for that amount - you can imagine how pleased the local shopkeepers are if you go in expecting change from it! Anyway tomorrow morning we'll go to the local village shop to try to spend our last few coins.

Our next hop is about 520 miles to Raratonga (where the currency, incidentally, is the New Zealand Dollar) so we hope to be there by Tuesday,

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Swimming with Manta Rays

Over the past two days we've been snorkeling with giant Manta Rays in Maupiti's lagoon - there's a favourite spot (a 'cleaning station') where they glide over a rock and all the Ramora fish come to clean the pests off their skin. We went over in the dinghy (and this morning did a full circumnavigation of the island) and found them (9 of them together, the largest had a span of over 8 feet). They were in about 6 metres of water; unfortunately it wasn't crystal clear but you get the idea from the following photos and video:

Here's a short video of the action

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Maupiti photos from height

We scaled the 'mountain' in Maupiti yesterday morning - a fairly strenuous and hot climb (with ropes provided at three particularly steep bits). However the view made it all worthwhile and through the binoculars we could see whales breaching just outside the reef.

Here are a few photos:

 The pass through the reef

 An airstrip to test the nerve of any pilot!

King Peter and Queen Heidi of Stormvogel Land

Monday, 19 August 2013

The legendary Pole Dancers of Mauputi

Our last day in Bora Bora was a busy one - a trip to the cyber-laundrette (half an hour's internet connection with every wash!), a formal clear out at the Gendarmerie and a final visit to the supermarket.

The Bora Bora moorings

No tumble-dryer required!

We left at 07.00 yesterday morning for the 27-mile crossing to Maupiti and unfortunately the breeze never really became established so, after an hour's very pleasant but slow sail with the Parasailor, we motored the rest of the way to arrive at the pass into the lagoon just after midday - which is as close to slack water as you can get. The pass comes with lots of dire warnings on the chart - current of up to 9 knots flows out and meets the incoming south-easterly wind to create scarey standing waves in rough conditions. When we arrived there were white rollers crashing onto the reef but the entrance was easy.

Maupiti is lovely - a big surrounding reef and low-lying motus (islands) make it very like a Tuamotus atoll, except for a high, wooded island in the middle; about 1000 people live here so the village has a couple of shops and a bolangerie. We're surprised to discover it has just been annexed by Germany and renamed Stormvogel Land - see Peter's blog for details and some great photos of the pass.

We're hearing great reports, from other boats, of manta rays in the lagoon and whales just outside so we plan to go and explore tomorrow but this morning there was a rare sighting of the Pole Dancers of Maupiti:

Dianne scaled Maunie's mast - her first time to the top. It's 58 feet above the waterline so quite a scarey cimb so Graham was very proud of her for conquering her fear of heights. Meanwhile Heidi was at the top of Stormvogel's mast to investigate why the anchor light isn't working.

The view from the top of the mast is pretty good - here are a few photos.

Looking south towards the pass, Stormvogel in the foreground

   Looking west towards the main island

Looking east to the Motu Tuanai - Gallinago in the foreground

Video fans will find another YouTube posting here - we'll gradually add more videos to the Maunie of Ardwall channel on www.Youtube.com (just search 'Maunie of Ardwall) but there are five there now.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Another video link - and preparing to move on

We've posted on one of our Raiatea videos on YouTube so those with iPads can view it here (it's also a higher-resolution version of the one posted on this blog last week).

We're spending a last day in Bora Bora before making a very short (30 mile) crossing to the island of Maupiti, which is said to be stunningly beautiful (even more so than here!!). It has a slightly tricky pass to enter into the lagoon, however, so should only be attempted in calm conditions. As it happens, calm conditions are exactly what we're going to get for the next few days -  the SE Trade Winds look as though they'll re-establish themselves on Wednesday - so this should work out very nicely.

So today will see us meeting the Gendarme in town to formally clear out  of French Polynesia, do a last shop in the supermarket and prepare Maunie for what promises to be a gentle voyage tomorrow.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Diving in Bora Bora

Here's a video of Graham's two dives in Bora Bora, to give you a flavour of the sealife here; this one's posted on YouTube so iPad users should be able to view it:

Click on this link to view it:  Video

Blue sea and flying yachtsmen

We've moved back to the west side of the island so have wifi access to upload a few photos. The anchorages on the east side were very remote but stunning. With only 2 or 3 metres of water over white sand the turquoise was dazzling and the view of Bora Bora's mountain was much more dramatic:

Yesterday we had a walk ashore on the motu (island) sheltering us from the wind. A couple of yachties that we met the other night, Lionel on Kiapa and Patrick from Living were kite-surfing so Graham set the SLR to high-speed photo-drive and took hundreds of photos - here are a few of the more dramatic ones:

They make it look very easy but, of course, there were the odd spills:

Graham was thinking that this might be the next faintly dangerous sport for him (many years ago he gained his P1 Hang-Gliding License but never too the sport up) but for two reasons: (a) the full kit costs about $15,000 Aus and (b) he thinks he's about 20 years too old to start.

We're now in serious weather-watching mode as the forecast is incredibly unsettled. At the morning SSB net, Graham (today's  net controller) issued a novel weather forecast which ran:

"There is a slight depression centred over the yachts in Bora Bora who are realising that they've probably missed the weather window. Meanwhile the boats who have made it to Swarrow and other ports west are experiencing a high. The outlook for the next 24 hours is more troughs and furrows on brows as weather files are examined - expect more confused conditions."

So we'll see - it looks as though there might be a little opportunity on Friday to leave, though it looks as though the wind will be a bit lighter than we'd like. Meanwhile the delights of Vaitape (the town) await - a laundrette and the Chinese supermarket.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Pot Luck

We've moved down to another shallow anchorage (around 3.5m depth) in clear turquoise water at the south-eastern end of the Bora Bora lagoon. We're about 800m from the shore so the palm trees are providing a little bit of shelter from the 25 knot wind blowing from the east. It's slightly odd to see the anchor chain, straining against the pressure of the wind, pulling almost horizontally from the bow but the anchor is buried deep into the soft sand so  we feel very secure.
Nearby there are about eight or nine yachts whose names were familiar to us from VHF radio calls but whose owners we hadn't met. However, Irene from an Australian catamaran called Kiapa came over shortly after we dropped anchor to invite us over for a Pot Luck supper so this situation quickly changed. Pot Lucks are a great cruising institution where a boat broadcasts the plan over the radio and then crews from all the boats in the anchorage meet at the chosen spot, bringing with them their own booze and a bowl of food (typically a salad) to share. Last night the location was a beach where the house-holders had built a few tables with grass roofs; they welcomed us to use these and even lit a bbq (in an old washing machine drum) for us on the beach. We took a couple of beef steaks (imported from New Zealand and delicious) so had these with a selection of seven or eight different salads  and ate very well.
It was a very good evening and we met crews from American, German, Australian and New Zealand boats. Conversation is easy at these events – you start with a common bond of the sailing trip and quickly move into the other topics. There's a lot of shared knowledge at these gatherings so we have made some good contacts and will no doubt see many of the boats again as we head west.
Talking of heading west, we're ready to hit the high seas again (after a final re-stock of food and diesel) but the weather isn't really on our side at the moment. We're currently waiting for the weather to improve a bit (lots of wind just now but then confused and light winds coming mid-week) before we set off toward Raratonga in the Cook Islands and it looks pretty unsettled for the next 7 or 8 days. So we may be here for a while – but there are worse places to be stuck than Bora Bora!
Finally, Happy 18th Birthday to Goddaughter Amy! Hope that you have had a great day and that you received our email.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Making water again

We are delighted and relieved to report that our watermaker is back aboard and working. The service agent in Papeete, Gilles, was as good as his word and, as soon as he returned from holiday this week, fitted the new parts sent from the manufacturer in Italy and gave it a full test. He put it on an internal Ait Tahiti flight up to Bora Bora and we picked it up at the freight office in town yesterday morning – we were amused that the only address was "Graham and Dianne, Yacht Maunie" scrawled in large letters on the side of the box!
Anyway, as soon as it arrived we moved Maunie around to the east side of the island, though some very shallow boat passes, and anchored in 4m of water just off the hyper-expensive St Regis hotel (rooms are said to cost $1000 per night – our room has a better view for $0 per night!). Graham spent an hour re-installing the watermaker and we ran it for an hour or so and it seems that all is well. It was great that the fix, including air freight, was covered under warranty and we can move on again, confident that it'll work.
This morning Graham is going for a scuba dive, along with Matt & Charlotte from Gallinago so we hope to have some more photos and video to share once we return to somewhere with wifi (we've failed to guess the code for the St Regis Hotel wifi!).

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

In Bora Bora

We had a really fabulous sail (spinnaker all the way) across to Bora Bora yesterday. It was good to meet up lots of boats we know and we're looking forward to exploring the island.

Meanwhile here's a last video from Raiatea:

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Another underwater video

Here's a quick snorkel for you!

Introducing Colin

We mentioned on the last blog that we'd been adopted by a large fish. We're not sure what make he is but, judging by his impressive bulk (he's about 40cm long), we aren't the first boat to feed him!

A cheeky view of Maunie's bottom

Here's a different view of our boat - we did say that the anchorage was shallow! Sorry, if you're viewing this on an iPad, it won't play, for reasons beyond us.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Blue Sky Thinking

Our wonderful, wild anchorage near Isle Naonao was bathed in sunshine yesterday so we enjoyed some great snorkelling. We've also made friends with some of the wildlife and have been adopted by a large fish who is particularly fond of Ritz crackers (other brands are available) and swims with us when we go snorkelling - we've called him Colin. We've taken some photos and videos which we'll post on the blog when we next get wifi access to the internet but in the meantime the photo above will give you a taster of the place.
Unfortunately the weather has deteriorated overnight – we had heavy rain last night and the wind has steadily marched around the compass from easterly to northerly and now around to south westerly, with strong gusts ahead of the rain squalls. A big rain cloud prompted Graham to dash up on deck at 7.30 this morning to rig the rain catcher – it was already pelting down so he did it naked (no photos exist and if they had been taken he would point out that the rain was really quite cold) and of course, the moment the job was completed, the rain stopped.
We've used the time here reasonably productively so, apart from the swimming, we've baked a cake and some bread rolls, caught up on some reading and spent some time looking at the charts for the Pacific crossing ahead of us. We're about a month behind our original 'plan' (more of a guideline really), mainly because of the poor weather a couple of weeks back and waiting for the watermaker repair, but we're not too concerned as we'd built in plenty of slack and we are really enjoying the beautiful Society Islands. We'll move up to Bora Bora tomorrow for our last French supermarkets and to await the arrival of the rebuilt watermaker. Most of the other boats on the Sothern Cross radio net are still around here but we're all beginning to start looking at the long-range weather forecasts to plan the next leg.
Once we leave Bora Bora the next island chain is the Cook Islands which, though independent, have a historical tie with, and continuing financial support from, New Zealand. Raratonga, to the south, is the biggest island and we will probably go there first as long as the forecast looks ok as its main harbour is not a good place if the wind swings to the north east. After the Cook Islands it's Tonga and, if we have time, Fiji before we head to New Zealand in November.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Celebrating our Wedding Anniversary somewhere special

Our plan to explore the river yesterday was abandoned as a nasty drizzle set in and the anchorage became oppressively humid; yearning for fresher air and clearer water we motored along the channel inside the reef to the southernmost tip of Raiatea to anchor off a tiny, privately-owned island called Naonao.
With Graham keeping a sharp lookout at the bow, Dianne neatly steered us through a very narrow gap into a beautiful turquoise pool for our anchorage. The bottom is flat sand with a big ring of colourful coral, teaming with fish, surrounding us but it's disconcertingly shallow – we have less than a metre below our keel and the clear water makes it look disconcertingly like a shallow swimming pool from the deck! We're anchored at 16 degrees, 55.13 minutes south, 151 degrees 25. 91 minutes west.
The weather didn't really improve, with heavy rain and a 25 knot breeze through the night (so a rather noisy and disturbed sleep), but the anchor is buried deep into the white sand and the main reef is protecting us from the waves so we're very sheltered and secure.  What we have noticed is that the strong winds have brought big surf crashing onto the outer reef and this is filling up the lagoon so we now have a permanent current of about a knot flowing past us which makes snorkelling a rather strenuous exercise! We had a brief hint of blue sky this morning but it looks as though it'll be a couple of days before this weather system sorts itself out and the normal sunshine returns; the wind is forecast to reduce and swing to the north, then the west and south before returning  to the normal south-east on Tuesday.
It's a wonderful spot and a truly away-from-it-all place to celebrate our wedding anniversary (our 11th, which is probably something unprepossessing like Linoleum in the list of anniversaries). Cheers!
PS and Happy 50th to Steve Gamman – hope you received the email

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Next island - Raiatea

Current position, Baie Faaroa: 15 degrees, 49.4 minutes south, 151 degrees, 24.5 minutes west
We left Huahine yesterday morning, after filling the tanks with fresh water at the town quay (the slowest hosepipe in the world, we can't wait to get our watermaker back). It's just a 20 mile hop across to Raiatea and, once we'd cleared the reef pass, with surfers and body-boarders enjoying the surf break, we had a perfect Force 3 broad reach with the gentlest of swells so hoisted the 'Irish Flag' spinnaker and really enjoyed the crossing; Di prepared some fruit salad en route with some juicy, sweet pineapples bought on Moorea.
We're anchored at the head of the long Baie Faaroa which has a river, navigable for two or three miles by dinghy, so we plan to go and explore later this morning. Once again, there's a fair amount of wind blowing (the northern tail of a big anticyclone that's passing a few hundred miles south of us) but this anchorage is perfectly sheltered and we can just hear the dogs and cockerels ashore in an otherwise silent place. Dogs and cockerels are indeed the soundtrack of the Society Islands – the chickens here are actually classed as wild birds and so are everywhere (and it's almost impossible to buy eggs here as there can't be many domesticated flocks) and every household seems to have a couple of scruffy-looking dogs, usually asleep in the sunshine.
The other boats of our radio net have been moving west when the weather allows so there are quite a few of us in Raiatea and its sister island Tahaa (the two islands share a common encircling reef) whilst one or two have already made the three-day passage across to Suwarrow atoll in the northern Cook Islands. We'll spend a few more days exploring Raiatea before crossing to Bora Bora which will be our last chance to buy French Brie, baguettes and excellent tinned Cassoulet before we head to the less-developed, but cheaper, Cook Islands.