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.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

I splice something beginning with the letter R

We're back out in the beautiful anchorages of the Bay of Islands but had a day of heavy rain yesterday as a low pressure system passed over North Island. Perfect conditions for a little re-varnishing of worn areas in the galley, some reading and, for Graham, some rope splicing practice.
He's been able to splice 3-strand rope for years but to put a loop into the end of 'double braided' line (where there's an inner braided core for strength and an outer braided sheath for wear-resistance) is a much more complex process so we've always paid professional riggers to do the job for us. During the All Points Rally events last week, one of the seminars was a practical demonstration of the process given by Bob Fassio, the wonderfully helpful sales manager of the excellent Cater Marine chandlers and riggers in Opua. Bob, who sailed her from the USA several years ago and never quite moved on, made the process look very easy and generously offered additional one-to-one tuition if anybody wanted it. So on Monday evening Graham and Gudrun, from the Swedish boat Aniara, spent an hour with him to try to learn the trick.
Yesterday was Graham's first solo attempt and, after one false start, he was very pleased to be able to make two tidy splices in a rope that will replace the UV-degraded preventer line which runs along the bottom of the boom to prevent unexpected gybes when running off-wind. Nice to learn new skills, even at his advanced age.
Today has dawned bright and sunny so we'll find a new anchorage and get ashore for some hiking. We plan to head back down to Whangarei on Sunday for a few days and then we'll head further south to the Hauraki Gulf, another beautiful cruising ground near Auckland. We're looking forward to meeting up with some friends who have emigrated out to NZ and now call Auckland home.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Propeller fettling

Maunie was plucked from the water in the Ashby's Boatyard travel-lift on Tuesday and came up looking very clean - the yard manager Nick asked us why we were hauling out as she looked so good!

Our Coppercoat antifouling had certainly done a brilliant job but we had some important jobs to do. With the help of Bob, the sales manager at the local chandlers, we fitted new packing seals to the prop-shaft (we were very slowly sinking before, having to pump out about 30 litres of sea water from the bilges every day) and we had to service the Autoprop feathering propeller.

The prop had become a bit rattly at low engine speeds and we discovered that, after 5 years and about 1000 engine hours, the bearings needed replacing. Luckily there's an NZ agent in Auckland so parts were delivered overnight and we spent about 4 hours today stripping and rebuilding the prop.

Meanwhile we've given the hull a good polish and are really pleased that Maunie's still looking very shiny.

We relaunch tomorrow, happy that the boat's had a few days of proper tlc and that we've attended to all the below-the-waterline jobs for another 12 months.

Friday, 15 November 2013

A Dolphin welcome party and a worn gooseneck

As we motored back into the Bay of Islands this morning - gorgeous sunshine but not much wind - we were delighted to meet a pod of Dolphins. They swam lazily around the boat before treating us to some aerobatics:

Wonderful creatures!

We're now back in Opua. Graham put his new rechargeable drill through its paces this afternoon and drilled out the 12 rivets holding the gooseneck fitting onto the mast. This is effectively the hinge which holds the boom (the aluminium spar at the bottom of the mainsail) to the mast and allows it to swing out either side and it's a pretty vital component; we've heard of a couple of boats where it failed in action. Ours was pretty worn so the boom was twisting under load so it was definitely due for replacement; the local rigging experts will make a new fitting (stronger than the original) to see Maunie through another ten years at least. So the end of the afternoon saw us marching up the pontoons, one at each end of the boom,to drop it off at the workshop.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Cruising the Northland Coast

We've just left Whangarie, a large (ish) city south of Opua and north of Auckland where the river meanders up almost ten miles from the sea to deliver you into a very nice marina right in the hear of town. We've had a fairly frenetic couple of days taking full advantage of the great shops and local services.
We're now heading back towards Opua where we'll be for a week or so for our haul-out. Some photos to follow when we get back there and we hope that our newly-fettled pc will be good for more reliable Skype calls now it has had extra memory installed; we look forwards to chatting to friends and family.
The coastline is spectacular and even the Marsden Point oil refinery looked strangely pretty in the sunset last night.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Exploring the Bay of Islands

Maunie and a schooner anchored in Army Bay, Moturua Island
After the (relatively) busy environment of Opua, it's lovely to be out in the Bay of Islands, exploring this beautiful area. We had some pretty heavy rain showers over the past couple of days but have been able to inflate the kayak and paddle ashore for some short walks between the showers.
After the often-too-deep anchorages of the Pacific islands, we're getting used to depths of around 3-4m in the bays and watching the depth sounder as we navigate around the islands. Not quite carefully enough, yesterday, as we gently scraped over a sandbank as we nosed in towards one bay – no damage except to pride as we were doing less than one knot.
Some of the islands are privately-owned, with some exceptionally smart houses, but most are managed by the Department of Conservation with well-marked walking trails so it's great to be able to stretch our legs and get some exercise. The weather looks set to improve over the weekend so the mostly empty anchorages will no doubt become a bit busier but it definitely seems that this is very early-season for the local yachts. The wildlife is out in force though, with Gannets and the quaintly-named Variable Oystercatchers swooping around and the cheeky Red Billed Gulls perching on our rails. Dianne is particularly delighted to have seen two Blue Penguins swimming alongside Maunie and on a walk yesterday we were entertained by native birds called Tuis (after which the beer that Graham drinks occasionally is named) collecting flower nectar only a few feet from us.
Our fellow blue water cruisers are beginning to arrive in serious numbers now so we'll look forward to catching up with friends when we go back to Opua on the 15th. Until then we'll be back to relying on Sat phone email with no internet.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

A man walks into a pub.....

Well, not a pub but a yacht club, actually... We went to the Opua Cruising Club on Saturday for a very good evening meal.There were a dozen or so people watching the TV at the far end of the room - the All Blacks Vs Japan rugby - so Dianne went to ask one of them the score. Ten minutes later she came back and told me that Don, a South African yachtsman who has now settled here, had offered us the use of his car the following day! Can't imagine this happening in a British club!

Anyway we borrowed the car yesterday and had our first 'day off' from boat jobs so drove round to the pretty town of Russell for an excellent Sunday lunch then called back via the supermarket to restock with some groceries. A good day.

This relaxed attitude to cars seems to be quite common in New Zealand. Lots of second-hand cars get shipped over from Japan so it's very common to see 15 year old Toyotas and Hondas (often with 300,000 km on the clock) on the roads. There's a strict 'WOF' (Warranty of Fitness' requirement (an equivalent of the British MOT, but carried out every 6 months) but otherwise motoring can be pretty cheap;you don't even need insurance as there's a government 3rd-party scheme in place. 

This makes buying a car a cheaper option  than renting one for any extended period so we're thinking about this for the New Year when we head off on four wheels to explore South Island and the mountains.

We've a few more boat jobs to finish today then will god sailing around the Bay of Islands for a week or so. We've had the sewing machine out to replace UV-degraded stitching in our sail covers and dodgers and to make an additional at-sea cover for our pilot house upholstery (which Graham then accidentally tested by knocking a glass of gin & tonic over last night). This morning has dawned calm and slightly foggy so ideal conditions to refit our freshly-maintained sails; the weather forecast isn't great for the next couple of days (strong winds) so we'll be looking to find a secure anchorage to sit out the weather.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Enn Zed Plans

It's been a busy few days but we've made great progress on some important boat servicing jobs. The outboard has just come back from the workshop after its first year service and we collected the sails from the North Sails loft this morning after some tlc and minor repairs. Overall they are still in excellent condition, we're glad to say.

Roger Hall, sailmaker, with our mainsail

We're now waiting for a response from the German manufacturers of our Windpilot so we've removed the wind vane assembly since it doesn't achieve anything without a rudder!

Planning ahead, we aim to go off cruising around the Bay of Islands early next week for 10 days or so then will come back here to have Maunie lifted out of the water for some maintenance jobs below the waterline. After that we'll be sailing slowly down the coast to Auckland where we'll probably spend Christmas and New Year. So we'll update the blog every week or so when we have news / nice photos to share.