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.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

A different view of Auckland

Apart from a few excursions up hills, most of the photos on the blog have been taken from sea level, with a few from the mast or under water.

Just for a change, we've created a Photosynth view of Auckland from the 20th Floor of the Quay West building. Photosynth, for those who don't know it, is an amazing app that allows you to create movable views from around 20 'stitched' photos.

Click HERE to have a look but don't get vertigo when you pan downwards! The Auckland Bridge is in the middle distance with our marina just visible to its left.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Phestive Photos

Here are a few pics from Auckland and Waiheke from the past few days:
An unusual arrival among the moored boats

The anchorage in Oneroa Bay, Waiheke
The Te Whau winery, with a Sealpoint Burmese guard cat  
The view from the winery

Ian cooking Christmas lunch (Tuna steaks and chicken)

 The lunch table

 Good to see that Kiwi cracker gifts are as classy as they are at home!

Christmas Day stroll on the beach; Di with Trish and Ian

Saturday, 21 December 2013

A year's a long time in cruising!

This time last year we were in Saint Lucia, recovering from the excitements of the Atlantic crossing and sampling the rum punches. Normally we look back at the year (that Christmas card writing moment) and wonder how it passed so quickly but, for the first time, a year really feels like a very long time to us. We guess that we've packed in a lot of experiences into the past 12 months which must account for it but it's good to know that our sailing trip isn't rushing past us.
Anyway the enterprising people behind the Yellowbrick tracker that we used on the ARC have found a new income stream selling people images of their voyage tracks. We've added a couple of images to further personalise ours.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Hiking around Waiheke

We're currently anchored in Oneroa Bay on the north side of the very beautiful Waiheke Island which is out in the Hauraki Gulf, just outside Auckland Harbour. We've had a week of hot sunshine and no wind (even after living in the tropics we've discovered that the sun is ultra-powerful here; no ozone left above NZ or something, so it's really easy to get sunburnt) but there's a weather front coming over us later today with possibly Force 7-8 south-westerlies and rain so we'll be battened down in an anchorage giving good shelter (we hope!) from the gale. 

‘Oneroa City’ as the bus driver announced it, is the main town on the island and is very ‘nice’ (full of trendy cafes and restaurants as this seems to have become the place to have your holiday home or even commute into Auckland - 35 mins via the fast ferry) and of course there are all the wineries on the island to visit (thirty or so at the last count). The Christmas decorations in the shops take a bit of getting used to in mid-summer though. It's at these times we really miss our UK friends, but not the weather. Having lived in sunshine for the best part of 18 months, coming back to winter (when we eventually do so) will definitely be a shock.

We did a wonderful coastal hike around the NW corner of Waiheke Island a couple of days ago, checking out the very expensive holiday homes en route.Unfortunately the 'new money' that has bulldozed the old quaint bach's (traditional wooden holiday shacks) hasn't resisted the temptation to let modern architects build something that looks like a gun emplacement with randomly-added wood, stainless steel and plate glass. Graham remembers a Rowan Atkinson sketch from his 'Live in Belfast' LP (yes, that long ago!) where he was a grumpy old man who said; "Modern architects, scum of the earth. Whatever you ask them to design, they come up with something that looks like a dustbin with an old bicycle hanging out of it." To be fair, some of the houses were stunning but most of the others must be much better when seen from the inside.

Yesterday we visited the very posh Mudbrick winery and had a tasting and delicious salad lunch out on the patio, followed by another energetic hike along the coast. 

We've booked Maunie into the vast Westhaven marina, right next to the Auckland Harbour Bridge, for a couple of weeks over Christmas and New Year (amazing value at around £13 per night, compared to the rip-off Britain prices). The long-term forecast suggests some more incoming weather fronts with strong south-westerlies over Christmas and we don't want to be worrying about the boat at anchor in our festive alcoholic stupors, particularly as all the best anchorages in Waiheke will be full of inebriated Aucklanders in their motor boats anchoring much too close to each other - they are known here as JAFAs (just another f***ing Aucklander). We're staying with Ian and Trish back in Waiheke over Christmas so after a few days exploring the city will get the 35 minute ferry back here on Christmas Eve ready for the BBQs and Christmas carols!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Some photos from the past week

We're currently in a very nice bistro in Oneroa, Waiheke, with good wifi so here are a few photos from the past week:

The anchorage at Urquarts Bay

 When he gets too old to sail, Graham want something like this! A beautifully restored fishing vessel with a new life as a motor yacht.

WW2 Gun emplacement

 Sail training vessel  'Picton Castle' - we first saw her in Rarotonga

 The Mansion House, Kawau

Coppermine Bay, Kawau

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Down to Waiheke

Above: Evening anchorage in Urquharts Bay, with the oil refinery in the distance
Once we left Whangaei we had a nice sail out to Urquarts Bay just inside Bream Head (the northern most point of the river entrance) in time to anchor and walk up onto the headland. In WW2 a coastal defence battery was built, with the barracks and generator houses (now demolished) built to look like farm buildings. The 5" gun emplacement and observation point remain as a reminder of all the hurried efforts that went on to build costal defences in the early 1940's against the apparently unstoppable march of the Japanese forces; the observation post has a (restored) mural above the slit window, painted by the soldiers to replicate the view, with compass bearings marked below it as a sort of quick reference to direct the gun towards any invading vessel. 
The route south from Whangarei was lovely, once we'd traversed the rather featureless Bream Bay and unhooked a long floating line to a lobster pot that, seen just too late, had snagged the bottom of our rudder (oops! a nice swim for Graham, though), and we anchored for two nights at the island of Kawau at the northern end of Hauraki Gulf, the boating playground for Auckland (which has something like the highest boat per capita ratio in the world).  Kawau island was once owned by Sir George Grey, the Governor General in the mid 1850's and later Premier of New Zealand, and he built a splendid house around the original mine-manager's cottage - the copper mine in question being one of New Zealand's earliest industrial sites. Grey retired to the island and brought species of trees and animals to it from all around the world; today there is a wide range of exotic trees and four different types of Wallabies on the island. Graham toured the restored house (which had gone through a difficult history since Grey's death, becoming a hotel and guest house and suffering all sorts of thoughtless modernisations before the government took it over and began its restoration in the late 70's) and then we both walked up into the forest to overlook Coppermine Bay, with the remains of an engine house built to try to drain the mine workings of water. En route we passed through what was was signposted as a wallaby fence - we had no idea they were such practical animals but they'd made a tremendous job of it, particularly when you consider the limitation of their little arms and their lack of opposable thumbs.
From Kawau we headed south to Waiheke Island where we anchored in Oneroa Bay on the north side. A friend of Di's from her PC World days, Trish, and her husband Ian, who's a pilot for Air New Zealand, have a lovely house overlooking the water. The island was originally just a holiday home centre with small wooded beach houses (known as bach's) and a slightly hippy reputation until a new fast commuter ferry into Auckland was introduced a few years ago. Since then the place has boomed and the old wooden cabins are being replaced by some very upmarket plate-glass windowed modern-architecture pads for the well-to-do Aucklanders. With the arrival of the weekend and some very settled and sunny weather, the anchorage has become very busy with boats of all sizes anchoring much too close to each other so we'd not feel comfy leaving Maunie at anchor unattended for any length of time. So we'll spend a few days around here, exploring the less crowded bays, and then have a marina space booked for Maunie in Auckland over Christmas; Ian and Trish have kindly asked us to joint them for Christmas so we'll come back out on the ferry without worrying about the boat.
We guess that everyone back home is busy with pre-Christmas preparations (we decided to skip the Santa Parade in the village today) so our email inbox has been empty for the past few days - either that or our email server is playing up. Do drop us a line if you get a moment, between writing last-minute Christmas cards,  frantically trying to find suitable presents and over-ordering on the drink; we'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Maori Hakkas, Christmas Llamas and New Zealand Bagpipes

After a very pleasant and busy week in Whangarei we're off sailing again so here are a few photos:

We had a local school welcome us with Maori songs and a Hakka at an event for visiting yachts:

At the annual Agriculture and Produce Show the following day we met the Christmas Llama (you've never heard of the Chrismas Llama?):

Then we were serenaded by the mournful wail of the bagpipes when the local pipe band came to practice just beside the marina:

Finally, yesterday we were delighted to see another Vancouver (a 34) arrive in the marina and moor ahead of us - her singlehanded skipper Rona is a pretty indomitable woman, having sold everything in the UK to buy the boat in Florida last year.

We'll be sorry to leave but are looking forward to some peaceful anchorages again.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

New Zealand Wildlife

We left Opua and the Bay of Islands at the end of last week to head south to Whangarei en-route to Auckland. We watched the forecast as it gave a strong NW wind (perfect direction) on Saturday, turning southerly (not good) on Sunday. So we headed first to the large natural harbour of Whangaruru on Friday then had a cracking fast sail on to the entrance of Whangarei on Saturday. 

As we rounded the southern tip of Bream Head and headed NW into Whangarei estuary, though, we were met with 30-35 knot squalls on the nose so had a very exciting beat into the harbour! A fleet of racing boats we bashing their way to windward having sailed up from Auckland so we joined in with the tail-enders and surprised them a bit.

While we were anchored in Whangaruru we had some amazing views of the Australasian Gannets diving for fish all around us. They glide over at about 200ft then just fold their wings and hit the water at a very great speed:

Back here in Whangarei we've fitted our very smart new bimini cockpit sun shade, just in time to shelter under it from three days of very solid rain! The wet weather has given us a chance to get one with a few things we'd been avoiding - Graham went to the dentist for an expensive repair to a couple of broken fillings and we've sorted out lots of minor admin jobs whilst we have good internet.

The weather looks better on Monday so we'll head towards the Hauraki Gulf and Auckland then.