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, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year

New Zealand is first on the rota of New Year's Eve celebrations and we did it in style here in Waiheke. A fab lunch at the Te Motu winery with Trish and Ian as a celebration of Dianne's birthday followed by a brilliant night aboard Sel Citron, hosted by Kerry and Damian, with Lionel and Irene from Kiapa.
We're anchored in Man o' War Bay on the east side of Waiheke with probably 50 other boats but everyone has been pretty sensible about leaving enough space between themselves and their neighbours so, when the wind shifted from northerly to south westerly in the night (accompanied by some heavy rain) there were no dramas.
So, Happy New Year to you! Hope that you have a wonderful year.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas from Waiheke Island (where the sun's shining, so a walk and a picnic are on the plan for our Christmas Day).

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Swimming with Dolphins

There's no doubt that the sudden appearance of dolphins beside the boat and riding the bow wave has to be one of the best sights in sailing. We've seen a few in Fiji but the colder, nutrient- and fish-rich waters of New Zealand seem to be the best place to find them.

A couple of nights ago were were in an anchorage at the north end of Motutapu Island (the splendidly-named Waikalabubu Bay), just 5 miles or so from Auckland city centre. The following morning the bay was visited by about 15 dolphins and they stayed there, playing around the 3 anchored boats, for about 4 hours. Graham donned his wetsuit and went swimming with them which was an amazing experience; their ‘sonar’ clicks were really loud and he had three come to inspect him at less than 2ft distance! They approached, head-on, on the surface then dived just below him, swimming on their sides to get a good view; the biggest was about 8ft long. Later, a mother brought her calf along to see him and happily swam with the calf between her and Graham, again almost within touching distance.

These wonderful animals were obviously enjoying themselves and were really curious about the boats. Every now and then they'd put on a wonderful aerobatic display:

 A little lad from a motor boat paddled out on a stand-up paddle board and got quite a show:

 His Dad said that his kids had been complaining earlier in the morning that it was really boring being on the boat but the dolphins changed their views completely!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Return of the Giant Condom - safe sailing on Maunie

On the Atlantic crossing, with Rich and Fergus aboard, we had the first experience of the Giant Condom but sadly no photographic evidence exists. However, on our passage south from Opua to Whangarei on Saturday we had a repeat performance and this time Dianne got some photos.

To explain - the spinnaker had a 'snuffer' sock which pulls down to encase the sail to make it easier to retrieve. However, if the sock gets wet in heavy rain, it doesn't allow the air inside it to escape so the thing inflate like, well you get the picture:

Graham lowering the inflated sock

.... and attempting to expel the air to get it back into the sail bag
Apart from this brief difficulty, we had a good sail and are delighted that the sun is out and that the forecast is for good weather and settled condition over the Christmas period. We're heading over to Waiheke Island and are looking forward to catching up with friends Trish & Ian there.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Another bloody gale

Grrr. Getting very bored with the terrible weather. We've just had one gale (with copious amounts of rain over the past 36 hours) and the next one is all lined up to whack us tomorrow! The yellow blob in the low pressure circle is yet more rain. We've been trapped aboard on the mooring all day as there's a fair-sized set of waves that would soak us if we tried to dinghy ashore. 

Yesterday we had to go and help secure a large catamaran that was dragging its anchor towards other moored boats. Luckily a Kiwi sailor from one of the neighbouring yachts came to help and we managed to get a line onto an empty mooring buoy to stop it going any further. You'd hope such a charitable act would be rewarded by a ray of sunshine or at least a cessation of the rain but, no, we were were given two minor disasters in return: the hand-held vhf radio somehow slithered out of the pocket of Graham's foulie jacket, bounced on the deck and promptly fell into the water and sank and then we remembered we'd just put some bread in the oven when we spotted the boat dragging. By the time we got back to Maunie, the rolls were cinders. Rats.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Make do and mend

The 'summer' weather is pretty awful in Northland just at the moment. A huge low pressure system came over yesterday, bringing a gale and lots of rain, and there's another crossing the Tasman Sea to hit us on Wednesday. The 10 day forecast for Kerikeri, the nearest big town to Opua, looks rather unfriendly:

Spot the sunshine!
So we battened down the hatches last night and fell asleep to the sound of the rain drumming on the cabin roof. With a bit of a break in the downpour this morning, though, we got on with some mending jobs.

Now I (Graham) may get onto my soapbox here for a minute or two but it does seem that we (developed nations at least) have forgotten how to mend things when they break. It seems to be so much easier and cheaper to throw things away and buy a new one when they fail (computer printers in particular) so mankind is now hooked on this crazy routine of filling landfills and then buying more badly-made but cheap stuff from China. 

There's a chain of shops in NZ called The Warehouse which sell household,garage and garden goods at amazingly low prices - amazing, that is, until you see the quality of many of the items. It's possible to buy a brand new mountain bike there for $80 (about £40) but it'll last just the one Christmas and then end up in the skip. Before we left home we had a few trips to the local recycling centre and I had to be restrained from taking away apparently new bikes that needed just a modicum of maintenance. I spent my youth building bikes from discarded frames, wheels and other components that other people didn't want but the difference then was that a new bike was an expensive item, not a £40 disposable.

Anyway, back on the good ship Maunie we had a couple of broken things to deal with today. The first was a smashed plastic lens on our starboard (green) navigation light, as a result of a slight misjudgment of wind at the fuel dock in Denarau. I was delighted to find that it's possible to buy just the lens rather than the whole light, but less happy to learn that it cost $110 vs $125 for the full kit. The negligible price difference just tempted us to buy the whole thing but it just seemed wrong (and not to mention expensive) so we searched around and found a veritable Aladdin's Cave called Stanley Marine in Whangarei which stocks only second-hand boat bits - $15 got us an old light from which we took the lens and the job was done. Happy!

The broken lens (with temporary tape repair) and the $15 donor light (lens removed for cleaning when the photo was taken)  from Stanley Marine. We though long and hard about keeping the housing as a spare but it was pretty worn out so we just salvaged the bulb

The second breakage was the handle of the hand-held pump we use for emptying the water out of the dinghy - we really need this with all the rain! The pump's probably 10 years old and doesn't owe us anything but a new one is about $50 and the old one probably isn't really recyclable. So, a happy hour with drill, glue and a 3mm bolt had it fixed for another few years' pumping and it's one less item into landfill.

Glued and bolted handle - better than new!

Having visited island communities where nothing gets thrown away until all possibilities for repair, salvage or reuse have been exhausted, the challenge for this millennium would seem to be how we reverse the developed world's rush towards buying low-quality 'disposable' goods, and over-consumption in general. We like to think that we were pretty green before but this trip has certainly changed our approach. 

Now, we just need the weather to buck up so that we can sail to Waiheke Island for Christmas.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Snoop Doggy Dog

A blog post for the dog-lovers amongst you.

When we arrived to clear in at Opua, the bio-security team had a four-legged member called Snoop. He's one of only 5 dogs in NZ trained specifically to sniff out fruit and veg; there was a big scare in Whangarei last year when two Queensland Fruit Flies were found in monitoring traps. The results of an infestation of these Australian flies could be disastrous for the New Zealand fruit industry. This year, all yachts arriving from foreign ports are being subjected to very detailed searches, with dogs being used when they are available.

Snoop has matching life jacket and boots for work on board

Ensuring his nose is cold and wet - checking the fridge

An enthusiastic worker
We asked his handler what he does if he finds something and were told he just sits down. When he was checking the port hull Snoop jumped onto Suzie's bunk and promptly sat down as Suzie had put some lavender oil on her pillow to help her sleep! Apart from this false alarm we passed the search with no problems and Dianne was allowed to make a fuss of Snoop once he'd finished, which made up for the fact that we didn't get a dog aboard Maunie when we cleared in.

As the old proverb has it: Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Photos and video of Kiapa

Kiapa under way - photos by Damian Clark on Sel Citron
We were really disappointed that we didn't get good cat weather - basically we were beating the whole way then motoring the last day.  We had to slow the boat down to 5 knots on one night as the crashing and banging was just too much and we were airborne in our bunks – in only 20 knots of wind and a 2m swell plus a cross-chop driven by the wind. Maunie would have just sliced into it but Kiapa just wanted to take off. The design is very racy so the bows just kiss the water at rest and are quite round-bottomed to promote downwind planing but that just made them slam horribly. She’s a beautifully-built, fast boat but the conditions just didn't suit her.

These photos were taken on a relatively calm day!



Team photo

Thanks to Damian on Sel Citron for these brilliant photos

We shot a short video on the boat which gives you an idea of life aboard and it includes the amazing dolphin escort that we received as we approached North Island. You can see it here

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Safely back in New Zealand, again

We arrived back in Opua yesterday morning after a 6 day passage. Not the perfect conditions we'd hoped for - wind on the nose with some rough seas making us crash and bang and then the high pressure system didn't move east as we'd hoped so we ran into light winds instead of getting the nice northerly winds to push us home. As a result we decided to put into Opua to clear in rather than having a final day motoring to Whangarei further south. 

Still, 6 days was still pretty good, we all arrived fit and well and our arrival day was just fantastic - we hadup to 100 dolphins escorting us into the Bay of Islands and then just as we'd completed the clearing-in process, we saw four Orcas swimming into the marina!. As we motored out to a mooring across at the little town of Russell we saw them again - as close as 10m from Kiapa.

More stories, videos and photos of the passage to follow. Today we sail south to Whangarei (about 60 miles) and it's beautifully sunny; the forecast is for 15 knots of westerly winds so we're hopefull that we'll get the conditions that Kiapa will love.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

On passage for New Zealand!

We're off and sailing - a beautiful morning. We've left in company with Damian, Kerry and Verdo on Sel Citron.

Before the departure, Lionel got his toolkit out to build an interesting construction:

Can you tell what it is yet?

Comfort for the helm
The forecast looks pretty good for the passage so we're hoping for a comfy trip! We'll update this blog with some photos and stories when we arrive in NZ.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

T minus 24 hours

The full view of the living room

After a busy day of shopping and boat preparations it all looks good for a departure tomorrow morning. We'll clear out with the authorities today and anchor out in a bay close to pass through the reef. The forecast suggests that we should get good breeze for most of the trip.

Hopefully our bunk up at the front end of the port bow will remain a comfy place to sleep as the swell is predicted to be relatively small.

Looking forward along the port bow from Suzie's bunk

Our queen-size bunk; we sleep across the boat

Whilst we are on passage, we'll be posting a daily position update, with comments, of a very god website called Yachts in Transit. It'll show our position on Google Earth plus our track and our predicted 24 hour position and shows our 24 hour run. The website page is: http://www.yit.co.nz/yacht/kiapa

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Preparing to head for New Zealand, again

We're back in Port Denarau marina going through the pre-departure preparations, planning to leave on Friday if the weather still looks ok. So today it's a bus ride into Nadi to get provisions, plus boat cleaning and preparations.

Compared to the last time we were here, the Marina is pretty quiet; most yachts have already left as the Cyclone Season officially starts on the 1st December. A few boats are staying here through the summer, having booked 'safe' places to run to if a cyclone is forecast; a favourite plan is to ram the boat's nose into the mangroves up a river, with long lines taken to substantial trees to hold it in place. The crews remove anything above deck that could flap - so sails, dodgers and bimini covers are taken down - and then hope for the best. Not something we'd want to do!

Anyway, we'd better get on with the shopping! We'll post a few more photos before we leave.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Aargh! Please make the douf, douf music stop!

Kiapa's normally wonderful mooring at Musket Cove, Malolo Island (just west of Denarau) has been blighted for the last three nights by what Kerry on Sel Citron calls 'douf, douf music' until about 3.00am. About 200, 18-20 year-olds descended on a beach resort about a mile upwind of us for some kind of festival and the noise of the dance music rolled down to us, the bass reverberating through the boat. Douf, douf. 

Yesterday morning, though, the wind came up and the low tide exposed the sandspit shown in the previous blog update, so Graham joined Lionel, Kerry and Suzy in the dinghy. Kerry and Suzy are learning how to kite-board so the conditions were perfect for Lionel to give them some tuition. You can just imagine how delighted we were to find that the festival had moved out there, complete with temporary stage, bar, DJ, huge speakers and more crap music. Douf, douf.

Everyone make some noise!
A helicopter circles the party-goers to film this momentous event

Lionel waits patiently for the helicopter to depart before launching the kite. A good safety measure we thought.

In spite of the noise, the kiting was good and both Suzy and Kerry were happy to make progress in a sport that looks particularly tricky to learn.

Suzy about to launch the kite

Lionel about to hand over the kite as Kerry looks on

Kerry about to take control

Kerry getting the hang of the kite
In between instructional sessions, Lionel had a quick blast to show us how it's done

Here's a quick video:

We returned to mooring and decided that another night of douf, douf would just be too much to bear so moved around to an anchorage sheltered from the SE winds only for the weather gods to have their laugh at us and promptly deliver an un-forecasted NE which left u on a lee shore. So, we moved back to the mooring and had a good supper before applying the ear-plugs. Douf, douf

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Pretty stressful

Just chilling at Musket Cove - enjoying the snorkelling and swimming. Lionel and Suzy have been kite-boarding in good conditions and our days start with yoga and finish with a beer and bbq. 

We're looking at a possible window to head south towards the middle of next week. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

A very different sailing experience

After a busy morning shopping for food provisions in Nadi (the veg market is absolutely huge on Saturdays), we left the delights of Port Denarau for the short passage across to Musket Cove. The wind was light but just enough to give us a hint of Kiapa's performance.

Di enjoying the big wheel

Beginning to get some speed

An impressive wake begins to form at 10 knots

Numbers we can only dream of in Maunie - 10.5 knots of boat speed in only 15 knots of wind!
We have a fourth crew member, Suzy, arriving today and are thoroughly enjoying being back in the warm waters and sunshine of Fiji after the cold spell in New Zealand.