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, 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.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Three hours Vs. Two Hundred

Wow, those Boeing 767's go well to windward! 3 hour after we left Auckland we touched down in Nadi after a very pleasant flight, our first for about 7 years we think! Strange to think that a trip that took us eight and a half days was dispatched so quickly!

Anyway we're delighted to be back in the warm air and we've just met up with Lionel our skipper - a quick drink and then we'll be aboard the good ship Kiapa.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Power restored

This morning's our last in the marina - we move out to a mooring at lunchtime - so we're up early for last jobs whilst we still have the luxury of walk-ashore access, 240v electricity supply and nearby showers and washing machines. It was another cold night and it's pretty foggy this morning:

Yesterday was a busy but successful day, The new batteries arrived and are now installed so we can relax about power usage at last.

The old batteries in situ

The new ones. The  smaller, black one is the engine starting battery and the maroon ones are two of the three Trojan deep-cycle house batteries 
We also had a good meeting with Roger the sail maker to discuss the design of our new mainsail cover and removed our anchor chain to take it to Whangarei (en route to Auckland on Thursday) to have it shot-blasted to remove the rust and then re-galvanised.

The marina is suddenly filling up fast with boats returning from the Pacific islands. It's great to see some familiar faces again and last night Bob and Anne from Charisma (we last saw them in Fulaga) came over for a drink, bringing a brilliant slide show of people photos from the island.

Anyway, better get on!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

In the land of the long wet cloud

Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand; many meanings have been given for the name but the most popular and authoritative is “long white cloud". Voyagers to New Zealand were guided towards it during the day by a long white cloud and at night by a long bright cloud. At the moment, "long wet cloud" would be more accurate, with "bloody cold" thrown in for good measure. It's certainly a bit of a shock to the system after 6 months in the Tropics!

Weather apart, all is very well with the Maunie crew and boat. We have a week in the marina before moving out to the mooring so have been busy taking full benefit of the convenience of being able to walk ashore and access everything. The advantage of having been here before is that we know where things are and who to turn to when we need advice or assistance with boat jobs. So the outboard motor has already been serviced, we've had the headsails off for a bit of work, we have just agreed a course of action to replace our batteries and, of course, a substantial amount of clothing, bedding and seat covers has gone through the excellent washing machines here. 

The expensive project, battery replacement,  has seen us doing lots of research into the various different types (lead-acid, AGM, Gel, Lithium, the choice is bewildering and, of course, everyone you talk to has their own favourites) and then the different brands. We've finally decided to stay with lead-acid deep-cycle batteries and an American brand called Trojan; a good compromise on cost whilst promising strong performance and reliability. They should be here on Monday and we'll part with the best part of £600 for four batteries; the current ones lasted 5 years and we should do better than that with the new ones (especially with a few expert tweaks to our solar panel controller).

The other great thing about coming back to New Zealand is that Horace, our Honda CRV, was waiting for us, polished like new, thanks to the careful over-winter care of Claire and Tony in Auckland. We went there on Tuesday (a 4-hour bus journey), had a coffee with our friend Trish in the city centre (wow, cities are busy!) and then took the ferry across to North Shore to got to see Claire and Tony. We were delighted to meet their new puppy, Ursa, a 12-week-old Newfoundland who's just a gorgeous bundle of fur.

Yes, I am pretty cute, eh?

Whilst we're busy here, we are also keeping an eye of the weather for the passage down from Fiji as several boats we know are on their way at the moment. It looks a little 'interesting' just not as there's a big depression sweeping across the course in the next couple of days:

The red blob spell rain squalls and gale force winds with very rough seas
Most boats are burning diesel in light airs in order to get south of it; they can't afford to hand around as North Island of NZ will get hit by another front (more rain and strong winds) on Wednesday:

So, on the whole, we'll put up with a bit of cold and wet here in the marina, rather than being out there!

Thanks for all the emails and messages from you blog-followers, by the way. The story of Meli struck a chord with many of you and it has been lovely to hear from you all. When we fly back to Fiji next Friday to crew Kiapa back down we'll hope to be able to update the blog with a different kind of sailing experience.

Monday, 3 November 2014

The story of the Fulagan Penguin

This post is a little tribute to our recently-lost friend Meli who died last week at the age of around 50.

When we arrived in Fulaga we were 'adopted' by a family in the village, Meli, Jiko, Jona (8) and Jima (14 months). Meli was initially the 'strong, silent type' but mainly because his English wasn't that good; we soon found him to be a very caring and talented man and his English improved over the five weeks as we had more conversations with him.

Meli was, we discovered, one of the island's best carvers (an accolade in itself with so much talent in such a tiny place) and, almost from the moment we arrived, he and Jiko started to plan our leaving presents, in the nicest possible way. In a place where the people have so few material possessions (and are probably the happier for it), it struck all of us visiting cruisers that our hosts were so keen to give us leaving presents that would ensure that we would never forget them.

Anyway, Meli and Jiko soon realised that Dianne is madly keen on penguins; we think we gave them our boat card,featuring our penguin logo, designed by Graham's sister Hilary. Meli had, of course, never seen a penguin or, we later discovered, even a picture of one so he went to the school and looked in an encyclopedia - he even watched the DVD of 'Happy Feet' on the school's laptop!

So, armed with some sketches, he started to carve a penguin as our leaving gift. He accidentally left the unfinished carving on a shelf in the house one day and, though we pretended not to see it, Jiko realised that we had spotted it and so the secret was out. Actually this turned out to be a very good thing as we saw it transform, over many hours of work, from a rough outline into this:

at our request, he added his name to the base:

So the the carving has become known as Meli Penguin and, now that we've arrived in NZ, he's standing proudly on our nav table, looking up at the mast.

With the tragic news last week of Meli's death, Meli Penguin means even more to us; the carved drum that we bought from him as a wedding present for Dianne's godson and nephew Paul and Kaylie will likewise have an extra meaning.

So, Meli, this is a heartfelt tribute you to you. We feel privileged to have known you.

A final farewell wave from Meli as we left Fulaga

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Safely arrived in Opua, NZ

We finally tied up at the Quarantine Dock in Opua at 9.00pm local time after a voyage of 1170nm in just over 8 days.
The final pilotage up the river in the dark was fine and we are one of three boats to have arrived within half an hour of each other, so we congratulated each other and then repaired to our respective boats for a celebratory drink. It feels odd to be completely still (there's not a breath of wind here) after 8 days of constant noise and motion so we think we'll sleep well tonight.
We're preparing for a spaniel to come aboard tomorrow with the bio-security team – the dogs are trained to sniff out fruit (there was a big scare here when an Australian Fruit Fly was discovered in nearby Whangarei and it's thought possible it came as a stowaway on a yacht) and other interesting substances. Dianne will, of course, have to be restrained from wanting to give it a cuddle. All being well we'll be free to stroll ashore by lunchtime.
Thanks to all of you who've followed our voyage and sent word of encouragement – it means a lot to hear from you.

Final Day - "This is what it's all about"

Wow, what a lovely way to finish off a long passage, with a superb last day's sailing! At 00.00 UTC we were at 34: 33 S, 174.25 E with 36 miles to run.
We've been close-hauled all night but the wind has been gradually shifting to help us steer a nice curving line toward our destination. At the moment, the wind is still good, 13 knots from W beginning to turn WNW so we're easing sheets and making a good line for Opua at around 6.5 knots. The sun is shining, the sea has calmed and the Windpilot is doing a great job. Mind you, yesterday Dianne spend a couple of hours hand-steering, with a big smile on her face. "This is what it's all about," she said, "so I'm not letting Wiinie have all the fun!".
This has been a nearly-perfect passage for us. Apart from the horrible conditions in the weather trough on day 2 south of Fiji, we've had good weather and the motor has run for only 46 hours (but motor-sailing rather than plugging into zero wind). Maunie has performed wonderfully well and the breaking waves over her bows has been a very thorough test of the deck re-sealing that we did in Tonga; delighted to report no leaks at all. We're both feeling a pretty tired but otherwise very happy.
We should get in at about 9.00pm local time so will get our Customs and Bio-security inspection in the morning. So, need to find a way of eating the eggs and bacon left in the fridge before they are confiscated! Ah, that'll be breakfast, better make final batch of bread rolls and hope the officials don't start too early on Sundays!