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.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Anzac Day

Yesterday was Anzac Day and the centenary of this terrible moment of Australian, New Zealand and Turkish history. We went to watch the parade in Russell, Bay of Islands, and it was a moving event. Here are some photos:

World War 2 veteran Ray Tait

The Navy provides a source of laughter for the Air Force, as always

Russell Primary School children, each representing one of the 21 men from the town lost in WW1 and WW2.
The medals are those that would have been awarded to each man.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Too many carbs and the perils of washing up

The thing about our current life if that little things come up, unexpectedly, and suddenly take over in a way that they wouldn't in 'normal life'. 

For example, we bought ten litres of petrol for the outboard engine the other day and mixed in the oil (50:1) as the engine in a 2-stroke. Since then the motor kept hiccuping and then would only run at low revs so we clearly had a problem; Graham painstakingly removed the carburetor (being very careful not to drop any bits in the water) and disassembled it. In the bottom of the float compartment there was some grit and this was also blocking the jets (which spray a fine jet of fuel into the incoming air). He cleaned it all and blew the jets clean, emptied the fuel tank (which had some muck in the bottom), fitted a new in-line fuel filter and put some fresh fuel in.

Once everything was put back together, with no 'bits left over', the motor started and ran fine - for about 10 minutes before the problem resurfaced! Anyway to cut a several-day-long story short, the carb has now been removed seven times, the whole fuel line thoroughly flushed, the jets removed and cleaned with a special carb cleaner aerosol and AT LAST it's running fine. I guess 'back home' where we were relatively cash-rich / time-poor we'd have given the engine over to a mechanic and paid the bill to have it sorted.

Meanwhile Graham's dislike of washing the dishes has been reinforced by the stories from a couple of boats here. Greg, the skipper of Liberty VI, is walking around with his hand bandaged after cutting it badly on a tin in the washing up water (we all wash tins out as they sit in the recycling bin aboard for several days). Many stitches later he's struggling to finish the boat jobs one-handed. Worse still, our good friend Cindi on 'Bravo' fell from the ladder (the boat is ashore) as she climbed down with a bucket of dishes to wash up in the shoreside kitchen. She fell about 3 metres, broke her wrist and cracked a vertebrae in her lower back. She's been in hospital for a few days but, mercifully, the doctors say she'll make a full recovery. Your can read the full story on Bravo's blog HERE - their plans for sailing to the tropics this season have been scuppered.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

A (good) Bad Elf has joined the crew

Last night we were aboard 'Ithaka' (we first met Ana and Colin in Panama) and were talking to them about the delights of Fiji as they are planning to go there for the first time this season; we took with us a chart of the whole archipelago to show them some of the places we've visited. The black and white chart was printed in 1968 but was based on surveys from a hundred years earlier and we warned how inaccurate these aids to navigation can be; we found that reefs could be as much as half a mile off their charted positions. 

The good news is that the fast-paced changes of information technology are even reaching the cruising sailor and on Maunie we've just made a bit of a stride forward. We've added a Bad Elf to our crew list: 

The Bad Elf Pro +

The Bad Elf is clever battery-powered, hand-held GPS receiver which will transmit its information, via Bluetooth, to up to 5 devices including our iPad. Unlike normal iPad and iPod built-in GPS receivers it doesn't require the help of mobile phone towers to find its position quickly and it also has a data-logging function and a barometer built in.

We had already downloaded some 'open' (i.e. free) chart-plotting software called OpenCPN which more and more boats are using to supplement their main chart plotters. The New Zealand Government has, rather wonderfully, released all of its charts online (again free of charge) so, with the addition of the Bad Elf, our laptop has now become a chart plotter.

The laptop with Maunie's position (on her mooring in Opua) shown on the chart as the red boat icon

The big step forward for places like Fiji where the base data for the charts is so poor is the use of Google Earth. It's now possible to download libraries of GE images (put together by other yachties) and OpenCPN will open them and use them just like charts. Unlike the charts, though, the GE positions are accurate to only a few feet so the Bad Elf will place our current position on the photo and we can see exactly how close to us the reefs really are!

The port of Levuka, from where we left Fiji last October, on Google Earth; the extent of the reef is clearly visible. 

Now all we have to do is to work out how to upload OpenCPN and the charts and GE images onto the iPad and we'll have the ability to have it up in the cockpit (in a waterproof case) for those tricky navigational moments! It should be a major safety improvement for our sailing in the tricky waters of Fiji but we won't relax our lookout at all - the Mk.1 Eyeball remains the most important navigation tool.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

That's the 4th lighthouse bagged

We decided on a quick road trip, south and east, for a few days before we get into the final rush of preparations for sailing back to Fiji. An overnight stay with Shona and Malcolm in Tauranga en route allowed us to join them for a 'National Theatre Live' screening of the Steinbeck play 'Of Mice and Men' in their local arts cinema. We'd never seen these screenings, which are filmed in a normal theatre performance (in this case on Broadway) but we were blown away by this one!

From Tauranga we drove further south and then East to follow the coast road to East Cape, a wild and sparsely-populated corner of the country. It's not on the way to anywhere so many people bypass it and the small communities are almost completely Maori.

We stayed in a wonderfully ramshackle Backpackers' hostel, the Maraehako Bay Retreat run by Pihi and his family. It looks a little as though it has been constructed from some of the huge amounts of driftwood to be found on this coast and has its own beach just yards in front of the building. When we arrived a brisk NW wind was driving a pretty impressive surf into the bay and it sounded as though the sea would burst into our ground floor room during the night!

Part of the hostel - our room is the one with the open door

The surf exploding on the rocks just in front of our room
The drive further east the following morning was in perfect, bright sunshine and we enjoyed some spectacular views, both natural and man-made.

On a wild and rocky promontory we spied a brilliant white wooden church

Raukokore Anglican Church is just beautifully located. A notice inside apologised for the 'fishy smell' near the font caused by penguins nesting under the church!

In the immaculately-tended graveyard, Maori first names have some very Scottish-sounding surnames. This trio of graves only hints at a tragedy for one family. Three brothers, aged 19, 22 and 27 'accidentally killed' on the same day. A car accident or a fishing disaster perhaps?
 Our quest was the most easterly lighthouse on mainland New Zealand (we've already walked to the most northerly, westerly and southerly), at East Cape.

The tower stands 14m high and was built in 1900

Unusually, it's built of cast iron

It originally stood on East Island, behind Dianne' right shoulder, but earthquakes saw the cliffs slipping away below it and, in 1922, it was dismantled and moved to its current site. How?!! The lighthouse keepers must have been pleased, anyway. 
After a second night in the hostel we drove back towards civilisation. En route we passed a beach where the sea appeared to be steaming:

It was a cold morning (the wind has swung around to the SW so is arriving from Antarctica)

The warm water creating fog

You can see why NZ was used for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films!
So it's been a lovely few days of exploration and we'd like to come back and spend more time here. Tomorrow we call in at the town of Whangarei (the Dentist beckons!) on the way back to Maunie in Opua.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

They take their sailing seriously here

Our mooring in Opua lies at the entrance of a long river estuary which is often used by the Opua Cruising Club for its hard-fought Wednesday evening races.

Last week the fleet sailed past us in a beautiful evening light so Graham jumped into the dinghy to take photos of the the action. Here is a small selection:

The keelboats beating against the wind 

A mixed fleet of boats! This is a Tornado cat 
Sailing downwind with spinnakers

'Californian Kiwi' looking good as she approaches the finish

Sailing towards the finish (and the sunset)

A big crew on Mr Wolf, but the boat was going well

We've donated the photos to the club so they'll appear in their next monthly newsletter. The plan is also for the club to offer copies of the individual boat photos to their owners in return for a donation to the its fundraising activities.

Our timing was great as this was the last race of the season. Autumn approaches here!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A new look to the blog

We thought it was about time to give the blog a little makeover, ready for our return to the Tropics in a month or so. The main change, apart from the new photo at the top, is to put the archive list (of previous posts) at the bottom of the page so as to allow the main text to occupy a wider section of the screen - which, in turn, allows us to have the photos bigger.

Hope you like the new look - any comments please let us know!

Oh, and by the way, there's also an option (if you scroll right to the bottom of the page) to sign up for automatic updates of the blog via email. Don't worry, you won't get anything else unwanted arriving in your inbox but it allows you to see updates as and when we publish them, without having to revisit the blog page to see if there's anything new.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Happy Easter!

We've had the loveliest Easter weekend with Shona and Malcolm Thomas aboard. The weather has been superb, we had some lovely sailing in the Bay of Islands, climbed a couple of (smallish) hills, swum in clear waters and seen dolphins. Plenty of good food and drink in great company, what could be better?

Dawn on Good Friday as the fog burns off
Dianne's wonderful Simnel Cake, baked on board

The view from Motuarohia Island

The anchorage in Urapukapuka Bay

Looking east from the top of Urapukapuka Island

Happy Hikers (sorry, Trampers, as they are known here) 
Close reaching with the Parasailor - Shona enjoyed the challenging steering as the wind increased

Malcolm and Shona in charge

"Look no hands" - Shona's first time climbing a mast

Dolphins, as requested

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

We'd like you to meet the neighbours

Just as in any harbour, there are boats here in Opua straining at their moorings, just aching to go out to sea, out into their proper environment rather than sitting, tethered, waiting for their owners to pay them a visit. 

An ever, though, there’s a fairly large proportion of boats that get out maybe only once or twice a season and, unfortunately, a few that look as though they’ll never sail again.

We thought you might like to meet some of our neighbours. First the not-so-fortunate boats:

This is 'Lindy', a once-lovey little wooden cutter

..her cockpit gives just a hint of what she must be like below. A forgotten and abandoned project it seems.

Another boat in similar straights. So sad.

Even the relatively modern, racy trimaran looks unloved when close up..

The 'Titi Nui' now seems to be just a roost for seabirds
One boat has certainly gone beyond the point of saving. This old sailing ship is beached at a deserted boat shed and it seems miraculous that her foremast is still standing:

From a distance it's hard to see what she was

Closer up and the remains of the deckhouse can be seen, slowly drooping into the water

What tales could this ship's wheel tell if it could speak?

Happily, the deserted vessels are in the minority here and there are some very interesting boats around us:

An old day-sailer, probably a traditional fishing boat for the Bay of Islands,has a very distinctive bow...

...which also features on this pretty wooden yacht.

She may have a startling paint job but 'Blazing Shadz' shares the same bow shape

...and a funky modern version of a schooner's rig (the rear mast being taller than the foremast).

Some boats are less attractive than others, it must be said...

The 82ft superyacht Houbara

We loved the token greenwash of the two tiny wind generators! which probably just abut power the bar fridge.

But others are very pretty..

The beautiful American yacht Nirvana

 and a smaller, New Zealand boat

Opua’s place as a main port of entry and exit for boats travelling to and from the Topics means that there are a lot of ‘live-aboard’ Blue Water cruising yachts here and people are getting ready for the annual migration north; it typically starts around the end of April. These world-girdling boats are usually fairly easy to differentiate from local, coastal-cruising yachts.

'Beez Neez' from Plymouth sports all the 'must-haves' of a Blue water boat - solar panels, wind generator, water generator and cockpit cover. The dinghy hoisted out of the water is a trick we all use to reduce weed growth and, unfortunately in many places, to reduce the risk of theft.

Not quite sure why this boat needs so much power! 
The South African 'Sheer Tenacity' built by its owners Rod and Mary and looking sparkling after a repaint and new sail covers. Note the cockpit tent to give shelter from wind and sun and the extra fuel tanks lasted to the rail.

We’re pleased that Maunie’s internal storage space and her pilothouse main cabin mean that she doesn't carry many of these cruising ‘extras’ to spoil her lines, though the solar panels and the Windpilot self-steering gear at her stern clearly show she’s a Blue Water thoroughbred.

Now we may be biased, but we love Maunie's lines!
Anyway, we hope your enjoyed our little tour of the anchorage there! It was really an excuse for Graham to play with his birthday present, a new lens for the big Canon camera; he's very pleased with it!

Meanwhile, a few thousand miles away from this tranquil place, the very different Volvo Ocean Race boats (65 footers built of carbon fibre and using the very latest in boat technology) have just rounded Cape Horn. Well, four of them have made it so far. Dongfen Racing have broken their mast just a day before reaching the Horn and have limped into the Beagle Channel to dock in a Chilean port whilst the girls on SCA lost power to all their instruments and had to slow down substantially until they eventually found the cause of the problem and repaired it. There is some fantastic on-board and helicopter video footage of the boats at Cape Horn HERE - it's very different from our kind of sailing!!