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.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Minor spinnaker repairs on the lawn

The last sail back from Viani Bay was marred by a couple of frustrating moments. First of all we decided to hoist the 'Irish Flag' spinnaker but the thing had got all twisted up in its 'snuffer' sock after a 'challenging' drop last time we used it and so it wouldn't come out to play. Grrrr.

Plan B was to hoist the Big Pot Parasailor instead and that all went beautifully to plan until the wind died and we had to take it down. Somehow, without a breeze to fill it, one of the many thin control lines that connect the bottom of the 'wing' to the rest of the sail got snagged and we broke the stitching holding it as we pulled the snuffer down (and were worried that we might have done more serious damage). Double Grrrr. It was like the feeling you have when you scratch your car in a brief moment of carelessness.

The challenge was to be able to spread out the 125 sq. m. sail to get to the damaged area and that just wasn't possible on board the boat. Today, though, the wind dropped and the rain held off long enough to lay the sail out on the lawn at the Copra Shed Marina.

It's important to tie the spinnaker to a palm tree just in case of sudden gusts!

The successful repair (just some hand stitches) made for good entertainment for those in the bar at lunchtime

We were very pleased to get the job completed just before the rain arrived; it's good to have both sails back in working order (we untwisted the Irish Flag on the lawn yesterday so the locals are probably wondering what tomorrow's entertainment will be).

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Savusavu - restocking

The view of Savusavu from our mooring - we're in a very sheltered creek about 300m wide, with the exit to the sea to the right of this photo
We arrived back in Savusavu last Thursday after a good 50 mile sail from Viani Bay. Just in time to inflate the dinghy, fit the outboard motor and go ashore for a really wonderful Indian meal at the Surf & Turf restaurant. How good did it feel to have someone else cook our supper? Very. Delicious ice cream for pudding too!

Savusavu is a pretty good little town with a couple of decent supermarkets, a brilliant fruit and veg market, a great butchers and a choice of places to eat out inexpensively - fish & chips lunch at Waitui Marina was only $5FJ (about £1.70) each and very good. In fact we've only had the two meals out because the availability of fresh ingredients and excellent meats has revitalised our enthusiasm for cooking aboard.

The little Copra Shed Marina which owns the mooring we are using - a waterfront bar and restaurant, a pizza restaurant and very good laundry service makes it a great and very welcoming base. 

We'll be here for a few more days because we have applied to extend our 4-month visas; the paperwork (and our $96 per person fee) have been accepted by the Immigration team here but the visas have to come from Suva and this takes a week, apparently. One suspects that Fiji's bureaucrats learnt everything they know from the time when Britain administered the country. 

Meanwhile we been busy and have taxied our propane gas tanks to be refilled, dinghied our jerrycans to the nearest fuel station to refill with diesel (cheap at about 50p per litre) and completed several shopping runs to replenish Maunie's empty food lockers. We're certainly paying for the zero-expenditure period that we enjoyed in Fulaga! Our timing has proved to be pretty good, as it happens, with a few days of strong winds meaning that we wouldn't have wanted to be sailing between the islands just at the moment.

We're looking at our options for the next six weeks or so. We'll start looking for weather windows to sail back to New Zealand around the middle of October so in the intervening time we want to visit parts of Fiji that are new to us. The islands of Kadavu and Ono, to the south of the big island of Viti Levu, are said to be worth spending some time on and we think we should visit the capital, Suva, as well. More to follow.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Video of the new canoe being built and sailed

Our poor little netbook pc has had major tantrums in the process, but we've now managed to edit a 14 minute video of the building of the canoe and its first test sail.

You can view it on YouTube here

Friday, 21 August 2015

The Daily Routine!

A good day in the Maunie Bakery - Graham's bread rolls and Dianne's choc-chip cookies and fruit loaf
We've both chatted to recently retired colleagues in the past and "I just don't know how I had time to go to work" was usually their comment when asked how they were filling their days.

It's very much like that aboard Maunie (and we're far from retired), even when we aren't sailing from place to place or diving or canoe-building. At the moment we are on a mooring in Viani Bay, a favourite haunt, and just spending a couple of days catching up on boat jobs and admin.

Our outside activities are very influenced by the short tropical days (it gets light at 06.30 and darkness arrives suddenly at 18.30) so we tend to be up at 07.00 to enjoy breakfast in the relatively cool morning air. We check Maunie's vital signs of life every morning - battery voltage and fresh water stocks - and study the sky to decide whether the solar panels will be sufficient to recharge the batteries or whether we need to run the generator. Though they are described as 12v batteries, their voltage will be 12.8v when fully charged and 12.2v when 50% full and we never let them fall below 12.2v in order to maximise their life; they only have so many discharge-recharge cycles in them and they recover less well if deeply discharged - at around £600 for a set of batteries we aim to make them last at least 6 years.

When we do run the generator (on average it's about once a week) on less sunny days we start it at breakfast and it throbs away for a couple of hours. We plug in computers, camera chargers, the water immersion heater and even the electric kettle to get best value out of the one-and-a-bit litres of diesel it consumes per hour and we run the watermaker at the same time to make about 25 litres per hour of fresh water from seawater. Once the generator has given the batteries a decent boost, the sunshine is usually enough to allow the solar panels to continue charging batteries and to run the watermaker (which uses about 9 Amps) for a few more hours so that the voltage is back to 12.8v as the evening light fades.  

Apart from these daily rituals, our activities on board include boat maintenance jobs (a little bit every day is our plan), finding ways to keep fit and doing some exercise, routine cleaning and washing, preparing food (we usually cook meals that will do us for two nights and bake bread rolls every other day) and, at the moment, catching up on internet admin which seems to always zap an inordinate amount of time. Our return to internet coverage after the null-spot of Fulaga has given us the chance to catch up on news and discover the ability to download free copies of the Economist and BBC News to our Kindle via a program called Calibre. It has also cost us serious money this week, as we've had to pay up our annual medical travel insurance as well as other bills. 

A fiddly and time-consuming maintenance job
- replacing all the stitching, destroyed by UV light - around the letters on our cockpit dodgers
Of course, even on these 'maintenance days' we get some time off to swim around the boat (Graham usually takes a green cleaning pad to any weed appearing on the waterline or propeller as part of his exercise) and to meet up with crews of other boats so, once darkness falls and supper is over, we're often in bed by 9.30 after 'another busy day'!

An early-morning view from the cockpit at the start of another busy day
We'll be back on the move in a day or two once we've ticked off a few more boat jobs. We plan to head back to Savusavu to refill our propane tanks and get more diesel before heading westwards to parts of Fiji we haven't visited before.  

Monday, 17 August 2015

Building a sailing canoe in Fulaga - photos

Getting involved in building a sailing canoe in Fulaga was an amazing experience. There'll be a short video on YouTube soon but, in the meantime, here are some photos of the process:

August 2014 - the late, great Meli lightening the canoe hull where the tree was felled three months before

Hauling the canoe out of the forest over very rocky terrain

Reaching the sea

The new canoe on the beach, where it lay for almost a year, following Meli's death.
(First four photos by Bob & Ann Johnson, s/v Charisma)
August 2015 - a tree is felled for additional timber for the decks, side planks and steering oar

Cutting a straight line! Mini starts to cut the tau (fore deck)

Shaping the tau

Pio cutting the side planks - he has an amazing ability to cut parallel lines just by eye

Health & Safety officers should look away now!

The first two planks nearly complete

Mini and Damian with the hollowed-out tau deck

Sel Citron's big dinghy carries the components across the lagoon to the canoe
Planing the top sides of the hull

The 'sai' side planks cut to fit

Damian applies some non-traditional sealant to the deck joint

Team effort
Graham fitting a stainless steel plate he had on Maunie to reinforce a cracked plank

Mini and Lutu enjoying the use of a cordless drill rather than their hand-cranked one

Drilling holes for the lashings to hold the cross beams in place

Copper nails added as well

Taking shape - the outrigger in place

Akosita playing in the hull

Graham adding non-traditional stainless steel screws

Fitting the front board - the latex gloves are because the paint ain't really dry!

Palagis (foreigners) at work

Launch minus 24 hours - painting the deck

Sail makers at work 
Detail of Graham's lashing to hold the outrigger firmly in place
Launch Day - adjusting the mast and rigging 
Test sail, with Pito, Kerry, Dianne and Mini aboard

The side is engraved with the names of the builders - Meli, Alifereti (Lutu), Mini, Pito and Jio - plus the three yachts who helped with the build - Sel Citron, Ithaka and Maunie

Sunday, 16 August 2015

People and places in Fulaga

Here's a short selection of photos to give you an idea of the villages, the people and the events in Fulaga:

The view from the church at Naividamu village, the only village to face into the lagoon

Naividamu - a collection of tin huts full of welcoming, friendly people
Kids mucking about in boats - the same the world over
 Events: The arrival of the supply ship
Mini and Lutu on the canoe, before work started on it this year, waiting for the supply ship to arrive

Everyone waiting for the supply ship - Joe offers Meri a freshly-caught fish

Tara, Qele and Lissa opening clams ready to send on the ship for sale to the next island

Bis wiring closed a container of clams to go into the supply ship's fridge

Joshua watches it all

Part-finished tanoa kava bowls for export to Suva

Unloading the boats from the supply ship, the anchorage unusually busy with yachts

Everyone lends a hand

Lutu (right) knows how to pick his load - he struggles ashore with eggs and toilet rolls!

Net, the postmaster, waves as he works through the cargo on the ship

Birthday tea for Ma the baker (she made most of the cakes herself so it was a working birthday)

A kava session at Colin and Ana's leaving party
 Getting Dressed up for the occasion:

The kindergarten kids dressed up for their dance and song. Little Akosita is only 3 so is technically too young for kindergarten but there was no stopping her from attending

Enjoying dubiously-coloured sweets

Lavinia and Akosita dressed as lawyers for their part in the 'when I grow up I'm going to be' song. Akosita's hand and lips show she has already been at the sweets

Akosita in her best party frock
Dianne and the ladies at church

Tai, Moses and Bill in their Sunday best

Graham and Robbie dressed to impress at church