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.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Chuffin' hell and other sweary words

Unfortunately we spoke too soon in the last blog! Graham spent 3 hours refitting the pump (and all the ancillaries that had to be removed to make space for it) yesterday morning
with Mark the mechanic. It was very frustrating, fiddly work trying to fit nuts with the
tips of fingers, by feel only at times, so Graham's longer arms were useful and it was good to have two heads thinking about the problems.  Most owners would walk away to leave the professionals to it (and usually most professional mechanics like to work without an audience) but
 Mark was very glad to have the help.  Anyway at lunchtime we fired up the 
engine and, hurrah, it ran strongly on all four cylinders. For about 5 minutes. Then the revs started oscillating by about 600 rpm and it stalled every time we dropped the revs to tick-over.

Mark and Graham exchanged puzzled expressions and phone calls to the expert who rebuilt the pump followed. It seems that the pump had developed another fault and would have to come off to be sent back for further work. 
Bruce, Mark's boss at Seapower here in Opua, was hugely apologetic (thought the fault isn't due to his part of the operation) and assures us that it won't be at our cost but, of course, it'll mean more days of delay. To speed thing up Graham did most of the disassembly in the afternoon and Mark returned this morning to complete the removal of the pump (in only 40 minutes rather than the 4 hours it took the first time). It's all very frustrating but Graham say he has learnt a lot about the engine in the past few days!

So our plans to dry the boat out against the pier have been scrapped and we are rearranging other plans to sail south. The good news is that Kiapa arrived here last night after a spectacularly quick and comfortable 5 and a half day passage from Fiji (why didn't we get those kind of conditions on her last year?!) so it'll be great to catch up with Lionel
and Irene tonight over supper.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Racy photos

Good news - our injector pump has been rebuilt and bench-tested and all is well with it! All being well we'll have a properly-working engine tomorrow....

Meanwhile, Graham did another chase around the racing fleet in the dinghy with his camera. His last set of photos were well received by the Opua Cruising Club - 9 out of 12 pictures in this year's club calendar were his! Here are a few from tonight's race:

The start

The amazing skiff Orange Peeler 
Heading north towards the Bay of Islands

All crew on the wires

California Kiwi catches a gust

Cadillac with visiting yachties as additional crew

Close quarters  tacking in the middle of the fleet
The slower boats chasing the rest of the fleet

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Call me old fashioned, but.....

The full quote (from Billy Connelly) is “Call me old fashioned but I have never felt another man’s scrotum”. More on this theme later in today’s update……

So another week has passed and Maunie remains marooned on her mooring. Mark, the engineer, from Seapower finally extracted the injection pump from the engine bay, after much frustration and some ingenuity, on Monday morning.
Mark's not going to thank me for this photo, but the look conveys the frustration of getting the pump out!
The pump was sent down to Marty the Expert in Whangarei for a diagnosis; we called in to see him on Wednesday and were worried that he described it as ‘a bit of a mystery’ as to why the pump was misbehaving. He showed us the pump in its dismantled state; a frightening number of tiny components with very fine machined tolerances. The good news, he told us, was that the pump was in very good condition overall so he suspected that the valves were worn; spares have to be flown in from Singapore so he won’t be able to reassemble and bench-test the pump till this coming week. Our fingers are firmly crossed that the new valves will be the answer but we aren’t looking forward to the invoice.
Meanwhile it has been a busy week in Opua with the ICA ‘All Points Rally’ running lots of seminars and events every day. The Rally is a free event, open to all yachts arriving from abroad, and is well-supported by local businesses; it encourages a lot of boats to come to Opua as their first stop in New Zealand. We went to a few seminars (as old hands we didn’t need the ‘welcome to NZ’ sessions) but did attend the Pizza and Talent night which proved the theory that cruising yachties are cheerfully prepared to make fools of themselves in public. Graham did the Rowan Atkinson monologue of the Devil welcoming newcomers to Hell. If you don’t know it, it begins with: “As the more perceptive of you will have by now realised, this is Hell. I am the Devil, good evening, though you can call me Toby if you like. We try to keep things informal, as well as infernal, here” – you can find a recording of the original from the ‘Live in Belfast’ album HERE. Graham’s slightly edited version went down very well with the multinational crowd. Incidentally, he went to the same Oxford college (and did the same Engineering Science degree) as Rowan Atkinson so he reckons that makes the plagiarism ok.
With one eye on the fast-depleting bank balance and the other on the ready market of newly-arrived crews planning their own exploration of NZ, we have also been busy selling things this week. Our wonderful car-top tent sold to an American couple (for the same price we paid for it two years ago, pleasingly) whilst our aging inflatable kayak and our lovely but space-consuming beanbag went yesterday at a ‘Treasures of the Bilge’ sale, together with a couple of camping items. We managed to avoid buying anyone else’s ‘treasures’ at the event, remarkably, so it’s good to know that Maunie will float a few millimetres higher, whilst the rare reversal of cash flow is very welcome.
The cash soon goes the other way, of course and on Wednesday one of the ‘one-off’ expenditures was a “skin MOT” for the both of us. New Zealand is often described as the melanoma capital of the world; the clean air and the very thin ozone layer makes the risk of skin cancer here very high. We have noticed, even after months in the Tropics, how easy it is to get sunburnt here and Factor 30+ sunscreen is an absolute necessity, particularly on the boat where the sails and sea reflect the sun’s rays onto your skin. So we booked a consultation with a skin specialist, Dr Cottle, who dispensed good advice and showed us scary photos of malignant melanomas before doing a very detailed full-body inspection, taking close-up photos of any spots or pigmentation that looked ‘interesting’. It was during Graham’s check that the Billy Connelly quote came to mind; without warning or any kind of ‘excuse me’, the good doctor whipped Graham’s boxers down and had a good check of his wedding tackle. Presumably some yachties go ‘au naturel’ in the privacy of their own boats but Graham was a bit taken aback; “Do I look German?”
The good news is that both our checks showed that our skins were fine and we left $260 lighter but reassured and promising to apply 30+ every morning this summer.
Looking ahead, we have an ongoing list of boat jobs ahead of us but we can’t wait to be able to go sailing again as soon as the engine is fixed. If we have time this week we plan to put Maunie aground (on purpose) alongside a local boatyard’s quay between the morning and evening high tides to enable us to service the propeller and replace the zinc anodes which do a vital job of protecting the expensive propeller from electrolytic corrosion. At $30 it costs about one tenth of the price of a haul-out with the crane at the main boatyard but comes with the added challenge of ensuring that the boat leans the right way as she dries out on her fin keel!
The plan is then to sail south to Auckland where we’ll be based for the month of December; living in a marina close to the city centre should be fun.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Great weather, wonderful racing but a bit grumpy

Apart from a definite nip in the air at night (known aboard as the nipple factor), the spring weather here has been pretty lovely.

The view towards the sunset from Maunie's mooring
We were delighted to be asked to crew on an iconic New Zealand racing boat called Longfellow. As her name suggests, she's long and thin - 66ft long with a huge rig. The race started in absolute flat calm conditions but eventually a sea breeze built up and we flew the absolutely huge genniker (a lightwind reaching sail) that once belonged to Alinghi, the Americas Cup boat. We crossed the finish line well ahead of the rest of the fleet but came only fifth once the handicap ratings were applied. 

Drifting across the start line
Making 11 knots of boat speed in just 14 knots of breeze

Kantime, out main rival, as we passed them
So that was all very nice and we enjoyed a post-race beer or two in the Cruising Club.

Since then, unfortunately, things haven't been going quite so well because we are still trying to cure Maunie's poorly engine, which has decided that one of its four cylinders deserves a rest.

Our hopes were pinned on a faulty injector but, after cleaning and servicing it, the problem remained so it has been a real challenge to remove the high-pressure fuel pump due to the very limited access to the front of the engine. All being well, the pump will be stripped down and serviced early this week and we'll be running on all four cylinders again.

Di's definitely hoping Graham will be back on all cylinders, too, as he's been pretty hacked off about the issue - a typical engineer, he hates it when things don't work properly. Equally, Di is hacked off with the interior of the boat being upside down with tools and parts where they shouldn't be. We can't even take Maunie out sailing to take our minds off it all, as the engine is in pieces... Still, we're lucky to be able to get ashore in the dinghy to stroll along the coastal path when it all gets too much for us on board!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

New and Improved

We've slipped back into the New Zealand routine with remarkable ease. It's so much simpler returning to a place we know well! We had just three nights in the marina to hit the laundry, give the boat a wash down and inflate the dinghy before heading out to our mooring. Oh, and of course we had to get up at 04.30 on Sunday to watch the thrilling Rugby World Cup Final.

On Monday we caught the bus down to Auckand, had a cup of tea with Colin and Ana on Ithaka then went over to Birkenhead for a meal out with Tony & Claire who have been looking after Horace the Honda in our absence. It was great to catch up with them and to have cuddles with Ursa the Newfoundland, now fully grown - it's a bit like cuddling a bear!

The drive back to Opua included a stopover for lunch in Whangarei with Adam & Cindi of Bravo and a dash round the huge Pack n Save supermarket (more of a warehouse really); a bit of a shock even after the good supermarkets in Suva.

We are now focused on boat maintenance jobs for the next couple of weeks just to get them out of the way. So this morning was the oily jobs - changing the diesel filters and doing an engine and gearbox oil and filter change. Most of these jobs just have to be done but don't deliver any rewarding visual evidence of their completion, beyond a tick on the long list. However we have a few 'improvement' projects on the go and have just completed a couple that are very pleasing.

The first, mostly done in the wet weather in Suva, was to replace the old and tired halyard bags in the cockpit. These bags are designed to stow the ropes that haul up the sails and reef them down and, at nearly 17 years old, were definitely looking pretty tired.

Rather than just copying the originals we decided on some design improvements, to include some flexible plastic pipe sewn in to the edges to hold them open and a small pocket dedicated to the winch handles to prevent the old problem of the handles falling out (usually onto your toes) when you needed to pull out some lines.

The new design - it has a mesh material in the base to let water drain out and double-thickness material for longevity

A surprisingly complex construction to include the dividers and the reinforcing pipes -it kept us quiet for a couple of days!
The second improvement project wasn't actually on our list but has been something that we've had at the back of our minds for qite a while. We had always disliked the four reading lights in the pilothouse for their shiny faux brass (with added corrosion) finish and their ugly design but finding attractive replacements that weren't priced for super-yachts had been a problem.

The old light fittings
By chance, we discovered that Hans, one of the assistants at the excellent Cater Marine chandlers here, has started a little sideline turning lovely hardwood mounts with powerful LED lights in them. They match the other wood trim in the boat perfectly and at just over £30 each were a luxury we felt we could afford:

The new light fitting - the LED is much brighter that the old ones and yet only uses about one third of an amp

The wood matches the speaker mounts almost perfectly.
So tomorrow we'll be back to the 'invisible' maintenance jobs and, of course, Maunie has sensed that we are back in the land of boat services so has thrown a couple of wobblies. The aft fridge has just decided to stop running after faultless service ever since we bought the boat and the fresh water pump seems to need a thump every now and then to coax it into action. These have been added to the long list!