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, 30 December 2015

Happy, err, Holidays

We're not terribly fond of the American 'Happy Holidays' wish at Christmas but since we are now in that lull between Christmas and New Year, it's the best we can do. Hope that you had a lovely Christmas?

Once again our lovely mates Trish and Ian took us in on Christmas Day (3rd year running, they must be mad!) but this time in their 20th-floor flat in downtown Auckland and they produced the full turkey-and-trimmings from the tiny kitchen. A lovely meal, albeit with slightly too much to drink, and the schmaltzy film 'Love Actually' to aid digestion. Ian cocked-up slightly and managed to use his iPhone app to record the Queen's Speech (yes, it is broadcast in NZ 13 hours ahead of the UK so providing lots of spoiler opportunities for friends and family back home); unfortunately he remotely set Sky to record it to their Waiheke house's set. Apart from that, a pretty perfect day.

Our hosts at the table with a view

Ian doing the carving bit

Loving the matching Christmas shirts
Once the hangovers had subsided a little, Trish and Ian joined us aboard Maunie on Boxing Day. We never quite got around to untying the mooring lines so had a very relaxed long lunch in the cockpit - the centre-piece of the relatively healthy salad was an amazing 2kg Melton Mowbray pork pie created by an expat British chef called Sean who makes pies and pasties from a kitchen (made from a shipping container) up in Fairway Bay. A lovely taste of Britain, thanks to Anil and Kirsty for putting us in touch with Sean!

With some slight danger of upsetting those of you suffering floods in the north of England, we have to say that the weather has been beautiful for the past week with hot sunshine. So we have been busy outside enjoying the weather

Ursa (and Tony and Claire) came over to Pier 21 for a walk into town 
A walk with Ursa, we discovered, involves lots of stops for people to cuddle her
 A couple of days after Christmas Tony and Claire invited us to join them at Narrow Neck Beach to have a sail on Tony's Farr 3.7 sailing dinghy.

Graham ready for action, trying to remember how to sail something without a wheel and keel

Tony demonstrating how it's done
 Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately) there wasn't enough wind to get onto the trapeze which would almost certainly have involved some unplanned swimming! It was lovely to be out in a small, responsive racing dinghy again - the Farr is a lovely boat.

Back on Maunie, we treated her to a Christmas present of a new ensign flag - the old one is about 8 years old (used on our last boat too) and was almost threadbare.

Old vs New: the old one will be framed when we get back home! The blue ensign is a 'Defaced British Ensign' which we can fly because we are members of the Royal Ocean Racing Club - possibly the least racy boat in the club!
We have also made the best of the quiet period between Christmas and New Year to get Maunie hauled out for her annual scrub and servicing of propeller and anti-corrosion anodes. The yard manager (who manages the marina as well) was very nice to us and allowed us to be hauled out at 3.00pm on Tuesday and relaunched at 8.30am the following morning for the same price as one hour in the slings so it gave us time to get her serviced and polished

So, after a busy 24 hours, we're now taking a couple of days off from the boat. Shona and Malcolm have very generously lent us their lovely flat in Devonport on the north shore of the harbour, just next to the Navy base. It affords wonderful views of Auckland and we're enjoying exploring the town.

The view from the entrance to the Navy base
We had a lovely saunter into town this afternoon and stopped for a drink in the Victoria Theatre cinema's bar. Di took the opportunity to act out a classic line from the film "Calendar Girls":

We're going to need considerably larger buns!
Very best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Happy Christmas from New Zealand

Until this morning we could have annoyed you all by telling you about the wall-to-wall sunshine and warm temperatures here in Auckland. However today (Christmas Eve) we have heavy rain and a cold and blustery NE wind. So, entirely appropriate Christmas weather then!

So we are sending you are warmest Christmas wishes and love and hope that you have a wonderful family time over the coming week. We hope that you'll continue to follow our little adventure in the New Year.

With love from us both,

Graham & Dianne xx

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Plaudits and Brickbats

Sometimes you get pleasantly surprised by customer service and support but, alas, too often you find yourself dealing with big organisations who fail to impress.

So, first a couple of positive stories:

You'll have read before in this blog of our constant battle against the destructive effects of UV on board. Recently one of our Spinlock line jamming cleats succumbed to the effects and cracked under load:

To be fair, this is one of the original cleats on Maunie so has withstood 18 years of sun and salt.
We assumed that this would mean a complete replacement (at about £80) but, no, even though this model is no longer sold, Spinlock still supply replacement parts! 
£23 for new side plate - with carriage from the UK courtesy of Steve & Barbara

Almost as good as new 
The next UV victim was our danbouy. The danbuoy is a vital bit of emergency kit, consisting of a float with a weight below it and a long telescopic pole above which carries a red flag and a light. It's tied to a horseshoe lifebelt so that if someone goes overboard it gives them something to swim towards whilst the other crew-member turns the boat around; the tall flag gives a much better target to aim for.

The end-caps of the float had cracked open, exposing the foam core, after about 9 years service on two boats
We emailed the suppliers, Jimmy Green Marine in Beer, Devon, to ask if it was possible to get replacement bits and they replied, "of course!"

New top and bottom caps fitted - about £12 + vat
Clearly recognising the UV issue, they also offered an additional UV protection sleeve for the princely sum of £3.25 + vat:

The refurbished danbuoy being tested. The yellow floating line is tied to the horseshoe buoy and the white line has a small sea anchor drogue attached to stop it drifting downwind
  So, we are very pleased with Spinlock and Jimmy Green Marine.

Not pleased, however, with Microsoft and Skype. Graham made the fatal error of clicking "ok" when Skype said "We'd like to improve your Skype experience with this upgrade". After that it wouldn't let him log in and now he's locked in combat with the Skype 'customer service' people who apparently just cut and paste standard (and usually irrelevant) responses to his emails (once he'd cracked the hidden code to find out how to get an email to them). Their latest response is to say that they can't proceed because some of the security questions have been answered incorrectly. One of which is "What was the month & year when you set up the account?". His latest reply was:

Does anyone remember this? I mean, it's not as though we have an annual Skype Anniversary Party in our household. If I'd known it was such an important date at the time of setting up the account, we'd have course set this institution up.

I'll have another go at the form but would like to patiently (running very thin here) remind you that, if you actually read through the vast detail that I sent in the email, it's Skype that has stuffed up here and made it apparently impossible to get out of the loop of only being able to change my Microsoft Account password.

So, in the meantime, please cut me a little slack, and pass this up to your supervisor who can actually send me a reply which isn't just cut and pasted from the standard Skype customer services manual.

Oh, yes, of course I could set up a new account but I don't see why I should donate the £20 or so credit on my account to your organisation.

Please keep this case open, I suspect we'll be conversing on this subject  for a while. It's just a shame we can't converse with our friends and family back home at Christmas.

The moral of this story? Just deal with the little companies and don't click 'yes' to any Skype updates!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

In the Hauraki Gulf

No wonder they call Auckland the City of Sails - what a wonderful place to sail. The harbour itself is fascinating and really busy with yachts, ferries and container ships all sharing the water, and just on the doorstep is the Hauraki Gulf, with beautiful islands. You could spend weeks exploring all the anchorages.

With Christmas and the NZ summer holidays here, the huge marinas of Auckland are emptying fast as the 'Jafas' (Just Another Friendly Aucklander - may have got the F word wrong), as they are known by other Kiwis, head out to the islands. So our timing with the Gammans aboard was perfect last week - it was definitely the lull before the storm in terms of boat movements so we had anchorages, that will now have hundreds of boats in them, almost to ourselves,.

The wind was pretty brisk so we had some lovely sailing and the wine tasting at Man o' War winery on Waiheke Island was a highlight.

Steve, Amy, Dianne and Barbara start the arduous task of tasting 10 wines at Man o' War

The result of Barbara's beachcombing

Still standing after the winery visit! Maunie anchored behind.

Bright sunshine but a cool breeze so Amy sports the latest in sailing headgear

Watching the Waiheke coastline slide by

Oneroa Bay panorama, Waiheke

Newly added art installation - Bell on Wheels?

Beating back towards Auckland with up to 33 knots over the deck

Lion New Zealand - iconic Kiwi Whitbread Round the World race

Another Kiwi sailing icon - Steinlager II 

Steve enjoying the conditions

Beating into the sun, with Auckland on the horizon
The Gamman team left Maunie on Sunday morning for the beginning of a two and a half week motor tour of North and South Islands. It was lovely to have them aboard.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Sailing wit friends

We've had a lovely weekend sail with our friends Colin and Ana aboard - we took them off Ithaka and away from their long list of boat-preparation jobs to sail up the coast to Fairway Bay for a bit of a leaving party for them aboard Kiapa, along with Kerry and Damian from Sel Citron.

Beating back into Auckland on Sunday
Colin and Ana enjoying the sailing on Maunie - in a week or so they'll be heading off on the 5,000 nm voyage to Chile
We're about to set sail again, for a few days around the Hauraki Gulf just outside Auckland. Our friends Barbara and Steve and daughter Amy arrived safely from mid-Wales yesterday and are getting over their jet-lag so are looking forward to some summer sailing. It's lovely to have them aboard.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

In Auckland and expending Boat Units

Our temporary home in Pier 21 is proving to be brilliant - really handy for the city and, after a month on the mooring with its inherent dinghy-ride ashore, the pontoon berth with its electricity and water supplies really is a luxury.

A panoramic view of the Pier 21 Marina - the big building with the advert to the right is a 'dry-stack' where motorboats are posted into storage slots about five-high, the equivalent of a multi-story car park!
Our neighbours are Colin and Ana on Ithaka who are really busy preparing the boat for the 5,000 mile crossing to Chile in a couple of weeks. We're going to drag them away for a bit of a party on Saturday night as we know what it's like when your focus becomes the boat and the attendant long list of jobs to be done in a very short time.

Two British boats a long way from home!
Ana hard at work, installing new fixing points for an emergency drogue
Of course, on Maunie we're ploughing through a list of things to do too and spending Boat Units. Other sailors will know that BOAT is an acronym ("Bring Out Another Thousand") and
so boat projects are measured in Boat Units ($1000). We've just spent pretty much one Boat Unit on a couple of deck fittings:

The 'foot blocks' which lead the yankee and spinnaker sheets (and therefore carry a heavy load) to the main cockpit winches. The sheaves (pulley wheels) were grinding due to worn bearings which was making winching really hard work

Upon removal the dreaded galvanic corrosion (between unlike metals in sea water) is obvious. The stainless steel bolts had welded themselves to the aluminium body so there was no way we could get the blocks apart.

One Boat Unit later (and some tricky drilling into the stainless steel mounting plates because, of course, the holes didn't align!) we have some snazzy ball-bearing blocks made by Harken
Some of our jobs use only a few tenths of a Boat Unit, such as getting the inflatable dinghy professionally patched (it's doing pretty well for 17 years old so we're hoping a bit of tlc now will keep it going until we get back to the UK) and some jobs just need our time and patience to complete:

The saloon table sanded back for its first coat of varnish
Apart from the work, we've been managing some nice walks (the very sought-after Auckland district of Ponsonby, with it's smart cafes and coffee shops, is about 15 minutes walk from the boat) and we had a visit from Ali and Reg (Ali is Chair of Tideford Organics in Totnes, where Graham did some project work) yesterday as they'd just arrived for a 4 week tour of NZ. A lovely small-world moment!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Safely into Auckland's Pier 21

Our very pleasant trip south continued with an overnight stop at the little Fairway Bay Marina (35 berths) which sits next to the huge Gulf Harbour Marina (1050 berths). We were made very welcome there and had David and Patricia, who run the fantastic Gulf Harbour Radio weather forecasting radio net, over for coffee. It was lovely to put faces to their very familiar voices.

Fairway Bay Marina
From Fairway Bay we motored the ten miles or so further south to Auckland with flat sea and no wind and Maunie is now snug in an even smaller marina, Pier 21. If you zoom into the Google photo on http://www.yit.co.nz/yacht/maunieofardwall you'll get a great idea of our location; we are within east walking distance of the city (and only a couple of hundred metres from a handful of excellent chandlers and other boat-related businesses). Our next door neighbours in the marina are Colin and Ana on Ithaka and Lisa and Lester on Obsession are across on the opposite pontoon so it's been good to catch up with friends.

We're blessed to have other mates in the area, too, so last night took the ferry across the harbour to Devenport for a great bbq supper with Shona and Malcolm, old friends from the UK who are now based here. It was certainly a bbq with a view:

Malcolm, Rob and Hugo with the asparagus on the bbq! Downtown Auckland in the background.

As sweet as.... A proper Kiwi pudding: Pavlova
So we're nicely settled here for a month and the coming week's plan is to spend mornings on boat jobs (revarnishing worn bits of the interior woodwork is the main task) and afternoons exploring the city and surrounding area. 

The week after that we have Steve and Barbara (who is Shona's younger sister, for those trying to keep track of the social circle) arriving from mid-Wales, along with daughter Amy, who is our Goddaughter and also is sister to Rob who appeared in the bbq photo above (there will be a short test at the end of this). Anyway it'll be great to see them and we hope that the 'one or two little things' that they are bringing for us won't have grown to completely fill their luggage. We're arranged that the warm weather will stay for next week so we can take them sailing out into the islands of the Hauraki Gulf.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Maunie's a going concern, once again

We are delighted to report that our engine is running again, and much more smoothly and powerfully than it has done for 12 months or more. Clearly it had gradually declined in performance over several months but the difference now is really quite dramatic.So it should be, after a $2700 bill! Full marks to Seapower, though, for seeing the project through to completion.

So after nearly a month on the mooring it was great to be able to sail out into the Bay of Islands yesterday afternoon to anchor in Uruapukapuka Bay next to Kiapa.

A beautiful anchorage, shared with friends
As soon as we were anchored, Graham donned his wetsuit and dived over the side to scrub Maunie's bottom, which was pretty slimy and weedy. The water was a lot colder than in Fiji so Dianne heard a few choice words piped up his snorkel tube! We had a lovely meal aboard Kiapa and a very peaceful night.

This morning we left the anchorage at 07.00 to sail past Cape Brett and the Hole in the Rock en route to Tutakaka , 30nm down the coast.

Kiapa cresting a large swell

The Hoke opening up

Lionel with a lovely cup of tea on Kiapa's foredeck. The wind filled in shortly afterwards to give us some pleasant sailing.
We are meeting up with Carl and Linda (from the yacht Navara) this evening as Tutakaka is their home port. Then we'll have an early start in the morning for a 60nm passage toward Auckland.