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.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Four Wheels Good, One Hull Better

You probably know that Graham used to be isomething of a petrol-head, having owned some interestingly sporty cars in earlier times but now, whilst admiring the odd flashy motor, his outlook has become more one of, 'cars are just transport'. The change has mainly been (ahem) driven by the congestion on roads that make car journeys seem so much less fun than boat voyages.

Sydney is, like all cities, choked with traffic so our foray to the famous Fish Market near Darling Harbour yesterday illustrated the point quite neatly.

We anchored Maunie in Blackwattle Bay next to the Glebe Bridge, which was apparently christened 'Madonna's Bra' by the locals when it was built.

The view from the anchorage toward the city centre, with the Fish Market on the shore
 Sydney friends had warned us that the Fish Market is impossibly busy in the days leading up to Christmas and New Year. Certainly when we got there, the car park was full, with a snail-paced queue of cars, their aircon unit blasting heat out into an already very hot day as they attempted to cool the tempers of their frustrated occupants.

By contrast, we buzzed across in the dinghy, parked it neatly under the bridge from the pontoon, and walked straight into the market 

 It certainly was busy but an amazing feast for the eyes!

When we got back to the dinghy with our bag of lovely king prawns, there was a crew member of a motor-boat, who'd clearly drawn the short straw, waiting to be picked up with lunch for the rest of the crew:

Shopping done and prawns safely stowed in the fridge, we walked into the city and visited the wonderful Botanical Gardens. It gave us an opportunity to view our chosen spot to anchor for New Year's Eve:

Farm Cove, to the right of this panorama, is where we are anchored now
There is a downside to the boat vs car comparison, of course. When you park your car it stays where it is (handbrake properly applied, of course) but boats tend to bob around their anchors somewhat. And when half the boats around you are crewed by people who seem never to have anchored before in their lives, things get interesting. More on that in the next update.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Watching the Sydney Hobart race start

Our lovely, if quiet, Christmas Day finished with a late Christmas Dinner - fillet of beef cooked in red wine, mushrooms and garlic, with sweet potato mash and broccoli. Yum, especially with a bottle of Grand Barossa Shiraz!

Boxing day needed a reasonably early start to get through the Spit Bridge at its 08.30 opening and we followed Eve, single-handing her lovely ketch Auntie, through. We met Eve in NZ, so this is typical of the 'small world' moments we keep getting on the boat (two days ago we passed Brian and Sue on Darramy, whom we first met 3 years ago in Tonga).

We were followed by one of the Clipper round-the-world yachts
The reason for the early start was to sail across to Watson's Bay near the entrance of Sydney Harbour to anchor in a good spot to watch the 13.00 start of the Sydney Hobart Race. The bay quickly filled up with other boats with the same idea but we got a pretty decent view of the 88 boats setting off on the 630 mile race, without risking the boat by joining in the huge moving flotilla of spectator boats.

Looking back down towards the Harbour Bridge and the start line
The Maxi yachts head towards us - the commercial cruise boats make a fortune from this event

Wild Oats, the record-holder for the race, made a poor start, hoping to get across the fleet on port tack but the wind didn't favour them and they had to duck behind the starboard-tack boats, costing them several places. All ab it irrelevant in a race of this length but still psychologically important for the crew

The smaller boats heading towards Sydney Heads

It's a HUGE spectator even, both on land and sea

Conditions were perfect for a fast race
Channel 7 does a brilliant job of covering the start of the race, even putting camera crew onto a few of the bigger boats to get superb live footage. As the boat leave the harbour they put their equipment into waterproof bags and jump off the back of the boats, to be picked up by chasing launches. This link is the coverage from yesterday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=degq33I-H8o

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas

We really can't quite believe that this is our 5th Christmas since we left home! The first was spent in St Lucia in the Caribbean, in the company of some great fellow yachties, and the following three were with our mates Trish and Ian in NZ. Bless them, they are great hosts and, despite their adopting a cunning ruse of switching locations from Waiheke Island to Auckland last year, we still managed to track them down and turn up on the day. This year, it's just the two of us, on board our beloved Maunie in Sydney Harbour, so the pace of drinking is slightly slower, there's no TV for a yuletide film but we're pinching ourselves that we're actually here.

Motoring under the Harbour Bridge was a proper bucket-list moment yesterday and we anchored near the huge (and teeming) Sydney Fish Market to buy some King Prawns which are what the locals eat here in the sunshine on Christmas Day. We then moved around to Middle Harbour (see https://www.yit.nz/yacht/maunieofardwall for a map), through the lifting Spit Bridge, to pick up a mooring. We met folks on a boat called Quickstar in Vanuatu this season who have since moved on to NZ and they kindly suggested we borrow their mooring. We're delighted to have it as it's currently Quite Breezy and so being in an open anchorage, worrying about boats dragging their anchors when we've all had a glass or two would make the Christmas celebrations less relaxing.

We did, we have to admit, start the day with a glass or two of Buck's Fizz to accompany the traditional scrambled egg and salmon breakfast but have worked it off with a lovely walk in Tunks Park, a beautiful bit of greenery and bush at the head of this bay.

The best sort of weather for a Christmas Day Walk
 Running across the deep valley at the head of the park is an interesting bridge - originally built as a suspension bridge in 1892, with typical Victorian design features, the metalwork began to suffer from corrosion so the deck was replaced with a concrete arch, leaving the old towers in place:

The view from the bridge - this was originally the upper reach of Long Bay but was filled in, with a 3/4 mile culvert for the river running below it, to create the playing fields of the park

The water just visible at the end of the park.

So, we're about to move on to Christmas Dinner here - beef fillet in red wine with fruit and cream pavlova for pud - so wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Pittwater and Sydney

Whilst in Vanuatu, we met Sue and Ian Major when they stayed aboard Sel Citron for a week and they promised to find us a mooring when we arrived in their home port of Pittwater, just 15 miles or so north of Sydney. Well, they not only lent us their own mooring for a couple of days but organised a club mooring for us to borrow for the rest of the week and took us on a car tour of their neighbourhood before a lovely supper at their house in Newport. Fantastic.

There are excellent regular buses down to Sydney from here so we have done two days of sight-seeing to get our bearings before we sail into the fabulous harbour at the end of this week. A few photos, featuring some famous landmarks:

We took one of these big ferries from Manly (just inside the harbour entrance, to the north) for the 30 minute voyage to Circular Quays

A classic view of the city's two most famous landmarks opens up

The Opera House is a wonderful building and, in spite of having seen so many images of it, we were really surprised by its scale and the detail 
The 'sails' are covered in ceramic tiles, some glossy, some matt, of differing shades of white and cream

Looking towards Circular Quays and the CBD (Central Business District)

We went on an excellent guided tour of the Opera House so sat in the main opera auditorium (which is about to undergo a $660m refit to address, among other things, the hopelessly-cramped orchestra pit) the bigger concert hall and the three smaller theatres. We just loved the internal shapes and the contrast between the un-painted pre-cast concrete structure and the wooden ceilings

You can imagine the challenge of building this in the 1960's (it was finally opened in 1973)

The atrium with a glimpse of the Harbour Bridge
The Opera House 'done' (though we want to come back and see a performance here) we moved on to the Harbour Bridge:

Completed in 1923, the bridge is based on the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle

We couldn't afford the $275 per person to do the Bridge Climb (looked a bit draughty up there, anyway)

Looking down from the bridge, the harbour's just hectic with boats. we still can't quite believe that Maunie will be here in a few days!
Day two of our sightseeing took advantage of the Sunday deal where you can do as many bus and ferry journeys as you like for just $2.50. We went to the Maritime Museum which, inside, wasn't as good as its superb Auckland counterpart but it has the advantage of some ships to explore in the docks. Dianne overcame her claustrophobia and went into the submarine HMAS Onslow before we moved on to HMAS Vampire, a destroyer built in the 1950's so probably not hugely different to the ship her dad served in.

In the control room

Between the two massive V16 diesel engines
The boat was built on the Clyde but we were surprised to see that some of the electrical switch-gear was made in Bridgwater (10 miles from our house)

HMAS Vampire was one of three Darling Class destroyers and the last of the 'big gun' ships, before missiles became the chief naval weapon

Twin steam turbines could deliver 31 knots
We're now back aboard for a few days - the sight of those monster engines in the submarine prompted Graham to do an oil and filter change on Maunie's diesel today. If the forecast stays as it is, we'll sail down to Sydney on Friday. 

Monday, 12 December 2016

Flashback to Fulaga

Kerry from Sel Citron was contacted by Gore-Tex recently and asked to write an article for their adventure blog. She's written a great story about the Fulaga experience we shared last year: http://blog.gore-tex.com.au/living-the-village-life-in-fulaga/

We really miss that place!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Challenging navigation

From a navigator's perspective, this east coast sailing is fascinating - and at times a bit challenging. Most sailors recognise the wisdom of the saying "Your problems start once you can smell the land", the open ocean being a safer place on many occasions, and we've experienced all the challenges of tides, river currents and some extreme weather. It's fun, though!

Since we last wrote, we've been up the Clarence River, some 30km inland and discovered some charming country towns and coped with temperatures in the high 30's.

Maunie at the excellent (and free) public jetty at Ulmarra

This is no place to be if the river floods, however. The marker posts give some idea of the potential rise of the river level; the last major flood was three years ago

Sunset after another hot day
 Just as we were getting used to river navigation, we met another challenge: a fleet of small trawlers catching 'schoolies' prawns. They would suddenly change course with no warning so we had to be vigilant.

After 4 days on the river we stopped at the little seaside town of Yamba and then headed south on another overnight sail to Camden Haven - another river anchorage and a friendly little town of Laurieton. We spent a day doing some running repairs to the mainsail - replacing UV-damaged stitching at the head - and rewarded ourselves with a rare treat, a trip to the cinema. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" was terrific.

On-deck sail repairs...

.... we were able to just remove the top batten and three sliders to get the sail down to the sewing machine

And so onto today's passage - one that illustrates the particular challenges of coastal cruising in these parts. The main issue we face is that these river ports and anchorages are generally pretty shallow (maybe only 2-3 metres at low tide) and have bars at their entrances - bars in this case are shallow patches caused by silt washing out of the river and they pose a particular threat. If you arrive at a bar when the tide is ebbing (rushing out) to meet an incoming wind and swell, a tremendous (and very dangerous) surf can form.

Here's a video of a yacht getting it very badly wrong in a bar entrance: https://www.facebook.com/SailingMore/videos/881865391950076/

So, clearly, we treat these bars with a lot of respect and remember the golden rule, "If in doubt, don't cross the bar!". This meant, for example, that today we had to time our departure from Camden Haven just at the end of the flood tide (which, of course doesn't coincide with the High Tide time, because something known as the overrun keeps the water moving up to 2 hours later) and then work out our sailing time (about 6 hours in this case) to arrive at Forster at the beginning of the flood tide, about 2 hours after local low water. So the calculations included consideration of the weather forecast and wind speed, plus the south-going East Australian Current pushing us along. We started the passage with the Parasailor flying but, as the wind increased had to swap it for the yankee just to slow down. We did get some friendly dolphins playing with us, too.

As we approached Forster we called the Maritime Rescue base on the VHF for information on the conditions at the bar. Maritime Rescue is a volunteer organisation, run a bit like the RNLI but with lookout stations at every important point and river. The very helpful chap in the station told us that conditions were 'a bit messy' due to the strengthening NE wind blowing straight into the entrance; he confirmed that our tide calculations were correct so there were no standing waves but that there was a confused, lumpy sea for about 200m before the entrance. "It's not dangerous, it's just not very nice" he said.

Oh, good, we thought and prepared for the worst-case scenario - all hatches shut, lifejackets on (mandatory on all bar crossings) and pilotage directions double-checked. We came in at a reasonably fast speed to keep steerage way and good control (faster water flow over the rudder giving quicker steering response) and Maunie did her normal trick of shouldering her way through the steep waves as though they were nothing.

A bit of white water ahead

Close to the entrance between the stone piers. The Marine Rescue control tower is to the left

A big sea bursting on the left hand pier

And we're in! Safely anchored behind a sand bank, looking back towards the entrance

Boat berths along the river - but we opted for an anchorage
Once we were safely anchored we radioed the Marine Rescue tower to thank them for their advice and ended up having a long chat with the duty officer He'd Googled the boat name and found this blog so asked us lots of questions about our trip. 

Now all we have to do is get out of here in the morning!