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, 27 January 2016

Playing with the Big Boys

Yesterday was the start of Bay of Islands Sailing Week, a three-day regatta which draws all the serious racing boats from around New Zealand and beyond. We went out in Maunie to try to get some photos, after a morning of boat work, and found ourselves to be in great position to see the TP52 racers come past with their spinnakers flying. So here's a selection of photos:

These boats are quick. Di had to give Maunie's engine full throttle to keep clear.

We couldn't quite hear the shouts of 'Starboard!!' from this distance. They crossed pretty close to one another.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Hot work in the sun

We hear reports of snow and further flooding in the UK at the moment so are confident that news of our weather will be welcomed by friends and family back home: hot sunshine (around 30 degrees) and very little wind. We should, of course, be taking full advantage of the conditions to anchor off a little beach in the Bay of Islands for the chance to swim in clear waters and enjoy a bbq or two.

Instead, we've used the hot dry weather to continue our quest to banish the deck leaks! The first job was relatively straightforward - addressing the UV-degraded sealant around the pilothouse windows, a job we last did about 4 years ago. Over time the sealant becomes hard and brittle and the solution is to cut it out and replace it with new:

Man with the golden sealant gun. A tip, for, those doing this job, is to put on two pairs of latex gloves so that once you get covered in the sticky stuff part way through the job,you can discard the outer pair and carry on.

Stage 1: a thick bead of sealant around the window which has been masked off with tape -
we use Sikaflex 295 UV, for those taking notes

Stage 2: apply a gloved finger to make a smooth seal (this is where the extra pair of gloves comes in , er, handy)

The finished result

That job completed, the next was to attack more of the perished caulking (sealant) between the planks of the teak decking. This job is less fun as it requires time-consuming and careful cutting out of the old caulking, cleaning and degreasing of the gaps and then a lot of masking tape before the sealant gun can be used:

The cutting-out process

The deck with masking tape applied

Applying the goo - and remembering not to walk on it! The sealant is smoothed down with a scraper blade  and then the tape (complete with still-tacky sealant) is carefully removed to leave neat black lines
Of course, this being a boat job, it always becomes a little more complicated than you expected. Graham decided to remove the stanchion bases ( the triangular feet, like the one just to the left of the sealant gun in the photo above) to reseal them at the same time. This requires some fun in accessing the nuts below deck:

Crawling in to the space recently vacated by the old fridge ( a whole new chapter to come!) 
We're using a trick we have been told, which is to drill a 16mm hole from below decks, on the centre-line of the 6mm hole for each bolt, about 3/4 of the way through the deck. You seal the bottom of the hole with tape and then inject thick expoxy glue from the top of the hole. Once it has hardened into a solid plug, you drill and tap a 6mm thread though the epoxy so the bolt screws firmly through the deck and the nut on the bottom is almost redundant. 

Anyway, after 2 long, hot days this part of the deck has been done (the port side is in better condition, it seems, but will need the same treatment. Whilst Graham was fixing decks, Di was attacking further jobs below decks and providing vital assistance at key times so we were both pretty exhausted at the end of each day; cold beers and a beautiful full moon rise were just rewards. One cold beer was of the ginger variety, as Di is once again coping admirably with Alcohol-Free January!

Moon-rise over Opua moorings

Monday, 18 January 2016

Sailing just for the fun of it and trying to keep the water out

There is a risk, we have discovered, that we can sometimes forget to go sailing just for the fun of it. We tend to think in terms of making passages to get to the next port and then, of course, there's the list of boat jobs still to be tackled. However, in the past week we've enjoyed some wonderful, fun sailing and, yes, spent a lot of time maintaining Maunie.

A dramatic evening sky as we sailed north from Auckland to Opua
We finally left the waters around Auckland last weekend and had a lovely overnight sail for the 115nm passage back up to our mooring in Opua. The wind was blowing off the land so the sea was flat and progress was excellent until the breeze died at about 05.30 just as we arrived back in the Bay of Islands. We thoroughly enjoyed our month in Auckland but it was lovely to be 'home' - or a place as close to home as we've had for the past 3 years.

Back on our mooring we decided to tackle a couple of annoying little deck leaks on the starboard side. We think that the 18 year old sealant used to seal the various fittings which are bolted down onto the deck has become brittle with age and the challenges of the temperature extremes to which the deck has been subjected. So, two stanchion bases (stanchions are the upright posts of the guard-rails around the deck perimeter) and the track for the foresail sheet car had to come off. This involved 32 bolts of varying degrees of impossibility in terms of access to their nuts on the underside of the deck so we wondered what we'd started....

The track finally removed from the deck...

... and the deck masked off with tape for the application of serious quantities of Sikaflex sealant before the whole thing was bolted back into place 
We are delighted to have finished the 2-day job and Graham has just rebuilt the locker in the aft heads which had to be removed to give access to the nuts. It's currently raining hard so we daren't look to see if we have been successful!

As a break from this fun, we sailed out to one of the Islands yesterday just for the heck of it and had a great beat out. Di got a bit chilly, though, so tried to multi-task and put her hooded sweatshirt on without removing sunglasses and whilst helming. The result was a slight wardrobe malfunction and Graham wouldn't help until he'd got a photo:

Very funny, Graham. Now help me please!
We anchored off Roberton Island and had a slightly disturbed night as strong gusts whistled through the rigging. However this morning we had the entertainment of a new neighbour arriving:

A floating back-packers' lodge which does 3-day trips around the Bay of Islands

Plenty of sea toys aboard
Anyway a break in the weather gave us the chance to sail back to the mooring  before the next rain squall and, with a lovely 18 knot NE wind, we used it to try out a new addition to the boat.

A new 'snuffer' for our 'Irish Flag' spinnaker. The old one was hopeless and kept tying the sail in knots to the extent that we hardly used the sail; this one, from North Sails, has a much neater and smaller 'funnel' and the clever idea of the hoisting and snuffing lines being captive in the blue outer sleeve so they can't snag the sail
It worked perfectly and we had a cracking sail back into Opua. The eagle-eyed experts will note the absence of the foresail on the furler - we discovered a small tear so it has been taken off for a repair.
As we were setting the spinnaker, we suddenly had about 5 large dolphins surfing in our bow wave and the breeze built so that we had a very exciting sail up the estuary. 

We are now safely back on the mooring and preparing, guess what, for more boat work tomorrow. Joe the Fridge Man is coming to try to resuscitate our aft fridge which died again only a day after it was re-gassed just before Christmas. Fingers crossed he'll be able to do some magic!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Walking on Waiheke - and news from Fulaga

We are very relieved to hear that Fulaga and the neighbouring islands escaped lightly from Cyclone Ula – just minor damage to houses and crops as far as we can tell.
We are now anchored off Waiheke Island – see http://www.yit.co.nz/yacht/maunieofardwall for the Google map of our position – just about 100m from Citrus Tart’ (Steve and Michelle) whom we last met in Fulaga. They went even more native than we did, spending 10 weeks there, so we had a great catch up with them over coffee aboard Maunie. The anchorage is well sheltered from winds in the NE to NW quadrant and so there are quite a few boats here; the wind is forecast to be gusty and northerly tomorrow, with heavy rain, so we’ll hunker down till that passes and the SW prevailing wind returns to allow us to head northwards back towards Opua at the weekend.
In the meantime we had an excellent 10km walk yesterday with Trish and Ian, followed by a BBQ lunch at their house in Oneroa. This is peak tourist season on the island, with an estimated 11,000 visitors arriving daily by ferry from Auckland, so the town and its many cafes and tourist shops were packed. As usual, though, the walking trails were pretty empty and we had lovely views from the hilltop above the Mudbrick winery.

Graham has been playing with some new software! 'Image Composite Editor' - this shot was taken as video. 
On our return to Maunie in the evening we were able to have a great chat with Ithaka, along with Obsession and Kiapa, on the SSB radio. Ithaka is now 1600 miles into her 5,500 mile passage to Chile and all is well aboard. Colin, Ana and Lucas were delighted to chat with us all and radio reception was excellent so we’ll do a catch up each evening and see how far the radio reception will stretch. Like us, they can receive plain text emails at sea but they get these via a modem inked to their SSB radio, rather than the satellite phone system that we use. They are beginning to find it difficult to get good connections via this system so are pleased that they bought a second-hand Iridium sat phone and set it up to run as a back-up method of getting their emails. They are working with a weather router called Bruce Buckley who is based in Perth, Australia, so need to be able to get his daily updates to navigate a smooth passage between the weather systems, and he’s doing a great job for them so far.
The wind is building here as we write this, but it’s coming off the land so the water remains nice and flat. A day of minor boat jobs, with perhaps a walk ashore this afternoon, lies ahead. 

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Worried about our Fulaga friends

A few months ago Kerry from Sel Citron was out in the Fulaga lagoon on the only calm day we were there and she took some amazing photos, including this one of us apparently floating in mid-air in the kayak:

We have just read, however, that this beautiful place will be anything but tranquil in the next few days. Cyclone Ula is threatening to hit the island with winds of up to 140 km/h.

Fulaga lies very close to Ono-i-Lau
More information here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/293393/cyclone-ula-threatens-southeastern-fiji

We'll be watching the news and hoping that everyone is safe.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from Auckland. We hope that your celebrations were fun. We spent the afternoon of New Year's Eve walking around Devonport and up to North Head, the imposing and heavily-fortified hill which stands at the northern entrance to Auckland's Waitemata harbour, in warm sunshine, with our mates Adam and Cindi from the yacht Bravo. 

Looking SW across the harbour towards Auckland
Torpedo Bay in the foreground and Devonport village to the right
Looking east from the WW1 gun emplacements towards the island of Rangitoto. The island only rose above the water when the volcano erupted about 600 years ago
 As the light faded we settled in to fire up the barbie and watch the fireworks launched from the Sky Tower, thanks to Shona and Malcolm generously lending us their lovely waterside apartment for the occasion.

'Sling another prawn on the barbie' as they say in these parts

A very enjoyable day! And, true to form, Graham fell asleep at about 00.30am, still clutching his quarter-full champagne glass:

Thanks to Adam for this shot!

2016 has opened with a couple of days of rain and gales here but the sunshine is due to return in a couple of days (if only the same could be said for Cumbria and SW Scotland at the moment, where storms and floods seem to be following each other with relentless regularity). We'll be leaving Auckland on Monday and spending a few days cruising gently northwards; the very vague plan is to head back to Opua and then sail further north up the east coast of Northland to explore bays and harbours that, so far, we have only seen from the car. It has been great to have a base in the city for the last month but we are looking forward to returning to wilder anchorages.