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, 29 February 2016

Customer Service!

Generally speaking, we have been pretty impressed with the levels of customer service we have experienced in NZ. However, that's often the way with small companies and bigger businesses all too often fail.

Not so with Dometic NZ Ltd, the company behind the Waeco fridge that we installed recently. When we were trying to work out whether the slider device would fit into our locker we emailed their helpline and got some excellent advice from a wonderful chap called Shane. He even went to the lengths of unpacking one from its box and taking a photo which he then clearly annotated with dimensions so we knew exactly what we'd be ordering.

We sent him a link to this blog to show the final part of the story and, a few days later received an email: "We have read your blog with interest. Since you have gone to great lengths
to install your new WAECO CFX-40 Fridge/Freezer, we would like to send you a wireless display as a parting gift to use on the high seas."

Sure enough a parcel arrived at the marina office and we now have another bit of tech on Maunie:

The display talks to the fridge over a wireless link to show temperature and supply voltage, plus any temperature alarms. The blue back-light makes for a very useful nightlight in the galley, too!
A wireless link to a fridge is one thing - but how about a charging point for your iPhone?!

So, well done Dometic and thank-you Shane for brilliant pre- and after-sales service!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Whangaroa Harbour - Wow!

We've had a fabulous spinnaker sail round to Whangaroa Harbour. What a place! Have a look at our anchorage spot HERE

A few GoPro photos of the trip:

The Irish Flag flying

Approaching the entrance to the harbour

The view from our anchorage - the water is pretty muddy, as Graham discovered when he went for a swim!
We have heard good news and bad from Fiji - it seems that Fulaga escaped major damage from the cyclone but Savusavu has been badly hit. The wonderfully eccentric Curly Carswell (a NZ expat who lives on a houseboat in Savusavu harbour and is a mine of information for visiting cruisers) has updated his blog with this information:

"Comms back up last night...

I'm OK I guess but finding it very difficult to get around left leg injured ,  house boat damaged by 11 boats crashing into it as they wizzing past, but she is floating and mooring held

Winds well in excess of 135 Knot's BUT Gusts hate to think how much over 135!!!!!!!

Savusavu is a Disaster Area, Nawi looks naked; 22 Vessels up on rocks or aground, some badly damaged Heart-Beat - sunk on shore , Quickzotic Cat-Port Hull holed she is on rocks-Cruiser team working on her, Amosea Island Cat way up on rocks both hulls holed-badly damaged;Pacifica parked against sea wall next to MH Port Hull pierced by Power Pole badly damaged,Stella Rosa  will probably sink. high number of Local power boats upside down or sunk.Damage to housing and infrastructure major/major.....roading has been hit hard, no road apparently to Cousteau., Power out in many area's , probably 60 % of trees down.

I called a meeting of all cruisers  day after TC Winston went thru, very well attended, we are getting organized to help ALL effected yachts, Priorities set ,  darn it some grumbling as they want priority ho hum....now we have comms we will be able to move quicker....lots of shops not open staff working on homes etc It is awesome how most of the fleet are working together......

More later  on overload and not able to  do my own repairs"

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Calm and sunny in NZ, anything but that in Fiji

We have just emerged from several days of gales and really heavy rain - the result of cyclonic activity north of NZ (more of this later). We actually decided to take advantage of the conditions and went sailing on Wednesday, as the gale approached, to do some heavy-weather training:

Sailing with triple-reefed mainsail and reefed yankee

Three reefs makes the mainsail very small so we have only had to use it in this configuration a couple of times since we bought the boat
Practicing heaving-to with just the staysail and the main

The 'backed' staysail balances the mainsail so the boat all-but stops in the water and sits comfortably balanced

The staysail is 'self-tacking' so a strap was needed to keep the sheet car to windward
 In spite of the gale warning we didn't see winds of more that 28 knots so the conditions were ideal for us to play. Strangely enough, we were the only boat out there!

On Friday evening the wind calmed down and the sun returned so we now have blue skies and hot sunshine. We're currently anchored in a bay about a mile from Opua and went ashore last night for a lovely supper with Peter and Angela in their beautiful house overlooking the bay. Peter is 'Mr Northland Radio' so gave us a tour of his hugely-impressive radio room; it was great to be able to see his work space as no doubt we'll be chatting to him from the Tropics this year.

The view from Peter and Angela's house - Maunie is to the far right
Our calm and sunny conditions are very different from those of Fiji just now. Cyclone Winston, a Category 5 storm, is said to be the strongest cyclone to be recorded in the South Pacific (with winds up to 160mph) and it has wrought havoc across the country. Photos and videos are beginning to emerge, showing destroyed houses and boats and ships driven ashore. We don't yet know how our friends on Fulaga and Kadavu have coped; we have tried calling Fulaga on the SSB radio but so far without reply. Our thoughts are with them.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Keeping the beers and wines cool

Earlier blog updates have mentioned The Fridge Project which has rather dominated our lives for the past month. Now that (thankfully!) it’s completed we can explain what’s been going on.

Maunie was built with two fridges. One is a top-loading one under the aft seat of the starboard settee in the pilothouse and is well-insulated and energy efficient, the other was a small front-opening fridge of the sort you’d find in a campervan. Maunie’s first owner was Irish so we think that this was the designated Guinness fridge but it was never terribly efficient and it was difficult to remove things without triggering an avalanche of food, particularly when the boat was heeled over. Last year, after 17 years’ of service, we had to replace its compressor but this year the door hinges dropped a little so keeping  the cold air in and the warm air out became increasingly difficult and the thing was using a lot of amps.

To add to our cooling challenge, not long after we arrived in New Zealand the ‘good’ fridge’s compressor died so we were left with some expensive replacements to consider. We really didn’t want to replace the Guinness fridge with another of the same design so a refrigeration engineer in Auckland  suggested we get one of the new-generation Waeco portable fridges; they are designed to be bounced around in the back of pick-up trucks in the harsh Australian climate, are very efficient and will run at minus 22⁰C if you need a freezer. So we bought a CFX-40 model at a very good sale price (about £450) and managed to get the nearly-new compressor of the old fridge switched to the top-loader to return it to life. Now all we had to do is to find a way to install the Waeco into the boat in a way that would be practical and not unsightly.
The space vacated by the old Guinness Fridge; a new floor put in and coat of paint applied. The new compressor for the aft fridge was moved outboard and the grey and yellow box (the 240v AC battery charger) was shifted back as far as it would go

Graham cutting the front panel to make way for further surgery

Ready for the next stage

We discovered that Waeco make a ‘slider unit’ for about £150 which looked just the thing we needed. However it was slightly wider than the space we had to play with and would only just fit lengthways so some serious surgery to the woodwork was required.

The Waeco slider unit

The bottom of the locker bulkhead had to be cut to allow the slider to be rotated into place

The power cables to the left had to be re-routed to make space. Note the computer cooling fans which draw just 0.2A if needed in very warm conditions to remove hot air from the cabinet

The fridge on its slider, which locks in the open and closed positions

The final part of the project was to enlist the skills of Bill Kidman, an ex-boatbuilder who now runs the aptly-named ‘Interesting Projects’ joinery business in Opua. Bill made a new door and frame to hide the fridge whilst allowing good air-flow for its cooling fan.

The new woodwork 

The door open to reveal the fridge

We feel we should wire up some kind of fanfare sound when the fridge slides out!

The fridge opened - no beers or wine to be seen
After a lot of head-scratching and hard work we are delighted with the result. The two fridges now use about one third of the power of the old arrangement (about 12Ah from 10.00pm to 8.00am for example). We hope that it'll all work well in practice.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Completing the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk

The Lake Waikaremoana hike is one of New Zealand’s designated ‘Great Walks’ and covers nearly 50km around a lake formed only 2,200 years ago when a huge landslide blocked a substantial river gorge to the north west of Napier. The lake is in the middle of dense native forests, an area of unspoilt natural beauty and strong Maori culture, though today its apparently placid waters deliver about one percent of the country’s electricity via three hydro-electric power stations built in the late 1940’s. 

Irene from Kiapa suggested the hike and did some superb organisational work so the crews of Maunie, Sel Citron (Damian and Kerry) and Peregrine (Bill and Maria) just had to organise the borrowing of backpacks, sleeping bags and camping stoves to take part. It’s a four-day hike, you see, with overnight stays in DOC (Department of Conservation) huts en-route.  Just getting to the place is a challenge – miles and miles of twisty gravel roads – but it was certainly worth the effort! There's a good map showing the route and the location of the huts HERE and there follow a few photos to give you some idea of the trip:

The route was well-marked though the timings were sometimes optimistic

Very wet conditions on Day 2 as we walked close to the lake's shores

We were very pleased to arrive at the Waiopaoa Hut after a walk of nearly 20km....

... and, as the rain finally lifted, a swim in the Lake was very refreshing

The wood burning stove was well-stoked to dry out walking boots and clothing!

Sleeping arrangements were pretty basic - two giant bunk beds, each with about 12 mattresses and at least a couple of noisy snorers. We didn't sleep well for the first two nights but after that we were so tired that we could have slept through anything.
 On Day 3 and 4 we left the shoreline and climbed up to 1100m to Panekire Hut. Thankfully the weather cleared to give us some fantastic views:

Penekire Hut at the summit

Inside the hut

Early morning mist clearing from the lake
We just had to see the Bald Knob!

Quite a view, indeed, at the Bald Knob
Dianne taking it all in

Lower down the track - the Balk Knob is the escarpment to the left
Walking down through the beech forest

The hiking team - back row (l to r): Bill, Maria, Damian, Kerry and Irene. Great company to be with.
Thanks in particular to Irene for organising the trip and to the rest of the team for being such fun; we had a brilliant time and feel remarkably good after it all!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The final chat with Ithaka and another Stormvogel moment

This evening we had the last SSB radio conversation with Ithaka. After 42 days at sea they will reach Valdivia in Chile tomorrow and we feel privileged to have been able to talk to them each night since we left the noisy (in radio terms) marina in Auckland. Our latest radio conversation was at a distance of about 5,500nm, well over a quarter of the way around the globe, and our signals bounced at least four times off the ionosphere and the earth to reach them. Amazing for such 'old' technology.

Ithaka sailing in Tonga in 2013
Colin, Ana and their crew Lucas have done an amazing job and sailed a near-perfect passage. Lucas, originally from Argentina, was working in Canada when he answered Ithaka's call via an internet site which acts as a match-making service for yachts and crews. After an interview over Skype, Lucas was hired and he's turned out to be a great asset aboard the boat. Can you imagine, though, the risks for both him and for Ana and Colin? At least with an internet dating service, the worst case scenario is a boring evening meal with someone who bears no relation to their on-line profile; they had the prospect of living with each other for 42 days in a tiny space with no other human interaction apart from some strange conversations with a couple of English people in NZ!

It was whilst we were having these nightly radio 'scheds' that the latest in a series of frankly spooky Stormvogel / Maunie connections came to light.  About a week ago, a new voice called up at the end of our radio net and it was a chap called Peter Mott who has set up a new, private, NZ shore radio station (based in Russell, just across the estuary from here) called Northland Radio. Since then he’s called up each night and has been super-helpful in advising on best frequencies to use at the huge distances, so we invited him and his wife Angela to come over to Maunie on Tuesday.
Over coffee he said he used to be a sailing yacht man but moved over to a power boat and had a Nordhavn 47 which he bought in the States and brought to NZ. “Oh,” we said, “ we have great friends, Peter and Heidi, crewing on one of those across the Atlantic at the moment. It’s called Southern Star.”
“That was my boat!” he replied, “I sold it to Robbie (the current owner).”

Small world.

Back here we are about to get off Maunie for a week and, to be honest, we are looking forward to a little break from the boat work. Graham has taken a saw to one of the lockers and Dianne has been joining in the fun with some water pump maintenance:

The Fridge Project continues - more to follow!

Di accessing the nether regions of the water pump

We are driving south for what promises to be a fun weekend in Tauranga to celebrate Lionel (skipper of Kiapa) turning 60. After that we are heading into the wilderness for a 4-day hike, involving three overnights in trekking huts, around Lake Waikaremoana - it's one of NZ's "Great Walks" so we are looking forward to it, with a slight degree of trepidation.