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.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

A different kind of wind and a new Flux Capacitor

We sailors spend a lot of time thinking about wind and, to be honest, we're rarely satisfied with what we get. The perfect '15-knots-on-the-beam' conditions are all too rare and we're either moaning that there's not enough breeze, too much or it's from the wrong direction. 'On the nose' is generally no fun, with the boat heeled over and zig-zagging painfuly slowly towards our destination whilst 'blowing right up our arse' is only marginally better (the boat tends to roll drunkenly with sudden lurches down waves, just as your trying to pour boiling water into a mug in the galley).

Wind blowing the other direction from your arse isn't much fun, either, as we've discovered over the past week. The skipper has been feeling distinctly poorly and has been trumping for England (not to be confused with Trumping for America, which is a lot more serious). Easter weekend here was absolutely beautiful (and pretty windless, apart from on board Maunie) so we anchored out in the Bay of Islands and, despite feeling distinctly bleukish, Graham went for a swim. And managed two laps of the boat without moving any of his limbs.

One of the bays of Moturua Island
Anyway, back to Opua after the bank holiday, Graham booked an appointment with local GP, who's also a sailor as it happens. Dr Hoffer is Canadian and has a cracking sense of humour, slightly at the expense of a student doctor who attended the consultation. After listening to the list of symptoms and doing a detailed examination, he turned to his student and said, "Well, whadya think?". Student looked a bit blank. "Need a clue?... In Canada it's called Beaver Fever". 

"That's really helpful!" she replied, presumably never having been to Canada.

"I think its giardia." pronounced the doctor. Giardia, if you haven't met it before, is a pathogen that stays alive as a cyst in fresh water, is pretty much impervious to chlorine and is only killed by boiling the water; it's a pretty common issue in the developing world and amongst the outdoor adventure fraternity who drink water from apparently crystal clear streams. Not sure how Graham got it (Di is fine) but the fix was 5 sizeable pills taken all at the same time (with a strict no-alcohol warning) - hopefully he should be feeling better in a couple of days.

Life, in spite of this minor setback, has been moving along with quite a lot achieved. We're finalising lists of things to do and buy before we leave NZ in May (more details of our plans to follow in the next update) and checking the boat thoroughly. Last week's horrible weather meant that, for the first time in ages, the solar panels weren't keeping up with our electricity demands so we started the generator, only to find that the battery charger wasn't working. We checked all the connections and finally had to call in the help of the professionals - Mark the spark found that the generator was only producing 190v AC, hedging its bets somewhat between the US 110v and the UK 240v. 

We had immediate forebodings and thoughts of having to get the generator out from its locker (no fun) and ashore for (expensive) repairs but Mark came back with a new Capacitor (which looks like an aluminium drinks can and costs about $30) and, hey presto, we're back at 240v and the charger is working again. We should clarify that the faulty item was a capacitor, not a Flux Capacitor which was, of course, the main component of the DeLorean time machine in Back to the Future. In any case getting Maunie up to the required 88mph would have been pretty difficult, no how matter how much wind we had aboard.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

All calm again

After some pretty wild gusts in the night we are delighted to report that the wind has dropped to almost nothing and the rain has stopped. The clouds are clearing and we hope to see the sun soon! Relief!

North East 40 knots, gusting 55 knots

The first storm of the Autumn has arrived her in North Island. It has been forecast for a few days so we decided to move off our mooring and anchor in the shelter of the land near the town of Russell. Our mooring is usually pretty sheltered but it's not a great spot in strong NE winds, particularly when the flood tide causes the water to ramp up into and uncomfortable wind-against-tide chop.

The anchor is buried deep in soft mud with lots of chain out, we don't have boats to windward of us (always a worry if they start dragging their anchors) and there is plenty of space behind us but the wind has been building all day. Last night we had fairly disturbed sleep as the gusts made Maunie heel over and the wind whistled through the rigging but the forecast for tonight is a lot worse:

Gale warning.
Northeast 30 knots gusting 40 knots rising to 40 knots gusting 55 knots this evening. Sea becoming very rough this evening. Poor visibility in rain

55 knots is the top end of a Storm Force 10 on the Beaufort Scale.

So this afternoon we hauled the dinghy aboard to lash it down on the foredeck - we had it braced with the spinnaker pole alongside the boat but the gust were still trying to lift it.

The only upside in sitting, trapped, aboard in this weather has been that we've been able to get on with lots of admin jobs and Graham has been working on the watermaker pump to solve a problem of low output.

We'd already discovered that the fault was a damaged valve (after quite a struggle to take the pump apart) so a set of spares were sent to us by the excellent UK agents and the watermaker is now back to full health.

The damaged valve
So, a few more jobs ticked off the list and we just hope to be able to get some sleep tonight as Maunie veers from side to side as the gusts tumble off the hill ahead of us. Out in the main Bay of Islands the automatic weather station is reporting gusts of 45 knots at the moment but we're getting more like 35 so we're hoping it won't get much worse here. The GPS anchor alarm is set and Graham plans to sleep up in the pilothouse to be ready for action if it's needed - hopefully not!

Saturday, 19 March 2016

City Break 2

Brisbane is Australia's third-largest city, with a population of just over 2 million (roughly twice the size of Auckland). Originally a convict settlement (in 1824), then a harbour town, it has grown dramatically in recent years and there is still a lot of building work going on. It sits on a river which burst its banks causing significant flooding and damage in 2011 and again in 2013 but since then vast sums of money have been spent on building new boardwalks along the river front with landings for the regular high speed ferries travelling up and down the river. Here are a few photos from our day and a half there:

Looking across from the South Bank towards the old Government Treasury Building and Commissariat Store Building, surrounded by the modern face of the Central Business District (CBD)

Looking down river, the ferries on the move
The old Treasury is now, fittingly, a casino 

Wesley Mission Church on Albert St

City Hall

One of the City Cat ferries

It's possible to anchor or moor a yacht here - we'll try to bring Maunie here later this year!

The Story Bridge looks better at night!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

A surprise for Di's Aunt Brenda

Part of our plan for the week in Australia was to surprise Di's Aunt who lives in Kingscliff, a couple of hours south of Brisbane. Thanks to Claire, Brenda's best friend and neighbour, it's fair to say that it worked a treat!

If you are viewing the blog on an iPad or have trouble opening the video in the window above then you'll need to click HERE to see it.

Once she'd got over the shock, Brenda was delighted to see us and we stayed a night with her before driving back up to Brisbane.

With Brenda and Claire on the Gold Coast
Thanks to Claire for her great work behind the scenes and to Brenda for welcoming us.

To Australia!

First sighting of curious wildlife - and Ibis at Brisbane Airport
You will know by now that our lives are terribly stressful so will, we are sure, understand that we needed a week's holiday in Australia. Actually, what we really needed was to extend our 6-months visitors' visas in NZ and that involves a lot of form-filling, a fairly costly fee and a full medical including chest x-rays to prove we don't have TB. It's actually cheaper and a lot more fun to get a cheap flight to Oz because our NZ visas automatically renew on our return!

So we flew into Brisbane last Thursday, hired a Toyota Forgettable 1.5i with 195,000km on the clock and drove north a couple of hours to stay with British friends Andy & Sue and their daughters Hannah and Emma. They have lived out in the beautiful area of Noosa for ten years or so and were wonderful hosts. Andy and Graham used to work together, making Christmas Puddings at Matthew Walker in Derbyshire, so there was a good deal of catching up to be done over long walks in the beautiful sub-tropical forests and during some great meals. 
With Sue and Andy at their lovely home in the countryside

This was Graham's first visit to Australia (Di spent several months here in her early 20's, but over on the west side of the country) so we are loving it here. The wildlife, and not just the Ibis at the airport, has been amazing and the coastline is pretty awesome.

A great surf beach along the Noosa National Park

An 80cm long Monitor Lizard. Graham chased it with his camera and then Andy pointed out the risks of poisonous snakes, spiders and the often fatal result of a lizard bite. Oops, we're no longer in safe NZ then!

Even the plants are aggressive here - the Strangle Fig finally kills the huge tree it envelops.

Di and Sue looking for Koalas in the trees

We nearly put our hand on this 'branch' but it's actually a bird of prey called a Tawny Frogmouth which is incredibly well camouflaged (see how its feather merge into the bark) and allowed us to be within half a metre of it without it moving.

It was watching us closely though!
Another well-camouflaged wild animal - the gorgeous Pipi on an England shirt. Yes, we were up early for the terrific England-Wales rugby.

Andy and Hannah on the a local volcanic outcrop - all around is dense forest

Looking out to Noosa Heads. In theory we could sail Maunie into the Noosa River but the entrance has a notorious sand bar which makes is impossible if there is any swell.

We stayed in Noosa for three nights before driving south and inland to spend a night in a B&B in Tamborine Mountain, another beautiful spot. After that it was a short drive to Kingscliff on the coast to surprise somebody. More on that to follow shortly!

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

City Break No 1

We had a day in Auckland ( a 4-hour trip by bus) last week, en route to somewhere else (blog update to follow!). Lovely clear blue sky and bright sunshine so Graham had his camera out - a few photos follow:

The amazing ASB bank building
Detail of the decorative sun-shading in front of the windows

The Viaduct exhibition centre

Prop Forward

The new NZ flag? A referendum is currently underway but polls suggest that the majority prefer the existing flag

Maori carving 
The Ferry Building

As always, it was good to stop and people-watch from one of the harbourside cafes. 

Di relaxing in the sunshine
We'll post the next installment soon - the journey involved a flight!

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Farewell, Horace, faithful friend

Feeling a little emotional here as we've just said goodbye to a close friend who has been with us for two and a half years. He's been the best kind of friend too - always there for us, ready to go anywhere at a moment's notice, reliable and uncomplaining. But, at sixteen years, old we had to think of him and let him go to someone else whilst he's still got that wonderful shine to his coat and hasn't started to falter.

Still shiny after all these years

Two and a half years of motoring around NZ has cost us about £1000 in depreciation, £500 in insurance, £200 for new tyres and £150 for servicing so Horace has given us pretty cheap and completely reliable transport. It's made us realise the wisdom of buying old but good cars - ok you don't get all the latest gizmos but Horace was comfy, had aircon and a CD player and, of course, the roof bars for our amazing camping expeditions around New Zealand.

 For the next couple of months we'll manage with buses and generous offers of loan cars for any trips to the shops and so we're pleased to have sold him now rather than worrying and potentially selling the car cheaply just as we were about to set sail in May.

Thanks to Claire for kindly putting the successful advert on Trade Me (the equivalent of eBay) for us!

Friday, 4 March 2016

Help for cyclone-devastated villages in Fiji

The horrific extent of the damage to remote islands and villages in Fiji caused by Cyclone Winston is becoming all too clear.

Relief organisations and funds are gearing up to help but, from a distance, it's often hard to know what we, as concerned individuals, might be able to do to help.

Well, there is a wonderful organisation called Sea Mercy http://www.seamercy.org/ which operates in the Pacific and uses volunteering yachts to deliver medical and practical aid in places where, often, the 'big' agencies just can't reach. Last year our friends Staffan and Elinor on Salsa and Brian and Sue on Darramy joined the effort following the cyclone in Vanuatu and did amazing, inspiring things to help the remote villagers there. 

This year, already, Sea Mercy is in action in Fiji and several yachts that were in Fiji during the cyclone and escaped damage are delivering much needed supplies to places that had seen no outside help for almost a week. More yachts will sail up to Fiji once the cyclone season is officially ended (1st April) but, in the meantime, Sea Mercy are appealing for financial donations to continue with the small but hard-working team that they have already in place. Their immediate focus is to supply food, clothing, cooking utensils and temporary shelters to small communities flattened by the storm but they will then move on to longer-term medical care and re-building projects.

Their daily update blog is very informative - here's a good example from a couple of days ago: http://seamercyupdates.blogspot.co.nz/2016/03/sea-mercy-loading-supplies-for-taveuni.html  

The Cyclone story has already dropped out of the media spotlight but the challenge for Fiji will remain for many months. We were relieved to hear that our friends in Fulaga were spared but other places we visited and loved are now disaster zones. There is a 'Donate' button on the Sea Mercy blog and funds will go straight to the place where they are needed with no big-organisation overheads to be covered. So if you can help in any way, please do.