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, 30 April 2016

It's a Superpod!!

Our new resident marine biologist has been enjoying the many sightings of Blue Penguins over the past few days but we've known that she's really been hoping for something slightly bigger in the water. Laura has sailed with us for many years and it has become almost embarrassing that we never seem to spot dolphins when she's aboard but we were delighted to say that this wasn't a problem on today's 74nm sail from Great Barrier Island to Whangaruru Harbour.

We had to make sure Laura was clipped on in her excitement

It was great to have some expertise on board so we learnt that we were in the company of Common Dolphins who normally travel in pods of maybe 8 or 9 females or 3 or 4 males. We we lost count at nearly one hundred, all around us with thirty or so taking it in turns to play in Maunie's bow wave. Such a gathering of pods is known as a Superpod so we were very lucky to be part of it. 

A dolphin scrum under the bow

We love the bubbles on the nearest dolphin

More players surf down our wake

Creating its own wake
Laura will add her own take on the experience on her blog in the next day or so.

Friday, 29 April 2016

I name this ship...

The new dinghy has been launched and we're very pleased with it....

Following the wonderful story of the British Research Council, who recently opened up an online competition to choose a name for its multi-million pound Antarctic research ship only to have the name Boaty McBoatface gain the vast majority of votes, it has now become known as Dinghy McDingface or DMD for short.

DMD provided us with the means to enjoy a return visit to the lovely Man O' War winery on the east side of Waiheke. Last time we were here, with Barbara, Steve and Amy just before Christmas, it was a rather chilly day but this time we enjoyed brilliant warm sunshine for our lunch out in the garden.

A delicious lunch

We have since sailed over to Great Barrier Island, taking advantage of the settled weather and the out-of-season peace in the often-busy anchorages. The southerly winds will swing round to northerlies on Sunday so it looks as though we'll have a 4.00am start tomorrow to head back up to Opua; so it's not all wine and cheese..

Monday, 25 April 2016

And then there were three

Auckland bathed in sunset light
We are delighted to report that Maunie's crew has a new addition - our niece Laura flew into Auckland on Thursday and shrugged off the effects of the long flight and jet-lag with aplomb. She's had a few days to acclimatise to the relatively hectic pace of city life before we set off today for some sailing back up to Opua. The weather looks pretty settled for the next few days so it'll give us the opportunity to explore the coast and islands in the way north.

Laura has sailed with us on four different boats (the first was just 21ft) since she was about eight years old and she's a good sailor and a very competitive helmswoman so it's going to be great to have three of us to share the night watches on the passage up to Vanuatu. With her Masters in Marine Biology, we are also looking forward to having some expertise on board when it comes to identifying sea creatures up in the tropics. She has her own blog called theadventuresofasharkaholic so it was fitting that the transport to the excellent Kelly Tarlton's Sealife Centre was this:

Transport of Delight for a Sharkaholic

Laura updating her blog at the marina internet station
Relaxing by the Viaduct marina
Apart from the important task of settling in tour crew, we've had a busy week in the Pier 21 marina here. We finally decided that our 19 year old inflatable dinghy (a very commendable age) was ready for replacement as Graham was having to add new patches to it fairly regularly and it had a slight water leak as well. 

Not bad for its age but ready for someone else to love it!
We've bought a very smart Zodiac dinghy, which we got at a good end-of-season sale price and tax-free, so will post photos of its maiden voyage soon. However we were left with the challenge of what to do with the old dinghy which was too good to scrap but not really worth much; friends suggested we put it onto Trade Me (the NZ version of eBay) so Graham spent some time giving it a good clean and fixing the last of its air leaks, whilst wondering if the effort would be worthwhile and thinking we might get about $50. Anyway, the bidding went mad and it sold for $282 to a chap who plans to use it for duck-shooting on a river about 3 hours south of Auckland!

We had a final catch up with Tony, Claire and Ursa the Newfoundland yesterday with a nice amble along the waterfront yesterday. Newfoundlands are, of course, great water dogs so Ursa was very happy to have a swim in the Viaduct harbour.

Please can I swim?

Claire had to paddle to reassure Ursa that t was ok!

Still not sure about that plastic cow!
So we are just about to head off for a sail and it looks like a good day - plenty of breeze to practice some routines before we head over to find a sheltered (we hope) anchorage for the night.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Video of dolphins under Maunie's bow

Last week we had about 8 dolphins playing under our bow for about 20 minutes as we sailed south past the port of Tutukaka. Graham lashed the GoPro onto the end of the boat-hook and plunged it beneath the surface to see just how effortless they make it seem.

Have a look at the video HERE

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

What now? Where Next?

If our memories serve us correctly, one of the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ books, by the late Douglas Adams, describes a small, mist-clad planet in an unfashionable corner of the galaxy. It was called “What Now” – so named after the first words uttered by its unhappy discoverers as they gazed upon its dismal, sodden, dripping landscape. 

Even the most inhospitable place will attract hardy adventurers determined to scrape out a living, however, so there was just one settlement on the planet, the small town of Where Next. Its hardy, or perhaps foolhardy, inhabitants shared this miserable place with the planet’s only native species, the Whatnowian Boghog, a creature with sharp fangs, a leathery skin and a particularly malevolent nature, so they would wear thick padded leggings as protection from its unprovoked attacks. Scientists (armed with padded leggings and hefty clubs) studied the Whatnowian Boghog in great detail to try to find out how it had evolved to cope with the cold, wet and miserable climate of What Now but they concluded that actually the Boghogs were just as cold, wet and miserable as everyone else and simply hadn’t yet evolved sufficiently to find a way of leaving.

Anyway, we digress. Where were we? Ah, yes: what now and where next….

Well, our increasingly inaccurately-named three-year circumnavigation is now into its fourth year and we are still only half way around the world. We therefore think we owe our patient readers something of an explanation. “It’s not so much the destination as the journey, they say”, to quote Captain Jack Sparrow, but, in looking forward, maybe it’s helpful to start by looking back at where we’ve been.

We left Dartmouth in August 2012 and sailed some 4500 miles, via France, Spain and Portugal, to arrive in the Caribbean for Christmas:

March 2013 saw us leaving the Caribbean, transiting the Panama Canal and crossing the Pacific, via the Galapagos, Marquesas, Tuamotus, Tahiti, Cook Islands, and Tonga, to New Zealand, a journey of nearly 9000 nautical miles and eight months:

When you see the world from this angle, you realise just how vast the Pacific Ocean really is!

The second half of the Pacific crossing
Having spent our first summer in New Zealand from November 2013 to April 2014, we’d decided that we’d barely scratched the surface of the Pacific Islands so 2014 saw us return to Tonga and then explore a bit of Fiji, with just a modest 3300 miles added to our log:

At the end of 2014 we were back for another dose of New Zealand exploring (and a 6-week trip back to the UK by plane) but we realised we just hadn’t quite got to the bottom of Fiji, so last year went back there again (a round-trip of about 3000 miles):

Some additional details of our Fiji voyaging
So far, so good but the relatively modest mileages of the past two years (which, of course, have been added to with coastal cruising in New Zealand) are nothing to what lies ahead on our route home. The next big voyage, via the east and north coasts of Australia and the islands of Cocos Keeling, Rodruiges, Mauuritius and Reunion, would see us cross the Indian Ocean to arrive in South Africa for Christmas – over 11,000 challenging miles to the Cape of Good Hope, which, incidentally, was previously named the Cape of Storms before the marketing people got involved.

So, we were gearing ourselves up for all this until we thought, “Hang on, what about Australia? Sydney and Tasmania and all those interesting places that we’ll have no time to visit?”. So, as some of you may already know, we’ve changed our plan, again. It’s probably now Plan F, though Tim, Graham’s old boss at Yeo Valley, recommends we call it Plan A, where ‘A’ stands for ‘again’.

So this year we’ve decided that we’re going to spend a few months in the amazing, unspoilt islands of Vanuatu then sail across to the east coast of Australia, work our way southwards to Sydney and, we hope, down to Tasmania, and then sail across to the South Island of New Zealand, a trip of some 4600 miles.

This trip will, unlike 2015, see us voyaging pretty much continuously for ten months, returning to NZ in February or March. The more perceptive, however, might realise that it leaves us no closer to home than we are now. Hmmm, time for some lateral thinking and some air miles; we plan to fly back home in April 2017 for 9 months or so for some work and house projects, leaving Maunie safely stored ashore for a well-earned rest, before we return to resume the homeward-bound voyage.

So that’s it, Plan A, sorted. Unless Donald Trump becomes President and Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister, of course; in that scenario we’d be looking at charts for the planet What Now.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Putting Maunie aground (deliberately!)

Regular readers will know that the yachting equivalent of the 10,000 mile car service is to hoist the boat out of the water to do some important hull-cleaning and servicing. Usually it's an expensive process using a 'boat-lift' crane in an expensive yard but yesterday we used a much more traditional and less-costly way of getting at Maunie's bottom. We put her aground..

Alongside the old wooden pier at 07.30, half an hour after high tide

Four hours later - very important to have her leaning towards the pier as she settles onto the beach!

The view from Doug's boatyard

Maunie looking good after some scrubbing 

The main job we needed to do - replacing the corroded bolts that are used to mount the zinc anode (which protects the expensive propeller from corrosion). They go right through the hull so it's important that the seal is good!

Doug's Boatyard uses a very old system of rails and trolleys, complete with a turntable, for hauling boats ashore

The winch is from WW2, with an electric motor coupled to an old car gearbox. One can only think that the health & safety police will get to it sometime but it's a lovely, ingenious system.
The downside of drying out between tides like this is that you have to work fast, with the water coming back in awfully fast. However we managed to get everything done and, at just $30 for the use of the pier and a hose, it was a bargain!

Sunday, 3 April 2016


Graham's pleased to report that the 'shock dose' of tablets seems to be doing the trick... This morning dawned windless and foggy (just to mark the end of NZ summer time).

Only the closest boats were visible in the fog
Poor visibility didn't deter the regular trio of ducks arriving for breakfast...

.... then moving on for better servings!

A hint of blue as the mist began, ever so slowly, to burn up in the morning sun

What's this - a fogbow?

The fog finally lifts.