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.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

It's always nice when a plan works out

We left Bundaberg on Thursday, having ticked off quite a few things on the to-do list, for a motor-sail in light airs but smooth waters across Hervey Bay to Great Sandy Strait. This is a shallow passage between the Queensland coastline and Fraser Island, said to be the biggest sand island in the world. The navigable channels twist and turn and, although they are well marked with port and starboard buoys, you have to concentrate as you go through; the current runs at up to two knots and a corner cut too soon could leave you aground on a falling tide. This Google Earth image gives you a fair impression of the challenge.

In some places the water is only about a metre deep at low water so we were glad to time our arrival on the last of a rising tide and anchored very close to the mangrove-line shore of Fraser Island just as the sun set. It was slightly disconcerting to have the water rushing past us at about 2 knots in the anchorage but it soon calmed and then we swung in the opposite direction in the ebb.

Fraser Island itself is, by all accounts, worth a few days of exploring but we were watching the weather and tide forecasts and decided that it would be prudent to take advantage of perfect, settled weather, with light winds and very little swell to seaward, to go through the infamous Wide Bay Bar at the southern end of the island. Boats have had very uncomfortable times and several have even been rolled over in the steep, breaking swells that can form in the shallow waters there and if you miss a good weather window you can be trapped in an anchorage for several days waiting for safer conditions. So we anchored on Friday night in Pelican Bay, very close to the exit to seaward, and crossed the bar in the most benign seas at 07.00 the following morning.

The 55 mile sail south to the harbour of Mooloolaba turned out to be a great one, once the wind filled in, and we had a lovely 'three sail reach' (with spinnaker, staysail and mainsail) down the coast until the high-rise buildings of Maroochydore and Mooloolaba (just love these names!) came into sight.

The skyline came as quite a novelty to us after 5 months in Vanuatu!
Mooloolaba is a pretty amazing place - it's been built up around a big network of man-made canals surrounding the Mooloolah River, with each smart waterfront house having its own boat dock.

The main harbour has a big yacht marina, plus a fishing port and a smaller private marina.

We managed to secure a dock in the little Wharf Marina at the left hand side of this photo - really handy for the walk into the town-centre shops and cheaper than the main marina.
We were delighted to catch up with old cruising friends, Rod and Mary on Sheer Tenacity (last seen in New Zealand) and some new acquaintances that we first met in Bundaberg. Best of all, old friends Andy and Sue (from our days living in Derbyshire, some 20 years ago), with daughters Emma and Hannah, drove down from their home in Noosa, just north of here, today for lunch aboard Maunie followed by a little boat tour of the harbour. 

The challenge of getting Emma from her wheelchair and into Maunie's cockpit was tackled with typical can-do attitudes by Andy and Sue and she loved being aboard. Hannah did sterling work as lookout on the foredeck as we motored around the busy (and surprisingly shallow) harbour.
We'll catch up with the Andy and Sue when we visit them in Noosa for Melbourne Cup day on Tuesday - quite an event, we're told.

Monday, 24 October 2016

G'day - the first week in Australia

Our first week in Australia has fairly flown by but we've been busy. It's always the same after a few months spent away from first-world facilities, so we've been doing laundry, setting up an Australian bank account, getting a local mobile phone contract and re-provisioning in supermarkets that sell everything we could wish for (and more).

We have also been switching Maunie from Ocean to Coastal mode, so Winnie the Windpilot's rudder and wind-vanes have been packed away and the ocean charts have been replaced by coastal pilot books.

The Port Bundaberg Marina is great - really well organised and with some nice facilities.

The excellent Cruisers' Cove with free BBQ, fridge-freezer, kettle and crockery provided
The only downside is that we are about 20 minutes' drive from the town but there's a daily free shuttle-bus and there's also a small supermarket about 15 minutes' walk away. The marina is suddenly full of foreign boats as the destination of the Down Under Rally from New Caledonia and Vanuatu, so we've enjoyed meeting some new folks to swap stories. The local sailors have also been really helpful, sharing tips of where to visit and the various hazards of this tidal coastline to avoid.

We decided to focus on a few time-consuming boat jobs before we head south towards Brisbane in the next couple of days. Our deck remains the main area of focus since the repair of the main leak at Chesterfield Reef showed up some additional problems. Taking down the headlining (ceiling) in the forecabin showed some obvious signs of damp:

Water leaking past three bolt heads

Back to hands and knees work on deck

 A proper watertight fix - the bolt holes were drilled oversize, filled with epoxy filler then drilled and tapped so that we don't just rely on sealant at the top of the bolt hole to prevent water ingress.
In between these tasks, Graham also applied his engineer's eye to another important job:

Now, where's my spirit level?
We are getting used to the weather patterns here - it's generally been hot and sunny but once a week or so a weather front brings heavy rain and cold southerly wind. Northern Queensland is no place to be in the summer, though, as this is a cyclone zone so we need to be south of Brisbane by the end of November.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Chesterfield Reef Photos Part 4: Turtles, Sharks and Crabs

Here is the final selection pf photos from the reef, this time of the sea life in the amazingly clear waters. It was the mating season for Loggerhead turtles so we saw several pairs at work around us:

A turtle waits in the shallows for a possible mate to swim by

We were able to approach within a couple of metres to get this photo - by just putting the camera in the water at arm's length and hoping the shot would work
A male gives chase to a female....

A fair amount of grappling and boarding - some kind of design fault with those convex shells, surely?

The female is under there somewhere

She comes up for air while the male grips the top of her shell with his mouth
The shells are beautifully marked
Meanwhile, on the nearby island, these were the tracks of a female going to lay her eggs

There were sharks in the water - another yacht was gutting fish they'd caught and had a 10ft Tiger Shark nosing around them for food! We just saw this little Black Tipped Reef Shark in the shallows:

On the windward side of the island, but still protected by the reef

"Me and my shadow"

Great colours
So that's it for the reef photos (though we have lots more!!), hope you've enjoyed the virtual tour?

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Chesterfield Reef Photos Part 3: Several Good Terns and some Noddies

More from our ornithological photo-shoots at the reef. It was clear that the birds had experienced very little if any interaction with humans so, as long as we moved carefully (and watching out for eggs underfoot!) they looked at us with curiosity but no fear.

The Sooty Terns nested on the sparse grass just behind the beach

Each had one, surprisingly large, egg and in the heat of the afternoon, the parent shielded it from the sun whilst panting to stay cool

The birds were close together, with no sign of any form of nests

In the air they are the most graceful of birds...

... and very aerodynamic
These sleek birds were not ones we knew. They rested in the bushes....

.. but nested on the ground. We this think they are Black Noddies 
Again, they were't disturbed by our presence

Whilst the chicks are pretty round and fluffy....

... the adults are very elegant, particularly in flight

One final batch of photos to come, folks - some hard-core turtle-on-turtle action plus sharks and crabs.

Chesterfield Reef Photos Part 2: Big Gannets and Massive Boobies

It's been difficult to edit down hundreds of photos but here is a selection of the Gannets and Boobies nesting on the little islands of the reef.

Gannets are amazingly effective fishing machines, able to dive from around 100ft above the water, folding their wings back and deploying outer eyelids to protect their sight at they hit the water at 50mph to skewer their prey.

They nest on the sand, with just a little indentation dug out a for their single egg

A very young chick peeks out from under its parent

The chicks become pretty big and ungainly!
There were several variants of Boobies, roosting and nesting in the scrubby little trees behind the beach

We loved the blue-billed ones

Some made nest on the ground, presumably failing to secure a much-valued tree

The chicks were huge and fluffy things and seemed to be left to fend for themselves in the trees whilst parents went fishing
An older chick, its adult feathers coming through nicely, copes with the heat by gaping its beak and panting

They seemed to be bigger than their parents thanks to all that fluffy down
These birds are pretty ungainly on land but wonderful to watch in the air
As we were about to leave the reef, one came for a final visit to Maunie''s bow
More photos to follow.....