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, 30 November 2016

Bums protecting their asset, then moving south

A few days in the Bums Bay anchorage allowed us to do a useful job. The latest asset on Maunie's inventory, the folding bicycle, has already been well used and we wanted to protect it from scratches and salty water when it's stored in the cockpit locker. So the Sailrite sewing machine came out and we used offcuts of material (from a project to make Graham's father a new boom cover for his boat a few years ago) and recycled an old but serviceable zip to make this waterproof bag.

The bag was lined with some of Maunie's original foresail to make it chafe-resistant.

Tidy, eh?
A very productive way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

We are now heading south along the coast and it feels like quite a novelty to be at sea rather than feeling our way along shallow inland channels. We have a 110nm overnight passage to the town of Iluka at the mouth of the mighty Clarence River in NSW. Great conditions so far- 15 knots from the NE so we hope that it'll be a good trip.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Becoming a Bum (for a few days only)

We're anchored in the Marine Stadium, just north of Southport on the Gold Coast. Mention that name to local boaters and they'll look confused for a moment and then say, "Yea, right, ya mean Bums' Bay?".

When the Gold Coast Seaway (at the top right of the photo above) was constructed in the 1980's to create a safer, all tide access from the Broadwater out to the sea, the excavated sand was used to make Wavebreak Island to the west of the opening and the Marine Stadium was built just to the south on The Spit. It wasn't designed to be an anchorage but soon became a haven for live-aboards on a variety of sometimes rather tatty vessels, hence the more popular name. Nowadays there's a 7-day maximum anchorage allowance, more or less enforced, and the boats are, mostly, seaworthy. Big houseboats built on catamaran hulls are pretty popular in these sheltered waters and there are a few of them here, in between the yachts and motorboats.

A Moreton Bay houseboat - this one seen a bit further north in the bay

To the south of us lies the town of Southport and the high-rise tourist resort of Surfers Paradise which, to our eyes, is pretty hideous.

Since we last updated this blog, we've had a very sociable time, first meeting up with sailing acquaintances Brian and Audrie who live near here. We first met Brian when he was crewing on Liberty VI, belonging to his friend Greg, on the passage from Panama across the Pacific. Two years ago they were on a week's holiday in Fiji and spotted us in Denarau anchorage and gave us their address so it was lovely to see them again; they took us on a great day trip for lunch at Tambourine Mountain where we got to pet the hotel dog at the St Bernard Inn:

We then took a tram and bus down across the NSW border to visit Di's aunt Brenda and her great pal Claire and had a lovely time with them in Kingscliff; this time we didn't arrive a surprise (last time we caught Brenda's reaction on video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEMmRsZ8jYo&feature=youtu.be.) 

Since then, the ‘small world’ nature of sailing was once again illustrated when we met the boats Ginelli and Calista (both last seen at Oyster Resort in Espiritu Santo) and Acrux, (whom we met only via the SSB radio last season), all anchored here. It’s a great sheltered anchorage though the incessant buzzing helicopters, obviously doing joy rides for the Asian tourists from a nearby resort, get pretty annoying in the daytime. We’re looking forward to heading somewhere a little less busy!

We’re hanging here a little longer than planned, however, (and whilst a perfect NE breeze blows), as we’re trying to get to the (ahem) bottom of G’s ongoing stomach cramps, originally diagnosed at giardia back in Feb. UK citizens get reciprocal Medicare rights here and the doctor has organised blood tests and, tomorrow, an ultrasound scan. G is pretty sure he isn’t pregnant, though. We’ve been really impressed with the level of care and support so hopefully this’ll all lead to a fix to an issue that leave G feeling distinctly below par at times. Apart from that, all’s good and we continue with boat jobs – the re-caulking of the teak deck is about 70% complete as we do a bit at a time whenever the sun isn't too hot.

We should have shares in Sika, the makers of Sikaflex sealant

You've probably gathered by now that the 'throw-away' society in which we live drives us nuts. We spend a lot of time maintaining and repairing things on the boat whilst mankind's relentless drive for cheaper and cheaper consumer goods is driving down quality so that items get thrown away and replaced when they break or stop working. It's refreshing, in contrast to this trend, to find companies making good quality stuff and standing by their products.

About 12 years ago, Dianne bought me a Leatherman multi-tool which has been probably the most useful bit of kit I have on the boat. Thanks to a good rope lanyard I've managed to avoid dropping it overboard and it's the first tool I go to for quick fixes on board. The product spawned lots of cheap, made-in-China copies soon after it was launched but the genuine, made-in-the-USA Leatherman remains the best quality (but most expensive) example of the genre. 

Unfortunately, this year the spring-loaded safety lock (designed to prevent the sharp knife blade folding back onto your fingers) broke and I thought that I'd have to retire the tool before it injured me. I wasn't keen to stump up the $150 or so for a replacement so when we went into a camping shop that sells Leathermans, I was delighted to be told that that they have a 25 year warranty and they'd send it off for repair! Three weeks later a package arrived for us with a letter explaining that my Leatherman is no longer in production so they had sent me a brand new, latest model. Very happy!

Friday, 18 November 2016


The long saga of the non-starting generator is finally over! Harrah!

Maunie was fitted with 4kVA 240v AC generator when she was built 19 years ago and it's a very handy bit of kit when we're using too many instruments on an overnight passage, the sun isn't shining hard enough for the solar panels or when Di wants to use her hairdryer (she'll kill me for that comment!).  However its Farymann single-cylinder diesel engine was becoming increasingly hard to start and, in July, gave up on the task altogether.

Thanks to the wonders of those useful forums on the interweb, we found that there's a fairly-common problem of corrosion of the exhaust valve (caused by the salty-steam in the water-cooled exhaust system when you stop the engine) that prevents good compression. We also found that the main Australian agent for Farymann was next door to us in the Boat Works and were given the name of an excellent independent engineer, John Newton, to help us with the project.

First, we took the cylinder head off and could see the corrosion problem pretty easily:

Step 1: Take a brave pill and remove the cylinder head
Looking into the exhaust port we could see some corrosion

The valve was sticky and graunchy when we pushed it against its spring
 We handed the head over to John who stripped it down and confirmed that the problem was indeed the corrosion. He had a machine-shop put in 'stellite' valve seats (a much harder alloy than the original cast iron) and then rebuilt it with a new valve. He gave the cylinder barrel a good clean and check and, on Wednesday, came onto Maunie to put it all back together again.

Shot-blasted, painted and honed, the cylinder head and barrel ready to go back.
We're delighted to report that the engine now runs beautifully, so the £850 or so in parts and labour (ouch!) means that the generator has a new lease of life and Di can get the hairdryer out again! 

Di here: Actually,it's not quite so simple as we've also come up with a system to fresh water flush the generator after use so as to avoid future corrosion. So you're not telling me that Graham will allow the generator to be fired up just to dry my hair! Back to letting it dry in the sun!😎😉

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Australia's Greatest Boatyard?

We've just completed a major pit-stop for Maunie - 5 days ashore to tackle routine maintenance and a few extra jobs. Ask any sailor and they'll tell you that working on the boat in a yard is probably their least favourite part of the sailing calendar - if they are like us, they try to do all the work in the minimum possible time so it's usually very hard work, and very much against the clock. At least we aren't doing it in a British winter, of course!

That said, our timing could have been better! We hauled out on Thursday just as the first major heatwave of the Queensland summer arrived - temperatures in the mid 30's and some spectacular thunderstorms made things particularly sweaty. However our choice of yard - The Boat Works on the Coomera River, Gold Coast - turned out to be a great one, thanks to advice from sailing friends who came here last year and from The Down Under Rally organiser, John Hembrow.  

The Boat Works calls itself 'Australia's Greatest Boatyard', which is some boast, but its owner, racing driver Tony Longhurst, has invested around $20M over the past three years to transform the 23 acre site into a very impressive facility.

The yard is close to new waterfront housing developments, each house having its own boat dock, so there are plenty of local customers!

The yard has expanded since this Google Earth photo was taken - the 50-berth marina is now full of boats and new hard-standing areas and buildings are taking shape towards the top of the photo
All this investment means two travel lifts (Sid the seventy-tonner and Harry the hundred-tonner) plus a hydraulic launch sled for powerboats and catamarans, excellent (and spotlessly-clean) showers and toilets and free washing machines and dryers (which we used extensively!).  Smooth, dust-free concrete gives a level and safe working surface and there are 30 huge sheds for those with a budget to do under-cover repairs; the shed roofs harvest rainwater for boat washing.

Good facilities can be let down by lousy customer service, of course, but our experience of the team was really positive. Our lift out started with an unforeseen problem but their response was a good example of great training and a genuine desire to get things right: We were lifted out of the water by 'Sid' but it became clear that our forestay was going to hit the lift's cross beam if we were to clear the ground with our keel. This came as a surprise to us as we've never had this problem but the guys explained that their travel lifts aren't quite as tall as standard ones (to allow them to carry boats into the sheds). They were really apologetic and, just as we were considering the hassle of having to remove the yankee and undo the forestay, they asked if we'd be ok to go back into the water and be lifted a couple of hours later by 'Harry', a longer machine. We were given vouchers for lunch at the very good on-site cafe (having already had a free coffee and muffin there) and after that all went very smoothly indeed; the guys regularly came over to check if we needed anything and Alanna and Amy in the office were really helpful and efficient. Throughout the five days, if we needed anything, our requests were met with a 'can-do' attitude and the team's attention to detail was amazing - even bringing out hats to wear when the sun got too hot!

Second-time lucky - Maunie is taken by 'Harry' to have her bottom washed

Pressure-washing the slime off
 The yard has dozens of service companies based here so we asked Sea Spray to come and give the topsides a professional clean and machine-polish (the first since the repaint in 2011). Sean did a brilliant job:

Shiny and protected
 Like a lot of boatyards, this one is fairly out-of-town; it's about a 10 minute drive to the nearest shops. They have 3 courtesy vehicles, one car and two utes (pick-ups) provided free of charge for up to 3 hours at a time - brilliant! Better still, since no one else had booked it, we got the car for the full weekend which was really useful for several runs to the supermarket, chandlers and DIY store.

Note the safe and secure steps rather than the usual rickety ladder, to get up to the boat
 We tackled a few non-routine jobs in the heat, first removing the crumbling foam sound-proofing from the generator lid and replacing it with some much better foil-lined product....:

Advanced cutting-out and sticking
 ... and then we had a bit of a frightening moment servicing the valves of the seacocks - one of them was stiff to operate and then failed completely! This could have been a really bad moment at sea but we were able to get a new valve at the on-site chandlery and fit it.

The propeller polished and coated with Propspeed Gold anti-fouling

By Monday lunchtime we'd done pretty much everything on the list and Maunie was looking mighty fine once more. Time for another lift with Harry:

Sean came to give a final polish to the area that had been behind the support arms of the cradle

Dane driving the biggest radio-controlled toy in the world

Ready to hit the water
 We were pretty tired at the end of all that, but delighted with the end result. Our final reward was the appearance of the 'supermoon' on Monday night.

So that was another expensive few days, though we benefited from an offer which gave us 2 free days on the hardstand (normally $75 per day) and a 10% discount on the haul-out thanks to our membership of the Down Under Rally so overall it was good value compared to other yards and just so much better than any other we've ever used.

We aren't quite finished with the spending, though - our generator re-build should be completed tomorrow (more on that little saga next time).

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Wildlife magic

The media, both traditional and social, are full of the story of the US election so here, as a moment of quiet relief, are some photos from our visit to the excellent Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. Apologies that one of the koalas bears a passing resemblance to the President-Elect (and they aren't koala bears, of course, they are marsupials).

Di feeding the wild Lorikeets

"What's that you're saying Skippy? You think Trump might win?!"

"To be honest, I'm bored with the election story now"

"Whaddya mean, I look like Donald Trump?"

Getting to cuddle Sprocket. The sanctuary does amazing work on education and research into the causes of decline in the wild population (now less than 75,000) so the income from the photo ops help fund this.

Surely one of the best jobs. A keeper selects a koala for its 30 minute rota - they are 'on camera' for 30 minutes a day (4 days on, 4 days off) but are returned to their trees if they are in any way unsettled by the publicity. 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Losing on the horses, avoiding the Navy and getting some wheels

We are now in Manly harbour, just south of Brisbane, berthed at the very smart Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron. The boat harbour here is absolutely vast and home to four marinas and thousands of yachts; our membership of the Royal Ocean Racing Club gives us reciprocal rights to come to RQ, as it's known in these parts, and we had a good day yesterday watching the dinghy and keelboat racing in 'challenging' conditions.

But to backtrack a little, on Tuesday we experienced an iconic moment in the Australian sporting calendar, the Melbourne Cup. The is 'the race that stops the nation' and is the world's most lucrative horse race - the winning horse gets $3.5M (well, presumably it gives it to its owner) so the event attracts entries from all around the globe. It's an opportunity for a lot of Australians to dress up, go to parties and drink too much, so we were delighted to join Andy and Sue and friends at a great bar in Hastings St, Noosa, to enjoy the fun.

Sue, Tanya, Kim and Dianne start on the cocktails

The crowd takes a five minute break from the drinking to shout at a TV screen

It was a close finish, the winner just a neck ahead. 'Our' horse can just be seen on the extreme left of  this shot!
 We left Mooloolaba to head further south into Moreton Bay - another wide but shallow area of water which has many different channels between the sandbanks but only one major route for the big ships heading for the incredibly busy Port of Brisbane. Our course to Manly required us to cross the narrow shipping channel into the port so it's mandatory to monitor Channel 12 on the VHF to listen to VTS (the maritime equivalent of air traffic control), responsible for organising the ships leaving and entering the port. We could hear that one ship, the 570ft Highland Chief' would be leaving just as we would be crossing the channel (under sail) so we radio'd VTS to confirm that we had the ship on our AIS screen and would keep clear; the 'steam gives way to sail' rule doesn't apply when ships are constrained by narrow channels.The VTS officer called back to acknowledge us and warned us that there was a Navy warship, HMAS Darwin, coming inbound as well. Oh, good. 

We furled the headsail so slow Maunie down to allow Highland Chief to pass ahead of us...

.... and could see HMAS Darwin waiting to head in 
Thankfully we cleared this busy area safely and had a very good sail into Manly.

Once here, we managed a very satisfactory transaction to add some wheels to Maunie's inventory. Lots of the marinas we will visit in Australia are some way out of town so we decided that it'd be good to find a folding bicycle to make shopping trips easier; over the past few days we'd been looking on eBay and Gumtree to see what might be available. Anyway we found an advert for an aluminium-framed Hasa bike, which got some very good reviews, and yesterday morning became proud owners of it. It belonged to a couple who had it on their motorboat but used it only twice in two years so it's as-new and was a bit of a bargain; best of all, it fits neatly into our cockpit locker...

The folded bike in the starboard cockpit locker
Meanwhile, the busy social and touring life continues - we met up with Steve and Michelle from the catamaran Citrus Tart (first met in Tonga, then Fulaga then Waiheke) for a great Indian meal last night and tomorrow we are heading into Brisbane to visit the Loan Pine Koala Sanctuary (a strong recommendation by niece Laura) and to see a few city sights. 

It's pretty hot here now (the forecast for the city today is 34 degrees!) so we're getting up early and Maunie has all her sunshades in place to make life bearable aboard. On Tuesday we're heading a little further south to the Gold Coast to have Maunie lifted out of the water for a few days for some routine maintenance and then we'll carry on towards Sydney. But first, of course we'll be calling in on Auntie Brenda (who knows we're coming this time!).