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 April 2017

Back in Blighty again

To quote the late, great Douglas Adam (author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), we aren't quite home and dry, but we are home and vigourously toweling ourselves off. We are currently zig-zagging our way across southern England and Wales and will finally land at our own house in Somerset on Wednesday.

In the meantime, and since arriving at Heathrow Airport on Easter Monday, we have been enjoying some wonderful hospitality of old friends and are slowly acclimatising to the the somewhat bracing Spring temperatures here. Lovely of Theresa May to announce a snap General Election, too, so as to ensure that we really can't listen to the radio or watch the news for more than 5 minutes without shouting at the smug politicians who are entirely missing the point of what's really important. The British Government was obviously getting miffed at all the attention that Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un and the French have been getting recently so thought they'd start a diversionary tactic of their own. 

Anyway, politics apart, it has been just great to see good friends and to enjoy the things that we've missed whilst we have been away: buildings older than 140 years, real ale (sorry, Australians, that cold fizzy stuff you drink straight from the bottle just isn't beer and you should stop calling it that) and the joys of the countryside bursting with blossom. We've done a fair few railway journeys, learning, in the process, the nonsensical fact that a pair of tickets from, for example,  Hemel Hempstead to Caersws, in mid-Wales, via Birmingham costs £150 if booked as a single jouney but only costs £15 if you buy each leg of the journey as a separate ticket (Eh???). And we are now the very happy temporary guardians of goddaughter Amy's Toyota Aygo whilst she is travelling abroad, so are loving the freedom to travel without a timetable.

Here are a few photos of the UK journey so far, with huge thanks to Richard and Jenny, Fergus and Helen, Richard and Naomi, Steve and Barbara and Simon and Kerry for their wonderful welcome.

Proper old buildings at Aldeburgh, on a walk along the seafront with Jenny

The boating lake at Thorpeness Mere - we weren't tempted!

Fergus takes Di for a spin in his 1955 Austin Healey. Fergus sailed across the Atlantic with us in 2012

spring blooms

Di with Naomi and Richard (and Radley the gorgeous Springer Spaniel); Richard was the other crew member across the Atlantic
Richard, founder of the wonderful business Snowbility, which puts Autistic and other special needs kids on skis with amazing results, surprised us with a skiing lesson of our own!
Graham getting to grips (sort of) with the slippery stuff...

... and with Holly the dog in mid-Wales

Di, meanwhile, gets a training session on the quad-bike from Steve....

... as a precursor to some hard labour clearing wood

Rewards for hard work - proper beer (and NZ wine)
setting off to Cornwall

Bluebells in amazing full bloom near Truro, Cornwall
We'll post another update once we get back into our house; we regain possession of it from out tenants on Wednesday and have a van booked for Thursday and Friday to collect all our gear from our storage units. There is some hard work ahead to get the cottage re-decorated and re-furnished, the garden sorted and some general maintenance completed. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Dubai 2: A city expanding before our eyes

Dubai has gone through a petrol-powered revolution in the past 20 years and the pace of building change shows little sign of slowing down. Running out of prime waterfront real estate? Simple - build a new island shaped like a palm tree. The views being interrupted by the neighbouring buildings? Construct the tallest building in the world.

The sprawl of Dubai - the original town was at The Creek in the top right of the photo and The Palm island is to the bottom left. The other offshore construction is The World, a project that, for the moment is on hold (presumably until the oil price increases again)

The shadows show the skyscrapers - The needle in the middle is the  Burj Khalifa tower
We took a day's hop-on, hop-off bus tour to see most of the sights so here are a few photos:

The Burj Al Arab hotel (one of the most expensive in the world). The round disk at the top is the helicopter pad which has been used for all sorts of PR stunts including David Coulthard doing donuts in a Formula 1 car and Agassi playing tennis on it!

The new Souk Madinat Jumeirah beach-side resort

The tunnel out to the edge of The Palm

Beach life

The Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building at over 800m high (twice the height of the Empire State Building)

The view from the 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa/ Ten years ago this was just desert.

Looking down to the Dubai Fountain

Sunset from the Burj - the atmosphere is pretty hazy through a mix of wind-blown sand and pollution

Di on the 125th floor
The Dubai Fountain starts one of its amazing computer-controlled water, light and music shows

The Burj Khalifa at night

The fountain show
Apart from the overwhelming dazzle of the buildings and the shock of the 'world's largest' shopping malls and the indoor ski slope (really!), we really enjoyed our Dubai experience, thanks in no small part to the wonderful hospitality of Anthony and Lucy. The few days also eased us back into British retail brands and we were delighted to find some decent yogurt at last!

Di finds the Yeo Valley yogurts in the Spinney's supermarket
We are now back in England, staying with great friends in Suffolk. Lovely weather but a bit colder than we are used to!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Dubai Part 1: The Old Town and Old Boats

We have broken the long haul back to England with a three-night stopover in Dubai (a mere 13 hours' flying time from Brisbane, which is about 11 hours too long, according to Graham). If we're honest, it's not a location that would have naturally appealed to us but we are very fortunate that Lucy and Anthony, who live here, were generous enough to welcome us to stay. Graham grew up with Lucy during summer and Easter holidays in Galloway, south-west Scotland, but, since we haven't seen them for nearly 20 years, we were stretching the rather tenuous 'old friends' link rather. However they have been wonderfully welcoming, have shown us some of the sights of the city and even managed to get an extended invitation for us to join them at a house party on the super-smart Palm artificial island.

In the 14 or so years that they have been here, Dubai has changed beyond all recognition with huge clusters of sky-scrapers, including the world's tallest building, built on what was desert when they first arrived. However, some of the old town near The Creek still remains so Anthony took us to see it (in temperatures of about 36 degrees!) on Friday and it was truly fascinating. A few photos follow:

Dianne with Lucy and Anthony on the promenade walkway at the Family Beach....

... which has some unusual rules for those used to Australian beaches

The Creek, with a sea-going cargo dhow
Many of the buildings on this side of the Creek are relatively new, but built along traditional lines. Not something that can be said for most of Dubai's architecture

Some of the big fleet of abra boats - heavily-built wooden ferries which take locals and tourists across the Creek for the sum of 1 dirham (about 20p). The close-quarters boat handling is very entertaining!
The surprisingly large fleet of wooden dhows unloading at the quay carry about 1.7 million tonnes of cargo every year, linking the city to ports in Iran, Iraq, Oman, India, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan. Mostly built of heavy teak planks, the larger boats can weigh up to 500 tonnes and all are loaded by hand; the cargoes we saw included refrigerators, air conditioners, truck tyres and even jet-skis but the boats themselves look as though they haven't changed in centuries, apart from the diesel engines which have replaced the traditional lateen sailing rigs.

air conditioning units unloaded

truck tyres and unidentified sacks

Detail of the superstructure. The toilet is just a seat at the very aft end of the top deck!
A short walk from the quay took us to the Spice and Gold Souks - rabbit-warren streets lined with tiny shops whose traders all wanted to persuade us to come inside for their 'best prices'. Meanwhile on the streets there were more men showing us their 'Rolex' and other fake-brand watches.

The smell in the Spice Souk was wonderful
Crossing the Creek in an abra we walked up to the house that once belonged to Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al-Maktoum, who was the leader of Dubai until his death in 1958. The courtyard building was constructed in 1896 and is dominated by four 'barjeels' - wind-towers that directed the cooling sea breezes through the house long before electric air-conditioners, without which Dubai city could not now survive. It's now a museum, containing some wonderful photographs from the mid 1900's when Dubai city was no more than a tiny port town of traditional buildings constructed of stone and date-palm wood.

Entrance to one of the wings, with the wind-tower above
Up on the roof

We drove back along the beach-front as Anthony was keen for us to see the racing dhows that had just returned from the first days of a two-day regatta. These beautiful boats are 22ft, 43ft and 60ft long, with two masts and professional crews; it's a fiercely-contested sport of the very wealthy and is open only to locals. We passed a boatyard where one of the 60ft monsters was being rigged:

Here's a link to a photo of one of these amazing boats under sail: http://www.adsyc.ae/en/pic_gallery.php?aid=113#prettyPhoto[gallery1]/21/

So this was a great day to introduce us to 'old' Dubai as a primer for our explorations the following day into the new parts of town. Photos of that to follow soon!

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Leaving Maunie behind!

Since we last wrote we seem to have been pretty busy, getting ready to leave the boat and fly home. 

Once the floods subsided over the weekend we got the Raymarine technicians aboard and were very happy with their approach. They went through all the issues we were having with the new autopilot that we had fitted in NZ last May and concluded that the installation hadn't been done properly (by a Raymarine-approved installer, hmmm) so effectively re-wired the whole thing, a process that involved taking ceiling panels down and feeding a cable through some improbable spaces. They also replaced the p70 colour-screen control panel which had started to mist up in wet weather and the whole job was done under warranty, thankfully.

So we happily set off down the river that afternoon and pressed the autopilot ‘Auto’ button, anticipating a ruler-straight wake as we watched the world go by. What actually happened was that Maunie immediately executed a tight U–turn and nearly rammed an anchored motorboat (umm that would have been an interesting insurance claim!) before we hurriedly switched it off and grappled with the wheel! We re-anchored and got the instruction book out and went through a few steps of basic commissioning; we think the guys had thought that with the new p70 the original settings would have remained in place but this is a newer model so it had to learn left from right and so on. That just shows that you can never entirely trust the experts (we know, we should have learned that a long time ago)!

Anyway, after that all was done, all seems well and now the chart plotter has a proper communication route with the pilot so we can (if we so wish) set a route of waypoints on the plotter and the pilot will follow it (it wouldn’t do that as it was wired before) . We have even linked the two screens so that when we dim the brightness of one at night, the other dims with it (we're easily pleased by things like that). Hopefully this will be the end of our random problems autopilot. Fingers very much crossed.

We moved back down to the anchorage inside Sovereign Island for a few days, less than a mile from the pontoon where we had arranged to leave Maunie - it's shown by the red pin on the left hand side of this photo:

The anchorage gave us the chance to do lots of boat preparation jobs - taking the sails off, giving the generator an oil change and flushing its cooling system with fresh water, and a hundred other little but time consuming jobs. On Sunday morning, at high tide, we motored round to the canal and introduced Maunie to her home for the next 6 months.

The mooring at a Spring low tide - we thought we might just touch the mud with the keel but were delighted to find we had enough water to remain fully afloat

Thanks to some amazing perseverance (and world-class packing skills) by Garth at Holt Farm, our custom-made boat cover (last used in the winter of 2011) was unearthed from a storage container and sent across to us. It will protect the boat from the bright sunshine and allow us to keep some hatches open to allow good air circulation below decks. Fitting it involved a bit of work with the sewing machine to patch a couple of minor holes and then some careful lashing to make it all secure.

High tide, and the forward section of the cover is fitted
 So, after a very hectic last day, everything was packed away and the final covers fitted and we could leave Maunie under the watchful eye of Lyn (whose pontoon we are renting) and our friend Brian who lives locally and arranged this fantastic spot for us.

We do have a third section of the red cover back in the UK but, since we already had the blue cockpit cover on board, it didn't seem worth the cost of sending it (or the hassle of modifying it to fit around the solar panel arch that we've added to Maunie since we left home)
And, suddenly, that was it! The flight cases were packed and we were ready for the journey home, a trip involving a train to Brisbane for an overnight in a little hotel we've used before followed by a 13 hour flight to Dubai where we are staying for three nights with an old friend of Graham's. The final leg gets us into Heathrow on Easter Monday.

Bracing ourselves for the journey ahead, and thinking that we'll miss this sunshine!

We'll do a bit of a 'wrap-up' blog update on this blog when we get back home but then you'll get a break until we return to Australia in November.