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.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Man Vs. The Elements

In spite of its title, this blog update isn't about us battling gale force winds as we head south; the weather has been quite the reverse, in fact. A huge high pressure system has been almost stationary over the east coast of Australia and is now only moving slowly eastwards across New Zealand.

This has given us light and not very useful SE breezes for a few days and so we've stopped for a few days at Iluka, at the mouth of the mighty Clarence River. It's here that we have taken an interest in the huge works that man has undertaken to try to manage the elements when the weather isn't so unusually settled.

This image of the entrance to the Clarence River clearly shows the way in which the river has been managed, since the early 1800's, to try to make it a safe, navigable waterway. Of course, until the first quarter of the 20th Century, road and rail links along this coast were pretty sparse so the ability to allow coasting vessels to make port safely was vital to the growth of the region.

The 'training walls' inside the entrance re-directed the river from its original meander at the bottom of the picture and the long breakwaters projecting out to sea were completed in the 1970's. Work camps, temporary railways, huge cranes and rock-carrying barges were all part of the story and it's still in progress;  repairs to the breakwaters are ongoing and there is a grass-seeding program underway to stabilise the sand dunes
We took a walk out to the end of the northern breakwater on a fairly gentle day:

Thousands of tonnes of rock, to be regularly maintained after winter storms

In between the breakwaters, you can still get sizeable, breaking waves so it's vital to exit or enter at the right stage of tide
Like nearly all the rivers on this coast, it has a 'bar entrance' which means that silt carried down the river is dumped, as the flow rate slows, at the entrance to leave a shallow bar. It's visible in the top photo as a crescent shape but is much more obvious in this photo, taken when the river was ebbing:

The bar at a dangerous time
 So the golden rule is to always arrive at the entrance when the tide is flooding inwards and not rushing outwards to meet the incoming wind and swell. Of course, sometimes even the professionals get it wrong!

Whilst we were waiting for the weather, we managed a few walks, some chores and even a session in a gym with a great view:

Lots of Australian parks have these brilliant kits so we use them whenever we can
We moved south again yesterday, a 60nm passage to Coffs Harbour - motor-sailing the whole way, unfortunately, due to the light wind but the trip was enlivened by ships making their way up to Brisbane, fishing boats, dolphins and quite the wettest rain squall we've experienced for quite a while. Coffs Harbour is another example of an artificial harbour, built in the 1920's, but this one isn't on a river so for once we didn't have to do the maths on tide times to arrive safely at a bar entrance.

The breakwater was built to join up to Muttonbird Island in the foreground. The Marina came a lot later.
You'd think that this huge structure would have made the harbour a perfectly-sheltered one but, only last June, there was a violent easterly storm which saw huge waves rolling over the top of the wall.

The marina was badly smashed, two boats were sunk with many more badly damaged and the repair work is still going on.

The crane is hoisting huge pre-cast concrete blocks onto new rocks already laid; the plan is to make the breakwater taller and wider
 It was nice to come into the luxury of a walk-ashore marina, giving us the chance to enjoy long showers and to refill Maunie's water tanks. We went for a refill ourselves at the marina bar and Graham was delighted to find Thatchers Cider on tap, only to be told it had just run out...

Thatchers Cider comes from Somerset in bulk tanks and Coopers Brewery (another family-owned business, based in Adelaide) fills it into kegs and delivers it.
We have managed to put that disappointment behind us and today have moved another 35 miles to Trial Bay, to discover a harbour where, for the moment, man has given up the struggle to beat the elements.

At the point are the remains of Trial Bay Gaol, built to house low-risk prisoners in 1886. Their job was to build a huge, 1500m breakwater from the aptly-named Laggers Point to create a safe anchorage in the bay. The project overran in time and cost and, even as the first 300m of rock wall was built, the waters behind it began to silt up so it was abandoned.

We had hoped to go into the Macleay River to the SW of the photo but apparently there hasn't been a flood to wash the river bar out for several years and now it is deemed too shallow and dangerous for most boats. So we're anchored in the bay instead and it's calm but a little bit rolly. Tomorrow we'll get the maths right to go through the bar entrance at Port Macquarie.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Maunie's ready to go again!

We're back in the sailing business! Maunie had fared really well under her covers for the past 7 months, with our great friend Brian checking on her periodically. There really wasn't any winter weather here this year so she was dry and well-aired and it didn't take us long to move back into boat life. Which means, of course, tackling a longish list of maintenance jobs. 

We'd booked in to the Boat Works yard for 5 days ashore to attend to the annual below-the-waterline jobs and, once again, the team there looked after us very well. The yard's reputation seems to be growing, though, as it was really busy with boats hauling out for their early-summer maintenance.

Maunie is guided towards Sid, the seventy-tonne travel-lift

In spite of 7 months of inactivity, the hull only had a light coating of slime so the Coppercoat antifouling is still doing well in its 7th year. Putting a plastic bag over the propeller while Maunie was moored up was a good move.

Teamwork and practice to avoid blasting your work-mate! 3000psi pressure washers quickly had the hull clean
The list of jobs didn't look too onerous but, of course, it's a boat so there are always surprises to deal with. The Brunton's Autoprop feathering propeller needed some extra attention to take up some slack in the bearings and we decided that our batteries, showing initial signs of losing capacity, should be replaced; last time we kept them too long and they began to fail quite dramatically in Tonga. Fitting them is quite a challenge - lots of cables to deal with!

The trick is to label each cable and take lots of photos before disconnecting!
Apart from these moments, it all went to plan and a $30 car polisher and a long day's effort in the hot sunshine resulted in a shiny hull and superstructure and saved about $400 compared to a professional polish!

Nice hat, eh? Note the reflection in the cabin top.
Once again we were able to borrow one of the courtesy cars for the full weekend and this year it wasn't the little city car but a mighty (and thirsty) 4-litre V6 pick-up (they are known as 'utes' around here).

So, as well as doing some shopping runs and dropping the old batteries off for recycling, we were able to drive an hour south to surprise Brenda, Di's aunt, for lunch. Her best friend Claire had once again arranged it so Brenda was expecting to meet some fictitious friends of Claire's when we walked in.

Claire, top left, is gaining a reputation for organising surprises!
So, on Monday afternoon, a clean, shiny and serviced Maunie returned to the water.

We're now anchored inside the man-made Sovereign Island off Paradise Point and, as we motored round the island to the anchorage, we could compare the architectural 'qualities' of the multi-million dollar houses:

Prime waterfront living for the hard-of-imagination

Not sure what the radar scanner's for but there's plenty of work for the window cleaners

This only has five bedrooms, apparently!

Italianate styling, anyone?

Looking in an estate agent's window this morning, we saw that a 485 sq m building plot on the waterfront was for sale for a mere $1.8M so we kind of understood the motives of the owner of this last example who clearly said to himself, "I'm paying for the view, so just build me a pre-fab barn and punch a few windows in it.":

Anyway it's absolutely great to be back aboard, in spite of a few sweary words this morning as we tried to pull a new VHF aerial cable through the mast. The mousing line parted at a critical moment so we had to do some hard thinking to resolve it but, thankfully, we now have a fully-functioning radio once again.

We plan to start sailing south in the morning; the weather is very settled and the sea-state is calm so we'll aim to do a long day (with a 5.00am start) to get to Ballina (some 70 miles south) by dusk.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

A premature baldness scare but we're back in Brisbane

We're back in the sunshine and 27 degrees after a good flight but a potentially disastrous car journey.

The Ford Mondeo hire car for the journey from Bridgwater to Heathrow Airport looked very shiny but as soon as we hit the M5 it was clear that it wasn't quite right; the steering wheel pointed about 15 degrees to port to keep it straight. Luckily we'd already planned a pit-stop for an excellent brunch at the Yeo Valley HQ Canteen which allowed us to investigate. We were pretty shocked to find that the inside edges of both front tyres were scrubbed through to the cord and wire reinforcement:

Not many miles short of a dramatic blow-out

The hire company handled the somewhat agitated phone call extremely well, arranging a replacement car from the nearby Bristol Airport, promising a full investigation as to why the fault hadn't been spotted and refunding the full hire cost before they'd even seen the tyres for themselves.

After that minor setback, the rest of the journey went remarkably well and we arrived in Brisbane on Saturday evening. Jet lag kicked in with us both waking up at 4.00am but our plans for a gentle, not-doing-much Sunday were very nicely re-written with a great lunchtime meet-up with Kerry, Adam & Cindi and Lionel & Irene who all had an awesome season of sailing in Vanuatu and New Caledonia. It was brilliant to catch up with them all and we'll see more of them over the coming months. 

Having left a foggy and cold London, it's great to be back in Summer sunshine.

So, after a second night in Brisbane, we'll be back aboard Maunie tomorrow. Can't wait, though our arrival will coincide with a southerly gale, just to ease us back into the world of sailing!