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, 31 January 2018

Straya, Groans and the Grumble of Doom

Here's a little update, after a week or so of very varied experiences; we are still in Sydney Harbour and finding new places to anchor - some less successful than others as you'll hear..

Friday the 26th was Australia Day - or 'Straya Day' as they say around here. It commemorates the date of the arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay in 1788, though the first ship, HMS Supply dropped anchor on the 18th January. Staya Day is a public holiday and another opportunity for families to hit the beaches or fire up the barbies but it's not a celebration for everyone. Indigenous groups call it 'Invasion Day' since it marks the beginning of the end for the land rights of Aboriginal people. This year there were huge protests in major cities where campaigners are calling for a change of date to make the nation's celebration an event that all can share.

However, for the moment, Straya Day is a big event for most Australians and in Sydney it's another excuse for a party and some fireworks in the Harbour. They do like a good firework in Sydney. So we returned to Farm Cove next to the Opera House for a day of Navy ships, air displays, boat parades and flags - it was another opportunity to consume delicious prawns in the cockpit, too.

The start of the 'Ferryathon' - a race of the new catamaran harbour ferres

HMAS Canberra with yacht escort

The day finished with a firework display in Central Quay, between the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, which was, of course, nowhere near the scale of the New Years Eve show but still impressive when viewed from the anchorage of Athol Bay, near Taronga Zoo. 

Our proximity to the zoo meant that we heard strange yelps and groans from the animals throughout the night so we decided to visit it the following afternoon. The 70-acre site occupies some beautiful (and presumably hugely valuable) real estate and, like most zoos, it has gone through a process of transformation from a place of entertainment to a centre for education and species conservation, with still plenty of entertainment. Overall we thought that the balance was achieved pretty well and the two Sumatran Tigers (the wild population in Sumatra is now less than 400 due to deforestation and the development of palm oil plantations) were a highlight. 

Quite disconcerting when they make direct eye contact!

Of course the Koalas are always a crowd-pleaser:

Add your own caption here!
After this burst of mass tourism we were back to exploring new anchorages of this huge harbour. We picked up a visitors' mooring in Watson's Bay, just inside South Head and had a great walk around the reserve, some of which is still off-limits as a military camp.

A Google Earth image of Sydney Harbour. Watson's Bay is north of Rose Bay in the eastern side of the harbour.
Looking south at The Gap, on the ocean side of South Head

Watson's Bay. Maunie is next to the sailing boat at the top left of the photo

The lighthouse at South Head.
North Head (from where we watched the start of the Sydney Hobart Race) is in the background.
From here we returned to Manly for re-provisioning and a laundrette run and then decided that we'd sail back through the bridge to ride out a couple of days of strong southerly winds. We had a perfect spinnaker run and decided to have a go at something of a 'bucket list' event - to sail under the Harbour Bridge and, what's more, under spinnaker. It's not a straightforward proposition as the wind gets very flukey and the water can be very disturbed by the wakes of passing high-speed ferries and pleasure boats. Anyway we were delighted to complete it safely and here's a short video:

So we've ended this latest tiki-tour of the harbour at Hen and Chicken Bay (the blue dot at the left hand side of the earlier Google Earth image). It was recommended to us as being shallow (only 2.5m where we anchored) but offering 'good holding'; non-sailors might appreciate an explanation of this feature. Well, for those of us living on land, we can pretty much expect that, even in the wildest weather, we'll wake up in the morning to find the house in the same spot as when we went to bed. This, unfortunately, is not always the case when at anchor on a yacht as the combination of wind, waves and currents can sometimes cause the anchor to drag - this is usually No Fun At All. Thankfully, the combination of our over-sized Kobra anchor and plenty of heavy anchor chain has meant that we haven't had many problems but it's all about the make-up of the sea bed. 

Lots of weed can cause problems and a rocky bottom can make things difficult; this is when you hear the 'grumble of doom' and you hear and feel the anchor and chain moving. Usually a muddy sea bed is brilliant for a secure anchorage; you just let the anchor settle for a few minutes, apply some engine power in reverse so set it deep into the mud and that's it. Well, not quite, we always set a GPS anchor alarm that will wake us if the boat moves outside a circle of safety (usually a radius of about 40m). 

Unfortunately it seems that the mud here is so soft that, as the wind increased to around 25 knots in the night, the anchor just slowly and steadily dragged through it. The alarm went off, waking us both up and then Graham spent the night in the pilothouse on anchor watch, re-setting the alarm for a doze only to wake as the alarm sounded again. Thankfully we had anchored well clear of the shore and boat moorings and the anchor finally found some mud it was happy with but we'd dragged about a thousand feet through the night!

The wind is forecast to stay between 25 and 30 knots all day today so we have moved to a NSW visitor's mooring further down the bay. Hopefully a better night's sleep lies ahead of us.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

We've finally reached Plan Z!!

Hello from Sydney Harbour, where we have been exploring some of the more remote corners of this huge waterway - mainly to find shelter from a southerly gale over the past week which brought 5m swells up the coast. When we did return to the main harbour a couple of days ago, the seas were still pretty impressive so we certainly wouldn't have wanted to venture outside the Heads. The big ferries were doing their heavy-weather route to try to avoid side-on waves that would have made them roll even more:

Please use the sick bags provided

These are the swells inside the harbour!
We are now anchored close to Manly Beach but just off a quieter swimmers' beach, with a stern anchor holding us close to the shore and with the light wind blowing from our port beam. We like this trick as the wind keeps a steady pressure on the mast and rigging which reduces Maunie's tendency to roll when the wakes from the ferries reach us.

Anchored off Delwood Beach
Added entertainment to our port side...

.... yoga class on paddle boards!
While we have been here we had a superb bbq with Sue, Adam and Cindi at the house in Manly where Kerry is looking after Dennis, the energetic dog:

Dennis' best trick is to leap into the air when you throw him a length of rope (which he usually misses!)
The lunch party served also as a farewell to Adam and Cindi who set sail yesterday morning to head to Tasmania. We first met them on the SSB radio net about four years ago and then in person in Savusavu, Fiji and they have become great friends so we were sorry to see them leave, particularly as we had originally planned to be sailing to Tassie with them.

Bravo motors off through much calmer water towards Sydney Heads and the Tasman Sea
So, patient reader, this brings us on to our latest change of plan. The long-termers among you will know that our plans have become more like guidelines by now and that our original, rather naive, idea of completing a circumnavigation in 3 years was binned as soon as we arrived in the Pacific. After returning to England, for Graham to start working for Thatchers Cider for 5 months and Di to salvage the garden, this (northern hemisphere) summer, we decided to repeat the process in 2018 and go back for another six-month stint in May. However Graham has been offered a full-time role at Thatchers - the new role of Supply Chain Director - and it's just too good an opportunity to turn down, so our plans have been re-written again.

The logistical challenge of having Maunie in Australia led us to consider selling her here (but that would involve importing her into Australia first and paying 15% of her value as tax, plus the not-insignificant issue of shipping our personal belongings back home) but the additional significant emotional ties to her quickly had us discount that option. Instead we’ve found a company which will ship her from Newcastle (just north of Sydney) to Southampton, via NZ, Tahiti, Panama and Florida so almost retracing her outbound route) with about 20 other yachts on the deck of a specialist freighter. It’s an expensive trip but, considering the running and maintenance costs of the 18 month sail back via South Africa, not prohibitively so and we are lucky with the timings since it only runs once a year.
So we will load Maunie onto the ship in early March for the 8-week voyage home and then have a month or so of land-travel in Australia before we fly back on the 17th April. We'll meet Maunie in Southampton, re-rig her (we have to remove all the sails, canvas covers and running rigging before the shipping) and sail her back to Dartmouth before Graham starts work at the beginning of June. Oh, and we'll have to move back home, unpack all of our belongings, buy a car for Dianne and generally get ready for some serious work that doesn't involve boat maintenance on a daily basis!

We're of course disappointed that we won't be completing our circumnavigation but we have benefited from three wonderful bonus years aboard Maunie in some amazing places, so we really can't complain! Our return will also give us the time (and the money, of course) to do a bit of a refit on the boat. Maunie is 20 years old with 45,000 nm on her log so it'll be great to treat her to bit of serious tlc, the sort of work that would be impossible while we are living aboard. Re-varnishing the interior, replacing the teak decks (but not with teak!) and repainting her are the three big jobs on the list. 

We'll make the most of our remaining few weeks of sailing in Australia and look forward to sailing into the beautiful River Dart in May. 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Sweltering temperatures as the Poms arrive .

Sydney has been experiencing some pretty extreme weather over the past week. Sunday saw record temperatures (about 47 degrees!!) and on Monday night we had the most dramatic thunderstorms, with the gap between flash and bang being only half a second. Perfect conditions for friends to leave the winter weather in England and join us aboard!

Before Karl (an ex-colleague from Yeo Valley and one of Graham's closest friends) and his 21 year-old son Harry arrived, we had the challenge of stowing sails and all sorts of other kit that normally lives in the 'garage' (aka the forecabin) to give them both somewhere to sleep. The ensuing re-organisation prompted us to dig out the sewing machine to fix some damage on the yankee (the front sail) where chafe had worn through it at the point where it leaves the furler foil. If we'd ignored the issue for much longer there'd have been a real risk of some serious rippage so dropping it to the deck early in the morning, before the breeze kicked in and the sun became too hot, was a good move.

Chafe is your enemy, again. Wear at the luff rope

Sewing in a reinforcement patch
That job completed, we moved Maunie back to the city to meet Karl and Harry from the airport train at Circular Quay. They were in remarkably good form after the long flight from Heathrow, though were understandably rather underwhelmed that their baggage hadn't been put onto the second flight in China so they had only the clothes they were wearing and a few small items of hand baggage. Monday's sail around the harbour therefore included some sightseeing, some swimming and then some clothes shopping in Manly.

Selfies with a well known back-drop

Peeling prawns for lunch

Sailing out of the harbour into the Pacific

Making selections of new underwear in Coles. Luckily their bags did arrive on the Tuesday morning, delivered down to the beach at Manly for us to load into the dinghy

A spinnaker run under leaden skies the morning after the thunderstorm
Karl and Harry left us this morning (Wednesday) to pick up a camper van for a road trip down to Melbourne. We thoroughly enjoyed having them with us for three nights, culminating in a very splendid meal in town last night. Our thoughts now turn to sailing further south but it seems that the weather has other ideas. Ah, well, there are worse places to have to wait for weather.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Sydney pulls out all the stops for Dianne's birthday fireworks

It was great to sail into Sydney Harbour, where only a few days earlier we had watched the Sydney Hobart racers depart to re-visit some old haunts and to catch up with friends we haven't seen in a while. The bustle on the water, with yachts, motorboats, ferries and cruise liners comes as quite a shock so whoever is on the helm needs to keep their wits about them but we enjoyed the iconic sights.

One of the big Manly ferries - they have right of way over everyone else even sailing boats, so don't mess with them!

Approaching the Harbour Bridge

Maunie at anchor in Blackwattle Bay - all the sunshades and the windscoop set to keep us cool

The Anzac Bridge behind us

Of course, the highlight of the past few days was Di's birthday (31st December) and once again the fireworks laid on for her were superb. We anchored in Farm Cove, right next to the Opera House, again and Bravo dropped their hook only 100m away. However this year it was pretty breezy (up to 20 knots) during the day (we'd arrived at 07.30 to bag our prime viewing spots) so we had a huge amount of entertainment watching boats dragging their anchors all around us. We were glad that no one collided with us but Graham did have to stand on the bow and tell a clueless motorboat,  who was dragging his anchor back and forth over our chain (threatening to lift our anchor out of the mud in the process) to "F**k all the way off!", much to the delighted amusement of crews on neighbouring Aussie boats.

It was all worth it, of course, when the two sets of fireworks (8 minutes at 9.00pm and 12 minutes at midnight) were set off. The wind had calmed down enough for Adam and Cindi to dinghy across to join us and Kerry aboard Maunie and here are a few photos of the display.

Here's the professional video of the whole show:

After a week of great company and excellent eating and drinking, we are back just the two of us. Kerry left today to see friends and family but we have Bravo anchored nearby and friends joining us from England for a few days on Sunday. So, the social life will continue but we did get back to boat jobs today.....