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, 25 March 2018

We're loaded!

Maunie is safely loaded on the deck of the mv Damgracht. We were really impressed with loadmaster Greg and his team and the boat is very neatly tucked up in a sheltered spot in the bow.

Maunie meets the Damgracht
Here's a short video of the process:

Once the rest of the yachts are secured on deck, this is the route that the ship will take:

We've worked out that if the ship averages 15 knots and takes 2 days at each stop-over to discharge or take on boats, plus a few days waiting for the Panama Canal transit, the whole trip will take about 47 days...

It was quite emotional to walk away from Maunie (a tear may have escaped from behind Dianne's sunnies!) but we now have just over three weeks to do some land travel before we fly home, so we'll do a couple of updates to the blog before we finally say farewell to Aus. 

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Our ship has come in (at last)

At 10.00 this morning we cycled on borrowed bikes from our lovely B&B down to the harbour, just as the Damgracht was approaching her berth.

We have been told that Maunie will be the first yacht (of 12, the biggest being 70ft in length) to be loaded and that she'll be lashed down right at the bow, pointing across the ship. At first that worried us but, having seen the deck layout, we realise that she should be pretty sheltered from wind and waves behind the high fo'c'sle. The fo'c'sle is the high structure at the bow, for those not familiar with ship architecture - the word is an abbreviation of forecastle.  In medieval shipbuilding, a ship of war was usually equipped with a tall, multi-deck castle-like structure in the bow of the ship. It served as a platform for archers to shoot down on enemy ships, or as a defensive stronghold if the ship were boarded. Feel free to drop this fascinating fact into conversation.

Meanwhile, Maunie is ready to go, with everything lashed down and sails and boom removed for the duration and stowed on the cabin floor.

So early tomorrow morning we just have to climb aboard and motor out of the marina for perhaps half a mile before going alongside the ship... Photos will follow!

Friday, 23 March 2018

When the ship comes in

After the heatwave of last weekend, along came a very different patch of weather:

We had over nearly two days of solid, heavy rain and a strong SE wind. Thankfully, we'd seen it coming on the forecast and got Maunie out of her berth and turned around to face her pointy end into to the weather before the gale hit us, otherwise the driving rain would have been driving into the companionway.

Unfortunately the combination of 30+ knots of wind blowing against the south-going East Australia Current quickly piled up the seas outside the port into a very unpleasant 4-6 metre swell, so our ship has spent over 2 days waiting just outside the Newcastle entrance, presumably rolling horribly (and motoring slowly in circles as the swell would have made anchoring hazardous), whilst the port has been closed to vessel movements on safety grounds. The latest news is that the Damgracht should finally clear in to Newcastle tomorrow (Saturday) and we should see Maunie loaded on board on Sunday.. We'll see!

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Well this is stressful!

Stress, sadly, is all around us but we know that some people perhaps think that our sailing life must be pretty much stress-free. Well, yes, compared to 'real' life, maybe it's not so much of an issue but we've discovered that there are, for us at least, four levels of cruising stress:

Level 1: Planning and navigational stress

We spend a huge amount of time looking at weather files and navigational charts in order to plan our passages. Some trips, such as the 8-day passage from NZ to Fiji, can be really difficult to plan and even day-sails along the east coast of Australia can be tricky, what with the strong coastal currents and the limitations of river bar entrances. 

Broadly speaking, though, good planning and navigation will reduce the next level of stress, which is:

Level 2: Sailing Stress

Thanks, broadly, to good planning and, of course, to our choice of such a wonderfully seaworthy boat as Maunie, our sailing stress has been relatively low. We've had our moments, it must be said: a 50 knot squall hitting us with full sail up in the Atlantic; green water over the deck as we approached Tasmania; dragging our anchor in various places. However, thankfully this stress is usually relatively short-lived and, as we have gained experience and confidence (it's quite startling how much we have learned over the course of the voyage), we've become pretty adept at dealing with Level 2.

Level 3: Maintenance stress

Talk to any long-distance sailor and ask the question 'What won't you miss when you stop cruising?' and the answer will usually be: 'Boat maintenance!'. Graham reckons that being an engineer is a definite disadvantage in this life because you're always listening for unusual noises or feeling for odd vibrations that will signal the onset of a repair job. Non-engineers probably live in blissful ignorance until something breaks!

Level 4: 'In the hands of others' stress

It comes as something of a shock to us when we have to hand over responsibility to others. The Panama Canal transit was probably the first major example, where we were very much in the hands of the officials of the Canal Authority and our local 'fixer' to get through the bureaucracy, and then there was the arrival at Galapagos, where even the relatively simple process of buying diesel involved agents, forms in triplicate and one can of diesel which turned out to contain 90% seawater.

Unfortunately, we're now firmly back in Level 4, preparing for Maunie to be hoisted onto the deck of the 13,500 tonne ship Damgracht, which we know, thanks to the magic of AIS tracking websites, is currently on route for Newcastle from Brisbane and should dock here tomorrow. The shipping company, Sevenstar, despite its excellent reputation for moving yachts around the globe, is proving to be pretty useless in terms of communicating to its customers. So, as far as we know, we should be loaded aboard on Thursday at some time but we have no inkling as to timings, process, Customs paperwork or expected ETA in Southampton. We resort to pontoon conversations with owners of other yachts doing the trip to see if anyone else has more up to date information!

Still, the delayed arrival of the ship has given us time to get Maunie ready and we had time in hand to walk off her on Sunday when the temperature reached 38 degrees. In Somerset they have snow and here we have record March temperatures (it was the hottest March day in Sydney for 74 years)!

The temperature in the cabin at 9.00 pm. We didn't sleep well that night, in spite of having fans running.

A stripped-down Maunie. Sails, running rigging and boom removed. The mainsail and boom will be stored inside the cabin for the voyage.

With the sprayhood, bimini and dodgers removed, the cockpit looks pretty bare

Cabin top and stainless steel polished
The spell of hot sunshine is about to be replaced with strong SE winds and heavy rain (to add to the Level 4 stress of watching Maunie being craned up onto the deck of the ship) but at least we have done everything we can to be ready for her next voyage without us. Hopefully our next post will include photos of the successful loading process and, by then, our stress levels will have returned to normal!

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Mad Dogs and Englishmen Sew Out in the Midday Sun (with apologies to Noel Coward)

As we feared, the docking date for our ship keeps getting delayed; bad weather up in the NE of Australia has delayed the m/v Damgracht and our latest loading date is now 21 March. Neither of us would accept bets that this won't change again! No matter, we have lots to do and the extra time in the marina is making us get to jobs that we've probably been creatively avoiding; it's just a bit frustrating that a couple of the more time-consuming ones would have been unnecessary had decisions been made just a little differently.

The first, completed yesterday, was to make a cover for the dinghy's new cover. Yes, that makes no sense but, unfortunately, we discovered that the very smart storage cover that came with Dinghy McDingface, bought in NZ only a couple of years ago, was made from a material which just seemed to dissolve in sunlight. After only one season it was held together with sticky tape and an email to the Auckland retailer was met with a reply along the lines of, 'We've complained to Zodiac but they just say the cover is for transport and not for deck storage' which seemed a little bizarre since the dinghy won't fold down to go into a locker, unless you happen to have a superyacht. We contacted Zodiac in France via their Facebook page and were told much the same thing but, after a lot of wrangling, they relented and said they'd send us an new cover. Result! Except for the fact that the material was the same as our old one so we knew it'd last no time at all if we exposed it to Australia's harsh sunshine. So we've spent about $300 on UV-proof Sunbrella acryclic canvas and some proper zips (the one in the Zodiac cover was a joke) and set to work in the hot sunshine.

G and the Awesome Machine

Di marking out the new material

The new Zodiac cover sewn into the Sunbrella canvas

Done - after a long, hot day
Our second, day-long task started innocuously enough. The stern (white) navigation light, which is mounted on the pushpit (the red and green bow lights are mounted on the pulpit, so it does make sense) stopped working. The fitting is as old as the boat (20 years) and the old design is very prone to corrosion and connection problems; we replaced the bow lights with sealed LED units last year but we thought the stern light was fine. 

Inside the light fitting, the bulb was fine and the connectors weren't a ball of corrosion. Hmmm, so what's the problem?...
 So, an easy 'new bulb fitted, job done!' project clearly wasn't going to go to plan. Deep into the lockers we went to find the voltmeter which told us that the light fitting was only getting about 3 volts rather than the 12 it needed; this was, to say the least, perplexing. Must be a break in the cable somewhere. Then it dawned on us - the cable runs from the light inside the stainless tubing of the pushpit and into the cockpit locker where it joins the main wiring loom. When we had the arch to carry the solar panels installed in Martinique five years ago the engineers welded two support struts for the aft vertical support onto that very tube! 

Of course this would have melted the insulation and the cable gradually corroded through in the salty air. We carefully pulled it out, with a thin line attached but, unsurprisingly, it broke half way.

The melted and very corroded cable - amazing that it kept working for so long!
You probably can't imagine how long it took and how near to defeat we came when we tried to feed a length of stiff wire through the 2m tubing (unless you own a boat, and then you'll have a very good idea) but, finally, we had new cable pulled through and connected up, and a smart new LED stern light added for good measure.

Fully waterproof, good for 50,000 hours and uses 20% of the power.

The final little maintenance story is a happier one and we are proud to announce a new record on Maunie - our quickest-ever haul out. We decided to get the boat lifted out at the little yard in the marina to rid her of any pesky Australian barnacles (which are tenacious little buggers), replace a sea-cock ball-valve that had seized and swap propellers. We smashed our previous best and our lift-out to relaunch time was only 3 hours!

8.00 am and all is calm for the lift out. Just as well as we had to come in backwards to fit the travel-lift and going backwards is not Maunie's forte
The yard is tiny but there are some very helpful engineers on hand when needed
You may remember a story from two years ago when we had to remove our fancy feathering propeller and send it, at great cost, back to the manufacturers in England for refurbishment. Well, it's now rattling again and we discovered at the last lift-out in November that the bearing grooves had worn badly - the manufacturers have said this is not normal and have agreed to take it back to investigate the cause so we decided it made sense to take it off now and have it ready for them to work on as soon as we get back. From experience, we knew that getting it off the tapered propeller shaft would be a challenge so we'd arranged help from Brad, the yard manager, and his impressive hydraulic prop-puller.

Brad applies the pressure - the tool can pull up to 10 tonnes and we needed them all. When the prop finally parted company with the shaft it did so with a startling bang.

Maunie's original fixed-blade prop is back  
We're now back in the marina and, with the latest shipping delay, are trying to balance the boat jobs with a bit of time off. We even managed to go to the cinema the other day to see The Mercy, which is the tragic story of single-handed sailor Donald Crowhurst (played by Colin Firth); quite a tough watch at times but recommended.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

The final Aussie sail - and where's Bob Diamond when you need him?

Monday was a slightly emotional day, as we made our final Australian sail up to Newcastle. The southerly breeze was from a helpful direction but was slightly lighter than forecast so, unfortunately, we had to motor-sail most of the 55 nm in cloudy conditions, passing a long line of coal and ore freighters anchored and awaiting their turn to enter the port.

The AIS signals of the anchored ships

One of the 800 ft ships

We managed a nice final hour under sail and dodged the rain showers

Following a ship into the Newcastle entrance
So, we are now into a new phase - getting Maunie stripped down ready for the ship (which is now delayed a couple of days, again, to the 18th) and getting on with some maintenance jobs. We're tackling things that are time-consuming and not necessarily much fun but need to be done so that when we get back to Dartmouth we can enjoy the boat (just at weekends, of course) without losing time to maintenance. Mind you, the latest task had Graham wishing he could summon up the help of his imaginary plumber; if you were following the blog way back in August 2013, you'd have met him in the mid-Pacific:

Bob Diamond (the plumber, not the banker) was overweight, fifty and looked slightly disheveled and sweaty after the journey. "Blimey, you took some finding out here! Got lost three times an' 'ad to stop fer directions twice!" he said in a strong south-London accent, mopping his brow with a red handkerchief and flashing the gold-toothed smile of a man who knows that all mileage will be recharged at an exhorbitant rate. He took a sip from his mug of tea ("Three sugars, luv, ta") and handed over his card as way of introduction:
Plumb Bob Ltd
Plumbers and Heating Engineers
Bob Diamond I.G.M.O.V.
He chuckled at my quizzical look. "Mate o' mine said it looks better if you 'ave letters after yer name. Stands for 'I got me own van' but most people don't ask." 

If you missed it, the full story is here.

So the challenge this time was one that all sailors dread - replacing the hoses for the heads (sea toilet). The last time we did this was about 9 years ago (and our mate Rich Fetherston gamely helped out) but, over time, the bores of the 38mm diameter 'poo pipes' slowly get encrusted with a coating of hard scale (something to do with urea and seawater) which reduces their internal size. Of course, being a boat, it's not an easy task to remove the old pipes and add the new and, since this was the aft heads, it involved a lot of time in the cockpit locker to access the connections.

One of the old pipes and its replacement

The build-up of scale
The bilge rat emerges from the cockpit locker
 The challenge of replacing the pipes and connecting up the new ones in the locker would have certainly had Bob exclaiming, "Strewth! Oo done this plumbing? Right old cowboy job I'd say." Then, to himself, "Terrible access – ow you s'posed to get yer 'and in there?"

The aft heads has the additional complication of a holding tank, to allow it to be used in harbour without polluting the water - the tank is then pumped out at sea or its contents vacuumed out at a pump-out station in a marina. It makes for some pretty convoluted plumbing:

 For any sailors reading this and contemplating a similar project, I can wholeheartedly confirm Adam's (from Bravo) recommendation of using the more-than-twice-the-price butyl low-odour hose; it's so much more flexible and easy to connect than the normal plastic hoses whic can be a nightmare to fit.

So, thankfully, that job is now done but the to-do list is still pretty long. So far the generator's been serviced, the toilet pumps overhauled, the cooker has had a deep clean, the sails are removed and are being serviced at the local sailmakers, the lifejackets have been washed and serviced and the halyards have been pulled out of the mast and replaced with mousing lines. 

Maunie looking a bit bare without her sails. The lifejackets washed and drying.
We have another 8 days to go (assuming that the ship isn't delayed any further) so should get everything done. We'll plan some time to explore the town as well.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Sailing just for the fun of it, while we still can

We're watching BBC reports of blizzards and snow drifts across Europe and see that even the normally-mild south west of England has been carpeted in snow. Mixed feelings here - on the one hand it would be fun to be back in a winter wonderland after five yeas of perpetual summer but, on the other, well, perhaps not.

Our shipping date from Newcastle has been delayed by about 10 days (now due on the 16th March) and so we have decided to stay in beautiful Pittwater and Broken Bay, to enjoy the sunshine and get as many boat jobs done as we can, before sailing north to meet the ship. The MV Damgracht sounds like a German swearword but looks pretty impressive:

This area has to be one of the best sailing playgrounds that we've ever known and being here has made us do something that live-aboard sailors often fail to do - go sailing just for the fun of it. Long-term cruisers tend to think in terms of passages from one harbour to the next and then the sails are stowed and we start living in the new temporary neighbourhood. Somehow the effort of rigging the boat for anything other than the journey to the next place seems too much. It has been lovely, therefore, to have the time here to say, 'It's a great sailing breeze, let's go and play for a couple of hours' and,of course, all the local boats racing or just messing about on the water just act as encouragement.

Di on mainsheet-traveler trimming as we beat out into a 20 knot breeze

Lovely downwind sailing into Cowan Creek

Those returning home on a Sunday evening had a less pleasant experience, motoring against wind and swell

One of the many free visitors' moorings - this one at Cottage Rock Beach

The view from the beach
There are so many lovely anchorages to chose from here, some more sheltered than others and some offering unexpected benefits. At Cottage Rock we found that there's a freshwater spring pouring onto the beach and some enterprising sailors have installed a couple of pipes to channel the water:

After months of conserving water on Maunie, an unlimited fresh-water shower was a wonderful thing....

..... even though it's cold!
Somebody has even bolted a hook to the rock to allow you to fill a bucket or jerrycan
In between these fun outings, we've been based on a lovely mooring that belongs to the Woody Point Yacht Club. Sue and Ian, whom we first met in Vanuatu when they were staying aboard Sel Citron, are members of this wonderful club (club motto: 'For drinkers with a sailing problem'); Sue is the Commodore this year and they take their boat Perseverance out each Wednesday night to act as the start / finish boat for a racing fleet of around 60 yachts of all shapes and sizes. We've joined them a couple of times and Graham took loads of photos that he's given to the club:

Perseverance was built as a Navy work boat during the second world war and was given a new cabin and a massive 6-cylinder Gardner diesel engine in the 1990's 

Dennis, left, does the hard work of the race committee whilst everyone else drinks and eats

So, very sadly, this is our final weekend in Pittwater. We celebrated with a superb spinnaker run to a mooring at Hallets Beach yesterday with a wee refreshment en route; Graham is very delighted to have found Thatchers Cider on sale in local bottle shop!

We'll sail up to Newcastle on Monday - it's about a 10 hour passage and there's a southerly wind forecast to help us along  - and then we have about 10 days in the marina to get Maunie ready to meet Damgracht. The list of jobs covers a side and a half of A4 paper so we won't have too much time for regrets about leaving here.