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, 13 November 2019

Cold weather sailing with the Ithakas

We were delighted to have Colin & Ana join us for 4 nights aboard Maunie over the weekend. We first met them in Panama, where they bought Ithaka, their 43ft aluminium Ovni,  and then sailed with them, or near them, for about 3 years before their epic crossing from NZ to Chile. From there, they navigated the channels down to Cape Horn and then  returned to France via the Falklands. Epic adventurers, indeed, but they have now sold the boat and have been working very hard to renovate a cottage in Scotland; we were glad to be able to drag them away from the building work.

Sunny but cold conditions as we sailed from Dartmouth to the Yealm

After a lovely, fast sail in 16-20 knots of northerly wind (making it bitingly cold but delivering a very smooth sea) we moored up in a deserted River Yealm, had a quick lunch then went on an energetic hike over the hill to the South West Coast Path for a circuit back to the boat in the fading light. A restorative beer or two was needed in the pub before we returned to Maunie for a fish pie supper.

Looking east towards the Mew Stone, with Rame Head in the distance. The entrance to Plymouth Sound is to the right 

The tranquil River Yealm at dusk. The heating system on Maunie earned its keep in the evenings and early mornings.
 Saturday dawned wet and windy but, as forecast, the skies cleared for a while to give us another good coastal walk before a relaxed long lunch in the Ship Inn. Back aboard for the evening, Colin produced Doh! Cranium, a game that we made for them for their crossing from NZ to Chile. Based on a Canadian game called Cranium, our version just involved describing the given clues (all based on Ithaka's voyage) through the medium of Play-doh sculpture. 
The yellow 'sculpture' was supposed to be Easter Island!
The return sail on Sunday started fairly gently but we had a bouncy time in the Start Point tidal race, with wind against tide. Maunie took it in her stride and Ana helmed us expertly through the waves.

Approaching the tidal race in calm conditions, but we could see the breaking waves ahead of us

Maunie punches her way through the waves

A fun weekend with great company and it was good to have made the best of some pretty changeable weather. 

Thursday, 24 October 2019

More epic moments and a bit of a drama

The mini-cruise onwards to the River Yealm delivered, as forecast, precious little wind but some great wildlife moments. The new crew members were delighted to have dolphins coming to play with us.

Once safely moored in the Yealm, all three trainees were determined to climb the mast - no fear shown at all:

And training sessions in the dinghy moved on to circuits around Maunie, with the skipper watching carefully.

All that mast-climbing practice could have come in useful on the return sail back to Dartmouth. We had a perfect 18 - 20 knot wind behind us so the Irish Flag spinnaker was flown and we fairly charged along. We'd just treated Maunie to new spinnaker sheets and halyard and the latter delivered something of a challenge when we came to drop the sail. It somehow jammed in the block at the top of the mast so we couldn't lower the sail at all and the 'snuffer' sock broke free of its bottom fitting so zipped upwards to leave the full sail flapping noisily in the wind. With a bit of quick thinking and conference between skipper and first mate, we decided the best course of action was to drop the mainsail and then send someone up the mast with a spare halyard. The new crew looked nervous but Graham volunteered himself to do the climb, with Dianne on the winch to give him a tight safety line.

The wild flapping of the sail made shouted conversation between deck and mast-head something of a challenge, but the new halyard was clipped on to the head of the sail, the jammed one unclipped and then Dianne carefully lowered spinnaker to the deck, to be gathered and stuffed into its bag by Graham and Martha. A bit of a drama but full marks to all the crew for their safety-first planning and actions. Martha even managed to get a bit of video, in between the sail-taming - we'll try and post it to the blog when we get back to broadband as this attempt may not work

After that little kerfuffle, we came safely into Dartmouth, moored up on the pontoon and celebrated the end of a great few days with a monster chicken curry. Good timing - there's a southerly gale forecast for the next couple of days.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Half-term cruising

After a very wet most-of-October, we have been very lucky to have bright sunshine for a half-term mini-cruise with a new crew aboard. Martha, Henry and Jasper joined us for a few days and we had a perfect start with a lovely gentle sail around to Salcombe yesterday.  Martha took a great photo as we rounded Start Point.

We had a couple of visits from porpoises as we sailed and we finished the 17nm passage with a little race against one of the Royal Navy's training yachts (we won!).

Today has been bright and sunny so, after a shore trip in the dinghy (for Cornish pasties, brought back to Maunie for lunch) the crew decided that the clear blue water was just far too good to miss. Swimming at the end of October, eh? 

We had to say no to a visit to the Salcombe Distillery 
The Captain says the water will be really warm!

Can't have been that cold - Martha and Jasper go back for more

The tide is about to turn in our favour so we'll set off for the River Yealm - probably motoring all the way (but only for about 3 hours) as there's not much wind at all.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Sailing again

It was just wonderful to have Maunie back sailing again, in bright sunshine, on Friday. With a super-shiny bottom and very little weight aboard, she felt really fast in the lovely F4 breeze.

Our sail was fairly short as we had to return to the mooring for Rick and his son Joel to come to do some final fairing of the deck. Rick's a perfectionist so was sorting minor details that most people wouldn't even notice.

Rick's dog, Rusty, waits patiently in the cockpit
Down below, things are almost back to normal though we have various items of joinery back in our garage for re-varnishing. As ever, the boat projects will continue to keep us busy...

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Farewell to Baltic Wharf - the project is complete

After just over 2 months, (two long, hard and testing months) Maunie is back on her mooring, looking rather splendid.

The choice of Baltic Wharf Boatyard in Totnes worked out really well for us. The yard was once a major importer of timber from the Baltic and, in the 1980's, ships of up to 280ft in length somehow weaved their way up the meandering upper reaches of the River Dart to unload their cargo:

Our work-shed was once used for seasoning timber so it was spacious and well-ventilated but kept us sheltered from the hot sun and rain as we worked long hours to complete the process of replacing all the remaining deck fittings:

Graham re-fitting the backstay chain plates

'Right, Di, just hold it steady while I apply the sealant'
David, owner of Baltic Wharf Repairs, completes the last job on his list - applying the new lettering. His team did an amazing job with the repaint - just look at the reflection in blue stripe
With all the work going on it was great to have a twice-a week- visit from Rick with his amazing solar-powered rickshaw coffee machine.

The yard team of Steve, Fletcher and Steve, supported by Sue and Trish in the office, were really friendly and helpful and took a lot of care whenever they moved Maunie. 

The yellow trailer picks up the galvanised cradle without having to adjust the props on the boat

Heading down the yard to have the mast re-stepped

Fletch waits to receive the pushpit and solar panel arch

Refitting the mast - on-site riggers Lee and Des were there to do a professional job of tuning the tension on all the wires

Though we did most of the work ourselves, there were certain jobs that we needed to hand over to the professionals. Once David and his team had completed the repaint and we had applied the Coppercoat, there was the job of removing the propeller shaft to replace the worn cutlass bearing. The snag was that it hadn't been removed for at least 10 years so wasn't at all keen to shift.

The prop shaft connects into a flexible coupling in the centre of the photo (the back of the gearbox is to the right). Normally you undo about 8 bolts which compress a cone onto the shaft and then pull it out. Nah, not on Maunie!
Steve from New Wave Marine came to our rescue again; he made up a special removal tool and managed to get the shaft to shift at last. In theory, removing the cutlass bearing should then have been easy but, of course, it had also seized. Nothing for it but the application of a saw, drill and a large chisel. We were glad to have Steve's expertise on this and he admitted that it was probably the worst bearing he'd had to remove.

Steve cutting the old bearing in the p-bracket

The mangled remains of the old bearing...

...and the new one fitted
Graham finished the job of refitting the prop shaft, putting new waterproof packing into the stern gland and, finally, fitting the new propeller. Due to the unusual wear that we'd found on the original propeller's bearings, Brunton's gave us a significant discount on a new, bigger H6 model which should work much better on a boat of Maunie's weight.

We are trying a new 'magic' antifoul system called Silic One for the prop, aiming to keep the barnacles away
An unusual view of the keel
So, with the usual last-minute rush of final jobs, we re-launched at 11.30 on Friday and motored down the Dart back to our mooring. The new bearing and propeller combo was much smoother and quieter than before and, with her super-shiny hull and minimal weight of kit aboard, Maunie glided through the water with ease. We returned to the mooring to find our new neighbour - fittingly a Vancouver 34 Pilot, just like our last boat, called Hejira.

Of course, the project isn't quite finished - there's still a fair amount to do down below, there's still some detailing and polishing of the upper decks to do and the mainsail needs to be brought back aboard but we are pretty much there. It has been a much harder project, both physically and emotionally, than we'd expected but it's really satisfying top know that we have given Maunie a new lease of life and that the nagging worry of leaky teak decks is now behind us. 

We'd like to thank all the people at Baltic Wharf, plus Richard our deck expert, for all their support and I'd like to thank Dianne for all her hard work and for keeping me going when things got tough. Finally, a huge thanks to Graham from Dianne. Graham has worked with endless energy, enthusiasm, innovation and engineering expertise. The result? Maunie looks stunning and Dianne has new skills.

Time to go sailing!

Sunday, 25 August 2019


We've had another productive but exhausting week at the boatyard in Totnes. The stanchions and guardrails are back in situ, which makes working on deck much less risky (the ramifications of a fall from height were too awful to ignore, so this was a priority) and the refitting of deck kit has continued. The big job, however, was to apply the Coppercoat antifoul system.

A yacht (not Maunie) suffering heavy fouling

For those not entirely au fait with the life cycle of the barnacle, boat hulls are perfect targets for the little blighters to set up home. If allowed to do so, they quickly encrust the underwater surfaces and, together with any weedy fouling, cause huge amounts of additional drag as you sail. Wooden vessels can also be afflicted by the teredo worm, particularly in warm waters, which bore into the planking with potentially disastrous consequences, so the battle against underwater invaders has been fought by sailors for centuries. Back in 1761 the Royal Navy first began applying sheets of copper to the bottom of their ships - it turned out to be an expensive but worthwhile process (hence the phrase 'copper-bottomed investment') as the copper repelled barnacles and also prevented the teredo worm from being able to bore into the timber.

Today, most yachts use an ablative antifouling paint, applied annually or (if you're lucky) bi-annually. Containing a cocktail of fairly unpleasant chemicals, the painted surface is soft so it slowly erodes, preventing barnacles and weed from gaining a grip on the hull. The annual cleaning and repainting process is the yachtsman's least-favourite task and, with the cost of a haul-out added to the cost of the paint, it's an expensive process. Also a key driver for our move from antifouling paint to Coppercoat was reducing the environmental impact.

Back in 2011 we had Maunie's hull slurry-blasted back to clean fibreglass, five coats of epoxy sealer paint were applied and then Coppercoat added. As its name suggests, Coppercoat is the modern equivalent of nailing sheets of copper to the hull; very fine copper powder is mixed into an epoxy base which is then applied by roller. The resulting finish is hard and provides effective anti-fouling for up to 10 years with nothing more than a regular scrub to keep the hull clean. After 8 years and thousands of miles, however, the coating on Maunie's hull was wearing thin so we knew it was time to apply a fresh coat. The yard quote for labour to do the job was close to £2,300 so we decided to do it ourselves; the manufacturers provided excellent instruction and videos so we braced ourselves for two and a half days of hard graft:

The first job was to sand back the old Coppercoat - a vacuum cleaner extracted the dust but a face mask is a vital extra as epoxy dust is pretty nasty

The sanding reveals the copper colour

The epoxy base is a two-part mix...

… and a drill-mounted mixer made it easy

The very fine copper powder is mixed into the epoxy - about 2.2 kg of copper per litre

Di at work. We applied an epoxy-only coat onto the hull first then five coats of Coppercoat, each applied when the previous coat was still tacky. You can see the white patches on the keel where the original Copper coat had worn thin

The trick is to apply very thin coats, so the first coat looked fairly patchy

After the third coat things were looking better. 

With just two people the process is hard work. Once mixed, the product has a pot life of only about 30 minutes so we had to work fast to get it all applied in time. One litre of mix was enough for a single coat of one side of the hull and we'd decided, wisely, to do one side of the hull at a time. Once we'd finished the coat, we had about 20 minutes of rest before starting the next mix.

Motivational donuts and coffee between coats

The end of day one, the hull half completed

End of day 2
The epoxy is water-based so didn't give off horrible fumes but it needs good air flow to allow it to dry. When we started the port side we found that there wasn't any breeze in the shed and the coating was taking an age to harden; luckily we were able to borrow a huge industrial fan which solved the problem in a few minutes.

While we were working, Andy the painter came to polish out a couple of minor imperfections in the paint. He has done a brilliant job.

The best bit of the job - removing the masking tape

Done! Well, not quite - after five days to let the surface harden, we need to move the supporting pads to coat the four patches of old surface that they will leave.