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.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

The end of the Autumn cruise

As ever, we've had an eye on the long-term forecasts and spotted that, after days of very light breezes, brisk easterlies were on the cards at the end of this week, just when we were planning to sail east, back to Dartmouth. We therefore revised our plans and decided to leave Falmouth on Sunday, with a couple of stops en route. First, though, we needed some provisions so we took the dinghy, powered by its wonderful electric outboard, up the Truro River to Tesco!

Following the marked channel between the the mud banks in the final approach to Truro. You can only make this trip at high tide and then only in a shallow-draft boat

The last time we did this trip was in one of these - a Parker 235 lift-keel trailer-sailer. Gentoo was our only brand-new boat and we loved exploring shallow waters and did some epic cruises in her.

Shopping-by-dinghy completed, we headed back downstream before the tide dropped, pursued by a keen young kayaker

We returned to Maunie having used pretty much all of the outboard's lithium battery capacity - it reckoned we had 6 minutes of motoring left but that wasn't bad after nearly 6 miles.

We fitted in a mid afternoon drink with Simon and Kerry at the Pandora Inn, having moved back to our borrowed mooring.

The departure from Falmouth on Sunday began in very light airs but in rather elegant company:

Note the crewman climbing the mast, for scale

St Antony's Head lighthouse, which guards the eastern side of the Fal entrance. The lobster pot buoy in the foreground was one of many in this area - a real risk to navigation for the unwary!

Our 8-hour, 60 nm passage involved motor-sailing all of the way in a breeze that never increased more than 7 knots but at least the sails added about half a knot to our progress and the water was absolutely calm. We arrived at the entrance to the River Yealm to find the anchorage absolutely full of boats but, as we hoped, all but five of them returned to Plymouth as the evening light faded so we had uninterrupted views of the sunset.

The easterly breeze began to build in the morning so we had a lovely beat to our next anchorage, Hope Cove. It would be 12 miles by motorboat but tacking against the wind saw us cover 20 miles until we dropped anchor in a place that, to be honest, we'd normally avoid. Hope Cove was presumably named by sailors who prayed that it would be a safe anchorage when in reality it was a terrible death-trap for sailing ships driven on to the rocks by the prevailing south-westerlies. However with our easterly wind and calm seas it was a lovely overnight stop.

It's not a pretty village but at least the new extension to the hotel, with its hideous orange roof, means that there's no mistaking the cove as you approach from seaward

There's no harbour to speak of, but the seawall offers some protection to the drying beach

Maunie's the middle yacht, lying to the very gentle easterly breeze

This spot isn't always so tranquil - have a look at this short video on YouTube showing the effects of a westerly storm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHmNOBxpmgc

We were particularly pleased to stop here because Di's sister Sue and her husband Mark were staying in a Hope Cove holiday cottage with their daughter Amy and her husband Joe. Amy was a very keen crew aboard several of our boats, starting when she was only about 9 years old, and it was wonderful to meet Benjamin, our great-nephew of 7 months.

The final leg of our cruise was another calm-water motor around Start Point with just enough breeze to sail the last couple of miles and about 2 knots of tide pushing us towards our destination . Safely back on our mooring with a few boat jobs to do, we look back on this little trip as being one of the most relaxing UK cruises we've ever done - no huge mileages or overnight passages, no reefs put into sails or hatches battened down. Just a chance, in all the doom and gloom of COVID, to enjoy the delights of this wonderful coastline and to see people that we might not be able to see again for a while.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

More gentle sailing and some old friends reunited

 A period of prolonged, settled and sunny weather has meant that the sailing hasn't been great but it has allowed us to explore and enjoy the wonderful Cornish scenery. A couple of days at anchor in Falmouth allowed us to catch up with our Best Man, Simon, plus Kerry and their daughters Belle and Charlie.  We also saw a familiar vessel in the docks:

The World - a ship co-owned by about 200 residents who buy apartments or 'studios' (costing from £800k to £7.5M, if you're interested) to live full or part-time aboard the ship while it circles the globe. We last saw her in Sydney but Covid-19 has brought the whole show to a halt. The owners, guests and most of the crew had to disembark in March and the ship has been laid up in Falmouth since May. 

In perfect sunshine, we motored up the Fal to Restronguet creek, home to more millionaires with their awesome waterfront properties plus the lovely Pandora Inn. We anchored between the permanent moorings but it was a tight squeeze so were delighted when a couple came over in a dinghy and offered us the use of their empty mooring.

Restroguet Creek
Alfresco drinks and lunch on the pontoon at the Pandora Inn

Our next stop was St Mawes where the anchorage was very quiet. We could re-provision in the tiny but well-stocked Co-op store and then enjoy the sunset.

We then moved on, all of about five miles, to the Helford River - another memorably beautiful spot.

On a visitors' mooring on the Helford River

The pretty hamlet of Helford

Of course, we had to have a cheeky beer at the Shipwrights Arms

Our sailing adventures always seem to involve an improbable coincidence so we shouldn't have been surprised when we were hailed by a couple in a dinghy as they passed our mooring. Sally and Mike sailed their boat, Jacaranda, around the world in a very quick two years and we watched them sail off towards Panama when we were in St Lucia. They now have a new boat and a dog, so it was wonderful to catch up with them over a couple of drinks. 

We also arranged to meet up with Melaine and Chris, whom we first met in New Zealand several years ago. They live locally, so we had a great pub lunch with them and they came aboard for coffee. It's good to keep these contacts going!

To bring things up to date, today we had a gentle sail back across to Falmouth and up the river to a visitors' pontoon about 2 miles from Truro. It's a magical spot but the river delivers some surprises as you get into the narrow but deep upper sections:

The King Harry chain ferry

A couple of moth-balled car transporter ships moored in the river, waiting for an upturn in international trade

The visitors' pontoon, with a lovely wooden pilot cutter moored up

Traditional wooden gaffer to the right and a modern fibreglass one to the left

A perfectly calm evening

All good things must come to an end, unfortunately, so we have to start thinking about heading back to Dartmouth. The long-range forecast threatens strong easterlies in a few days, which wouldn't be great for us, so we'll probably start heading east on Sunday to stay ahead of them. We'll be sorry to leave this part of Cornwall, though.

Monday, 7 September 2020

Cruising again at last!

With the partial easing of COVID restrictions in early July, we were at last able to stay aboard Maunie overnight and do a much-needed shakedown sail to Plymouth and back. It's frightening how rusty we felt after all this time of being landlubbers but we had a great few days aboard.

We've made a short film of the trip - you can click
HERE to find it.

Of course, time aboard also allowed us to do more boat jobs - a mix of minor improvements and important maintenance:

A new splash guard for the engine panel, made with help from our Kilve neighbour Trevor and his fantastic bandsaw, from a spare piece of perspex we'd saved for just such a job

Sign of the times on a sailing yacht - a new charging station for phones

A seriously big (and expensive) screwdriver had to be purchased to persuade 23-year old bolts to move, allowing us to replace seized and worn sheaves in the deck organisers which lead control lines back to the cockpit winches

Ready for a new one!

We were rather overwhelmed by how busy the Dart and other south west harbours were during the school holidays, so have waited until the beginning of September to take a couple of weeks to go cruising. So, here are a few photos from the past few days as we sailed west from Dartmouth.

Waiting for the fog to clear in the Barn Pool, Plymouth

A better morning in Fowey

Alongside the short-stay pontoon in Fowey for a great view of a bulk clay ship being towed, stern first, up the river to the loading wharf

The old method was for the ship to drop its anchor on a short scope to drag along the riverbed, keeping her straight,  while the stern tug pulled her upstream. The forward tug now does this job, presumably reducing ecological damage to the river. 

On a visitors' mooring in Mevagissey - a harbour dominated by the sizeable fishing fleet and where visiting yachts are given limited space but are still welcomed.

Unsettled weather delivered some great sky-scapes

The inner harbour dries at low tide and is full of fishing boats....

... plus a retired lifeboat
looking down on the harbour. Maunie is the middle boat of the three in the foreground

Fishermen's dinghies, used to access the boats on the moorings

We sailed on to Falmouth in perfect conditions and will be exploring the Fal and Helford rivers for a couple of days as the forecast is for pretty light winds this week. It's lucky that we could access a reasonably large pharmacy as Di suddenly had a crown fall off (of the tooth, rather than headgear type, I should point out); thankfully she didn't swallow it and we hope that an application of what looks very like Araldite will hold it in place until she can visit our dentist.