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.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Nearing the end of the season, with a tour of Britannia Royal Naval College

We've just had a few days aboard Maunie in beautiful sunny weather. Not much wind at all, however, so the plan to have a last sail came to naught. Still, we had some excellent walking up the Dart Valley, managed to strip the sails off boom and fore-stay furler in perfect (dry and windless) conditions and completed a few more maintenance jobs. In a couple of week's time we are hauling out for the winter.

Yesterday, our final day aboard, was the highlight of the week; we'd booked to go on a private tour of the Britannia Royal Naval College with another 28 south-west members of the cruising association. The tour had been postponed from last year, due to Covid, but we were very glad it was; our patience was rewarded with bright, warm, sunshine and a unique spectators' view of a normally very private Royal Navy ceremony.

BRNC, designed by Sir George Aston Webb (also responsible for the facade of Buckingham Palace) and completed in 1905

All Royal Navy Officers (and many from navies around the world) are trained here - they complete two, fifteen-week terms of intense training before their Passing Out ceremony to become commissioned officers. 

By pure chance, our tour took place on the day of the Fleet Commander's Supersession Ceremony. The Fleet Commander is the operational head of the British Navy, reporting to the First Sea Lord, who is the most senior-ranking British Naval Officer. The retiring FC, Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd (who has the unique track record of being captain of three RN aircraft carriers, Ark Royal, Illustrious and Queen Elizabeth) was handing over to Vice Admiral Andy Burns, with a full guard of honour. 

We felt somewhat conspicuous as a bunch of civilians in the place but the Vice Admirals and the First Sea Lord came over to chat to us before and after the formal ceremony and were friendly and welcoming.

There was a lot of saluting going on, so we soon realised that this was an important event

The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Anthony Radakin comes over for a chat

The Officer Cadets fall in to bid farewell to Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd

With the ceremony completed we were able to continue our tour of the college, led by a very knowledgeable retired officer.  

The Chapel

The Dining Hall

Maunie's mooring is just to the left of the mast

Anyone who has visited Birmingham University (another of Aston Webb's designs) will recognise the architectural style

Cadets completing ceremonial swordsmanship training for their Passing Out Parade

Saturday, 17 July 2021

The end of a brilliant trip

We sailed into Dartmouth yesterday, slightly overwhelmed by the number of boats out sailing and motoring! After two and a half months away and over 1820 nm sailed, it is good to be home, though we absolutely loved our time in Scottish waters so there's a tinge of sadness, too.

A little celebration on our return to our home mooring

The experience of crowed south-coast harbours did come as a shock; seeing yachts rafted three-abreast in Fowey and Dartmouth is a sign of how many people are cruising here rather than going to France, the Channel Islands and Ireland. These ports are, of course, fully geared-up to managing lots of yachts and will be enjoying the sudden financial bonus that all these visitors bring.

One harbour on our final few days stood out as being rather different, however. Newlyn, close to Penzance, is the only port offering access at all stages of tide on that stretch of the Cornish coast so it makes an obvious stop-off for boats heading between Falmouth and the Isles of Scilly. It could be a seriously popular sailing destination, an ideal place for a new marina to cater for the needs of those sailors who only feel comfortable when berthed somewhere that offers pontoons, electricity hook-ups, smart showers and a nice bistro. However, Newlyn's unashamedly a serious fishing port, home to fishing boats of all sizes and a very large wholesale fish market to manage their catches. Visiting yachts are tolerated rather than welcomed (and some yachties find this hard to deal with) but we managed to squeeze into a space and enjoyed the place.

Room only for a dozen or so yachts, surrounded by hundreds of fishing boats

Dartmouth, by contrast, is dominated by leisure craft; its fleet of perhaps twenty fishing boats, mostly small, is housed on a single pontoon, surrounded by yachts.

We've returned, of course, just as the hot, settled weather arrived so we've rarely seen the river so busy with visiting yachts.

Someone didn't get the memo about boat colour!

We'll be sad to be leaving Maunie after such a brilliant trip but we're looking forward to returning home to catch up with friends and neighbours and to enjoy the garden in full bloom. We'll get some shorted sailing trips in over the rest of the summer but, for the moment, this is Maunie signing off. Hope you've enjoyed the voyage.

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Three types of fatigue - back in the West Country

 As we feared, the trip south was notable for the lack of wind so the drone of the Yanmar diesel was a major part of our lives for nearly three days. Or it was until it slowed and stuttered on day two - a partially blocked fuel filter was diagnosed and the offending item was replaced, a job that's not much fun in a rolling sea.

As ever, it was a fatiguing trip for the crew and for the boat.

Fatigued crew - Fergus falling asleep as he sat in the pilothouse

Fatigued shackle - this was holding the mainsail clew (bottom rear corner) to the boom until it suddenly parted. To be fair it's probably a 1997 original.

Fatigued Walrus in St Mary's Harbour, Isles of Scilly

We'll come back to the walrus.

Overall the 350nm passage was dull but easy and we were glad to arrive in Scilly as the next wave of rain crossed us. After a day's recovery and a walk on Bryher we moved over to St Mary's (the biggest island) as the sunshine arrived.

St Mary's Pool moorings

It was here that we (almost literally) bumped into Wally the Walrus, a geographically-challenged mammal who has decided that this is the next port of call on his tour which has included Spain, France and Cornwall. We we silently motoring the dinghy (thanks to the electric outboard) back to Maunie and came past Wally's latest favourite boat - he's already sunk a couple of fishing boats!

The novelty of Wally is definitely wearing off for the locals who are increasingly worried about the damage to boats that his one-tonne bulk is wreaking, but there's a bit of humour to be had.

Our day of warm sunshine was to be followed by a change of wind direction and the arrival of yet another weather front. More rain to come but we had some great skies last night.

We left the islands this morning , with a 05.30 alarm call to take full advantage of the favourable tides. At last we had a superb sailing breeze though it rained pretty hard as we headed towards Newlyn, meeting the RMV Scillonian, which transports passengers and cargo each day to St Mary's.

The soggy day has very slowly dried out and tonight's excitement is, of course, the England Vs. Italy match. All the pubs are fully booked so we'll be streaming it onto the iPad as a safer (Covid-wise) alternative. C'mon England!

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Avoiding The Clach, The Leug and The Spoig - but looking for wind

More crew changes on Maunie - Dianne returned safely from her Lancashire trip, Geoff returned home and Ana and Colin (ex-Ithaca) joined us for a night and a very pleasant daysail. Finally, Fergus (Atlantic Crossing crew member) has just joined us for the passage south back to Devon. All in all, it's been lovely to catch up with everyone.

The Clach, The Leug and the Spoig (in case you're wondering) are three splendidly-named but potentially dangerous rocks in in Millport Bay, Great Cumbrae, where we picked up a visitors' buoy for a night.

Great Cumbrae is only a short ferry crossing from Largs and the houses on the seafront testify to the fact that it's been a holiday destination for well to-do Glaswegians for a century or more.

Looking south from the beach.

By contrast, the neighbouring Little Cumbrae is a privately-owned island with a ruined castle and a rather splendid (but unkempt) house. It was for some time a yoga retreat but looks as though it needs a bit of investment now.

Firth of Clyde sightseeing completed, we returned to Ardrossan Harbour to re-fuel, re-water and to stock up on food ready for the passage south. Unfortunately the weather gods aren't really playing ball so we have the option of a lot of motoring in little or no wind or else to wait for at least a week in the hope of a more favourable forecast. Time isn't on our side and so we've taken the decision to head for the Isles of Scilly in one passage (about a 55-hour trip) with the hope of a sailing breeze at least for the last day.

Glassy conditions off Loch Ryan and Stranraer

All being well, we'll get to St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, on Thursday afternoon. In the meantime having Fergus aboard makes the night watches very civilised 3hours on, 6 hours off so we should have some time to catch up on some reading!

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Sailing with my Dad

Geoff, my dad, taught me to sail when I was only six years old. In hindsight, it might have been easier if he wasn't teaching himself how to sail at the same time, but never mind. Anyway, Dianne has headed south to see her family for a few days so Dad and I are having a few days sailing together - and the weather is amazing!

Slightly dodgy sunglasses but Dad's enjoying helming Maunie

We had a cracking sail up to the Kyles of Bute and anchored in the lovely An Caladh harbour, expecting it to be crowded with boats but delighted to find it all to ourselves, and flat calm.

Today we headed down the West Kyle into Loch Fyne and picked a nice little spot for a lunchtime stop, Asgog Bay:

From here it was only a 4 mile crossing to East Loch Tarbert for a welcome return to this pretty harbour.

Sunshine and light winds are forecast for the next few days so we'll continue with out little boys' tour until Thursday, when we'll return to Ardrossan just in time to meet Dianne's return train. 

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Sailing into the azure blue waters of the Clyde?!

We're pleased to say that the rounding of the Mull of Kintyre was a lot less stressful than was the Mull of Galloway, a few weeks ago. We managed to get our timings pretty much spot-on so had increasingly fast current pushing southwards and then scooting us round the tip. At one point we had over four knots of tidal assistance so our SOG (speed over ground) briefly showed over 12 knots when we were sailing at about 7.5 knots through the water.

Even in favourable conditions (wind and tide in the same direction) the Mull kicks up some interesting  tidal overfalls - the seabirds obviously pick off any fish flung up to the surface

We had a lovely sail up to the port of Campbeltown and found a spot on the visitors' pontoon; luckily we arrived in the early afternoon because boats were being turned away when it filled by mid-evening.

At last, sunshine! Very welcome after 3 days of pretty relentless drizzle

Sunset lighting the clouds

The town itself came as a bit of a shock - fast moving cars, police and a lot more shops than we've become accustomed to. Graham even had a haircut before we left at noon on Saturday.

The sunshine also revealed something slightly odd - the sea had turned an almost turquoise colour.

This photo doesn't do it justice, but the water had definitely adopted a colour more reminiscent of our time in the Pacific.

The answer, apparently, was some kind of rare algae bloom that was reflecting sunlight much as coral sand does in warmer places.

The weather seems to be settling in for a nice period of light winds and sunshine and so we motored around the southern tip of Arran yesterday to anchor off Brodick Castle on the eastern side of the island. We enjoyed an absolutely calm night.

Another anchorage, another mountain. Goat Fell on Arran.


Maunie presumably features in the background of this couple's wedding photos

We're now in Ardrossan and it's all-change for a few days. Di's getting the train down to Lancashire to spend a few days with family and to see her dad, while Graham's dad, Geoff, is joining him for a boys' tour of the Clyde. It promises to be a much calmer experience than the last time he was aboard!