Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall charting our adventures as we sail around the world. The boat is now on the east coast of Australia while we spend a summer back in Britain.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

One month to sunshine

G'day from a windy and distinctly chilly Somerset. It's suddenly sinking-in that, in only 26 days, we'll be back in a place where G'day is regarded as a normal greeting, so the pressure's on to finish the house jobs and start packing things away for our return to a 38ft home. Actually, we have to say that the house and garden are now looking lovely and we hope that the letting agent's optimism will be rewarded with some wonderful tenants signing on the dotted line soon. 

As British readers will know, it hasn't been a great summer - the weather has been 'changeable' (pretty crap actually) and the mood of the newsrooms has been overwhelmingly downbeat. The Prime Minister told us that the country needs a 'strong and stable' government back in May when she rashly thought that a snap general election would be a fine and dandy idea; she's now (at the party conference) downrated our needs to 'calm' government, prompting the question of where her team now sits on sliding scale from 'inspirational' at one end to 'dire' at the other. As we feared, the machinations of the Brexit negotiations and internal party bickering have rather taken the politicians' eyes off the ball when it comes to dealing with the pressing short and long term issues that the country faces. 

Anyway, enough of all that. Despite the challenges, we've enjoyed being back at home. Graham's job at Thatchers Cider has proved to be challenging but enjoyable and its scope has expanded over the months. Initially focusing on a huge investment project to build a new automated warehouse (due to begin building next May), he's now looking at all sorts of other things that have him investigating areas that are new to him. Thatchers is a great business, family-owned like Yeo Valley, that's growing very quickly thanks to very loyal existing cider drinkers and many more newcomers to the brand. A few weekends ago about 8,000 of them turned up for an open day at the cider mill (5,000 more than at the last event two years ago) so Graham returned from the day having totally lost his voice after five hours of non-stop tour-guiding around the canning plant. Here's a little video of the day:

He finishes the job on the 24th October, so the week after will be a flurry of packing and stowage!

Meanwhile, Di has been very busy sorting lots of house and garden jobs so the odd weekend off has been particularly welcome for us both. We did a mini Northern Tour to catch up with both our families (and, for Graham, meeting great nieces and nephews for the first time), We also got to meet Sweep, the latest addition to Norma (Di's eldest sister) and Mick's household; too cute!

Then, last weekend, we had a visit from Colin and Ana from the yacht Ithaka. You may remember that we waved them goodbye on Christmas Day 2015 as they set sail from Auckland to Chile (an amazing 6 week voyage) and, thanks to our SSB radios we managed to chat to them almost every day of the crossing. Here's a reminder of sailing with them just before they left: CLICK HERE

Their journey was awe-inspiring and saw then sail down the coast of Chile, down to the very chilly southern tip of South America and then up to the Falklands and on to Brazil, the Cape Verde islands and back to France where Ithaka is now awaiting new adventurous owners. Actually, we're rather hoping that Colin and Ana's plans will be just as unreliable as ours and that they keep her for a few more seasons - well, there's the French coast to explore, then the Baltic and, well, after South America, Iceland would be pretty straightforward! If you're interested here's a link to their YIT blog Click here

Both yacht crews really enjoyed swapping sailing stories and photos of our respective trips; when you have so much in common, conversation never falters. We managed to get some good walking in and a proper Sunday lunch at the Hood Arms so it was a great weekend.

Colin and Ana by the dramatic cliffs of Kilve Beach, less than a mile from our house

Ana in photography mode

Her view. Not quite the white sand tropical beaches that we've become used to but pretty dramatic with layers of igneous rock and oil-bearing shale
Colin summed up the feelings that we share about how it's sometime difficult to talk about our sailing experiences, to folk who've not 'been there and done it', with a great little poem in our visitors' book. I hope he won't mind us sharing it!

They think we come from outer space,
The 'normal' folk of human race,
Little they know of GRIBs or chain,
Of bommies, kelp, cyclonic rain.
To Kilve we drove, for kindred spirit,
In Di and Graham, we find no limit.
Talk and walk and eat and drink,
and reminisce, with time to think,
Of voyages new, and thing to do.
We drive away, refreshed in mind,
Feeling less unique among mankind. 

Of course, loyal blog followers like you don't fall into the 'normal folk' category! Thanks to Trish (Maunie blog super-user) for the prompt to add this post.

We'll do one more UK update before we fly back to Australia but, for now, best wishes from us both. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

A (not so brilliant) British Summer in the Countryside

It's odd, for once, to be on the receiving end of sailing blogs from tropical islands whilst we endure a pretty mediocre British summer so it's a case of getting a taste of our own medicine, we suppose. We are certainly missing the sailing life, such wonderful photos of Vanuatu on Bravo's blog, for example, (http://svbravo.blogspot.co.uk) are making us a a little jealous but at the same time serve to remind that it's only a couple of months before we are back aboard Maunie.

Mind you, after a warm and dry start to the summer here, August's wet and often chilly weather has come as a bit of a change but it's been good for the garden as we continue to work hard to get it back under control. Didn't expect the timber from a dead apple tree that we felled to be loaded into the wood-burner so early, though!

In between the rain showers, Di has been digging for victory up at the top of the garden to re-shape an earth bank that was just full of weeds. Turned out it was full of other things as well:

The rusty remains of about five car exhaust pipes were unearthed!
After this major excavation, the bank was re-shaped and we bought lawn turf from a local grower for an instant improvement. A month of rain later and it has bedded in very nicely.

The patio umbrella in the last photo shows that the weather hasn't been all bad and, for once, the August Bank Holiday has delivered warm sunshine rather than the usual disappointing rain so we've really enjoyed a brief return of summer. BBQ's on the patio, drinks with old friends in the garden and a wonderful walk along the coast, then up to the village for a traditional Sunday roast lunch reminded us that, in the right weather, this part of Somerset is really one of the best places to be. Certainly the fruit on the trees and bushes thinks so; our apples are getting ready to pick:

.... but there are rather more arriving hourly at Graham's work:

Katy apples (the earliest variety) in the hopper at Thatchers Cider
Meanwhile the hedgerows (and, unfortunately, some of our garden borders) are full of ripening blackberries. Blackberry and apple pies ahoy!

Our circular walk took us through the ancient hamlet of East Quantoxhead, a place that hasn't changed much with time and which also provided an automotive memory-lane moment for Graham:

East Quantoxhead duckpond

Thatched cottages, all belonging to the Lutteral Estate

The first family car that Graham can remember was a Bedford Dormobile like this (though ours was red with a white stripe). It had a 3-speed, steering column mounted gearshift - known as "Three on the Tree"......

..... as opposed to "Four on the Floor" for the Morris Minor, a later and equally rust-prone Keating family vehicle.

The newly re-opened Hood Arms in Kilve - great food!
Just as with sailing, though, these moments of sunshine, relaxation and good living are interrupted by maintenance jobs, all of which turn out to be more challenging than expected. "I'll just have a go at a couple of little patches of loose paint on that wall", said Graham......

What did I start here? More to do...
Job done

Sunday, 23 July 2017

"GTD" and a great reunion

Our sailing friends are sending Facebook and blog updates from sunny tropical islands so we're feeling that kind of envy that many people expressed about our voyage stories. Never mind, though, we are keeping ourselves entertained.

Sarah on the American catamaran refers to her husband Mark as "GTD" - short for "Get Things Done", he's a real dynamo on the boat, always doing something. So we've adopted the GTD mantra here and create long lists of things to do, taking some real satisfaction in ticking them off. Graham's enjoying the job at Thatchers Cider (working four days a week) so Dianne is working through redecorating jobs and gardening jobs whilst he's at work so that we can do the big team-effort tasks at the weekends. We feel that we seriously underestimated how much there was to do but we're making good progress. A few photos follow to give you an idea!

The tenants had allowed water to sit on the sink worktop until it de-laminated (aargh!!) so a fun-filled weekend saw us remove the sink and cut a new worktop to replace it

The trellis up at the summerhouse was in danger of toppling over due to the weight of the growth on it 

After much hacking back, the archway is restored and Di repaints the trellis
The 15 year old summerhouse was suffering from a bad case of wet rot at the front

Cutting away the rotten wood begins
Finished - a two-day job but the pressure-treated timber should give it a new lease of life

Our first BBQ of the summer 
A great place to sit and watch the sunset

Graham with a hired rotavator, digging over the area previously taken over by weeds and brambles

A couple of weeks later and the grass seed is working!

Graham demonstrating his builder's bum cleavage as he works on another job...

The new paved plinth behind the (freshly repainted) garage will be the base for a new storage hut to be delivered next week
As you will gather from the photos, it's pretty full-on but of course we have time to enjoy the garden when the sun shines.

The view from the veg patch
Anyone for lettuce? The veg patch is doing really well
And we did have a wonderful full weekend off from the GTD jobs when we had VIP visitors over from Germany. Regular readers of the blog will remember Peter and Heidi on Stormvogel, with whom we shared some amazing adventures across the Atlantic and Pacific. They returned to Hamburg, via the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean, last year so it was brilliant to see them and share some memories over a glass or two.

Heidi and Dianne on Kilve beach, just 3/4 mile from our house

Being pursued by a combine harvester

Heidi and Peter at the Kilve Cricket Club

Colour coordination in the gardens of Dunster Castle
Anyway, it's not the same as sailing but it's all entertaining. Now, must get back to those lists. GTD!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Flying the spinnaker, sealing a leak, laying a new deck and enjoying a different drink

The title of this update might make you think that we've suddenly teleported back to Maunie but, no, we are still back in the UK and adjusting to life on land. With the terrible news of the terrorist attacks in Manchester and now London dominating the media, it's taking some adjusting to. There is enough written and spoken elsewhere so we won't dwell on the subject here, save to say that in our 5 years of travel to some often remote places we have found that 99.9% of the people we have met were good, kind and decent; the radicalised hate-mongers responsible for the senseless killing don't represent anyone but themselves.

On a lighter note, then, here's a bit of an update on the last few weeks to explain the title. The spinnaker-flying bit was up in Galloway, south-west Scotland, where we got to sail with Graham's dad, Geoff, in his new boat (and to celebrate his 80th birthday of course; we hope we'll still be buying new boats when we're 80!). 

The estuary of the River Fleet is where Graham learned to sail at the age of 6; traditionalists might point out the wisdom of Geoff learning to sail first before teaching Graham but they sailed, and sometimes swam, together and, 47 years later, they still demonstrate the almost telepathic communication technique that they use when sailing together: 

"Do you think..?", says one
"Reckon so", says the other
and, lo, the spinnaker is up and flying!

Other crew on board find this mildly disconcerting.

Geoff's boat Svala, a Swift Explorer built by Swallow Boats - she boasts carbon fibre masts and water-ballast so her traditional looks hide some very clever design features
The boat lives on a drying mooring (annual cost £40 a year!!) and in the photo above, Ardwall Isle (after which Maunie of Ardwall is named) is just visible in the distance.

An at-sea selfie - gorgeous weather but a bit chilly as the sun went down
Flying the asymmetric spinnaker

Geoff in his element
We were delighted to see our old Dart 18 catamaran on the beach; we had some great times with that boat. Looking pretty good in spite of its age (probably about 20 years old)
After a great party and a second sail in rather bleak but fast sailing conditions, we drove back down to Somerset, with a stop-off at Di's sisters in Holmes Chapel, to continue with the long list of jobs on the house and in the garden. The latter was a priority whilst we had a few days of lovely sunshine and an unusual easterly breeze to allow us to build the mother of all bonfires to clear all the branches and weeds (and, incidentally, to create a minor but heart-stopping bushfire through a huge area of brambles. Well, they needed clearing!).

Graham with chainsaw, having felled a huge fir tree that was threatening to push over the summerhouse

The fir cleared and a nearby dead apple tree felled and chopped for firewood
The bonfire still smouldering - note the burnt leaves in the middle of the photo after the unplanned bushfire

Some time-off down at the cricket club (in the rain, of course); it was great to meet up with old friends in the village and to meet some newcomers
As the weather changed we moved into indoor jobs and the biggest was to tackle a large patch of damp in the shower room downstairs - the plaster and the wooden boxing around the pipes looked awful and, of course, tenants don't have the same kind of "I'll just investigate the cause of that" mentality as home-owners do. So, we stripped away the sodden wood and were shocked to find a pool of water under the shower tray - the cause was simple, the seal at the bottom of the tiles had failed, but it was quite a job to fix.

The wooden support beams for the shower tray were sodden

Just like a boat - out with the sealant gun!

The repair in progress - new plaster (luckily all the walls are pretty uneven so Graham's rudimentary plastering skills were good enough) and new boxing being made 

Nearly finished
Finally, this weekend we progressed onto the new deck (something we've worked hard to avoid fitting on Maunie by replacing all the sealant on her deck). We plan to pair down all of our goods and chattels this summer so that when we return to Maunie in November, we can store them all at the house. The plan is to partition the garage to turn it into a workshop / store for our tenants whilst giving us enough space for our furniture and the things we really need to keep. Stage one was to build a deck on the joists of the pitched roof so that we could get some useful space for boxes and bags:

The deck completed

The first boxes in place 
These big projects now have to be shoe-horned into weekends because Graham has just started a new job! He's working for a family-run cider business for 4 months as a project manager to help with a big expansion plan. His first week has been taken up with introductions and a full induction, which included a day as a delivery-driver's assistant on Friday.

G in his delivery uniform. The car comes with the job, which is a great boon
Good job G has been using the gym since we returned home!

The focus on house re-decorating and ongoing gardening now falls to Dianne, so it looks as though we'll both be pretty busy for a while!