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Friday, 26 April 2013

Falmouth to Milford Haven

After a couple of relatively benign encounters with fishing gear on the way from Dover [corrected by reversing out of the tangle under power], we got into more serious altercations with crab pots and abandoned floating line on this last sail. It started a couple of hours out of Falmouth while still sheltered from the Atlantic swell by the Lizard headland. While motoring into a light headwind in thick fog, a flag came looming out of the mist. I immediately pressed the heading change buttons on the autopilot which then responded at its usual glacial pace so I shifted the engine into neutral.
Dive tanks are at the bottom of the locker
In the next few minutes, I looked all around and could not see flag, pole or float. Finally, I decided to get underway again thinking I had lost the marker in the fog. Going into gear was greeted with odd noises, splintered wood fragments floating away in our lee and the engine stalling. Whoops! Sailors in the parts of the world where this problem is common have line-cutters fixed to their propeller shafts - an idea now seeming to have considerable merit.
Anyway, we could now see a line and float bobbing about near the stern but pulling on it had no effect. AND we were now anchored securely in position by a tight submerged line. So next the dive gear and tank came out of it's stowage places scattered all around the boat and a good 10 minutes of sawing away in the 9C water set us free. All the gear was then stowed away for travel. During all this fooling about on and under the rolling boat, Mary Anne happily snapped away with the camera. This annoyed me greatly but, looking back, It seems to have been such a good idea that I no longer remember why it angered me.
We hover under mains'l alone while Amundsen Spirit passes
Later on, after motoring part of the night in light winds, the breeze strengthened suitable for sailing so we started doing that. When dawn arrived, yet another very long line could be seen trailing off in our wake. We were able to cut away much of it by snagging it with a boat hook but the part remaining attached to the boat was firmly jammed. "Maybe" (I thought hopefully) "it's snagged on the rudder and not on the propeller". Unfortunately, a brief experiment with the motor revealed (sadly) that it was the prop. By now, though, the wind was stronger and we were in the full Atlantic swell so diving seemed a poorer idea than before.
The wind, of course, moved ahead of us at this point. So, to shorten an endless story, we tacked up to and into the Milford Haven [Wales] entrance, negotiated with Harbour Control to allow our course to one side of the wind and then the other through the shipping lanes between the super-tanker movements, talked to the gunnery range safety officer, alternated rapid movements under all sail with loafing under mainsail alone [waiting to be allowed across various channels] and, finally, anchored in the roads at Dale just inside Milford Haven on the Cleddau River.
It is now the following morning and blowing 20 knots across the anchorage from the north - the direction we want to go next. Soon I'll put the dive gear back on, see what happened this time and render us mobile once again.
The peaceful anchorage at the end

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    We met in Falmouth, and seem to have got further than you did before encountering the ubiquitous fishing gear! Although I've got a wetsuit, flippers, mask and snorkel on board, we don't have the full scuba gear.

    At about 01.30 on Thursday 25th April we entered Milford Haven in poor visibility with the intention of anchoring off Dale before heading for Milford Haven Marina when the visibility improved. We'd had less than a mile vis. all the way from Falmouth - sometimes as little as a quarter of a mile. Before entering, we had called Milford Haven Port Control on Ch12, and they had confirmed that there were no ship movements and that they had us on their radar.

    As we were near low tide, we were manoeuvring the boat to find a suitable depth in which to drop the anchor, away from a number of small fishing floats and/or mooring buoys off the north shore of Dale Bay, just shore-side of the "no wash" seasonal buoys. As we did so the prop fouled and the engine was stopped. There was no sign of any float attached (or otherwise) to whatever had fouled our prop.

    We immediately dropped the anchor, veering sufficient chain for the expected rise of tide. We informed Milford Haven Port Control of our predicament. The anchor appeared secure, and whatever had fouled the prop was preventing the stern swinging downwind, and so we were lying across the wind.

    We believed that we were in no immediate danger, and so did not call the coastguard but kept a vigilant eye on the GPS to ensure we did not drag towards the rocky lee shore about a cable or two to the north of our position:

    51o 42'.66 N 005o 09'.190W

    Later in the day, Dale Sailing were able to give us a tow to Neyland. We tied a float to the end of the green floating polypropylene rope which we had to cut to free the stern.

    When lifted in the Dale Sailing hoist, we could see what the problem was. A large plastic drum, half full of concrete and covered with netting was wedged between the prop and rudder skeg, and identified by the Dale Sailing staff as a home-made whelk pot, and we were told that it was likely that a number of these pots would have been set in a line across the bay, and that the rope around our prop would probably have been between two of the pots in the line. There was still a single, large, whelk in the pot. There were a few metres of green polypropylene (floating) rope wound round the prop that our rope cutter had not been able to deal with.

    David Rainsbury's "Irish Sea Pilot" states: "The northern half of [Dale] Bay, though less sheltered, is clear to anchor in dark or poor visibility." (p. 12). From our experience this is clearly no longer the case.

    We've sent a report to the Milfford Haven Port Authority, Milford Haven Coastguard, the RYA and the Cruising Association local rep to see if we can get something started to resolve this problem.

    There doesn't seem to be any regulation of where fishing gear is laid, and no accountability for the losses or damages caused by irresponsible laying of pots. In this case, we were fortunate only to incur the cost of a lift to resolve the problem, but the consequences could clearly have been much more serious in less benign conditions.

    See our blog at:

    We've started to tell our friends about the nice people we meet, and you'll see that you feature - sorry if it's a bit selective!

    The guy single-handed sailing the J-yacht is also in Milford Haven Marina, and went home for a week as we did after seeing the forecast.

    Best regards, and bon voyage,

    David & Chris Homer
    HR 36 Noisette

    07791 964 189