Wherein we finally use the ‘Big Anchor’, and catch the legendary Spider Crab of Dale

Another weekend at Dale has happened. Difference from the last two? Well, we didn’t see any more sinking/nearly sunk boats enter or leave the marina, and we actually used our Big Anchor for the first time ever.

Oh, and we left Milford Haven for the first time since we brought the boat here, even though it was only a scouting operation towards Skomer.

Oh, and Eira caught a Spider Crab.

We stayed in the marina on Friday night as freeflow was expected between 10 am and 12 on Saturday morning. The whole weekend was forecast to be windless, so we motored out of the marina at about 10.30 am and headed down the haven. Eira kept a sharp eye out for wildlife using the ship’s binoculars (which have been forgotten about in a locker for most of the last 10 years).

We’d promised Eira a crabbing-and-ice-cream day at Dale, but as the sea was flat we decided to explore outside the heads with her and see how far we could wander towards Skomer. We hadn’t made any plans to go to Skomer at all, so had no passage plan for Jack Sound and anyway what little wind there was was coming from the north-east, making North Haven a little less suitable. We could have gone to South Haven (a lot of other boats were headed that way) but we figured that would just land us with a disappointed little girl. So we motorsailed along the Marloes Penninsula and gybed round in Gateholm Bay (off Marloes beach).

Gateholm Island (red cliffs) is fine on the starboard bow, with Marloes beach (pale cliffs) to the right. Jack Sound is on the nose and Skomer Island is fine on the port bow, with South Haven mostly obscured by the mast.

The island is not nearly as far away as we’d thought it might be, so sometime this summer we will aim for a visit to North Haven and a landing to look at the Puffins.

Back at Dale, we looked to pick up one of the seagrass visotor moorings but they have clearly been found by the boating population and the three moorings were playing host to a Centaur, a small day motor boat, and two wannabe-Gin Palaces rafted together respectively. None of them looked likely to push off anytime soon and all of them had the draft to stay all night through low tide, so we decided we’d have to anchor.

Now anchoring isn’t something we’ve previously done a lot and when we have done it (in Watwick Bay for instance) we’ve used our light ‘lunch hook’, which is a 6 Kg Delta. The only reason we have this rather small anchor is because it is the biggest anchor which will actually fit inside our anchor locker alongside the rode (30m chain and 40m warp). This is itself because the anchor locker is way too small for the boat and there is nowhere on deck to stow an anchor as the bow roller is also way too small. The Hanse 301, basically, is built for racing where none of this matters because the anchor probably isn’t on board anyway. So the setup is substandard for cruising.

Although Lewmar do actually say the 6 Kg Delta is acceptable for a 30ft boat (its towards the upper end of the anchor’s alleged range) and we’ve never had it drag when we’ve used it for daytime (and attended) stops, I don’t feel like testing it overnight, and general opinion canvassed on the YBW forum is that it’s a bit too small. Years ago I picked up a Plastimo Kobra 2 12 Kg anchor at a very good price from a chandlery in Bristol that was going out of business. This anchor is probably over the weight needed for the boat; Plastimo’s anchor chart isn’t clear whether a 30ft (9m) boat should use a 6 Kg or 8 Kg Kobra, which is a result not very different from Lewmar’s numbers, and the 12 Kg anchor is recommended for a 13m (43 ft!) boat. Anyhow, it was time to give it a try, so I shackled it on, seized the shackles with monel wire as always, and we deployed it in 5 metres of water, letting out most of our chain as we were expecting maximum water depth at high tide the following morning to be 7m.

Then we pumped up the dinghy and motored in to Dale for ice cream. Eira and Jenny also went for a swim. The Cafe at Dale was closed (why does it close at 5 pm on a sunny Saturday evening with hundreds of people milling about looking for ice cream?) so we had a couple of pints (of coke) on the wall of the Griffin pub, and some Scampi Fries, before motoring the dinghy back to Karisma.

Swimming at Dale
Drying togs on the boat

We watched the sun go down (and lots of increasingly drunk people motor back tot heir boats) from a fairly busy anchorage. Eventually the stars came out, we turned on the anchor light, and went to bed.

Sunday morning dawned bright and hot. Jenny cooked a lovely fried breakfast and Eira threw all the scraps to a horde of ravenous seagulls. Then came the acid test of whether the anchor could be pulled up easily. The previous evening we’d watched a nearby motorboat pull up its anchor (a Bruce type) along with masses and masses of weed, so I was expecting a struggle.

In fact the anchor came up easily, and without any weed fouling it, and without needing to use the engine to recover it (admittedly against zero wind). It didn’t feel especially heavy and I only realised I was hauling the anchor and not chain when I saw it just below the water surface. Dark sticky mud on the tip showed it had definitely set, so we;ll call that a win. I think we have an anchor and rode we can be confident in for overnight stops, so that opens up a world of possibility for us.

The eagle-eyed among you will have noted in the photo above that we’ve got the chain snubbed off on deck. Yes, and that’s because the arrangement of cleats on Karisma would otherwise have anything running from the bow-roller direct to a cleat putting pressure on the pulpit bases. the deck snubber is there to keep a straight feed to the bow-roller as much as anything. I will probably make up a second snubber which can be run from a cleat through a fairlead and onto the chain below the roller, to make a ‘proper’ absorber for shock loads in stronger weather.

After raising the anchor we motored Karisma onto the Griffin Pontoon to go ashore, get some cold drinks and ice cream, and (what else) get crabbing.

Eira left two crab lines down the whole time we were in the Cafe and when we came back she hauled the first one up all by herself. Look what was in it- yes, a spider crab! She knows these are there and has seen others catch them before, and she has been desperate to catch one herself. An older girl, crabbing alongside, volunteered to pick it up on Eira’s behalf for a photograph.

We all went for a swim, and Eira tried out the goggles and snorkel she had bought in the beach shop, turning herself into a ticklefish and chasing mummy and daddy through the water. She is having swimming lessons and, with her armbands, is fearless even in water where she is far out of her depth. When we came back to Karisma, there was more wildlife under the pontoon – this time, a large (and very much living) jellyfish.

After a great day, we pulled the dinghy onto the foredeck and made our way off the Pontoon. We headed for Milford, donating our space to an irate fisherman who was unable to get alongside at the seaward end of the pontoon – despite there being plenty of space – because kids kept using the space to jump in the water and none of their parents put a stop to it. The Haven pontoons are, after all, there for boats. Anyhow he got on, we got away, and someone promptly fell fast asleep in the cockpit.

Fast asleep after a big day at sea
Farewell to Dale – for now
Motoring back to Milford

There are no pictures of our arrival in Milford, which is a good thing, because although we locked in without any problems I made a couple of helming mistakes bookending it which luckily I got away with completely but who knows next time. Approaching the lock I ran over a small pot buoy which, being distracted by the comms with Pierhead, I didn’t spot at all. Jenny saw it as it went under the port bow and a tense couple of seconds elapsed until it popped, harmlessly, out from the port side stern. Next time that could have ended up in the prop and who knows what happens after that. Then when exiting the lock and entering the marina basin, I again got distracted helping Jenny untangle a dock line, and when I looked up I was motoring fast, parallel to and about 2 feet away from, the dock wall. I managed to turn the boat away without any contact but a split second later that would have been some expensive gelcoat repair.

All in all we definitely made the most of it, and after some cooling soft drinks in Martha’s Vineyard (no food because the Chef had, some minutes earlier, simply walked off the job) we drove home and crawled, sunburnt but happy, directly into bed.

We’ve now got a 2 week holiday in Pembrokeshire (admittedly in a holiday cottage) booked, so hopefully some more sailing will soon be fitted in!

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