Bristol Channel Divers
Divers: Fiona and Simon, Ioan and Anwen, Mike,
Martin, Rob, Paul and me - Carol.
RIB chartered from Pembrokeshire Dive Charters
We started by meeting up in a pub in Little Haven on Friday evening and having our evening meal there which was all very nice and a couple of drinks after then off to our respective accommodations - B&B, hotel and self-catering.
I was in self catering, I had my own room with en suite, the guys had to share. I was woken in the morning by a knock on the door, I got up to find full english breakfast with toast and tea - the works, waiting for me, (ta Martin)! Washing up and tidying was a shared experience.
We all drove over to Neyland (we had to change route a bit as there was an accident on the road ahead of us, someone had overturned), to meet up with the rib and Alan the skipper, we set off a bit later than anticipated but we still had a lovely day, in fact being late was a bit good because whilst we were out diving the sun came out. Alan's rib sped out to Skomer, bouncing the waves as it went!
Once at Skomer we dived the North Wall. This is a sheer wall of the island with lots of life so we were told! - there are also races at the end but we were told that we were unlikely to get that far. At first we descended and the viz was not very good, everywhere appeared silty and I began to wonder if we were in the right place, after a little while the scenery changed to being a sand bed! However after minute or two things did improve and we found the ourselves in an area of much more life to include crabs covered in a camouflage of seaweed and barnacles hanging onto the wall itself (pretending they weren't there). We also saw lobsters, crabs - edible and spider - and various fish to include dogfish. Toward the end of our (Mike Smith and self) dive the current picked up a bit and when we surfaced we found we were right close up to the races!
This area is a conservation area so there was no 'collecting' also because of this most of the creatures we saw including anemones, were all larger than the ones you usually see and also the crabs didn’t run away!
For lunch we pulled up along side the PDC's hard boat Blue Shark (so we could go to the loo) and chat with the people on board. Margaret from UWE SAC was there. They were doing a survey of the scallops, cleaning them so as to see how old they are, measuring them and marking them as 'tagged'. Margaret explained how they went about their survey measuring and collecting from a divided area of the seabed etc. [and putting them back! Webmaster]
After our lovely lunch we motored round to the Thomas Vaughan a wreck mainly consisting of the pig iron it had been carrying. It also has a couple of huge anchors on it and some prop screws. There was a bit of a current here too so after going the length and breadth of the wreck we decided to give up the mini battle and drift. We only had time to do this for a short time and then ascended.
Once back out in the sunshine aboard the rib we bounced back to Neyland unloaded out kit and took the tanks for refilling then set of back to our respective accommodations to get spruced up for the evening.
We had a meal at a restaurant called The Nest which specialised in sea food. We had made our choices beforehand and Anwen had booked it all up. However the lady chef is a bit ferocious and we HAD to be there on time, which of course we were.
The food was very nice, accompanied by fine wines and followed by desserts and Irish coffee [for some!].
We went over to The Castle bar after the meal but were so full and weary that before long we all went off 'home' to bed.
Sunday brought the knock on the door and the full english breakfast all over again - can you beat this for service? Ta Martin. Once again we convoyed down to Neyland to join Alan and the rib again, we loaded up and off we went to Skomer Island where we dived Rye Rock.
This time I dived with Anwen, Mike having gone home not feeling very well. Once again we are within the conservation area so it was a case of look but don’t retrieve. The viz was better today and although feeling a little lost, we were amongst a lot of kelp, we carried on. Eventually the kelp gave way to a scallops bed. On seeing a large scallop Anwen put her hand across it to get a measure of it and it at once started to 'swim' off. It was so funny we followed it up the bank a bit and it stopped. We tried to get it to swim again but it had decided not to play (and knew it wouldn’t get eaten). Later we saw other fishes, crabs etc., but suddenly we saw a couple of beautiful dog fish and they were right close to us. They do swim so gracefully and gently. One of them stopped and I am sure we could have stroked it - but neither of us did. This was a lovely dive.
Lunch time we found ourselves by the Blue Shark again and once again we had our lovely lunch.
The next dive and last one of the weekend we went to the Angelica - a wreck or rather wreckage which is spread thinly over a large area to the south of Skokholm Island. I did this dive with Martin and we were no longer in the conservation area! This dive consisted of being close to the land but under cliffs of slab rocks. There are crevices along which to swim. The one we descended by was a long crevice which turned slightly seaward and we swam along in the direction of the lighthouse. We saw quite a few crabs and some lobster. Martin is good at tracking lobster. They were a bit on the small side so we didn't collect any. When Martin sees lobster under a rock he doesn't try to goad them out, he just pops his hand straight into their homes! This has the effect of making them back out the other side of the rock (if possible). This happened I and wasn’t sure if I should have grabbed the lobster, however I didn’t and it ran up the wall and away. It was amazing to see it run, it was so fast! It was also a beautiful blue colour, almost royal blue. We saw a couple more dogfish, lovely as ever. We stayed with this dive as long as we could but I'm afraid eventually we had to surface. Another lovely dive - the improved viz makes such a difference!
Everyone enjoyed themselves some even had a bit of a catch to take home.
Back on land at Neyland we all retrieved our kit paid our dues and one by one left for home. This is a lovely part of the country and even if one wasn’t a diver it is a lovely place to visit.
When we stopped for our lunches we could chat about the scallop survey, there were seabirds, puffins etc., and jellyfish all around.
On the Sunday we had a look at the jellyfish, Ioan scooped a couple up in a baseball hat so that we could have a good look at them. There were also some 'cones' a kind of plankton which had electric light rippling up and down them all the time. The water was sufficiently clear in St Martins Bay that we could see down to the sand on the bottom about 6m.
When we were in the rib going to and from the dives the little puffins were sitting on the sea and as we went by they either dived under or flew off, flying very close to the surface of the sea with their little penguin-like wings.
This is the end of my report, but not the end of my visit to Pembroke, this was such a lovely trip I would go again.
Thanks to Fiona who organised this trip, Anwen organised the Saturday night restaurant bookings, Martin and Fiona buying in the food for our breakfasts and lunches, and the rest mucking in to help with packing and washing up.
Photographs © Carol Dale 2004
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