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Saturday, 21 September 2019
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Pembrokeshire - Whitsun Bank Holiday Weekend Dive Trip Print

If you are West Ham supporter you should skip reading this...

Friday 27th May started off clear and bright, the journey to Pembrokeshire for the Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend dive trip undertaken in glorious sunshine - the highest recorded temperature of the year to date - not hard really considering the spring weather we have not enjoyed !

Arriving at the campsite a few miles east of Little Haven, the clouds began to draw in and first raindrops could be felt. Tents quickly erected, the sensible course of action was to retreat to the tent and sleeping bag as the wind picked up and the storm started to break overhead. Just about this time our gallant boat towers, Paul followed shortly after by Jamie & Duncan, arrived with the boats.....

Awakening to the remnants of the storm still raging breakfast was prepared in the rain. Due to the weather - high south westerly winds - Jamie & Duncan undertook a swift reconnoitre of Dale and Little Haven. Dale was chosen with the possibility of sheltered diving in Dale Roads. To no avail, after a few trips to either enjoy the scenery or practice boat handling skills, the idea of diving was binned for the day.

Although the windy weather had prevented diving the day had been sunny and hot in sheltered areas. The Little Haven ‘Cottage Crew' rashly decided to host a BBQ in their back garden. The intrepid trio of Duncan, Jamie & self made the daring overland trip on foot from campsite to Little Haven (well - it was all down hill) with a swift stop at the pub on the way to top up energy levels. Stirred into action our DO and much better half (Kirsty) thought they had better follow this example of derring do and proceeded to walk by some route known only to them to Little Haven (buy a map next time) - but they did arrive in good time for the BBQ.

The BBQ - what to say or not as the case may be. Super time was had by all - a really good night (thanks ‘Cottage Crew') if a bit nippy but some folks (Paul P) had their own way of keeping warm while others appeared to be burning the furniture. Ah, that sweet smell of burning tanalised timber ... the distinct possibility of being poisoned plus the cold drove a few hearty veterans indoors to give support to Mike Asham as seen on TV appearing in ‘Beat the Nation'. Mike was in the winning Rocket Scientist team - congratulations - and I guess it also explains a lot when it comes to Mike and diving ... supporting Mike provided lots of entertainment watching people coming and going from the 'outdoor' tough lot as they steadily stripped the cottage of food and bog roll. Luckily for the TV supporters (group had grown considerably in size as the evening drew on) Lindsay very kindly offered to drive at least a dozen of us back UP the hill rather than enjoy the spectacle of watching us sleeping on the street of Little Haven.

By now you must be wondering why we were here - ah, yes, diving. Sunday dawned - sunny and warm. Back to Dale. First dive of the day on the SS Dakotian. A British cargo steamer of 6426 tons at 20m in Dale Roads. Sunk on 21st November 1941 after hitting a mine (careless). Seemingly it is quite big but as visibility after the storm was about 30 cms the greatest concern going down the shot line was a) is my buddy going to be sick after last night ? (I did ask him - honest - before we left the boat) and b) where are we going to end up - in the hold ? Luckily we landed on top of the wreck and I made off before my buddy could abort the dive immediately, however sensible this probably was. 15 minutes later we gave up, something about running out of wreck and not being able to see each other (pathetic excuse). Some 'right on' divers swam around in the soup for getting on 60 minutes! I believe they don't have telly at home..

A few other trips took place during the day with a boatload going out to the Lucy on the other side of Skommer and others opting for a cliff/reef dive in Castlebeach Bay to the south west of Dale Point. A few things to see to excite - dogfish, sea spider, king (?) crab, something that looked liked a scorpion fish but may have been sculpin or bullhead. Rather pleasant/different in amongst the kelp and the visibility was quite an improvement. Big scare of the day was a report of 2 missing divers from another group diving the Lucy. Luckily they both turned up and nothing more was heard of the incident although a boat load of divers were kitting up to go out and help with the search when the all clear came through.

After the excitement and exertions of Saturday night the campsite cuties decided on a night 'in'. This involved more BBQing, which is always really interesting when combined with alcohol consumption and darkness (I really don't understand why more people don't suffer from food poisoning). Needless to say as the food ran out and the temperature dropped the BBQ became the main heating source while more alcohol was produced to stave off the cold. A lovely clear night with only the glare of the scenic gas burner stacks of one of Milford Havens oil refineries to interrupt an absolutely awe-inspiring night sky scene. Using the North Star as a reference point it was time to clamber into the sleeping bag.

Monday dawned clear and bright. Time to pack up all the kit and head back to Dale. First dive of the day was back on the Dakotian. Its true - it is big - when you can see it ! A really nice dive exploring around the outside of the wreck and looking into the dark abyss of the interior. Although the visibility was much improved, about 3 or 4 meters, it certainly made me think about the day before coming down the shot line. It would have been so easy in the very bad visibility to have gone down into the interior and left the shot line with out realising you were actually in the interior of the wreck. Lesson learnt for the future. We spotted a huge lobster and I insisted my buddy inspect closely the new undiscovered daglow green shrimp/prawn I found clinging to the side of the wreck in detail. Why fishermen think lures like that will fool fish I just don't know....

My big excitement was loosing a weight pocket out of my harness. Just couldn't work out why I was suddenly so buoyant as I clung on to the wreck. Checking my air, 100 bar left, thought time to clam down and sort this out. Check gear - ah - no right hand weight pocket. Now, how do I control my ascent? At this time my buddy found me - on gaining buoyancy I had as circumstances dictated swam fairly quickly down onto the wreck and away from my buddy. I knew he hadn't had a chance to see or keep up with me in the visibility. Luckily for me he undertook a search and found me. I communicated the problem. He sent up his DSMB and wrapped the line around part of the wreck and gave the reel to me. I let my self up using the reel to control my ascent. Buddy followed up the line to the DSMB that was then detached when we were at the boat and the reel wound in. Thanks Clive, another lesson learnt and much thinking with regard to securing weights but keeping rapid jettison an option.

Other dives of the day included a dive in Welshmans Bay to the north west of St. Ann's Head. The lucky group here, including our esteemed chairman, Tony, found the remains of an old, probably wooden wreck, along the cliff edge. A big anchor and several brass pins used for pinning timber together were spotted. A second group tried to locate the remains on the last dive without success. However, by keeping out of the kelp, lots of crab, dogfish and a few cuckoo wrasse were seen. To tell you the truth, it was just really nice to have a good long dive (55 minutes) poking around on the sea floor (16m) after what had been at times quite a frustrating weekend. The weather on the surface had, after Friday night, been very nice when out of the wind but the Friday storm had unfortunately affected the quality of the diving to a greater/lesser degree depending upon your experience.

Time to return to reality. Leaving at 6.30pm the journey to Cardiff was uneventful until it was heard on the radio that Cardiff have been playing host to West Ham playing some other has been team at kicking a small ball up and down a bit of grass. Unhelpfully everyone stayed to the end instead of going home early and watching it on TV. This of course completely knackered the traffic between Cardiff and Bracknell, South Wales only having one decent road call the M4 and everyone trying to use it at the same time. Who ever planned this on a bank holiday Monday must be in line to be Prime Minster some time in their life. Always a pleasure to watch grown men (and women) togged up in the football kit hanging all sorts of things out of the windows of their cars, drinking beer, peeing on the hard shoulder. Anyway, better not say too much, there was quite a crowd round the Rowbarge pub TV last Tuesday watching something similar on TV (at least they weren't on the M4...)

Eventually arrived back in Guildford at 12.15am. Contact with the remaining boat towing crew - Jamie/Duncan - with ETA of about 1am. Stood down, help to get boat in shed not required. Disappointingly the other boat tower, Paul, had to ask his 70 something year old father on his birthday to help him get the boat back in the shed when he arrived back earlier.

Conclusion great weekend away. The trip out and back was a bit tedious but others had much better trips, just a timing thing. Boats and towing - well we can help out a bit more. At the end of the day - good company and some not bad diving! A huge thanks to Jamie for running the weekend and all those who ensured the diving could and did take place each day

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