Fishguard : Platinum Jubilee Bank Holidays and weekend
Having planned ahead, examined the tidal options for possible locations, booked the campsite for the Queens Platinum Jubilee bank holiday and weekend well in advance (it was always going to be busy), organised crews for a club boat and the Majors, of course the worst threatens. The weather forecast is worsening with respect to wind. But we’re gassed up, ready and excited to explore three or four wrecks from Fishguard, South Wales.
The original plan included a new mark and two named charted marks, with a requirement for Dive Leader and above qualifications. The marks changed over time, as we replaced the known marks with a new one and a different, unnamed, one giving us expected depths of 32, 42, and 52m to the seabed. As planning progressed it became apparent that the shallowest mark had been known about and dived previously, but it was still new to us.
The new mark had only been in the public domain for a few years; at 42m the plan was to probably do that one twice. The deepest mark was last described in 1971 (prior to the latest survey in 2021) and was the furthest offshore; there were no hints of any diving activity – having looked at a survey image, it looked great and there was a named wreck mark, some miles away, which had no survey trace, ie it wasn’t where they thought it might be but it was the right size for this mark.
Travel down on Wednesday, with an early start to ensure that the boat could get past the swimming pool and gym cars! With four days diving everyone was traveling in their own vehicles and mostly with all their cylinders, with a mix of a rebreather, twinsets and 15’s, plus stages.
Our little spy (Garry Bolland, who went down a week early for a holiday) had been passing on titbits of info and the camp site was sounding great. A few miles away from the slipway, up narrow country lanes and the campsite driveway, we had to leave the boats near the site entrance.
The launching options had to be investigated when we got there – was the RNLI slipway private or not? A phone call had stated it wasn’t their slipway, although signage and personnel on site stated otherwise! It seemed to be out of bounds, so we were stuck with the Goodwick slip, which at least was practically brand new and double width although it dried at low tide. Car parking was excellent and cheap, with reserved spaces for vehicles and trailer too, although some spaces were being replaced with EV charging points.
Day 1 – 14 miles NE to the site of the SS Sutton (possibly). After a delayed start, the launchings went well, and we tootled off on a great sunny day with fine sea airs! Unfortunately, the lack of boat diving presented some rustiness amongst the crew – the shot was deployed without the buoy! Still, two boats, two shots so the club shot was deployed. Unfortunately, that rustiness struck again, and the boat drifted down onto the shot whilst the divers were getting kitted up, wrapped the line and needed some attention. As time was very pressing, we descended the shot only to find that it was no longer on the seabed. So, it was sent up with a lifting bag, and other divers descending keenly dropped off into a free water descent. Neither group found the wreck! The shot line was re-rigged and deployed to let the second wave have a go, which were successful in finding a wreck albeit in poor viz of less than 2m.
Scallops were seen although none were taken. Dolphins had been spotted too, from the boat. After some time taken with lunch and soup, the return to the harbour and slipway found it drying. So a wait ensued before the retrieval of both boats, utilising muscle power to push the trailers out as far as possible, and a (newly acquired) very long line to retrieve them.
Day 2 – a quick bimble around towards Strumble Head with a bit of breeze. Here, for the first time, we had difficulties with the slack dive time. Having found the mark (with some adjustments required to get a good echo sounder picture on the club boat) and deployed the shot you can imagine that we were not particularly delighted to see that the pressure on the buoy was increasing and indeed the buoy was getting lower in the water. So even as the first wave was preparing, we had to abort the dive, with a great team effort to recover the shot and line intact.
Evening meals were split between the pub option and a BBQ. Pub options were sometimes tricky, with no availability for walk in service. The BBQ was very pleasant using the sites’ equipment, although difficult to believe it was so late in the year, a chill breeze was blowing.
Day 3 – although the weather had been kinder to us than forecast, it blew up overnight and even plan B (from Milford Haven) was cancelled. However, the wind started to drop after lunch and Day 4 was on.
Day 4 – Back towards Strumble Head, two and a half hours earlier than the model showed. The mark was found and shotted, with a minor adjustment to place it bang on. Whilst preparing for as the first wave it was noticed that the current still seemed to be increasing. Terry and Garry went in first and place a strobe on the shot line, before exploring the stern section of the wreck, with its boiler, engine and propeller clearly visible in at least 6m viz. I dropped in with Dave Stead and found the bow and its Admiralty anchor on the seabed. Aware of the increasing current, I made this a short dive, with minimal decompression, surfaced up the shot line and the second wave of Steve Mac and Steve Baxter were dropped in. Everyone enjoyed the dive, with total times of 60 minutes each.
Thanks to the team who signed up for an adventurous dive trip to new marks over four days. We wouldn’t normally take quite so many dive cylinders with us, but with a bit of lending and borrowing it worked out well (except we never used it all!).
Team – Ray Cramer, Alan Jones, Gary Horstman, Dave Stead, Steve McElroy, Terry Maloney, Garry Bolland, Dave Smith, and last but not least Steve Baxter.