Cardiff BSAC’s first trip of the season
The bank holiday weekend trip almost ended before it got going, with ‘Reluctant Divers’ club members dropping like flies. Bill realised he had other commitments meaning that we would only have one cox’n (Mark),
which would mean he wouldn’t be able to dive. After some searching, Brian agreed to cox’n the Saturday so we were all go for the Saturday at least. After some adjustments, Saturday’s diving ended up being Mark, Matt, Emily, Caz and Gareth, and Brian in charge
of the boat. Although the weather was delightful at 7am in Cardiff, by the time we got to Pembrokeshire the clouds had rolled in and it was looking a little foggy! We arrived at Gelliswick Yacht Club, sorted kit and the boat out, and headed out of the haven
towards Skomer. We decided we would dive the North Wall as our first dive.
On arrival at Skomer we were greeted by a huge number of puffins, much to the delight of our resident marine biologist (Emily). First in were Matt and Caz, shortly after which came a visit from the Skomer
wardens (they must have heard that Caz was coming) to see what we were up to. Emily, nice and warm in three layers of under-suit and unsure quite how much weight she might need, dropped in (along with Mark and Gareth) with 10kg of lead on. Unable to get under,
Mark shoved another 2kg of weight in her pocket and they tried again with no luck again. With another 2kg added, she was still too floaty, but with a good old tug on the fins from mark, down she went. However, after getting to the bottom, a small pump of air
in the dry-suit was enough to send Emily on a one-way trip to the surface, so disappointingly it was a short dive for her. Visibility around the north wall wasn’t great (about 2-3m), although there were lots of interesting things to look at on the way around,
including wrasse, spider crabs, cat sharks, edible crabs, and lots of coral. It ended up being a drift dive as the current was fairly strong.
After joining a disappointed and very sea-sick Emily on the rib, we headed over to Martins Haven and tied up to the ramp that the Skomer ferry uses for lunch, loo and some respite from the sea sickness. No
sooner had we broke out the sarnies than the ferry turns up at full speed. Brian tried to start the engine to get out of the way but it wouldn’t start. A small amount of panic ensued as we frantically tried to work out the problem, while the ferry honked its
horn and headed straight for us. After a number of attempts and the ferry almost crashing into us, Mark spotted that Brian had disconnected the engine safety cord! We started the engine and got out of the way with seconds to spare and one pissed off looking
ferry skipper staring at us! After an eventful lunch, we changed the cylinders, only to realise that we didn’t have an Allan key to switch the a-clamp valve on Matt’s cylinder… so back over to the ramp to ask another group of divers if we could borrow one.
After an hour of lunch Gareth decided this was a good time to get out of his dry-suit and go to the toilet, but while he was gone the ferry came back again so we made hastily drove away from the ramp, leaving Gareth and Emily on dry land. Apparently the ramp
is private access only, so when we went back to pick them up, we got quite the telling off from the skipper!
Finally on our way, we head to hens and chicks for a second dive. The sun was out and the sea looked crystal clear in the afternoon. Gareth, after frantically searching around the boat for his widely dispersed
diving gear, joined Matt and Kaz for the second dive. Instructions for them were that Caz has dived this many times, so should just follow his lead. After dropping in, the visibility was miles better, over 6m in places. There was lots of life to see, but Kaz
got distracted by the dinner-plate-sized scallops and within minutes they were lost. Despite being off the rocks and swimming along the sea-bed, there was loads of life to see, including two huge male spider crabs having a fight and loads of hermit crabs.
So it really was a great dive to be had by all, including Emily, who was now armed with the right amount of weight to keep her under.
After surfacing, it was time to head back. So our recently trained boat handler Matt jumped on the helm and navigated us safely back to Gelliswick, leaving Brian chance to catch up on the details of Gareth’s
future holiday plans. Back on dry land, it was time for a pint, before heading back to the luxury of the Taberna (or the YHA hostel for Gareth) for dinner and some well-earned rest.
Sunday morning was delightful with blue skies and bright sunshine. Brian couldn’t join us for the Sunday, but Bill had freed up his plans on the Sunday so he joined us as the non-diving Cox’n for the day.
Dougie also popped along to join in the diving. Full steam ahead out of the haven, we got our first glimpse of the dreaded sea fog that we had heard reports of, so we headed to Stack Rocks which seemed to still be clear. Divers across the country had heard
reports of the great viz, so we had the company of other boats this time. As we were about to kit up, a long list of profanities started coming from Gareth, who had just realised he had left his computer in the hostel. Matt and Emily dropped in first, followed
by Dougie and Caz, and finally Mark and a computer-less Gareth. Viz around here was patchy at best, dropping to about 2m in most places, probably due to the large number of seals in the area and also the NARC divers who had picked the same spot as us to lift
a huge amount of netting that had been lost on the seabed. Still lots to see on this dive with some nice coral, anemones, wrasse, cat sharks, crabs and lobsters, amongst other things. Back on the boat, Caz came up proudly with a lobster… though it was full
of eggs so back in the water it went.
After a less-eventful lunch at Martins Haven again (we opted against using the ramp this time), we headed over to the Faraday wreck. Although usually covered in kelp, this early in the season there was plenty
of wreck to see. Mark took in his new camera rig with two 12000 lumen floodlights attached and got some amazing video of the wreck. Visibility was brilliant, with up to 8m in places. While Mark and Gareth chose to search for pieces of the wreck, Matt and Emily
made their way through the kelp forests and adventured off to the stunning gullies that head out away from the mainland. Here there was loads to see, including some unusual and rare anemones, huge edible crabs, wrasse, star fish, beautiful coral, spider crabs,
hermit crabs, cat-sharks, prawns, and velvet crabs (and some other stuff that I don’t know the name of). On the surface, everyone was very enthusiastic about the dive, except for Caz who had somehow lost Dougie and was then disappointed at the lack of edible
treasure in and amongst the pieces of wreckage.
Back on board, and with Matt at the helm once again, we made our way back to Gelliswick whilst bathing in the heat of the afternoon sunshine. Once we were back at the yacht club, having access to their facilities
meant that we could easily wash down the boat and our kit in the nice weather, before a pint to celebrate such a fun weekend!
Special thanks to Mark for organising and bringing down the boat.
- either wear less underwear or wear more weight
- don’t disconnect the safety cord on the boat while a ferry is coming at you full speed
- check for dog shit before putting your kit down in Gelliswick
- don’t leave your computer in the hostel
- say hello AFTER getting your kit ready at the start of a dive trip
- Gareth is going to Hawaii on holiday and is 50 next year
Lessons still not learnt:
- how to work the shower in the Taberna
- how to get Emily in and out of her dry-suit