– “Weather conditions were perfect, sunshine and temperatures in the late twenties with a gentle breeze, and the sea was like a millpond”
Choosing a dive destination in the middle of a pandemic was not easy. Availability of accommodation for five divers was quite a challenge to find, as most people were booking their holidays within the UK limits and staying local. Fortunately, a bunkhouse hostel a few miles outside of Milford Haven that had been resided several times before by the club had vacancies. Furthermore, a local dive boat charter was also available, so we were in luck and decided to book our trip in mid-July, just before the school holidays commenced, with the hope to avoid as much summer traffic as possible.
The trip’s aim was to enjoy a weekend of recreational diving around a particularly picturesque part of the Welsh coastline on the weekend of 17th to 18th July. There are many reef dives in this area, and excellent drift dives that will take you across a rocky outcrop containing an abundance of aquatic life and are suitable for all levels of diving experience.
A group of Marlin Sub-Aqua Club divers, including Mike W, Dawn, Marc, Mike C and Steve, arrived at the bunkhouse without delays (about 4 hours) late Friday afternoon. That evening we had plenty of time to pop out and walk around Milford Marina and grab a nice meal and a few drinks at ‘The Lounge’ overlooking the boats and yachts in the sunshine just before sunset.
The dive charter was booked with Len and Sue Bateman at ‘Pembrokeshire UK’ based at Brunel Quay, Neyland Marina. The boat was called ‘Predator’ and is 12 metres in length, fitted with a lift at the rear of the boat. There is room for four people at the front of the boat and has toilets, cabin, and galley onboard, with tea & coffee being served all day long.
Weather conditions were perfect, sunshine and temperatures in the late twenties with a gentle breeze, and the sea was like a millpond. Ropes off at 9 am, and high tide predicted about midday.
The plan was to spend the weekend diving around Skomer Island because the conditions looked perfect with high expectations of good visibility.
The first dive of the trip was ‘Dead Eye Wreck’, which was at ‘The Neck’ east of South Haven…..south of Skomer Island. This is often quite a sheltered part of the island, and the wreck here is spread over a large area. Despite visibility being about 4-6m, we were unable to find any traces of the wreck, or indeed any dead eyes.!
Nevertheless, the best visibility was in the shallows, where there were plenty of rocks, gullies and kelp to rummage through. Most sightings of aquatic life included Ballam wrasse, pollack, an abundance of spider crabs and velvet crab, spiny starfish, sea urchins and pink sea fan and an array of yellow sponges. Seawater temperature was about 15deg.C with a max depth of 18m for just under an hour dive time.
We stopped for lunch in the large bay at North Haven and enjoyed the sightings of thousands of Puffins which are resident this time of the year. Shortly after, the second site to be dived was called ‘High Point North’; this area is reputed for its octopus, but they are a master of disguise, and they managed to avert their presence.
However, this was a scenic dive where sightings included lobster, crayfish, common prawn, scallops, fan worm and sea cucumber. The maximum depth was 16m and a dive time of 52 minutes.
After the days dive, we decided to enjoy a couple of well-deserved pints at the bar at Neyland Marina. Later, the delights of Milford Haven Marina again and treat ourselves to a posh burger at Madison’s Restaurant.
On the second day of diving, ropes off was planned for 8 am; a small group of divers from another club intended to dive ‘The Lucy shipwreck’ and wanted to enjoy the benefits of slack water.
Not far away, just south of The Lucy, was an area of rocks called ‘Rye Rocks’ on the outskirts of North Haven. We were dropped onto boulders about 6m, where there was an abundance of kelp and reputed for its playful seals. After a few minutes, we headed north towards a steep underwater cliff close to the Lucy that drops down from 20m to 40m where the wreck lies. Here you could feel quite a strong current flowing in the opposite direction to us as we followed the edge of the wall, we kept finning in the hope to find signs of the ‘Lucy’s mast, but after about 10 minutes we turned south-west to head back where we originally started from.
This was a lovely dive which displayed some colossal spider crabs, butterfish, and an abundance of blue rayed limpets that congregated on many of the kelp, together with sightings of fried egg sea slugs and yellow-edged PolyCera nudibranch. Visibility was variable from 6 – 10m, maximum depth was 26m with a dive time of 1 hour.
After lunch, the final dive of the weekend was on the ‘North Wall’, which is just west of North Haven; this drops down from 6m to over 40m. We dropped in at the corner of the bay about 6m deep; there was some kelp before we got to the wall. Note: if you find a lost DSMB in this area, its owner is Dawn.!
We then headed west, keeping the wall to our left shoulder where there was plenty of small critters discovered if you looked hard enough. There were sightings of catshark and tompot blenny hiding in the tiny crevasses. There was also numerous nudibranch, including orange clubbed sea slugs, candy-striped flatworms, yellow ringed sea squirts, dead men’s fingers, fan worm, brown sea cucumber and plumose anemones. This was a pleasant dive in which you could choose your dive depth. Visibility was 5-8m, maximum depth was 20m with a dive time of about 50 minutes.
We arrived back at the marina about 4 pm, and once we had packed away all our equipment, we departed for the drive back home. It was a fantastic couple of days. We had perfect weather and sea conditions, lovely accommodation at affordable prices, a magnificent and helpful boat charter and most of all, a contented group of divers that enjoy a charming dive destination. I’m sure we’ll be back again very soon.