Just three of us were up for a dip in the Straits, so we went in from the Bangor Normal site as we did a couple of weeks ago. We were joined briefly by Gwynfor and his buddy Tristan, who opted to drift down past the bridge towards Platters Rock. We, being David, Wyn and Irfon decided to go with the flow and try and return to our entry point.
We descended into the trough and drifted for just over 20 minutes, hitting a max depth of just over 20m. We had a play with several lobsters and a conger on the way. We returned at a slightly shallower depth of 14m, by now we were on slack, so with no current, it was an easy task. We surfaced within a few meters of where we went in which was a huge relief to all of us, especially Irfon as it was his dive leading skills which were under scrutiny. The amount of life was phenomenal, Butterfish and Tompots were abundant, but the numbers of juvenile brown crabs would have probably induced a cull if they were on land as they were literally under every rock, their larger cousins were however on their holidays.
A quick de-brief was undertaken at the newly re-furbished Antelope, where we were joined once more by Gwynfor. Stories were swapped and an idea was hatched to cross the Straits from the Normal to Menai Bridge, possibly on our next visit – we’ll see!
The weather forecast for Sunday got worse and worse as the week went on. By Thursday morning it appeared that there would be no diving that weekend until David Jones who phoned to confess to breaking the prop yet again tried to change the subject and said why not dive on Saturday? I immediately drew up a list of reasons why it could not be done. The list was actually very short and consisted of fit new prop and contact divers. Mickey had already scupper ed my first objection by dashing out and buying a new prop which was dully fitted on Friday. Tim, the organizer, although unable to dive Saturday himself gallantly offered to ring around the usual suspects, while I sent an email to all members on the membership list. Thus the stage was set and all we needed was divers and somewhere to dive. The tide was a big spring 4.2m local so where better to dive than on somewhere not dived in living memory (that anyone would own up to anyway) and a notorious turbulent area……THE DEVIL’S RIDGE! Seemed perfectly reasonable to me anyway.
In the end there was no lack of volunteers with 9 divers needing both the club and Mickey’s ribs. All assembled on time in glorious sunshine at Castell March, Dewi was so keen he had slept the night there so as not to miss a single minute. Gwynfor was the first to become unnerved after hearing what we were about to attempt. He casually asked at what time we may be back for lunch? Back for lunch? We might not make it back at all! At which point he made excuses about having tea with his popstar friends in Liverpool and had to go. That left 8 brave souls that set off in two open boats to face the swirling turbulent mass of sea that was ‘The Devil’s Ridge’.
As it turned out I must have been somewhere close at estimating and arriving on slack (another first). The sea was as flat as a pancake and the first wave of divers plunged in to the unknown. Dewi and Julie from the club boat and Mickey and David from Mickey’s boat, rapidly followed by Carl and Anja. What delights awaited them? Wyn and I in the ribs waited with bated breath. As it was it could have been with held breath as Dewi and Julie surfaced after only 18minutes. Both were singularly unimpressed with the underwater panorama that lay beneath them. Mickey and David surfaced soon after. Mickey was so impressed he summed it up in one word ‘TW*T’. Carl and Anja stuck it out for 20 minutes then it was Wyn and I to go in. We tried more to seaward and were rewarded with 0.5m vis in 28m in total darkness. The current was picking up into a reasonable drift now looking all the faster for having your nose against the bottom which was sand, sand and more sand. We did however spot a couple of rocks of different colours (one black, one white) which made it worth staying down until deco beckoned.
Luncheon was served on Bardsey. There was liberal offgassing mainly aimed at me and my choice of dive sites. The afternoon dive was at mid tide but we managed to find a sheltered spot close in to the east side of Bardsey. This appealed much more to the revolting crew’s liking with vis, fish and lobsters. Wyn and I were last in again and decided it wasn’t a patch on the morning dive so when we felt a bit of current I held the reel while SMB and Wyn ascended together.
Carl had been keen to demonstrate his prowess at the helm of the club rib while the sea was flat but as it turned a bit lumpy on the way back he immediately offered the seat to Anja who piloted us back faultlessly to Abersoch beach and Wyn’s trailer taxi’s. To top of a lovely day’s diving, Queen Helen had been busy baking all day determined to make more scones than Mickey could eat at one sitting. Unfortunately he still managed to beat her, but not before the rest of us managed to get one each.
Thanks to all, Peter James
Having completed all of the easy exercises with Hugh two weeks ago, Simon, Carl & Anja presented themselves at a somewhat windy (force 5-6 and rising) Morfa Nefyn for the more difficult part of the course. David, who was in dire need of some Instructor practice, took the lessons under Hugh’s watchful eye. These included the deployment and recovery of, amongst other things, an anchor, a shot line, a diver called Michael, or was it Patrick, and a MOB, as well as the soon to be infamous sidestep manoevre. Given the extreme degree of difficulty involved the students were first taught how not to do it, which also served the dual purpose of giving the instructor a bit of extra practice. All three aquitted themselves well and with a bit of time behind the wheel (Dive Marshall’s please note) should soon be proficient boat handlers. Anja, or could it have been Carl, did manage to give everyone something of an unintended thrill with a tight MOB turn at about 6000 rpm. I think that the lesson there is not to fall overboard when Anja, or perhaps Carl, is boat handling. While none of the exercises proved to be easy, given the strength of the wind, they were the ideal sort of testing conditions in which to learn boat handling, although perhaps our three trainees may have wished for something a bit more tranquil.
The final exercise, approaching a sloping shore, provided immense amusement to the few hardy souls seated along the beach, especially the seeming reluctance of anyone to jump over the side with the painter. On recovering the boat half of one blade of the prop was found to be missing. We had no idea how it could have happened until Carl, or was it …. – no it had to be Carl, attempted to pin the blame on the instructor for a botched sidestep manoevre, ignoring the fact that we had noticed a strange engine noise during the earlier MOB tight turns. He then couldn’t understand why he subsequently failed his assessment. Amazingly though no change was noticed in the boat’s performance, including getting up on the plane on the way back in. Hopefully the blade can be repaired but Mickey was able to acquire a new prop by the following afternoon which was fitted by Peter on Friday for diving to go ahead on Saturday. Many thanks to Hugh for organizing and conducting the course.
Today’s diving turned out to be quite an eventful one in the end! Although the day started with a little rain we were expecting good diving as the winds were forecast to be light. The winds were light but for some reason this still caused quite a swell out along the North coast toward Bardsey, so it was decided that although Bardsey might be OK to dive, we would have a hard time getting there, so it had to be drifts off of Porth Colman.
Our number was made up of : David J, David H, Mike, John, Wyn, Peter, & Gwynfor Dafydd who joined the club last year but was his first dive with us. With seven divers & two boats we had plenty of space to spread out, although we had taken our second cylinders in case Bardsey was possible.
We headed out in to the swell, which was a little bouncy. David J & Gwynfor went first from the club boat while Peter manned Mike boat while Mike & John went in from their boat at an alternate spot. Unfortunately when David J & Gwynfor returned the swell made Gwynfor sick. Top marks to him as he kept heaving for some time, but did not get a drop on the boat or the rest of us.
After the first lot had returned Peter, Wyn & David H went in together. The dives were slow speed drifts with vis reported between 5 & 7 meters. No reefs encountered but the usual Brittle stars, dog fish, & the odd Wrasse, although Mike did find a piece of copper pipe.
We returned to Porth Colman for lunch. It was very pleasant eating our lunch next to the mass of rotting kelp, although the day had now brightened up. David J decided that to avoid rotting kelp on the trailer, & Peters car, to take them over to Porth Ysgaden, with the boat going by sea to pick up the drivers. Mike did the same with his car.
So we started the second dive from Porth Ysgaden, less Gwynfor, who felt that after being sick, the second dive was not going to be enjoyable. The second dive held quite different prospects for each pair of divers. Mike & John came back without seeing much but John bagged a crab after it nipped him on the finger, the crab then preceded to get Peter on the foot in the boat, so it was not giving up without a fight. David J & David H had a good dive as they found a nice reef of tall angular rocks populated with big Ballan Wrasse, a really big Bull huss dog fish, & the largest edible crab either had seen. Reporting the reef to Peter & Wyn we tried to put them on the same spot but the tide had turned & they were gently pushed away from the reef & saw little.
The big story of the day still remained. Wyn, & David H had left their cars at Porth Colman to avoid driving to Porth Ysgaden in wetsuits. So were to be dropped off by the boat. The boat pulled up in three feet of water (really one foot of water & two of rotting kelp). Wyn & David H pulled their kit out while David J & Peter helped them get it off the boat. Now at this point the stories diverge! David J was assisting Wyn with his kit, unfortunately Wyn had only one place to hold his keys while he took his kit ashore. Yes, that was in his mouth. Now as Wyn took hold of his kit, David J being the helpful type, reportedly said “are you OK Wyn?” to which Wyn replied “Yes” & then “BU!!!$@@@” as the keys fell from his mouth, into the mass of kelp. At this point a major search ensued with Peter & Wyn donning their kit to get in another dive of 3 feet, feeling their way through the Kelp. This was to no avail so the search was given up. Wyn’s wife brought him a spare set of keys for the Landrover, to get him home. The problem was that he had a lot of his farm keys on the lost set. So he and a guilty David J were due to go back on Monday to have another search.
The tide was perfect for a late start at the straits, but for a change it wouldn’t be at the Bridge. We didn’t even have to cross over to Anglesey, which in itself is a bonus, as we planned to dive a recommendation from the Gwynedd Club at the Bangor Normal College. ‘We’ by the way, were Wyn and David, Dewi and Irfon.
We kitted up and went in about 10 minutes before slack water, but there was no initial current, hence a lot of silt in the shallows. But from 6m, it got deeper quite quickly, and we bottomed out at just over 20m, by now the current could be felt, flowing towards Caernarfon. Both pairings turned round at 19 and 20 minutes and at depths of 15 and 12m. Wyn and David decided to play it safe and return along the same route, whilst Dewi and Irfon came back along a slightly different path, just to add a bit of variety, and came out 50m further towards Bangor Pier. There was plenty to see including lobsters, a conger, dogfish, anemones, brown crabs, pipefish and an array of small fish.
It was then to the Garddfon at Y Felinheli for an alfresco de-brief. It was agreed that it was a very pleasant and relaxing dive, well worth it and well worth doing it again soon.
Exactly one year after sitting down at Tudor Lodge to do the theory sections of the course, Simon, Carl and Anja (who likes a big lunch box) did their first day’s boat handling practical. In order to squeeze the training day into their already overful timetable they elected to start at 7:30am. Yes A b***dy M! David J & Carol kindly fetched the boat from Pendre and within a knat’s whisker of 7:30 the early morning quiet of the harbour was disturbed by the thunder of the 4X4’s. Well it would have been a thunder if Mike D hadn’t overslept!
I forgot to mention the gale from the northwest. As those of you who have done the course know; the major part of the first day is meant to be done in fairly calm conditions. We only need to introduce the more challenging stuff, wind, waves, spray, swell and tide, once the basics have been learned. Sorry guys not this time. The three were thrown in at the deep end and came up smelling of roses (Is that a mixed metaphor?) They didn’t hit the buoy, run aground, ram another boat or jetty, nor did they, despite protestations that the sudden acceleration was due to a sticky throttle lever, get me overboard. Although the latter incident was a close call. I will be keeping my eye on Anja next time. We had an excellent time in what was mostly sunshine especially on the high speed manoeuvres. But it wasn’t just at speed that the trio excelled. Coming alongside, approaching a sloping shore, towing a boat, three point turns and reversing out of a narrow channel and more were done with skill and close attention despite the wind and tide.
Lunch was taken in the sunshine as we moored against the harbour wall. There can’t be many more satisfying feelings than reaching for your lunchbox after a hard morning’s work. We hadn’t chewed through our first sandwich before the ropes came out. “Give us an anchor bend Simon”, “Out of the hole, round the tree and back down the hole”- perfect. Where’s my sandwich gone?”. “Have I shown you how to do the artilleryman’s hitch?”. “Left over right and ……”. Yes happy times. Then it was off round the bay for some rough stuff, bouncing across the waves with gay abandon, (All three now know where the most comfortable position on a boat is in rough weather), creeping up on buoys and keeping the bow pointing towards Llanbedrog at low speed and numerous other displays of skill.
By 2:30p.m. we had finished for the day, the boat was recovered (Anja winched the boat up all by herself) and then it was back to Pendre for a wash down. Well to be accurate there was a problem with a wall before we got to the wash down, but I am saying nothing. The second and final practical is on Wednesday 21st July 7:30 am. at Pwllheli when we will drop and recover an anchor, a shot line and a diver, but not all at the same time, using transits and tying knots. We never said it would be easy! We’ll see next week.-
The plan had been to take the boat out, but with divers being as rare as half crowns these days we reverted to a shore dive. Carol was having her first outing of the season and Mickey wanted to test his “torpedo” underwater scooter. Trouble was he also had Simon in tow and predictably managed to lose him within seconds! Simon’s quote afterwards was ” I just couldn’t keep up with him”. Surprise, surprise.
Although the viz. was a disappointing 5-6 metres we came across Simon doing a futile 360 degree search and so he joined us for a trip to the end of the bay. There was the usual complement of pollack and wrasse, including many juveniles. The swell was a bit more than expected, especially on the way back after we had been lured into the centre of the bay by a little cuttlefish, which ejected black ink at us before shooting off, and a beautiful tiny grey gurnard which was a bundle of fluttering oversize fins. Towards the end the swell built up in the shallows so we were obliged to surface some way out, which was just as well as the quiet empty bay we had left was now full on canoes and swimmers. It seemed like the whole of Tudweiliog had marched down to the sea to cool off.
Mickey had returned from his adventure unscathed, having spent the whole dive searching for Simon, or so he insisted, and finding out that the torpedo doesn’t do a very good job of chewing kelp.