Just 6 divers for a Sunday dip on the South side of the Peninsular on an overcast day, though there was apparently full sun whilst myself and Peter were underwater……hmmmmm. After setting out from the Warren beach the decision was to dive the reef out from Llanbedrog. Dukes and Andrew were first in closely followed by Brett and David. Vis was around 3 mts which was much better by all accounts than some previous dives this season. Lunch was taken in the shelter of the East St.Tudwals Island during which time those diving in dry suits felt the least they could do for myself and Peter in wet suits, was to try and raise the water temperature by reliving themselves. Unfortunately all they managed to do was attract some hungry seagulls and thankfully there were no bird attacks to report. The second dive turned out to be a drift dive off the East Island. All in all a very enjoyable days diving and I can report that I have now regained some feeling back into my body after freezing my nuts off……must get my dive computer checked…..it was reading 14 degrees….hmmmm.
The weather forecast and tide were not favourable for the boat or shore so, after getting Neil Rawlinson’s advice that the Straits looked OK, we kept to the plan and met up at the old Normal College at 7pm, with slack water due at about 7.30. I met Josh & Jake in the Antelope carpark, noticing them coming back from Anglesey, having taken the wrong bridge, despite my clear description (to Jake) of the old Suspension bridge! There was a good turnout of 7 divers, with Dilwyn and Brett calling off due to work commitments. Well, they missed one of the better nights the Straits have to offer, with viz. of about 4 metres. Mike did shore cover with Dewi and Irfon taking Jake & Josh respectively for their deeper diving experience, while Andrew led Adrian and myself. The viz.was such that we could spread out a bit but I could clearly see Adrian on the other side of Andrew. There were the usual full house of crabs, some very big lobsters, including one old pa with just a huge crushing claw which was infested with crud and appeared to be on it’s last legs. The fish included butterfish, the biggest scorpion fish we had ever seen, dragonet and a fish called a pogge, which I can’t recall ever seeing before, although Carol tells me we have! Very rare nevertheless which, following on from a john dory on Sunday, has given some scant compensation to the general dearth of fish on the dives thus far this season. We turned round at the sponge covered reef only for me to lose my buoyancy completely as we ascended, cutting what would have been a 40 minute plus dive down to 27 minutes. My excuse was that I had serviced the dump valve which had leaked badly on Sunday, only to the extent that it no longer dumped automatically, and barely at all manually. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed their dives, although Irfon and Josh’s was on the short side, so a move from a 10 to a 12 litre cylinder (for Josh) is called for. Jake’s complaint that the viz. wasn’t good enough for his camera, was met by a chorus of “don’t knock it, that’s about as good as it gets!”. All but Josh & Jake decamped to the Antelope where the beef and chilli curry was excellent, to the extent that one of those who had eaten earlier was spotted by a concerned manager using begged chips to scrape the dregs from an empty bowl!! Embarrassing or what.
Yet again a sea dive was a no go, due to high winds on the south coast and the poor visibility or lack of on the north coast. So 4 divers went to N.W.D.S. for some training, Peter and Adrian did some sports diver training, and also got a 56 minute dive with a max depth of 20+ meters, with Adrian using a 12 litre tank with a 220 fill and came out with 100 bar left “GIT”. David and Andrew also did some dive leader training with David throwing a curve ball with some unexpected multi bearing navigation luckily I had 2 compasses and some luck and got back to where we left the shot and lift bag to do my training, all in all it was a good days dive.
The weather was forecast to settle down nicely with the wind dropping off, and with Mike having got the call for us to do the initial clean of a small fleet of eight dragon class sailing boats on the moorings in Abersoch, we decided to take the boat out. We launched from Castellmarch at about 3pm with me driving over to Abersoch slip with the spare cylinders, to find that the car parking charges are now metered, quite expensive and apply 24/7. The cleaning of the dragons proved to be undoable given the fact that tide and an unexpectedly strong breeze were acting in unison. We dropped Mike and Andrew on separate boats only for both to blown off after 10 minutes or so, with both slightly knackered. While we had a think we moved slightly down the moorings to drop Brett and Adrian in to search for a lobster keep pot whose buoy had gone missing. We then had the idea of fixing ropes to the dragon mooring buoys to provide something to hang onto, so we set this up. Brett and Adrian surface after about 20 minutes, having found only a big skate, while also knackering themselves fighting the current. Andrew and I then dropped in upstream of the search area, which had been very poorly delineated to Brett, some distance apart to drift across the area in the hope of snagging the missing keep pot with a line. In the event we snagged only spider crabs and a jagged piece of metal rigidly stuck in the bed. It was now too late to retry the boat clean and, with both the tide and wind still strong, there was little enthusiasm, so we recovered the lines and returned to the slip to await the evening contingent.
We ended up with a full boat with 7 divers and Mike and Brett handling it, after a fashion! It was Josh and Jake’s first boat dive so we headed out to Llanbedrog Reef, which would be at about high water slack, leaving Irfon on the slip to take Tom, having resurfaced from his GCSE’s, for his second sea dive to do all the exercises of the first two open water lessons. There was a bit of a chop and no pot buoy on the reef so we dropped the shot. John & a Malcolm timed Melanie were first in, followed by Andrew and Adrian, with me leading Jake & Josh in last. The viz. was a cloudy 2 to 3 metres, not great but sufficient. We did a circuit of the edge of the reef, seeing a large number of different varieties of crab, including two good sized edible ones and several big spiders, dragonet, pipefish, small wrasse, scorpion fish & juvenile dogfish, but all in all the amount of life was well down on previous years. Others saw a bullhuss with attitude, pollack and lobsters with all reporting an enjoyable dive. By now the wind had picked up even more so it was a bumpy ride back. Irfon and Tom were on the slip having had a seemingly amazing dive, completing all the exercises with ease while spotting basking sharks, eagle rays, pods of dolphin, and a sand goby, all in just a few metres. This may be the first reported instance of heat haze causing a mirage to form underwater on a sandy sea bed. I’m sure that they both recovered after a good night’s sleep. We put the boat to bed before adjourning to the Pen y Bont where there was a fire which, with the temperature having dropped like a brick, was much appreciated.
The beautiful calm evening which was forecast attracted out 14 divers and one wallflower to Porth Ysgaden. Josh and Jake were set to complete their OD training by performing the lifts with Irfon. Tom was into his second lesson with Andrew and Dewi while Steph resurfaced after a year’s sabbatical to resume the first lesson with yours truly. That left the pairings of Gwyn & Melanie and Adrian and Phil, which morphed into a threesome when both Gwyn and Adrian found that they had forgotten their wet suit boots. Gwyn managed to keep his fins in place using Irfon’s clogs but Adrian couldn’t find a way to keep his on. The numbers were made up with Brett taking Nia for a trial first outing of the season. Mike was now able to delegate the shore cover to Adrian. The bay was millpond and the viz. looked to be crystal, for the first time this season, but it was disappointingly cloudy, as has been usual this season. Josh & Jake qualified with flying colours and Tom sailed through OO2 once he remembered the art of mask clearing, while Steph overcame a leaking BCD feed to perform her exercises, even though she did try it on by performing the initial mask clearing without flooding the mask first!! She also commented that diving is much easier if you do that equalizing bit on the way down!! The threesome came in as a pair, but surprisingly it was Gwyn, not Melanie, who was missing, while Brett and Nia had a decent outing. Everyone reported seeing a variety of creatures so all seemed to have enjoyed their dive.
After an eventful start and some peace keeping work that Kofi Annan would be proud of, we eventually got to our first site for the day at the eastern side of Porth Ceiriad. As Peter is the only diver to have managed a full dive with Melanie this season, they were paired up and were first in, followed by Andrew and David. In the meantime, Mike and John joined us on Sparrowhawk after a delayed start. After the first wave surfaced, Peter took the helm of Sparrowhawk and took Mike and John on a covert mission to the western side of Porth Neigwl. Andrew took over the helm of Sea Wasp from Irfon so he could accompany Adrian on their Dive. The fish life was stunning, plenty of specimens of various species, it was especially nice to see the mature wrasses that have managed to evade us so far this season.
Lunch was an ad-hock affair, eventually taken on the eastern side of Porth Neigwl. There were a few breakers in the shallows so the wade inshore was made particularly hazardous. As a result of both rhibs being tethered together, the grab lines on both took a beating as one particularly large wave crashed over – oh well – something to keep Brett busy with anyway….
Dive two was at Trwyn Carreg y Tir on the Eastern Side of Porth Neigwl. Again all divers reported good viz, plentiful sea life and impressive underwater topography. During the first wave, the surface cover witnessed a kamikaze sheep who took a plunge off the above cliffs. Unfortunately, there was very little that could be done so it was left as an offering to the Sea Gods as they had taken as distinct disliking to Mike on this particular day.
All in all a good day, Sea Wasp’s tanks have been replenished, although she is without her ‘pony’ engine. A special thanks to the boys at Castellmarch for launching and retrieving us.