Frenzy over Langton Grange
Divernet
There is a wreck off west Wales that should not be dived lightly, if only because it is swept by vicious currents. Four divers planned to pay it a visit, but as Maggie Cainen heard later, their contingency planning could have been better

NOT A DIVE FOR THE INEXPERIENCED; dangerous currents likely to take divers off the rock and down to depths of over 50 metres, especially on north-going current. Tom Bennett, in his Shipwrecks Around Wales, paints a grim picture of access to the Langton Grange.
     Some years ago Phil, my old diving mate, buddied up with Keith, John and Chris to dive the North Bishops off St Davids in west Wales. The story of their trip, handed down, has since become enshrined in our clubs mythology.
     Their destination was the Langton Grange wreck, situated at 20-40m in a devilishly difficult place to dive on Bell Rock. Phil remembers it as having a very short slack of 20 minutes.
     Three hours after low and high water comes slack water, and a 6 knot current is running the rest of the time. Have you tried finning against a 6 knot current
     It feels a bit like being tossed around in the tumble cycle of a washing machine, and you end up going nowhere.
     The Langton Grange is several miles offshore from Whitesands or Porthclais. The divers were out in Phils inflatable Ð state of the art 15 years ago but a pitiful craft to pit against a 6 knot current.
     The brave boys were up bright and early that day. They had planned the dive and at 6am were ready to dive the plan, which meant getting out to Bell Rock well before slack.
     The first pair would be fully kitted, poised for the off the second the slack hit.
     They motored well upcurrent of the transits for the Langton Grange, dropped the anchor and hooked in. But it was not the Langton Grange, which is quite tricky to catch in a running tide, onto which they had hooked. The transits are very difficult to take in a heaving boat. They had hooked into rocks.
     Can you imagine what happens when you drop an anchor with its strong, sturdy warp into a 6 knot current They decided to retrieve the anchor and have a second go at getting it into the wreck before slack water.
     Keith leaned over the bow, trying desperately to pull the anchor back up against the current and tide. Chris and John ranged themselves each side of the engine, ready to help Keith haul, while luckless Phil desperately tried to get the stick tiller to respond to helm, hauling with all his strength to hold the boat in position.
     The inevitable happened as they were driving into current. The warp whipped smartly under the boat, taut as a wire, and wound itself inexorably around the prop. The engine gave a strangled roar before stopping abruptly.
     There they were, anchored by the stern by a hefty warp, firmly locked onto both the prop and the rock on the ocean floor.
     The boat began to sink as hundreds of tonnes of fast, boiling white water seethed over the stern and soaked the divers. All the gear that wasnt firmly fastened in started to float away.
     Desperately grabbing the floating fins and SMBs, the lads struggled to keep a grip on the rapidly sinking boat. They pulled and heaved and strained, but they couldnt budge the rope. The prop was jammed full of it.
     They were going nowhere on the surface but the boiling depths were creeping nearer and nearer. You know the feeling when your mouth is full of salt, and water soaks your bobble hat and drips into your eyes and down your nose and you wonder what youre doing at seven in the morning with a boatload of equally brain-dead mates. You dont You obviously havent tried diving in British waters, have you
     Water began to pour over the stern, and the back end started to sink. In a desperate attempt to create a counterbalance, all four divers rushed to perch on the bows.
     The pressure of water filling the boat eased off and it levelled up, but they were still stuck, delicately balanced, and still not on the wreck. Any movement threatened to sink them permanently.
     A furious debate started. If they tried to move back inside the boat, the stern went under and they were chest-deep in water, so Phil, the youngest, fittest and lightest, was sent over the back to sort out the prop. The stern was sticking up out of the water when all the weight was at the bows, so it was fairly easy to reach.
     In those bygone days, clubs had one boat, one anchor warp and one anchor. You didnt even consider cutting the rope. Cutting it was tantamount to making your own noose. So Phil disentangled the rope in record time.
     They were ready now for their second attempt to motor upcurrent and snag the anchor into the wreck, and hoped that it would hook this time. It was a very tricky manoeuvre to execute because, once caught, they risked the whole boat being pulled under by the current. But at last, all shocked and shaken, they hooked in.
     Pair one, Keith and buddy Chris, rushed to get ready as soon as slack hit. Imagine being thrown around by that vicious current as you try to kit up!
     Keith was ready first. Meet you at the bottom of the line! he called, and was over the side and gone from view.
     Chris was down the rope shortly after, but five minutes later he popped up again. No sign of Keith down there, he said.
     Hang onto the boat and well tow you back, he was told by the others, who had put a buoy on the anchor rope but drifted off the wreck when Chris hit the surface. Well motor over and put you back on it again.
     Do you know what its like being towed by an inflatable at any speed above a slow crawl Your arms feel as though theyre being pulled from their sockets, water rushes up under your mask, which threatens to part company with your face, and your DV makes a bid for freedom but cant be jammed in, because both your hands are locked onto the boat in a death grip.
     After a few minutes of this nightmare ride, Phil and John decided to try another tactic. Putting the engine into neutral, they hauled Chris headfirst, fully kitted, into the boat. They were so enthusiastic about hauling him in that he headbutted a cylinder and knocked himself out.
     Score: one diver lost, one knocked out, two to go.
     Quickly Phil and John kitted up. Keith was still missing and they were considering an underwater search, but then he popped up.
     They motored over and dropped him in the boat with his semi-conscious former buddy. Then, to everybodys horror, they spotted that a thick, white, sea mist had already wiped out any sight of land.
     The Langton Grange had hit Bell Rock because of a heavy summer fog back in 1909. History was repeating itself.
     The lads took stock. They thought they knew where they were but how on earth would they navigate back to dry land They had no chart, no radio, and only one small wrist-mounted Suunto compass as means of navigation. The white fog filled their mouths. Everything lost shape and substance and became eerily quiet.
     Their words were muffled and quickly swallowed up by the fog. They were just off Bell Rock, so setting the compass carefully, they calculated that their nearest landfall was Ramsey Island. They would go across to its northern tip, travel along the coast and then cut across Ramsey Sound back into St Justinians.
     Phil took the tiller: Trust me, lads. Ill have you out of this in no time.
     They were a long way from shore and the fog muffled the noise of any other sea craft. Even the raucous gulls were silent.
     The boat crept forward through the fog. John anxiously consulted the compass. Slack had long gone and the sea tossed and boiled with wicked currents again. The boat shot past rocks, debris, flotsam, weed. They were swept along by a current no longer creeping but screaming down the wind.
     When they saw land they thought that they were going round Ramsey Island, but all rocks look much the same when shrouded in fog. Confident that they had passed Ramsey, they set off north, unwittingly en route to Fishguard.
     The fog started to thin out, and to their surprise they spotted another laden dive-boat in their path, captained by an infamous wreck-diver, the bold, bad Phil James. Whereve you been diving, lads he boomed out. Were fresh up from diving the Nimrod.
     The Nimrod lies 0.8 nautical miles north-east of St Davids Head.
     Phil was horror-struck; they were miles from their imagined position, heading for North Wales. Far too embarrassed to let on to an old seadog like Phil James that they had totally blown the navigation, Phil came out with a classic: We were looking for you, Phil. We were worried youd got lost in all this sea mist!
     Phil swallowed the tale. It was only later in the Farmers Arms that the other Phil admitted that he and his mates had been hopelessly lost, navigating towards an unknown destination. They could have run out of fuel and drifted for hours in the fog if not for their fortuitous meeting!
     The Langton Grange is still there, nestling on Bell Rock, a bit more battered but still fiendishly difficult to hook into.
     Phil is still around, too, but these days he can be found in his up-to-the-minute RIB, equipped with satnav, echo-sounder and GPS. I marvel that he once went to sea to brave some of the worst water ever seen, equipped only with one small handheld compass!
NOT A DIVE FOR THE INEXPERIENCED; dangerous currents likely to take divers off the rock and down to depths of over 50 metres, especially on north-going current. Tom Bennett, in his Shipwrecks Around Wales, paints a grim picture of access to the Langton Grange.
     Some years ago Phil, my old diving mate, buddied up with Keith, John and Chris to dive the North Bishops off St Davids in west Wales. The story of their trip, handed down, has since become enshrined in our clubs mythology.
     Their destination was the Langton Grange wreck, situated at 20-40m in a devilishly difficult place to dive on Bell Rock. Phil remembers it as having a very short slack of 20 minutes.
     Three hours after low and high water comes slack water, and a 6 knot current is running the rest of the time. Have you tried finning against a 6 knot current
     It feels a bit like being tossed around in the tumble cycle of a washing machine, and you end up going nowhere.
     The Langton Grange is several miles offshore from Whitesands or Porthclais. The divers were out in Phils inflatable Ð state of the art 15 years ago but a pitiful craft to pit against a 6 knot current.
     The brave boys were up bright and early that day. They had planned the dive and at 6am were ready to dive the plan, which meant getting out to Bell Rock well before slack.
     The first pair would be fully kitted, poised for the off the second the slack hit.
     They motored well upcurrent of the transits for the Langton Grange, dropped the anchor and hooked in. But it was not the Langton Grange, which is quite tricky to catch in a running tide, onto which they had hooked. The transits are very difficult to take in a heaving boat. They had hooked into rocks.
     Can you imagine what happens when you drop an anchor with its strong, sturdy warp into a 6 knot current They decided to retrieve the anchor and have a second go at getting it into the wreck before slack water.
     Keith leaned over the bow, trying desperately to pull the anchor back up against the current and tide. Chris and John ranged themselves each side of the engine, ready to help Keith haul, while luckless Phil desperately tried to get the stick tiller to respond to helm, hauling with all his strength to hold the boat in position.
     The inevitable happened as they were driving into current. The warp whipped smartly under the boat, taut as a wire, and wound itself inexorably around the prop. The engine gave a strangled roar before stopping abruptly.
     There they were, anchored by the stern by a hefty warp, firmly locked onto both the prop and the rock on the ocean floor.
     The boat began to sink as hundreds of tonnes of fast, boiling white water seethed over the stern and soaked the divers. All the gear that wasnt firmly fastened in started to float away.
     Desperately grabbing the floating fins and SMBs, the lads struggled to keep a grip on the rapidly sinking boat. They pulled and heaved and strained, but they couldnt budge the rope. The prop was jammed full of it.
     They were going nowhere on the surface but the boiling depths were creeping nearer and nearer. You know the feeling when your mouth is full of salt, and water soaks your bobble hat and drips into your eyes and down your nose and you wonder what youre doing at seven in the morning with a boatload of equally brain-dead mates. You dont You obviously havent tried diving in British waters, have you
     Water began to pour over the stern, and the back end started to sink. In a desperate attempt to create a counterbalance, all four divers rushed to perch on the bows.
     The pressure of water filling the boat eased off and it levelled up, but they were still stuck, delicately balanced, and still not on the wreck. Any movement threatened to sink them permanently.
     A furious debate started. If they tried to move back inside the boat, the stern went under and they were chest-deep in water, so Phil, the youngest, fittest and lightest, was sent over the back to sort out the prop. The stern was sticking up out of the water when all the weight was at the bows, so it was fairly easy to reach.
     In those bygone days, clubs had one boat, one anchor warp and one anchor. You didnt even consider cutting the rope. Cutting it was tantamount to making your own noose. So Phil disentangled the rope in record time.
     They were ready now for their second attempt to motor upcurrent and snag the anchor into the wreck, and hoped that it would hook this time. It was a very tricky manoeuvre to execute because, once caught, they risked the whole boat being pulled under by the current. But at last, all shocked and shaken, they hooked in.
     Pair one, Keith and buddy Chris, rushed to get ready as soon as slack hit. Imagine being thrown around by that vicious current as you try to kit up!
     Keith was ready first. Meet you at the bottom of the line! he called, and was over the side and gone from view.
     Chris was down the rope shortly after, but five minutes later he popped up again. No sign of Keith down there, he said.
     Hang onto the boat and well tow you back, he was told by the others, who had put a buoy on the anchor rope but drifted off the wreck when Chris hit the surface. Well motor over and put you back on it again.
     Do you know what its like being towed by an inflatable at any speed above a slow crawl Your arms feel as though theyre being pulled from their sockets, water rushes up under your mask, which threatens to part company with your face, and your DV makes a bid for freedom but cant be jammed in, because both your hands are locked onto the boat in a death grip.
     After a few minutes of this nightmare ride, Phil and John decided to try another tactic. Putting the engine into neutral, they hauled Chris headfirst, fully kitted, into the boat. They were so enthusiastic about hauling him in that he headbutted a cylinder and knocked himself out.
     Score: one diver lost, one knocked out, two to go.
     Quickly Phil and John kitted up. Keith was still missing and they were considering an underwater search, but then he popped up.
     They motored over and dropped him in the boat with his semi-conscious former buddy. Then, to everybodys horror, they spotted that a thick, white, sea mist had already wiped out any sight of land.
     The Langton Grange had hit Bell Rock because of a heavy summer fog back in 1909. History was repeating itself.
     The lads took stock. They thought they knew where they were but how on earth would they navigate back to dry land They had no chart, no radio, and only one small wrist-mounted Suunto compass as means of navigation. The white fog filled their mouths. Everything lost shape and substance and became eerily quiet.
     Their words were muffled and quickly swallowed up by the fog. They were just off Bell Rock, so setting the compass carefully, they calculated that their nearest landfall was Ramsey Island. They would go across to its northern tip, travel along the coast and then cut across Ramsey Sound back into St Justinians.
     Phil took the tiller: Trust me, lads. Ill have you out of this in no time.
     They were a long way from shore and the fog muffled the noise of any other sea craft. Even the raucous gulls were silent.
     The boat crept forward through the fog. John anxiously consulted the compass. Slack had long gone and the sea tossed and boiled with wicked currents again. The boat shot past rocks, debris, flotsam, weed. They were swept along by a current no longer creeping but screaming down the wind.
     When they saw land they thought that they were going round Ramsey Island, but all rocks look much the same when shrouded in fog. Confident that they had passed Ramsey, they set off north, unwittingly en route to Fishguard.
     The fog started to thin out, and to their surprise they spotted another laden dive-boat in their path, captained by an infamous wreck-diver, the bold, bad Phil James. Whereve you been diving, lads he boomed out. Were fresh up from diving the Nimrod.
     The Nimrod lies 0.8 nautical miles north-east of St Davids Head.
     Phil was horror-struck; they were miles from their imagined position, heading for North Wales. Far too embarrassed to let on to an old seadog like Phil James that they had totally blown the navigation, Phil came out with a classic: We were looking for you, Phil. We were worried youd got lost in all this sea mist!
     Phil swallowed the tale. It was only later in the Farmers Arms that the other Phil admitted that he and his mates had been hopelessly lost, navigating towards an unknown destination. They could have run out of fuel and drifted for hours in the fog if not for their fortuitous meeting!
     The Langton Grange is still there, nestling on Bell Rock, a bit more battered but still fiendishly difficult to hook into.
     Phil is still around, too, but these days he can be found in his up-to-the-minute RIB, equipped with satnav, echo-sounder and GPS. I marvel that he once went to sea to brave some of the worst water ever seen, equipped only with one small handheld compass!

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