Wandrin
Wandrin Star at the mooring in Goodwick.

SOMETIMES DIVING CONDITIONS CANT BE ANY MORE PERFECT. Clear sky, intense sunshine, neap tides, no wind and that rare oily-smooth surface broken only by the gentlest of swells.
Its so gentle that we can only just see ripples forming over the Upper Sledge, where the sea should normally be building and breaking.
The journey out from Goodwick in Celtic Divings 6.3m Humber RIB had been at a respectable speed, with barely a bounce to bruise delicate divers behinds on the tubes.
Its always this nice in Pembrokeshire, says the RIBs owner Mark. The other divers agree, tongues firmly in cheeks.
We arrive in plenty of time and, as is common on neap tides, the slack is a little late. Mark spends the next 10 minutes working with the echo-sounder to locate a second rock 50m to the north-west of the Upper Sledge, down which we will dive if the buoy on the wreck
fails to pop up. Nearby pot buoys indicate that the tide is still running west.
Bob pours coffee, opens his collection of lunch-boxes, and feeds the five thousand. It is well-known that the amount of kit divers carry expands to fill the available space, and particularly true with journalists and photographers. With Bob, its lunch-boxes.
The small buoy pops up and the tide is still running. We have another 30 minutes to finish lunch and get ready to dive. Is this a UK diving trip or a cruise in the Caribbean
I descend the buoy line to the Musgrave, 252 tons of riveted iron steamship that steamed into the reef and then rolled off it on 24 November, 1892. Richard Larns Shipwreck Index reports that a force 6 was blowing. The book must be a mistaken, because apparently its always nice in Pembrokeshire.
The depth of the wreck ranges from 32m at the rudder to 23m at whats left of the bow. The wreckage is inverted and broken, especially amidships, where the buoyline is tied to the two-cylinder compound engine, spilled where the keel is snapped and twisted through about 110.
I thoroughly enjoy myself for a nice long dive, peering under the hull, pottering about, and looking for dispersed bits of machinery such as the spare propeller behind the bow.
I had originally planned to continue up the rocks, as there is plenty of pretty marine life there, but even on neap tides the current is now picking up and it will be hard work to hold on.
Having pushed my time on the wreck, I ascend back up the buoyline to the tied-off RIB. Bob is already out of his drysuit, more coffee is poured and the bottomless lunch-box is open.
A few miles back to the east, Mark uses GPS and echo-sounder again to reveal a ring of reef known as Bila Bleiddyn or Wolfs Bowl. Dive-site located, its time for coffee and lunch-boxes again. Bob mentions that he does the occasional bit of running. It must be more than the occasional bit to keep him in shape. It cant be the diving, or I would be considerably thinner.

MARK TAKES THE RIB UPTIDE from the reef and we drop into ridges and gullies at 16m. Its not fast enough to qualify as a ripping, screaming drift, but more than fast enough to get that feeling of flying.
The rocks are home to sessile life, from bryozoans and hydroids to sponges and soft corals. The gills of nudibranchs flutter in the breeze. Crawfish smile and wave friendly antennae as we swoop by.
Combine the diving with comfortable and convenient accommodation at the dive centre, right by the slip at Goodwick, and a few other dives like the wreck of the Vendome (Wreck Tour 82, December 2005), and it all adds up to an easy and enjoyable trip for the average dive club.
Having said that, you dont have to be a club, because Celtic Diving also takes mix-and-match bookings.
While some typical club diving would have been enough to draw me to the area, on this trip it is the promise of something a bit more special that has motivated me - the Baron Carnegie, a 3178-ton steamship sunk in 45m only a few miles out of Fishguard.
Part of a convoy from Milford to Takoradi in Ghana, in the small hours of 11 June, 1941, the Baron Carnegie was 12 miles past the South Bishop light when it was attacked by a German bomber. On the first pass all bombs missed but on the second two struck number 5 hold.
The propeller-shaft was broken and pushed forward into the engine-room, causing the engine to stop and fracturing steam pipes. In addition to water flooding number 5 hold, the deck and hull were splitting across number 3 hold, between the bridge and the engine-room.
As the crew abandoned ship, the bomber made a final run, failing to cause further damage to the ship but sinking a lifeboat. The surviving crew were taken aboard a coaster and returned to Milford.
A tug took the damaged Baron Carnegie in tow, but she sank off Fishguard later that day, at 11.30pm.
Meet Bob again. Bob owns the wreck or, to be more accurate, one third it, as his mates Steve and Jim own the rest. Who owns which third must make for a lively pub discussion after a few beers.
Having also dived it well over 100 times, Bob has a massive amount of information about the wreck, ranging from the captains report to descriptions of bits of it and the overall layout.
He also has a small buoy tied to the wreck that pops up as slack water approaches, carefully gauged to leave enough time for a cup of coffee and a quick rummage through the lunch-boxes.
The Baron Carnegie is everything promised. Below the line I immediately find the 4in gun, tilted against the seabed from a stern that has fallen to starboard. I divert round the stern and back to look for the propeller, but there is no sign of it. Perhaps it was lost when the shaft fractured; pushed out as the rest of the shaft was blown forward into the engine-room.
As I work forward along the wreck, additions to the regular wreckage are bucket-sized blocks of concrete with a ring at the top.
The Baron Carnegie used to be owned by local fisherman Dave More. With his wife at the helm they would motor his boat across the wreck until it showed on the sounder, then Dave would jump off the stern holding a concrete block.
He had a few minutes on the bottom to tie a line to anything worth salvaging before he surfaced and hauled his find back to the boat. When Dave got a bit old for this, Bob and his mates bought the wreck from him.

WHILE THE OTHER DIVERS have 15 to 20 minutes about the stern, I have a longer dive. This may be my only chance to see the Baron Carnegie and I want to see all of it. Forty-five minutes later, I pop my delayed SMB from the minesweeping gear at the bow.
My snoozing through the long decompression hang is disturbed by the rumble of the Fishguard-Rosslaire ferry. One day Bob half-jokingly mentioned to one of the Stena Line captains that the route was close to his wreck, and received the reply: Tell us where it is, and well shift the route to avoid it.
With time between dives, Mark takes the RIB Janhazel back to the mooring and we transfer to Wandrin Star, a 15m steel MFV that he is refitting for diving.
In the perfect sea and sunshine its a nice lazy cruise round Strumble Head to the remains of the 1406-ton barque Calburga in 38m.
The big consequence of my long first dive is that it wouldnt be sensible for me to dive again, so while the others dive I relax on deck and take photographs, watching for porpoises
and keeping a guarding eye on Bobs collection of lunch-boxes.
Diving continues with another typical club dive, the wreck of the Nimrod, an 1843 vintage paddle steamer that ran the first steam-packet service between Liverpool and Cork.
In February, 1860, Nimrod suffered engine problems and turned down the offer of a tow from another steamer, the captain preferring to continue under sail.
This decision would prove regrettable when Nimrod was blown onto the cliffs a few miles back from St Davids Head.
The sea has become lumpy overnight and the sky is overcast: Exceptionally bad weather for Pembrokeshire, I am told. It isnt usually like this.
The Nimrod broke her back when she struck the rocks, a paddle-wheel and crankshaft jamming beneath the cliffs, the stern settling in 26m to the east and the forward part further out in 32m to the west. The forward section is biggest, so its the forward part we dive, flattened to a silhouette on the seabed with just a few bits of machinery standing proud.
I love the variation in engineering when ships are this old. The boilers look as if they have been transplanted from a small factory at the start of the Industrial Revolution.
Looking back to my first dive on this trip, the Musgrave was wrecked on the Upper Sledge. The name implies there is more than one, and in fact there are three, the Middle and Lower Sledges being equally lethal, as they just break at low water.
To finish the day, we drift across the north side of the Middle Sledge. The hope is to dive the reef and briefly cross the wreck of the Glenisla, a 1283-ton steamship that on 26 February, 1886, mistook the South Bishop Light for the Arklow Lightship, turned south and ran into the rock.
With the vagaries of drifting and not knowing the site I miss the wreck, but enjoy some spectacular gullies and canyons inhabited by wrasse and big pollack. Its another excuse to return some time, and would have been the end of the trip, had it not been for an offhand comment by Bob.
After the success of the Baron Carnegie dive, he remarks that a couple of miles down the coast is the Empire Panther, another casualty of World War Two, in 51m. Marks response is Why wait, suggesting I should extend my stay while the conditions are good.

NEVER ONE TO LOOK A GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH, I re-schedule a nitrox course I am supposed to be teaching, Bob takes another day off work, and next morning we start early with plenty of time to find the wreck, have a cup of coffee and open the lunch-box before diving. Its a good thing, too, because it takes Mark and Bob 40 minutes or so of trolling before they are confident enough to drop a shot.
The 5711-ton Empire Panther was originally laid down as a World War One standard ship, but was not completed until 1919, as the West Quechee. She was renamed in 1940 when she was taken over by the Ministry of War Transport.
Panther was on the way to Cardiff from New York on 1 January, 1943, when she struck a mine off Strumble Head.
Like the Baron Carnegie, the Empire Panther is big and inspiring, but in a different way. While the Carnegie is relatively upright and intact, the Panther is capsized, twisted and broken.
The propeller-shaft and tunnel run a zig-zag from the guns at the intact stern to the turbines buried amidships.
Forward of the bridge the wreck is broken, there being no sign of, or even debris from, the first two holds and the bow. It could be 20m or 20 miles away. Venturing out on the gravel seabed,
I have no way of telling.
If Bob and his mates had bought this wreck, I wonder which of them would have owned the missing third
I return to the shallowest part of the keel and ascend to another calm and sunny day. Its always this nice in Pembrokeshire.

Departing
Departing from Porthgain, Mark Deane at the helm.
Diver
Diver beside the Musgraves rudder
the
the wrecks two-cylinder compound engine
dogfish
dogfish on Middle Sledge
rock
rock ledges covered in sessile life at Wolfs Bowl
crawfish
crawfish at that site
Four-inch
Four-inch gun at the stern of the Baron Carnegie
minesweeping
minesweeping gear at the bow
the
the starboard anchor
tea-break
tea-break for Bob, part-owner of the Baron Carnegie
boiler
boiler on the Nimrod
Inside
Inside the overturned hull of the Empire Panther, amidships
Broken
Broken hull by the engine room
Mark
Mark Deane keeps a lookout for dolphins and porpoises, often seen off Strumble Head

FACTFILE

GETTING THERE: Follow the M4 and A40 to Fishguard and on to Goodwick (where the ferry terminal is). Celtic Diving is by the public slip at Ocean Lab.
DIVING, & AIR : Celtic Diving, Mark Deane, 01348 874752, www.celticdiving.co.uk.
ACCOMMODATION: Four-bed bunkrooms for up to 20 are available at Celtic Diving.
LAUNCHING: The slipway dries for a couple of hours either side of low tide. Slips are also available at Porthgain and Abercastle, though Abercastle is wet only at high tide.
FURTHER INFORMATION:Admiralty Chart 1973, Cardigan Bay - Southern Part. Ordnance Survey Map 157, St Davids and Haverfordwest Area. Fishguard tourist information, 01348 872037.