Celtic Diving launches RIBs at Porth Clais, south of St Davids.


Its getting to the stage where I actually look forward to Steve Lewis improvising a plan B. He seems to save up dives that are interesting and new to me for just such occasions.
Having made the long journey out from Neyland through Milford Haven and along the coast to look for a wreck in Camarthen Bay, plan A has been scuppered by visibility at depth thats
as close to zero as it can get without me burying my face in the silt.
Steve points Blue Shark for home, drawing close to the Pembrokeshire coast so that we can enjoy the scenery. Have you ever dived the Thunder he asks me.
Slightly mixed up, I reply: I dived the Thor a few years ago. How long will we have to wait for slack The Thor is a small coaster, upside-down and broken in the outer part of Milford Haven.
No, the Thunder. Its just in the bay there, he says, pointing to Broadhaven South, a sandy bay tucked in behind St Govans Head.
The Thunder is another small coaster but older than the Thor, having foundered on 12 September, 1889.
Some tide is running, but its manageable. We dont need to wait for slack water. The shot goes in and the wake suggests that it wont quite wrench my arms off. Better still, the visibility looks clearer.
The shot has dragged a little as we haul our way down, but not far, as it is only 16m to the flat seabed. The heavy weight has left a deep and easy-to-follow furrow in the sand, leading 10m or so back to a 4m-high boiler.
Its amazing how big a difference a few miles can make to the visibility. I can easily see the boiler and beyond.
The boiler has rolled out of the wreck and sits in its own little scour, the abrasion of the sand polishing the lower parts of the iron plates.
The rest of the wreck is almost level to the seabed, though it seems to have its own bank of sand beneath the keel.
The bank puts most of the wreckage about half a metre above the general level of the sand, and conveniently provides shelter from the current. By lurking in its lee I can keep both hands free for my camera, rather than having to hang on tight. A few big ballan wrasse follow a similar tactic.
Like most steam coasters, the Thunder was two holds forward, boiler, and a two-cylinder compound engine connected by a short shaft to the propeller at the stern.
Even on much later coasters, two-cylinder compound engines continued to be used because they took up less space than triple-expansion.
Thunders compound engine would have been particularly interesting because it was an inverted design, the pistons working the opposite way up to convention.
I say would have, because when I reach the spot I find nothing but a clean mounting-plate and the propeller- shaft. The engine and condenser must have been cleanly salvaged not long after the Thunder went down.
Everything else is there to make an enjoyable little dive. The propeller shaft leads to a broken propeller. Forwards, broken hull-plates lead to a fallen mast, then on to an anchor-winch and a big anchor at the bow.
At slack water, this would be an ideal wreck for beginners. With the tide running, a little more experience is required.


With a northerly force 7 or 8 still blowing, taking a dive boat out of Fishguard is not an option to pursue. They even had to cancel one of the big ferries overnight.
Prepared for such an eventuality, Mark Deane has already taken Celtic Divings big RIB out of the water. The standby plan is to tow it by road to Porth Clais, a narrow inlet and fishing harbour to the south of St Davids.
With the tide receding, the inlet is dry most of the way to the harbour wall. Its a good job Mark has a Land Rover. I wouldnt have liked to try launching a boat at Porth Clais with anything less.
At least the wind is offshore, and the sun is making an effort. The sea is as good as flat, and we have an easy journey along the coastline and across the south end of Ramsey Sound.
Tucked in behind the small island of Ynys Berry, it would be easy to forget about the big waves crashing in on the other side of the peninsula.
It wasnt as nice here on 25 January, 1903, when the 2996-ton steamship Graffoe was blown onto the rocks after the steering gear failed.
Half of the crew managed to get away in a lifeboat, only to drift out into St Brides Bay to be rescued a day later by a passing steamer.
With the deck now beneath the waves, those left on board waited through another night until visibility improved and the wreck was spotted from the mainland. The St Davids lifeboat was launched and collected the survivors from the rigging.
The local contingent of divers discusses just where the wreck is. Its a while since any of them has dived it.
This close to the rocks and in shallow water, a shotline is unnecessary. A suitable spot is selected and the first pair drop in. The rest of us wait. If any more finding needs to be done, we may as well let the first pair do the work.
When my turn comes, the instructions are simple: Just follow the rock down, and you cant miss it.
I follow the rock down, and there is wreckage tight in against the west side of the rock in just 5m - a few ribs and some broken scraps of boiler plate. Seeking the bow first, I head shallower and soon find an upright anchor-winch. As the scraps of wreckage fizzle out, I turn and head deeper.
The trail of wreckage turns a dogleg and becomes more substantial. I am now on an obvious wreck, with box-sections of hull, cargo winches, a mast and a pair of boilers either side of the keel.
Aft of the boilers, the remains of the engine are tumbled about the mounting-plate, the propeller-shaft following the line of the keel to the stern.
Back in the RIB and reviewing my thoughts about the dive, the intact boilers start mental alarm bells ringing.
Not only are they intact, but their construction is very different to the scraps of boiler-plate I met at the start of my dive. Is there another wreck of older construction off the bow of the Graffoe


About a third of the way between Little Haven and Martins Haven, the Hen and Chicks is a string of rocks that had always skipped my attention.
When diving round Skomer Island, I have been on boats out of Martins Haven, Dale or any of the other ports in Milford Haven, but not from the beaches further into St Brides Bay.
This has put me ahead of the Hen and Chicks, with no pressing reason to go back to them.
Meanwhile, divers with RIBs departing from Little Haven or Broad Haven would pass the Hen and Chicks on their way to Skomer, then dive them on the way back as a convenient shallow dive.
The opportunity to fill this gap in my logbook comes with a dive from the charter boat Volsung on nearby Stack Rocks. A strong southerly wind has led us to diving in the shelter of a north-facing coast.
After a successful dive on the Stacks, its a decision of typical diver laziness to have a look at the Hen and Chicks. None of us has dived here before, were in the area and the rocks are conveniently sheltered beneath the cliffs.
Having decided, we could really go back to sleep for another hour in the afternoon sun.
The rocks run perpendicular to the cliffs. Depending on the tide, some break the surface and some stay submerged. Between them are narrow canyons through which the current pushes.
Skipper Andy drops us a pair at a time in the lee of the biggest inshore rock. For lack of better information, I guess that this one is the Hen and the smaller rocks leading out to sea are the Chicks.
Its an easy descent in a gentle back eddy, down kelp-covered ledges to a step where the rock meets the pebbled seabed. Its this last step of the rock that proves more interesting. Kelp-free, there is space for dead mens fingers and jewel and daisy anemones to grow among a brown turf of bryozoans and hydroids.
I follow the rock round and into the current, swimming hard to get through a gully between the rocks with the current against me. I round the upcurrent side of the first Chick and back through another gully as the seabed deepens past 10m.
My course continues to snake between Chicks as I play with lobsters and crabs, then out and round the last rock at 16m.
It is covered in plumose anemones, unusually shallow considering the clarity of the water.
Its not the easiest place to take photographs. The only way I can make it work is to get upcurrent, set everything up, then drift past my subject and snap at the critical moment.
I wonder what a spiny spider crab thinks as I repeat this move a few times with different camera settings.
Later in the summer, the Hen and Chicks are known as a regular gathering spot for the grey triggerfish that drift in as the sea warms.
In June, its just a pretty dive that anyone can have a go at, picking sheltered or current areas depending on how hard they want to work.


It started out as a day to try some deep marks off Strumble Head. Last year I had dived the aft two-thirds of the Empire Panther. This year, Lunchbox Bob has some more marks to try in the same area. Maybe one of them is the bow.
Mark Deane from Celtic Diving has a shiny new paint job on Wandrin Star, his 15m steel-hulled hardboat with its enormous deck space. I am looking forward to a day in the sunshine, setting off early, running search patterns with the help of the RIB to see what we can find and diving them at slack water.
Marks children have even given him a couple of classic deck-chairs for his birthday. If he were handing out tickets, mine would have to be port out and starboard home.
The wind is picking up from the west, the rain is proving an exception to the Pembrokeshire sunshine and the sea is getting rougher. We huddle in the dive centre at Goodwick. Its not too rough for the original plan, but do we really want to do it in the rain

THE FALLBACK OPTION IS QUITE ATTRACTIVE. Just outside the harbour is the wreck of the William Rhodes Moorhouse, a trawler that sprung a leak off Strumble Head, then sank while under tow for Fishguard on 15 February, 1968.
Its a new wreck for me, so I am happy to have a convenient alternative on a miserable day.
We dont even have to mess about finding the wreck, as Mark and Bob have tied a small buoy to it. Slack water is earlier and longer than off Strumble Head, so having chugged out from the harbour and taken our time to kit up, the sea is ready for us to dive.
The William Rhodes Moorhouse has settled to deck level in the silt. This is probably what has kept the rest of the wreck together over the years.
With a wooden hull and deck with a steel cabin and fittings, its the sort of construction familiar to any diver who has been to Scapa Flow. Most of the big Scapa dive-boats are converted from this sort of trawler.
The silt has protected enough of the hull to hold together all the steel bits that poke up through the silt, from a stem-post at the bow to the rudder-post and steering quadrant at the stern. All are covered in big plumose anemones.
The steel cabin stands over the diesel engine with a classic-shaped funnel on top to hide the exhaust. Forward of the funnel, a dense shoal of pouting swarms about the exposed helm.
There was either a wooden wheelhouse on top of the steel cabin, or just an open bridge. The Moorhouse was built as a Royal Navy trawler in 1944, then sold on for commercial use after the war, so an open bridge may well have been the original construction, even if a wheelhouse was added later.
Forward of the cabin is the trawl-winch, the starting point for the demise of the Moorhouse. Its failure prevented her from recovering the fishing gear, and while getting assistance from another trawler, it was discovered that the fish-hold was flooding.

  • Pembrokeshire Dive Charters (air and nitrox), 01437 781569, www.gopdc.co.uk. Celtic Diving (air), 01348 871938, www.celticdiving.co.uk. Dive in 2 Pembrokeshire, 01646 636684, www.dive-in2-pembrokeshire.com. West Wales Divers (air and nitrox), 01437 781457, www.westwalesdivers.co.uk.

  • Divernet
    Propeller-shaft on the Thunder - the engine has been salvaged cleanly.
    Cargo winch on the Graffoe in Ramsey Sound.
    Divers returning to Martins Haven.
    Daisy anemones at the Hens & Chicks site.
    A spider crab on the Graffoe wreck.
    This trawl-winch on the William Rhodes Moorhouse wreck was significant in the trawlers sinking.
    A diver examines wreckage by the cabin.
    Mark Deane at the helm of Celtic Divings RIB.