OVER MANY TRIPS to Pembrokeshire, we have not always dived successfully on the chosen wreck.
Sometimes its weather that messes things up. Sometimes its tides, which can be quite fierce and unco-operative. More often than not its a location thats a bit vague, and a search thats unlucky.
Bob, volunteer DO with Celtic Diving, claims to be writing a book entitled Wrecks I Have Missed, and has more than enough material. Bearing in mind that DO stands merely for Dining Officer, after his affinity for fine cuisine while afloat, I am inclined to agree.
However, he is the man who helps out most with location of wrecks, so even if it doesnt always work out, at least progress is being made.
The wrecks I have missed deserve a second chance, providing an obvious theme for a trip to Pembrokeshire.
This is how regular dive sites are established, whether genuinely new ones, or rediscovered after the old local fisherman who used to smell out the wrecks retires with his secrets.
Keep this up, and the dive centre has a growing catalogue of wrecks that can be reliably dived by any visiting group.
I like to think that my visits help to spur this on.

COLONIAN
We had originally set off for the Colonian with a scrap of paper left by Bob. He was holidaying in France, and had left us the numbers.
All seemed well until we neared the North Bishop, and skipper Mark entered Bobs numbers into the GPS.
We hadnt given the numbers much thought up to this point. This turned out to be a significant oversight, as they plotted a position closer to Anglesey.
In desperation, we guessed which digit could be wrong, because it was about 60 miles out. Mark had dived the wreck before and had an idea where we were supposed to be, but had not previously shotted it as a skipper.
We also sent Bob a text message: Votre nombres est merde de la vache.
The modified numbers seemed to put us in the right area, but we were getting no results with the sounder.
A few of the local divers on board had dived it in the past and agreed that we were in the right area, but when shotting a wreck, a miss is as good as a mile.
Running out of slack water, we hastily dropped a shot on an obvious line of reef running out to the south-west of the North Bishop. It was a short dive before the tide grew too strong, on a colourful enough reef, but without wreckage.
Later we received a reply from Bob Vos nombres sont la merde de la vache. Bob had corrected our French, but the numbers remained a mystery.
The 6440-ton Colonian was carrying a general cargo from Boston to London when, on 20 May, 1917, she struck the North Bishop off St Davids Head.
The crew took to the lifeboats, and no lives were lost.
This time round, an ominous sign as we depart Fishguard is that Bob is busy and will not be joining us until tomorrow. Nevertheless, he and Mark have already tied a buoy to the Colonian, and the numbers are safely in Wandrin Stars GPS.

AN HOUR BEFORE SLACK, the plotter says we have an hour to get there. Will this allow time for a search Will slack arrive early on a good neap tide
Mark has anticipated such an eventuality, and we have the RIB in tow. The rest of us suit up, dive-kit is transferred, numbers are entered to the RIBs GPS and we zoom ahead.
The numbers agree with the transits, but all we get on the sounder is the ridge that extends south-west of the rock. We are in roughly the same area as last time.
Either were not on the wreck, or the wreckage is so flat against the reef that there is nothing to show on the sounder.
Slack water arrives without warning, and things happen in a rush. The buoy pops up, we kit up, and a thick sea-fog descends. We cant risk a drifting ascent in these conditions, so its critical to return up the buoy.
My pessimism evaporates as I descend to find that the buoy is indeed tied to an anchor at 18m, and the reef is piled with huge artillery shells from a cargo bound for the trenches of the Western Front.
Other cargo included copper ingots, so its hardly surprising that the Colonian was fairly well broken up in a smash-and-grab salvage to retrieve this. Everything remaining is flat against the reef.
Movement in the nose of a shell catches my eye; a tompot blenny has set up home inside. Indeed, most shells have a resident tompot, except for those with larger holes, where crabs have taken up residence. Lobsters prefer the crannies beneath shells.
Tiny decorated spider crabs need no such holes, relying on their camouflage of sponge to go unnoticed.
A scything movement of what I at first think is a dogfish in the distance turns out to be a smoothhound much closer. Its another shark family-member, but altogether bigger.
With my dive limited by the necessity to lay a line, I am reeling my way back
to the buoy when the last of the divers descends. Mark is still on Wandrin Star, and we are taking turns to dive.

GESTURES CONVEY THAT THE FOG HAS LIFTED, and I no longer need to return to the buoy. I still have to retrieve my line, however, so have only a few minutes more to head along the wreck before the current becomes unmanageable.
Wandrin Star has caught up, so we can peel out of our drysuits and relax on deck-chairs while the boat continues on to Porthclais, the RIB in tow.
Mark even has time to get a quick haircut from instructor Paul. With perfect sea conditions, we anchor Wandrin Star for the night, conveniently located for the next wreck on our list.
Mark keeps watch on board. Divers are ferried ashore in the RIB, then to the dive centre in Celtic Divings minibus.

WHITEHAVEN
On my previous encounter with the Whitehaven, the wreck at this location had long been thought to be the Whiteplain. Not that it was dived that often in recent years.
On a day of awkward winds, we had been tucked in behind Ramsey Island diving the wreck of the Graffoe, a steamship wrecked in 1903. It was one of those improvised fall-back days (At Ease With Plan Bs, December 2007).
By late afternoon, the wind had veered and let up slightly, so the shelter to the south of St Davids peninsula extended further out to sea.
What could we do for a second dive The Whiteplain was suggested, simply because some of the long-term local divers could remember it being somewhere about here, and that slack water would not be essential on a neap tide. But among all the vaguely recalled transits, no-one could be specific about the location.
After 45 minutes of searching, a shot was dropped, not on any echo, just on the vague transits, with an intention to continue the search under water.
It wasnt a wreck dive, more of a search for a wreck dive.
With this in mind, I volunteered to drive the RIB and dive second. If they found it, I would have a wreck to dive. As it happened, the Whiteplain remained elusive and I stayed dry.

I MAY NOT HAVE DIVED IT that time, but the experience did spur Bob and Mark into action to locate the wreck and also, while seeking more information, to learn that it was in fact the Whitehaven, a steam-paddle tug.
After a night at the dive centre in Goodwick, we have a minibus ride to Porthclais, and a RIB ride back to Wandrin Star. Yesterdays procedure is reversed. The wreck is only a few hundred metres offshore, and were soon diving.
I follow the line down to one of the Whitehavens boilers. This type of paddle tug had one boiler forward and a second aft of the inclined compound engine. It is an arrangement only really practical on a paddle vessel, where there is no propeller-shaft leading aft.
The wreckage is spread along a valley at 16m between two rock ledges, and I soon find the engine and the second boiler. Much of the hull has decayed to scraps, but the length of the wreck is easy to pick out, from the anchor at the bow to the rudder-post and a small remaining section of the stern.
The Whitehaven sank on 21 May, 1879, in calm conditions. Close to shore and shallow, it is an ideal wreck for a group limited in depth.
All divers recovered, Mark points Wandrin Star up Ramsey Sound and, on a perfect day, we simply drift while waiting for slack water on Bell Rock.

LANGTON GRANGE
Our next target is the Langton Grange, a 5832-ton steamship that ran on to Bell Rock on 5 August, 1909, on route from Clyde to Newport.
Last time, I just about found wreckage at the end of my dive, as the current was building up to a washing-machine spin cycle (A Turn Around Bell Rock, July 2008).
This time Bob and Mark have again left a buoy tied to the wreck, but soon conclude that it has ripped off, so another shot is dropped.
Slack water comes a little bit earlier than predicted, and we rush to get down the line. Wreckage is spread below me, mostly hull-plates with sections of mast and hatch coaming, as I work deeper along the wreckage to 30m.
From here I drift along the wreck and slowly work my way back up. My route is sufficiently offset that I find first one, then a second boiler, rolled down the slope and jammed against ridges on the side of Bell Rock.
From the second boiler, a short trail of wreckage leads up the slope to the engine in 12m, laid over on its starboard side. Taking pictures, I have now run out of time in the building tide. Slack water is definitely over.
Back on board, other divers describe following a trail of wreckage from the engine to a magnificent stern frame.
This gets me wondering - the wreck I had dived last time on Bell Rock had a different feel about it. There had been many mast and ventilator structures; this time none. The Langton Grange had four boilers; this time I found two, though I admit there could be more.
Last time I had seen the forward half of a wreck; this time, with the comments from other divers, it was much more than half a wreck, and included the stern.
On the previous dive, the bow was to the south-west and in deep water; this time, the stern was to the south-west and in shallow water. The stern of the Langton Grange is reported to be in 45m, down the east side of Bell Rock.
So perhaps it wasnt as second-time lucky as I would have liked.

BOB RECKONS WE STARTED on the Langton Grange, then ended up following wreckage from the Cymric Prince, a 3445-ton steamship that struck Bell Rock in fog on 23 February, 1917 (not 1923, as I noted when writing about Bell Rock earlier). At least its another wreck, but I still havent seen enough to know my way round it all.
We head back along the north side of the peninsula. Sea conditions remain perfect, so Mark secures Wandrin Star to a mooring over the site of the Baron Ardrossan, a steamship wrecked in calm conditions and fog on 21 August, 1898, just round the corner from Porthgain.
Im tempted to have a quick dive, but the Sloop Inn at Porthgain serves excellent food, and Guinness beckons. The Baron must wait for another visit.

COUNT DASPREMONT
Celtic Divings minibus collects us for a night at the dive centre, then returns us to Porthgain and a short RIB journey out to the mooring.
Our final target is the Count DAspremont, a well-known wreck in Ramsey Sound. Last time I had tried to dive it the conditions were so unpleasant that we couldnt go anywhere else, and the surface visibility was such that none of the transits was clear. Underwater visibility was not much better.
Mark and Bob had dropped a shot on a best guess, which turned out to be a little way off the wreck. One pair of divers had found it, the ones who had dived it most often before. The rest of us had explored the rocks.
This time we have perfect surface conditions - long neaps, flat water and good visibility. The transits are visible and the GPS agrees. Taking no chances, the wreck has been buoyed since the start of the season. The Count has been a regular dive, and the buoy pops up just as the tide is slacking, though we do have a brief period of anguish when a passing boat radios to say that it got pulled off last week.
The 452-ton Count DAspremont struck Horse Rock on 15 December, 1903, while heading for Newport from Dublin. It stuck fast, while the crew escaped in the boat. Four hours later the flooding tide lifted the Count clear, to roll over and sink some 300m away.
I descend to the boiler at 28m. There is no doubting the identity of the wreck; the discovery of a makers plate is described by Tom Bennett in Volume 2 of Shipwrecks Around Wales.
Aft of the boiler is a small break, then an overturned hull with a two-cylinder compound engine poking out from below. Forwards, the wreck is much more broken, but still easy to navigate past the helm and, across the forward hold, the bow fittings.
With a good slack and clear water, the dive is perfect. I get round it all twice before deciding I had better ascend.
Even then Im lazy, and use the buoy-line rather than a DSMB. With minimal current and only a few minutes deco, it hardly makes a difference to Mark spotting divers from Wandrin Star.

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, 01348 871938, www.celticdiving.co.uk.
ACCOMMODATION: Four-bed bunk-rooms for up to 20 at Celtic Diving.
LAUNCHING: A good 4x4 can launch along the inlet at Porthclais, south of St Davids. On the north coast, the harbour at Porthgain has a slip that can be used at any state of tide. At Goodwick, the slip dries for a couple of hours either side of low tide.
TOURIST INFORMATION: Admiralty Chart 1973, Cardigan Bay - Southern Part. Admiralty Chart 1478, St Govans Head to St Davids Head. Admiralty Chart 1482, Plans on the South & West Coasts of Dyfed. Ordnance Survey Map 157, St Davids and Haverfordwest Area. Shipwrecks Around Wales, Vols 1 and 2 by Tom Bennett. Fishguard tourist information, 01348 872037.