Celtic Diving Base
Goodwick Parrog,
Pembrokeshire,
West Wales
SA64 0DE
Tel: 01348 871938
Mob: 07816 640684
Celtic Diving

 

 

Opening
Times

At EASE WITH PLAN B'S...

Words and pictures John Liddiard Diver Magazine December 2007

 

Launching RHIB

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

Helmsman

Mark Deane at the helm of Celtic Divings RIB.

 

You're in Wales for the duration, but the weather's proving unco-operative. Is diving out of the question?


GRAFFOE
RAMSEY ISLAND

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 Diving's 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 David's.
With the tide receding, the inlet is dry most of the way to the harbour wall. It's a good job Mark has a Land Rover. I wouldn't 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 wasn't 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 David's lifeboat was launched and collected the survivors from the rigging.
The local contingent of divers discusses just where the wreck is. It's 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 can't 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?


WILLIAM RHODES MOORHOUSE
FISHGUARD

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.
Mark's 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. It's 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.
It's a new wreck for me, so I am happy to have a convenient alternative on a miserable day.
We don't 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, it's 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.

 

John Liddiard is a renowned photojournalist highly respected in the diving world and regularly has features published in Diver Magazine

For more information on John Liddiard visit his homepage: www.jlunderwater.co.uk

To contact John:

Sycamore House,
Oakfield Road,
Clifton, Bristol,
BS8 2BG.

0117 973 6770
0779 980 4498

john@deepsea.co.uk


Easy Does It !
Winch
Cargo winch on the Graffoe in Ramsey Sound.
Spider Crab
A spider crab on the Graffoe wreck.
Trawl Winch
This trawl-winch on the William Rhodes Moorhouse wreck was significant in the trawler's sinking.
Diver on wreck
A diver examines wreckage by the cabin.