Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire - 4th -6th May 2024

I decided to run this trip as I wanted to dive on my birthday – a fun thing to do for any of you aspiring Dive Managers. And boy what eventful trip it turned into, this trip has to have been the unluckiest trip I’ve ever run!

We’d started off with a full dive list of twelve and we even had reserves, but due to various circumstances we ended up with just 10 divers.

Well, we thought, nothing else can go wrong – how wrong we were!! We had booked Pembrokeshire Charter Boats’ lovely big catamaran with a diving lift, but 3 days before we were due to turn up we were told that the boat had been damaged by the port and the £80,000 damage repair had not been completed in time. We were, however, told that they had sourced a replacement boat which unfortunately had a ladder instead of a lift. That’s Ok, we thought, we can do ladders… however, it didn’t turn out that way.

Arriving on the Friday night I thought our luck had changed. The houses I’d booked (two adjoining semis overlooking the estuary) were amazing, plenty of parking, good beds and beautifully fitted out. They even had a paved sun trap behind the house ideal for eating out should the weather allow (and it did).

The Pembrokeshire Charter Boats skipper found out on the Friday evening that the replacement boat was used for fishing and as such, while lovely and spacious, wasn’t kitted out for divers. There were no benches to kit up on and the ladder would have crumpled under my weight even without dive gear.

The solution, at least to the ladder, was to lose weight but in the short term it meant that we were going to have to dive at the same location as Pembrokeshire Charter Boats other boat, Overdale, so that we could be picked up by their lift and transferred across back to our boat.

On the Saturday the plan was to do shallow easy diving, because the other boat had Ocean divers amongst their group and hence the plan was to do shallow diving. This wasn’t an issue really, as we weren’t all fully dived up and a number of nice scenic dives were going to be pleasant. And they were. We dived Hen and Chicks and Stack Rock. Lots of life was spotted though mostly a gazillion massive spider crabs, but also included a conger eel, a pipefish, lobsters, crabs, small crawfish, anemones, cup coral and of course nudibranchs (come on, I was on the dive, of course I’m going to point out nudibranchs). The visibility was 3 to 4 metres horizontally and the sea temperature was a roasting 11°C. It was a day of pootling about underwater and everyone seemed to have enjoyed it. I know I did.

After the dive we were back to the houses for a lovely sunny evening and a meal. To keep costs down I’d offered to cook for the weekend and we all had nachos, chilli and rice, trifle and then birthday cake. I was 21 (again) and it was a lovely evening, chatting about diving and relaxing.

Sadly, our luck didn’t hold. On Sunday the weather took a slight turn for the worse and we were diving in the Haven, on the wreck of the Dakotian. This isn’t my favourite wreck as it is in close to the port and tends to be very silty.  The dive was nice enough. The Dakotian is a big wreck! However, as expected the visibility was worse than the previous days dives, at 1-2m. Lots of wreckage and some life made it an interesting but challenging dive .

The second dive was a limited affair in 10m of water on a small headland. It was a nice enough scenic dive and we saw catshark (or dogfish if you are old like me), crabs, lobsters and… nudibranchs.

On Monday we got a different boat, this time a catamaran which was kitted out for diving, including benches and a lift. The plan was to dive the Lucy. Unfortunately, the slack wasn’t until mid-day. We slowly ambled along, making our way to Skomer Island, where we finally chilled out watching the puffins. As the time past the wind picked up and turned more northly, the exposed direction for the Lucy. Just as the time came to get ready for the dive the skipper cancelled the dive saying he was concerned about picking us up in the worsening sea conditions. Frustrating but the right call. So we did a very broken up wreck on the southside of the island called the Dead Eye wreck. It was a nice enough dive but not really what we’d hoped for. But that is diving isn’t it, the conditions dictate and we have to take what we are given. A short interval and the final dive was on the Lady Alice, another shallow scenic wreckage dive. 

We had a good time, in spite of being on the wrong boat and non-ideal conditions meaning we were limited to our dive sites.  If you are considering diving Pembroke, I’d still recommend Pembrokeshire Charter Boats. Their skipper Dave was excellent and Matt in the office did everything he could do to make the weekend work. 

– Mark H

With thanks to our dive buddies: Anna, Doug, Ken, Rosy & Steve and Colin, Rob & Joanna from Hartford SAC

Photos : Mark H.