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ISSUE 12 ARCHIVE - ANGLESEY

Andy York

In 2008, a group of us at the Reef and Wrecked dive club in Reading decided we'd like to try a new dive location in the UK for 2009. After a little discussion and a few phone calls, we decided to explore the excitement Anglesey could offer. So, in August 2009 ten divers, accustomed to diving the UK's South Coast, set off to North Wales for a change. After four dives with a couple of seals and some very poor visibility (even a night dive during the day), as well as terrible weather we now knew what Anglesey could offer. But we really liked the skipper, so we decided to give it another go.

Three of our 2010 group are sitting on the M40 in Friday evening traffic, heading to North Wales. Like last year it's raining, and like last year, the forecast is bad. Winds from the North, so I don't have much hope, but us UK divers have to try to remain optimistic. To keep our spirits up we're camping it up with some booming sounds from Erasure filling the car (do I need to say it's a Land Rover, or is that a different dive magazine?)
Ralf Tech
Modernist church We finally arrived and found out that we will be meeting the skipper, Scott Waterman from Quest Diving and his boat at 7:30am the next morning, just a two minute walk from our accommodation, the Auckland Arms. But we would only be loading the boat at Menai Bridge. The wind was from the North, we would be diving the Southern/South Western side of Anglesey, and Scott has suggested, rather than go on the rather uninspiring traipse down the Menai Strait, we go for breakfast and drive over to meet him in Caernarfon. So that was the plan. After a terrible breakfast no coffee in a very messy and smelly bar, followed by a short drive along the island, we found ourselves changing into drysuits in a car park next to the castle wall in Caernarfon and waiting for Scott to arrive. The tide was low and it's a springs weekend, which means huge changes in water levels in Anglesey, so we boarded via a mussel-covered tower at the end of a pontoon that looked like part of the set from Pirates of the Caribbean. Then, with the wonderful sight of Caernarfon castle receding into the background, Scott carefully weaved his way through the maze of sandbanks, and finally out to the South West side of the island. While Scott was navigating, the rest of us set up our kit, and put our names on the mugs provided by Quest Diving for the weekend (to be kept as a souvenir). We were met by a couple of seals as we motored along and thankfully the weather was much better than expected. On this side of the island we were well sheltered from the wind and, with the sun shining, it was a beautiful day to be out on the water.
Quite far enough Arriving at our first dive site, Scott gave us the briefing for the Kimya wreck, a tanker carrying sunflower oil that capsized in a storm in 1991, which today is lying in eleven metres of water on a soft sandy seabed. We kitted up, buddy checked, and backward rolled. A quick look below and "Wow", what a difference from last year. We could see the wreck from the surface, so the visibility was at least five to six metres. Today every inch of the Kimya's upper structure is absolutely covered in mussels, with marine life everywhere. Of particular note were lots of crabs and lobsters, large prawns, some big pollock, and a black-and-white scorpionfish (presumably to blend in with the mussels growing on the metallic wreck). The stern is now covered in yellow and white plumose anemones, complete with resident yellow spider crabs, and nearby it is possible to see the now exposed diesel engine. Even after a relatively short time as a wreck, the hull is showing signs of wear-and-tear, with great gashes cut into her sides from hanging chains bashing her in inclement weather.
The Underwater Channel
Dive two was a short distance away after a surface interval spent watching the motor racing on the island. The Norman Court was a sailing ship that sank in 1883 after hitting some rocks off Anglesey on her way from Java to Glasgow. The wreck is mostly flattened, but some of the ribs from the hull stretch toward the surface, offering a lovely, atmospheric background for a picture from the sandy bottom at eight metres toward the sunlit surface. Marine life on the Norman Court now includes lobsters, tompot blennies, pollock and some lovely nudibranches. There is also a cannon lodged and unmovable in part of the wreck.

On the motor back to Caernarfon we looked out at the great views of deserted Anglesey beaches, and then headed back to the hotel. For dinner we tried to get into 'The Straits', where we had had a fantastic meal in 2009. But this was fully booked so we went with Scott's recommendation to the Liverpool Arms for a couple of pints of well kept real ale. The huge portions of food here are not for the faint hearted. Those who ordered the pork shank seemed to have half a pig on their plate, but all the food was superb, very tasty and all freshly prepared. In fact, most of the group managed to somehow polish off the majority of their meals, although Chris' dogs did end up with a fairly large doggy bag of pork for their Sunday dinner.
On day two we again met Scott at Caernarfon, grateful for last night's bellyful of pork after yet another poor breakfast. The weather was not quite as good as yesterday, but still perfectly fine out of the wind. The first dive was a seventeen metre drift dive, with a possible encounter with a small wreck on the way. Most of the divers saw the wreck, but my buddy and I missed it. But we did see a conger eel, scorpionfish, some flatfish, some huge lobsters, and more catsharks (dogfish to the more traditional Brits out there. Why did they change the common name?) than I have ever seen on a dive before.

After dive one, Scott suggested a cheeky extra dive nearby. We'd have to be quick to be able to get three dives in today, but he was keen to show off some of Anglesey's hidden dive sites. So we dived the steamship Kyle Prince, a British cargo steamer that ran aground in the 1930s, now sitting in about ten metres of water up against the rocks close to shore. Very broken up, but also, at this depth, very atmospheric, the Kyle Prince is strewn around the rocks. The boilers are particularly beautiful, sitting upright on the bottom and festooned in the usual British marine life: lots of anemones, wrasse and sea hares everywhere.

The final dive of the weekend was the trawler, the Grampian Castle, a British motor vessel that went down in 1987. Due to diving at slack tide, Scott was hoping for good visibility here, but sadly it was not looking good to him. To me it looked just the same as all the other sites green. Nevertheless, kit donned and buddy checks completed for the final time this weekend, we backward rolled into the murkey two metres visibility. But what a dive! A shoal of big bass, with a few grey mullet thrown in, were scooting all over the outside and inside of the wreck. Of particular note was the view through a crack in the hull, looking into the holds a number of huge bass could be seen swimming inside the wreck. This was too much of an invitation, and after a short swim through the forecastle, it was time to join the bass inside the hold. What a fantastic feeling, being this close to such beautiful and large fish. After this we went into the crewquarters, which is now home to a large conger eel, and we also saw lobsters and lots of plumose anemones. A fantastic dive to end the weekend.

A cruise back to Caernarfon and a quick unload of the boat, and we were back on the road heading home this time Led Zeppelin seemed the right choice of music. So, after this trip, what do I think of Anglesey for diving? Let's just say, I'm definitely coming back next year, and Scott, who was again, a great host for the weekend, has assured us that we will have neap tides and better weather. I hope so, and can't wait.
Aquamarine Silver

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