Diving North Wales

Salford, being somewhat land locked, Salford BSAC home diving ground was along the North Welsh Coast, especially Angelsey and Treaddaur Bay. This 22 kilometres of coast had over 40 wrecks to dive on.

The Castillion and Coal Rock were some of our favourite dive sites.

Accomodation

The weekends were spent in this caravan in the backyard of a welsh house when we went diving.

One weekend the weather was bad and the diving was cancelled. We decided to take the ferry to Dublin. The £16.00 return ticket included 1 litre of free spirits each way. This was the local trick for stocking up on booze. The friendly landlord said the Welsh made better Irish cream than the Irish. He opened a bottle of Welsh home brew. The rest is history. Christine was over the limit and under the weather and spent the night with her head in a bucket, seasick before she left land!

I still have never been to Ireland

The Mystery Of The Harold
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South Stack Lighthouse on a blustery day

When you trained with BSAC you did your first 20 dives roped to an experienced diver, usually being hit in the face by his fins! The very first dive that Christine and I did as buddies was one of our most memorable dives. We were looking for the transom of the shipwreck of the Harold.

The boat had split in two and the bow location was well known, but not the stern. We had the transits for the bow and a vague drawing of the cliff where the boat had grounded.

Bottom sounders were quite primitive in those days and there was no such thing as gps. The position of wrecks was handed down on scrappy bits of paper with wobbly drawings and transits of local landmarks. Most were open to various interpretations and generally looked like they had been made by drunk sailors. They probably had! We knew the stern was in 18m of water but that was about it.

We went out with four other pairs of divers, all with much more experience than us. As the newbies we were set to dive last. We never put more than 2 divers in the water at one time.

We sat patiently on the boat as team after team went down and grid searched the area, coming up empty handed. We had lots of time to study the wonky drawing, and the cliffs, sky, seagulls and any other unlikely piece of information, so when it was our turn we insisted on being dropped about 2 km further north. Christine and I went to 18 meters and swam along the bottom confidently. After about 6 minutes this massive structure emerged out of the gloom, we had came across the engine, boilers and stern of the Harold. We had found it! There were a few noses out of joint on that day I can tell you.

We were hooked on wreck diving!

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The transits in Chrisitne's log book for stern of the Harold.
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The transits in Dudley's log book for the stern of the Harold.

What is known about this wreck

The Harold sank in 1904, following engine failure, and drifted onto the rocks just north of the South Stack Lighthouse. The cargo was china clay for the potteries around Merseyside. The crew were all rescued. I can find no trace of this wreck in a Wikipedia list of wrecks from 1900 to 1905.

The Editor

The Editor was a screw steamship carrying cotton, which ran aground in foggy weather in 1897, en route from Brazil to Tyneside. The wreck lies between Tide Rip Rock and The Fangs, close to the south stack lighthouse in 17 metres of water. The captain was found to be negligent and, although experienced and of good character, his masters certificate was suspended for 6 months.

We managed to get two deadeyes off the wreck. We removed the rusty metal collars and dried them out. They have held our walking sticks at our front door for the last 40 years and remain in good condition.

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Deadeyes (Wikipedia)
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The Editor
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Deadeye From The Editor

A deadeye is a thick, round block of wood with holes through it, through which ropes were passed to be used in the rigging of old sailing ships and clippers.. Single and triple-hole deadeyes are the most common. In the latter part of the nineteenth century wooden deadeyes were largely replaced by metal turnbuckles and so wooden deadeyes can be used to date a shipwreck.

Generally two deadeyes were used in the same fashion as a more modern block and tackle. Suitable grease such as tallow is applied to the holes to reduce friction. The rope is pulled in to tension the shrouds, and a small wooden wedge is knocked into the last hole on the deadeye to prevent the rope sliding back, The shroud can then be tightened. The wedge can then be removed and the deadeye moved to the next shroud.

The three-holed blocks were called deadeyes because the position of the three holes resemble the eye and nose sockets of a sheep's skull.

The Castillion

Built in 1919, The Castillion was a 3067 ton, 33 metre freighter. She was carrying a cargo of munitions from Manchester to Lisbon when she struck East Platters Rock, near The Skerries (a small group of rocky islands off Anglesey), and sank on 12 February 1943.

The wreck is said to have had the 1943 invasion plans for Sicily on board after Rommel had been chased from North Africa. The captain again lost his license after the ship was lost.

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Shells at out our front door removed from the Castillion. We were too scared to remove the larger shells and warheads as the detonators are still in place and the shells packed with explosives. There are a few stories of divers blowing themselves up trying to tidy up the casings for souvenirs.

In 1987 a Royal Navy clearance vessel spent several months removing unexploded ordnance from Fydlyn Bay nearby, believed to have come from the wreck. In 1997, because of the potentially dangerous cargo, the location of the wreck was designated, under section 2 of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, with a 500 metre exclusion zone regarding scuba diving activities. Maybe some of the stories of blown up divers were true!

Rumour has it the ordinance was later removed or blown up, as it was felt to be a potential source of explosives for the IRA.

It is also said that she was sailing under a Red Cross flag to sneak the arms through to the front line.

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Christine's logbook. Maximum depth 24 metres and bottom time 26 minutes. No dive computers in those days you carried your dive tables with you and a torch to read them in the murky waters.
Coal Rock

Coal Rock could only be dived when the weather was perfect and the sea calm. The rock is only a meter below datum. The rock is at the north west tip of Angelsey, and is covered in wreckage. Ships take a short cut into Liverpool when coming up from the south, and they meet the rock and sink. 7 wrecks are on this particular rock. I think it is called Coal Rock after one of the wrecks on it.

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The White Ladies, on Angelsey, markers erected in the 1860's. Another marker on West Mouse Island can be seen n the background of this picture. The markers line up to mark Coal Rock, one nautical mile further out to sea. You can see the rock under the water from the boat. You travel along the transit from the shipping buoy out to sea, until you see the rock, approximately 500 meters from the shipping buoy.

The current runs very strongly around Coal Rock, and it is easy to get washed out into the shipping lanes if you do not dive on slack water. Derek and Alan had a problematic dive when they were swept off the rock and we had to chase them out to sea with the boat. When the tidal currents run off the British coast, they run strong and fast.

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Dudley's logbook entery for the second dive on Coal Rock. The wreckage is at 15 metres and we found it only on one side of the rock. The other side was devoid of wreckage. Note he now says he needs new tools to get the brass up. The shape of things to come. Eventually we both carried spanners, chisels, hammers as part of our weight belts. A positive tool shed of stuff!
Saint Vincents Rock

Saint Vincent's Rock is off the island of West Mouse

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Christine's log book entry
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Transits for the rock using compass bearings on near by structures. Another scrappy bit of paper written by a drunken sailor!