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Skomer Island Marine Reserve

 

Skomer Island boasts a range of diving sites whether you’re a novice or an experienced diver. Here you’ll find intact wrecks, cliff dives to 45m, drift diving, shallow reefs, lots of seal activity during certain times of the year and also a huge variety of bird life that has a habit of dive bombing you during your safety stops!

Being a ‘Marine Reserve’, there is a no take policy on all underwater creatures. There are heavy fines imposed for offences involving the taking of certain shellfish.

Rye Rocks

Rye Rocks are a group of rocks on the west side of North Haven on Skomer Island, and are quite often inhabited by seals that are just hanging out. At low to mid water the rocks are visible, although on a high tide you may just see them breaking the water.

The reef system that supports these rocks runs out of North Haven in a North Easterly direction with various nooks, crannies and gullies running throughout the length of this, what I’d call a finger reef. If you drop in on the North Haven side, there is a shallow wall that you can follow to start with, but it does break up in places, so keep close to the wall and boulders and keep following them along. Along the way you’ll find the rare gorgonian sea fans growing at 90 to the bedrock, so be careful! These marine inhabitants only grow a couple of cms a year, and are unique in that they are only found in a handful of areas in the UK. Lots of holes for the usual array of lobsters and other crustaceans, including quite a few crayfish. At the ‘fingertip’, as you start heading back towards Skomer Island, it is quite shear with a max depth of about 25m before it starts sloping away in the sand back out towards the wreck of the Lucy. At this point, between the top of the wall at 12m and the bottom at 25m, you’ll often find the seals playing around. They like the shallow and deep contrast. Continue the dive back in, but again stay close to the wall and broken up areas as the only thing you’ll find out to the east of this finger reef is sand! You may be fortunate enough to come across the bow mast of the Lucy, which is in about 12-15m of water. Finish you dive in amongst shallow boulders that are just to the West of ‘Rye Rocks’. Very kelpy but lots to see here.

TIPS: Slack water is two and a half hours after high/low water at Milford Haven, the same as the Lucy, although ‘Rye Rocks’ can be dived most of the time. Be careful of currents during spring tides, and have a look at the site to see what side to drop the divers in based on which way the current is running. Depth is 25m max on the tip but the rest of the time is between 10m and 15m. Always carry a delayed SMB with you as when your doing your safety stops you will have a habit of drifting, and this area has varying amounts of boat traffic. Novice divers are okay here providing its neap tides and there’s not much current.

The Lucy (50.44.27N, 5.16.33W)

The Lucy was a 168-feet/52metre coaster containing a cargo of calcium carbide. When saltwater mixes with Calcium carbide, the resulting gas (acetylene) tends to explode (!), so its not surprising the crew jumped ship as soon as she ran aground in ‘Jack Sound’ on Valentines Day in 1967. The captain and his crew of seven, including the ship’s dog, were in a life raft and clear of the 450-ton Dutch coaster before you could say, “abandon ship”! The Lucy had hit the infamous ‘Blackstones Reef’ in Jack Sound, at approximately noon on the 14th February 1967. She remained fairly well balanced on the reef until the early evening when the full tide lifted her off. The last sighting of her was that she was off through Jack sound heading North into St Brides Bay with a heavy list to starboard. She was never seen again, on the surface that is!! The current carried her into the entrance to North Haven where she sank perfectly upright in 40m of water.

Be warned, that even though a fabulous dive, this is an advanced dive and divers should be aware that the ‘Lucy’ is a deep wreck with little or no light penetration!!

The location of wreck makes it a sheltered site from southerly winds, although if the wind is NE to NW, it can be a bit bumpy! As she is located in the heart of the ‘Skomer Marine Reserve’, she has been buoyed up so as to prevent shot lines being dropped left, right and centre. The bowline takes you down to approximately 33m, depending on the state of the tide. Top tip: regardless of your experience level, hold onto the line all the way down to the wreck, as current and light penetration can sometimes make the journey a bit more challenging.

If there is any current, you’ll find shelter either on the port or starboard side. Once you hit the superstructure at the stern, be sure to peer into the wheelhouse from outside. Many a diver has had a start after peering inside and finding a pair of greyish discs peering back! Seals do frequent the wreck so make sure you’re with the right buddy! Check out the mast as its covered in plumose anemones and dead man fingers. For the more experienced divers, you can come up the mast to 18m and release your delayed SMB. It is possible to then swim to Rye Rocks to finish off your dive by swimming for about 5 mins due SE. If there is current you’ll have to take this into account. The bow mast of the Lucy lies in 14m of water on Rye Rocks.

TIPS: Slack water is two and a half hours after high/low water at Milford Haven, although she can be dived most of the time when the tide is less than 6m. Depth is 42m on spring tides, but recommend you stay on the wreck, as there isn’t much on the sand bed. With that in mind, an Enriched mix of 28%-30% will give the Nitrox trained divers amongst you significantly more time to explore.

View virtual wreck tour

North Wall

This dive site runs from the eastern side of North Haven on Skomer Island, all the way along until you get to Garland Stone. Right on the North Haven tip, you find it the deepest, a shear cliff face type wall that runs down to 45m. As you head eastward, it does gradually get shallower, so depending on the level of experience of the divers depends on where you’ll want to drop in. Deep gullies are etched into the rock, and if the current runs, these gullies provide a nice little sheltered spot. Can be one hell of a drift dive depending on the state of the tide, but some of you divers would be after that anyway! Seals, Gorgonians, crayfish and lots besides. Due to the frequent currents, you’ll find a lot of dead man’s fingers and other bryozoans hanging around. As you head eastward along the wall, it does get shallower, and there you’ll come across lots of boulders that have fallen from the cliff faces. This makes for fantastic marine habitats, with congers, nudibranchs and a plentiful supply of fish. Essentially, select you depth profile and stick to it. Consult with the dive shop for Slack water, as the tidal stream makes the current split on Skomer in different areas, and it doesn’t always follow the chart.

TIPS: Be careful of currents during spring tides, and have a look at the site to see where to drop the divers in based on which way the current is running. Depth is 45m max on the North Haven tip but the rest of the time is between 10m and 25m mid way along the wall. Always carry a delayed SMB with you as when your doing your safety stops you will have a habit of drifting, and this area has varying amounts of boat traffic. Be wary of continuing along to Garland Stone. You don’t want to finish your dive there as the currents are not only fast, but there’s several of them meeting in one place which makes things tricky for the boat pick up. Novice divers are better to be placed about 150 metres from the North Haven point so as not to get the same depth or currents. Again, better for them on a neap tide.

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