Do you ever wonder what it would be like to explore an ancient shipwreck up close? Here we talk to three generations of the same family, Terry, Sam and Jack, about their scuba divingadventures and discover why they love to swim with fish and explore the coastal shipwrecks in Cardigan Bay and around the Pembrokeshire coastline.
How did you get interested in scuba diving?
Jack: I was looking for a new sport/hobby after my rugby team disbanded. My grandad had told me stories about his scuba diving when he was younger and I knew my mum had tried it when she was my age, and it sounded like good fun.
Sam: I have childhood memories of visiting Wales and helping my dad kit up to do various shore dives. My first taste of diving was at 14 years old with dad off Pwllgwaelod and I have to say I didn’t really enjoy it! I struggled with my mask and never really left the surface! But when Jack expressed an interest, I thought I’d give it another go. I was always on the boat during Jacks training and after seeing the buzz the divers had on surfacing, became curious and thought I’d give it another go and haven’t looked back since.
Jack is the more qualified diver, and watching him mature as a teenager and take responsibility for other divers makes me very proud, its also great to have a shared interest as this is something that we can still do together with him taking the lead during our dives.
Terry: It started off in my caving days, throughout the 50’s and 60’s people had been exploring a particluar cave in the Swansea valley and there was the possibility of discovering a massive new cave system. Previously, divers using primitive equipment had found that a river passage extended into a dry system but had not “pushed” to further discoveries. The opportunity to push this further came up and involved my having to put on scuba equipment and dive 2-300 metres of submerged cave passage into this new system. Subsequently and over the following months and years this system extends for possibly 25 miles. So having been bitten by the caving club years earlier, I was now bitten by the scuba bug and joined Neath SubAqua Club to go on other diving adventures in the sea, lakes rivers, docks etc. But caving was and always has been my first sport.
Where did you find out about Cardigan Sub aqua Club?
Jack: Mum mentioned there was a club in Newcastle Emlyn and we went along to have a look, I was offered a try dive in the swimming pool and loved it.
Sam: I’d seen divers launching their boat locally and looked into it, to discover the very active and lively Cardigan Sub Aqua Club.
Terry: When we moved to Cardigan, I got talking to our surveyor and found out that he was heavily involved with Cardigan SubAqua Club, but age and comittments prevented me from becoming an active member (just like caving)
What do you enjoy about diving?
Jack: I like the element of danger, it’s exciting to explore underwater and see stuff no-one else gets to see. I really enjoy diving on wrecks as they tell a story. We recently had a club trip to Plymouth where we dived several wrecks but the one I really enjoyed was HMS Scylla. I looked it up on YouTube before my dive. It’s a decommissioned Royal Navy war ship that was sunk and made into a certified dive site. It sits on the seabed at 24 meters deep and I got to dive both inside and outside the ship, exploring the engine room, the deck and the bridge. It was weird seeing it in real life after watching the documentary.
I also enjoy diving around the coastline of Wales and have seen more sea life than I’d ever expected. Spider crabs sea coral, really colourful fish, lobsters, scallops and most recently a huge crayfish. Although it gets hot and sweaty preparing for a dive, as you have to put lots of layers on to keep warm, and there is a lot of kit to put together, it’s always fun getting out in the boat and well worth it the effort.
Sam: I was a very nervous diver when I started, as my very patient instructors will tell you, but the more dives I’ve completed, the more my confidence has grown. I’m more interested in the sea-life found around the coast of Wales than wreck diving and seeing them in their natural habitat. There’s just so much to see. We’ve dived a couple of times in the Mediterranean and although the water is warmer, I’ve been disappointed.
Terry: Its a different, exciting and challenging world. What I used to enjoy, particularly along the west Pembrokeshire coast, was drift diving where you can cover a lot of ground and see lots of things in a short space of time with minimum effort.
What is Cardigan sub aqua club like?
Jack: Fun & friendly, I joined at 14years old and the club members and instructors have all made me feel very welcome and there is always lots of banter.
Sam: Fun, Adventurous, Safe and very active!
With regular organized trips, and plenty of active dives for all abilities, I’ve found the club to be inclusive of both men and women all ages and all abilities. The training is thorough and at times challenging, with the safety of it’s members always at the forefront. Pool sessions are weekly and open to all with a core group of divers within the club who are keen to share their knowledge and passion of scuba diving. There is also an active training program to help you achieve your desired level of diving.
A quick drink in the pub usually follows the pool session or a dive where stories are swapped, and future dives ideas discussed.
Terry: I’m not actually a member but am thinking of joining to do a few dives but at 72 years of age don’t plan on anything too strenuous!
What training have you received?
Jack: I’m currently a qualified BSAC Sports Diver, and although the training, at times has been hard,
understanding dive tables etc. and exams to sit, it has been thorough and I’ve had the support needed. I didn’t really enjoy the theory lessons, where I had to sit in a classroom for an hour after doing a full day at school but it’s been worth it as I’m now qualified and can dive anywhere in the world. The practical sessions were always with the instructors with a mixture of sea dives, pool sessions and a few trips to Chepstow Dive Centre. Now I’ve completed my GCSE’s, I’d like to continue to the next level of Dive Leader and then perhaps instructor when I’m a little older.
Sam: I’ve successfully managed to complete my BSAC Ocean Divers qualification and I’m currently training as a Sports Diver. Whilst still being relatively new to diving, I’ve learned very quickly what I do and don’t like and never feel pressured into diving beyond my comfort zone. The dive manager on the day, always takes into account the individuals skills, qualifications and in my case anxieties before pairing buddies for open water dives and I’ve found the instructors to be extremely patient with me.
Terry: When I joined Neath SubAqua Club, I got to Second Class Diver and was involved in the cave dive group.
What’s been the best/most exciting/memorable dive you’ve had?
Jack: It’s got to be HMS Scylla in Plymouth. The sea was really rough and we had to ride out over very large waves for about 20 minutes. Three ribs went out and one returned without diving as they were all seasick, but we managed to get kitted up and into the water and had a great dive. I loved being able to explore both inside and outside the wreck of a real navy ship.
Sam: I’ve had quite a few, being buddied with Jack and feeling remarkably relaxed with just the two of us
exploring the seabed off Mwnt was one to remember. Not something many mothers can say they do with their sons, I’m very proud of Jack and what he has achieved. But more recently, a dive off Cardigan Island, diving the wreck of the Hereford where we discovered 4 massive boilers. One of which you could actually swim through. It was amazing shining the torch into these huge boilers and seeing all the sea life hiding within it.
Terry: It’s got to be the first breakthrough dive into the cave Ogof Ff ynon Ddu (the cave of the black well) and running up miles and miles of underground river passage. Another memorable, whilst diving off Malta, in fairly shallow water swimming over a cliff and going down to 80/90ft and seeing a white apparition in front of me, stood upright on the seabed. It gave me quite a fright until I realised it was a full size life like statue that had been put there. To this day, it remains a mystery as to why it was there!
Do you see a future career in diving?
Jack: I’m not sure? I enjoy it as a hobby but not sure I’d like to do it every day. Ask me again in a year!
Sam: No, absolutely not! It’s just for pleasure.
Terry: No, are you joking?
Have you dived abroad?
Jack: Yes, I dived with my mum last year off the coast of Mallorca and again this year off Kefelonia, but I’d love to dive the Red Sea.
Sam: Yes in the Mediterranean, it was very dull by comparison to what we see on our own coastline. I would love to dive the Red Sea on an organized diving holiday. I just need to win the lottery first!
Terry: Yes, Malta, Dalmation Coast, Greece and a few other places, but in my opinion the best diving is still around Pembrokeshire coast.
CARDIGAN SUB AQUA CLUB
Join the members of the Cardigan Sub Aqua Club and swim with fish and explore coastal shipwrecks in Cardigan Bay and around the Pembrokeshire coast.
THERE are hundreds of shipwrecks along the coast of Wales, many of them just offshore. The wrecks include cargo ships and naval vessels, some with the cargo and guns still clearly visible on board. Sea life abounds in coastal waters. Club members experience close up encounters with lobsters, crabs, sea anemones, fan coral and a range of fish. The club organises trips further afield to Anglesey, Plymouth and even to the Red Sea. Open to members from 12 years old, with a Parent/Guardian membership, with no upper age limit, SCUBA diving in a club setting is a unique and sociable way to enjoy our coastal waters. Families take part through numerous club sponsored camping weekends and barbeques. Club diving offers a convenient way to get started exploring the undersea world. The club has all the equipment and qualified staff needed for beginners to start their training.
Training starts in the pool, and continues in nearby waters. Once qualified as a diver, there are many new skills to acquire, such as underwater photography and boat handling. Cardigan Sub Aqua Club offer a taste of what it’s all about with Try Dives. They meet every Tuesday evening at the Newcastle Emlyn swimming pool. Chat with members about their underwater adventures, then put on diving equipment and enter the pool in the safe company of a qualified SCUBA diving instructor.
Experience the sensation of breathing underwater and the relaxation of weightlessness, or if you’ve dived before and are looking for a social club to join contact Cardigan Sub Aqua Club.
If you fancy joining the club, or would like to sign up for a Try Dive, call or text Alan Thomas for more information on 07970 462 332