Originally called Boltenhagen, the P29 used to be a German minesweeping, which also patrolled the border river between East and West Germany. She was named after a small town in Rostock, and was built in East Germany in 1970, by a company called Peenewerft in Wolgarst (for those geography enthusiasts out there!). She is a mighty 52m in length with a beam of 7m, making her quite a spectacle. After the reunification of Germany, she was decommissioned as a minesweeper, along with most of the Kondor I class, but was then used as a patrol boat by the German Federal Coast Guard. Her guns were dismantled, she was repainted, and her radio and radar equipment were taken away, transforming her almost entirely for her new job.
On the 24th July 1997 she was bought by Malta, and given the pennant number (a naval identification number) P29. By this point Malta had already bought two other Kondor I boats (in 1992), the Ueckermunde and Pasewalk, respectively given the pennant numbers P30 and P31. The P29 became a patrol boat for Maltese waters, and since her former armaments had been removed before sale by Germany, she was lightly rearmed by the AFM (Armed Forces of Malta). In her time protecting the Maltese coast, she was used to prevent smuggling and border control operations. In 2004 she was decommissioned, and in 2005 was bought by the Malta Tourism Authority, which lead to her being scuttled in 2007. She was scuttled for the enjoyment of divers, and also to provide an artificial reef to encourage the growth of draining marine life.
The P29 now lies approximately 150m from the shore of Cirkewwa in North Malta, not more than 200m from another wreck, the Rozi. With a maximum depth of 35m, she is really only accessible to Advanced Open water divers and levels above, but for those able to dive her, she is truly magnificent. In 2013 she was actually listed among ’10 Most Incredible Sunken Ships on Earth’ by Amazing beautiful world. Its is already possible to see nudibranch, eels, squid, rays and flying gurnard on the wreck, and in the sand around her. This means there is something for everyone to see, from macro lovers to new divers, especially owing to the shoals of smaller fish that swarm around the wreck.
The dive itself starts out in Susie’s pool, a shallow enclave with extraordinarily blue waters on days with good visibility, which is the perfect way to start a dive, allowing divers to get to grips with buoyancy etc, before swimming to the edge of the pool, where they are greeted by a drop off. As one swims over the drop off (approx 5m deep), you can see the sand below, and follow the drop off across, until you reach the Maria statue which sits in a small hollow in a corner of the rocks, at about 16m. From there as you swim out to the wreck itself, it is possible to see several memorial patches, dedicated to divers in Malta who have passed, in a touching tribute. In the sand itself is where to keep your eyes open for rays, flatfish and fireworms, which leads towards to wreck at about 30-35m. There is a small strip of Posedonia which lies between the wreck and the drop off, aiding navigation, and after the Posedonia it is normally possible to see the P29 looming out of the blue. The box of the P29 points away from shore, so the dive starts at the back of the boat, ad leads you around to the front where the famous gun lies. It is possible to ‘stand’ in ones’ fins and pretend to fire the gun, in fact so many divers have taken the chance to get this photo, that the handles of the gun are actually smooth and without coral or growth, unlike the rest of the gun. As you explore the P29 in more depth, keep your eyes open for several different types of nudibranch which have claimed it as their homes, and for some large morays, which can also be spotted hiding amongst the nooks and crannies.
Due to the fact the wreck was scuttled for diving purposes, it was gutted and made penetration friendly, meaning there are very few hazards for divers choosing to explore the inside of the wreck, as long as one stays within the boundaries of their training. It is necessary to take note of NDL’s though, as the wreck lies deep, and can tempt divers to stay beyond their limits in order to fully explore her. The swim back to shore can easily be done in blue water to conserve air, and a safety stop can be done either along the reef or in Susie’s pool, where on occasion, braver octopus have been known to hide.