Advanced Sea-sickness Speciality
OK I admit it. I do have a problem with sea-sickness. However if I give into
it I'm diving inland sites for the rest of my days and that's just not going to
happen. There are going to be trips that don't work for me but aside from one
disastrous charter out of Portland I haven't missed every dive on one yet.
This one, however did come close to being the worst yet. Great boat. Great
diving from what I could see and a really nice bunch of people who managed to
be sympathetic even when the joke must have been wearing a bit thin.
The trip up started with 230 miles in my car and then 270 mile in the diesel
Ford Focus courtesy car from an engine rebuilder in Oswestry who were doing
some work on mine.
That is I got up at 3.50 am, left at 4.10, arrived in Oswestry at 9.40, left
at 10.10 and finally arrived in Ayr at 16:10. I was getting seriously worried
about falling asleep at the wheel by that time as I hadn't slept well - I
never do waiting for an early alarm. The harbour authorities spotted me
wandering around aimlessly on their CCTV let me in to park by the boat and
when I phoned Matt the trip organiser I discovered they were at the pub so I
At about 17.00 we got back to the boat and lowered lots of gear down and roped
it in place. We are sailing tomorrow morning as the forecast is better. Quiche
and salad stuff for dinner. Breakfast promised at 8 am for a 9 depart.
Naturally there is no signal for the mobile phone inside the metal hull so I am
excused picking up the mail on the lap top although there are lots of places to
plug it in a keep it charged.
I'm sharing the foremost cabin with three other guys. I'm assured the bedding
was warm even in Norway and they are military 'you can't fall out' bunks.
I thought I had brought far too much kit as usual and moving it from the Van to
the much smaller courtesy car just confirmed it. However when we had moved a
couple of Zepp scooters, a 'personal' J of helium and piles of stages onto the
boat and I realised that I didn't have much stuff at all.
What is Loyal Watcher like? The first thing that strikes you is that it is
steel. It is steel with attitude. The hull is steel, the superstructure is
steel, the stairs are steel, the doors are steel with great big steel bolts.
This ship is built to carry on doing what it is supposed to do and ignore the
weather. It doesn't suffer from portholes in the hull and those in the upper
bodywork are the full 'bolt me closed' sea-going type.
The front deck where we roped on our rebreathers (eleven Inspirations and one
OC diver) curves up at the front. There are three levels inside connected by
steep stairs. There are lots of power points because tech divers need to
charge lots of things.
It is cold! It was hot and sunny on Friday and I took my mother and my aunt to
a restaurant at the Brighton Marina in a skimpy summer jacket that was only
really there to give me somewhere to put my wallet. I left Brighton with the
car's air conditioning blowing nice cool 20C air at me but telling me the
predawn air was 24C. Here is chilly. Anorak chilly. Maybe even plus a woolly.
I'm rather disappointed. I don't have a thermometer but I'd guess 12C.
I gave up and went to bed before ten. The bunks delivered and I woke up briefly
just after five and finally just before seven. We had stayed the night at Ayr
because of the weather forecast so I slept.
After breakfast, at about nine, we started out on the twelve hour crossing to
Northern Ireland. Loyal Watcher makes a steady 10Kts. The forecast is that it
will start lumpy but ease off later but I'm already on the tablets.
By one o'clock it had gone from lumpy to very flat and we had passed Ailsa
Craig, the island where the curling stones come from, and watched a Navy
submarine mooch past but we have four hours done and so eight to go so I'm
thinking in terms of a snooze.
I slept a bit and by four o'clock, when we pass what I am told is the Giant's
Causeway, the sea is very much flatter. The boat rolls a bit but the waves look
divable and my tummy is prepared to consider eating. If the week is like this
I will live.
OK so that seemed good but by half past five I'm sick. However, as usual, I
feel better once it's over and I curl up on the dinner table. Just before
seven they are going to serve a meal so I retreat to bed. At ten I getup and am
sick again but we are shortly running on flat waters (sheltered?). How I am
going to dive tomorrow I don't know - I think my water by mouth budget must be
in deficit by now and I feel like a wet lettuce. When I'm sure I won't be sick
again I'll take my pills and go to bed.
By quarter to eleven it is so calm and still I think we must be tied up and I'm
waiting for the engines to stop but a walk up on deck reveals we are moving
across a bay and the water is very flat. Nearly fourteen hours and we're still
not there. I begin to harbour ideas about getting ashore, taking the bus to
Belfast, a plane to Prestwick, a taxi to Ayr and driving off but my car is
boxed in where we tried not to use too much of the car park so it isn't going
to happen. Anchor chain noises give me reason to think we are not tying up
for the night but it's calm now. I don't think I will die immanently. Grief but
I hate seasickness. I have a very silly hobby for somebody who does have this
Five past eleven the engines stop. Tablets. Bed.
It was flat calm all night and morning showed we were in a well surrounded
natural harbour. It's Lough Skilly, West of Malin Head, and we are just off a
little holiday village called Port Salon. I got up about sevenish but felt
trashed. Not the way to start for my deepest dive so far so I called. Three
weatabix for breakfast and lots of rehydration. The only worry is that tomorrow
might just be planned for deeper. Today I take pictures of the boat in
Well it was a two hour haul out to HMS Audacious and I got volunteered to drive
a video camera which I did very badly. We finally got all the divers in the
water at half past twelve. The Audacious was a Dreadnought class boat and was
the first UK loss of World War One. It was mined and allegedly poor damage
control just let it flood progressively even though they got all the crew off
We recovered our divers by two o'clock and were back at anchor by five. I went
to bed on the way back and managed not to be sea-sick despite feeling pretty
rough at points.
Early evening entertainment was provided by dismantling a VR3 4th cell adapter
and trying to fix it (eighty quid!) and then a review of video shot underwater
and my little bit.
About eightish we gather to eat and it all works for me. Nine thirty and
Skipper Steve is loading the RIB to head ashore to go to the pub. He gets about
eight takers and naturally I'm not one.
The Justasia lies in 60-70 meters but its is another hour's run to get there
but I feel a lot better. On tales that it is 60m to the top of the wreck I cut
a 10 minutes 70 meters plan for the slate, which is still an hour in the water
and set the gear up. I will quite happily do a virtual 'touch and go' rather
than stay in the boat but it doesn't work out. By the time we are half way
there I'm not quite sick just decidedly queasy.
The Justasia was a liner that never did liner duties as it was taken on a troop
ship at the beginning of WW1 and sank empty. Hence it had big liner fittings,
like massive port holes but none of the big liner crockery that usually covers
"Don't lift the big square portholes" says Steve the Skipper "The hoist can't
manage them." but sure enough something appears hanging from three lift bags.
It stays in the water while two ordinary sized portholes and a car battery are
lifted. Yes a modern car battery that was probably somebody's shot weight was
bagged off. Perhaps somebody wasn't running as much helium in the mix as they
After recovering the divers and watching the owners of the big porthole recover
their catch Steve and Richie did a few minutes fishing and hauled in big fish
up to two feet long and several more (they appeared on the dinner table on
The run back was pretty uneventful and dinner went down. For tomorrow there is
talk of the Laurentic in about 40m and very close to Lough Skilly so I should
have no trouble with that. We shall see.
Richie and I dived the Laurentic at ten o'clock. 38 meters and 72 minutes run
time. The Laurentic was a 15000 ton White Star liner wrecked in 1917 and
heavily salvaged on account of the 35 tons of gold on board. The visibility is
20+ meters but the wreck is well broken. We mooched around until about 45 mins
run time and after a couple of microbubble stops were left to hang at 6 meters
for 18mins. Good dive. The new torch is great and easy to work but tried to
snag up on the ladder so I should have kept it on my hand. Also I should have
ditched the stage when offered a rope rather than trying to take it up the
We then proceeded to the Empire Heritage, full of Sherman tanks in 68m.
The numbers for the dive were: Mix 18/39, Dil 180-120=60, O2 180-140=40, Suit
200-140=60. I have topped the suit with air, the DIL with 50bar of He and air
top to 220 which calculates as 14/51 and topped the O2.
The weather forecast is not good. Something should blow through overnight but it
might leave a bad sea state. Certainly it has rained on us this evening so I
have lots of dive gear piled round my bed.
I don't appear to have any spare batteries for the rebreather. The master is
down to 5.98v and although it's clearly got another dive or two in it I'd
normally change it on principle but the tool box is bare. This is silly as at
home the dive kit storage area is littered in batteries which, I guess is why I
assumed... <sigh> Still if I need to borrow an Inspiration battery I'm in
the right place. Now where am I going to dive my 14/51?
When they pull the RIB aboard something important is missing so it is kit up
and dive 6 meters in search and recovery mode. They found it and also the odd
length of pipe that rejoices in the name 'ladder' although it only provides one
step at the crucial height.
Well it was rock and roll all night but although it didn't seem to disturb me I
woke up pretty drained. The Lough was quite lumpy and the promised sea state
outside is not diveable so the plan is to do the Laurentic (again for me). I'm
not sure I will but I'll set up the gear. Frankly if it wasn't cold and wet I'd
be a lot more enthusiastic. I make some excuse.
Last chance. I have a lean trimix in the system and I'm feeling good. If I'm
going to get sea-legs on this trip it has to be today. I prep the gear and test
it carefully as I don't want to have to do anything to it on site - just kit up
I'm rigged and have a people to dive with agreed. I have everything set and the
stage on and, OK we're bouncing a bit, but I'm ready. I'm quite prepared for a
relative touch and go, 10 or 15 minutes but the shot drags free, it might have
been twice and I end up hanging over the side. It's the seal on my neck that
seems to set me off or perhaps I'm just allergic to diving. Even the poor guy I
was going to dive with pulls out having deposited some breakfast into the
loop. maybe I'm infectious. I dekit and retreat to sulk in my bunk.
The dive wasn't uneventful. Due to a cylinder in wrong pile mix up one DIL
bottle was topped with oxygen and ended up as 50/12. Scary. It was giving beeps
and not reducing, naturally, on a dil flush so the owner bailed out onto his
OC stage. I'm rather pleased I have the analyser and I already knew, even
before I decided not to dive, that my mix was 14/48.
We leave site and start the long haul back to Ayr. 12 hours. Once we were
underway and not rolling around at zero speed managing divers I feel a bit
better but it doesn't count now. Look at the picture of the sea once we rounded
the Mull of Kintyre. Mirror or what? Ayr at 11pm, drag everything up onto the
dock and load the cars, sleep until 3am and decide to go. It's a long haul home
and the M25 is gridlocked but I make it awake.
So why do I do it to myself? I don't know. This one was a mistake as you can
rely on the Atlantic being a bit bouncy. Would I do it again? Maybe. If I don't
try I might as well give up diving here and now and that just ain't going to
happen. Don't even think about costing time in the water by minutes.
The pictures can be accessed by clicking the thumbnail but they tend to be 900K+ files
Pictures by Nigel Hewitt
Thumbnails by Easy Thumbnails
by Nigel Hewitt