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 joined them.

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 problem.

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 operation.

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 alive.

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 the site.

"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 needed.
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 Wednesday).
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 ladder.

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 and dive.
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