John Blowes – Wimpey Sealab

At our Club’s face to face meeting on Thursday, 21st October, Carnforth Rotarian John Blowes gave a talk about the Wimpey Sealab.

The Wimpey Sealab was originally a cargo vessel, the Elizabeth Bowater, built in 1958 at Dundee. This vessel was purchased by Wimpey and converted to a drilling ship in 1972. In 1974 two Mirlees Diesel engines were installed and John as the Mirlees  engineer joined the ship at sea to commission the propulsion system. He was helicoptered out to the ship and experienced dropping out of the helicopter a short distance to the deck as the sea conditions were too rough to land on the helipad. One test was to make adjustments so that selection of full astern slowed the ship at maximum rate. John carried out the test of the adjustments and when full astern was selected the ship shuddered, perhaps not surprisingly in the dining room, those who were having their meal found that plates and were heading towards the floor.

The ship carried out drilling operations for a variety of surveys. John described how accurate positioning over the drill site was achieved by use of side thrusters and adjustments to sea anchors. The ship carried out drilling for Seismic surveys; Seabed mineral sampling; test drilling to survey for oil and gas resources and Drill bit testing.

The ship had a number of owners and was finally decommissioned in 2002.