In her former life 'Sealife' was a P&O ships lifeboat, the same type that are still in use today. She was bought in Lancashire and initially used on Loch Ewe, however we moved our business to Gairloch and poor old 'Sealife' just got put on a trailer and left until we decided what to do with her. Five years later her fate was decided, thanks to one of our wildlife trips.
Using batascopes to look under the water from one of the powerboats, we were amazed at the clarity of the water, crystal clear, giving us views of marine life we never anticipated or thought we could see with something so simple.
So the seed was sown and 'Sealifes' journey began.
Ric being Ric looked at the lifeboat saw her potential for conversion and that was it. On a cold wet and windy day in February 2007, armed with a saw, he went out and cut two 2' x 4' holes in her hull, 'Sealife' was on her way.
That was the easy bit, the hard bit followed. Days and days of calculations, drawings, research and too many phone calls to mention to create the dream.
The life boat was stripped back and then redesigned and rebuilt to Rics specifications. During the next eight months he lived and breathed the boat, virtually living in the shed, his days were spent either covered in dust, paint or smelling of fibreglass resin!
Watching the boat being taken right back it was difficult to see the vision. The glass we used was critical, again masses of research to make sure it was right, that was the easy bit compared to fixing it in the boat. Two friends were essential for this procedure, mind you exposure to cellulose thinner fumes followed by a big 'thank you' dram made for a very happy night!!
Rather than the boat just having a glass bottom, we were aware that we needed to look at how our passengers would view the seabed in comfort, without natural light creating reflections on the glass. Two large fibre glass boxes were made, each with six individual viewing panels and placed over the glass. Every passenger would now have their own personal viewing station.
The roof was the next epic build, critical on timings as Ric was working with fibreglass on such a large structure, this was not helped by fledgling swallows flying around, bird droppings on a white roof were not part of the colour scheme!
The roof now provides our passengers from the elements and of course 'sunshine'
The final part of the conversion was to fit a bow thruster, essential for manoeuvrability, we like to get as close to the shoreline as possible, the bow thruster gives us this capability, this enables Ric to show passengers part of the seabed we generally couldn't access.
After eight months of relentless hard work for Ric, 'Sealife' was completed, well worth the hard work.
However the journey wasn't quite over, because 'Sealife' is a commercial vessel she had to undergo rigorous safety tests to ensure her seaworthiness and for your safety had all the safety equipment required by the Marine Coastguard Agency, the coding agency for commercial marine vessels.
We were awarded our commercial endorsement in September, for the first time in 5 years the lifeboat was back on the water and enjoying her maiden voyage as 'Sealife'
Although there are other glass bottom boats throughout the world, we know there is only one 'Sealife' quite an achievement for Ric who started a journey on that grim day in February armed with a saw and an idea !!!
Putting the Glass in
The bow thruster
Big holes for glass!
The viewing boxes