HOLIDAY DISASTERS: THE CORAL SEA

A diving trip to the Coral Sea - what could be more thrilling? But there was just one problem: first you had to travel 150 miles out into the open ocean to get there. Sue Ditchfield recalls the worst night of her life

'So, what do you do for a living?" asked the cheery voice behind me. I turned to answer, muttered a few incomprehensible words and was immediately sick again over the side of the boat.

Five hours into a 15-hour boat journey from Cairns to the Coral Sea, at the start of a diving trip, I had already lost count of the times I had been sick. I stared stoically into the darkness in front of me, grasping the side of the rolling vessel as it headed straight into the waves. It may only have been a 20-knot wind and a "moderate swell", but to me it felt like an Atlantic storm in full force.

Most of my fellow passengers had long since retired to their bunks, and were presumably sleeping - though how I'll never know. Two minutes in my bunk had convinced me that I could never sleep there. It wasn't so much the fear of falling out as the sickening feeling of weightlessness every time the bows dipped. It was, as another passenger pointed out the next morning, akin to being put on the worst fairground ride imaginable - and being forced to stay there for 15 hours.

In the cockpit there was at least fresh air. There was also the comforting presence of the boat's captain, Gavin, who attempted to engage me in conversation, fetched me water every time I was sick, a pillow to rest my head on and even gave me his seat behind the wheel. There I spent most of the night, slumped, head on pillow, feeling worse than I ever remembered feeling before.

"A trip for those who think they've dived the best, who want to be spoilt forever..." the brochure had promised. I had envisaged drifting through clear blue waters, in a kaleidoscope of corals and fish. Or relaxing on deck, wine-glass in hand. What I had never considered was the reality of heading 150 miles out into the open ocean.

The hours passed in a nightmare-like trance. I was vaguely aware of other people appearing, exchanging a few words with Gavin and disappearing again. I tried to lift my head to talk, but the result was another quick dash to the side of the boat. I felt incapacitated, like being blind-drunk without any of the preceding enjoyment. Physical action was impossible, but my mind was racing. "Get me off this boat," it yelled. "Get me back on dry land. Now. Before I die."

I thought of the pioneers of past ages who had endured endless journeys across unknown oceans; I thought of the impossibility of being rescued if you fell overboard at night; in my unbalanced and melodramatic state of mind I even thought: "Better jump and end it all now."

At 2am the cook, Sam, came to relieve Gavin. She found me a bench to sleep on and I snatched a few uneasy hours sleep. By 9am we had entered the reef, and the sea had calmed considerably. I forced down some breakfast and by 10.30am was somehow ready for the first dive of the day.

Things got better. I succeeded in doing eight out of the planned nine dives. And it may have been worth the suffering to experience the spectacular shark-feeding dive. But there was still the return journey...

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick