puffers & vics




VIC 35        Crazy Diamond       DS Explorer


Builder Pimblott, Northwich
Official Nr 181011
Yard Nr 658
Launched 27/9/1945
Delivered 11/1945
Length 66.8 ft
Beam 18.4 ft
Gross 96 tons
Deadweight 140 tons
Engine 2 Cyl Steam Compound

With the admiralty at Greenock until  1970


Bought by Rupert J Armstrong Holden in April 1972. In 1974 she was sold by him to Peter Herbert of Herb Shipping Ltd, Bude, Cornwall.  He sold her on in 1975 to Captain Steve Palk of Penzance's Cornish Wrecking Co. for salvage work around the Cornish coast. They fitted her with an 800hp oil engine, one of the two main engines removed from the former MacBrayne ferry "Lochiel", laterly the "Norwest Laid". She was also fitted with a new modern design of wheelhouse and aft superstructure, and a mast salvaged from the stern trawler "Conqueror" which had been wrecked near Mousehole.  She was formally re-named as "Crazy Diamond" in 1979.

At some point between then and 1984 her current engines, a main 260bhp Volvo diesel and a 165bhp Volvo wing engine, were fitted. Her fit of winches and deck cranes varied over the next few years as she continued to be used on salvage and diving support work. In this period she was also fitted with bow and stern thrusters, which have since been removed and plated over.

Sometime between 1990 and 1996 she was purchased by Hydrasalve UK Ltd of St Agnes, which company became Offshore Re-Clamations Associates (ORCA) in June 2000 and who continued to work "Crazy Diamond" out of Dover. In July 2002 ORCA was taken over by Deep Sea Exploration PLC of Ipswich who a year or so later renamed her "DS Explorer".

When this company went into liquidation she was bought by Dennis Swann of Hoo, Rochester, who later sold her on to her present owner Ian Record in 2009. Ian is now (2010/2011) working on an extensive renovation and rebuild of "DS Explorer" and intends to use her as a live-aboard cruiser. He has constructed a new deckhouse forward of and below the bridge to provide a master bedroom above the mian hold, which will itself become the main living accommodation. The three crew cabins, one aft and two below the wheelhouse are being retained as guest cabins. Ian plans that the work will be complete by the summer of 2011. As of May 2012 she is up for sale.

The top set of photographs, left as VIC35 and right as "Crazy Diamond" quite dramatically illustrate the difference in appearance before and after conversion by Cornish Wrecking. In my opinion "Crazy Diamond" was honoured with one of the most aesthetically pleasing conversions of all the ex-VICs.


Phograph courtesy of the Roy Cressey Collection

Photograph courtesy of and Copyright Mike Ridgard

photograph below copyright Alan Jenner


The photographs, clockwise from top left, show her in her original form as VIC35. Next after conversion to "Crazy Diamond" and by the looks of it post-conversion to diesel.  Bottom right she is seen as "DS Explorer" as Ipswich in 2005.  The last two shots are of her in early 2010 at Port Werburgh in Kent in Note the severely cropped main propeller and the wing prop shaft in the last one.


Photograph below copyright Alan Jenner

Photograph below copyright Chris Jones