Interview with Graham Knott

Having had a lovely chat with Graham, the previous owner and co-builder of our recent boat purchase, it’s safe to say that Leymor, has been well kept since the beginning. He explains how he started about diving and what he’s built so far in his years of experience. Continue reading below to find out how the Leymor came about.

How did you first start out and what’s the history of the Leymor?

“When we started out there were a few of us, we were very competitive as well, we all had our own businesses – we were enthusiastic divers that took ourselves out, and as time passed divers started wanting to go out so we started taking them out; we had to get a license and all that. This boat was a follow on from a series of boats called Offshores built in Cornwall. It all started off with the offshore 32 which was a small 32 ft boat, then we went to the offshore 5 which was 10.5 meters. Then they went to offshore 125 which is 12.5 meters, and then it came onto these catamarans. It was originally drafted on an Australian design, the actual hull. It was built originally as what we call a sun seeker type vessel. The early ones were like that, and it costed lots and lots of money. I quite like the actual boat itself but the way it was laid out was no good… I altered the design and we came up with this. We nicknamed it “The Flying Shed”, so basically it was just a shed for your dive kit, but that is what we wanted, particularly in The Channel where we were working. Where we were regularly diving 30, 40, 50 miles offshore….so we needed a boat this quick. When we are at the channel most of the dives we do is 60 meters plus but some of the stuff we do in her deep is about 100m to 120m. This boat actually took the deepest ever dive in the channel.”

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What characteristics does the boat have that makes it so unique? 

Over the years, because I had so many boats sort of, built custom made for me, we started building our own boats as well. I became very friendly with the boat builders that built this hull. In fact we worked together on this boat to co-design, and to transform this boat from a pleasure boat to a diving boat. I became and still am very good friends with this guy till this day. It was just a collaboration really and we started building diving charter boats and diving fishing boats. Speed was everything, what we were initially aiming for. Like for Malta you come out about 2 miles offshore and you’ve got lots of wrecks, however we’ve really got to go minimum 6-8 miles to get to a decent wreck and probably 15-20 to get something that everybody really likes. Crossing the channel would be 40, 50 miles away, so speed is basically the main factor this boat was designed upon. What you needed was comfort, long distance and economy and this boat has these three elements in mind with its design, which is very complicated. It’s particular type is called a Displacement Catamaran and it’s that characteristic that makes it very quick and economical.

So how did the Leymor boat end up in Malta as Leymor the Wreck Finder Charter?

I had this boat built in 2005, I ran it for 2 years till 2006. I then sold it to my best friend at the end of 2006. He used it till 2014, unfortunately he was taken very ill and had passed away in 2015. Basically what happened, when Paul died, his partner had this boat she was not going to make use of, so basically I bought the boat back and took it on board. I was going to make use of it ourselves, we have 2 other boats already. I didn’t plan to buy it. Although, I did realize when I had taken it back on, that there just really isn’t need for another boat. So I decided that it would be best to sell it and I didn’t advertise it, I just let a couple of people know in business that it was possibly on the market, and I think it was Keiran, that had mentioned it to Alan….and history was made from there. 🙂 We’ve come full circle, I’ve known Alan since 2010, when I came out here to Malta as a skipper to do some very deep diving here with Alan and some friends. We dove some 120m wrecks. There are so many wrecks here in Malta, particularly because of the wartime here and also all the old archaeological sites….there’s a lot of things here still to be found, I mean it’s a fantastic playground, because there’s so much……I think the Maltese have only just realized what’s here!

What about the Ohio wreck? It’s fascinating…but has yet to be found.

Ohio was why we came over here in 2010, we had gotten a couple of targets and we were hoping one of them would be the Ohio. When I’m at home I run dive charters but I also run something called the Shipwreck Project. There’s some stuff on there about me and what we do back in the UK and we specialize in looking and researching wrecks. And that’s why I came over here, since they didn’t have a skipper that would do that kind of deep diving. I also started to do a lot of the research and I’ve continued it on, because I am interested and my research tells me that the Ohio is probably further down South than everybody thought. I’ve spent a lot of time in the National Archives up in London and looked at records for Malta, wartime and everything about it, and there’s lots and lots of information. The Ohio was towed inward in a sinking condition and was later unloaded. They brought the fuel to the island, that’s what they were after, then they towed her out and she was scuttled at sea. But they thought it was being dumped in spoil ground? However it’s definitely further South.

How long have you been diving for?

I’ve dived for 30 odd years, however I don’t consider myself a diver, all I’m interested in is what’s down there. I’m not really interested in the dive kit, it’s merely a taxi for me to get to what I want to see. It’s the history, the stories, they’re just phenomenal. It’s the stories that we love. Researching shipwrecks and telling their stories. I’m a little crazier than my business partner. We have a fantastic history in Weymouth.

Do you have any other projects going on apart from the ones you’ve just mentioned?

We’ve teamed up with a rock band called the Dolmen, that write songs about wrecks for us, and we have a cd out called Journey which I suggest you listen to (Here). The album is about me really and how I came about to create the Shipwreck Project, I’ve also got a lady down in Cornwall…..some of the older wrecks, we’ve got records but no images since they are so old, so I give all my information to this Lady and she paints what comes into her head. Basically paints a wreck scene as she envisions it at that moment through the information I gave her. We’ve also got 1 or 2 people writing poetry about it and I’m also a member of a Sea Shanti group and we just want to get to the cultural side of things out there and to make local people appreciate all the history that we have.

What advantages do you think the Leymor will provide for our diving industry here in Malta?

Where I think you’re going to win out here in Malta with this boat is obviously you’ve got the speed, so you can get to your sites very quickly and you could also expand your area. Shoot across to Gozo quickly and can look at going further afield than that. I find it really strange, in the UK we are finding it really difficult to hold divers, the diving scene has collapsed, I’ll give you an example……in Weymouth 5 years ago there were 17 dive boats, there’s now only 3. People have now started to go abroad for diving. Also I think diving took its eye off the ball, there are lots of other adventure sports out there that have come along that take away the attention from diving. People are much less inclined to be slung about on a boat at sea in the English Channel. I mean, a day like this in the English Channel is perfect, where most of the time we’re fighting the weather.

To me in a way this is good, because we have some fantastic wrecks there that don’t get dived very often, because of that. But over here, I find this really weird. When I first came in 2010 and I saw the dive boats, without being too rude, I thought they were rubbish! All made of wood, it was like our boats back in the 1980’s when we were just using fishermen’s boats, and with the numbers of divers you’ve got here, I cannot wrap my head around the fact that there hasn’t been a boat like this here in the first place! With a dive lift and catering to storing and help making it more comfortable for a diver’s experience. 

Every UK diver boat today has a diver lift, when we started putting the lifts on, the first question clients would ask you would be, have you got a lift? If you had a dive boat with no lift in the UK you wouldn’t get anybody on it. We can’t believe it, we’ve got no divers and the British fleet is fantastic with fantastic equipment, and you’ve got all the divers here with rubbish equipment. Contradictory and very odd. There are some divers here that usually dive with me…..and I asked them; Why is it you come to Malta, and get on boats that don’t accommodate divers, and iff you were to board the same boat in the UK you would probably have our heads?? He couldn’t really answer me!

I think the boat will make a huge difference to what you guys do here. The only thing I can see is that it might start a bit of a competition, hopefully a healthy competition.”

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