The keel of the Katsu Maru

Dive sites: MV Katsu Maru

The MV Katsu Maru is a 40 metre long Japanese trawler, now lying approximately 30 metres south west of the MV Aster in Hout Bay. On days with good visibility, which has been the case both times I’ve dived her, you can sometimes see both wrecks at the same time.

Unfortunately both dives I’ve done on the Katsu Maru featured misted up camera housings. This was connected to the excellent visibility; the sea was icy cold thanks to the upwelling that follows a south easterly wind, and the air was hot. My camera didn’t like it and I am used to the easy conditions in False Bay that allow me to be fairly cavalier about keeping my housing cool between dives. These photos therefore don’t show the ship in quite the same way as I saw it. But hopefully you get the idea.

The keel of the Katsu Maru
The keel of the Katsu Maru

The wreck lies on her side, with her superstructure half buried and the bottom of her hull angled slightly upwards. There is a distinct keel strip running the length of the ship. To me she looks like nothing so much as a submarine when viewed from behind. When one swims around the wreck, the remaining superstructure can be seen and her funnel is revealed.

The trawler sank after sustaining a hole on her port side, which is visible as she is resting on her starboard side in the sand. The wreck has been there since 1978; about sixteen years later the Aster was stripped and scuttled nearby to join her. The relative positions of these wrecks makes them ideal for a rebreather dive (in drysuits) or a navigation dive from one to the other. I’ve been on the boat with divers who have attempted to cross the 30 metre gap from the Aster to the Katsu Maru in poor visibility, and have spent a delightful dive on the sand. The proximity of a sewerage outlet pipe adds a delightful element of risk to this strategy.

Anemone on the Katsu Maru
Anemone on the Katsu Maru

If you swim into the scour at her stern, you’ll get about 28 metres. I spent most of the dive on top of her hull, at about 16 metres. Limited penetration of the wreck may be possible, but it is probably a stupid idea (and if you’re not trained to do it, it’s definitely a stupid idea).

There isn’t an enormous amount of striking sea life on this wreck, but I think it’s my favourite one in Cape Town simply for the way she’s lying. Nothing makes me feel as though I am really taking full advantage of the three dimensional movement that diving offers as much as swimming along what is actually the bottom of a ship.

Dive date: 9 February 2013

Air temperature: 23 degrees

Water temperature: 9 degrees

Maximum depth: 25.4 metres

Visibility: 15 metres

Dive duration: 24 minutes

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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