For a change the weekend conditions look like something we can use for diving. A south westerly swell of a manageable 2.5 metre height, and very little wind, should give us far better conditions than we have experienced in the last few weeks. False Bay will be better than the Atlantic – the buoy off Kommetjie shows that the water temperature rose 7 degrees in the last 12 hours, which is not a sign of good visibility on that side. There has also been no south easterly wind today, and none is due tomorrow, so False Bay it is.
We will launch from Simon’s Town jetty on Sunday, which looks like the better day. We will go at 10.00 to Roman Rock and at 12.30 to Photographer’s Reef. These will be nice, mellow dives as I will have students on board.
I am also diving Open Water students at Long Beach tomorrow morning at 9.30, so feel free to tag along if you feel able to be mostly ignored by me while I concentrate on the new divers! If you need gear, let me know as soon as possible.
… to Otti and Matthijs, who are heading home to the Netherlands this weekend after an adventurous stay of over a year in Cape Town. It has been great to share in some of their adventures. We send wishes for gentle travels and all the best for the birth of their daughter in April! Here’s a picture of them and some other smiley faces (and Christo!) on the boat earlier this year:
Also, thanks to everyone who popped in on Saturday afternoon for our year end do. It was super to see all of you!
We have a training pool that is just the right size for the small groups of students that Tony prefers to teach. It’s an ideal size to heat up, and in order to make it as comfortable as possible to spend extended periods of time on skills, we’ve taken a couple of measures to make the water as warm as we can. The first, which we fitted when we installed the pool, is a thermal cover that both warms the water and reduces algae growth. It looks like grey bubble wrap, and works like a bomb – it raises the water temperature up to four degrees higher than the air temperature (and if you don’t run the pump to mix the heated layers, you can get an impressive thermocline!). Of course, to get the benefit of the pool cover, it has to be on at least some of the time, which is a challenge during the summer months, when there’s always someone in the pool!
The second measure we took to warm the pool was to install solar heating panels on the roof. These panels consist of a fine network of tubes made of tough HDPE, through which the pool water is circulated and then returned to the pool. The existing pool pump is used (this is why we fitted a more powerful one than the size of the pool warranted when we did the initial installation) and the heat of the sun warms the panels directly, as well as warming the roof which warms the panels from below. We fitted them on the north-facing sloping area of our roof. As a rule of thumb the number of panels needed is one for every two square metres of pool surface. Our pool is 5×3=15 metres square, so we have 7 panels (which is 15 divided by two, and rounded down).
The pump has a manifold fitted, which allows us to decide when we pump water onto the roof, and when we don’t bother. During the winter, when it’s quiet, or raining, we can isolate the panels and just run the pool pump as normal. This also saves electricity during the time of the year when it’s most in demand inside the house.
The entire system was installed by our fellow diver Justin Gootman of Project Pumps, and we can highly recommend his and his team’s handiwork and professionalism. (At the same time and with great expertise they drilled us a well point, but that’s another story.)
I learned to dive in Cape Town in the month of July, and the training pool was 9 degrees and I was almost physically ill when I submerged myself. It was very unpleasant. For several years afterwards it was the coldest water I’d ever been in, until a freezing dive at Tafelberg Reef in the Atlantic took over pole position. I am happy to say that we at Learn to Dive Today are doing our bit to ensure that fewer Cape Town dive students have to suffer as I did!
This blog has been going for a while, and there’s some content that I’d like to revive – all in one place – as a handy guide for people who are considering learning to dive.
Once you’ve made the decision to learn to scuba dive, you may wonder how to shop for a dive course. If you’re doing it just on price, I think you’re doing it wrong. Scuba diving is a sport with inherent risks, like paragliding or rock climbing. Do you really want to base your decision purely on how much it costs…?
Many people ask whether children can learn to scuba dive. The short answer is yes – from the age of eight, in the swimming pool, and from age 10 in the ocean. More information can be found in this post about scuba diving for kids.
This footage is five years old and very grainy, but has some sentimental value to me. Tony filmed it after a night dive on the SS Clan Stuart, which on Friday celebrated (?) 100 years aground in False Bay. It was his first night dive in Cape Town (might have been his first dive of any kind in Cape Town, but I’m not sure) and my first ever night dive. I was pretty freshly qualified as an Open Water diver but still had (have) a lot to learn.
I can see just enough of myself towards the end of the video to note that I have my mask pushed up on top of my head, which is stupid. Don’t do that, kids.
We had a dry weekend last week as we spent three days at the CTICC participating in the Cape Town International Boat Show. We met a lot of new people, some old friends and a few really cool dogs. Many of the visitors to our stand expressed an interest in diving and asked to be added to the newsletter. To new readers we say welcome and hopefully we see you all soon in the water!
The south easterly wind has been hectic all week so theoretically the Atlantic should be crystal clear. I drove home along the coastline today and there are huge patches of clean water and huge patches of darker water. It looked very clean around Llandudno so I think the Romelia is on the cards for the weekend. I doubt False Bay will be good as apart from the wind, the swell is in a southerly direction which does not improve conditions at all.
Saturday looks like the best option for diving, and Sunday a maybe. If you want to dive, reply to this mail or text me. Sunday’s launches will be confirmed late on Saturday afternoon.
Saturday: launching from Hout Bay at 9.00 and 12.00. I have mostly students so we will look for clean water around the wrecks of Maori Bay and the Romelia wreck area.
Sunday: conditions permitting, we will be launching from OPBC at 9.00 for a double tank dive. We will look at the viz around the wreck of the Cape Matapan, and if it’s not clean there we will dive the pinnacles at North and South Paw.
Congratulations are in order
for Shane and Odette, who got engaged this week. Wishing you all the happiness! Also congrats to Brian, who has just completed his Divemaster course in… wait for it… Hawaii! Brian is starting an Instructor Development Course this week. Good job!
Heinrich learned to scuba dive recently, and on his final Open Water dive at Duiker Island in Hout Bay, he brought along his Go-Pro camera. He edited together some footage from that dive, and is generously allowing us to share it here.
Deciding on where to dive every weekend is always a case of looking at several weather sites, sucking on your thumb, and then choosing. It can sometimes be so spot on it makes you beam with pride and other times you miss the mark so badly you wonder whether you were looking at a forecast from another planet. I thought perhaps we would try a premium subscription for a while and see if the odds improve. Time will tell…
It has been a pool week for me and therefore it will be a student weekend with only a few spaces on the boat for casual divers. The viz however is absolutely stunning in False Bay right now. If you want to join a dive, let me know.
On Saturday we will dive at Long Beach starting at 9.00 am. The wind is supposed to blow from around midday so we want to get going early. Casual divers are welcome, as long as you can fend for yourself while I take care of students.
On Sunday we will do two launches to a destination as yet unknown. My weather god, who I suspect is as real as a unicorn, says if it blows south easterly all night on Saturday, we will launch from Hout Bay. If it does not we will go to False Bay and launch from the jetty in Simon’s Town. It is also forecast, by the same unicorn, to blow relatively hard on Sunday which means we will most likely dive the sheltered sites of the Brunswick wreck, and Ark Rock.
Summer is on its way, it gets busy and warm really quickly and the price of training and diving usually climbs with the thermometer. We do offer both PADI and SDI courses but are focusing more on the affordability of online theory with SDI. In the modern world we live in it is no longer essential to purchase a big thick manual when you can have it all on your laptop for a lot less money. If you want more info on any of the courses we offer give me a shout or visit our website.
Last weekend we chose to dive Hout Bay, partly because I expected Simon’s Town to be a little too busy given it was nearing the end of the Lipton Cup, a sailing regatta hosted by False Bay Yacht Club. The sea was flat, with light winds and sunny weather and good visibility. We did three dives but by the third one were a bit chilly! It was sad to see all the poaching boats, and the damage that’s been done to the wreck of the Maori lately.
This weekend I think False Bay will be the place to be. We had really good conditions yesterday and the wind direction has been good for False Bay viz. There is going to be some swell so I think we will shore dive at Long Beach with students on Saturday (I’ll be focusing on my students, but casual divers are most welcome to tag along). We will hit the high seas for boat diving on Sunday. We will launch from Simon’s Town jetty to dive Atlantis at 9.30am and the beautiful Maidstone Rock at 12.00. Text or email me if you feel like a dive.
Physiology at the extremes
I attended a conference today focusing on how the human body responds to extreme conditions, with a focus on cold water immersion (but also including exposure to alcohol, drugs, and hyperthermia). It was fascinating, and one of the important things I took away from it is how important it is to take seriously our dives in Cape Town’s water. Our physiological responses and capabilities change after an extended period of time in cold water, and while you may feel that you’re still mentally sharp and fully in control, the opposite may be true, and this is when accidents happen. I’m looking forward to incorporating some of the things I’ve learned into our day to day diving activities at Learn to Dive Today.
Pencil in a trip to Ponta do Ouro in late April/sometime in May next year. We’ll start planning it early next year, but we’ll aim for five days of diving with a day of travel on each side. Start saving now! We have had amazing experiences there – some of our favourite dives were done at reefs called Doodles and Texas.
We are thinking of our diving friends in far off lands – Bernita and Tamsyn, sending all good thoughts your way!
When it comes to inflating an SMB, there isn’t a textbook way of doing it. Sure, people have strong feelings about what’s right and what’s not, but as long as you get the SMB inflated without risking (or having) an uncontrolled ascent, that’s fine.
The method Tony prefers is to exhale into the bottom of the tube. That way, if necessary, you can let go of the SMB and not be dragged with it to the surface (this is a risk that exists if you use your octo to inflate it, as it might get stuck). The only way to get the hang of this process, which involves multiple moving parts, is to practice. Here’s Alex practising at Photographer’s Reef.
We have had a few days of really good diving with very little wind, good visibility and sunny skies. The viz today was better than yesterday: we had about 15 metre visibility at Photographer’s Reef, and at Roman Rock it was even better with 15-20 metre viz. Funnily enough close inshore the viz was a lot less and at the jetty at low tide the water was so brown you couldn’t see the bottom.
The forecast for the weekend does not look all that rosy and there is meant to be strong winds, rain and a fair amount of swell. We will be doing student dives at Long Beach on Saturday, and having a dry day on Sunday.
The good news is that Monday does look good again – and it’s a public holiday – so we plan to launch then, to go to the cowsharks first. It is approaching the time of year they when sometimes do their disappearing act (some period during the months of July-November). The second dive will be to part of the huge Roman Rock site that I have recently found to be very interesting.
Dive sites may change depending on whether the forecast swell arrives or not. If you’d like to dive, reply to this email or send me a text.