We had a really good long weekend away in the KZN bush and were very lucky to see the big five and a number of other creatures, from chameleons to giraffes. We also watched a cheetah stalk, chase and take down a small impala – a pretty spectacular predation event that we were very fortunate to witness. I’ve been teaching all week, so there are no underwater photos for this newsletter. Can you make do with some terrestrial wildlife instead?
False Bay has been the place to be this week and the water temperature has consistently been between 19 and 22 degrees. It is also the place to be this weekend – well, certainly tomorrow and Saturday, but by Sunday it seems the wind picks up to around 35-40 km/h which will be unpleasant (and unsafe).
The temperature of the Atlantic peaked at 22 degrees yesterday but has dropped down to 10 degrees in the last 24 hours. This normally means clean water and it is quite likely an option for tomorrow, but tomorrow the forecast is for no wind and 30 degrees of baking sun which will probably green the water up really quickly.
We are close to the final stretch for our two Divemaster candidates and for the current bunch of Open Water and Advanced students. In February will might be a little calmer, and we will concentrate or our Research diver program!
Our Sodwana trip is growing, and at this stage there are 14 of us heading up there for some clean water and lazy beach days. We have been adding people as they express an interest, so if you are keen, mail me for the details.
On Friday we are shore diving A Frame as the Divemaster candidates are working on a mapping project. On Saturday the boat will be in False Bay but is already full as we have a bunch of Open Water students to qualify. That leaves Sunday open for two launches to somewhere that we can dive without a white stick. If you want to be notified on Sunday morning as to whether conditions will permit us to dive, reply to this mail or send me a text message.
Last week’s diving
This weekend signals the end of most of the up country visitors’ vacation time, and life slowly goes back to normal. You can once again find parking at most of the beaches and and go back to swearing quietly at the idiots on the road because they could be your neighbour.
It’s been a week of really poor diving with swell, surge and low visibility. The Atlantic is not very clean, and nor is False Bay. The storm that hit the Cape2Rio Fleet did its best to fill the bay with kelp, silt and garbage. Today we have had some westerly winds which has helped to clean this up a little, and the forecast for the weekend is a southerly wind. That’s good in some places in the bay, and not so good in others. Today I was in the pool doing skills and equipment exchange with two Divemaster candidates. At least the visibility there was excellent…
Most of you will be aware that last weekend there was a serious diving accident on the wreck of the MV Rockeater in Smitswinkel Bay. The dive community is a small one, and even though we did not know the diver concerned, we have felt the loss keenly and Clare and I have spent a lot of time discussing it. The full details of what happened have not been released, but there is always something to learn when things go wrong, even from partial information.
When incidents like this occur there is a tendency for them to be swept under the carpet, as people tend to believe that it will cause harm to the dive industry. I don’t share this view. Finding someone to point a finger at has no value (and often there isn’t anyone who can be blamed), but a lesson learned has huge value to a diver who is still on the learning curve. Hopefully we are all still on that curve. Not everyone has a person in their life who understands scuba diving and with whom they can work through an incident like this. If you’d like to discuss it at all, please give me a call or drop me an email.
Sodwana trip in April
On a much happier note, we are planning a dive trip to Sodwana from 26 April to 30 April. We will stay at Coral Divers and do six dives (at least) over three days, with one day for travel on each side (fly to Durban, drive approximately 400km to Sodwana). This will be a busy time at Sodwana because of the public holidays and the fact that schools will be mostly closed that week, so we need to get into gear quickly on this one.
We’ve done this trip a couple of times before – read about one of those occasions here, and see what kind of diving you can expect here. A hint: it’s warm and colourful! You will need to be a confident boat diver, but an Open Water qualification is sufficient. If you’re interested let me know and I’ll send you more details – you only need to pay a 10% deposit to secure your booking, with full payment due 14 days before our arrival. The Coral Divers price list for 2014 can be found here.
Everyone needs something to look forward to at the start of the year… Think about it!
On Saturday we will be shore diving at Long Beach and on Sunday we will be diving from the boat, launching at False Bay Yacht Club. Sunday’s wind is not all that predictable as yet, so we will make a firm plan late on Saturday afternoon.
The water temperature in False Bay is close to the 20 degree mark, so if it’s warm water you have been waiting for then now is your chance. The wind, mostly south easterly, has not really trashed False Bay as it sometimes can but at the same time it has not really cleaned the Atlantic the way it should.
This weekend’s wind will supposedly be more north westerly so False Bay should be quite good for the weekend – not that it’s that bad right now.
So, we are into early January and Santa has yet to deliver my present. My request was simple: no swell, favourable winds, and good visibility. Never mind – I am patient and will wait and hope that he arrives soon.
Over the last two weeks we have done some diving, seldom in stunning conditions and seldom with terrific viz… But then Santa may still arrive. December and January are traditionally busy months for courses and we are busy with Open Water, Advanced, Rescue and Divemaster courses right now.
The Divemaster trainees did part of their mapping project at A Frame today and we had 19 degree water and around 5 metre visibility.
Plans for 2014
When the visibility clears up enough for photography (other than macro) we are looking forward to making some contributions to the Spot the Sevengill Shark project. If you want to know what you can do to help identify the sevengill cowsharks that frequent False Bay, there’s some information here, and you should go and like the Spot the Sevengill facebook page, too.
We’re also going to start thinking about dive travel for 2014. We haven’t been to Sodwana for a little while, so I think that’ll be where we point our noses first… Watch this space!
I tried very hard to get a picture of one of our cats wearing a Santa hat for this newsletter, but failed. Sorry.
We will be launching from Hout Bay or Oceana Powerboat Club, on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Text or email me if you want to do some cold water diving.
So December is almost over, all that’s left is a few presents to open, lots of food to deal with and to get some diving done. We have had some serious wind this week but it is set to slow down for the next few days. I doubt False Bay will offer up much but I could easily be wrong. If the wind drops the water is surprisingly clean given the wind and looks far better than it did last weekend.
Last weekend’s diving
We dived False Bay last Saturday and Sunday and had really calm seas but really poor viz. On our way back from Shark Alley we stopped to visit the rays at Miller’s Point, and counted twenty snoek fishing boats in the queue to use the slipway. On days like that I’m grateful for False Bay Yacht Club!
I do think Hout Bay will offer up the best options for the next few days but Table Bay also has the potential to deliver good viz after so much south easter. For the next ten days we will play it by ear and will most likely launch every day as the weather permits as I have several Open Water, Nitrox and Advanced students to get dived.
We won’t plan to be closed on any specific days during this period as we have enough days of loafing when the weather is poor, so if the sea is good we will dive.
You may already have won a prize
Congratulations to Matthijs who has won himself a Nitrox course in the November boat lucky draw. One diver who is on our boat this month will also win a Nitrox course, or two boat dives if they’re already Nitrox certified. All you need to do is show up.
Possible launch in the Atlantic on Sunday, for hardened veterans who don’t mind rough surface conditions, possible rain, and cold water. If this sounds like you, let me know and I’ll text you if we go ahead! I’ll decide on Saturday late afternoon.
We changed website hosts this week, and emails to learntodivetoday.co.za are bouncing at the moment. Please use my gmail address instead (my name and surname at gmail.com) for the time being.
Whale on the beach
Earlier this week a whale carcass washed ashore at St James beach. It didn’t look much like a whale any more. Such a large animal will feed millions of mouths in the ocean from the tiniest organism to the great white shark. Out in the ocean and left to nature, such a carcass would slowly be consumed down to the last morsel, but given the proximity to us human beings such matters need some intervention. Plan A was to tow it out to sea, plan B was to remove it to a landfill. It was taken under tow but sadly the weather was against this succeeding, and left anywhere in False Bay the wind would most likely return it to shore.
At around 5.30 pm it was landed in Fish Hoek, dragged and pushed up the beach and loaded onto a flat bed truck. This took about four hours. It was estimated to weigh between 3-4 tons so this was no easy task. We watched from around 5.00 pm and I was very impressed by Shark Spotters,Cape Town city officials, Solid Waste staff, the work crew and everyone else who really made a huge problem go away in a matter of hours. Before you say, ”why don’t they leave it to nature?” bear in mind that given the time of year – with lots of people in the water, seasonal inshore shark movement, and onshore prevailing winds – and it all adds up to, it was the best and only option available.
We dived at Long Beach today and found a few chunks of this carcass in about 6 metres of water. There are most likely more around and Solid Waste staff have been removing these chunks as and when they wash up on the beach. Be vigilant!
What about the weekend? Well, I do not hold much hope for great conditions on either of the days. However, Sunday may just pan out. The south easter is set to blow between 30 and 60 km/h from midday tomorrow until late on Monday. This wind direction cleans the Atlantic but it is set to blow there too, possibly 30+ km/h, making for appalling surface conditions. Down below it will most certainly be crystal clear so if a really rough boat ride does not bother you let me know. If the wind does drop it will be a day of really good diving.
I have also scheduled boat diving for Tuesday as I have an Open Water course to complete, and Tuesday looks really good. Take the day off work!
There is always the option of great conditions in Gordon’s Bay when the south easter blows so check with Deon from Indigo Scuba late on Saturday for Sunday dives.
Lately spectacular vehicular disasters seem to follow me around. Hoping for good conditions – there was no real reason why the visibility shouldn’t be good – we set out for a dive with Open Water and Advanced students. Unfortunately the bay was filthy – we looked for clean water at Roman Rock, and found only compass sea jellies. We went south to Shark Alley, where – in desperation – we dived. It was like being in boiling pea soup, only colder. One of my students hung onto the kelp to try and keep position in the water. We had to abort a compass swim because of the surge. It was impossible to keep a heading.
Meanwhile, on the boat, Kate was watching a large, camouflage-painted radio controlled aircraft circling the boat and the dive site. It crashed into the water just before we surfaced. Its owner was watching frantically from the shore. Brian leaped into the water and retrieved it, and we drove to the slipway at Miller’s Point with it balanced precariously on the pontoon.
It started to smoke as the batteries short circuited. I told Kate – who was holding it – that if it caught alight she should throw it overboard. There was a small fuel tank that could have caused a problem if the plane started burning! Fortunately we were able to return the plane to its owner. If you recognise the plane, please tell its owner to get in touch because he must have some amazing footage of the boat at Shark Alley on the camera that was mounted on the fuselage!
It turned out to be a good day for fishing (Miller’s Point was packed) but not for diving.
To say it was a busy week is an understatement. It started out with a test run of the worlds first underwater braai device at Miller’s Point, conceived and executed (with the help of a marine engineer) by Jan Braai. The tide was against us but we finally got the unit out to deep enough water and lowered it below the surface. There were a few teething problems that needed to be dealt with before the final attempt on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, back to regular diving and on Saturday we launched for a group of Russians who wanted to dive with the cowsharks. Besides the fact they are currently missing, the weather wasn’t the greatest so we decided on Photographer’s Reef and the Clan Stuart. Their disappointment at being told there were no cowsharks was soon eclipsed but the appearance of a great white shark, over three metres long, within minutes of the backward roll at the Clan Stuart. The shark did a few passes and then allowed them to gather their wits and swim for shore. Well done to Craig and Christo for excellent leadership.
There’s a short video taken by one of the Russian divers here. Starting on Saturday we will feature some more information about this event on our blog, so if you’re ever in a similar situation you can hopefully refer back to how others have handled it. If you’re impatient you can read the Scenic South article here. The divers all felt very fortunate to have had this experience, even if it made their hearts beat a bit faster for a while! The other dives for the day, Photographer’s Reef and Roman Rock, were not as exciting but the viz was good.
Back to the braai project we went, and on Tuesday we launched from Hout Bay, set anchors, buoys and a host of other gadgets including safety divers in preparation for the underwater braai. In calm and cool conditions we finally sank the unit to the required depth and the man Jan Braai, on scuba, lit the fire, waited for the wood to turn to charcoal, and cooked some boerewors. Once done we raised the unit, he removed the rear panel and ate a well prepared piece of meat. The show featuring this harebrained scheme will be broadcast on Kyknet on Friday 27 September. There’s some press coverage here and here, and a short video in Afrikaans here and an English one here.
Yesterday we launched from Hout Bay again, this time for a bit of big wave action at Dungeons. A couple of big lenses and a few surfers with even bigger bravado and huge skills entertained us to almost four hours of some of the best surfing I have ever watched. The swell was huge, the sound alone is mind blowing and the speed at which they come down the face of this wall of water is astonishing. If you have not been to watch it is definitely something to add to your bucket list. There are some photos on facebook, here.
Well, Saturday is World Oceans Day and an underwater cleanup event will happen in the yacht basin at False Bay Yacht Club in Simon’s Town. If you have always wondered what it looks like under the yachts moored there, sign up here.
I had planned to launch after the cleanup but sadly I doubt the conditions will be all that good, so I’ll do pool work in the afternoon. Sunday on the other hand does look good and we will launch, from the False Bay Yacht Club. I have a navigation dive with a few students so we will do this at Pyramid Rock and see if the cowsharks are back yet.
On Monday we will most likely do shore dives at either A-Frame or Long Beach (they’ve had several whale sightings at boring old Long Beach lately!) and will launch again on Tuesday. I think Tuesday’s swell and wind will make for a great opportunity to dive Batsata Maze and Atlantis.
If you want to dive, let me know by text message or email!
We spent a really great day in on and under the water working on a film shoot today without traveling more than 100 metres from Millers Point. The water was clean, the sun was out and about and the wind not too hectic. I could use about 6 such days a week, thanks.
There hasn’t been a lot of diving otherwise this week, and the weatherman has been getting it wrong quite regularly, much to my annoyance. We did dive students last weekend, and while we were navigating the boiling pea soup at Shark Alley (no cowsharks at the moment – they’re on their annual hiatus) a radio controlled plane with a wingspan of about three metres crashed into the kelp near the boat. Brian did some heroic swimming, towed the plane to the boat, and we loaded it on board and delivered it to its owner at the Miller’s Point slipway. There were some tense moments when the electronics started smoking while it was on the boat!
Deciding on whether or not to dive on weekends has been a little difficult of late as the forecasts are so often way off the mark. It’s almost a requirement to go out and take a look every evening and early every morning. Yesterday the Atlantic – well, Hout Bay – looked appalling and False Bay looked marginal. Today it’s a different story and False Bay was clean.
Never mind, this weekend we have swell, wind, perhaps rain and maybe even sun. Tomorrow early looks good, and Saturday will be OK but really surgy, Sunday will be howling… If the forecast is right. I have students, tourists and local divers so I will dive somewhere at some point if the weather looks good enough… Totally confused? Good, so am I. If you want to try for a dive, let me know and I’ll notify you if and when we hit the water.
21 September is International Coastal Cleanup day, and we will be joining OMSAC and FBUC at False Bay Yacht Club, a venue with which those of you who’ve boat dived with me will be well familiar. The event details are here; if you plan to come along, you must sign up as instructed. There may be a registration fee to participate. It’s a lot of fun – we’ve cleaned at Robben Island and Hout Bay Harbour in the past – and a very good cause to get involved in. Encourage your non-diving friends to join a local beach cleanup.
Mellow and mild aptly describes the weather for the weekend. Day time temperatures of around 17 degrees celcius, water temperatures of around 14 degrees and viz of 5-6 metres or as Facebook will have you believe, anywhere between 3 and 12 metres… There is not much swell, very little wind and more sun than clouds (in the forecast) so the diving should be good.
This week’s dives
We spent some time in the pool (the visibility was good) and yesterday we had 5 metre viz at Long Beach. The bay has patches of clean and dirty water and the cage diving and whale watching boats report clean and dirty water scattered around the bay. This is most likely the rainwater runoff that has not moved too far as there has not been all that much wind. The fishermen report very clean water south of Miller’s Point.
I have a lot of student dives to get through this weekend for both Open Water and Advanced courses so if you are keen to dive we can slot you in. We are launching tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday and will only decide the sites once out on the bay and we can see where the water is clean. Text me or reply to this email to book a spot.
I’ve had students with me all week so there are no underwater photos this week (no camera allowed), but Clare tracked down the rudder of the Brunswick at the Slave Lodge in town – there’s a photo of it above. It’s huge!
Yesterday I posted a very short video showing divers at Photographer’s Reef in early August. The visibility was lovely – at least 15 metres. Here are three equally short videos showing a couple of the swim throughs at the site, and one almost swim through. While the reef itself is suitable for Open Water divers doing their qualifying dives, overhead environments definitely are not. This is not cave diving by any stretch of the imagination, but one wants to be qualified and in good control of buoyancy before venturing into an overhead environment.
I’m using the word “swim through” loosely here, as two of these videos don’t actually feature overhead environments.
This one is, however, and it is fantastic. I started recording when I was already inside the entrance. It’s a beautiful L-shaped cave created by stacked boulders. On the way out I had to practically belly crawl so as not to hit the sea fan sticking out from the wall, which – as you can see – has already suffered a little during the course of its lifetime!
Here, Craig swims ahead of me through a passage in the rocks. When visibility is poor, these passages are all but invisible, and you wouldn’t want to venture down them unless you’re very familiar with the reef and sure that there’s a way out.
This passage looks like it should be possible for a diver to fit through it (or quite far down it), but I judged it too narrow and likely to cause damage to the reef and possibly to myself, were I to persist in following it. I am sure someone has been down there before!