Several years ago the wonderful Tami gave me a WETSAC for my birthday. It sounds like something squishy and perhaps offensive, but in fact it is a marvel of ingenuity and designed to improve the lives of divers and surfers and outdoorsmen everywhere. She bought it at a craft market in Hout Bay, and both of us have been hunting for a retailer of this product since then. Recently, I struck it lucky with a well phrased google search (something like “wet bag”).
How many times have you struggled out of your wetsuit on a rough surface (Miller’s Point parking area and Hout Bay harbour, I’m looking at you), hurting your feet, standing on the neoprene and pressing it into the tar? You’re damaging yourself and your gear! Then you toss the dripping, smelly wetsuit into the back of your car – into a box, if you’re organised – and hope it doesn’t spray seawater and bits of grit from the parking area everywhere while you drive home.
WETSAC is here to help. Essentially a mat that converts into a waterproof bag, it comprises a circular piece of tough fabric with a drawstring around the edge. You stand on it to get out of your suit, throw in your gloves, hoodie and booties, then step off and pull the drawstring tight. Toss the bag into your divemobile and don’t worry about remnants of your diving and changing adventures ending up all over the boot. It is beyond convenient. Plus, you can buy it online. Make a note for next Christmas!
(I was not compensated in any way for this post… The thing is just geninuely nifty!)
We are having a great run of exceptional diving. The daytime temperatures are still above 20 degrees, the visibility is in the double digits and so is the water temperature. The viz has improved all week and is currently 15- 20 metres depending on who is looking. One of the divers on the boat today shot some video on the SAS Transvaal where you can see a huge amount of the wreck in the clean water. The second dive was to Roman Rock and it was even cleaner.
Don’t forget to bring your permit to dive in a marine protected area on the boat. If you don’t have one, you need to take your ID document and about R150 to the post office and ask for a “scuba diving permit”.
There are a couple of places left on our trip, which leaves on 28 June and returns 4 July. Consider joining us for some warm water coral reef diving – let me know if you want more information. Booking closes mid May, so think quick!
Perhaps you have noticed some new signage and a little wooden hut at Glencairn beach, where an exciting test – of an electronic cable to repel great white sharks – is underway. The cable is a massively scaled up version of the Shark Shield technology with which many surfers and lifesavers will be familiar. The Shark Shield has been subjected to scientific testing, and is effective in certain circumstances.
The cable is 100 metres long, and is situated at the northern end of Glencairn beach. Cape Town is an ideal location to test things like this, because Shark Spotters has ten years of shark spotting data that will give a baseline measure for “normal” white shark activity without the cable. When something new (the cable) is introduced into the environment, changes in behaviour relative to the baseline data can be ascribed to its presence. Fish Hoek was originally mooted as an ideal beach to run the test, but the trek net fishermen were concerned for their fishing opportunities and so the test was moved to Glencairn.
The cable emits a low frequency electrical pulse that – it is hoped – will repel sharks. The electrical output of the cable poses no threat to swimmers or surfers, but for obvious reasons people are requested to keep clear of it for the duration of the experiment. The cable has electrodes on either side of it, supported by vertical risers that are marked by small orange buoys (so the cable runs down the middle of the rows of buoys in the pictures). At high tide the buoys are below the surface, but Tony took the boat past at low tide and photographed them sticking out of the water.
Shark Spotters will be monitoring the cable from the mountain above Glencairn, and a video feed will also be used to closely analyse the movements of any sharks that approach the cable. The risers on the cable (marked by the orange buoys in the photographs on this page) are semi-rigid, designed to minimise the risk of entanglement of any marine life. As it is the end of whale season in False Bay, there is not much risk of a whale visiting this location. Despite that, a boat and crew are on constant standby should an entanglement situation arise.
There is a full report on the testing phase, with an artist’s impression of the cable underwater, on the Sharks Board website, including a list of frequently asked questions (which should set your mind at ease). There’s also a great post at Round About South that includes pictures of the study area, and of the cable from the KZNSB document.
It’s important to note that this is an experiment, and no additional protection from white sharks is offered or guaranteed while the cable is in the water.
Earlier this month we hosted a scuba diving birthday party in our pool, for a group of extremely excited eight year olds. It was a slightly chaotic but enormously enjoyable day! The boys first mastered the use of snorkels, making drawings on slates while submerged. We were impressed by how well they took to skin diving, and they rocketed up and down the pool like sea otters.
After that they tried out scuba gear, and we were amused by the various ways they found to enjoy themselves. One of the boys kept inflating his BCD because he liked the sound the over-pressure valve made. Another made foamy fountains of water by purging his octo in the shallows. Others seemed to feel like Jacques Cousteau as they explored the pool! We taught them how to inflate an SMB using their spare regulator, and brought out our collection of underwater cameras for them to take innumerable selfies and group portraits that they could take home with them.
Parties like this are ideal for small groups of four to six participants, as they are supervision-intensive and a small group lets each child fully enjoy their turn to try out scuba gear under the supervision of the instructor. A little bit of advance planning is recommended for the purposes of paperwork, so get in touch sooner rather than later if you think this is something your child might enjoy. We can conduct the event in your swimming pool at home if it’s less than two metres deep, or at our pool. We have conducted a similar event at the Virgin Active gym, but that requires special permission. Be warned, the scuba diving bug might bite!
What about a day trip to Cape Point, a donation to a worthy cause on behalf of your loved one (the NSRI is always first on our list), an underwater photo shoot, or (if you take photographs or can find a photographer whose work you like and isn’t too expensive) a framed or mounted picture of some of our local marine life?
You can also refer to Christmas gift guides from previous years (2011, 2012 and 2013) for more ideas. Be safe this festive season!
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 have had a couple of spectacularly windy weekends in a row, and have had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the weather. We have a weather station at home, and for mobile use we have a WeatherFlow Wind Meter. These are widely used by para-gliders, sailors, windsurfers, kite surfers, and others who need to know what the wind is doing at a particular location. This miniature anemometer plugs into the headphone jack on iPhone and Android devices, and takes wind readings via an app.
The app allows you to save readings, which makes them available on the internet. If you see a facebook post with a wind reading, it’s from our Wind Meter, and Tony is probably on the boat. If the wind is very strong, he’s more likely on land! An example of a recent reading (taken when I snapped the above photo of Tony) can be viewed here.
We find this very useful to correlate wind speed and direction to sea conditions. A southerly wind, for example, is particularly uncomfortable for diving in False Bay. Using his mini anemometer, Tony has been able to establish at approximately what wind speed it becomes too unbearable! One of the effects that global warming is going to have on our local weather in Cape Town is increased windiness, so I think we’ll have plenty of opportunity to play with the Wind Meter and go FULL WEATHER NERD. Watch out…
Looking at all the paraphernalia on the boat around him – wetsuits, BCDs, and other gear – I am guessing that the expression of opprobrium on Fudge’s face is related to the lack of direct attention he is receiving from the boat’s owner. Attention (and adulation) is like jet fuel to Fudge.