Dive sites: Maidstone Rock

Sinuous sea fan with brittlestars on board
Sinuous sea fan with brittlestars on board

Maidstone Rock is an infrequently-dived site in the offshore region of Seaforth and Boulders Beach. The boat rides from Miller’s Point or Long Beach are only a few minutes (shorter from Long Beach). Grant took us to an area of the reef that is newly discovered, so we got to explore some virgin territory.

Klipfish in disguise
Klipfish in disguise

The reef is characteristic of the others we have dived in the area, with low rocky outcrops heavily encrusted with invertebrates. We found a small anchor and rope, but they had obviously been in the water for a long time and were almost unrecognisable.

Brass valve handle in situ
Brass valve handle in situ

I found an old brass valve handle or similar (treasure!), which Tony is cleaning up with diluted pool acid, tartaric acid and lots of patience, and we also came across a large (perhaps one metre diameter) brass or other metal ring that looked a bit like a truck tyre without sidewalls. It is heavily overgrown with feather stars and other invertebrate life.

Mysterious metal ring
Mysterious metal ring

I also found several well-camouflaged klipfish. Unlike our confident friends at Long Beach, these klipfish were hiding in crevices in the rocks and generally trying not to be seen.

Strawberry sea anemones
Strawberry sea anemones

Dive date: 5 June 2011

Air temperature: 23 degrees

Water temperature: 15 degrees

Maximum depth: 25.1 metres

Visibility: 10 metres

Dive duration: 39 minutes

Tony at the safety stop with the valve handle on his reel
Tony at the safety stop with the valve handle on his reel
Diver ascending past an SMB
Diver ascending past an SMB

Life at Long Beach

Here’s a clip I made after a beautiful dive at Long Beach in Simon’s Town. I spent a lot of time with a curious octopus, and with a friendly super klipfish who wanted to play (his friends came to check me out too). Look out for the gorgeous pink anemone and barehead gobies under the barge wreck. There is a FIFA World Cup 2010 cap that is full of feather stars, some lovely starfish, and a bluefin gurnard right at the end.

Newsletter: The best of winter

Aaaah so you made it here!

On Friday we launched from OPBC and dived the wreck of the Matapan. This is an old fishing trawler lost since 1960. Peter Southwood has put up a lot of info on Wikivoyage. The sun shone all day, there was very little wind and 14 degree water. Seeing the city and the Waterfront, not to mention the mountain, from the ocean is quite special.

Cuttlefish on the SAS Pietermaritzburg
Cuttlefish on the SAS Pietermaritzburg

On Saturday a bunch of us attended the well organised OMSAC Treasure Hunt. We dived the wreck of the SAS Pietermaritzburg and had really good visibility and 14 degree water.

Broadnose sevengill cowshark at Shark Alley
Broadnose sevengill cowshark at Shark Alley

The second dive was to Shark Alley in front of Pyramid Rock, and had milky visibility but lots of cowsharks. Last time we dived there we saw a shark with a hook in its mouth, sticking out the left side and all encrusted. We saw this same shark over a year ago when the hook was shiny clean. Imagine the trauma having this huge thing in your face. Made of stainless steel, these hooks do not corrode and fall off, and may be there for years. On this dive we saw another shark with a hook out the left side of its face. It is still shiny and new but does not look like it is a pain free attachment.

Cecil's head emerging from a hole in the Aster
Cecil’s head emerging from a hole in the Aster

Sunday morning we launched from Hout Bay and dived the wreck of the MV Aster, scuttled in 1997 by divers for diving and we were lucky to spot this blue eyed head sticking out of a hatch. We also watched bubbles coming out of strange places as Peter Southwood did a penetration into the bowels of the ship.

Cecil ascending next to the mast of the Aster
Cecil ascending next to the mast of the Aster

Once back on land we drove off to Long Beach to continue an Open Water course.

A warty pleurobranch channelling Yoda from Star Wars
A warty pleurobranch channelling Yoda from Star Wars

Monday we were back at Long Beach for more student dives so four days of 14 degree water and nice visibility had me in a good mood. After the students were done I popped out to visit the artificial reef we have been building. I was in the water there again today and the conditions are very good, with lots of life around.

Bold klipfish on the pipeline at Long Beach
Bold klipfish on the pipeline at Long Beach

Weekend diving

On Saturday I am continuing with an Open Water course at Long Beach, and on Sunday we’ll be doing some shore dives – hopefully at  A Frame and the Clan Stuart, conditions permitting. Please let me know in good time if you’d like to join in.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog

Diving is addictive!

Dive sites: Tivoli Pinnacles

Tivoli Reef near Roman Rock
Tivoli Reef near Roman Rock

This is a recently discovered site near Roman Rock, named Tivoli Pinnacles because of its position east of Roman Rock (as Tivoli is east of Rome). It’s a very short boat ride straight out to sea from Long Beach, and the site is very close to the approach lanes for Simon’s Town Harbour.

The reef has a low, rocky relief
The reef has a low, rocky relief

We started our dive on top of one of the southern pinnacles, and drifted with the current, spending most of the dive at about 18-20 metres. The relief is quite flat away from the pinnacles, but there is a lot to see.

A smooth horsefish, trying not to be noticed
A smooth horsefish, trying not to be noticed

Tony found a horsefish, resting in a gap in the rocks, Andrew found an evil eye puffer fish for me to photograph, and I spotted a wide array of nudibranchs – mostly silvertip, crowned and gas flame.

This was a very easy dive in the conditions we did it in. There are ample opportunities to stop and examine the reef as you pass over it, and the depth is relatively constant. It was my second dive of the day and I actually went properly into deco… During the six minute deco/safety stop that my dive computer demanded a large and friendly seal frolicked around us. When we surfaced, he was leaping about next to the boat.

Grant had received a call that there was a large pod of dolphins off Kalk Bay harbour, probably feeding, so we followed the massive flock of cormorants north, and drove past the pod. There were maybe 500 long beaked common dolphins all together, including a lot of very tiny calves. It was beautiful.

Dive date: 5 June 2011

Air temperature: 23 degrees

Water temperature: 15 degrees

Maximum depth: 21.9 metres

Visibility: 10 metres

Dive duration: 42 minutes

Seal at the safety stop
Seal at the safety stop
Common long beaked dolphins on the surface
Common long beaked dolphins on the surface

Newsletter: Biomimicry and floods

Hello everyone

This newsletter is late because we have just attended an extremely interesting talk at the Two Oceans Aquarium on biomimicry… Bio what? Google it, but it is a fascinating look at how man can mimic nature in order to solve problems. For example, cars designed to look like a boxfish have aerodynamics of note, and wind generator blades shaped as whale pectoral fins are up to 75% more efficient and so it goes on.

Cecil doing his first deep dive in a drysuit
Cecil doing his first deep dive in a drysuit

Last weekend we managed only one deep dive to the Good Hope wreck (around 35 metres on the sand) and had good visibility and warmish 14 degree water.

Walking anemone on the SAS Good Hope
Walking anemone on the SAS Good Hope

The last few days have been wet and dry days as the ”summer winds” southeaster has blown all week… Let’s not go down the weather forecasting route!! Spoiling the dive conditions, but a wet week anyway as we had a catastrophic water pipe failure at home last week, flooding the entire house with enough water to snorkel around in… The water had run for around 8-10 hours so there was plenty of time for it to dam up…

Redfingers on the SAS Good Hope
Redfingers on the SAS Good Hope

This weekend we are attending the OMSAC Treasure Hunt on Saturday, and on Sunday will do an early boat dive out of Hout Bay to dive the wreck of the Aster, a wreck sunk by divers for divers which has wreck penetration possibilities. This is an ideal dive to start an Advanced course or a Wreck Specialty. The wreck also lies within swimming distance of another wreck called the Katsu Maru.

Frilled nudibranch on the SAS Good Hope
Frilled nudibranch on the SAS Good Hope

After Hout Bay we will move to Long Beach and continue with Open Water dives. Please let me know, if you haven’t already, if you’d like to come along on Sunday morning to the Aster. There are only two places left and please remember that boat dives cost R200. If you’re heavy on air, order a 15 litre cylinder in good time for R80, and if you’re Nitrox certified let me know if you require it.

Divers at the safety stop, ascending on the shot line
Divers at the safety stop, ascending on the shot line

Also, please don’t forget to bring your MPA permits if you come diving with us. They’re available at the Post Office, and if you’re caught without one your kit (or mine, if you’re using it) can be confiscated. That’ll keep me on your Christmas list for a loooooong time…

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog

Diving is addictive!

Dive sites: SS Clan Stuart

The Clan Stuart seen from the road
The Clan Stuart seen from the road

If you’ve ever driven to Simon’s Town along the False Bay coastal road, you’ll have passed the wreck of the SS Clan Stuart on your left. The engine block sticks out of the water at low tide, and only the highest spring tides come close to covering it. The steamer ran aground during a summer gale in late 1914 after dragging her anchor. She was carrying a cargo of coal, all of which was salvaged I think.

Tony getting the gear ready before the dive
Tony getting the gear ready before the dive

The site is quite exposed, and will never boast 20 metre visibility, but on a good day with a calm sea, low swell and the correct prevailing wind direction you can be very lucky (as we were)! The entry is quite hard work. The one we usually use is to park on the roadside outside the old oil refinery and naval graveyard, and kit up there. Walk across the road, climb the low brick wall and find a route down the dunes to the railway line. Take care as the railway line is now in use. Cross the tracks and use the large cement walkway/staircase to get down to the beach. The last step is high – I found it easier to go left over the big boulders on the way down, but on the way up this is too difficult.

Once on the beach, you can walk to opposite the engine block. The wreck runs nearly parallel with the shore about 40 metres in each direction from the engine block, so you’ll actually hit it almost certainly, wherever you get in. Watch out for the wave on the beach – sometimes it looks small, but with scuba kit on your back you’re heavy and unstable and in a big swell you can get nicely tumbled. Make sure your BCD is inflated before you brave the breakers – you might even want to go so far as to put your regulator in your mouth before you set out. As soon as you are through the waves, put your fins on and swim out into deeper water away from the surf zone. Don’t mess around here – it can spoil (or prematurely terminate) your dive!

Onefin electric ray
Onefin electric ray

The Clan Stuart was made of iron, and although she’s very broken up, much of her remains. The remains of boilers can be seen next to the engine block, and the ribs of the ship are clearly visible as you swim along her length. There are ragged bits of metal decking, and some bollards are clearly visible on the edges of the wreckage.

A fat peanut worm
A fat peanut worm

There is a lot to see here – beautiful invertebrate life – abalone, mussels, sea cucumbers, nudibranchs, worms – schools of fish (we saw blacktail seabream), shysharks, and of course the pleasure of swimming the length of a shipwreck! There are also ridges of sandstone to explore, and kelp covers parts of the wreck. Particularly around the engine block, the growth is very dense.

Bollards on the hull
Bollards on the hull

This is a good site for night dives, and seals are often spotted here which is very entertaining. The entry and exit can be a bit of hard work, but it’s well worth it and the depth (maximim 9 metres at high tide) makes it very suitable for training dives.

Kate with the buoy line in top to bottom visibility
Kate with the buoy line in top to bottom visibility

Dive date: 22 May 2011

Air temperature: 20 degrees

Water temperature: 14 degrees

Maximum depth: 7.6 metres

Visibility: 10 metres

Dive duration: 48 minutes

Dive sites (Sodwana): Stringer – part 2

Close up of the giant cushion star
Close up of the giant cushion star

As Sophie and I started our ascent I saw a huge ribbontail ray swimming away from us on the sand. It was surgy and there was lots of sand in the water (as can be seen from the photos), so he disappeared fast.

Dive date: 19 April 2011

Air temperature: 23 degrees

Water temperature: 24 degrees

Maximum depth: 13.8 metres

Visibility: 10 metres

Dive duration: 55 minutes

Dive sites (Sodwana): Stringer

Stringer is made up of two separate, small outcrops separated by a sand strip about 20 metres wide. It’s a fish nursery, teeming with life, and we saw juveniles galore!

Dive date: 19 April 2011

Air temperature: 23 degrees

Water temperature: 24 degrees

Maximum depth: 13.8 metres

Visibility: 10 metres

Dive duration: 55 minutes