Newsletter: More purple crayons

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

No diving

View from Boulders Beach
View from Boulders Beach

There is little doubt in my mind that diving this weekend will be for the hardcore only. Both Saturday and Sunday will feature howling south easterly winds which will make for rough surface conditions. The forecast seems to imply wind strength capable of affecting both sides of the mountain so there will be very few places to hide.

But wait, there’s more

There are some windless days coming up next week. If you’re a lucky one available for weekday diving next week, let me know your availability and I’ll keep you in the loop regarding plans.

regards

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

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Newsletter: Summer winds

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Shore diving at Long Beach

Sunday: Boat dives from False Bay Yacht Club

Thank goodness the daytime temperatures are more in line with my comfort zone than they were a month ago. The warmth does come along with the south easter, though, and it has been very noticeable this week.

There is however a sign of respite this weekend and both Saturday and Sunday have small windows of windless weather early in the morning. The visibility may be another matter entirely but that will be best debated late afternoon tomorrow. I will most likely shore dive early on Saturday and launch the boat early on Sunday. Keen? Let me know.

Kites at Koeberg Nature Reserve
Kites at Koeberg Nature Reserve

Desalination talk

Here’s your final reminder that this coming Tuesday (5 December) at 7.00pm, Dr Ken Hutchings will give a talk on desalination and its possible effects on the marine environment. We could all benefit from some good information on the subject, with awareness of the South African context. The facebook event with more detail is here.

regards

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

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Newsletter: Weekend of diving

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Shore dives at Long Beach from 9.00 am

Sunday: Boat dives, meeting at False Bay Yacht Club at 9.00 am

Things are looking good for a weekend of decent diving without too much swell or wind. Based on the forecast I think Saturday will be better for shore dives and Sunday (which has a longer period swell) will be the best day for the boat.

On Saturday we will be at Long Beach at 9.00 am. On Sunday we will meet in the car park at False Bay Yacht Club at 9.00 am. I am out on the boat tomorrow so I will have a better idea of the visibility and will choose Sunday’s sites accordingly. There are students on the boat so the depth will not be greater 18 metres.

Olifantsbos on a calm evening
Olifantsbos on a calm evening

Diversnight organisers reported a total of 1,780 participating divers from around the world. Thanks again to all who were part of this event in Cape Town two weekends ago!

regards

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

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Newsletter: On the rocks

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Shore dives at Long Beach at 9.30 am / Diversnight at the jetty in Simons Town at 7.30 pm

Sunday: Boat dives from the jetty in Simons Town at 9.30 am

False Bay is rather pleasant at the moment and Saturday looks to be an ideal day for student dives at Long Beach. We will start at 9.30 am. Sunday has some south easterly wind but I doubt it will be enough to spoil the conditions, so we will launch at 9.30 am from the jetty in Simons Town.  Let me know if you want to dive.

CV24, one of the yachts participating in the Clipper Race, aground at Olifantsbos
CV24 (team Greenings), one of the yachts participating in the Clipper Race, aground at Olifantsbos

Diversnight

Diversnight is this Saturday evening. It’s a night dive, free of charge (unless you need gear), and we are diving at the jetty in Simons Town. We’ll meet at 7.30 pm and get into the water at about 8.00 pm, as the aim is for divers around the world to be underwater at 20:17 (get it?). This year, so far, there are 135 dive sites registered, in 22 countries. Clare might even bake something for when we get out of the water. Join us!

regards

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

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Newsletter: Weathered

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

SaturdayStudent and Refresher dives at Long Beach from 9.00 am

I am having a tough time trying to understand the current weather. Despite days of westerly and north westerly wind the visibility has been very very slow to respond. At Long Beach the visibility today was only 3 metres. It should have have been better.

There is more wind, coming from the right direction, forecast for tomorrow so I am hoping for better viz by Saturday. I have student and Refresher dives to do so I will be at Long Beach from 9.00 am.

Yacht at Long Beach
Yacht at Long Beach

Clipper Yacht Race news

The Clipper Yacht Race vessels are arriving in Cape Town at the moment, and you can visit them at the V&A Waterfront. There are several excellent events planned while the yachts are here.

There’s also a talk about this round the world race at Hout Bay Yacht Club next Wednesday, 25 October, at 7.30 pm. Details here (on facebook).

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Colouring in

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

No diving

Those dreaded purple crayons have been used on the weather forecast for the weekend, which mean 50+ kilometre per hour winds. Diving is sadly out of the question. Fortunately the direction is good for both improved visibility and some sorely needed rain. If the forecast holds we should have good rains and a week of northerly and/or westerly winds, which will translate into crystal clear water in False Bay once it drops off. Hold thumbs!

Table Mountain from Milnerton
Table Mountain from Milnerton

Dates for your diary

Don’t forget there’s a talk about South Africa’s inshore marine resources, scheduled for this coming Wednesday, 18 October, at 7.30 pm. More information can be found here.
The following (Thursday) evening, 19 October, there’s a talk about The Gantouw Project, which has reintroduced eland to conserve fynbos on the Cape Flats. Sound interesting? More details here.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Fishy conditions

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

No diving

We have just returned from Sodwana, where we did a few eventful warm water dives with Coral Divers. If you haven’t been to Sodwana you should add it to your diving bucket list, for the colourful, vibrant reefs and good visibility. Highly recommended.

A barred rubberlips at Pinnacles
A barred rubberlips at Pinnacles

Local diving is not looking too promising for this weekend. A strong south easterly wind arrives on Friday night and departs on Sunday night. This is not really ideal for diving False Bay. Hout Bay is currently green and swelly, and will need several days to clean up.

My recommendation – if you must get wet – is that you consider diving in the I&J Oceans Exhibit in the Two Oceans Aquarium (blog post about this coming on Monday) and see the loggerhead turtle, Yoshi. She is to be released later in the year – read more here.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Bookshelf: Into a Raging Sea

Into a Raging Sea: Great South African Rescues – Tony Weaver & Andrew Ingram

I insensitively packed this book for Tony to read while we were aboard MSC Sinfonia for the BirdLife cruise we took in April. It’s a rip-roaring read about various rescues that the NSRI has been involved with over the years, but – perhaps unsurprisingly – Tony wasn’t keen to read about maritime disasters (even ones that ended well) while we were at sea.

Into a Raging Sea
Into a Raging Sea

The book was produced to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the NSRI. There is an element of history – describing the origins of the organisation, and some “sea rescues of yesteryear”. But the bulk of the book describes rescues that took place in the last 15 years. Some of them, such as the sinking of the whale watching boat Miroshga off Hout Bay’s Duiker Island, will be all too familiar from the ensuing press coverage. Others were less familiar, but no less interesting to read about.

One of the things I loved about this book was that it reveals the men and women behind the daring, often dangerous rescues. The rescuers are allowed to recount the events they experienced, using their own words, and this is revealing. These rescuers are not usually lionised by the general public or, as a rule, afforded prolonged media attention, and neither does this book glamorise them or romanticise their achievements. The challenge of the rescues – and occasional raw fear felt by the rescuers –  are vividly portrayed. The writing is beautifully matter of fact, without downplaying the seamanship, strength of character and perseverance required to do this (unpaid) work.

It reminded me fondly of the “drama in real life” stories that I used to devour from the pages of the Readers Digest magazines my grandmother used to bring whenever she came to visit. There are many, short chapters, each one offering its own little catharsis. The rescues span South Africa’s coastline, as well as a few other locations, and not all of them are maritime disasters.

Proceeds of this book support the NSRI. Get a copy for yourself, and all your friends. It will entertain anyone who loves a good story of heroism and adventure, and it will encourage anyone who’s feeling jaded about humanity’s capacity for good. It’s an excellent read.

You can find a copy on Loot if you’re in South Africa, otherwise here or here.

BirdLife South Africa Flock at Sea AGAIN! 2017 – part ii (the birds)

We were surprised by the intensity of the birding that took place on Flock At Sea AGAIN! 2017. In retrospect we shouldn’t have been, but being around 2,000 serious twitchers was, at turns, overwhelming and hilarious. Tony and I spent quite a lot of time on deck 4 of MSC Sinfonia, bothering our friend Ian. An enduring memory of this time was turning around from the rail to see a wall of K-Way clad birders charging towards us like buffalo, heading for the stern of the ship, where something special had just been spotted.

Annoying Ian
Annoying Ian

There was serious camera hardware on board. Tony’s modest 200-500mm Sigma lens sometimes gets admiring glances from the uninitiated, but on this cruise it left something to be desired (as you can see in comparison to Ian’s rig in the photo above).

The gun show
The gun show

It is known by anyone who’s been on a boat that taking photos on the ocean is difficult, especially of a fast moving, distant subject such as a bird. Tony had a go at some bird photos, with reasonable success. Trying to identify what we’d seen afterwards was fun. We were definitely not the people who were calling the name of the bird before photographing it! Once we came across a large aggregation of birds feeding on something on the surface, and once some dolphins, but there were fewer marine mammal sightings than we’d hoped.

An older wandering albatross
An older wandering albatross

I loved seeing the albatross, and because of their great size and confidence in approaching the ship, I found them easiest to identify. Both Peter Harrison’s talk  and Carl Safina’s brilliant Eye of the Albatross emphasised the extraordinary longevity and fidelity of these birds, and the loneliness of their lives in between visits to the breeding islands. In addition to the ones pictured above, we also saw Indian yellow-nosed albatross, which I’d previously seen sitting on the surface of the ocean above the wreck of the Fontao in Durban, waiting for snacks from the fishermen there.

There were plenty of places to watch the sea all around the ship. Deck four ran along both sides of the vessel close to the ocean, and the triangular viewing platforms that protrude at the stern were a popular sunset location. Around the central area on the top deck that contains the swimming areas, a raised wrap-around deck also provided good viewing opportunities, but it was too high up for proper bird watching.

The light varied a lot depending on the time of day (duh!) and the degree of cloud cover. It was windy almost all the time. I was surprised by the speed of the ship; when we were moving between birding locations we cruised at up to 25 knots. Only on one of the days was the sea rough enough to splash onto the lower decks.

Wind protection
Wind protection

We saw some things we’d never seen before, like an extravagant double rainbow just before sunset. It was wonderful to be completely surrounded by ocean, and to watch how the colour of the sea changed through the day. We were travelling over deep water, and the profound blue of the ocean when the bottom is hundreds of metres below is something special. Look at the wake in the rainbow picture for an example.

Double rainbow
Double rainbow

We saw a few other ships, but not as many as I’d expected. There was some tooth-gnashing among the twitchers when, on the last full day of the cruise as we headed back towards Cape Town, some fishing trawlers were seen in the distance. It was fascinating to watch the trawlers turn on a dime and mow back and forth, but the clouds of seabirds behind the ship remained just out of proper sight.

Fishing trawler at work
Fishing trawler at work

There’s an album of photos (including some of the ones I’ve included here) on facebook, if you’re interested! And if you’re interested in seabirds, I can’t think of a better place to start than Carl Safina’s Eye of the Albatross.

BirdLife South Africa Flock at Sea AGAIN! 2017 – part i (the boat)

A disclaimer up front: Tony and I are not bird people (we are more “anything that moves” people). While we are friends with several serious twitchers, we tend to get distracted by landscapes and the large beige beasts that birds sometimes sit on. Our decision to book a spot for ourselves on the BirdLife South Africa AGM trip, Flock at Sea AGAIN! 2017 may seem puzzling.

View of Table Mountain as we were leaving Cape Town
View of Table Mountain as we were leaving Cape Town

We had a few reasons for wanting to do the trip, which ran from Monday 24 until Friday 28 April. First, we wanted to figure out whether the two of us can handle cruise ship life (confined space, many people, forced entertainment, dancing girls) sufficiently well that long held dreams of a Hurtigruten trip, or a cruise along the Alaskan coastline, could one day be realised. This short, reasonably inexpensive trip seemed an ideal proving ground. A second reason was that the route the cruise would follow promised the opportunity to see some cool stuff (including birds), and to go to parts of the ocean we’re not likely to get to on our own.

MSC Sinfonia looking festive
MSC Sinfonia looking festive

We made the booking nearly two years in advance to assist BirdLife in getting enough passengers on board to secure permission from MSC to determine the route the cruise ship would take. This also meant that the price was seriously discounted, which was great. At the time, I felt ridiculous for planning a holiday so far in the future and couldn’t imagine being around to go on it, but here we are.

Route of Flock at Sea AGAIN! 2017
Route of Flock at Sea AGAIN! 2017

The cruise route was out along the edge of the continental shelf from Cape Town towards a few seamounts that lie more or less directly south of Cape Agulhas. There was birding, with bird guides who could identify a hummingbird at 300 metres with one eye blindfolded, on most of the decks of the ship during daylight hours. There was also a full lecture schedule, which was part of what appealed to me about the cruise. I listened to Peter Harrison, raconteur extraordinaire, bird guide author and artist, talk on penguins and albatrosses, and Prof Peter Ryan talk about Marion Island. The talks were held in the ship’s theatre, and were illustrated with magical pictures taken by the speakers. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

Attending a talk in the ship's theatre
Attending a talk in the ship’s theatre

I also attended a talk on Antarctica, and one on the Albatross Task Force. This is a project of BirdLife that works to reduce seabird bycatch in the fishing industry. This has been a very successful program to date, and has overseen significant reductions in albatross mortality on long lines.

The view of the Table Mountain range gets more complicated as one moves south alongside the peninsula
The view of the Table Mountain range gets more complicated as one moves south alongside the peninsula

Being on such a big ship was a new experience. The first night was a bit wild and windy, but I was more disturbed by the whistling of the wind through our balcony door (showing great mechanical aptitude, it took us 24 hours to figure out how the latch worked) than by particularly extreme movement of the ship. Some of the days were cloudy, but the air temperature was comfortable – mostly because we were travelling eastwards towards warmer water, even though we were moving south as well.

Having a room with a balcony meant that escape was always possible. In practice, however, the ship was so large that one could always find a quiet spot to contemplate if it was required. We ate our meals at the buffet restaurant because we enjoyed the flexibility (and the food), but for those who like to dress up and be waited upon there was a fancier restaurant with set times for sittings.

Takkies on the sun deck
Takkies on the sun deck

We had a great time, finding it extremely relaxing to be surrounded by the ocean with no option to engage in anything stress-inducing. In a couple of days I’ll share a bit more of what we saw while on board, but I’ll leave you with some of the views that we saw while on board, and on returning to harbour at the end of the trip.