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/

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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/

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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/

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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.

Newsletter: In the zone

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Boat dives or Long Beach dives, depending on conditions

We seem to have fallen into a weekday diving zone where conditions are good for a few days during the week and then the weekend comes and the wheels fall off.

There is a lot of swell and wind in the forecast as well as some abrupt wind direction changes. This all makes for “look before you go” type planning that hardly works well. Saturday is definitely out. Sunday will depend on how bad Saturday is, and we will make the call on Sunday morning.

Langebaan lagoon
Langebaan lagoon

As a last resort we may opt for a Long Beach dive as it is somewhat sheltered.

Diversnight

We got the date wrong last week. (It’s correct here.) Diversnight is on Saturday 4 November this year. Diarise!

regards

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

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Newsletter: Spring into action

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Double tank dive in the ocean, location to be confirmed

What to say about the weekend? Saturday looks way too windy for my liking. Sunday is almost windless, however some swell and the howling south easterly wind all of the previous night might not leave False Bay very pleasant.

It is not inconceivable that Hout Bay cleans up… but last weekend was similar conditions and the Atlantic stayed green. I will launch on Sunday for a double tank dive, destination unknown and launch site to be confirmed late on Saturday. You know the drill if you want to come along!

Spring flowers in the West Coast National Park
Spring flowers in the West Coast National Park

For your diary

Diversnight this year is on Saturday 4 November. For those that don’t know it is an annual event, held worldwide, with the aim of getting as many people underwater at 8.17 pm (2017 – get it?) on the evening of the first Saturday of November. All of the many locations worldwide send in numbers and a bunch of Norwegian enthusiasts collate it all. Join us!

regards

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

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Newsletter: Hello

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Boat dives from Hout Bay at 9.30 am

Seagull saying hello at Melkbosstrand
Seagull saying hello at Melkbosstrand
It’s a weekend with conditions that make choosing between the Atlantic and False Bay a bit difficult. There is 20+ km/h south easterly wind on Friday and Saturday, with a lot less for Sunday. The Atlantic will be cleaner than False Bay, but the swell in the forecast, if it arrives and is 4 metres as predicted, will make it unpleasant on that side.

Despite these odds I think I will stick my neck out and plan for Hout Bay on Sunday at 9.30 am, and confirm the plans late on Saturday afternoon. Most likely sites will be Die Josie and either the Sentinel or the wreck of SS Maori. Let me know if you’re keen.

Demystifying Groundwater – a talk

On Tuesday 5 September there’s a talk at Kommetjie Primary School at 7.30pm. The speaker is Dr Ricky Murray, a hydrologist, and he will talk about all things related to groundwater. This issue should interest anyone who has a borehole, as well as others who have heard of the plans to drill into the Table Mountain aquifer as a last-minute half baked attempt to relieve the water crisis that Cape Town is experiencing. Entrance fee R50 (including a beverage).

Here’s a link to the facebook event with all the details.

regards

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

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Newsletter: Dust off

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday & Sunday: Deciding the day before whether conditions will permit a dive or two!

There has been a south south westerly swell over the last two days. False Bay does not like the southerly component, and prefers a westerly swell. The weather sites also can’t agree on the wind direction, and resolving the variation in the forecasts is fairly crucial to determining whether False Bay will be diveable.

This doesn’t mean its all doom and gloom. It means we will decide by 4.00 pm on Friday afternoon if we are launching on Saturday, and the same applies for Sunday. If you’d like to be on said launches, let me know and I’ll keep you informed.

Seahorse at Shark Alley
Seahorse at Shark Alley

This week seems like a good time to dust off our protocol for diving with sevengill cowsharks. Let me just say that we didn’t have to use any imagination to come up with some of the things in the code.

For ocean nerds

On Wednesday 30 August, Nick Sloane, the South African salvage master who orchestrated the parbuckling of the Costa Concordia cruise ship wreck, is speaking at the Iziko South African Museum at 6 pm. He is a world-class salvor and it’s a fairly rare opportunity to hear him speak. Tickets are R30 if you’re not a friend of the museum (in the formal sense).

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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