Sunday: Boat or shore dives, conditions dependent!
We have had terrific conditions all week and have been taking full advantage. False Bay is cleanish and warmish. Visibility has varied from site to site but the bay is full of life. On Tueday we spent our surface interval time photographing sea swallows at Batsata Maze. Wednesday’s surface interval was spent filming giant short tail sting rays at Millers Point, and today we were fortunate enough to have two orcas swim by close inshore whilst the divers were on the SAS Pietermaritzburg this morning. Who knows what we will see tomorrow!
Sadly the diving today was somewhat overshadowed by the raging fire that descended on Simon’s Town with the westerly wind, despite the best efforts of many firefighters. Watching from the water you could see the speed at which the fire traveled and I doubt anything other than a thundershower was going to slow it down. On the run back into Simon’s Town we went through really thick smoke.
The weekend, however, does not look too rosy. At cowsharks this afternoon the swell was quite noticeable and although it stays at 3 metres for most of tomorrow, the forecast is for 5-6 metres on Saturday. It seldom reaches the height in the forecast but even at 4-5 metres diving becomes less than great. Surge and low viz are on the cards. I think there will be a better than good chance that Sunday will be semi-decent so I will provisionally schedule diving, either from the boat or perhaps a shore dive or two… Text me if you want to join and I’ll keep you posted.
Just outside Arniston is the Cape Nature-administered Waenhuiskrans Nature Reserve. The famous Waenhuiskrans sea-cave is actually inside the reserve (which doesn’t appear to be fenced but is indicated with signage). We visited the area and drove into the reserve to the cliffs overlooking Otter Bay, where we had lunch. At the opposite end of Otter Bay to Arniston is Struispunt, which is in fact the eastern extremity of neighbouring Struisbaai.
On Struispunt is a marine light, or beacon, which is essentially a wannabe lighthouse! I walked down the beach to visit it, and back on the sand road behind the beach. The beacon is a masonry tower 10 metres high, topped with a red and white striped globe for daytime navigation and a relatively small, solar-powered light (1,747 candelas) that flashes three times every fifteen seconds. The water off Struispunt is very shallow, only about five metres deep for some distance from the light, so its presence is essential.
The Struispunt light was erected following the wreck of SS Queen of the Thames, in 1871. It is visible for 11 nautical miles. Its western and eastern sides were painted red and white for a while, but most of the paint has worn off and I could only discern a faint reddish tinge. Behind the light, on the rocks, many gulls and cormorants were roosting when I visited. There were also some human fishermen nearby!
We had an early start last weekend and launched from Simon’s Town at 7.30 am to get in and out before the wind arrived. Conditions were good and we dived the Atlantis area.
On Tuesday we launched from Hout Bay and despite a few days of south easterly winds the visibility was around 6 metres, but the swell created quite considerable surge. Both dives were around deep Tafelberg Reef and the surge could be felt below 30 metres.
The forecast for the weekend looks a little bleak. Much wind and much swell means slim odds of finding nice diving conditions anywhere. However should conditions change we will keep you posted by text and Whatsapp, and go diving.
If you’re planning a trip to Cape Town and have a love of shipwrecks on shore, you’re in luck. Visiting some of the wrecks that are visible above the water around the Cape Peninsula can be combined with your exploration of the city, and will ensure that you don’t miss any of its outdoor highlights. Some of these visible shipwrecks can be reached by road, and one or two of them will require a short boat ride.
A map showing all these wrecks can be found here. A mini travel guide to Cape Town’s shipwrecks on shore, in the form of an ebook entitled Cape Town’s Visible Shipwrecks and written by yours truly, is available here.
In addition to the general shipwreck artefacts on display at the museums listed above, you can check out the following specific wreck remains, some of which are not labelled or take a little bit of finding:
On one of the relatively few days this past winter (early in August) when we had really good visibility, the western side of False Bay was full of compass sea jellies. I filmed some of them from the boat while Jerrel and Nick completed their dive. Watch out for the “shark” at the end!
There are three visible shipwrecks inside the Cape Point section of Table Mountain National Park. Two of them, the Thomas T Tucker and the Nolloth, are accessible along the Shipwreck Trail in the nature reserve. The third, the Phyllisia, is visible at the turning point of a walk called the Phyllisia Circuit, that starts and ends at Gifkommetjie in the south western part of the reserve. (The formerly visible wrecks, the Tania at Buffels Bay and the Shir Yib at Diaz Beach, are no longer visible, having been reclaimed by the sea.)
The Phyllisia was a Cape Town fishing trawler of 452 tons. She struck submerged rocks a short distance offshore, close to midnight in early May 1968. Holed in four places, she was partly submerged but remained intact for some time. Eleven of her crew came ashore in life rafts, and the remaining 14 were airlifted off by helicopter.
Initial plans to salvage the wreck were scuppered by continued heavy weather, and after the removal of the moveable equipment from the ship, she and her cargo of 30 tons of fish were left to the elements. All that remains of the wreck on the shore is part of her stern.
The walk to the Phyllisia from the Gifkommetjie parking area is about 2.5 kilometres, and I will describe the route in more detail in a separate post about the Phyllisia Circuit. She is best visited at low tide, so that what remains of her stern is fully exposed on the rocky shore. Look out for the various smaller bits of metal in the area, and also for the massive log that probably has the same origin as the one at Olifantsbos.
We seem to be in a cycle of great diving days in the week and not so great conditions on weekends. This weekend looks much the same as the last few and neither day is going to be great.
We have a scientific charter first thing on Saturday before the wind comes up, so won’t be running boat dives that day. By mid-morning on Saturday, the wind will be up at around 25 km/h from the south, and on Sunday it’s meant to be closer to 50. Sadly I think its best you haul out the lawnmower.
Thanks to Arne for this photo, taken at Boat Rock a couple of weeks ago…
The oil tanker Antipolis ran aground off Oudekraal during a July storm in 1977. She and the Romelia, which is wrecked near Sandy Bay, were both under tow by the tug Kiyo Maru No. 2 from Greece to be scrapped in Taiwan. The wreck lies pointing shoreward, a couple of hundred metres south of the 12 Apostles Hotel. She can be viewed from a vantage point above a storm water drain between the hotel entrance and a small parking area on the opposite (seaward) side of the road. Walk along the Armco barrier from the parking area, looking to your left (while also looking out for cyclists). The storm water pipe is about twenty metres from the parking area and is marked by a gap in the bushes through which the wreck can be seen.
There is also the option of climbing down an impossibly steep and slippery path onto the rocks adjacent to the wreck. The view from here is slightly better, but it is not a climb for the faint hearted.
She is now a beautiful dive site if you visit in clear, calm conditions. Most divers shore dive off the rocky beach in front of the wreck, after climbing over the traffic barrier and walking over the boulders on the shore.
There are some pictures of the tanker just after she grounded here and here (the comments are also worth reading). Her superstructure was cut off some time later for scrap. The entire shape of the wreck can be discerned on aerial images, as much of her lies just below the waterline.
Lovers of shipwrecks and wilderness will enjoy the Shipwreck Trail (also called the Thomas T Tucker Trail, which has a nice alliterative ring to it) in the Cape Point Nature Reserve. Tami, Maria and I did it on one cloudy Saturday, close to low tide. (You can do the walk at high tide, but you won’t be able to get as close to the wrecks and some parts of the wreckage will be underwater.) The trail starts from the Olifantsbos parking area inside the reserve. There is a large sign saying THOMAS T TUCKER, which will send you on your way. A waist-high pyramid-shaped cairn of stones indicates where you must climb over the dunes onto the beach – the actual path is hard to discern at this point owing to fire damage.
The path follows the coast past the Olifantsbos Cottage to the next beach, where the remains of the Thomas T Tucker are strewn around. Don’t rush past the beach outside Olifantsbos Cottage, though – there is a huge wooden log, bored by teredo worms, with rust marks at its base showing where it was attached to the deck of a ship or where fittings for lifting by crane were located.
On the beach near the Thomas T Tucker you will also see some whale bones, which are becoming more and more damaged with each passing selfie, but are still impressive in scale. I suspect that more of that skeleton is on display at the Buffelsfontein Visitors Centre near Buffels Bay in the park.
Continuing past the main wreckage of the Thomas T Tucker you will come across another small piece of rusty metal, which belongs to the same wreck even though it is so far away from the rest of the debris. Shortly you will spy the wreck of the Nolloth on the beach before you. Don’t overlook the rockpools on the way.
The route back can either be a retracement of your steps along the coast, or via the inland path marked by a sign on the edge of the beach just past the Nolloth. We struggled a bit to find the path as the plant life in the area has not recovered since the March fires, and in retrospect we’d probably have gotten on much better (and returned home much cleaner) if we’d just walked back along the beach!
You shouldn’t do any walking in the reserve without a proper map; my favourite is the Slingsby Map series. I got mine from the curio shop at Kirstenbosch, and they are available at most major bookstores (with a bias towards those in the south peninsula – I have seen them at both Wordsworth and at the Write Shoppe in Long Beach Mall). Be aware of and grateful for the baboons, don’t advertise your snacks, don’t go alone, and always take something warm with you even if it’s a sunny day when you set out.
In case you missed the links in the text, check out the separate posts on the two wrecks you’ll see along this trail: the Thomas T Tucker and the Nolloth.