- 16 May 2014
- Published by Clare
Sunday: Possible boat or shore dives, if the weather forecast moderates. Text me to be notified.
We had exceptional conditions in False Bay last weekend, with 20 metre visibility and a comfortable 18 degrees on the surface. It’s been a long time since False Bay has been so clean. There are some photos on facebook that will show you just how stunning the conditions were. We dived Photographer’s Reef and the wreck of the Brunswick.
The viz has dropped somewhat this week but it is still pretty good. Sadly we are unlikely to have good conditions this weekend: just as well, because on Saturday is the all day long DAN day that you should attend if at all possible, with very informative talks about diving safety and a tour of a great facility in Cape Town. If you want me to forward the details then send me an email, but be quick as you need to book in advance (i.e. tomorrow) if there’s still space.
On Sunday I don’t think the conditions will be all that great. There is a 2-3 metre swell, which is not too bad, but the wind is forecast to blow more easterly than south easterly and this tends to cause a larger than is pleasant wind chop that makes for unpleasant surface conditions. I am hoping the forecast changes as we get closer to Sunday and the wind drops off, and that way we can get some diving done. I will make that call late Saturday afternoon. Text me if you want to be on the list to dive if we do go out.
Winter is a good time to further your dive training – the water is cleaner in False Bay, and we have some really beautiful conditions to work with. If you’ve been thinking about a Specialty course, Advanced, or Rescue (for example), let me know and I can tell you a bit more about what’s involved. You’ll build up your confidence in the water and be a better buddy!
Please make sure you have an up to date MPA permit when you come diving… For visitors, I have a temporary (one month validity) permit book, but if you live here it’s definitely better to get a one year permit from the post office.
Diving is addictive!
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On our way back from Big Bay, we took a slightly roundabout route to OPBC, passing some of the ships that were anchored offshore in Table Bay. Ships anchor here when they are waiting to enter the harbour, but some also stay for longer periods of time, in order to effect repairs, or because they cannot continue further. E-Whale, a bulk carrier about which you will hear a bit more next week, has been here for over two years.
E-Whale has a bulbous bow that looks as though it’s been in a bit of a scratching fight! She is a very impressive ship from close up, even though by bulk carrier standards she is only middle-sized.
On the way back into OPBC I marvelled at the piles of dolosse that protect the slipway and jetties there by dissipating wave energy. These are a South African invention that were inspired by the children’s game of jacks, and are used in harbours around the world. The ones in the picture below aren’t the typical shape, but triangular.
Because our swimmers had arrived last, and we took a scenic route back to Granger Bay, we had lots of space to take the boat out of the water when we arrived. The slipway was far more congenial and orderly than we’re used to experiencing – wonder why?
The swimming part of the Freedom Swim took a while. Our swimmers completed the 7.5 kilometre stretch in just over three hours, so we were moving at 2-3 kilometres per hour most of the time. I kept an eye on the swimmers, and Tony kept the course correct. We were at the back of the group of swimmers, so up ahead we could always see the other boats. Some of the swimmers (in white caps) were doing relays, so there were regular sightings of skippers hauling freezing participants onboard, and others leaping off into the ocean to continue the swim.
Once we got to Big Bay, we guided the swimmers between the rocks and handed them over to the local lifesavers, who guided them to the beach and assisted them through the surf. Once they were on dry land, there were immediate medical checks, an afterparty, and prizegiving. Tony and I headed back to Granger Bay in the stiff breeze that was building, with a slight detour…
One of the most enjoyable parts of the Freedom Swim (from Robben Island to Blouberg, on May 3rd) was the time we spent waiting outside Murray’s Bay Harbour on Robben Island, where the swim was to begin. Once we received the all-clear to head from Granger Bay to the island, we saw that the mist only extended a short distance out to sea, and it was clear at Robben Island.
A motley assortment of boats – from a huge yacht to a two metre long rubber duck with a single 15hp motor, as well as some rescue boats, stand up paddle boarders, and kayakers – spent nearly an hour bobbing gently on the mirror-like ocean.
A festive atmosphere prevailed. In order to assist their swimmers to identify them, boats were adorned with flags, balloons, inflated papsakke, towels, and other colourful items. Stand up paddle boarders moved through the crowd of boats, and we enjoyed a strange stereo effect when radio announcements were made by the organisers.
The expensive, fancy Robben Island ferry is broken (as it seems to have been almost since the moment it went into service), so Nauticat, the seal watching boat from Hout Bay, is doing duty as one of the ferries bringing visitors to the island until a new ferry is obtained. The ferries practically handbrake turn into the harbour when they arrive, slowing down not at all, so there was a delay at the start of the swim while we waited for a ferry to complete its arrival.
We could hear the countdown over our VHF radio for the start of the swim for participants wearing swimsuits, and about half an hour later the wetsuit swimmers hit the water. They started inside the harbour, so it was a few minutes before the first swimmer emerged from the harbour entrance and headed for the buoy that marked the start of the course.
Once we had rendezvoused with our three swimmers, we were off! (Swimming happens at a pace close to walking speed, so we trawled along with just one motor at a time.)
The Freedom Swim series is a series of timed open water swims around the Cape Peninsula. Tony provided support to three swimmers who planned to complete the 7.5 kilometre swim from Robben Island in Table Bay, to Big Bay on the Blouberg coast. The day started extremely early, as I went to meet the swimmers at the V&A Waterfront at 0700 while Tony launched the boat at Oceana Power Boat Club.
Once I’d collected the swimmers’ gear, refreshments and warm clothes, I went to meet Tony in Granger Bay. There was a thick mist over the Atlantic seaboard, and all the boats who were helping with the swim were drifting on the flat sea just outside OPBC. It took a long time, but when the mist started to clear we could see Cape Town Stadium looming over us.
We did a lot of standing by to stand by, and then we did some standing by. It was very quiet in the mist!
At about 1030, after waiting for several hours, we got the go-ahead to set a course for Robben Island. Tony enjoyed testing the motors on Seahorse, as they’ve recently been changed. (And yes, we did get to the island first.)
The meeting point and start of the swim was Murray’s Bay Harbour on the eastern side of Robben Island. The swimmers were to start in two groups: the first swimmers would be in swimsuits (and Vaseline), and the second group, which included our swimmers, would be in wetsuits. We had numbers corresponding to our swimmers attached to the side of the console.
I loved seeing Table Mountain from the sea. What I particularly liked is that the strip of mist below the mountain hid all signs of human settlement (including Cape Town harbour and the abominable Disa Park towers, but excluding the cable station), which let me imagine what this place might have looked like to early visitors to Table Bay.
We are so fortunate to live here!
Tony provided support to some swimmers who participated in the Freedom Swim from Robben Island across Table Bay to Big Bay, on 3 May. We launched at Oceana Power Boat Club, and motored across to Robben Island when the mist cleared a bit, enjoying the excellent power to weight ratio that the boat now has thanks to the 60hp Mercury four strokes that Tony fitted recently.
We had a really great trip to Sodwana with a bunch of really great and lively people. Good diving, lots of laughs and many compromising photos. There are some photos on facebook, here and here. After Sodwana we headed to the KZN bush to enjoy another passion we share, wildlife. Very few moments in life are a special as the time you spend up close to a wild animal in its natural environment.
We got home late on Friday night and were up with the sparrows on Saturday to provide boat support for the Freedom Swim, a 7.5 kilometre open water swim from Robben Island to Big Bay in Blouberg. You will recall that Saturday was a beautiful day, so we had a great time out on the water. There is an album of photos from Saturday on facebook – check it out – Clare thinks it’s not getting enough love!
The weather for this weekend all seems to hinge on today and tomorrow, as the forecasts all predict heavy rain and strong winds. The rain is lashing down right now and a vast amount of the run-off is going to end up in the sea. False Bay is clean right now so hopefully this won’t affect the weekend’s visibility too much. It seems the rain and wind might hang around until sometime Saturday plus a 5 metre swell tomorrow drags into Saturday as it drops off, so I think we will opt for the pool and Long Beach on Saturday and launch the boat on Sunday.
The MPA police (as I like to call them) have been checking permits so please make sure you have a valid permit. If you don’t, we have temporary permits available, for R45 each, and they are valid for one month, but it’s more cost effective to get a full year’s permit at the post office.
Diving is addictive!
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Our third Sodwana trip (prior ones were in October 2010 and April 2011, with a Mozambique trip and a Durban trip in between) was from 26-30 April 2014. As usual we flew from Cape Town to Durban, rented vehicles (three cars between ten of us – two other reprobates drove ALL the way from Cape Town, although we suspect Shane hitched a lift on a car carrier for part of the way…) and drove the 350 kilometres from Durban to Sodwana. We stopped in Ballito for food, as we were planning to self cater.
Coral Divers was our destination. Most of us had already dived with them on prior trips (Angie even learned to dive there!), and their position inside the park and excellent facilities and staff led us to choose to dive with them again. They have a gazebo on the beach, regular transport between the camp and the beach, and dive planning and organisation runs like clockwork. Our only quibble this time around was that their school rental gear – which several of our divers made use of – was in quite poor condition. Matthijs tried four different masks before he found one that didn’t leak, and the well ventilated wetsuits left something to be desired. Fortunately the water was a comfortable 25 degrees!
We did six dives over three days, all on Two Mile reef. This is the cheapest option, and if conditions are dubious (as they were on our first day on the water), the best option. The further reefs (Five, Seven and Nine Mile) are magnificent, but require excellent buoyancy skills from visiting divers to protect the coral there, as well as favourable sea conditions for the longer boat ride.
The dives are for 50 minutes or until you reach 50 bar of air, whichever comes first. We visited mostly shallow sites (some of the Advanced divers did a deep dive on one of the days) so we were able to dive for a full 50 minutes most of the time. Because we were a group of twelve, we were generally split across two boats. We did manage some dives where we were all together at the same site, which was lots of fun! Some of the dives were lovely drift dives, which are fantastic because you use so little air. The surge (which has previously bedevilled me in Sodwana) was only severe on one of the days we dived.
After our two morning dives each day, we ate and then napped (me) or went exploring. In the evenings we braaied, cooked in the communal kitchen or ordered from the on site restaurant, and actually ended up going to bed fairly early. This was partly to escape Gerard when he got out of hand (on one notable occasion!), and partly because we were completely exhausted from our dives. We were also getting up very early to be ready to head down to the beach at 0645 each day.
It was a pleasure to spend time with such hilarious and interesting people, to do lovely long, warm, colourful dives, and to walk around in shorts and a t shirt while a warm 28 degree breeze blew. I hadn’t really scuba dived since last December, so it was great to get back into it again and remember how it’s done. Unfortunately I didn’t take many (or many nice…) photos underwater, as I was struggling with my (own, not rented) mask and I also initially didn’t feel confident enough to get close to anything. Once I settled my buoyancy – on the last day, alas! – I got going a bit more with my camera.
At the end of our trip, we said good bye to the other divers, and Tony and I stuck around in northern KwaZulu Natal to go to the bush for a couple of days. That’s another story…