So, we are into May and the southeaster soon starts to wane… Except for tomorrow and Saturday. The four graphs below show the direction (around the compass rose) and amount (the size and colour of the pie wedges) of wind during each season in 2015. Our home weather station recorded quite a bit of easterly to south easterly wind, circled in red below, during autumn last year, after which we enjoyed winter diving conditions. Click on the image below to enlarge.
We had a hectic long weekend last week, with pool training on Saturday, shore dives at Long Beach on Sunday, and boat dives in some very murky False Bay waters on Monday. Fortunately the macro specialists were on the boat!
The weekend the only real option is Atlantic diving. False Bay is not all that clean and neither is the Atlantic, but by Sunday morning it will look a whole lot better and we will launch out of Hout Bay.
Launch times will be 9.00 and 11.30 am, but sites will be decided on the morning as the swell predicted for Saturday will have an impact on where we dive. Text or email me if you are keen to dip yourself in some cold Atlantic water.
We had a small gremlin interfere with our newsletter timing yesterday and for this we apologise.
We had decent conditions on Wednesday with dives in the vicinity of Roman Rock. There was a dirty layer on the surface, but underneath there was clear water with visibility of about 12 metres. Today we are taking visitors from Port Elizabeth to explore some local dive sites.
Saturday: Dives from Simon’s Town jetty at 9.00 and 11.30 am, sites dependent on conditions
We had good conditions last week; they held for the weekend and then kept going at the start of this week. Yesterday and today, however, the viz took a bit of a nosedive and is possibly going to settle into the summer visibility groove of a warm 4- 6 metres, depending on your eyesight. There is very little swell or wind in the forecast which will help.
I doubt there will be too much difference between Saturday and Sunday so the plan is as follows: a screechingly early double tank launch on Saturday (6.00 am on the Simon’s Town jetty). On Sunday we will meet for 9.00 am and 11.30 am. The sites will depend on what we find on Saturday.
This Cape long-legged spider crab hitched a ride to the surface on one of the divers’ booties this week. Isn’t he a handsome chap? He is back where he belongs!
Try diving in the pool
In the month of December until Christmas, we are offering Discover Scuba sessions (try dives) in our pool, free of charge, every Wednesday and Thursday after 3.00 pm. If you have a friend that needs a little persuasion to qualify as your future dive buddy, then bring them along. Booking is essential. Get in touch if you want to reserve a slot.
We have a training pool that is just the right size for the small groups of students that Tony prefers to teach. It’s an ideal size to heat up, and in order to make it as comfortable as possible to spend extended periods of time on skills, we’ve taken a couple of measures to make the water as warm as we can. The first, which we fitted when we installed the pool, is a thermal cover that both warms the water and reduces algae growth. It looks like grey bubble wrap, and works like a bomb – it raises the water temperature up to four degrees higher than the air temperature (and if you don’t run the pump to mix the heated layers, you can get an impressive thermocline!). Of course, to get the benefit of the pool cover, it has to be on at least some of the time, which is a challenge during the summer months, when there’s always someone in the pool!
The second measure we took to warm the pool was to install solar heating panels on the roof. These panels consist of a fine network of tubes made of tough HDPE, through which the pool water is circulated and then returned to the pool. The existing pool pump is used (this is why we fitted a more powerful one than the size of the pool warranted when we did the initial installation) and the heat of the sun warms the panels directly, as well as warming the roof which warms the panels from below. We fitted them on the north-facing sloping area of our roof. As a rule of thumb the number of panels needed is one for every two square metres of pool surface. Our pool is 5×3=15 metres square, so we have 7 panels (which is 15 divided by two, and rounded down).
The pump has a manifold fitted, which allows us to decide when we pump water onto the roof, and when we don’t bother. During the winter, when it’s quiet, or raining, we can isolate the panels and just run the pool pump as normal. This also saves electricity during the time of the year when it’s most in demand inside the house.
The entire system was installed by our fellow diver Justin Gootman of Project Pumps, and we can highly recommend his and his team’s handiwork and professionalism. (At the same time and with great expertise they drilled us a well point, but that’s another story.)
I learned to dive in Cape Town in the month of July, and the training pool was 9 degrees and I was almost physically ill when I submerged myself. It was very unpleasant. For several years afterwards it was the coldest water I’d ever been in, until a freezing dive at Tafelberg Reef in the Atlantic took over pole position. I am happy to say that we at Learn to Dive Today are doing our bit to ensure that fewer Cape Town dive students have to suffer as I did!
Deciding on where to dive every weekend is always a case of looking at several weather sites, sucking on your thumb, and then choosing. It can sometimes be so spot on it makes you beam with pride and other times you miss the mark so badly you wonder whether you were looking at a forecast from another planet. I thought perhaps we would try a premium subscription for a while and see if the odds improve. Time will tell…
It has been a pool week for me and therefore it will be a student weekend with only a few spaces on the boat for casual divers. The viz however is absolutely stunning in False Bay right now. If you want to join a dive, let me know.
On Saturday we will dive at Long Beach starting at 9.00 am. The wind is supposed to blow from around midday so we want to get going early. Casual divers are welcome, as long as you can fend for yourself while I take care of students.
On Sunday we will do two launches to a destination as yet unknown. My weather god, who I suspect is as real as a unicorn, says if it blows south easterly all night on Saturday, we will launch from Hout Bay. If it does not we will go to False Bay and launch from the jetty in Simon’s Town. It is also forecast, by the same unicorn, to blow relatively hard on Sunday which means we will most likely dive the sheltered sites of the Brunswick wreck, and Ark Rock.
Summer is on its way, it gets busy and warm really quickly and the price of training and diving usually climbs with the thermometer. We do offer both PADI and SDI courses but are focusing more on the affordability of online theory with SDI. In the modern world we live in it is no longer essential to purchase a big thick manual when you can have it all on your laptop for a lot less money. If you want more info on any of the courses we offer give me a shout or visit our website.
The instruction manual for the Parrot AR.Drone wasn’t kidding when it recommended not to fly the quadcopter in strong winds. Although when Tony lined his one up on our pool deck for a quick demonstration to a friend (he planned to take off to the height of our garden fence and land it immediately), there was only a whisper of a breeze blowing, and conditions seemed perfect for a late afternoon flip.
He wasn’t banking on the powerful thermals that build up in the valley where we live, however, and over the sports fields next to our house. As soon as it reached fence height, the drone took off vertically like a rocket, sailing unassisted over the pine trees next to our house and down Kommetjie road. Before it got out of range and stopped transmitting video, it took some tantalisingly brief footage of Fish Hoek, with False Bay in the distance.
Fortunately the errant high flier was located resting and askew, by the side of the road, exhausted but undamaged after its adventures. Next time we fly it on a warm day we’ll ask Christo for his (former) paraglider’s expert opinion on the risk of thermal columns in the immediate surroundings!
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!
Conditions forecast and weekend plans
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.
Our pool is five by three metres, and just under two metres deep at the deep end. We’ve had a number of students that have come to do their confined water skills, but in December we had two firsts: four students at the same time, and all of them were related. The three Carstens children were doing a PADI Open Water course, and their old man was doing a Refresher.
Not only did all of us fit in the pool at the same time for the basic skills (with me towards the shallow end and the family in the deep end), but we had an awesome time of it. It’s been great having the pool on site. The pool we used to use sometimes had water clarity issues, and there certainly wasn’t the option of popping inside for a cup of coffee and some theory work.
Tony got a new 5 millimetre Mares Pioneer wetsuit to replace his Flexa 8-6-5, which was getting a bit long in the tooth. When I was clearing photos off my old underwater camera, I found this little photo shoot, in which he appears to have been testing his gear in our swimming pool… Under the pool cover.
The water temperature was a sweet 25 degrees, according to the Mares Nemo Wide.
On Friday we are shore diving A Frame as the Divemaster candidates are working on a mapping project. On Saturday the boat will be in False Bay but is already full as we have a bunch of Open Water students to qualify. That leaves Sunday open for two launches to somewhere that we can dive without a white stick. If you want to be notified on Sunday morning as to whether conditions will permit us to dive, reply to this mail or send me a text message.
Last week’s diving
This weekend signals the end of most of the up country visitors’ vacation time, and life slowly goes back to normal. You can once again find parking at most of the beaches and and go back to swearing quietly at the idiots on the road because they could be your neighbour.
It’s been a week of really poor diving with swell, surge and low visibility. The Atlantic is not very clean, and nor is False Bay. The storm that hit the Cape2Rio Fleet did its best to fill the bay with kelp, silt and garbage. Today we have had some westerly winds which has helped to clean this up a little, and the forecast for the weekend is a southerly wind. That’s good in some places in the bay, and not so good in others. Today I was in the pool doing skills and equipment exchange with two Divemaster candidates. At least the visibility there was excellent…
Most of you will be aware that last weekend there was a serious diving accident on the wreck of the MV Rockeater in Smitswinkel Bay. The dive community is a small one, and even though we did not know the diver concerned, we have felt the loss keenly and Clare and I have spent a lot of time discussing it. The full details of what happened have not been released, but there is always something to learn when things go wrong, even from partial information.
When incidents like this occur there is a tendency for them to be swept under the carpet, as people tend to believe that it will cause harm to the dive industry. I don’t share this view. Finding someone to point a finger at has no value (and often there isn’t anyone who can be blamed), but a lesson learned has huge value to a diver who is still on the learning curve. Hopefully we are all still on that curve. Not everyone has a person in their life who understands scuba diving and with whom they can work through an incident like this. If you’d like to discuss it at all, please give me a call or drop me an email.
Sodwana trip in April
On a much happier note, we are planning a dive trip to Sodwana from 26 April to 30 April. We will stay at Coral Divers and do six dives (at least) over three days, with one day for travel on each side (fly to Durban, drive approximately 400km to Sodwana). This will be a busy time at Sodwana because of the public holidays and the fact that schools will be mostly closed that week, so we need to get into gear quickly on this one.
We’ve done this trip a couple of times before – read about one of those occasions here, and see what kind of diving you can expect here. A hint: it’s warm and colourful! You will need to be a confident boat diver, but an Open Water qualification is sufficient. If you’re interested let me know and I’ll send you more details – you only need to pay a 10% deposit to secure your booking, with full payment due 14 days before our arrival. The Coral Divers price list for 2014 can be found here.
Everyone needs something to look forward to at the start of the year… Think about it!