The Seli 1 falls over (a bit)

The Seli 1 on Sunday 2 September 2012
The Seli 1 on Sunday 2 September 2012

During the storm on Friday evening 31 August, the midsection of the Seli 1, where the cranes were, toppled over. An oil slick emerged from the wreck. The photo in this article shows the slick, and how the middle part of the wreck has moved out of alignment with the rest of the vessel.

The removal of the vessel is delayed by National Treasury’s failure to give a timeous decision regarding allocation of funds. I know you’re suprised by this.

Faint oil smears on the beach at Blouberg
Faint oil smears on the beach at Blouberg

When we drove out to see the wreck, most of the oil had been cleaned up, but the area was still cordoned off and kite surfers were not allowed in the water. The chief concern seems to be that seabirds will be fouled by the oil. There are nearby nature reserves with rich bird life, and Robben Island could also be affected. SANCCOB is on standby.

Sun starting to set over the wreck
Sun starting to set over the wreck

Prior Seli 1 updates from Shipwreck Patrol can be found here, here, here, and here.

If you’re interested in visible shipwrecks, check out my ebook Cape Town’s Visible Shipwrecks: A Guide for Explorers!

Winter at the Seli 1

The Seli 1 at Blouberg on 19 August 2012
The Seli 1 at Blouberg on 19 August 2012

Tony and I popped out on shipwreck (and ice cream) patrol one wintery Sunday a couple of weeks ago (19 August). The Seli 1 is still squatting on the shores of Blouberg, but there is a plan to remove the vessel in 2013. Valuable lessons learned in 2009, when no one was willing to pony up the cash required to remove the Seli 1 from the beach, were applied in the swift salvage of the Eihatsu Maru, which ran aground at Clifton in May this year.

The Seli 1 as she looked on 19 August 2012
The Seli 1 as she looked on 19 August 2012

In a situation like this, time is of the essence, and the longer the wreck stays on the beach the harder it is to dislodge it from the sand successfully. In the case of the Seli 1, neither the ship’s owners, her insurers, the Turkish government, nor any local authorities were prepared to pay for her salvage. As a result, she’s probably quite firmly stuck.

This news article notes that the wave patterns forming around the wreck are eroding Blouberg beach. This is going to leave electric cables and service pipes exposed if it continues unchecked. Local kite surfers and stand-up paddleboarders, however, are enjoying the new break created by the wreck.

A kitesurfer enjoys the waves near the Seli 1
A kitesurfer enjoys the waves near the Seli 1

Our other Seli 1 updates are here, here and here.

What happened next

What happened on Friday night (31 August), during a massive storm, is that part of the midsection of the Seli 1 fell over, spilling oil into the water and causing a flurry of renewed interest in and concern regarding the wreck. But that’s a story for tomorrow…

If you’re interested in visible shipwrecks, check out my ebook Cape Town’s Visible Shipwrecks: A Guide for Explorers!

Visible shipwrecks: BOS 400

The BOS 400 on 28 December 2011
The BOS 400 on 28 December 2011

Maori Bay is a tiny bay around the corner from Hout Bay harbour, on the way to Llandudno. It is home to three shipwrecks – the SS Maori, after which it was named, the SS Oakburn (an old wooden wreck), and, since 1994, the MV BOS 400, which ran aground virtually on top of the Oakburn.

Much of the BOS 400 remains above the surface, a spectacular feature that is one of my favourites along the peninsula coastline. It’s not really viewable from land unless you’re quite a serious mountaineer, so I have to wait for the summer diving season to get a look at it each year as we cruise into (or past) Maori Bay on a dive boat.

We first visited Maori Bay in December 2009, and you can see from these pictures that the crane’s helipad and a large section between the helipad and the fore part of the vessel remained intact.

The helipad collapsed into the sea in September 2010. These pictures taken in December 2010 show its disappearance.

The BOS 400 on 16 December 2010
The BOS 400 on 16 December 2010

Our most recent visit was during the wonderful summer Atlantic diving season, on 28 December 2011. Some time during the last winter, the aft section of the BOS 400 also sank into the sea. There are some rusty bits sticking up still, but all that really remains is the front portion of the crane, with its AMERICAN inscription, and the massive boom, which – incredibly – still stands, despite looking very precarious.

The BOS 400 on 28 December 2011
The BOS 400 on 28 December 2011

It saddens me to see this wreck slowly disappearing beneath the waves, but Tony reminded me that each new piece of her that falls into the sea provides more places for us to explore when next we dive there. There will be additional possiblities for wreck penetration once everything has settled on the seabed, as there are some wide passages running almost through the entire fore part of the superstructure.

All that remains of the aft section - December 2011
All that remains of the aft section – December 2011
What is now the back of the BOS 400 after the helipad and aft portion collapsed
What is now the back of the BOS 400 after the helipad and aft portion collapsed

If you’re interested in visible shipwrecks, check out my ebook Cape Town’s Visible Shipwrecks: A Guide for Explorers!

Seli 1, 2, 3…

The Seli 1 on 11 September 2011
The Seli 1 on 11 September 2011

I’ve posted a couple of times about the Seli 1, a recent shipwreck off Blouberg that I am sure is hated by the owners of expensive homes overlooking the beach. The wreck is, however, loved by local divers (it’s only been dived a couple of times to my knowledge), surfers and kite surfers – the latter because it has caused sand to build up in a way that is extremely favourable to wave generation in front of the wreck!

The Seli 1 at Blouberg
The Seli 1 at Blouberg

A storm in early September caused the wreck to break into three pieces, and along with that a minor oil spill which was fairly quickly dealt with. SANCCOB received a couple of oiled seabirds. Why the oil wasn’t removed from the wreck during the initial salvage efforts is a mystery.

These photos were taken on 11 September 2011.

If you’re interested in visible shipwrecks, check out my ebook Cape Town’s Visible Shipwrecks: A Guide for Explorers!

Visible shipwrecks: SS Kakapo

The wreck of the Kakapo on Long Beach, Noordhoek
The wreck of the Kakapo on Long Beach, Noordhoek

The Kakapo is not a shipwreck that you can dive on; it’s actually one that you can explore with your non-diving buddies, and even with your dog. No special qualifications are required to do a wreck penetration here.

Tony walking away from the wreck
Tony walking away from the wreck

On an evening in late May 1900, during a northwesterly gale with rain and thick mist, it seems that the captain mistook Chapmans Peak for Cape Point (this was before the days of the Slangkop Lighthouse), and swung hard a-port, full steam ahead, as he rounded it. The ship was driven so far up the beach – which she hit at an impressive speed of nine and a half knots – that banks of sand rose on each side of the hull.

Me next to the boiler
Me next to the boiler

There’s some confusion as to exactly why the incident took place. Apparently the fog was so bad that the officers on watch couldn’t see past the bow of the ship from the wheelhouse; the ship’s compass was also rumoured to be faulty. The page in the ship’s logbook corresponding to 25 May 1900 mysteriously vanished, so the truth remains unknown.

Regardless of the reason for the presence of this particular shipwreck, I find the story hilarious (although I’m sure there were some red faces all round), and since I love shipwrecks this is one of my favourite places in Cape Town. You can either park in the beach parking area just below Chapmans Peak and walk several kilometres down Long Beach, Noordhoek, or you can go via Kommetjie, which is a lot shorter.

Sunset behind the boiler
Sunset behind the boiler

This is a wonderful walk for a summer evening, or a picnic spot for a warm weekend. It’s far enough away from everything that you can feel as though you have the place totally to yourself.

Wreck sticking out of the sand
Wreck sticking out of the sand

These photographs were taken in early 2010; the sand moves about and at some times more or less of the ship may be exposed.

If you’re interested in visible shipwrecks, check out my ebook Cape Town’s Visible Shipwrecks: A Guide for Explorers!

Seli 1 update for 2011

The Seli 1 ran aground off Bloubergstrand in September 2009. Because we love shipwrecks, Tony and I visit her fairly regularly (and the Milky Lane across the road).

Seli 1 on 26 February 2011
Seli 1 on 26 February 2011

Here’s an update on her status, in pictorial form. As far as news goes, it’s thin on the ground. It was reported in March 2011 that the wreck would be strategically weakened through the detonation of explosives in order to expedite its demolition by winter storms. It’s expected that by the end of next year the wreck will be no more. Let’s wait and see!

Seli 1 on 1 May 2011
Seli 1 on 1 May 2011

When we visited the wreck last night, we could see holes all the way through the bow, where the sea washes through. The stern is now so low in the water that – in the massive swell we are experiencing this week – it is completely awash at times. There are still cranes on the wreck and the sandbanks around it are making surfers and kite surfers very happy indeed.

Seli 1 on 22 August 2011 (taken with iPhone, hence indifferent quality!)
Seli 1 on 22 August 2011 (taken with iPhone, hence indifferent quality!)

Underwater Explorers has dived around the wreck already, this past summer. Looking forward to checking it out myself, as soon as the southeaster starts up again in earnest.

If you’re interested in visible shipwrecks, check out my ebook Cape Town’s Visible Shipwrecks: A Guide for Explorers!

Dive sites: SS Clan Stuart

The Clan Stuart seen from the road
The Clan Stuart seen from the road

If you’ve ever driven to Simon’s Town along the False Bay coastal road, you’ll have passed the wreck of the SS Clan Stuart on your left. The engine block sticks out of the water at low tide, and only the highest spring tides come close to covering it. The steamer ran aground during a summer gale in late 1914 after dragging her anchor. She was carrying a cargo of coal, all of which was salvaged I think.

Tony getting the gear ready before the dive
Tony getting the gear ready before the dive

The site is quite exposed, and will never boast 20 metre visibility, but on a good day with a calm sea, low swell and the correct prevailing wind direction you can be very lucky (as we were)! The entry is quite hard work. The one we usually use is to park on the roadside outside the old oil refinery and naval graveyard, and kit up there. Walk across the road, climb the low brick wall and find a route down the dunes to the railway line. Take care as the railway line is now in use. Cross the tracks and use the large cement walkway/staircase to get down to the beach. The last step is high – I found it easier to go left over the big boulders on the way down, but on the way up this is too difficult.

Once on the beach, you can walk to opposite the engine block. The wreck runs nearly parallel with the shore about 40 metres in each direction from the engine block, so you’ll actually hit it almost certainly, wherever you get in. Watch out for the wave on the beach – sometimes it looks small, but with scuba kit on your back you’re heavy and unstable and in a big swell you can get nicely tumbled. Make sure your BCD is inflated before you brave the breakers – you might even want to go so far as to put your regulator in your mouth before you set out. As soon as you are through the waves, put your fins on and swim out into deeper water away from the surf zone. Don’t mess around here – it can spoil (or prematurely terminate) your dive!

Onefin electric ray
Onefin electric ray

The Clan Stuart was made of iron, and although she’s very broken up, much of her remains. The remains of boilers can be seen next to the engine block, and the ribs of the ship are clearly visible as you swim along her length. There are ragged bits of metal decking, and some bollards are clearly visible on the edges of the wreckage.

A fat peanut worm
A fat peanut worm

There is a lot to see here – beautiful invertebrate life – abalone, mussels, sea cucumbers, nudibranchs, worms – schools of fish (we saw blacktail seabream), shysharks, and of course the pleasure of swimming the length of a shipwreck! There are also ridges of sandstone to explore, and kelp covers parts of the wreck. Particularly around the engine block, the growth is very dense.

Bollards on the hull
Bollards on the hull

This is a good site for night dives, and seals are often spotted here which is very entertaining. The entry and exit can be a bit of hard work, but it’s well worth it and the depth (maximim 9 metres at high tide) makes it very suitable for training dives.

Kate with the buoy line in top to bottom visibility
Kate with the buoy line in top to bottom visibility

Dive date: 22 May 2011

Air temperature: 20 degrees

Water temperature: 14 degrees

Maximum depth: 7.6 metres

Visibility: 10 metres

Dive duration: 48 minutes

Dive sites: BOS 400… from the surface

The wreck of the BOS 400
The wreck of the BOS 400

The BOS 400 was a giant floating crane of the Derrick/Lay barge type, used for pipe laying. She was under tow by the Russian tug Tigr when the tow rope snapped in a north easterly gale in June 1994. The 12,000 ton crane, which had now engines of her own (she was a barge) ran aground on the rocks at the southern corner of Maori Bay just outside Hout Bay, home of two other wrecks: the SS Maori and the SS Oakburn. (More on a recent dive we did on the SS Maori can be found here and here.)

The BOS 400’s back was so badly broken and the seas so rough that salvage was impossible. All 14 crew were airlifted to safety. The crane was outfitted at great expense (worth $70-80 million US dollars) and as many of the fittings as possible were stripped before the vessel was condemned. If you like legalese, here’s a link to the findings in one of the several court cases that pertained to this vessel.

We survey the wreck from Grant's boat
We survey the wreck from Grant’s boat

BOS in fact (as far as I can determine) stands for Bouyges Offshore Services (either that or Board OffShore, a type of crane), but over the years the name of the crane seems to have been transmuted into Boss 400.

Collapsed stern
Collapsed stern

The part of the superstructure that protrudes above the water is incredibly impressive, but can only be seen from the sea or by hikers on the Karbonkelberg above Hout Bay – there are no roads in the vicinity. When we dived this wreck, our skipper Grant carefully drove us all the way around the back of the wreck into the channel against the mountainside. These photos were taken from that vantage point.

Back of the collapsed stern
Back of the collapsed stern
BOS 400 wreckage
BOS 400 wreckage

If you’re interested in visible shipwrecks, check out my ebook Cape Town’s Visible Shipwrecks: A Guide for Explorers!

Seli 1

The Turkish bulk carrier Seli 1 ran aground off Blouberg beach in about 8 metres of water in September 2009. It caught on fire in June 2010, and during the time it’s been aground the cargo of coal has been removed to be sold. Tony and I love shipwrecks, and we have periodically visited the beach to check on the condition of the wreck. Here’s a series of photos showing its progressive deterioration and the consequences of the removal of the cargo and superstructure.

Seli 1 on 12 September 2009
Seli 1 on 12 September 2009
Seli 1 on 4 December 2009
Seli 1 on 4 December 2009
Seli 1 on 6 June 2010
Seli 1 on 6 June 2010
Seli 1 on 19 July 2010
Seli 1 on 19 July 2010
Seli 1 on 3 December 2010
Seli 1 on 3 December 2010

If you’re interested in visible shipwrecks, check out my ebook Cape Town’s Visible Shipwrecks: A Guide for Explorers!