ScubaPro Day 2011 at False Bay Yacht Club

ScubaPro Day 2011 (Cape Town)

ScubaPro Day 2011 at False Bay Yacht Club
ScubaPro Day 2011 at False Bay Yacht Club

On 1 October ScubaPro held a dive day at False Bay Yacht Club in Simon’s Town. This is an extremely congenial venue to dive from – most of the local boat charters were in attendance, mooring at the floating jetty in the marina. The grass was set up with a fenced off area for each boat charter, a stand for the wonderful Dive Site magazine, and an extensive area showcasing ScubaPro gear, manned by experienced salesmen. There’s a very reasonable little restaurant, a bar upstairs, hot showers, grass, tables and benches to relax on between dives, and lots to look at. We were expecting parking to be a nightmare, but it seemed to be fine.

The venue for the day (all the divers were inside at prizegiving)
The venue for the day (all the divers were inside at prizegiving)

The idea of the day was for ScubaPro to sell lots of gear, and I think the local ScubaPro suppliers will have had a good week after the divers tried out the SeaWing Nova fins, various kinds of BCDs, and regulators! Unfortunately since Tami and I bought our SeaWing Novas, the material from which they are made has been changed – from a really solid, just flexible enough, smooth-edged substance to a cheap and nasty, brittle plastic that is almost transparent and feels as though it’ll snap under stress. The price, unsurprisingly, has stayed the same (so perhaps look for a pair of these fins on gumtree before you rush out and buy some new ones). They are fantastic fins, and it’s a real pity to see nasty knock-off versions being sold at the same price as the original high quality ones were.

Cindy, Maurice and Corne in their trial pairs of Seawing Nova fins (and me in my own pair) on Grant's boat
Cindy, Maurice and Corne in their trial pairs of Seawing Nova fins (and me in my own pair) on Grant’s boat

Several of the Learn to Dive Today divers tested BCDs (and regulators – Sophie was forced to after the inflator hose on her old regulator wouldn’t fit the new BCD). For those whose kit fitted properly reviews were very positive indeed, but unfortunately the salesmen weren’t good at sizing the lady divers and didn’t even have a full range of sizes available, despite Tony emailing in advance to check this very fact… So not everyone who wanted to was able to try out gear, and there were some tense moments on the boat trying to get cummerbunds to close over thick wetsuits!

The floating jetty where the dive boats moored
The floating jetty where the dive boats moored

In order to try gear, one had to hand in an existing set of gear as security. Those divers who didn’t have their own kit had to rent gear first, and then hand it in, before they could test equipment. Expensive, but no doubt very happy-making for the nearby dive centres. Perhaps as a more fair system next year (unless the aim really is just to enrich the local ScubaPro supplier, in which case fair enough) dive cards or ID books could be held as security for those divers who don’t yet own their own gear. The diving community is small enough that divers who run away with kit can be easly tracked down, and named and shamed if necessary! No proof of ID or dive card was requested when exchanging old kit for new, so the reasoning was flawed anyway – I could have said my name was Priscilla, handed in a dodgy old BCD, and skipped home with a new one if that was really what was motivating me.

Walking to load gear on the dive boats
Walking to load gear on the dive boats

The launches went off mostly very smoothly, and it was extremely pleasant to have gear carriers available to tote our kit to and from the boats. We tied up our hoses to avoid them getting banged on the ground. The diving conditions were mixed – visibility from 2-8 metres depending on the site, and truly awful surface conditions thanks to a nasty little southeaster that was blowing. A photographic competion yielded some surprisingly good entries given the conditions – underwater it looked as though snow was falling, and backscatter was the order of the day. Fortunately the requirements were not technical brilliance, but more to capture the “spirit of diving” – how awesome it is, and something that would encourage a non-diver to take up the sport. I had a private chuckle looking at the jellyfish photos – there were lots of compass sea jellies in False Bay – and thinking of a student of Tony’s who has a jellyfish phobia second to none and would run a mile if she saw a picture of a diver anywhere near a jellyfish!

Sophie and I discussing whether to get a hot chocolate now, or later
Sophie and I discussing whether to get a hot chocolate now, or later

In order to enter the photo competition divers had to set the date on their cameras to 25 December 2011, a slightly insulting proviso intended (I assume) to ensure that nobody cheated by entering a photo taken the day before. This, combined with the issue of having to hand in kit in order to try some, left one feeling that the organisers didn’t trust divers at all. I can’t speak for those who have a financial interest in selling gear, but ordinary Joe Soap scuba divers are decent, helpful people in general, and as a rule don’t steal or cheat.

The ScubaPro display stands
The ScubaPro display stands

We did two boat dives, the first (at 0800) and the last (at 1400) launches, to Photographer’s Reef and Roman Rock. We had about eight metres of visibility on the first dive, dropping off as we rounded the seaward side of the reef. Fortunately we had a monster current to distract us! The second dive yielded up about four metres of visibility, and in both cases we had beautiful jellies and small breaking waves to greet us on the surface. The sites we visited are beautiful and I’m looking forward to going there again on a day with better water conditions.

There were some seasick divers, and an emergency situation in which a diver experienced an uncontrolled ascent from 20 metres. He had tingling extremities – indicating possible DCS – and lay on the grass for over an hour breathing oxygen (fortunately several of the boats had emergency oxygen on board) while the organisers tried to find the phone number for National Hyperbarics, who operate a chamber at Kingsbury Hospital. When we realised this was what was going on (it was kept rather low-key and the diver was hidden behind some bushes) Tony went over and provided the number, which he keeps on a card in his wallet. The diver in question was not a member of DAN (I am guessing he now is!) which meant that instead of DAN handing all emergency evacuation procedures, arranging an ambulance and alerting the chamber operator, the recompression chamber operator had to be contacted directly. Unlike the OMSAC events we have attended, where there has been an impressively strong emergency and medical presence, there were no provisions made at this event except for those by the individual boat charters, and the incident was poorly handled. Hopefully some lessons have been learned here!

Gathered in the bar for prizegiving
Gathered in the bar for prizegiving

Despite sub-optimal water conditions, the day was extremely enjoyable. We were very grateful to the dive charters who launched for only R100 per dive – that price makes for razor-thin profit margins and in order to come out even slightly ahead their boats had to be full for every dive. Most of them were, and I really hope that it didn’t end up costing anyone money to participate in this event, considering that it probably enriched ScubaPro quite a bit. Seeing so many divers together, making the most of Cape Town oceans, was very encouraging. I hope some divers – encouraged by the cheap boat dives – got back into the water after a long break, and that the end result will be more happy divers in the Cape.

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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