Newsletter: Wreck diving weekend

Hi there

The past week has been great for diving and other than Sunday we were in the water every day. The temperature on Friday was 18 degrees on the Clan Stuart wreck. We were lucky to see rays three days in a row at different locations. A truly remarkable creature, this one was a good metre and a half across. We found this beauty at Long Beach in 7 metres of water. We also saw one on Thursday at the upturned yacht wreck near the yellow harbour buoy as well as one sleeping in the wreck of the Clan Stuart on Friday.

Raymond the ray
Raymond the ray

The summer winds are here and most of the boat launching will move to Hout Bay. The wrecks of the Atlantic are awesome and the viz this last weekend was 25 metres on the Maori wreck.

Kate swims with a golf ball on a teaspoon
Kate swims with a golf ball on a teaspoon

Starting this weekend I will be running one of my favorite series of courses being Nitrox, Wreck and Deep specialties. I am also doing a Night diver specialty over the next week or so and have two Open Water courses starting a week apart. I also have three Rescue and Divemaster students and different levels so there are lots of opportunities to get in the water. All dives this weekend will be boat dives and if you just want to tag along as a fun diver please remeber I need to book by Thursday midday.

Enriched Air

Nitrox, or enriched air increases your bottom time. Diving to 30 metres on air you have a maximum dive time of 20 minutes but on Nitrox 32% you have 30 minutes.

Deep diving and wreck exploration go hand in hand with a Nitrox certification and this is how it works:

Nitrox R 1650 (course can be run in the evenings)
Wreck R 1950
Deep R 2050

If you sign up for either Wreck or Deep you will get the Nitrox course for R1250. Choose both specialties and Nitrox will only cost you R950.

Wreck and Deep both require four dives. All four dives will be boat dives and all will be Nitrox dives if you have done the Nitrox specialty.

Klipfish getting his chin tickled
Klipfish getting his chin tickled

Best regards

Learn to Dive Today logoTony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog
Diving is addictive!

Newsletter: Halloween dive, wrecks and more

Hi everyone

Summer is closing in on us fast and the water is getting warmer, time to dust off your dive gear and get wet. The rays are back at Long Beach, whales are still around for a few weeks and the ocean is waiting for you to visit.

October has been a busy diving month. The trip to Sodwana was awesome and we are thinking about another trip early December or perhaps early January.

I have been lucky to have dived almost every day since the beginning of the month and congratulations to the following people on their certifications:

Open Water

Anna, Belinda, Richard, Gabby, Lorna, Kate

Advanced

Gerard, Justin, Kate, Sophie, Tami

Deep Specialty

Clare

Students at Long Beach
Richard, Belinda, Anna, Kate and Corné at Long Beach

Kate is here from the UK doing the Zero to Hero program with me. She started on the 13th October and has done Open Water, Advanced, and is busy with Nitrox and Rescue. Next week she will start her Divemaster program.

On Saturday I will finish an Open Water course and continue with a Rescue course. Sunday the plan is to dive the sevengill cowsharks and Boulders, perhaps see a penguin underwater.

Saturday we are having a Halloween night dive.

These are the rules:

  • you must dive in a Halloween theme something or another… use your imagination
  • you must find treasure… I will hide several prizes during the day at the site we dive
  • to find them you must… use your imagination!
  • we will have an egg cracking contest… underwater… where you must crack and remove the shell of a raw egg gently, so the egg stays intact…
  • coffee and ( ) on the beach afterwards… plus you get to open the treasure you found…

November

I am going to run an Advanced open water course, a Wreck specialty, Night diver specialty, and a Deep diver specialty course during the month of November. Dates are 6th, 13th and 20th. The Deep specialty will qualify you to 40 metres and the Wreck specialty will include wreck penetration for those keen to explore the inside of a sunken ship. Night diver will give you great confidence is low visibility diving conditions.

The Deep and Wreck courses are dependent on boat scheduling and detailed dive planning so book early if you are interested.

Best regards

Learn to Dive Today logoTony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog
Diving is addictive!

Diving as a career

Your final school year is almost over. After 12 years of going to school every day the idea of being free of that regime is a pleasant thought. But… What next? Many people have had their future mapped out for them by their peers and parents. Some however have no clue as to what they want to do. There are so many choices that it is not surprising the number of adolescents that have yet to decide what direction to take. A gap year is an easy solution, but not always affordable and slotting in to the job your parents want for you does not appeal to everyone.

If the outdoors, the ocean and travelling appeal to you then consider becoming a Diving Instructor. Take a year off after school, qualify as a Diving Instructor and then go to university and study something. As a Diving Instructor you will have part time work that is very enjoyable, way more rewarding than waiting on tables and you can work almost anywhere in the world.

Being a diving instructor is very rewarding
Being a diving instructor is very rewarding

There are several centres around the country, in fact around the world, that offer career development courses (so-called Zero to Hero courses that will take you from never having dived right up to Divemaster or Instructor) and some will be free. In this situation you work as free labour in a dive centre and in return they train you. This option does give you a in depth insight to how a dive centre operates, but you run the risk of spending most of your time in a wet room being a slave.

My recommendation is to find a slot whereby you pay for the courses one by one. Avoid paying the entire amount up front as this sure fire way to ensure you have your training drawn out indefinitely. Get a price for all the courses you need, do them one by one and do them with different centres and different instructors if necessary. You will gain immense experience in different setups and your final stretch will be with a Course Director and then you will be set. As soon as you have been certified as a Divemaster you will be able to earn money, leading dives and even conducting some of PADI’s programs such Discover Scuba Diving.

FAQ: Do I need to be a good swimmer in order to scuba dive?

You don’t need to be an Olympic swimmer in order to learn to scuba dive. Scuba diving isn’t about covering big distances or swimming really fast. In fact, we take great care not to over-exert ourselves in the water, and if you swim too fast you won’t see a thing! Also, divers wear fins, which add a lot of power to your kick stroke, and wetsuits and BCDs, which assist with buoyancy.

However, you do need to be at least comfortable in the water in order to become a scuba diver. If you’re absolutely terrified of water and struggle to take a shower without a lifeguard on standby, scuba diving is not the sport for you. If you can’t swim at all, you do need to learn to swim before you learn to dive. If you’re a half way ok swimmer who can hold your own in your pool at home (but not necessarily swim the English Channel), then let’s talk!

There are swimming tests for the various courses (the precise name of the skills being tested is watermanship). For Open Water, you have to do the following, either in a swimsuit or wearing a wetsuit and weighted for neutral buoyancy (i.e. wearing a weight belt):

  • swim 200 metres continuously without any swim aids,
  • OR swim 300 metres continuously wearing fins, snorkel and mask ;
  • float unassisted in water too deep to stand in, for 10 minutes.

The Divemaster course requires the following:

  • swim 400 metres non-stop with no swimming aids;
  • swim 800 metres non-stop, face in the water, wearing mask, snorkel and fins, with hands tucked in;
  • tow or push another diver for 100 metres in full gear, non-stop;
  • tread water for 15 minutes in water too deep to stand in, hands out of the water for the last 2 minutes.

At Open Water level, these swims are not timed.  The Divemaster and Instructor swims are timed. You can use whatever stroke you want, but doggy paddle may get tiring! The swims are very important to confirm that you have basic water skills and can take care of yourself (and others, at DM and Instructor level).

If you’re a decent swimmer already, improving your swimming fitness, stamina and technique will definitely improve the quality of your dives. Not having to think about your position and attitude in the water will enable you to focus on the other things around you, and get more out of the experience. Developing your swimming muscles (that’s almost all your muscles!) and your cardiovascular endurance in the pool will make diving feel a lot less physically strenuous, and you’ll be far more relaxed knowing that your body is in a condition to handle the sport with no strain at all.

Surface time
You should be comfortable on the surface as well as below the surface.

Finally, being a confident swimmer will make you a more confident scuba diver. While we try not to rush on dives, you never know when a situation will arise that will require you to swim towards or away from something quickly. If you do boat dives, you’ll need to float on the surface at the start and/or end of the dive, waiting for the other divers to gather together, or for the boat to pick you up. Strong swimming technique and developed muscles will help you in both these situations. Basic swimming skills should be part of your arsenal as a fully prepared and competent scuba diver.

If you are in need of swimming lessons – whether it’s to start from scratch or improve your stroke, contact Swimlab, run by Hilton and Wayne Slack, at the Wynberg Military Base swimming pool and in gyms around Cape Town. They offer swimming lessons, coaching, training for high performance swimmers, and even sell swimming gear.

Ode to the logbook

I am a numbers person. I love to record things, analyse trends, draw graphs, and notice patterns in data. For this reason, I’m totally obsessive about filling in my dive logbook. Apart from making me happy to record all that information, and filling a wonderful hour or two after each dive looking up what I’ve just seen in the pile of books on sea life that Tony and I have amassed between us, it has had some other, unexpected benefits:

  • I’ve been able to track my progress as a diver with respect to air consumption. When I look back at early dives, I feel proud about how much longer I can stay down with the experience I’ve built.
  • I can track my progress as a diver with respect to buoyancy and lack thereof – when I started diving, the dive centre loaded me with 12 kilograms of weight, including cylinder weights. I sank like a lead cannonball. With Tony’s help, we’ve reduced my weight to somewhere between six and nine kilograms (depending on how many wetsuits I am wearing and how much custard has been consumed in the recent past).
  • I can look back on different gear configurations, and see what worked in order to reproduce successful ones: how much weight I wore and where (on my weight belt or as integrated weights or as cylinder weights), how many layers of neoprene were donned, how large my cylinder was, and so on.
  • Regional information is useful. When planning our annual houseboating trip this year, I was able to look back on the water temperature from when we dived in Knysna in 2009, and decide how many layers of wetsuit I would need.
  • Seasonal information on fish life (what appears when – for example, giant short-tailed sting rays visit Long Beach in summer), water temperatures and general conditions is useful and interesting. Now that I’ve been diving for over a year, I’m delighted to start noticing the different patterns of life… what time of year we see lots of juvenile fish, when there are lots of egg ribbons at Long Beach, how visibility correlates with water temperature, when the shaggy sea hares are out in force, and more.
  • We like exploring, and have on occasion dived forgotten sites or even places that aren’t recognised dive sites as such, but we’re curious to see what’s there. Recording dive information and what we saw makes it easy to tell others about these sites, and to assist when we decide whether they’re worth visiting again.
  • The bucket list aspect is also fun. Tony and I want to try and dive as many of the dive sites listed on Peter Southwood’s Wikivoyage site for the Cape Peninsula and False Bay as possible. Recording the dives in my logbook is like ticking the places off on a list!
The Number Two Cat understands the importance of keeping a logbook
The Number Two Cat understands the importance of keeping a logbook

Many people start a logbook as students on their Open Water course, and then lose interest. Don’t give it up – aside from these personal benefits, your logbook will be useful in at least two other situations involving other people:

  • If you go diving or want to rent gear somewhere other than where you learned to dive, or with new people (for example a club), you may be asked for your logbook (as well as your certification card). The club or dive centre may want to verify that you have the experience to handle the dives you have signed up for. If you’re certified with a lesser-known agency, your logbook can also help persuade the dive centre that you know what you’re doing.
  • For certain PADI courses you need a minimum number of logged dives (for example, 60 for Divemaster and 100 for Instructor). If you don’t have a record of the dives you’ve done, it complicates matters somewhat!

Diving from a boat

There are divers around the world that will – and do – happily dive from all sorts of vessels. In some parts of the world diving takes place from reed rafts (Lake Malawi), from mokoros – similar to a hollowed out tree (some places in Mozambique), from canoes, jet skis, house boats (Lake Kariba), various hard boats and of course the most popular, rubber ducks. Their real name is semi rigid inflatables. People also use fold away inflatables with smaller motors in many places: these boats can be stored in your boot, inflated at the dive site, loose floor boards placed inside and a small outboard attached. All of this takes less than an hour and you are on your way to a dive site of your choice with a few buddies (only a few as they are small boats).

I will focus on the rubber ducks we use most often in South Africa, but most of these points apply to any type of vessel.

Much of the diving in South Africa and in many parts of Mozambique require a boat capable of taking 12 to 14 people and all their gear, and then being rugged enough to launch and return through rough surf, and then be able to withstand beaching. A dive boat with 10 divers, 10 sets of gear and all the safety gear can weigh around two tons. That’s a lot of weight when the boat is slammed onto the beach at a speed suitable to ensure it comes to a stop high enough out of the water so you can just step off.

Preparing to launch the boat
Pushing the boat into the water at Ponta do Ouro

There is a lot to a dive boat, irrespective of whether it is a hard boat, a huge live aboard or a rubber duck. They require maintenance, and this can easily be managed if divers just have a little respect for them. Sure, the owner/operator must be held responsible, but with a little attention to the small details they offer us as divers years of good service.

It goes without saying that you expect a boat to have all the necessary safety gear, life jackets, flares, first aid kit, emergency oxygen, tool kit etc. I believe you will find most operators following the law here. Just as motor cars need to pass a roadworthy test, so boats need a seaworthy inspection and to pass this there is a list of requirements to be met. Having met this, passed the inspection, mostoperators will usually comply, as a rule.

Be gentle

Almost all boats have a wooden or fibreglass deck. Tossing your gear around and dumping weight belts on the boat, all contribute to the damage sustained by operators, but often it is your foot, your regulator or pressure gauge or perhaps your expensive air integrated dive computer that gets damaged when someone tosses their weight belt on board. Always hand things up to the people on the boat, never toss them up.

Pontoons are tough and designed to withstand much abuse. However, the wire ring you used to fix your zip, the sharp edged cable ties on you gear, the rough edges of your cylinder boot, and your dive knife, all pose danger for the pontoon. Think about the pontoon when you drag your gear on and off the boat, and think about the grooves created by dragging kit over the pontoon time and time again.

The console up front usually houses all the electrical connections and switches for the boat’s electrical system, and just shoving all your belongings in there is not the way to go. Ask the skipper where you should put things as he/she will have a place for everything.

All skippers have a specific place for everything on their boats. Respect this as it makes it easier for the skipper to produce things for you on demand when you want them. Another important consideration is that it may be the place the first aid kit is kept and in an emergency it is annoying to a skipper to find their first aid kit has been replaced with a camera, cell phone and towel.

Loading the boat

When your gear is being loaded:

  • make sure you know where on the boat it is placed;
  • make sure you place your fins close by;
  • make sure your mask is there, either around your neck or in your fin (not on your head!);
  • make sure your weight belt is loaded and that you can recognise it;
  • and make sure you are kitted up and dressed ready to go when the boat leaves
Launching the boat at Ponta do Ouro
Divers climb aboard after pushing the boat into the sea at Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique

Launch times

Respect the launch times! You may be doing one dive and have all day, but there are others doing the next dive that are going to run late if you hold the boat up.

When the boat leaves the beach or the jetty, stay seated, feet in the foot straps and hold on tight. This is not the time to be walking around the boat passing the skipper your keys, glasses and cameras. This unbalances the boat and makes it harder to negotiate the surf or other boat traffic. This is also the time when you would fall off and blame the skipper.

Before the dive

At the dive site, follow the basic rule: be opposite your gear, and don’t expect heavy dive gear to be passed around on the boat. When the skipper comes round to put your gear on your back, make sure you are ready with the straps extended, the clips done or undone as you require, your air turned on, and that you have your weight belt on, right hand release. Don’t expect the skipper to do everything for you as it’s unfair on all the other divers who kit themselves up and are ready to roll two minutes after the boat stops, only to have to wait 10 minutes for you because you are on the wrong side of the boat, can’t find your mask, forgot what colour your fins are, etc. Finally, when you are all ready, the skipper will count you down. Go on the word “go” (or whatever word the skipper tells you to roll over on) – if you hesitate stay on the boat, or you may land on the person next to you and injure them.

On the surface
Divers preparing to descend after rolling off the boat

On the surface

At the end of the dive, signal you are OK once on the surface, then watch the boat as it approaches you. Don’t stick your face in the water and expect the boat not to run you over. Hand up your weight belt, camera, torch etc when the boat is alongside, but make sure the skipper has a firm grip on it before you release it. Just shoving it in his or her direction is no guarantee that the item won’t end up on the bottom.

When you hand your BCD and cylinder up, make sure your BCD has some air, but is not totally inflated. Make sure you give it a shove from the bottom and most of all, if possible give the skipper a chance to tie it down before you demand a hand-up. Once on the boat take care of your own kit, roll up your SMB, tuck your regulators away, and place your fins and mask out of harm’s way, preferably inside or close to your BCD. Make space for others to get into the boat, or better still, give them a hand. Don’t scatter your gear around, as a deck littered with fins, masks and cameras becomes a difficult place for a skipper to work and things will get broken… Your things!

After the dive

At the end of the dive make sure you collect all your gear as soon as possible. The boat may need to be loaded for the next launch and if you first get undressed, have a snack and then stroll over to the boat, it is likely your gear will be mixed up with the next load of divers’ gear.

Imagine this…

The boat arrives at the dive site, a few people are sitting at opposite ends of the boat to their kit, gear is passed around and a mask is crushed, someone starts bellowing, someone else drops his mask in the water as they are trying to rinse it while fully kitted up (rinse your mask first), they start whining, someone else who does not service their gear has a faulty regulator, they swear blind it was okay on the beach but you can see clearly the hose has been torn for months and is badly cracked, someone says “oops, I forgot my fins in the car”, so the skipper hauls out all the spares he has, gets everyone sorted out and you all roll back into the water.

Someone hesitates, and lands on another diver, gashing their head open with a cylinder, so the diver is hauled out of the water. The gash in their head requires bandaging, yet at the same time five hands appear next to the boat all demanding cameras. The skipper usees all his psychic skill to ensure everyone gets their own camera, then observes that a few divers are struggling to descend. The skipper hauls out the extra weights, sorts them out and down the divers go, all but one –  ”I forgot to put my weight belt on!” So they get sorted out and descend.

Twenty minutes into the dive someone pops out of the water like a cork, and gets hauled out of the water. As a safety measure the skipper administers oxygen. Their buddy surfaces a few minutes later, swims up to the boat and tosses their weight belt on board, landing on their buddies head.

These thing happen, fortunately very very seldom, but every diver wants to have a good time, a good dive and a pleasant boat trip, and if we all follow the instructions of the skipper, the Divemaster or Instructor and basic dive safely protocol, these things will not happen. Plan your dive and dive your plan.

On a typical day a skipper can easily see between 20 and 40 different people. It is not possible for the skipper to remember what your weight belt looks like, what colour your fins were and what gear you are using, so make it easier by being responsible for your gear. If you have rental gear it will often be numbered: remember the numbers, remember the colour of your fins and mask, so keeping all your kit together in one spot on the boat will make this easier.

Driving a boat is easy?

Boats look really easy to drive: a steering wheel, a control box that puts the boat in gear and accelerates all at the same time, no clutch, no hand brake, no turn signals, wide open expanse of ocean to drive in – it stands to reason it must be really easy. And it is: on a nice calm day with flat seas, no wind, and no swell, it is real easy to place a boat precisely in the spot you want it, run it up next to the jetty and come to a stop millimeters from the side.

Surf launch in Mozambique
Launching through the surf at Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique

But on a day when the wind is humping, there is a big swell and lots of other boat traffic it becomes a little more challenging. If you are asked by the skipper to sit down, keep your feet in the foot straps and hold on, then do so, as he/she probably knows better. A skipper doing surf launches needs to concentrate only on the boat while launching and beaching. Don’t walk around, shout at them or hand them things as they are reading the water, the swell, and the gap that is forming out at the back line and making a decision to go or not to go. Your safety is their primary concern. Once committed to the break in the swells it is not easy to change your mind.

Beaching the boat after a dive in Ponta do Ouro
Beaching the boat after a dive in Ponta do Ouro

In a nutshell…

Pay attention to the boat briefing as the skipper has the responsibility for your safety. Make it easy for him to keep you safe. In an emergency you will expect the skipper to produce a first aid kit in a flash, produce pure oxygen in an instant and radio for help in an extreme emergency. This will happen, and your emergency will be dealt with expertly, if the skipper finds his first aid kit accessible, his oxygen set at hand and his radio functioning. But if you shoved your bag in the console and ripped wires out of the radio, dumped your personal bag of clothing on the first aid kit, moved the oxygen somewhere else on the boat to make space for your camer – when these things happen all they do is delay the reaction time of the help that you the diver need.

Pay attention to the dive briefing. Chances are the dive master has been there many times before and is speaking from experience. If you are unsure of something, ask – there are no stupid questions, and the only stupid mistake is not asking if you are unsure.

Many divers have done hundreds and in some cases thousands of dives, all incident free, all enjoyable and all conducted safely and this is largely due to their own exceptional skills, and exceptional skills held by skippers and divemaster coupled to a level of boat etiquette we all have or should have. This is just one more reason to dive, to enjoy the wonders the ocean never fails to deliver.

Newsletter: Diving, a way of life

Hi everyone

The water has been very pleasant this week. The viz yesterday was 8 meters and I had three students on a dive. We were extremely lucky to see a great white swim gracefully by us. The most impressive feature for me was the shark’s girth, it was massive, solid looking and very sleek without a single blemish or scar. I felt honoured to have seen such a majestic creature, so close (it swam by less than three meters away), in its own domain, and very grateful that sharks tolerate us in their space. According to this website there has only ever been one incident of a diver being attacked and that was on the surface.

Diving this weekend

Saturday I have a few Discover Scuba experience students so I will be at Long Beach in the morning.

At 2.00pm we plan to dive the Clan Stuart providing the swell allows or alternatively we will do a navigation adventure dive at long beach and swim the navigation route found here. There is an unidentified huge anchor somewhere out there, as well as a 22 metre yacht and an old shipping container (Jeff’s box).

Saturday night conditions will be perfect for an adventure night dive and we meet in the parking lot at Long Beach at 6.00pm to decide where to dive.

I am trying to find ways of getting more people interested in the ocean, diving and conservation.

So these are my plans:

I am running a special introduction to scuba diving for anyone interested in the experience. For the month of September I will conduct Discover Scuba experiences for anyone that’s keen for the small amount of R350 per person, 7 days a week, minimum two people at a time. Anyone signing up for the Open Water course after this event will receive a full credit of this amount on their course.

I will also run a special Advanced course during September providing there are four people that all do the course at the same time. The normal price is R2400, but for the month of September it will be only R2000. Remember this is five dives, two of which will be boat dives where we will dive a wreck and do a mandatory Deep dive. Both these dives will in reality be deep dives so you gain more experience in this area. The remaining three dives can be a combination of Peak Performance Buoyancy (can you swim through three hoops at different depths without using your inflator hose?), Search and Recovery (lose it, find it and raise it with a lift bag), Photography, or Night diving, to name a few, but must include a Navigation dive. If you have done adventure dives with me in the last 12 months this will count as a credit towards your course.

Two Divemaster candidates start September (both bossy type girls so I hope I survive that!!) and Open Water course starts 11 September.

During September we will have a world clean up day and I plan to rally every one of you to join me on a dive with a garbage bag to clean up one of our dive sites… details next week, you may be lucky and get your picture in the newspaper… in a wetsuit and dive gear!

Be good and have fun

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za

Bookshelf: Diving science and physiology books

Sound boring? Doesn’t have to be. While your Divemaster instruction manual might make this stuff sound very dry, learning about what happens to the human body while breathing gas under pressure doesn’t have to be. Find some inspiration from this reading list when your theory gets too boring, or remind yourself of what you’re supposed to know already (if you’re a bit rusty).

For beginning divers:

Recommended reading for Divemaster candidates:

Scuba accidents and how to avoid them: