Bookshelf: Scuba Confidential

Scuba Confidential: An Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Better Diver – Simon Pridmore

The natural sequel to Scuba Fundamental (though it was written later), this book is aimed at qualified divers who may have reached a plateau with the sport, and want to improve their skills and explore more of what diving has to offer. Author Simon Pridmore does not shy away from subjects such as solo diving, deep diving and technical diving, and offers valuable perspectives from a lifetime in the dive industry.

Scuba Confidential
Scuba Confidential

Pridmore begins with a subject that isn’t discussed enough (because it would supposedly scare away potential new divers): safety. He talks about why divers die, survival strategies, and the essential mental preparation that should come before diving.

Many divers who have passed the first, awkward stage of their careers on scuba seek to improve their skills. Pridmore discusses buoyancy, navigation, and the touchy subject of deco. The following section addresses some of the specialty options available to divers who wish to extend their qualifications: night diving, wreck diving, drift diving, cave diving, ice diving, and technical diving. While you may decide that some of these types of diving are definitely not for you, there is still much to learn from the techniques and thought processes required to do these types of dives safely.

Pridmore also deals extensively with equipment issues, returning to the subject of deploying an SMB, care and use of dive cylinders, mastering your BCD, and dive computers. In many instances, these items of gear are a matter of life and death, and well worth talking about. Narcosis, nitrox, rebreathers and other gas-related subjects round up the sections of the book that pertain to dive safety.

The final chapters deal with dive travel, with a section on liveaboards and a recap of some etiquette, which becomes increasingly important when one is diving with people one doesn’t know.

This book will satisfy a growing diver’s thirst for knowledge, draw attention to areas that need improvement or reflection, and prompt further exploration of dive-related subjects. It’s an excellent gift for the curious diver in your life.

Get a copy of the book here (SA), here (US) or here (UK).

False Bay safety stop

Let the divers eat cake!
Let the divers eat cake!

We had beautiful conditions in False Bay early in September, and while some of the divers were safety stopping I filmed them from the boat. The visibility was that good! Here are Georgina and Arne doing their safety stop and ascent over the reef. Note their textbook use of an SMB to indicate their position to the boat.

Ponta do Ouro (Mozambique) 2015 trip report

Sunrise at Planet Scuba
Sunrise at Planet Scuba

Earlier this month we returned from our second ever dive trip to Ponta do Ouro. (It was my third time there – on my first trip, in 2009, I wasn’t qualified to dive yet, and met my future husband, where he was diving and skippering five times a day and living in a reed hut. I still sometimes feel guilty for having a part in him leaving this little piece of paradise.) We flew to Durban. A shuttle transported us to the Kosi Bay border post, where we were met by Mike of Blowing Bubbles Diving. Mike drove us and our luggage over the dunes into town, and dropped us at Planet Scuba, where we would stay for the week.

The new(ish) pharmacy at Ponta do Ouro
The new(ish) pharmacy at Ponta do Ouro

Planet Scuba is situated on top of the hill that overlooks Ponta’s central square. Since my last visit (I think), a pharmacy has opened on the corner (pictured above), and later in the trip we purchased a much needed decongestant there (for a fairly princely sum, but beggars can’t be choosers).

Every morning we would walk down the steps to the road that leads to the beach, and head towards the point to meet up with the boat for diving. After diving, we would either walk back or get a ride on the back of the Blowing Bubbles bakkie. We breakfasted between dives, and then returned to the beach. The dives in Ponta do Ouro are boat dives, and the skippers launch the boat off the beach through the waves. There was almost no swell while we were there, so the surf launches were quite tame!

Laurine and Esther descending
Laurine and Esther descending

We dived for five days, most of us doing ten dives in total. We contemplated a dolphin trip with Dolphin Encountours, but reports were that boats were only seeing one or two dolphins, if any, and the trips cost more than a dive so we carried on diving instead. We were so, so lucky to see a huge pod of dolphins at the end of our last dive, near Ponta Malongane. On our first dive that day we had seen big schools of baitfish near the surface, and the dolphins had probably come to the area for feeding. We weren’t allowed to get into the water with them, but they swam past the boat for ages, and we heard them breathing as they passed by. Tony and I stuck our cameras over the side of the boat, and it turned out there were many more dolphins underwater than we could see on the surface.

Batman takes the reel
Batman takes the reel

The pace of life was very mellow. We dived, ate, slept, and repeated various iterations of that sequence. We admired the community of friendly dogs down at the beach. We enjoyed hungry cats and condensed milk milkshakes at Neptune’s, with a view over the Motel do Mar (where we stayed on our last trip) to the beach. We had a healthy and delicious lunch at Mango above the Dolphin Centre, and got thoroughly soaked by a tropical rainstorm on the way back to Planet Scuba. Christo, Esther and Laurine sampled the “chemical s***storm in a glass” (I quote Esther) that is Ponta do Ouro’s famous R&R (rum and raspberry). Strangely, none of them wanted any more…

The diving was excellent. The water temperature was 23 degrees, and we had (apparently mediocre for Ponta) visibility of about 10 metres, sometimes more. This was very acceptable to us as Capetonians. The reefs are teeming with life, and all of us saw something new. Laurine was enchanted by a turtle, Tony spent most of his dives upside down with his head in crevices in the reef, Christo directed all of us to exciting discoveries with his torch and pigsticker (a metal kebab stick slash pointer that must have a different name but I don’t know it), and Esther maintained her sense of wonder and calm as she brought up the rear of our little group on most dives. On one of the dives a very strong current gave us opportunities to use our SMBs, which was an excellent learning experience and a reminder of how important a safety sausage is, no matter where you are diving.

The air temperature was warm, the wind hardly blew, and for a while we could forget that at home in Cape Town it was cold, frequently dark, and overflowing with commitments and obligations. We returned the way we had come, but feeling a little more ready to cope with the rest of the Cape winter. We’ll be back in a couple of years, Ponta!

(I’ll share some little videos and more photos from the trip over the next couple of weeks.)

Newsletter: All the good stuff

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Launching from Simon’s Town to dive the pillars just off Ark Rock at 9.00 and Tivoli Pinnacles at 12.00

SMBs at Roman Rockac
SMBs at Roman Rock

Conditions report

We are having a great run of exceptional diving. The daytime temperatures are still above 20 degrees, the visibility is in the double digits and so is the water temperature. The viz has improved all week and is currently 15- 20 metres depending on who is looking. One of the divers on the boat today shot some video on the SAS Transvaal where you can see a huge amount of the wreck in the clean water. The second dive was to Roman Rock and it was even cleaner.

On Sunday we will launch from Simon’s Town at 9.00 and 12.00 and dive the pillars just off Ark Rock and then Tivoli Pinnacles. Text or email me if you want to dive.

Permits, permits, permits!

Don’t forget to bring your permit to dive in a marine protected area on the boat. If you don’t have one, you need to take your ID document and about R150 to the post office and ask for a “scuba diving permit”.

Mozambique trip

There are a couple of places left on our trip, which leaves on 28 June and returns 4 July. Consider joining us for some warm water coral reef diving – let me know if you want more information. Booking closes mid May, so think quick!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Scuba diving parties for kids

Learning to snorkel
Learning to snorkel

Earlier this month we hosted a scuba diving birthday party in our pool, for a group of extremely excited eight year olds. It was a slightly chaotic but enormously enjoyable day! The boys first mastered the use of snorkels, making drawings on slates while submerged. We were impressed by how well they took to skin diving, and they rocketed up and down the pool like sea otters.

After that they tried out scuba gear, and we were amused by the various ways they found to enjoy themselves. One of the boys kept inflating his BCD because he liked the sound the over-pressure valve made. Another made foamy fountains of water by purging his octo in the shallows. Others seemed to feel like Jacques Cousteau as they explored the pool! We taught them how to inflate an SMB using their spare regulator, and brought out our collection of underwater cameras for them to take innumerable selfies and group portraits that they could take home with them.

Parties like this are ideal for small groups of four to six participants, as they are supervision-intensive and a small group lets each child fully enjoy their turn to try out scuba gear under the supervision of the instructor. A little bit of advance planning is recommended for the purposes of paperwork, so get in touch sooner rather than later if you think this is something your child might enjoy. We can conduct the event in your swimming pool at home if it’s less than two metres deep, or at our pool. We have conducted a similar event at the Virgin Active gym, but that requires special permission. Be warned, the scuba diving bug might bite!

Sketching on slates
Sketching on slates

The PADI Bubblemakers and Seal Team programs are designed for kids aged 8-10, and enable them to master the use of scuba gear in the swimming pool. You can read more about those programs on the PADI website. From the age of 10, children can obtain a Junior Open Water qualification, which upgrades to a full Open Water qualification when they turn 15.

I’ve carefully chosen these photos so you can’t identify the kids, hence their mixed quality! The big kid with the silver hair is Tony.

Newsletter: Paws for thought

Hi divers

Weekend diving

Saturday: No diving planned – why not join the coastal cleanup at Hout Bay harbour?

Sunday: 10.30 am and 1.00 pm to North/South Paw and Justin’s Caves, from Oceana Powerboat Club (very much dependent on wind strength on Saturday)

Monday: Seal rock at Partridge PointShark Alley, double tank dive launching at 10.00 am from Simon’s Town jetty

Recent dives

Last weekend we took the boat down to Buffels Bay in the Cape Point Nature Reserve to join OMSAC for a day of snorkeling, diving and braai-ing.. The conditions were terrific and both the shore divers and those on the boat had great viz. We took the boat to Batsata Maze and to an unnamed site just on the outside of the exclusion zone around the reserve. We were very fortunate to have a whale cruising by during the safety stop, fascinated by the divers’ SMB, and then hanging around as the divers surfaced.  It is a stunning setting for a day out and even the tidal pool was filled with interesting creatures.

There are some photos on facebook, and a nifty little time lapse video of us putting the boat onto the trailer at the slipway. I usually wind the winch much faster than in the video, though – I must have been having an off day on Saturday…

Waiting to put the boat on the trailer at Buffels Bay
Waiting to put the boat on the trailer at Buffels Bay

On Monday we enjoyed fantastic visibility at Partridge Point, where we snorkeled with seals, and at Shark Alley. There are still a lot of cowsharks around – the time of year when they usually disappear is approaching, so we are watching with interest.

This weekend

A southerly swell rolls into False Bay in time for the weekend. The Kalk Bay Shootout surf competition participants are all excited. When surfers are excited, divers are not. We share the ocean… Just not always at the same time. There is also the False Bay Yacht Club spring regatta taking place on Saturday and Sunday – more info here.

I doubt there will be anywhere pleasant to dive in False Bay. The south easter only starts blowing on Saturday so I doubt that the viz out of Hout Bay will improve enough for good diving. That leaves the Atlantic seaboard. Twenty four hours of strong south easter might clean the water close inshore enough for good diving.

I reckon the best options will be North and South Paw or Justin’s Caves and surroundings, so that’s the plan for Sunday. If the south easter makes it over the top of Table Mountain, and cleans the water sufficiently, we will launching from OPBC at 10.30 am and 1.00 pm. If you’re keen to dive let me know and I’ll contact you on Saturday afternoon to let you know if conditions are good enough.

Early morning at Cape Point Nature Reserve
Early morning at Cape Point Nature Reserve

If you are at a loose end on Saturday, an excellent way to spend your time is at the coastal cleanup dive in Hout Bay harbour. We attended a few years ago, and it is great fun and good for the environment. Just wear a kilogram or two extra of weight if your weighting is usually marginal – the water is not very deep!

Cape Town International Boat Show

In three weeks’ time the CTICC comes alive with the Cape Town International Boat Show. This year there will be a new addition in the form of a “dive village”. Collectively a bunch of local dive centres and operators have come together to make this happen with the goal of showcasing the incredible diversity of diving we have to offer in Cape Town. The village will have a pool in the centre and we will offer non-divers an opportunity to breathe underwater and hopefully come to enjoy the ocean as much as we all do.

The show is on from 10-12 October at the Convention Centre. Come down and visit the representatives of your local dive operator and bring a friend who needs convincing that diving is the best thing ever, and amongst everyone in the dive village we will do our best to get them in the water. SURG will also be there showcasing some of the best photos taken in and around Cape Town’s waters. There are also bound to be a bunch of interesting course options, gear sales, camera displays and the like. Plus the rest of the boat show, which is well worth a look!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

To subscribe to receive this newsletter by email, use the form on this page!

Practice makes perfect: inflating an SMB

When it comes to inflating an SMB, there isn’t a textbook way of doing it. Sure, people have strong feelings about what’s right and what’s not, but as long as you get the SMB inflated without risking (or having) an uncontrolled ascent, that’s fine.

The method Tony prefers is to exhale into the bottom of the tube. That way, if necessary, you can let go of the SMB and not be dragged with it to the surface (this is a risk that exists if you use your octo to inflate it, as it might get stuck). The only way to get the hang of this process, which involves multiple moving parts, is to practice. Here’s Alex practising at Photographer’s Reef.

Here are two more videos of successful SMB inflation. If you dive in Cape Town, it’s absolutely essential to be able to perform this skill. Furthermore, it’s now part of the PADI Open Water course!

A Day on the Bay: Sealing the deal

Date: 24 November 2013

A seal does some crayfishing in Hout Bay
A seal does some crayfishing in Hout Bay

On a beautiful day in Hout Bay towards the end of last year, we were entertained by a seal that had caught a west coast rock lobster. The seal spent a lot of time parading around near the boat with his lobster, and we were suitably entertained. We dived the SS Maori and Die Josie and enjoyed the very mellow surface conditions and warm sun.

Shane, Christo, Odette, Gary, Matthys and Otti on board
Shane, Christo, Odette, Gary, Matthys and Otti on board

I was diving with Open Water students, so Gary skippered for us. On our way back into the harbour we came across the local NSRI station personnel doing towing exercises with their two vessels.

NSRI training exercises in Hout Bay harbour
NSRI training exercises in Hout Bay harbour

 

Skills: Deploying an SMB

Carrying an SMB (surface marker buoy) and knowing how to inflate it are vital skills for any diver, and particularly for divers who dive in demanding conditions that may include cold water, currents, and sites that are either far offshore or in areas where there may be a lot of boat traffic. Does that sound like Cape Town? Good, I mean it to.

We’ve posted before about how to inflate an SMB, and videos are ten a penny on youtube, but here’s one filmed in fairly common Cape Town conditions. It’s of Tony inflating an SMB that is so large he calls it his sea anchor, in murky green visibility in the Atlantic ocean. This particular SMB is also slightly negatively buoyant, which is slightly annoying as it droops downwards when you unroll it. It does the job, though, and when fully inflated can probably be seen from the moon.

Dive sites: Roman Rock

I’m not sure why I haven’t written about Roman Rock before. I’ve actually done four dives on the main reef, the first in 2010. The pictures in this post are from more than one of the dives – I’ll group them together, and you’ll be able to see by the water colour which dive is which.

Reef life at Roman Rock
Reef life at Roman Rock

Roman Rock reef is a very large collection of boulders separated by sand patches, centred on the Roman Rock lighthouse. Nearby reefs include Castor RockLivingstone ReefRoman’s RestWonder Reef, and Tivoli Pinnacles. The reef is comprised of granite boulders, heavily encrusted with typical Cape Town reef life – feather stars, brittle stars, nudibranchs, sea stars, urchins, sea cucumbers and ascidians – varying with the depth. If the current is strong you will find a lot of fish here, mostly roman and hottentot, enjoying the tasty bounty brought by the tide.

Part of the dive is along high walls that are reminiscent of Atlantis Reef, further south. There are deep dead-end passages in between the rocks, wide enough to swim through (or drive a car through), and the rippled sand looks like a white carpet or a runway. In the middle of nowhere you will come across a ladder; it’s been there since the first time I dived Roman Rock in 2010. Your guess is as good as mine.

Ladder in the middle of nowhere
Ladder in the middle of nowhere
Redbait at Roman Rock
Redbait at Roman Rock

The site is suitable for Open Water divers, as the maximum depth one can attain while staying adjacent to the reef is about 18 metres. There are several pinnacles and shallower plateaus that are suitable for deeper safety stops. It goes without saying that each diver must have a surface marker buoy – the site is a relatively short boat ride from False Bay Yacht Club, but offshore nonetheless and there may be boat traffic, depending on where the current takes you.

Dive date: 3 August 2013

Air temperature: 22 degrees

Water temperature: 14 degrees

Maximum depth: 16.5 metres

Visibility: 10 metres

Dive duration: 38 minutes