Responsible diving during a drought part 1: Your dive gear

It is no secret that Cape Town is a little low on water. The coastal dive industry, even though we spend a lot of time in the ocean, is actually quite a heavy user of fresh water. Everything thing you learn about taking care of your equipment revolves around the phrase “rinse well with clean water.” Clearly this is not an option in Cape Town at the moment

Dive gear in the driveway
Dive gear in the driveway

So how do you maintain your dive gear and keep it in safe condition during such circumstances? For a dive centre or training facility the volume of gear that needs cleaning can be overwhelming at the end of the day. Here are a few suggestions on how to manage.

No matter how well you de-kit after a shore dive, wet dive gear tends to collect sand. (You can minimise this by using something like the Wetsac, but this isn’t always an option with my students.) I take the gear back into the ocean and rinse it as well as I can in the shallows. This involves several trips as wet dive gear is heavy.

Wetsuits are rugged and don’t too much mind being left salty. They do end up being a little crispy after a while, but the most important, non-negotiable aspect is hygiene. I take a spray bottle with a mixture of Savlon or Dettol and spray the inside of the salty wet suit, then let it dry. Gloves, booties, hoodies and rash vests get the same treatment.

Regulators get a similar treatment, without the disinfectant. I give them an overall light spray with warm water in a spray bottle, with a good spray into the mouth piece. The inflator hose nipple also needs to be rinsed well as this does not handle salt build-up too well and could get stuck during a dive (at best, annoying… at worst, life-threatening).

Cameras, dive computers, torches and compasses do need a little more care, but fortunately are relatively small and have lesser water requirements. I use a narrow, tall bucket and put the bucket in the shower. While showering you can easily catch enough water to cover these items…. Seldom more than a litre is required, and you can leave them to soak.

The biggest challenge is a BCD. Again, it is a tough and rugged piece of gear, but the inflator mechanism does not like salt build up. Using the same bucket of water used for the camera and dive computers, I soak the inflators overnight. I then connect an airline and inflate and deflate the BCD to help flush out the valves behind the inflate/deflate buttons.

Whilst such basic, minimalistic care for your dive gear is not as thorough as that recommended by the manufacturer, it is a method of extending the use of your gear when the availability of fresh water is close to zero. As a rule I prefer to only have two students per class and can effectively wash three sets of gear in less than three litres of water.

It goes without saying that as soon as it rains, you should be collecting that water to give your gear the long, luxurious soak it deserves (and probably needs by that stage)!

Genius gear: the Wetsac

Using the WetSac
Using the WetSac

Several years ago the wonderful Tami gave me a WETSAC for my birthday. It sounds like something squishy and perhaps offensive, but in fact it is a marvel of ingenuity and designed to improve the lives of divers and surfers and outdoorsmen everywhere. She bought it at a craft market in Hout Bay, and both of us have been hunting for a retailer of this product since then. Recently, I struck it lucky with a well phrased google search (something like “wet bag”).

How many times have you struggled out of your wetsuit on a rough surface (Miller’s Point parking area and Hout Bay harbour, I’m looking at you), hurting your feet, standing on the neoprene and pressing it into the tar? You’re damaging yourself and your gear! Then you toss the dripping, smelly wetsuit into the back of your car – into a box, if you’re organised – and hope it doesn’t spray seawater and bits of grit from the parking area everywhere while you drive home.

WETSAC is here to help. Essentially a mat that converts into a waterproof bag, it comprises a circular piece of tough fabric with a drawstring around the edge. You stand on it to get out of your suit, throw in your gloves, hoodie and booties, then step off and pull the drawstring tight. Toss the bag into your divemobile and don’t worry about remnants of your diving and changing adventures ending up all over the boot. It is beyond convenient. Plus, you can buy it online. Make a note for next Christmas!

(I was not compensated in any way for this post… The thing is just geninuely nifty!)

Handy hints: Getting respect on the boat

Do your fellow divers not give you the respect you feel you deserve? Lisa has the answer to all your problems: scare them with a high fashion Doberman hoodie! Some visual intimidation will do the trick.

Lisa in her awesome Doberman hoodie
Lisa in her awesome Doberman hoodie

She was trying out a new hoodie that was a gift from a friend on a dive just after Christmas. I thought she looked like a very friendly Doberman, but maybe it is a superhero hoodie like my Batman one. Whatever the case, it looks pretty awesome.

Christmas gift guide 2013

Ok so this is a bit late, and if you haven’t done your Christmas, Hannukah and Festivus shopping yet, shame on you. Or just shame. Most of these ideas don’t entail going to a mall and having your personal space invaded by ten thousand hormonal adolescents. You can order online, or make a phone call or two. Get going!

Christmas at Sandy Cove
Christmas at Sandy Cove

Books

For the reader, you could check out our book reviews, arranged by topic:

I’m not going to suggest a magazine subscription – I’ve let most of ours lapse as we seem to have entered a long dark teatime of the soul when it comes to South African diving magazines. If the quality picks up, they’ll be back on the gift list at the end of 2014.

Dive gear

Check out What’s in My Dive Bag for some ideas… You can contact Andre for most of these:

Make sure you know the returns/exchanges policy of wherever you make your purchases. Some places can be difficult, and if the mask doesn’t fit it’s no good at all!

For lady divers

For the diving lady in your life (or your man friend with too much hair), what about some rich hair conditioner to apply before going in the water? Suggestions here. A pack of cheap, soft fabric elasticated hairbands is a good stocking filler.

Some high SPF, waterproof sunscreen, or a nice hooded towel for grown ups (available in one or two of the surf shops in Muizenberg) would also not go amiss.

Experiences

Don’t forget to add a memory card for the lucky recipient’s camera if you plan to gift any of these! Contact Tony for prices.

For the non diver, you could inspire a love for our oceans with one of these:

For those who need (or like) to relax

Memberships

Wall art

Clip Clop designs and prints beautiful tide charts for Cape Town and Durban and moon phase charts for the year. You can order online or usually find them at Exclusive Books.

My underwater alphabet is available for R200 in A1 size, fully laminated. Shout if you want a copy.

If you take your own photos, you could print and frame a couple, or experiment with stretched canvas prints if that’s your thing. A digital photo frame pre-loaded with underwater images is also a lovely gift for a diving friend.

Donations

For the person who has everything, or because you’re feeling grateful:

Stings and things

Box sea jellies (Carybdea branchi) are common in Cape waters, and we sometimes see great swarms of them. They are characterised by a roughly cubic bell, with a single tentacle emanating from each lower corner. The tentacles may be retracted at will (if you touch one by accident, the tentacle shortens), and the jellies seem to extend them further at night – possibly for feeding purposes.

Box sea jelly at Long Beach
Box sea jelly with tentacles of various lengths at Long Beach

It is these trailing tentacles that can, it turns out, deliver a nasty sting. I have swum too close to a box jelly before, and where its tentacles touched my exposed face I felt as though I’d been splashed with hot water (actually not a wholly unpleasant experience on a cold dive). Within a few minutes the sensation was gone, and no marks remained when I came out of the water. On a night dive at Long Beach in July, however, I had a proper experience of how these jellies can sting.

I didn’t even notice the jellyfish as I swam around the wreck, but suddenly became aware of an intense stinging sensation around my neck where the top of my wetsuit meets the edge of my hoodie. We were only ten minutes into the dive, so I put it to the back of my mind and continued swimming. The pain was still there when I exited the water, and became more intense as my skin dried. I rinsed off in fresh water at the beach, and we headed home. The lower half of the front of my neck was an angry red colour with raised white welts. More rinsing in warm fresh water, and then an application of (not joking) some All Stings Considered gel that Tony bought in Durban ages ago did little to dull the pain.

Box jelly sting
Box jelly sting

It was a full three days before my neck stopped looking and feeling angry, red and lumpy. Tony reluctantly sent me off to the office – wearing a scarf, lest my colleagues think he strangles me in his spare time. As the sting healed it progressed to looking like a severe case of adult onset acne. We washed my hoodie, wetsuit and rash vest thoroughly to make sure that no stinging cells remained on them, because they can retain their stinging power for some time. Unfortunately not thoroughly enough, because the following weekend when I put on my wetsuit I was stung again, quite extensively – in the same spot on the front of my neck, and also around the back. Time to washing machine the wetsuit!

Round two of the jellyfish sting
Round two of the jellyfish sting

Fortunately our box jelly is nowhere near as venomous as some of the varieties found in Australia and Indonesia. I very much doubt that anyone has died from a South African box jelly sting. That said, if you’re the sort of person who reacts violently to things and often needs antihistamines, I’d take care to avoid exposure where possible.  The NSRI has a fascinating explanation of the stinging mechanism and a run down of some of the treatment options here.

We are actually very fortunate that there are very few ways to get stung in Cape waters. The odds of a sting when one wears so much exposure protection are very small. The other frequent stinging culprit is the bluebottle, which tends to affect swimmers and those strolling on the beach more than it does scuba divers. Don’t hate the jellyfish!

Newsletter: All aboard!

Hi divers

Summer winds are fading and winter winds are slowly starting to arrive. The visibility of the Atlantic sites drops off and the water in False bay gets cleaner and cleaner as if pumped through a filter. A whole new range of creatures start to make an appearance while other creatures hide somewhere warmer. There are still several giant short tail stingrays hanging around at Miller’s Point, where the fishing boats drop the fish guts overboard near the slipway.

Ray at the slipway
Ray at the slipway

Many people feel it’s too cold to dive in winter… It is cold for sure, but with the right gear and on the right days, winter diving in Cape Town beats anything summer can come up with. Currently False Bay is clean and the temperature is around  15-16 degrees. By adding a shorty, decent gloves and a thicker hoodie you are all set. Dry suits, or damp suits as I call them, do also work, when they work. I don’t sell gear but I am very happy to give advice on whether a deal is a deal or a rip off!

Sevengill cowshark
Sevengill cowshark

We had fair conditions last weekend and dived with the sevengill cowsharks (thanks to Tamsyn again for the awesome photo!) and the seals on Sunday. It was surgy and the viz wasn’t the best but Shark Alley was swarming with sharks. Unfortunately the seals didn’t want to come and play because of the swell. Fortunately the reef around Partridge Point is stunning! The wind has been north and west a few days this week and the visibility has improved.

Weekend plans

As for the weekend – tomorrow looks the best, but Saturday could work for one launch to Tivoli Pinnacles or an early double tank dive to Atlantis and Outer Castle.  The wind comes up very strongly around lunchtime so we want to be out of the water early. Sunday will be wetter on the surface than it will below so I guess it’s a stay at home and watch Formula 1 instead.

As usual text me if you want to dive tomorrow or on Saturday. We are really looking forward to our Durban trip on 17 June, which is getting closer. There is still space on this trip and our Red Sea liveaboard trip in October, so give it some thought and let me know if you want more information.

One of the divers on the boat two weeks ago took this video of the seal we saw at the slipway. Keep watching right to the end!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Look out for Batman

Hi divers

March weather has not been too kind and we have had very few days of good conditions. Two long weekends of no diving and we once again head into a weekend that does not look promising. Last weekend a pod of false killer whales beached on Noordhoek Beach and again on the Simon’s Town side of the peninsula. More on that here.

Long Beach on Monday
Long Beach on Monday

We dived Shark Alley today and had around 3 metre visibility. On the trip there and back I stopped and looked at a few sites and found only dark green and brown water. There is not too much wind around to clean that up. Plus the Navy festival that happens every year around now brings traffic in and out of Simon’s Town to a grinding halt. Parking, even at Long Beach, becomes very scarce. Hout Bay and Table Bay have a similar dark tinge to the water and in fact the water temperature tonight off Kommetijie at the CSIR buoy is just under 15 degrees, the same as False Bay. Warm Atlantic most often means dirty water.

It unfortunately means a dry weekend unless you try Indigo  Scuba in Gordon’s Bay or the Two Oceans Aquarium.

My new Batman hoodie
My new Batman hoodie

Veronica, Kate‘s mum, arrived a few days ago from the UK and brought me the most amazing piece of dive gear ever. I know you will all want to try it out but the answer will be no so don’t ask!!!!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

Christmas gift guide 2012

In the interest of planning ahead, here’s our annual Christmas gift guide. This is specially for the people whose idea of a good gift is “whatever’s available in a shop close to the mall entrance on 23 December!”

Books

For the reader, you could check out our book reviews, arranged by topic:

There are also a couple of children’s books to consider.

Dive gear

Check out What’s in My Dive Bag for some ideas… You can contact Andre for most of these:

Make sure you know the returns/exchanges policy of wherever you make your purchases. Some places can be difficult, and if the mask doesn’t fit it’s no good at all!

For lady divers

For the diving lady in your life (or your man friend with too much hair), what about some rich hair conditioner to apply before going in the water – suggestions here, otherwise try what I’m currently using: Aussie Moist Three Minute Miracle, which is available at Clicks. A pack of cheap, soft fabric elasticated hairbands is a good stocking filler.

Some high SPF, waterproof sunscreen, or a nice hooded towel for grown ups (available in one or two of the surf shops in Muizenberg) would also not go amiss.

Experiences

Don’t forget to add a memory card for the lucky recipient’s camera if you plan to gift any of these! Contact Tony for prices.

For those who need (or like) to relax

Magazine subscriptions

Memberships

Wall art

Clip Clop designs and prints beautiful tide charts for Cape Town and Durban and moon phase charts for the year. You can order online or find them at Exclusive Books.

My underwater alphabet is available for R200 in A1 size, fully laminated. Shout if you want a copy.

If you take your own photos, you could print and frame a couple, or experiment with stretched canvas prints if that’s your thing. A digital photo frame pre-loaded with underwater images is also a lovely gift for a diving friend.

Donations

For the person who has everything, or because you’re feeling grateful:

Mask remove and replace

Kirsten taking off her mask in the pool
Kirsten taking off her mask in the pool

Mask remove and replace is a skill that some find quite tricky, but once you’ve relaxed, adjusted your mind to the fact that you probably aren’t going to see much when the mask is off, and told yourself that water isn’t going to go up your nose, it’s not too difficult to master.

It’s not something you’ll have to do in the course of a routine dive, but it’s to prepare you for the event when your mask strap breaks, a fellow diver kicks your mask off, or your mask floods for some other reason (such has excessive hair inside the seal). Wearing a hoodie definitely helps with the “replace” part of the equation, as the strap goes on easily.