Newsletter: Just swell

Hi divers

Weekend diving

No dives planned  

Anemone at the Two Oceans Aquarium
Anemone at the Two Oceans Aquarium

Given the time of year, the large swells we are having are not all that unusual. Neither is the odd day or two of south easterly wind. Friday and Saturday feature both these gremlins, so conditions won’t really be great. Sunday’s forecast is a little rosier, however I doubt the visibility will have recovered and the surge will still be a lingering factor. This weekend my choice is to stay home.

regards

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

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Newsletter: Long weekend winds

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Boat or shore dives in False Bay

Burrowing anemone feeding
Burrowing anemone feeding

The weekend wind does not look devastatingly bad, but it doesn’t look all that great, either. It seems that the best days for False Bay are going to come late next week. I think Saturday will work for shore diving, or inshore boat diving at the top end of False Bay, for example in the Roman Rock area.

I will take a look at the conditions this afternoon and make a call. It’s the time of year when many people are on leave, so we can dive any day next week providing we have weather. Let me know if you want to be kept informed of plans!

regards

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

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Newsletter: A weekend off

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

No dives planned

We will not be diving this weekend, but if you are able to get into the water then do so. False Bay looks promising. We will be back to full dive mode on Monday morning.

Strawberry anemones, by Jerrel
Strawberry anemones, by Jerrel

Thank you to Jerrel for this week’s gorgeous photo of strawberry anemones, which he took on a dive off our boat to Roman Rock on Freedom Day.

Things to do

The winning photographs from the prestigious international Underwater Photographer of the Year Competition are on display at the Chavonnes Battery Museum until 30 September. The exhibition is in partnership with the NSRI. If you have a Wild Card, take it along for discounted entry.

regards

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

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Newsletter: Fan club

Hi divers

Saturday: Boat dives with OMSAC from Buffels Bay

Sunday: Deep dives, conditions dependent

Sinuous sea fan at Atlantis
Sinuous sea fan at Atlantis

Conditions report

We dived Long Beach on Saturday, and on Sunday went to Atlantis and Maidstone Rock. Conditions were good but then the south easter arrived! On Wednesday we launched in Hout Bay. The swell was around 2.5 metres and the wind started out light but eventually was gusting to closer to 40 km/h. Tafelberg Reef had around 6m visibility and about the same at the Katsu Maru. Below the surface it was okay, but the boat trip was a little hairy.

Strawberry anemones at Maidstone Rock
Strawberry anemones at Maidstone Rock

Weekend plans

This weekend looks really good from a wind point of view, but finding good viz will require going out and looking for it. False Bay and the Atlantic are both very patchy with a whole range of different colours offshore. Our plan is to Launch from Buffels Bay and go and look for viz. We are joining OMSAC for the day and they are going to dive, snorkel and braai.

Sunday will really depend on what the bay delivers on Saturday but I think it will be better at deeper sites like the Fleur and Outer Photographer’s Reef. There is a 14 second, 3 metre swell that will be felt on the shallower sites closer in shore. Sunday may be a day where we just cruise around and look for cleaner viz.

regards

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

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Sodwana diving photos (April 2014) – part I

We’ve been back from our Sodwana trip for almost a month, and I’m starting to look forward to my next dive trip, which has not been planned yet. Alas. With this small problem in mind I had a rummage through the underwater photos I took while we were in Sodwana, to try and recreate the experience.

Under the boat
Under the boat

I haven’t done a lot of diving this year, and no underwater photography to speak of, so I viewed my camera as a strange, unfamiliar machine when we arrived in Sodwana, and spent most of the six dives figuring out how it all worked (again). Furthermore, my confidence in my buoyancy wasn’t great at the start of the trip, so I didn’t want to go too close to anything. I want to punch divers who crunch the coral, so I didn’t want to be that diver this time around!

Swimming across the sand gap at Stringer
Swimming across the sand gap at Stringer

As a result my underwater photos from the trip are mostly quite questionable. I include some here, more to show you how beautiful the reefs and clear water can be in Sodwana, rather than for you to marvel at my prowess in underwater photography. I took several videos, which I’ll share in the coming weeks – you can get an idea of how good the visibility is and how abundant the coral is from a bit of moving picture footage.

Angie photographing snappers
Angie photographing snappers

We struggled a little with the surge on one of our diving days in particular, but this is something that is a fact of life when diving on South Africa’s north coast. We mostly did shallow dives, and the reefs at Sodwana lie along a very exposed stretch of coast with few natural bays to protect divers from wind and swell. These factors combined to expose us to some near-washing machine conditions at times! Relaxing in the water and letting the surge move you about is the only way to deal with it, assuming you’ve got a handle on your buoyancy. Holding onto the reef or swimming against the surge are bad ideas.

You can see some photos from past Sodwana diving trips here.

Clownfish in their anemone
Clownfish in their anemone

Newsletter: Dates to diarise

Hi divers

We are off travelling for ten days, so this week’s newsletter is a list of dates to diarise!

The photos in this newsletter are from a lovely deep dive for an Advanced course that we did at Outer Photographer’s Reef on Saturday, followed by a dive at Phoenix Shoal just outside the harbour in Simon’s Town. There are some videos from the Outer Photographer’s Reef dive here. The visibility on both dives was 6-8 metres, but yesterday it had improved to 10 metres at Seal Rock and Shark Alley (no cowsharks though).

Anemones at Outer Photographer's Reef
Anemones at Outer Photographer’s Reef

ScubaPro Day – Saturday 26 October

The ScubaPro Day takes place at False Bay Yacht Club on Saturday 26 October. Discounted boat dives and the chance to try some dive gear (tips on that here) – the participating dive charters will take bookings directly. There are four launch times, starting nice and early. Underwater Explorers is participating if you’re at a loose end!

Diversnight International – Thursday 7 November

November 7th is Diversnight International, sign up here. It is an international event with the aim of having as many divers in the water as possible at 8.13pm (2013 – get it?). If you enjoy night diving, or want to try it out, then you should be there. It’s quite festive. More details about this event will be provided when we get back from the Red Sea!

DAN Day – Saturday 9 November

We attended the last DAN day in Cape Town, which comprised a tour of the SA Navy diving facility, and a series of excellent talks by DAN medics and the NSRI. The next one is on Saturday 9 November, and comes highly recommended. Early booking is essential (the last one was fully subscribed) – more info here.

Strawberry anemones
Strawberry anemones

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Fields of fish

Hi divers

It’s winter so not as many people dive as they do in summer, but the week’s diving has been good with little or no swell and clean water at around 15 degrees. We had lovely conditions at the infrequently-dived wreck of the Brunswick last Saturday, before the rain came, and equally good conditions at Long Beach yesterday. There are some photos on facebook here and here. If you haven’t liked our facebook page already, please do – you can keep up to date with what we’re up to. We post photos regularly and try to do a visibility report whenever we dive.

Fish and box jellies at Long Beach
Fish and box jellies at Long Beach

For once the weekend weather and dive plan is an easy call. Both days look exceptionally good and the bay is quite clean and calm right now. We are attending the DAN Cape Town event on Saturday so there will be no diving, but we will launch on Sunday to do qualifying dives for Open Water students. We will launch from the Yacht Club in Simon’s Town and the plan will be to visit Photographer’s Reef and the cowsharks.

Anemone on the Brunswick
Anemone on the Brunswick

Please remember your MPA permits. If you plan to come diving, check that yours is valid. If you don’t have one (or if it’s expired), head down to the post office with your ID book and about R100 and ask for a “scuba diving permit”. We dive a lot inside the marine protected area, for which you need a permit.

Wreckage of the Brunswick
Wreckage of the Brunswick

Our Red Sea trip is in October (17-26th). There are still one or two spaces on the liveaboard if you feel like a last minute (almost) holiday, but it’s almost full. We’ll do a local trip (to Sodwana or Durban) again in the new year so don’t worry if you miss out!

regards

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

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Dive sites: Brunswick

Tony and students on the surface over the wreck of the Brunswick
Tony and students on the surface over the wreck of the Brunswick

The Brunswick is a historical wooden shipwreck that lies a few hundred metres off the northern end of Long Beach in Simon’s Town, directly opposite the northern end of the white apartment buildings overlooking the Main Road. Like HNMS Bato, she is infrequently dived. Having lain underwater since 1805, she is heavily overgrown and much of her decking and hull is covered by sand. She used to be a shore entry (with a precipitous climb over the railway line), but in recent years a large number of boulders have been added as a breakwater between the ocean and the railway line, and climbing over in dive gear is no longer possible. For this reason we do the dive from the boat. Close to shore and in shallow water, the Brunswick is an ideal site to get used to boat diving.

Extensive field of wooden decking
Extensive field of wooden decking

The Brunswick was a British East Indiaman, which means she carried men and goods between Britain and the East Indies – (south)east Asia and India. She was carrying a cargo of cotton and sandalwood from China back to Britain when she was captured by some French vessels off Sri Lanka, and brought to Simon’s Bay. In September 1805 her anchor rope parted, and she ran aground during a south easterly gale. Most of her cargo was salvaged, as she lies in shallow (less than six metres deep) water.

We found the dive site to be similar to HNMS Bato, which was also a sturdily built wooden ship of similar vintage. The Brunswick was 1,200 tons, and her wreckage is spread out quite extensively. There are many thick, wooden planks, laid out as they would have been to form her decks, as well as much evidence of the bronze bolts that secured parts of the ship together. There are also many copper bolts, rivets and what could be small amounts of rolled up copper sheathing in evidence on the site.

Anemone among feather stars and papery burnupena
Anemone among feather stars and papery burnupena

The highests parts of the wreck are covered with feather stars, anemones, sea cucumbers, and kelp. There are many octopus, and peering under the wreckage with a torch yielded a couple of very large pyjama catsharks. We were lucky to dive the site most recently on a day with lovely visibility, and the shallowness of the water means that there’s a lot of light penetration which improves things enormously.

The highest parts of the Brunswick wreck
The highest parts of the Brunswick wreck

Before diving this site, you should call the SA Navy Ops Room on 021 787 3818, to ask for permission and to tell them how long you’ll be. Same procedure as at Long Beach.

Dive date: 13 July 2013

Air temperature: 19 degrees

Water temperature: 15 degrees

Maximum depth: 5.4 metres

Visibility: 10 metres

Dive duration: 42 minutes

Mark helps Christo at the boat after the dive
Mark helps Christo at the boat after the dive

Dive sites: MV Katsu Maru

The MV Katsu Maru is a 40 metre long Japanese trawler, now lying approximately 30 metres south west of the MV Aster in Hout Bay. On days with good visibility, which has been the case both times I’ve dived her, you can sometimes see both wrecks at the same time.

Unfortunately both dives I’ve done on the Katsu Maru featured misted up camera housings. This was connected to the excellent visibility; the sea was icy cold thanks to the upwelling that follows a south easterly wind, and the air was hot. My camera didn’t like it and I am used to the easy conditions in False Bay that allow me to be fairly cavalier about keeping my housing cool between dives. These photos therefore don’t show the ship in quite the same way as I saw it. But hopefully you get the idea.

The keel of the Katsu Maru
The keel of the Katsu Maru

The wreck lies on her side, with her superstructure half buried and the bottom of her hull angled slightly upwards. There is a distinct keel strip running the length of the ship. To me she looks like nothing so much as a submarine when viewed from behind. When one swims around the wreck, the remaining superstructure can be seen and her funnel is revealed.

The trawler sank after sustaining a hole on her port side, which is visible as she is resting on her starboard side in the sand. The wreck has been there since 1978; about sixteen years later the Aster was stripped and scuttled nearby to join her. The relative positions of these wrecks makes them ideal for a rebreather dive (in drysuits) or a navigation dive from one to the other. I’ve been on the boat with divers who have attempted to cross the 30 metre gap from the Aster to the Katsu Maru in poor visibility, and have spent a delightful dive on the sand. The proximity of a sewerage outlet pipe adds a delightful element of risk to this strategy.

Anemone on the Katsu Maru
Anemone on the Katsu Maru

If you swim into the scour at her stern, you’ll get about 28 metres. I spent most of the dive on top of her hull, at about 16 metres. Limited penetration of the wreck may be possible, but it is probably a stupid idea (and if you’re not trained to do it, it’s definitely a stupid idea).

There isn’t an enormous amount of striking sea life on this wreck, but I think it’s my favourite one in Cape Town simply for the way she’s lying. Nothing makes me feel as though I am really taking full advantage of the three dimensional movement that diving offers as much as swimming along what is actually the bottom of a ship.

Dive date: 9 February 2013

Air temperature: 23 degrees

Water temperature: 9 degrees

Maximum depth: 25.4 metres

Visibility: 15 metres

Dive duration: 24 minutes

Newsletter: For the love of snoek

Hi divers

The keel of the Katsu Maru
The keel of the Katsu Maru

We launched out of Hout Bay last weekend, visiting the MV Katsu Maru and the Sentinel on Saturday and the SS Maori and seals on Sunday. Despite planning to cancel Sunday we took a chance and had really good conditions. The Atlantic has been holding its own as far as visibility is concerned and has not gone green as quickly as expected. This I think is partly due to a few days of low 20s temperatures, instead of the expected 28- 30 degrees.

Anemone on the Katsu Maru
Anemone on the Katsu Maru

Below (courtesy of a CSIR weather buoy) you can see just how quickly things can change and the temperature rose by 6 degrees in less than three hours today. Warm Atlantic usually means dirty water but there is a fair bit of southeaster between now and Sunday to make it a maybe day.

CSIR weather buoy data
CSIR weather buoy data

False Bay is currently a little dark and green and we had 2-3 metre visibility on our first dive today at Caravan Reef, with around 6 metre visibility at Pyramid Rock. There is not much weather about that will clear the bay so I doubt we will launch there. Sunday also sees the Peninsula Marathon finishing in Simon’s Town, and that will make getting in and out a bit on the slow side.

On Saturday I will either be in the pool doing Open Water students’ skills, or doing Open Water and Rescue at Long Beach.

The parking area at Hout Bay during the snoek run
The parking area at Hout Bay during the snoek run

The snoek run off Kommetjie has resulted in Hout Bay harbour being a total mess with the most impressive display of bad manners, shoddy parking and general garbage dumping I have seen since the last office Christmas party I attended. It has been like this for most of this week and if it is still like that on Sunday we will do a late start double tank dive. I will make that call early on Sunday morning as there is also some swell, set to drop, but we wont know till early Sunday. Please let me know if you would like to dive on Sunday.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!