BirdLife South Africa Flock at Sea AGAIN! 2017 – part i (the boat)

A disclaimer up front: Tony and I are not bird people (we are more “anything that moves” people). While we are friends with several serious twitchers, we tend to get distracted by landscapes and the large beige beasts that birds sometimes sit on. Our decision to book a spot for ourselves on the BirdLife South Africa AGM trip, Flock at Sea AGAIN! 2017 may seem puzzling.

View of Table Mountain as we were leaving Cape Town
View of Table Mountain as we were leaving Cape Town

We had a few reasons for wanting to do the trip, which ran from Monday 24 until Friday 28 April. First, we wanted to figure out whether the two of us can handle cruise ship life (confined space, many people, forced entertainment, dancing girls) sufficiently well that long held dreams of a Hurtigruten trip, or a cruise along the Alaskan coastline, could one day be realised. This short, reasonably inexpensive trip seemed an ideal proving ground. A second reason was that the route the cruise would follow promised the opportunity to see some cool stuff (including birds), and to go to parts of the ocean we’re not likely to get to on our own.

MSC Sinfonia looking festive
MSC Sinfonia looking festive

We made the booking nearly two years in advance to assist BirdLife in getting enough passengers on board to secure permission from MSC to determine the route the cruise ship would take. This also meant that the price was seriously discounted, which was great. At the time, I felt ridiculous for planning a holiday so far in the future and couldn’t imagine being around to go on it, but here we are.

Route of Flock at Sea AGAIN! 2017
Route of Flock at Sea AGAIN! 2017

The cruise route was out along the edge of the continental shelf from Cape Town towards a few seamounts that lie more or less directly south of Cape Agulhas. There was birding, with bird guides who could identify a hummingbird at 300 metres with one eye blindfolded, on most of the decks of the ship during daylight hours. There was also a full lecture schedule, which was part of what appealed to me about the cruise. I listened to Peter Harrison, raconteur extraordinaire, bird guide author and artist, talk on penguins and albatrosses, and Prof Peter Ryan talk about Marion Island. The talks were held in the ship’s theatre, and were illustrated with magical pictures taken by the speakers. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

Attending a talk in the ship's theatre
Attending a talk in the ship’s theatre

I also attended a talk on Antarctica, and one on the Albatross Task Force. This is a project of BirdLife that works to reduce seabird bycatch in the fishing industry. This has been a very successful program to date, and has overseen significant reductions in albatross mortality on long lines.

The view of the Table Mountain range gets more complicated as one moves south alongside the peninsula
The view of the Table Mountain range gets more complicated as one moves south alongside the peninsula

Being on such a big ship was a new experience. The first night was a bit wild and windy, but I was more disturbed by the whistling of the wind through our balcony door (showing great mechanical aptitude, it took us 24 hours to figure out how the latch worked) than by particularly extreme movement of the ship. Some of the days were cloudy, but the air temperature was comfortable – mostly because we were travelling eastwards towards warmer water, even though we were moving south as well.

Having a room with a balcony meant that escape was always possible. In practice, however, the ship was so large that one could always find a quiet spot to contemplate if it was required. We ate our meals at the buffet restaurant because we enjoyed the flexibility (and the food), but for those who like to dress up and be waited upon there was a fancier restaurant with set times for sittings.

Takkies on the sun deck
Takkies on the sun deck

We had a great time, finding it extremely relaxing to be surrounded by the ocean with no option to engage in anything stress-inducing. In a couple of days I’ll share a bit more of what we saw while on board, but I’ll leave you with some of the views that we saw while on board, and on returning to harbour at the end of the trip.

Newsletter: In the zone

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Boat dives or Long Beach dives, depending on conditions

We seem to have fallen into a weekday diving zone where conditions are good for a few days during the week and then the weekend comes and the wheels fall off.

There is a lot of swell and wind in the forecast as well as some abrupt wind direction changes. This all makes for “look before you go” type planning that hardly works well. Saturday is definitely out. Sunday will depend on how bad Saturday is, and we will make the call on Sunday morning.

Langebaan lagoon
Langebaan lagoon

As a last resort we may opt for a Long Beach dive as it is somewhat sheltered.

Diversnight

We got the date wrong last week. (It’s correct here.) Diversnight is on Saturday 4 November this year. Diarise!

regards

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

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Newsletter: Rinse and repeat

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday & Sunday: Check conditions the day before, and make a call

Filling station for boats on Sandhamn
Filling station for boats on Sandhamn

As weekends go at this time of year, this one is a weirdo. There is meant to be a 6 metre swell tomorrow, so diving might not be good… But the predicted swell is very westerly so diving may be good. There might be little wind on Saturday with a lot of swell, and more wind on Sunday with less swell… Weather sites disagree violently.

The plan is to check conditions tomorrow afternoon and decide for Saturday, and rinse and repeat on Sunday. If you’re keen to dive, let me know and I’ll keep you posted!

Odds & ends

About this week’s photo: we continue with last week’s theme of marine filling stations. We saw this one on the island of Sandhamn in the Stockholm Archipelago.

On Wednesday 16 August (next week), a book about Nicole, the great white shark that was tagged off South Africa’s coast and swam all the way to Australia and back, will be launched at Kalk Bay Books. Sounds interesting. Event details here.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

Newsletter: Life aboard

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Staying dry

The swell peaks at 8 metres with 18 second period tonight. It starts to drop off during the following few days, however I doubt the conditions will have settled enough on Saturday for training dives. Sunday has some south easter so we will have a dry weekend.

SA Agulhas II berthed in Cape Town
SA Agulhas II berthed in Cape Town

SA Agulhas II open day

Visit the East Pier Quay at the V&A Waterfront on Saturday (24 June) to get a rare opportunity to go aboard South Africa’s state of the art polar research vessel, SA Agulhas II. A little bit more info from the Department of Environmental Affairs is available here (pdf). We visited the ship a few years ago – read more about that visit here.

regards

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

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Newsletter: To the point

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Boat dives from Hout Bay harbour

I am short of time today so I will be brief and to the point. Sunday looks like the best option for diving, and Hout Bay looks like the best location. Text or email me if you are keen to dive.

View towards Misty Cliffs from Scarborough Beach
View towards Misty Cliffs from Scarborough Beach

Good news

Reports are that the sevengill cowsharks at Millers Point have cautiously reappeared – I think they’ve possibly been absent since March! We look forward to verifying the reports when False Bay’s visibility is a bit cleaner.

regards

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

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Newsletter: Still waiting

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Possible launches out of OPBC in Granger Bay

We are still waiting for the non stop south easter to stop blowing, or to at least ease up. False Bay is grumpy to say the least, but the Atlantic is clean and cold, around 9 degrees celsius.

Dwarf sperm whale at the V&A Waterfront
Dwarf sperm whale at the V&A Waterfront

Sadly the wind does not really ease off until late on Monday so I am unable to commit to launching this weekend just yet. On Saturday afternoon we will make a final call as to whether we can dive on Sunday but it would most likely be Table Bay, most likely North and South Paw. If we can go to Hout Bay then we may visit the Aster and the Katsu Maru as there may be some respite from the wind inside the bay.

Text or email me if you want to be on the list.

regards

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

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Newsletter: Purple crayons

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Possible dives out of Hout Bay if the wind and swell give us a break!

It seems the forecaster at WindGURU found the box of purple crayons and has been liberal with them. Other than a slight lull in the wind forecast for Sunday, it’s purple all of next week too. I very much doubt we will get out on Sunday as there is currently a 4 metre swell flexing its muscles. The Atlantic water colour and temperature show signs of great visibility so if the wind is acceptable on Sunday we will launch from Hout Bay. Text, mail or Whatsapp if you want to be on the list.

Diversnight 2016 at the Simon's Town jetty
Diversnight 2016 at the Simon’s Town jetty

Diversnight 2016 took place last weekend. We dived off the Simon’s Town jetty in a chilly wind. Luckily the visibility was excellent and the fishermen only arrived towards the end of our dive. There are a few photos on facebook.

regards

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

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Newsletter: Diversnight coming up

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Boat or shore dives in the morning (early); night dive at Simon’s Town jetty at 7.00 pm

Its been a while since I have seen Muizenberg this clean, not that I go there all that often, but I do think we are going to have really good visibility in False Bay by Saturday and plan to start really early. At this point I have yet to decide on whether to shore dive or boat dive but will make that decision early tomorrow, so please text me your preference.

Muizenberg this evening
Muizenberg this evening

Diversnight!

Diversnight takes place on Saturday evening. We will be diving off the jetty in Simon’s Town (note change of location), meeting at 7.00 pm. We need to be in the water at the hour of 8.16 pm (2016!) for our efforts to count towards the official Diversnight aims of, uh, night diving around the world at the same time. There’s a facebook event here, and the official event page here.

Please let me know by 5 pm tomorrow if you’re coming so that I can give the jettymaster the approximate number of divers to expect. If you need any gear, you need to tell me by tomorrow as well please.

regards

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

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Newsletter: All about that wind

Hi divers

Weekend diving

Saturday: Shore dives at 8.30 am at Long Beach

Sunday: Simon’s Town jetty at 9.30 am for Atlantis and 12.00 pm for Tivoli Pinnacles

View down the jetty
View down the jetty

We head into summer now, and diving becomes very much all about the wind. Tomorrow’s wind favours False Bay for the weekend, and despite some real south easter yesterday the water colour is not bad at all.

Our plan is to shore dive on Saturday and boat dive on Sunday. Saturday will be an early start, 8.30 am at Long BeachSunday will be a jetty pick-up at 9.30 am for Atlantis and 12.00 pm for Tivoli Pinnacles.

regards

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

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Newsletter: Pretty perfect

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Boat dives from False Bay yacht club at 8.30 am to Roman Rock or Photographers Reef / divers’ choice for the second dive

The forecast for the weekend is really good with almost no wind or swell. False Bay is a pleasant colour and temperature.

Our plan is to meet in the False Bay yacht club parking lot in Simons Town at 8.30 am on Sunday. We will most likely dive Roman Rock or Photographers Reef for the first dive and let divers’ choice determine the site for the second dive.

Jetty behind the aloe
Jetty behind the aloe

Handy info

The toilets at the Simons Town jetty are currently closed for renovations as I understand it. They are due to be ready soon but I do not have a date. Also note that the Wharf street parking at the jetty is again a paid parking area for the season.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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