Directions to Kommetjie Boat Club

The launch site at Kommetjie Boat Club
The launch site at Kommetjie Boat Club

For the sake of completeness I feel that I should provide directions to one other “slipway” on the Cape Peninsula, suitable for small craft launching. Kommetjie Boat Club has a large, spacious paved parking area for vehicles and trailers, but the slipway isn’t tarred. Only boats samller than 5.5 metres can launch here.

Channel at Kommetjie Boat Club
Channel at Kommetjie Boat Club

You must drive your boat onto the beach, launch it, turn the car around on the beach to drive it off, and turn the boat around in the small launching basin in order to drive it out of a narrow channel bounded by rocks and kelp. It isn’t suitable for launching at low tides, and as there is nowhere to tie the boat up, one needs an assistant in the vehicle to handle that side of things.

Kommetjie Boat Club
Kommetjie Boat Club

However, during crayfish season this is an extremely popular launch site. If you plan to launch there out of season you need to call first so that someone can open the boom for you.

How to get there

If you have a GPS, put in the intersection of Beach Road and Van der Horst Avenue, Kommetjie. The parking for the boat club is right there.

If you don’t have a GPS:

  • Get thee to Kommetjie.
  • From Cape Town, this would entail driving all the way to the end of the M3 and then over Ou Kaapse Weg.
  • From Hout Bay, come along Chapmans Peak Drive and continue straight until a stop street at the bottom of Ou Kaapse Weg. Turn right here.
    • At the bottom of Ou Kaapse Weg go through the first traffic light (labelled Sun Valley), unless you’re planning to come and visit us.
    • At the next traffic light, turn right into Kommetjie Road.
    • Follow it until it curves south, and at the convenience store turn right into Van Imhoff Way.
    • Van Imhoff becomes Beach Road – follow it to the right.
    • Drive past Die Kom and soon on your left you will see the parking area for the launch site.

Here’s a map showing the parking area, and just above it the beach that you launch from. The channel to get to the open sea is visible leading off the beach, as are vehicle tracks on the beach.

There’s a little bit of information about the history of the Kommetjie Boat Club on this page, two thirds of the way down.

Freedom Swim part IV: heading home

Anangel Happiness
Anangel Happiness

On our way back from Big Bay, we took a slightly roundabout route to OPBC, passing some of the ships that were anchored offshore in Table Bay. Ships anchor here when they are waiting to enter the harbour, but some also stay for longer periods of time, in order to effect repairs, or because they cannot continue further. E-Whale, a bulk carrier about which you will hear a bit more next week, has been here for over two years.

Bulbous bow of E-Whale
Bulbous bow of E-Whale

E-Whale has a bulbous bow that looks as though it’s been in a bit of a scratching fight! She is a very impressive ship from close up, even though by bulk carrier standards she is only middle-sized.

E-Whale
E-Whale

On the way back into OPBC I marvelled at the piles of dolosse that protect the slipway and jetties there by dissipating wave energy. These are a South African invention that were inspired by the children’s game of jacks, and are used in harbours around the world. The ones in the picture below aren’t the typical shape, but triangular.

Seahorse at OPBC
Seahorse at OPBC

Because our swimmers had arrived last, and we took a scenic route back to Granger Bay, we had lots of space to take the boat out of the water when we arrived. The slipway was far more congenial and orderly than we’re used to experiencing – wonder why?

Looking back from OPBC
Looking back from OPBC

A Day on the Bay: Running in the motors

Date: 6 April 2014

Team Aquaventures on board ready to roll
Team Aquaventures on board ready to roll

One Sunday in early April, Tony did a very early launch for an Aquaventures PADI IDC, taking the divers to the wreck of the BOS 400 and to dive with seals at Duiker Island in Hout Bay. You can see in the photo above that the sun hasn’t even reached Maori Bay as the divers kit up! The visibility on the BOS 400 was about six metres, and it was about eight metres at Duiker Island. At the wrecks inside Hout Bay (the Aster and Katsu Maru), there were reports of visibility of up to 15 metres.

After the early launch, Tony and I took the boat for a drive south towards Cape Point. We weren’t in a rush, partly because we needed to run in the boat’s motors gently, and so we stopped to look at the scenery.

Chapmans Peak drive
Chapmans Peak drive

Chapman’s Peak Drive is carved out of the mountainside at the intersection of the Cape granite and sedimentary layers (geologists love this fact), and this can be seen clearly in areas where the mountain isn’t highly vegetated (such in as the photo above). Tony showed me a strange “door in the cliff” – a neat rectangular opening (it seems) that looks like it should be in The Hobbit. You can’t approach it closely on a boat because there’s foul ground in front of it, and the sea is turbulent even when there’s not much swell.

Sea spray on Long Beach, Noordhoek
Sea spray on Long Beach, Noordhoek

Long Beach is long. There were lovely big waves, with spray unfurling from their tops in the light breeze. We could see horse riders on the beach, surfers in the swell, and at one point right across False Bay to the Hottentots Holland and Hangklip. Further down, the boiler of the Kakapo shipwreck was clearly visible on the sand.

Idle near a small kelp forest off Long Beach, Kommetjie
Idle near a small kelp forest off Long Beach, Kommetjie

Slangkop lighthouse (pardon the blurry photo) is being painted, it seems – the building is completely clad in scaffolding. This was our turning around point, but first we had coffee and a snack. Boating makes you hungry!

Slangkop lighthouse getting a facelift
Slangkop lighthouse getting a facelift

On the way back we stopped a few times to look around (Tony was looking for a whale shark, after NSRI report from St Helena Bay the previous day, and unconfirmed sightings of one in Kommetjie) and dangle our (ok, my) feet in the freezing water. There was an offshore wind blowing. In places the air was freezing cold, and in others the hot wind, smelling strongly of fynbos, made everything wonderfully pleasant.

We took a drive across the mouth of Hout Bay to Duiker Island, where the water looked quite clean. There were snorkelers in the water with the seals. I drove us back from the island (slowly) – I don’t have a skippers licence yet, and in order to get one I need (supervised) hours on the boat. So this was practice.

Once inside Hout Bay harbour, we milled around a bit waiting for the slipway to clear (some poachers were launching, amongst other activity). We came across the Seal Alert boat, which has sunk into disrepair but is a very enjoyable resting spot for some of the local seals. There are also a few boats that have sunk at their moorings – apparently because their drain plugs were stolen.

The middle (bright green) ship in the picture of the fishing vessels moored in the harbour in the above gallery of images, is the sister ship of a ship that ran aground off Betty’s Bay in February, breaking up and spilling huge amounts of fuel near the vulnerable penguin colony.

Re-pontooning

Yesterday’s post perhaps left us all feeling a bit deflated. So let’s get to the good stuff.

How is a boat re-pontooned?

First, the glued attachment strips are heated and removed and the pontoons, still intact, are also removed. You can see just how little boat there is once they are off.

Step two is to open each section of the tube, separate the compartments and use them as templates to cut out the new ones. A huge cutting table is used as well as a whole range of markers, steel rulers and heat guns.

Pontooning in progress
Pontooning in progress

The company we used, Ark Inflatables, don’t glue the seams – they weld them instead. So the tubes are all welded together individually and assembled section by section, and then on they go. The pontoons are held to the hull by a series of attaching strips and are also glued to the hull where they meet. Once they are on and secured, they are ready for the third step: accessories.

The various options of what accessories to add require some special consideration. Ark are extremely flexible and helpful when it come to weird and wonderful customer requests. Depending on the use of the boat there are a wide range of options.

We use the jetties in Simon’s Town, Hout Bay and occasionally at Miller’s Point or Oceana Power Boat Club near the Waterfront. Some of these jetties are poorly configured for smaller boats, so pontoon damage and abrasions can be a huge problem. They are also primarily black rubber tyres or bollards to tie up against, and these mark the pontoons. To solve that problem we added four rows of rubbing trim.

We anchor at some of our dive sites and in order to set and retrieve an anchor without damaging the bow we added a really wide rubber buffer and rope channel.

Front channel for anchor ropes
Front channel for anchor ropes

Getting back into a dive boat can be challenging for some, so to ease that issue we added three lines to each pontoon section: a grab line to hold once you have surfaced and reached the boat, a top taut line to yank yourself up on, and a third line, to grab as you exit the water, on the inner wall of the pontoon. This line also serves as a secure place to place fins whilst the boat is underway.

Having spent most of my life around boats I know that anything you have onboard, if it’s not attached it’s going to the bottom, so there are around 25 D-rings on the boat for clipping off anything that you want to keep. An old issue with the boat before was the attachment of the bow rail: it would pop out if a diver was hanging on it, this now has a double set of attachments.

The top of the pontoons take a beating from the sun, people stepping on and off, and of course weight belts and cylinder boots. To solve this we added a second skin down the entire length of the pontoon and these will now be ”wear strips” that can be replaced if the are damaged.

Protective pontoon cover and ropes in progress
Protective pontoon cover and ropes in progress

Lastly, to maintain the correct pressure when the day time temperatures  exceeed 30 degrees and the night time temperatures plummet, this coupled with a sudden cooling once you hit the water, we had them install an over pressure valve on each section, meaning it can never be pumped too hard and if left in the baking sun the excess pressure will bleed off.

Overall, I think it was a job really well done and would recommend Ark to any rubber duck owner wanting to repair their boat. The boat looks a little more ‘”industrial” than it did before, but the reality is it has a task to perform and must be able to do so faultlessly. Asthetics are secondary, but we feel the boat looks rugged, tough and ready to work. Oh, and did I mention… cool!

Newsletter: Vroom vroom

Hi divers

Weekend plans

SaturdayLong Beach for student dives.

Sunday: two launches either from False Bay Yacht Club or Hout Bay depending on what the Atlantic looks like on Saturday afternoon – but Hout Bay looks more likely.

If we go to Hout Bay we will dive the BOS 400 and the SS Maori, and if it’s False Bay I want to dive with the cowsharks and at Alpha Reef.

Cormorants on the Clan Stuart at high tide
Cormorants on the Clan Stuart at high tide

Dive conditions report

I did not get too much diving done the last few days for several reasons, mostly related to rain and swell. I did use the time wisely and fitted four stroke outboards to the Seahorse. Last week’s assertion that the boat was “powerless” wasn’t untrue!

False Bay is alive right now and a huge pod of dolphins has been seen almost every day somewhere in the Bay. I was out on the Bay on Tuesday and could see them off in the distance slightly north east of Roman Rock. The viz reports have varied wildly this week from 20 metre viz down to 3 metre viz. We have some south easterly wind the next few days and the kind of conditions that make Hout Bay an appealing option for Sunday.

As usual, text or email me if you want to dive. Sodwana people, remember to make your final payments soon please!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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A Day on the Bay: Queuing for the slipway

Date: 5 December 2013

Shark Alley was peaceful
Shark Alley was peaceful

We had some beautiful surface conditions in December, and I was busy with charters as often as the weather allowed. The visibility in False Bay gets quite soupy as the water warms up, so it was a bit hit and miss finding the right places to get into the water. On this particular day we dived at Shark Alley, as one of the divers on board was writing a feature for Divestyle about this very special spot.

Fishing boats waiting their turn
Fishing boats waiting their turn

On our way back to dive at Ark Rock we passed by the slipway at Miller’s Point. The snoek fishermen were out in force, and we counted at least twenty boats milling around, the crews cleaning fish while they waited their turn to retrieve their vessels. It is on days like this that I am very grateful for our membership at False Bay Yacht Club. It would be impossible to run charters to any sort of schedule if we had to wait hours to pick up the next group of divers.

What were the conditions like underwater? Well may you ask. This photo Clare took of Aaron (actually a still from a video) says it all:

Aaron in the sterling viz
Aaron in the sterling viz

Friday photo: Kayakers departing

I took this photo last weekend standing on the jetty outside Bertha’s Restaurant in Simon’s Town. Two kayakers are departing from the naval slipway. In the distance, if it had been raining, you’d be able to see the Admiral’s Waterfall. But it hadn’t rained, so you can’t see it.

Kayakers leaving from the Naval slipway
Kayakers leaving from the Naval slipway

Newsletter: Santa cat

Hi divers

I tried very hard to get a picture of one of our cats wearing a Santa hat for this newsletter, but failed. Sorry.

Weekend diving

We will be launching from Hout Bay or Oceana Powerboat Club, on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Text or email me if you want to do some cold water diving.

Open Water students at work
Open Water students at work

So December is almost over, all that’s left is a few presents to open, lots of food to deal with and to get some diving done. We have had some serious wind this week but it is set to slow down for the next few days. I doubt False Bay will offer up much but I could easily be wrong. If the wind drops the water is surprisingly clean given the wind and looks far better than it did last weekend.

Ready to get in the pool
Ready to get in the pool

Last weekend’s diving

We dived False Bay last Saturday and Sunday and had really calm seas but really poor viz. On our way back from Shark Alley we stopped to visit the rays at Miller’s Point, and counted twenty snoek fishing boats in the queue to use the slipway. On days like that I’m grateful for False Bay Yacht Club!

Snoek fishing boats at Miller's Point
Snoek fishing boats at Miller’s Point

I do think Hout Bay will offer up the best options for the next few days but Table Bay also has the potential to deliver good viz after so much south easter. For the next ten days we will play it by ear and will most likely launch every day as the weather permits as I have several Open Water, Nitrox and Advanced students to get dived.

We won’t plan to be closed on any specific days during this period as we have enough days of loafing when the weather is poor, so if the sea is good we will dive.

You may already have won a prize

Congratulations to Matthijs who has won himself a Nitrox course in the November boat lucky draw. One diver who is on our boat this month will also win a Nitrox course, or two boat dives if they’re already Nitrox certified. All you need to do is show up.

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!

Surviving underwater in an air bubble

A news story in June resonated uncomfortably with me: a Nigerian sailor survived for two days in a pocket of air trapped beneath the tugboat he was in, which capsized in heavy seas. The tug was servicing an oil platform off the Nigerian coast.

I was immediately reminded of the Miroshga, an unseaworthy whale watching vessel that capsized in appalling conditions off Hout Bay in October 2012. The boat had its bilge pump installed UPSIDE DOWN, and was rated for over 40 passengers when it’s only five metres longer than our boat – which can take seven passengers (and when Seahorse is fully loaded, she feels full). Furthermore, the Miroshga hadn’t had a SAMSA inspection since fundamental changes were made to the vessel and its engines. The money-hungry decision to head out in a 25 knot south easterly wind and high seas was incredibly irresponsible.

Most people who go on seal cruises, whale watching or cage diving don’t spend half their lives on or near the sea, and simply don’t have the tools to assess whether conditions are safe and whether the boat is seaworthy. The passengers trusted the charter operator and SAMSA, and were badly let down. One man drowned, and three women were trapped under the boat in pockets of air for several hours, their limbs dangling in the freezing water, until rescue divers brought them out. I cannot imagine how traumatic the experience was for them. The rest of the passengers were rescued by a boat full of poachers, and by some incredible NSRI volunteers. It was a shameful day for the boat charter operators, and for those responsible for legislating and enacting maritime safety provisions in South Africa.

I digress. What happened in Nigeria? Out of the twelve crew on board the tugboat, ten bodies were recovered, one was lost, and the twelfth crewmember, Harrison Okene, was discovered alive, under the boat in 30 metres of water, surviving by breathing from an air pocket. Upon being rescued by divers sent to retrieve the crew’s bodies (can you imagine their shock at being greeted by a living person when they were expecting only corpses?), Okene had to undergo sixty hours of decompression in order to avoid being bent. He’d been breathing air at four atmospheres for two and a half days!

The incident prompted a fascinating discussion on StackExchange, a discussion forum for a variety of disciplines (I lurk in the statistics and quantitative finance forums). A user posed the question:

How large does the bubble have to be so that a person in it can have indefinite supply of breathable air?

The reason it’s even possible to have an “indefinite” supply of air is that if the bubble is large enough, oxygen will diffuse out of the surrounding water back into the bubble, and carbon dioxide won’t build up to fatal concentrations. You can read through the discussion if you want to (fun to see physicists arguing, nice if you like formulas!) or there’s a news article here about the theoretical bubble size that would be required for survival. Turns out the actual air bubble was close to the size calculated by the physicists that would allow survival for at least the time that Okene was submerged. Lucky, lucky man!

Update: Here’s the helmet cam video from one of the rescue divers who brought Mr Okene to the surface. The text at the beginning is wonky – persist. Note the South African accents! The diver’s voice is squeaky – I think because he’s breathing a gas mix with helium in it. It gets good at about 5:30 but it’s extremely interesting to watch in its entirety to see what sort of conditions these divers work in, and how the surface support talks them through their tasks and keeps them calm.

Handy hints: How to be an awesome underwater cameraman

First, be completely unmoved by the curious looks from people nearby.

Craig and Mark wondering what Mark van Coller of Atlantic Edge Films is doing crouched on the slipway
Craig and Mark wondering what Mark van Coller of Atlantic Edge Films is doing crouched on the slipway

Make sure your fins are within easy reach and that your weight belt is secured. Then, lie on the slipway and wait for the tide to come in, of course!

Lying on the slipway
Lying on the slipway

The cameraman, Mark van Coller, is awesome, so you should follow his advice. You can look at some of his work here.

Mark with his camera gear in Hout Bay
Mark with his camera gear in Hout Bay

He was in Hout Bay to film the Jan Braai television insert about the world’s first underwater braai.