Newsletter: Better than nothing

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday and/or Sunday: Boat dives in False Bay

The forecast today is a little better for the weekend than it was earlier this week. There is some wind and some odd swell and swell direction changes but I believe it should be worth diving both Saturday and Sunday. Sunday will most likely be a little better. I have students on the boat on both days so there is not much space, however, if you are quick you can reserve a spot!

Zandvlei Nature Reserve
Zandvlei Nature Reserve

Things to do

It’s not as if one needs to actively seek out extra commitments at this time of year, but in case you’re at a loose end check out Wavescape’s Slide Night happening on Monday (you need to book in advance for this). You can get some adult education at UCT’s annual Summer School in January, and there’s something for you whether your interest is sharks or shipwrecks.

regards

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

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Newsletter: Many choices

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: A dive of some sort, boat or shore!

The Berg river dam and surrounds
The Berg river dam and surrounds

There is a better than average chance decent visibility will be found whether you dive Hout Bay False Bay, Table Bay or Gordons Bay. I think Sunday will be the better day and the most likely choice is False Bay for me.

The decision will, however, wait until late Saturday after I see what a drive around reveals. Text, mail or Whatsapp me to join.

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: A Brydes whale for company

On a beautiful, calm day in early June this year, shortly after dropping my divers in the water, I was visited by a friendly Brydes whale. A Brydes whale – I suspect the same one – had been showing a strong interest in boats in western False Bay over the last couple of weeks.

The whale makes its presence known
The whale makes its presence known

I knew it was a Brydes whale because of the small, sickle-shaped dorsal fin far back on its spine. This one circled the boat a few times, and then headed straight for me like a submarine on the surface. It pushed a small wave of water ahead of it as it came.

The Brydes whale near the boat
The Brydes whale near the boat

It was a slightly intimidating sight as it ploughed through the water. It was an extremely calm day, so the boat’s motors were switched off. I waited with some anxiety to see what the whale would do.

The whale comes to investigate
The whale comes to investigate

After a close pass by the boat, the whale circled Seahorse several times, blowing lustily. It came back to the boat repeatedly over a period of at least half an hour. I kept the engines off, and made sure my life jacket was fastened. I hoped the divers might also be able to see what was happening! The whale was not hostile in the least, but an exuberant animal weighing between 12 and 20 tons, moving at speed, could accidentally tip me into the water in a heartbeat.

Brydes whale circling Seahorse
Brydes whale circling Seahorse

The whale lifted its head out of the water a few times, showing me the three rostral ridges on top of its head and the grooves under its throat, which also help with confirming its identification as a Brydes whale. Our whale book says that these whales often have small, circular cookie cutter shark scars, specially if they’ve been in tropical waters, but I couldn’t see any.

Brydes whale showing his head
Brydes whale showing his head

I find Brydes whales a little mysterious, because they can be seen year round in False Bay and somehow lack the predictability of the Southern right whales and humpbacks whose rowdy presence is apparent close to shore in False Bay between June and November. If you see a whale in the first half of the year in False Bay, it’s almost certainly a Brydes whale.

These whales calve year-round, because they don’t ever go into really cold water (False Bay is at the southern end of their range). This preference for warmer water is probably related to their relatively thin layer of blubber. They eat schooling fish and plankton.

Brydes whale off the bow
Brydes whale off the bow

Their blows are low and bushy, as you can see from my photos. They don’t aggregate in big groups like other whales seen along South Africa’s coastline, and you’ll see at most two animals together at a time, if that. These whales are still caught by the Japanese as part of their “scientific” whaling program.

After a while the whale seemed to lose interest, and left me to my thoughts as I waited for the divers (who were gloriously oblivious, it turns out) to surface. While it’s an incredible experience to have an animal like this approach you so close and with such confidence, I am glad it left. Ship and boat strikes are a very real danger to whales, and a whale that is so curious about boats could get itself into trouble in the busy boating areas close to shore in False Bay.

The whale disappears into the Bay
The whale disappears into the Bay

Regulations state that unless you’re in possession of a whale watching permit (and there’s only one operator in False Bay who has one of those), you are not to approach a whale closer than 300 metres, anywhere in South African waters. If a whale approaches you, move away if you can do so safely. If there are divers in the water, your responsibility is to stay close to the divers, so turn off your engines and enjoy the moment!

Farewell (for now) to the short tailed stingrays

This my the final video (for now) of short tailed stingrays (Dasyatis brevicaudata) swimming under the boat on a sunny February day in between dives.

The IUCN Red List has these rays as of “least concern”, but they are protected in Western Australia because of their tourism value. There are locations in this region where tame stingrays interact with visitors; much like the rays at Struisbaai harbour.

More stingrays under the boat

We spent quite a bit of time with the short tailed stingrays (Dasyatis brevicaudata) between dives this past summer. Here’s another short video of one under the boat in shallow water.

These rays can grow to over two metres in diameter and weigh a few hundred kilograms at their maximum. They are a popular target for fishermen.

Watching stingrays from the boat

We visited this beautiful short tailed stingray (Dasyatis brevicaudata) near Millers Point between dives one day in mid February. They’re commonly seen during the summer months, when water temperatures in False Bay are between 16 and 22 degrees celsius.

I find them to be more curious about the boat than they are when we see them during dives. Then, they’re most often resting or eating on the sand, and after a short time they swim away.

Newsletter: Friends and family

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Double tank dives from False Bay Yacht Club at 8.30 am

I reckon the better option for diving this weekend will be on Sunday morning in False Bay. The tide is against us but I still think the visibility will be better than in the Atlantic. We will meet in the False Bay Yacht Club parking lot at 8.30 am with the aim of launching by 9.00 am. It will be a double tanker (that means your options are two dives, or none) as the wind speed grows by lunchtime. Let me know if you’re keen to come along.

Sunny Kalk Bay
Sunny Kalk Bay

Water

The latest Wednesday Water File from the WWF is about the power of community. Read it here. On that subject, here’s something on starting a water committee (at your apartment block, office, or kids’ school, for example). Community could be the eleventh good thing about the drought, if one were to extend this excellent list from WESSA.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: High hopes

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Meet at the False Bay Yacht Club Parking at 9.00am for a double tank dive

The south easterlies are not ready to leave yet for the winter, but they are giving us a break right now. The forecast is for strong westerly wind tomorrow which will, if it blows, clean up False Bay rather nicely for some good visibility on Saturday. There is a 3 metre swell arriving on Saturday but I think it will be fine for a dive or two, and the tides are in our favour.

We will meet at the False Bay Yacht Club Parking at 9.00am. We’ll double tank it and choose the sites once we’re out there. Let me know if you want to be on board.

Giant short tailed stingray at Millers Point
Giant short tailed stingray at Millers Point

I had a couple of good days on the boat this week, the highlight being watching this huge giant short tailed stingray on a flat calm day.

Water

We shared a blog post about diving during a drought this week. Check it out! Also, the WWF’s fourth Wednesday Water File was published yesterday, and it’s very pertinent. It’s all about toilets. Read it here.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Responsible diving during a drought part 2: The boat

Boats are tough. The hull and pontoons are designed to spend their lives in salty environments, and other than harsh discolouration from caked on dust and dirt, Seahorse the boat weathers Cape Town’s water shortage really well. Each time we launch, the boat gets a good dousing with buckets of salt water to remove the worst of the dust and sand. The motors are a different story. They do need a fair amount of rinsing and special attention. Without any such attention the biggest risk is corrosion of the aluminum and steel parts.

Engine flushing is often touted as critical, however many boats spend their life moored and never get fresh water flushes. This only happens if they are hauled out for service and repair. The downside to not running the motors is that the salt builds up in the water pump housing and reduces the lifespan of the rubber impeller. What I do is to connect a fresh water supply from a bucket via a short hose to the flush port of the engine. This trickles some water into the pump housing and helps to reduce the salt build up. This helps a little, but the impellers are both replaced every 100 hours when service is due. They are good for several hundred hours if treated better.

We have a dedicated rainwater tank alongside the boat and if there is enough harvested water I run the motors briefly before a launch as a safety precaution. If the tank level is lower than the impeller, I leave a little earlier to run the motors in the sea prior to launch times.

The item that suffers the most is the trailer. There has been no option for hosing down the trailer after use with clean water for well over a year due to water restrictions. It takes over 100 litres to lightly rinse a trailer. This has taken its toll and you can see that despite the galvanising, without a good rinse the salt water gets to work eating everything up. I reckon that within the next six months sections of the trailer will need replacing and the entire trailer will need to be re-galvanised. This is not a cheap exercise. The wheel rims and axle are two years old. Despite galvanising, rust treating and coating the wheel nuts and hubs with Tectyl, they have not been spared the rust.

High pressure water sprayer
High pressure water sprayer

I have been using a high pressure spray bottle, typically used for gardening, to clean the boat and trailer. It uses a fraction of the water that a hosepipe would, and its focused high pressure output cleans well, even if it is far more labour-intensive.

Read my prior post about caring for dive gear during a drought, here.

Newsletter: Summer fun

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Launching from False Bay Yacht Club for Roman Rock and Shark Alley

Returning to the jetty on a cloudy day
Returning to the jetty on a cloudy day

We have had more diving days this summer than is usual, and 2018 has started well with pretty good conditions and warm water… There have also been a few darker days. On Monday we were in Smitswinkel Bay with 1 metre visibility, but it looks good for the weekend. We had 19 degree water with 5 metre visibility at Ark Rock today, and I hope for the same thing tomorrow.

Saturday will be a bit windy, so we will plan for Sunday in False Bay. The most likely sites will be Roman Rock and Shark Alley, I would like to see a bit more of the sevengills after their long vacation. If you want to dive, let me know.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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