Newsletter: Night night

Hi divers

Last Saturday we did a night dive at Long Beach. Four of the eight divers were doing their first night dives ever: Craig, Tamsyn, Dinho and Liam. Conditions were excellent and we had a great time. Photos in this newsletter are from that dive.

Liam on the night dive
Liam on the night dive

Weekend plans

As the days grow longer and summer beckons (it’s called positive thinking) we do still need to get through August, which according to the weather sites is the stormy month. There has been little sign of winter during the week and most days have been fairly pleasant. False Bay is quite clean and blue.

That all changes starting late tomorrow as a long period 6.5 metre swell rolls into the bay. That coupled with some rain will make diving a bit surgy and unpleasant, and my feeling is that it best be left alone for this weekend. If you’re at a loose end please pop down to Glencairn Beach or the far end of Long Beach to support the OMSAC Finathon, or take part if you feel up to it! Sponsorship of the divers/swimmers/paddlers can be directed towards Shark Spotters, a cause close to our hearts!

Perlemoen at Long Beach
Perlemoen at Long Beach

DAN Day

Last Saturday we attended the DAN Day at the Simon’s Town navy base. We had a tour of their dive training facility (this is most likely where you’ll end up if you need to use a recompression chamber after a dive accident), and then a series of very informative talks.

Pyjama catsharks asleep in the pipeline
Pyjama catsharks asleep in the pipeline

DAN or Divers’ Alert Network is an international organisation that provides a form of insurance whereby they will pay for any expenses related to diving accidents that your medical aid and travel insurance don’t cover. They will also pay for you to be evacuated if necessary, and these costs can be severe. However, if you choose not to take out DAN cover, they are still the people to call if you or your buddy has a suspected case of decompression illness. They have doctors on call who will guide you as to what to do, and they will arrange a chamber and evacuation if necessary (however the costs will be for your account). You don’t have to know where your nearest chamber is and whether it’s operational, because DAN keeps that information for you.

Please visit the DAN SA website, check them out, put their number into your phone (0800 020 111 in SA or +27 (0) 82 810 6010 if dialling from outside SA), and let me know if you have any questions (I might be able to help, or I can refer you to someone at DAN who can). Clare and I have cover, and it costs us about R175 per month for both of us. You can also take out cover specifically for a dive trip, if you don’t feel you dive enough to justify year-round membership. For an interesting story about someone who really needed their DAN membership, read this.

Diving and exercise

One talk at the DAN Day that was particularly interesting was about diving and exercise. Studies have found that light exercise a few hours both before and after a dive can be beneficial in reducing gas bubble formation, which is a good thing (too many bubbles cause the bends). The speaker also reminded us that one must keep fit to divediving isn’t going to make you fit, but being fit before coming diving will keep you safe and healthy.

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, click here or use the form on this page!

SDI Online Training

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:

Newsletter: Diversnight international

Hi divers

The steps at the jetty have never seen so much traffic!
The steps at the jetty have never seen so much traffic!

Last night was the eighth international Diversnight. The aim was to get as many divers in the water as possible at 8.12pm, worldwide. We participated, diving below the jetty in Simon’s Town and really great conditions. 20 divers in total and a big thanks to OMSAC and Cape Scuba Club for joining us. Its not to often you can dive in the basin there as there is a fair amount of boat traffic during the day. The conditions were great given the winds we have had this week and the water was a clean 6 plus metres and 16 degrees. Thanks to Shaheen for being our official photographer!

Setting off on our night dive
Setting off on our night dive

The past week has been a very dry week with very little diving but the weekend looks exceptionally good. Last Saturday we took the boat out from Hout Bay to dive the Maori and the BOS 400 but the conditions in the bay were not that great and I felt it was too unsafe to dive. Whilst we were there we were visited by a pod of dolphins and spent 30 minutes on snorkel whilst they allowed us to swim with them. This was an awesome experience as they were very relaxed and swam really slowly amongst the divers and around the boat. There are more photos here.

Dolphins in Maori Bay
Dolphins in Maori Bay

This weekend

The wind finally drops, the swell turns to a westerly and I think False Bay conditions will be great. The water colour has remained blueish all week and I think the sites south of Simon’s Town should have great visibility. It also beats the cold Atlantic hands down and the temperature there this week has been between 8-10 degrees celcius.

Exiting the water at the jetty
Exiting the water at the jetty

I have quite a few courses  (Open Water, Advanced, Rescue) running right now so we are aiming for a lot of diving. Saturday we will be at Long Beach for Open Water and Rescue training and Sunday we will launch from the yacht club at 9.00 and 11.30.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

Cape Town Dive Festival (day one)

Cape Town Dive Festival
Cape Town Dive Festival

The Cape Town Dive Festival was held on the weekend of 8 and 9 September, at the Cape Boat and Ski Boat Club at Miller’s Point. My role was mostly to take bookings, which in most cases was a pleasant experience. By the time the festival rolled around I felt as though I had a whole bunch of new diving acquaintances, and it was a pleasure to meet them at registration where they collected a t shirt and lanyard with a lucky draw number on it.

Loading the BlueFlash boat onto its trailer after a dive
Loading the BlueFlash boat onto its trailer after a dive

The format of the festival was similar to the Port Elizabeth dive festival. Eight dive boats, two hundred and something divers, 45 boat launches and four shore dives to Shark Alley in total over the two days… The festival sponsors donated a range of fabulous prizes, and with a variety of competitions and lucky draws everyone stood a chance to win something. The participating dive operators, clubs and sponsors all had gazebos on the lawn around the clubhouse, and a festive atmosphere was ensured by Matt and Monty, who handled the music and announcements throughout the day. OMSAC provided catering from the club kitchen, keeping us all well fed on boerewors rolls and other treats.

Dive briefing
Dive briefing

The weather on the Saturday was picture-perfect, and visibility was excellent (but, strangely, not at the deeper sites). After the boats returned from their third launch, a cannon race was held just off the slipway, which provided much entertainment. The race, arranged by False Bay Underwater Club, required teams of five participants (two on scuba) to lift a concrete “cannon” using a lift bag, and swim it around a buoy and back to its starting position. An element of gruesomeness was added to proceedings by some snoek fishermen who washed their boat on the slipway, sending clouds of fish guts and blood into the water.

Sponsor and participant gazebos
Sponsor and participant gazebos

Throughout the day SURG ran a species identification competition, in which participants had to photograph as wide a range of marine animals as possible. Peter Southwood and Georgina Jones headed up a small but diligent team of fish-ID experts who combed through the photographs and reference books to judge the entries.

Here are some more of the photos I took on the day…

Newsletter: Not-much-news-letter

Hi divers

The weather has really been out of whack recently and I have not found the predicted conditions matching the actual conditions more than once over the last two weeks. Despite the cold, wet and windy conditions there have been some good days and I have had the boat out as often as possible.  Last weekend was really busy at the Yacht Club as the Lipton Cup was due to start , a week long regatta, so there was a hive of activities in preparation. The slipway at Miller’s Point has also been extremely hectic as the snoek are running in the bay, so every boat in Cape Town seems to have been launching there every day and some days it has been difficult getting into the parking lot!

Yacht being removed from the water in preparation for the Lipton Cup
Yacht being removed from the water in preparation for the Lipton Cup

Yesterday we dived at Partridge Point and then with the sevengill cowsharks and the water was 13 degrees with 6-8 metre visibility. During the seal dive the viz was far better at depth and a little further out but closer to the rock it dropped off  to about 2 metres. The was a fair bit of surge.

Miller's Point on Monday morning
Miller’s Point on Monday morning

This weekend

Tomorrow will be a flat, calm, sunny blue ocean day in False Bay, but it’s Friday and far too many people seem to want to be at work. I will dive at Long Beach with students and will then have some idea of the conditions closer to shore as all the dives we have done recently have been off the boat.

Saturday will once again be a howling 50 km/h windy wet day but it’s from the right direction to improve the viz, and the swell is around 3 metres which is just bearable.  Diving will be best on Sunday as the wind drops off somewhat and it’s north westerly so the bay will be flat.

I will make a decision on Friday evening whether we launch on Sunday once I see an updated weather forecast. If it’s going to be too windy we will dive at Long Beach or A Frame. Let me know if you want to do a shore dive or a boat dive, so I know who to contact about diving on Sunday once I’ve seen the weather.

This cowshark appears to have been tagged
This cowshark appears to have been tagged

Training

I’m currently busy with Open Water and Advanced courses. And Mark is one Discover Scuba Diving short of completing his Divemaster course!

Cape Town Dive Festival & International Coastal Cleanup Day

There are some spaces available at the festival (taking place on 8-9 September), and the reduced rate of R100 for dives applies until 31 August. Visit the website for more information.

The following weekend, on Saturday 15 September, is International Coastal Cleanup Day. We plan to support OMSAC at their cleanup dive in Kalk Bay Harbour – more information here. These cleanup dives aren’t always scenic, but they are always interesting, and it’s a very worthwhile project to be involved in. If you’re interested in participating, either chat to me or go ahead and register directly with OMSAC. Clare and I are  moving house next week and will only have headspace for more admin after that!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

Newsletter: Green, brown and blue

Hi divers

In the midst of the red tide/dirty water!
In the midst of the red tide/dirty water!

We’ve had really odd conditions in False Bay this past week – some absolutely spectacular visibility, mixed with some decidedly brown, murky water. Conditions last Saturday were good underwater, but the wind was far too strong and the surface conditions were too bad for new divers so we called off the second Open Water dive that day.

Last Sunday we did two boat dives in False Bay, the first of which featured some truly awful visibility (picture above), and the second of which (picture below) boasted some of the best visibility that one ever sees in False Bay. There’s been an extensive red tide which has been visible from Boyes Drive for over a week, and this is seriously affecting the visibility in certain areas of the bay.

Goot deploys an SMB in the crystal clear water at Caravan Reef
Goot deploys an SMB in the crystal clear water at Caravan Reef

There was a very strong surface current (and current underwater) during last weekend’s boat dives, and we were reminded of the importance of carrying a signalling device such as an SMB, and a whistle on your inflator hose to call the boat. If you need an SMB, Andre in Simon’s Town has some very good ones which are not negatively buoyant, making them much easier to inflate while you’re below the surface.

Colourful reef life at Roman Rock
Colourful reef life at Roman Rock

We had 15 metres of visibility on the Clan Stuart on Monday, which is truly unusual for this wreck as it’s quite exposed. There seems to have been some water mixing going on over the last few days, however, and today there were patches of clean water interspersed with pockets of green, milky water at Windmill and Long Beach. The wind is blowing from a favourable direction, however, so we hope it’ll clean the bay a bit more before the weekend.

Compass sea jellies and fish in the current at Caravan Reef
Compass sea jellies and fish in the current at Caravan Reef

Weekend diving

Tomorrow I have Discover Scuba divers at Long Beach, and then some time in the pool. The weekend is chock full of Open Water and Discover Scuba Diving dives, so I’ll spend most of the time at Long Beach and, conditions permitting, Windmill, A Frame and/or the Clan Stuart.

If you’d like to tag along give me a shout. A shore dive at a familiar site is the perfect opportunity to hone your skills and test new gear.

Student news & travel

Congratulations to Gerard and Goot, both of whom have just (about half an hour ago) qualified as Enriched Air and Deep divers. These two courses are a very good idea if you plan to dive a lot in Cape Town, and – as I told them this evening – after finishing them, they’re complete divers who will only benefit from further experience.

We also found this picture of Cecil that was taken on his very first Open Water dive, late last year. Compare that to his recently-acquired cave diving qualification… Time flies! This time last year Kate was also with us, finishing her Advanced course and on the way to Divemaster. She’s now a fully-fledged PADI Instructor, having qualified in June in Sodwana.

A root mouth jellyfish eating a compass sea jelly at Caravan Reef
A root mouth jellyfish eating a compass sea jelly at Caravan Reef

While on the subject of current and former students, Tami, Keren and Nils have just finshed some (apparently wonderful) dives in the Red Sea as part of a family holiday to Israel. We’re looking forward to hearing about their trip when they get home.

Peter Southwood swimming a shallow contour at Caravan Reef (south)
Peter Southwood swimming a shallow contour at Caravan Reef (south)

If word of all this dive travel is giving you itchy feet, fear not: we have not forgotten about a dive trip for early next year, and will keep you posted as the plan emerges!

Clare and I visited OMSAC in Pinelands last Thursday evening for a talk on SASSI, and plan to visit again on Thursday 24 November to listen to Alistair Downing from Underwater Explorers talking about West Coast wrecks. OMSAC is a friendly, vibrant little club and we felt very welcome there even though technically we are members of their rivals FBUC! I will remind you of Alistair’s talk closer to the time – it’s a good opportunity to visit the club.

Regards

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

Diving is addictive!

Newsletter: Spring diving

Hi divers

The spring conditions have been living up to expectations with some really good diving. We explored a new dive site last weekend and many people are calling this the best dive site in Cape Town. Personally I think the title of best dive site in Cape Town will always be tightly contested as there are just too many stunning sites to choose from. This new site, Atlantis, most certainly has more fish than I have ever seen in Cape Town, but the Fleur – when dived in clean water – still tops the leader board in my mind. Atlantis is however a stunning site with pinnacles, small swim-throughs and overhangs, nice walls and the tops of the pinnacles are at 5-6 metres so a safety stop can be done while cruising around the top of the reef where there is lots to see. The site also drops off to 29 metres on the sand so it is suitable for both Open Water divers and Advanced divers.

One of the pinnacles of Atlantis Reef rises to near the surface
One of the pinnacles of Atlantis Reef rises to near the surface

Very few would rate Long Beach very high but I have yet to dive a site that has surprised me as often as Long Beach has, with wonderful and weird creatures. I have seen devil rays, sharks, a John Dory, giant short tail stingrays, a snakelet, pipefish, cuttlefish, bobtail squid, toadfish, horsefish, seals, whales and dolphins to name but a few and sure I have seen many of these creatures elsewhere, but never all of them in one place. Then again I do dive there more often than other sites…

A knobbly anemone among sea fans, sea cucumbers and other invertebrate bounty
A knobbly anemone among sea fans, sea cucumbers and other invertebrate bounty

Last weekend we dived at Windmill Beach and had really good conditions, so we want to return there this weekend if the conditions hold. After the Atlantis and Windmill dives we went to Long Beach to complete Marc’s first ocean dive – well done Marc on a good dive exploring the barge wreck and fishing boat wreck! Congratulations are also due to Cecil, who successfully completed his Cavern and Introduction to Cave Diving courses with Buks Potgieter at Komati Springs.

Massive school of hottentot, fransmadam and other fish
Massive school of hottentot, fransmadam and other fish

Weekend diving

A cold front cruises in this weekend, late Saturday, bringing with it some swell. Saturday will be better for shore dives as the wind is more a northwester but too strong for boating. Sunday looks better for the boat and Grant plans to explore two new sites he has found. Please let me know if you’d like to join any of the dives.

Box sea jellies at Windmill Beach
Box sea jellies at Windmill Beach

Talks and stuff

Clare and I attended two talks last week at the Save Our Seas Shark Centre. One was by Sarah Fowler, on the challenges of shark conservation, and the other was by Mark Meekan and was about whale sharks. Both talks were fascinating and we are so enjoying expanding our minds this way. Tonight we are attending a talk at OMSAC about the WWF South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) program. The SASSI program empowers consumers to make responsible choices about the seafood they eat – there’s a bit more information here.

Setting off in good visibility at Windmill
Setting off in good visibility at Windmill

We all like to know what dive conditions are like when planning to go in the water – sometimes it’s a no-brainer, based on the weather, but other times it helps if someone actually gets in the water to have a look! With this in mind, two divers from the Somerset West/Gordon’s Bay area established a facebook group called Scuba Diving the Cape Peninsula, to promote diving in the Cape and provide a forum for sharing news and updates on current dive conditions. Clare is now helping them administer the group, and they’d appreciate some help getting off the ground! A moment’s thought (or, even less spent time reading facebook updates from dive operators!) will convince you that claims about dive conditions from someone who has a financial interest in you getting in the water should be taken with a pinch of salt. Please go and visit the group on facebook, click “Like”, and, when you’ve been diving, let everyone know where and what it was like! This can benefit all local divers and hopefully squeeze out some of the fairy tales about 10 metre visibility after a raging southeaster and 5 metre swell that get circulated daily!

Kelp forest at Windmill Beach
Kelp forest at Windmill Beach

See you in the water!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

ScubaPro Day 2011 (Cape Town)

ScubaPro Day 2011 at False Bay Yacht Club
ScubaPro Day 2011 at False Bay Yacht Club

On 1 October ScubaPro held a dive day at False Bay Yacht Club in Simon’s Town. This is an extremely congenial venue to dive from – most of the local boat charters were in attendance, mooring at the floating jetty in the marina. The grass was set up with a fenced off area for each boat charter, a stand for the wonderful Dive Site magazine, and an extensive area showcasing ScubaPro gear, manned by experienced salesmen. There’s a very reasonable little restaurant, a bar upstairs, hot showers, grass, tables and benches to relax on between dives, and lots to look at. We were expecting parking to be a nightmare, but it seemed to be fine.

The venue for the day (all the divers were inside at prizegiving)
The venue for the day (all the divers were inside at prizegiving)

The idea of the day was for ScubaPro to sell lots of gear, and I think the local ScubaPro suppliers will have had a good week after the divers tried out the SeaWing Nova fins, various kinds of BCDs, and regulators! Unfortunately since Tami and I bought our SeaWing Novas, the material from which they are made has been changed – from a really solid, just flexible enough, smooth-edged substance to a cheap and nasty, brittle plastic that is almost transparent and feels as though it’ll snap under stress. The price, unsurprisingly, has stayed the same (so perhaps look for a pair of these fins on gumtree before you rush out and buy some new ones). They are fantastic fins, and it’s a real pity to see nasty knock-off versions being sold at the same price as the original high quality ones were.

Cindy, Maurice and Corne in their trial pairs of Seawing Nova fins (and me in my own pair) on Grant's boat
Cindy, Maurice and Corne in their trial pairs of Seawing Nova fins (and me in my own pair) on Grant’s boat

Several of the Learn to Dive Today divers tested BCDs (and regulators – Sophie was forced to after the inflator hose on her old regulator wouldn’t fit the new BCD). For those whose kit fitted properly reviews were very positive indeed, but unfortunately the salesmen weren’t good at sizing the lady divers and didn’t even have a full range of sizes available, despite Tony emailing in advance to check this very fact… So not everyone who wanted to was able to try out gear, and there were some tense moments on the boat trying to get cummerbunds to close over thick wetsuits!

The floating jetty where the dive boats moored
The floating jetty where the dive boats moored

In order to try gear, one had to hand in an existing set of gear as security. Those divers who didn’t have their own kit had to rent gear first, and then hand it in, before they could test equipment. Expensive, but no doubt very happy-making for the nearby dive centres. Perhaps as a more fair system next year (unless the aim really is just to enrich the local ScubaPro supplier, in which case fair enough) dive cards or ID books could be held as security for those divers who don’t yet own their own gear. The diving community is small enough that divers who run away with kit can be easly tracked down, and named and shamed if necessary! No proof of ID or dive card was requested when exchanging old kit for new, so the reasoning was flawed anyway – I could have said my name was Priscilla, handed in a dodgy old BCD, and skipped home with a new one if that was really what was motivating me.

Walking to load gear on the dive boats
Walking to load gear on the dive boats

The launches went off mostly very smoothly, and it was extremely pleasant to have gear carriers available to tote our kit to and from the boats. We tied up our hoses to avoid them getting banged on the ground. The diving conditions were mixed – visibility from 2-8 metres depending on the site, and truly awful surface conditions thanks to a nasty little southeaster that was blowing. A photographic competion yielded some surprisingly good entries given the conditions – underwater it looked as though snow was falling, and backscatter was the order of the day. Fortunately the requirements were not technical brilliance, but more to capture the “spirit of diving” – how awesome it is, and something that would encourage a non-diver to take up the sport. I had a private chuckle looking at the jellyfish photos – there were lots of compass sea jellies in False Bay – and thinking of a student of Tony’s who has a jellyfish phobia second to none and would run a mile if she saw a picture of a diver anywhere near a jellyfish!

Sophie and I discussing whether to get a hot chocolate now, or later
Sophie and I discussing whether to get a hot chocolate now, or later

In order to enter the photo competition divers had to set the date on their cameras to 25 December 2011, a slightly insulting proviso intended (I assume) to ensure that nobody cheated by entering a photo taken the day before. This, combined with the issue of having to hand in kit in order to try some, left one feeling that the organisers didn’t trust divers at all. I can’t speak for those who have a financial interest in selling gear, but ordinary Joe Soap scuba divers are decent, helpful people in general, and as a rule don’t steal or cheat.

The ScubaPro display stands
The ScubaPro display stands

We did two boat dives, the first (at 0800) and the last (at 1400) launches, to Photographer’s Reef and Roman Rock. We had about eight metres of visibility on the first dive, dropping off as we rounded the seaward side of the reef. Fortunately we had a monster current to distract us! The second dive yielded up about four metres of visibility, and in both cases we had beautiful jellies and small breaking waves to greet us on the surface. The sites we visited are beautiful and I’m looking forward to going there again on a day with better water conditions.

There were some seasick divers, and an emergency situation in which a diver experienced an uncontrolled ascent from 20 metres. He had tingling extremities – indicating possible DCS – and lay on the grass for over an hour breathing oxygen (fortunately several of the boats had emergency oxygen on board) while the organisers tried to find the phone number for National Hyperbarics, who operate a chamber at Kingsbury Hospital. When we realised this was what was going on (it was kept rather low-key and the diver was hidden behind some bushes) Tony went over and provided the number, which he keeps on a card in his wallet. The diver in question was not a member of DAN (I am guessing he now is!) which meant that instead of DAN handing all emergency evacuation procedures, arranging an ambulance and alerting the chamber operator, the recompression chamber operator had to be contacted directly. Unlike the OMSAC events we have attended, where there has been an impressively strong emergency and medical presence, there were no provisions made at this event except for those by the individual boat charters, and the incident was poorly handled. Hopefully some lessons have been learned here!

Gathered in the bar for prizegiving
Gathered in the bar for prizegiving

Despite sub-optimal water conditions, the day was extremely enjoyable. We were very grateful to the dive charters who launched for only R100 per dive – that price makes for razor-thin profit margins and in order to come out even slightly ahead their boats had to be full for every dive. Most of them were, and I really hope that it didn’t end up costing anyone money to participate in this event, considering that it probably enriched ScubaPro quite a bit. Seeing so many divers together, making the most of Cape Town oceans, was very encouraging. I hope some divers – encouraged by the cheap boat dives – got back into the water after a long break, and that the end result will be more happy divers in the Cape.

Newsletter: Where did all the treasure go?

Hi divers

Beautiful colours at Roman Rock
Beautiful colours at Roman Rock

As the seasons change from spring to summer so do the winds, the southeaster gets more air time than most winds and diving starts the annual pilgrimage to the Atlantic. It becomes a little harder to predict the diving conditions for the next several months and my weather prediction success rate will plummet from around 10% to zero!!!

Knobbly anemone on Photographer's Reef
Knobbly anemone on Photographer’s Reef

Local diving is also entering its silly season with many dive operators vying for top spot as being the one that can post the most rubbish on facebook in one week. In an effort to appear popular and busy some claim to have dived in “flat calm with 10m viz” having not even left the couch at home. On a good day (yesterday, for example) the viz is claimed to be 2 metres, 7 metres and 10 metres within minutes of one another by different operators. While this provides incomparable amusement for those of us who watch the weather ourselves, divers who do not consult Magic Seaweedor a similar site for information on wind and swells will be very disappointed!

Keren ascending after her first boat dive as a qualified Open Water diver
Keren ascending after her first boat dive as a qualified Open Water diver

Last weekend

Fun in the sun at the ScubaPro day
Fun in the sun at the ScubaPro day

The ScubaPro day was a success with around 140 people enjoying boat dives at R100 each. The False Bay Yacht Club is a nice venue and often the only place to dive students when the southeaster gets up and humming. There were four launches by five boats so a lot of good diving was had. We had an early dive to Photographer’s Reef with good visibility and the last launch to Roman Rock had a slight drop of but the diving was great.

Blue gas flame nudibranch at Roman Rock
Blue gas flame nudibranch at Roman Rock

On Monday I dived a fairly new dive site called Atlantis, twin pinnacles just north of Smitswinkel Bay that start at 6-7 metres and drop off to 34 metres on the sand. This site had the biggest schools of fish I had ever seen in Cape Town, and then went to Pyramid Rock to dive with the cowsharks. We saw lots of sharks and a small spotted gully shark. I was happy to see that an injured shark we spotted earlier this year had recovered well and was looking far more healthy. The shark has lost a huge portion of its tail fin so it is quite distinct. The snoek boats are all out fishing so two more sharks have hooks trailing in their mouths as they apparently chase the fishing boats taking the catch of the fishermen’s lines.

These two dives were done off a hard boat called Shark Explorer – I was Divemastering for a company called Shark Explorers who do various kinds of shark-focused diving including shark cage diving in False Bay. It was a backward roll and a half!

Nils negotiates a gap in the rocks at Photographer's Reef (gives an idea of the visibility, too)
Nils negotiates a gap in the rocks at Photographer’s Reef (gives an idea of the visibility, too)

Tuesday I spent in the pool with Cecil and his double tank configuration as he worked through the training drills for valve shut down and other skills in preparation for his foray into the world of cave diving. His skills practice went well despite me doing my level best to stress him by shutting valves, intentionally tangling him in line, flooding his mask and a few other tests of his patience!

Compass sea jelly at Roman Rock
Compass sea jelly at Roman Rock

This weekend

The wind and swell arrive tomorrow, 4.5 metres of swell and a strong southeaster. This will spoil Saturday for sure and it is unlikely Sunday will survive unscathed. There is less swell and wind on Sunday but the visibility will have dropped. I will dive on Sunday, a shore entry at the best looking sight so text me if you want to dive, I just can’t be sure of the conditions as yet.

Upcoming events

Clare and I plan to attend a talk at OMSAC in Pinelands about the WWF’s SASSI program (encouraging and empowering consumers to eat responsibly fished, non-endangered seafood) on Thursday 20 October. The event invitation is here. If you care about the sea and like to eat fish, this will be an informative and useful evening. Plus we’re looking forward to checking out OMSAC – we’ve attended several of their events but never visited the clubhouse.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

Exploring: Hout Bay Harbour

The parking area at Hout Bay slipway, seen from the NSRI Station 8 building
The parking area at Hout Bay slipway, seen from the NSRI Station 8 building

Tony and I have wanted to dive Hout Bay harbour almost since he came to Cape Town two years ago. It always looks so clean and inviting as we chug out on the boat for a dive around the corner, and it has seals – lots of them! Also, no one dives there. We were thus very much looking forward to the cleanup dive organised by OMSAC on International Coastal Cleanup Day. Instead of us having to track down the harbour master and get permission to take a dip in his private lake, OMSAC did it for us. And we had a task, too – collecting garbage from the sea floor – which was pretty cool.

Bernita in action
Bernita in action

We entered the water off the floating jetty in the marina (marked no entry except for yacht and boat owners), on the left of the NSRI building and the adjacent bar/restaurant. We would swim under the jetty, and exit the water at the slipway where the dive boats and poacher boats launch. Some of the divers managed giant strides; I did not. I was wearing a very buoyant second wetsuit, and was wearing more weight than I’ve ever used since my Open Water course. (I am ashamed to admit how much.) So when I sat down on the edge of the jetty to put on my fins, there was no getting up again, and I used the “faceplant” entry method. You won’t find that one in your PADI manual.

Much of the harbour floor looks like this
Much of the harbour floor looks like this

The divers were in groups of 10-12, and each of us had a coloured tag on our BCD – red, blue, green, yellow, white, etc – which was about the size of a credit card. Tony, Goot, Bernita, Corne and I were on the green team, and once our team leader and the rest of the group had hit the water, we descended. To say that Bernita and I lost everyone else instantly would be something of an understatement – the visibility was measurable in centimetres, and there was no way we were going to be able to identify other members of our team without a TSA-style full-body pat down to locate their colour tag.

An anchor on the harbour floor
An anchor on the harbour floor

No matter – the two of us completed a half hour dive, and retrieved a full bag of rubbish including a strip of rugby sock, a mysterious pink leather cuff-like object, some fishing line, some wire, and a LOT of plastic bags. I found a beer bottle at the end of the dive, and staggered up the slipway carrying it and my excessive (and, it turned out, insufficiently heavy) weight belt, probably looking as though I’d been partaking of some Castle Lager while submerged.

Bernita showing off a stripy sock that we found
Bernita showing off a stripy sock that we found

Bernita and I swam holding hands a lot of the time so as not to lose one another (like children lost in a forest), with our free hands stretched out in front of us. Sometimes we could see the outstretched hands – other times, our arms disappeared before us into a cloud of silt. We tried to swim away from other divers as much as possible, because the vigorous cleanup activity (and, no doubt, some inexpert finning) stirred up clouds of thick white silt. In the clear patches, visibility was probably about 5 metres, which we found a great relief.

A shore crab in combat mode
A shore crab in combat mode

The water is shallow, no more than four metres deep, and the bottom of the harbour has areas covered in sea lettuce, which moves uncomfortably beneath one as you swim over it, and sandy areas overrun with several kinds of crabs. There are klipfish, tiny barehead gobies, and clouds of tiny fish fry that swarm around one. It’s also very silty, and in some places the bottom seems to boil and steam when you move over it – a layer of fine dust and sand hovers just above the harbour floor, waiting for a careless move to stir it up into the water column.

Tiny box jellyfish
Tiny box jellyfish

This isn’t a site you’ll want to put on your list of “must-dive locations”, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be allowed to dive the area without special permission. But I’m delighted that we had an opportunity to check it out… Both Tony and I love to visit working harbours and marinas, and this was a different perspective on a very familiar place.

Swarms of fish fry in the harbour
Swarms of fish fry in the harbour

There were some intermittent reservations prior to the event about the water quality in the harbour, but it was fine, and the only people who got oiled up were those who retrieved parts of diesel engines and pool pumps. (Everyone seems to be experiencing good – unchanged, that is – digestive health after the event too!)

Eat my dust!
Eat my dust!

Dive date: 17 September 2011

Air temperature: 25 degrees

Water temperature: 14 degrees

Maximum depth: 3.8 metres

Visibility: 50 centimetres

Dive duration: 31 minutes

Sponge on the harbour floor
Sponge on the harbour floor