Newsletter: Cool opportunity

Hi divers

Long weekend dive plans

Tuesday: Early boat dives from Hout Bay

Last weekend we had boat dives out of Hout Bay, to two of the lesser dived sites (the Sentinel and Die Josie). Maori Bay was very green but we found lovely visibility right up against the mountains.

Happy divers at Die Josie
Happy divers at Die Josie

The water in False Bay is very clean and cold right now. Sadly, the wind for Saturday is at the limit of what I think will be pleasant. Sunday’s wind will be way too strong. Furthermore, the Navy Festival this weekend spells traffic chaos as well as parking issues for boat trailers and tow cars.

These reasons induce me to skip diving over the weekend and plan boat dives for Tuesday, which is a public holiday. The Atlantic will again be cool, flat and clean so we will launch from Hout Bay, nice and early. Text or Whatsapp me if you want to be updated on meeting times and dive sites.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: It is a weekend

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Shore diving at Long Beach, meeting at 10.00 am

Sunday: Boat dives from False Bay Yacht Club at 9.00 am, to Roman Rock and the wreck of SAS Pietermaritzburg

It is certainly going to be the best weekend in a while, as far as diving goes. There has not been too much of that recently! There are light winds and a 3 metre swell, but it is a westerly swell so I don’t think it will affect False Bay too much.

We are shore diving at Long Beach on Saturday, and boat diving from False Bay Yacht Club on Sunday, to Roman Rock and the wreck of SAS Pietermaritzburg. If you’re keen to dive, let me know.

Huddle around the buoy
Huddle around the buoy

Dates to diarise

Next Sunday, 12 March, is the Cape Town Cycle Tour, so don’t make any plans to move around the city unless it’s by bicycle…

The following week(end), 17-19 March, is the SA Navy Festival in Simons Town, so we will try to schedule dives out of Hout Bay that weekend.

Don’t forget…

… to download the Shark Spotters app for updates on shark and other marine wildlife sightings, beach conditions, and more. You can find the app in the Apple app store, and the Google Play store.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Tow the line

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

No diving

Dive conditions

Seasonal changes are one thing, but the conditions have been less than great for a while. Good diving days have been rare over the last six weeks. This weekend – again – is not too rosy from more than one angle.

Firstly, this week my tow vehicle decided to have a career change, so the boat has nothing to attach to. Secondly, even if I am able to wrest the panel van back from my wife, shore dives don’t look like a good option as there is a 2.5 metre, 16 second swell tomorrow. This grows to 4 metres on Sunday, and the swell goes somewhat southerly. This lingers on Monday, by which time the wind starts humping again.

The Jeep in happier days, at Hout Bay
The Jeep in happier days, at Hout Bay

Plan ahead

Please bear in mind, if you do head out to Simon’s Town this weekend, that the navy is running a simulated disaster/attack scenario from early on Saturday morning, and you should expect detours and delays. Plan accordingly!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Seli… gone!

Panorama of the beach at Blouberg where the Seli 1 lies
Panorama of the beach at Blouberg where the Seli 1 lies

Our obsession with shipwrecks that stick out of the water is well documented. We keep a beady eye on the BOS 400, and while the Seli 1 was visible at Blouberg, Tony and I would take a drive out to visit her every few months. We haven’t been out to see her for well over a year, so I was delighted to find myself at Blouberg recently to get an update on her condition.

Look for the orange buoy - the Seli 1 is under it
Look for the orange buoy – the Seli 1 is under it

The wreck had gone from being intact when she ran aground in 2009, to looking a bit ropy, to separating into three pieces (above the surface, at least). After rough winter in 2012, a minor oil spill issued from the wreck, as part of it toppled over. That was the last we’d seen of her, but furious activity was going on behind the scenes as efforts were made to secure her removal.

Divers from the SA Navy were tasked with detonating explosives on the wreck to break her up, which they did in March 2013. This opened a compartment in the wreck from which oil leaked, necessitating a clean up operation. Finally, the remaining wreckage was cut into smaller pieces to expedite its collapse and dispersion on the sea floor.

The Seli 1 is under the orange buoy to the right of this image (hard to see!)
The Seli 1 is under the orange buoy to the right of this image (hard to see!)

Today, the resting place of the Seli 1 is marked by an orange buoy, that is hard to spot from land – let alone in my photographs above. The site has been dived by a group of adventurous locals, and apart from a lengthy surface swim it’s a possibly promising wreck for Open Water divers to dive from shore (these are in short supply in Cape Town – the only others I can think of are the Clan Stuart and the Antipolis, and perhaps the Romelia).

If you’re interested in visible shipwrecks, check out my ebook Cape Town’s Visible Shipwrecks: A Guide for Explorers!

Standby diver

The Standby Diver on the jetty in Simon's Town
The Standby Diver on the jetty in Simon’s Town

Our Sunday afternoon trips down to the jetty in Simon’s Town, ice cream in hand, have become more interesting since the unveiling of a beautiful bronze statue of a navy standby diver. For about a week before the big day, the statue was concealed by a huge wooden box, leading to much speculation!

The statue was unveiled just before Christmas 2014, and was sculpted by Otto du Plessis. Its design, fundraising to pay for it, and eventual unveiling to the general public was a lengthy process that was pursued by a group of dedicated volunteers, drawn from the fraternity of ex SA Navy divers.

A tour of the SA Navy diving facility in Simon’s Town at a DAN day in 2013 showed us just what a high standard of training these divers receive. They are a credit to South Africa and to the navy. You can read more about the statue here. It’s already a very popular landmark, and groups of divers and passers-by often pose for photographs with the stoic, bronze gentleman keeping watch at the end of the jetty.

Newsletter: Weekend festivities

Hi divers

Weekend diving

Friday: Double tank dives from False Bay Yacht Club

Saturday: Two shallow (maximum depth 18 metres) dives from Hout Bay

Sunday: Two launches if conditions warrant it, from Hout Bay or OPBC

The week’s diving

It has not been a great week of diving as there has been quite a lot of south easterly wind. We launched last Friday and had to hunt around for clean water, ending up at Roman Rock and the Brunswick. There was a huge amount of fish activity close inshore and the phase of the moon wasn’t favourable, so we canned our planned night dive for last Friday evening. We’ll watch the conditions and try again soon. Please enjoy this picture of submarine activity in False Bay, taken on Friday.

Naval activity around the submarine
Naval activity around the submarine

False Bay is currently a pale shade of green whilst the Atlantic is a mixture of clean and green patches. Friday’s wind, surprise surprise, will be south easterly, so it may help to improve the Atlantic viz. Tomorrow’s divers have requested a False Bay launch, hence our planned expedition there.

The Atlantic is the only option for the weekend as the Navy Festival in Simon’s Town will draw a crowd, and this will lunch up all the parking, especially around the yacht club, where we would launch. Miller’s Point is just so far down on my list of nice (and safe and clean) places to launch…

I do think first choice will be out of Hout Bay for Saturday and possibly Sunday, but OPBC will be our second option, depending on how much wind there is tomorrow. On Saturday the boat is primarily students, so both launches will be to sites with a maximum depth of 18 metres. Sunday is wide open and if you have a special request, let me know. As usual, text or email if you’d like to dive this weekend!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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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

What’s so special about our boat?

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

A few months ago one of the outboard motors on our 6.2 metre rubber duck had a piston failure. A lean mixture caused the engine failure and we ended up with a hole in a piston. Being a triple cylinder motor it required a complete rebuild and the cost estimates to do this were extremely high. The engine was a little long in the tooth which meant there were a host of other items that would need replacement if the motor was dismantled, such as mountings, so it was not an option to repair.

The boat is in my opinion over-powered. It is equipped with two 90 horsepower two stroke engines, so I looked at the options of either replacing the broken engine with a used engine or replacing both with a smaller pair. The question of two stroke versus four stroke reared its ugly head and this also needed some consideration. I decided to call the manufacturer, Gemini Marine, and ask them what the boat was ideally designed for. I discovered more than I had bargained for.

The boat was originally designed for sea trials for a tender for SA Navy transporter boats. For the sea trials about ten boats identical to ours were made. Each one was fitted with two 60 horsepower two stroke engines, loaded with 14 soldiers and 50 kilograms of gear and and weaponry, and achieved a top speed of 35 knots. The hull and deck is stronger than the usual design strength requirement, and it has a different hull design in that the deadrise is optimal for rough seas. Deadrise is the angle of the bottom of the boat measured from a horizontal line at the level of the keel. The larger the deadrise angle, the more V-shaped the hull is. Boats with smaller deadrise have a much flatter bottom. It’s not a constant angle in most boats. Often a boat is more V-shaped at the bow and gets flatter at the back. The deadrise is significant because it determines whether the hull is to plane or cut through waves.

Deadrise is the angle measured from the bottom of the keel
Deadrise is the angle measured from the bottom of the keel

As the boat is now it is tail heavy with the two 90 horsepower engines, but the performance is outstanding. Empty it will do 43 knots at 5500 rpm, but in all honesty it is more airborne than on the water and almost impossible to control at that speed. When we do replace the motors at some point we will definitely go for 60 horsepower engines.

We did not get the boat with high speed trips in mind, and its primary use is a platform for our students as a calm, no pressure introduction to boat dives. For this it serves us well.

How to move a whale

Early on the morning of Wednesday 13 November, the remains of a whale washed ashore on Danger Beach at St James. For reasons well known, in Cape Town it’s tricky to leave a whale on a beach or to tow it out to sea and dump it there, much as this would be an ecological boon. The SA Navy attempted to tow the whale to Simon’s Town harbour for removal, but ran into engine trouble.

Whale on the beach in Fish Hoek
Whale on the beach in Fish Hoek

 

Fortunately one of the local shark cage diving operators was able to supply a suitable boat to continue the tow. Shark Explorers took the whale as far as possible, but the wind was coming up and the carcass was very heavy. It was decided to drop the carcass off at Fish Hoek beach and remove it from there.  Two of their crew swum the line attached to the whale to the beach, where it was attached to a front end loader. The front end loader was attached to a truck, and much of this ensued:

Several hours later the whale was at the top of the beach, on the edge of the parking area. The front end loader was now behind it, shoveling the carcass forward.

When the whale was close enough to the flat bed truck, it was attached to the winch on the truck, and hauled up onto the trailer. The trailer was backwards, not attached to the truck, so the winch line had to be taken over the top of the trailer to the ground. There is movement in this last video, but it’s very slow!

The operation was smoothly handled with great professionalism. This is not the first time, and won’t be the last, that local authorities have had to remove large cetacean remains from our beaches. Muizenberg, St James and Fish Hoek beach were closed for much of the next couple of days owing to increased shark activity as a result of the bits of whale and oils in the area. Tony saw some large chunks of blubber floating at Long Beach when he dived the following day, too.

Here are some photos we took of the removal process. In between sunset and darkness, when there’s an obvious gap in the sequence, we went home to have dinner! Shark Spotters also put an album on their facebook page that shows the process from start to finish (our album spans 6-7.00 pm and 8-9.00 pm).

Preparing to put the whale on a truck
Preparing to put the whale on a truck

We much prefer seeing whales that look like this, or this, or this!

Scattered shipwreck: The rudder of the Brunswick

View of the rudder showing the broken end
View of the rudder showing the broken end

The Brunswick is an old wooden wreck from 1805 that lies in shallow water just outside Simon’s Town. I’ve taken some video footage on the wreck that also gives you an idea of what it looks like today. When Tony attended a talk on the Brunswick by an Honours student called Jake Harding, who has just completed a project on it, he learned that the rudder from the ship is currently on display in the courtyard of the Slave Lodge in Cape Town.

End-on view from the intact end of the rudder
End-on view from the intact end of the rudder

 

I went to check it out, and it’s awesome! It gives a sense of how large the Brunswick was that I didn’t get from diving her, as the debris is quite low to the sand and much of it is buried.

The rudder of the Brunswick
The rudder of the Brunswick

The rudder was salvaged in 1967 by an American salvor, who discovered the copper clad rudder on the wreck site (at that stage unidentified). He required the assistance of the SA Navy to bring the rudder ashore, as it was so large. The rudder then lay on the dock in Simon’s Town for several days, during which time most of its copper cladding was stripped off. Some copper still remains on the rudder today, but it is in very poor condition and has the texture of cardboard – you could probably peel it off with your fingernails, if you were a bad person.

Pintle and copper cladding
Pintle and copper cladding

The rudder would have been attached to the back of the ship – the stern – onto a part of the vessel called a sternpost (which is what it sounds like). There are hooks (called gudgeons) on the sternpost and pegs (called pintles) on the rudder that enable the rudder to be attached to the ship, and to move from side to side. There are three pintles visible on the rudder at the Slave Lodge, with one of them partly broken off. The rudder measures just over 4 metres by just under 2 metres, and is nearly 30 centimetres thick.

Holes bored by shipworm
Holes bored by shipworm

One end of the rudder is jagged, and it is believed that originally the rudder was more than five metres long and had another 2-4 pintles. The work of shipworm, Teredo navalis, is evident at the jagged end, where the wood is full of thousands of tiny tunnels created by these creatures. These worms would have lunched on the rudder while it was still attached in the ocean. The cladding of ships’ hulls and rudders with copper was one way to prevent shipworm from damaging the wood while the vessel was still in use, thus prolonging their useful lifespans.

Copper cladding that remains on the rudder
Copper cladding that remains on the rudder

If you’re interested in visible shipwrecks, check out my ebook Cape Town’s Visible Shipwrecks: A Guide for Explorers!