Compass sea jellies in False Bay

Compass sea jelly, photo by Jerrel
Compass sea jelly, photo by Jerrel

On one of the relatively few days this past winter (early in August) when we had really good visibility, the western side of False Bay was full of compass sea jellies. I filmed some of them from the boat while Jerrel and Nick completed their dive. Watch out for the “shark” at the end!

Cape Town’s visible shipwrecks: Nolloth

The engine block of the Nolloth in the foreground
The engine block of the Nolloth in the foreground

The second visible shipwreck along the Cape Point Shipwreck Trail, about three kilometres from the start in the Olifantsbos parking area, is the Nolloth. She was a Dutch coaster carrying a cargo of (mostly) liquor, and struck a submerged rock (probably Albatross Rock, nemesis of many ships) off Olifantsbos in April 1965. Her captain ran her aground to save the cargo and prevent loss of life. Customs officials swiftly salvaged the cargo!

Engine block of the Nolloth
Engine block of the Nolloth

The Nolloth lies just in the waves at high tide. We visited a couple of hours after high tide, and were able to walk all the way around the wreckage without getting our feet wet. She lies at an angle, with much of her seemingly buried in the sand. Her engine block is partially exposed, and for the mechanically minded, prolonged examination of the cogs and gears will be rewarding.

Ribs of the Nolloth
Ribs of the Nolloth

The wildness of the location lends a very special quality to this wreck that is lacking in Cape Town’s visible shipwrecks that are situated in more urban environments – RMS Athens comes to mind. It is a remote and very beautiful spot, but would be possessed of far fewer benign qualities on a dark and stormy night.

There are some fantastic pictures of the Nolloth in Brian Wexham’s Shipwrecks of the Western Cape, taken, I suspect, within 20 years of her running aground. There is far more of her visible – she looks like a ship on the beach rather than a ship in the beach! There is also evidence of some low wreckage in the shallows that might still be visible when the tide is at its nadir, but I would caution against too much barefoot exploration of rockpools unless the water is very clear and your tetanus shots are up to date.

The Nolloth on the beach south of Olifantsbos
The Nolloth on the beach south of Olifantsbos

The Nolloth signals the point at which one turns back along the Shipwreck Trail to head towards Olifantsbos once more. Tami, Maria and I spent a wonderful morning on the Shipwreck Trail exploring the Thomas T Tucker and the Nolloth. As an aside, I would like to apologise to the resident chacma baboons for disturbing the peace when I realised that – with the help of a Slingsby Map – I had in fact successfully navigated us (along a marked and named trail, mind you) to not one, but two shipwrecks.

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

Dog on a boat in Mozambique

Tony surfacing to see Dori and Mike on the boat
Tony surfacing to see Dori and Mike on the boat

There’s something beautifully incongruous about surfacing after a dive to be greeted by a dog on the pontoon of the boat. We had this privilege after a dive to Creche, a dive site near Ponta Malongane. Dori SeaDog, who officially belongs to Wayne and Petro (formerly of Simply Scuba) and unofficially belongs to the entire diving community of Ponta do Ouro, accompanied us on the boat to the dive site, and then waited on the boat with Mike for the divers to surface.

Please enjoy this very short glimpse of Dori on the boat as we surfaced! On the way back to the beach she was spotted with one paw on the end of a lollipop stick, holding it against the deck of the boat, while she licked the lollipop on the other end.

Long term test of the Mercury 60 hp engines

The back end of our boat Seahorse
The back end of our boat Seahorse

The 60 hp Mercury four stroke motors have been on the boat for nearly 18 months and had their 200 hour service yesterday. The decision to go from two 90 hp engines to the 60 hp was the right one for the size of the boat. The profile in the water is far better and the performance is more than adequate.

Fully loaded the boat will do 25 knots at 4000 rpm, a long way off the maximum rpm of 6000. At this level of throttle the fuel consumption is fantastic.

The huge reduction in fuel usage as well as the total lack of any repairs and other small mechanical things to take care of every week has been a huge improvement over the period. The requirement of only a fresh water flush between diving days to keep the motors in good shape has freed up a lot of time to work on other projects.

The only hiccup we have had was that the console-mounted hour meters both failed, one at 10 hours and the other at 60. Fortunately the engine management system stores this information so at the 100 hour service we had electronic units fitted. To access them one has to remove the engine covers, but this is a small inconvenience as they only need to be checked infrequently. At each service, we are able to get a detailed printout showing the activity of each engine, including how much time it has spent at what level of rpm.

Seli WHAT?

After our team of relay swimmers completed the Lighthouse Swim, Tony and I made our way back towards Granger Bay via a meandering route that included a search for the buoy marking the Seli 1, off Blouberg beach. We did not find it.

The Seli 1 under Table Mountain
The Seli 1 under Table Mountain

What we did find was quite disturbing: a hissing, pulsating patch of water beneath which the rusty wreckage of the Seli 1 lies, very close to the surface. There was no wind and very little swell when we were searching for the wreck, and initially we thought it was a school of baitfish disturbing the surface in that way. Fortunately we approached the spot slowly, because if we’d ridden over the wreckage this would be a different kind of blog post altogether.

The sea reveals the Seli 1
The sea reveals the Seli 1

We rode around the spot as close as we dared, watching the image of the objects below us on the sonar. The buckled plates of the wreck, where the SA Navy divers did their work with explosives to reduce it below the waterline in 2013, were clearly visible. The wreckage – particularly the shallowest part pictured above – is a definite hazard to any boat with a keel. We couldn’t tell exactly how much clearance there is between the top of the shallowest part of the wreck and the surface, but it didn’t seem to be more than half a metre. I hope it’s more than that, and I also hope that SAMSA pays attention to our request for a replacement marker buoy on the wreckage to warn ships (but considering how many channels of communication I had to try before not getting some kind of error, I haven’t a lot of hope).

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

The NSRI SafeTRX app

At the beginning of this year, the NSRI launched the SafeTrx smartphone app. It is available in other countries, and the NSRI brought it to South Africa. I have been using it since February. It has taken a bit of getting used to with a few missteps on my part, but it now provides great peace of mind whenever I go out to sea. The app is a journey planner for boaters, with the capability of activating emergency contacts should you not return to port on time.

The app is available for iOS and Android systems. Skippers using the app can register a vessel (or more than one vessel) with the app (mine is Seahorse). You can provide a photo of the boat, its registration number, its radio call sign, and whether it has an emergency beacon (EPIRB or similar). When you depart for a trip, you select which vessel you are travelling in, how many passengers, what type of trip you’re doing (diving, cruising, safety, etc.), and an estimated time of arrival. You can also specify the route you’re taking by including waypoints on the trip map.

Once you’ve set up your journey, you can text it to your emergency contact(s). On your return to port, you re-open the app, close your journey, and have the option to text your emergency contacts again to let them know you’re home safely. These are screen shots from Clare’s phone showing the start and end of a trip with six people (including me) on board:

Text messages generated by SafeTrx app
Text messages generated by SafeTrx app

The SafeTrx app comes with a login to the SafeTrx website, which allows you to review your journeys online. You can actually see updates in real time; Clare took this screen shot from the website when I was out at Duiker Island in Hout Bay. When I started to return to Hout Bay harbour, the boat icon could be seen moving (jerkily) towards the harbour entrance.

The website information also allows you to evaluate the directness of the sea routes you follow, which is important when supporting open water swimmers, and gives useful statistics about how far you’ve travelled on the boat and for how long.

Viewing journeys on the SafeTrx website
Viewing journeys on the SafeTrx website

The first time I used the app, I didn’t set my ETA (estimated time of arrival) correctly, and left it on the default value, which is fifteen minutes after the current time. Not long after that time had elapsed, Clare (my emergency contact when she’s not on board) received a phonecall from Maritime Rescue stating that I was overdue and had she been in contact with me? She assured them that she had and that I was a first time user of the app, hence the mistake! We were extremely impressed by the speedy response, and glad to know that the system works so efficiently. Needless to say I have not made the same mistake again.

I encourage you to visit the NSRI website for more information about the use of the app, including download links. If you see me on the jetty and want to take a look at the app set up on my phone, please feel free to ask!

Newsletter: Fog for thought

Hi divers

Weekend diving

Saturday: Shore dive(s)

Sunday: Launching from Simon’s Town jetty for an undisclosed location in False Bay!

Crossing from Robben Island to Big Bay
Crossing from Robben Island to Big Bay

Conditions report

The weekend started with a foggy wait in Table Bay for the fog to clear before the Robben Island Freedom Swim could get underway. Once it had lifted we were once again treated to a Le Mans style start your engines and full throttle race to Robben Island.There are some pictures on facebook.

We had very clean water for diving in False Bay on Sunday  but the fog made it a little unpleasant on the boat because of the other boat traffic. 

The viz has slowly dropped off during the week. On Monday we were out at Dias Beach inside the Cape Point reserve for another swim event and the water was very clean there and inside False Bay, but by late afternoon it had got a lot darker. Some photos from that day are also on facebook.

Waiting off Dias Beach for the swim to start
Waiting off Dias Beach for the swim to start

The water does not look spectacular anywhere. Hout Bay is not that clean and Table Bay very patchy. False Bay looks better than anywhere else. The downside is that we are forecast to have a southerly swell which does not do False Bay any good. I am at another Robben Island swim event tomorrow so I will have a better idea of the conditions there tomorrow evening.

The diving plan for the weekend is thus shore dives on Saturday, and boat dives in False Bay on Sunday. I’m not going to select sites in advance – we’ll go wherever we can find clean water.

Text or email me if you want to dive.

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!

Newsletter: Swim time

Hi divers

Weekend dives

Sunday: launching from Simon’s Town jetty at 8.00 for Outer Photographer’s Reef / 10.30 for Alpha Reef / 12.30 double tanker to Pyramid Rock for cowsharks

Dive report

We were able to get in the water twice over the Easter weekend: really early on Saturday in False Bay before the wind, and then again on Monday. Monday turned out to be a great day with very little wind. It was however cold, 9 -10 degrees, and we dived the BOS 400, Tafelberg Reef and the seals out of Hout Bay.

Saturday’s dives were interesting but perhaps not fun in the conventional sense of the word – we two back to back at Shark Alley so a film crew could visit the cowsharks. There was not a cowshark to be seen until the end of the second dive, when the divers encountered two dead sharks with what looked like extensive bite marks all down their bodies. We sent the pictures to one of the local scientists running the sevengill cowshark project in False Bay. She observed that the sharks had not been dead long (their eyes were intact, and these would be the first thing to be nibbled by fish), and that the absence of hooks and typical treatment by fishermen suggested that humans were not involved.

Monday launch in Hout Bay, with burned mountains behind us
Monday launch in Hout Bay, with burned mountains behind us

Weekend plans

This weekend shows great potential for good clean water almost everywhere. There is no swell forecast, and light winds. On Saturday we are supporting Ned Denison at the Robben Island Freedom Swim so there is no diving planned.

On Sunday we will launch from Simon’s Town jetty at 8.00 for Outer Photographer’s Reef, at 10.30 for Alpha Reef and at 12.30 we need to do something at Pyramid Rock so we will do a double tank dive in the afternoon.

On Monday we are supporting the Swim for Hope around Cape Point, so we are making up for all the windy days that have stopped us taking the boat out this summer.

Mozambique trip

We will need to close bookings for the trip at the end of April. There are three spots still available – let me know if you want more information. We’re away from 28 June until 4 July, traveling via Durban.

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!

Newsletter: Sweets on the boat!

Hi divers

Weekend diving

Sunday: Boat dives at 9.00 to Atlantis Reef (5-27 metres) and 12.00 to Tivoli Pinnacles (10-22 metres)

Conditions report

Both the Atlantic and False Bay have been great during the week. We had 8 metre visibility on an Atlantic charter on Wednesday, and today’s offshore winds have flattened False Bay nicely, and cleaned the water significantly. The water temperature on both sides of the peninsula is similar, 10-12 degrees, and the visibility is around 8 metres. I feel that if the water temperature is a single digit the viz needs to be double that, but we don’t always get what we want! False Bay will be the best option this weekend so we will plan to launch on Sunday, at 9.30 for Atlantis and for Tivoli Pinnacles at 12.00.

Sweets on the boat!
Sweets on the boat!

For the diary

December is starting on Monday and the season gets really busy, really fast. We are going to focus on Open Water, Advanced and Nitrox courses this December. We will add a Nitrox course free to the first 5 people that sign up for an Advanced course during December. We are also able to run the Research Diver, Drift diver and Equipment Specialist courses during December and January. To see the range of courses available take a look here.

Please diarise our open house on Saturday afternoon, 13 December. Proper invitations to follow.

For interest

On Sunday while out on the boat we passed by the prototype shark repellent cable at the end of Glencairn beach. This is a non-lethal approach to keeping humans and sharks separate, and is in the testing phase. You can see how the cable is lying with electrodes on each side of the centre cable, the electrodes marked by orange buoys on risers that stick out at low tide. There’s a description of the cable here, and we’ll have some more photos on the blog next Wednesday.

The risers on the cable are clearly visible at low tide
The risers on the cable are clearly visible at low tide

This is a great project with a potentially significant impact on the relationship between humans and sharks in South Africa. The cable was developed at the behest of the KZN Sharks Board, and is being tested in co-operation with Shark Spotters and the City of Cape Town.

For the history books

Last Friday the wreck of the Clan Stuart turned 100. She ran aground in False Bay on 21 November 1914. We had a little commemoration of our Clan Stuart dives on the blog.

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!

Movie: All is Lost

All is Lost
All is Lost

At the start of All is Lost a solo sailor far from land in the Indian Ocean gives a brief farewell message – maybe writing a letter – to unseen recipients that we assume must be his family. We then flash back eight days, to when he strikes a semi-submerged shipping container with his yacht. The rest of the film deals with his attempts to save his sailboat, and then ultimately simply to save himself. There are a couple of lines of dialogue, but no other people appear in the film and the sailor, played by Robert Redford, is alone for the duration of the movie.

Some people will find the spare nature of the production infuriating or boring – be warned. In other ocean films that we’ve watched, and even in the Deadliest Catch series, the ocean itself appears almost as an auxiliary character, full of sound and texture and power. In All is Lost, there are long periods during which Redford’s craft is becalmed, with a featureless ocean and distant, cloudless horizon almost fading into obscurity. During the storms the camera remains closely focused on him, not giving the waves and wind an opportunity to dominate the screen.

An interview with the director reveals how he relished the opportunity to cast Redford in a role in which he could not much use his voice – which is widely recognised and commands attention. His performance is gripping and disturbing. At no point could we guess how the unnamed yachtsman’s ordeal would end. The build up of tension was almost unbearable. I dreamed restlessly about sailing after watching the film.

There are interesting reviews at the New York Times and The Guardian. Tony, who has a bit of a sailing past, critiqued some of the decisions made by Redford’s solo sailor as being rookie errors (such as trying to put the storm sail up in the middle of a storm). Other sailors agreed with the points Tony made – Vanity Fair has an article here (but it’s likely to spoil the movie for you).

You can get the DVD here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise here or here.