Christmas gift guide 2017

I wondered when I’d need a picture of a glass of champagne next to some dive gear; this post feels like as good a time as any to use it. I feel obligated to explain that the champagne was being consumed on our pool deck during the course of a late afternoon fool around in and next to the pool with some of my friends. The dive gear was still lying there from a class Tony had led that morning. The juxtaposition was too much to resist.

Don't drink and dive
Don’t drink and dive

That said, it’s time to think about Christmas, Hanukkah, and time off with the family. Some may even celebrate Festivus. I salute you. Regardless, it’s a good time to give gifts to the people you care about. Some suggestions follow below.

First, here are the obligatory links to previous years’ editions of this guide: 20102011201220132014, 2015. Unfortunately, 2016 was an annus horribilis best left undiscussed. As usual, this year’s guide owes much to previous versions. There’s nothing new under the sun.

Donations

For the person who has everything, or because you’re feeling grateful, consider a donation on behalf of your friend or loved one:

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 the non diver, you could inspire a love for our oceans with one of these:

As usual our Wild Card was an absolute blessing this year. It has been used for multiple park visits and also gets us a discount on our toll fee on Chapmans Peak Drive‘s frequent user program. The full card is a bit pricey, but there’s a great alternative called My Green Card, that costs R145 and gives twelve entries to any of the paid sections of Table Mountain National Park (so, Cape Point, Boulders, Silvermine, Oudekraal, and a few braai areas). Read the fine print carefully though – if you use it up quickly, you have to wait for the 12 months to pass before you can purchase another one. But I think you can also share the 12 clips with friends, whereas a regular Wild Card is tied to your identity. You will have to go to the SANParks office in Tokai to get a My Green Card.

SanParks is introducing differential pricing for Table Mountain National Park, with significantly lower prices for locals, starting next November, so some mathematics will be required this time next year to determine whether a Wild Card is still worth the expense.

Something to read

Everything you need to know about finding a book related to the ocean can be discovered in our list of most recommended books, and our guide to finding the book you need (on this blog, at least!). There are a couple of children’s books there, too.

A magazine subscription is also a fairly reasonably-priced gift idea. I can’t tell you which of the dive magazines are worth reading these days – our current subscriptions are Maritime Review (which is free, so that’s perhaps cheating) and CAR magazine…

Something beautiful

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 usually find them at Exclusive Books or Noordhoek Farm Village (just browse the shops there, one of them has the tide charts right at the door).

You could also print and frame a photo, or create a photo book. Most camera stores can assist with a range of printing media.

Dive gear and water-related stuff

Some excellent water-related gifts I’ve received over the years include:

 

  • WetSac (seriously, check it out) – order online
  • A hooded towel – surf shops often stock them, try the strip at Surfers Corner in Muizenberg
  • A stand up paddle boarding lesson
  • A reel and/or a surface marker buoy – make sure it’s one of the ones that isn’t negatively buoyant

Otherwise, just think a little bit about what might be useful before or after a dive…

  • Sunscreen, conditioner, cleansing shampoo, detangling spray
  • A reusable metal water bottle (glass is a bad idea for the boat)
  • A mini dry bag to keep phones and keys safe
  • A beanie for cold days on the boat or a cap for the sun, or a buff for hair management or neck protection (the Aquarium sometimes sells turtle ones to fundraise for their turtle rehab)
Be safe, be kind, be lekker. Thank you for your friendship and for the dives!

Newsletter: Last blast

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Launching from Hout Bay at 9.00 and 11.30

So, we are into May and the southeaster soon starts to wane… Except for tomorrow and Saturday. The four graphs below show the direction (around the compass rose) and amount (the size and colour of the pie wedges) of wind during each season in 2015. Our home weather station recorded quite a bit of easterly to south easterly wind, circled in red below, during autumn last year, after which we enjoyed winter diving conditions. Click on the image below to enlarge.

Seasonal wind in 2015
Seasonal wind in 2015

We had a hectic long weekend last week, with pool training on Saturday, shore dives at Long Beach on Sunday, and boat dives in some very murky False Bay waters on Monday. Fortunately the macro specialists were on the boat!

The weekend the only real option is Atlantic diving. False Bay is not all that clean and neither is the Atlantic, but by Sunday morning it will look a whole lot better and we will launch out of Hout Bay.

Launch times will be 9.00 and 11.30 am, but sites will be decided on the morning as the swell predicted for Saturday will have an impact on where we dive. Text or email me if you are keen to dip yourself in some cold Atlantic water.

regards

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

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Newsletter: Gremlins

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: shore dives at Long Beach

Monday: boat dives from Simon’s Town, conditions permitting

We had a small gremlin interfere with our newsletter timing yesterday and for this we apologise.

We had decent conditions on Wednesday with dives in the vicinity of Roman Rock. There was a dirty layer on the surface, but underneath there was clear water with visibility of about 12 metres. Today we are taking visitors from Port Elizabeth to explore some local dive sites.

Roman Rock lighthouse on Wednesday
Roman Rock lighthouse on Wednesday

It is the Cape Town Dive Festival this weekend, held at False Bay Yacht Club, so the slipway will be quite busy. I plan for student pool training on Saturday, shore dives at Long Beach on Sunday (working the students hard) and boat launches on Monday (a glorious public holiday).

If you are keen for a shore dive on Sunday or want to be kept in the loop about boat dives on Monday, let me know.

regards

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

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Newsletter: Try it out

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: 6.00 am on Simon’s Town jetty for double tank dives in the Roman Rock vicinity

Saturday: Dives from Simon’s Town jetty at 9.00 and 11.30 am, sites dependent on conditions

Dive conditions

We had good conditions last week; they held for the weekend and then kept going at the start of this week. Yesterday and today, however, the viz took a bit of a nosedive and is possibly going to settle into the summer visibility groove of a warm 4- 6 metres, depending on your eyesight. There is very little swell or wind in the forecast which will help.

I doubt there will be too much difference between Saturday and Sunday so the plan is as follows: a screechingly early double tank launch on Saturday (6.00 am on the Simon’s Town jetty). On Sunday we will meet for 9.00 am and 11.30 am. The sites will depend on what we find on Saturday.

A Cape long-legged spider crab
A Cape long-legged spider crab

This Cape long-legged spider crab hitched a ride to the surface on one of the divers’ booties this week. Isn’t he a handsome chap? He is back where he belongs!

Try diving in the pool

In the month of December until Christmas, we are offering Discover Scuba sessions (try dives) in our pool, free of charge, every Wednesday and Thursday after 3.00 pm. If you have a friend that needs a little persuasion to qualify as your future dive buddy, then bring them along. Booking is essential. Get in touch if you want to reserve a slot.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Heating our pool with Project Pumps

We have a training pool that is just the right size for the small groups of students that Tony prefers to teach. It’s an ideal size to heat up, and in order to make it as comfortable as possible to spend extended periods of time on skills, we’ve taken a couple of measures to make the water as warm as we can. The first, which we fitted when we installed the pool, is a thermal cover that both warms the water and reduces algae growth. It looks like grey bubble wrap, and works like a bomb – it raises the water temperature up to four degrees higher than the air temperature (and if you don’t run the pump to mix the heated layers, you can get an impressive thermocline!). Of course, to get the benefit of the pool cover, it has to be on at least some of the time, which is a challenge during the summer months, when there’s always someone in the pool!

A fine network of pipes
A fine network of pipes

The second measure we took to warm the pool was to install solar heating panels on the roof. These panels consist of a fine network of tubes made of tough HDPE, through which the pool water is circulated and then returned to the pool. The existing pool pump is used (this is why we fitted a more powerful one than the size of the pool warranted when we did the initial installation) and the heat of the sun warms the panels directly, as well as warming the roof which warms the panels from below. We fitted them on the north-facing sloping area of our roof. As a rule of thumb the number of panels needed is one for every two square metres of pool surface. Our pool is 5×3=15 metres square, so we have 7 panels (which is 15 divided by two, and rounded down).

Putting the panels onto the roof
Putting the panels onto the roof

The pump has a manifold fitted, which allows us to decide when we pump water onto the roof, and when we don’t bother. During the winter, when it’s quiet, or raining, we can isolate the panels and just run the pool pump as normal. This also saves electricity during the time of the year when it’s most in demand inside the house.

The manifold for the roof panels
The manifold for the roof panels

The entire system was installed by our fellow diver Justin Gootman of Project Pumps, and we can highly recommend his and his team’s handiwork and professionalism. (At the same time and with great expertise they drilled us a well point, but that’s another story.)

Connected to the pool pump
Connected to the pool pump

I learned to dive in Cape Town in the month of July, and the training pool was 9 degrees and I was almost physically ill when I submerged myself. It was very unpleasant. For several years afterwards it was the coldest water I’d ever been in, until a freezing dive at Tafelberg Reef in the Atlantic took over pole position. I am happy to say that we at Learn to Dive Today are doing our bit to ensure that fewer Cape Town dive students have to suffer as I did!

Newsletter: Premium weather

Hi divers

Saturday: Shore dives at Long Beach, starting at 9.00 am

Sunday: Boat dives, launching from Simon’s Town jetty or Hout Bay depending on wind direction

Deciding on where to dive every weekend is always a case of looking at several weather sites, sucking on your thumb, and then choosing. It can sometimes be so spot on it makes you beam with pride and other times you miss the mark so badly you wonder whether you were looking at a forecast from another planet. I thought perhaps we would try a premium subscription for a while and see if the odds improve. Time will tell…

It has been a pool week for me and therefore it will be a student weekend with only a few spaces on the boat for casual divers. The viz however is absolutely stunning in False Bay right now. If you want to join a dive, let me know.

Clock tower in Simon's Town
Clock tower in Simon’s Town

Weekend plans

On Saturday we will dive at Long Beach starting at 9.00 am. The wind is supposed to blow from around midday so we want to get going early. Casual divers are welcome, as long as you can fend for yourself while I take care of students.

On Sunday we will do two launches to a destination as yet unknown. My weather god, who I suspect is as real as a unicorn, says if it blows south easterly all night on Saturday, we will launch from Hout Bay. If it does not we will go to False Bay and launch from the jetty in Simon’s Town. It is also forecast, by the same unicorn, to blow relatively hard on Sunday which means we will most likely dive the sheltered sites of the Brunswick wreck, and Ark Rock.

Training

Online learning with SDI
Online learning with SDI

Summer is on its way, it gets busy and warm really quickly and the price of training and diving usually climbs with the thermometer. We do offer both PADI and SDI courses but are focusing more on the affordability of online theory with SDI. In the modern world we live in it is no longer essential to purchase a big thick manual when you can have it all on your laptop for a lot less money. If you want more info on any of the courses we offer give me a shout or visit our website.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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A glimpse of False Bay… from a drone

The instruction manual for the Parrot AR.Drone wasn’t kidding when it recommended not to fly the quadcopter in strong winds. Although when Tony lined his one up on our pool deck for a quick demonstration to a friend (he planned to take off to the height of our garden fence and land it immediately), there was only a whisper of a breeze blowing, and conditions seemed perfect for a late afternoon flip.

He wasn’t banking on the powerful thermals that build up in the valley where we live, however, and over the sports fields next to our house. As soon as it reached fence height, the drone took off vertically like a rocket, sailing unassisted over the pine trees next to our house and down Kommetjie road. Before it got out of range and stopped transmitting video, it took some tantalisingly brief footage of Fish Hoek, with False Bay in the distance.

Fortunately the errant high flier was located resting and askew, by the side of the road, exhausted but undamaged after its adventures. Next time we fly it on a warm day we’ll ask Christo for his (former) paraglider’s expert opinion on the risk of thermal columns in the immediate surroundings!

And what a beautiful place we live in, yes?

Newsletter: Cats, Sodwana and Swimming

Hi divers

Weekend plans

SaturdayPool and Long Beach

Sunday: Launch from Simon’s Town jetty at 9.30 and 12.00 to Photographer’s Reef and Outer Castle.

Dive report

We had a really great trip to Sodwana with a bunch of really great and lively people. Good diving, lots of laughs and many compromising photos. There are some photos on facebook, here and here. After Sodwana we headed to the KZN bush to enjoy another passion we share, wildlife. Very few moments in life are a special as the time you spend up close to a wild animal in its natural environment.

Happy divers on the beach in Sodwana
Happy divers on the beach in Sodwana

We got home late on Friday night and were up with the sparrows on Saturday to provide boat support for the Freedom Swim, a 7.5 kilometre open water swim from Robben Island to Big Bay in Blouberg. You will recall that Saturday was a beautiful day, so we had a great time out on the water. There is an album of photos from Saturday on facebook – check it out – Clare thinks it’s not getting enough love!

Table Mountain and a swimmer
Table Mountain and a swimmer

Conditions forecast and weekend plans

The weather for this weekend all seems to hinge on today and tomorrow, as the forecasts all predict heavy rain and strong winds. The rain is lashing down right now and a vast amount of the run-off is going to end up in the sea. False Bay is clean right now so hopefully this won’t affect the weekend’s visibility too much. It seems the rain and wind might hang around until sometime Saturday plus a 5 metre swell tomorrow drags into Saturday as it drops off, so I think we will opt for the pool and Long Beach on Saturday and launch the boat on Sunday.

We will launch from Simon’s Town jetty at 9.30 and 12.00. The plan is to dive Photographer’s Reef and Outer Castle.

Cheetah mother and three cubs in the Munyawana Conservancy
Cheetah mother and three cubs in the Munyawana Conservancy

Permits to dive in a Marine Protected Area

The MPA police (as I like to call them) have been checking permits so please make sure you have a valid permit. If you don’t, we have temporary permits available, for R45 each, and they are valid for one month, but it’s more cost effective to get a full year’s permit at the post office.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Family business

Ready for action at the pool
Ready for action at the pool

Our pool is five by three metres, and just under two metres deep at the deep end. We’ve had a number of students that have come to do their confined water skills, but in December we had two firsts: four students at the same time, and all of them were related. The three Carstens children were doing a PADI Open Water course, and their old man was doing a Refresher.

Exam time!
Exam time!

Not only did all of us fit in the pool at the same time for the basic skills (with me towards the shallow end and the family in the deep end), but we had an awesome time of it. It’s been great having the pool on site. The pool we used to use sometimes had water clarity issues, and there certainly wasn’t the option of popping inside for a cup of coffee and some theory work.

Group photo after successful completion of confined water skills
Group photo after successful completion of confined water skills

Underwater selfies

An underwater selfie from Tony
An underwater selfie from Tony

Tony got a new 5 millimetre Mares Pioneer wetsuit to replace his Flexa 8-6-5, which was getting a bit long in the tooth. When I was clearing photos off my old underwater camera, I found this little photo shoot, in which he appears to have been testing his gear in our swimming pool… Under the pool cover.

The view from underneath our pool cover
The view from underneath our pool cover

 

The water temperature was a sweet 25 degrees, according to the Mares Nemo Wide.

Dive computer at the bottom of our pool
Dive computer at the bottom of our pool