Aliwal Shoal Report September 2008 - Basie Ackermann

General conditions

What a wild month. Biggest winds we’ve had in years for a September, with seriously dangerous sea and surf conditions. Lots of lawn mowing and moves at home that would’ve made the Nutsman proud.   

I’ve had to cancel nearly 45% of my scuba charter launches for this month, and most of the remaining days you’ve had to be seriously awake/mental/bored/ or an adrenaline junky to make it through the surf , and then do some fancy foot work dodging breaking  4- 6m waves on the Shoal.  

For the first time in over a year not one but two Dive Charter boats went over at Umkomaas. Luckily no one seriously injured, but a clear indication of how absolutely tired this month has been, as these guys are very experienced skippers who do this on a daily basis.  And I don’t mean flipping boats.

The highest wind I’ve recorded on the reef was on the 5th - a breezy 40 gusting 45 knots. The sea looked like a blizzard it was so white from spray whipped up by wind, which cranked up from 10-15knots to 40-45knots in 20 minutes. Time to stick your tail between your legs and RUN!

If I look at my notes for the month, it is all the same – week for week we’ve had either 3 westerlies  with  4 days of  easterlies in between, or 4 westerlies with 3 days easterlies in between. All in the 25-35 knot range. Only two days this month with no wind, but Murphy’s Law made sure the swell was 4m. Visibility was not too bad, 8-15m, with temperatures ranging from 18-21 degrees Celsius.

Fish

They were there, but nicely protected by Mother Nature. Wahoo, Sailfish and Tuna were seen feeding on the surface, with the scubbies reporting Kingfish and Sea Pike sightings.

The morning of the 26th was one of those days that caught everyone by surprise – no wind, manageable swell and light north south current, with 18m visibility. Perfect, and no one there to reap the harvest!  I even saw a shoal of approximately 12kg Wahoo from my boat, swimming lazily under the surface. Very Harry Casual, as no one has been there chasing them for nearly two months. I phoned a couple of friends to tell them to rush out there before the wind came.  By the time they got there, the window was closing, but they did report seeing a shoal of 20kg plus Wahoo.

I’ve also heard that on the 28th, when conditions were prime for Wahoo, some spearos managed to bag five. Now we are talking – hopefully the crappy weather is moving along so we can have more of those days.

MCM

Just a warning to everyone out in the Aliwal Shoal MPA  - the Marine and Coastal Management’ s  Environmental Protection Services vessel “Ruth First” is on patrol in the area at the moment, and will be for a while. 

In the past month I have been checked three times in three weeks for paperwork and safety gear. They should maybe think of checking their own notes ( copious ones at that, and photos they take of you, your boat and  boat number  every time they check you) before they harass you again a couple of days later for the exact same thing, especially if all was in order first time round. As far as I know – I stand to be corrected – the expiry dates on permits are yearly and flares three yearly and therefore do not expire in a week.  Nice to know our tax money is once again wisely spent… makes me want to pay the taxman even more.  I think we all agree - the  yearly expiry date on a piece of paper that has been checked three times in three weeks is a lot more important that catching real poachers and the long line trawlers fishing our coast silly…

It really irks me that as we have really limited resources and vessels to patrol a huge coastline, those that we do have should be put to much better and more efficient use.

So make sure your boat is in order before going out there, and that you do not spear in any of the two Crown Areas - waters shallower than 25m on the Shoal and the Produce.  And make sure your expiry dates are yearly and not weekly.

Happy hunting.
Basie Ackermann