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Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/MV Aster

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The dive site M.V. Aster is a recent wreck in the Hout Bay area on the Atlantic seaboard of the Cape Peninsula, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa.


Understand

The wreck is easily accessible by a short boat trip, and was prepared for diving before it was sunk. It supports a large variety of marine life, and is structurally still fairly intact.

General arrangement sketch of the M.V. Aster.
Forecastle of the Aster
Tripod mast
Superstructure looking aft from the forecastle
Divers at the propeller aperture

Position

S34°03.901’ E018°20.967’

S34°03.891’ E018°20.955’ (Mast)

In the middle of the mouth of Hout Bay, near the wreck of the Katsu Maru, 700m offshore

This site is in a Marine Protected Area (2009). A permit is required.

Name

The 340 ton "MFV Aster" was a South African registered lobster fishing vessel which was prepared as a diver-friendly artificial reef by cleaning and cutting openings into the structure. It ihas been used as a training site for wreck penetration. The Aster was scuttled in Hout Bay near the wreck of the Katzu Maru on 9th August 1997.

Depth

Maximum depth about 28m meters in the scour at the bow and stern. Average depth of the wreck is over 20m.


Topography

Flat sand bottom at about 27m. The ship stands almost level imbedded in the bottom as if floating in sand. The bow points towards approximately 330° magnetic (northwest). Deep scouring at bow and stern, usually to about 28m maximum, depending on the tide. The vessel is is essentially intact and still looks much like when it was afloat. The hull is intact with a few holes cut in it, and the superstructure except for the wheelhouse, and tripod mast are also intact. There is a fairly large rectangular hatch just forward of the superstructure. The gunwale is at about 24m depth, and the boat is about 36m long. Top of the mast is at about 9m depth The Aster is marked on the charts at the same position as the Katsu Maru, but is about 30m to the northeast of the other wreck, and both can be visited on the same dive.

Geology: Flat sand bottom.

Conditions

The site is exposed to south westerly swells, which can cause a strong surge. The site is usually at it's best in summer but there are also occasional opportunities in autumn and winter.

This is an area which sometimes has upwellings, caused by strong south easterly winds, resulting in cold clear water, which may develop a plankton bloom over a few days, which will reduce the visibility again.

Keep a lookout for times when the south west swell is low and short period, and there is not too much south easterly wind forecast.


Get in

Access is only reasonably practicable by boat. The site is about a 2.2km ride from the harbour slipway. The wreck is in the harbour approaches, and there may be significant boat traffic.

See

The rare Tasselled nudibranch.
Feather duster tubeworms
Mosaic nudibranch on the rudder
Nudibranch with egg mass on Aster DSC00932.JPG
Pair of swimming crabs on the sand
Sponge
Rebreather diver on the Aster DSC00273.JPG
Diver on the Aster DSC00290.JPG

Marine life

The wreck is heavily encrusted with common feather stars and sponges, with good representation by colonial ascidians and hydroids. The mast has Urchins, black mussels and barnacles near the top. There is a fair range of other species, and the rarely sighted Tasselled nudibranch Kaloplocamus ramosus has been seen here several times.

Features

Recent wreck in fairly intact condition.

Photography

Macro and/or wide angle equipment recommended.

Routes

No special route recommended. Start deep, progress upward. The mast is a good place to ascend if not using a SMB or shotline. If you wish to visit the Katsu Maru, swim to the southwest from the middle of the Aster, perpendicular to the length of the Aster.

Stay safe

Hazards

Cold water, occasional fog, boat traffic. Possible entrapment if the wreck is penetrated. Some of the structure may be unstable. Strong surge if the swell is large or the period long.

Skills

No special skills required unless penetration is intended. It is necessary to be qualified for 30m dives.

Equipment

A light will restore colour and allow you to look into the wreck. Reel and DSMB are worth carrying in case it is necessary to surface away from the shotline. A dry-suit is recommended as the water is cold, Nitrox is recommended to extend no-decompression time.

Back to Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay#Inner Hout Bay

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