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Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/SAS Fleur

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Diving in South Africa : Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay : SAS Fleur
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The dive site SAS Fleur is a deep recent wreck in the central part of False Bay, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa.


Understand[edit]

HMS Barbrake, later renamed SAS Fleur, at work on harbour defences during WWII
Map of the wreck of the SAS Fleur

Position[edit]

S34°10.832’ E018°33.895’ (approximate centre of wreckage)

S34°10.846’ E018°33.903’ (Bow)

S34°10.820’ E018°33.887’ (Stern)

This site is NOT in a Marine Protected Area. A permit is not required.

Sister ship SAS Somerset moored at the V&A waterfront
Sister ship SAS Somerset
SAS Fleur at sea

Name[edit]

The "SAS Fleur" was a ‘Bar’ class boom defence vessel, formerly HMS Barbrake, The SAS Somerset is a sister vessel to the Fleur and is moored at the V&A waterfront in Cape Town as a museum vessel. At present (November 2011) it is closed to the public. The Fleur was scuttled on 5th April 1966, south of Seal Island.

Specifications
Displacement 750 tonnes
Length over all 53 m
Beam 10 m
Draft 3 m

Depth[edit]

Maximum depth on the sand is 41 meters, The main deck is at about 35m and the top of the superstructure at about 33m.

Visibility[edit]

Visibility is variable and unpredictable

Topography[edit]

Flat sand bottom with shell fragments and small detritus concentrated near the wreckage. The wreck lies almost level, imbedded in the bottom as if floating in sand, with the bow to the south and the centreline on estimated 178° magnetic with the bow to the south. Hull structure is badly rusted and plating has gone from large sections of deck and sides of the hull. Most of the superstructure is gone and there has been noticeable deterioration over the last few years. Much of the hull has collapsed in 2009. The bow gantry and a few metres of the bow have broken off and subsided, but are still there and easily recognisable.

A considerable part of the interior is accessible through holes in the side and deck plating and through hatchways, but the structure is probably unstable and cannot be considered safe to penetrate. The stern is relatively intact and holds its original shape. There is a large rectangular opening in the deck aft of the superstructure, which may have been over the engine room. Piping and valves inside the vessel are visible through the wasted structure in places.

Starting from the stern, the rudder and propeller brackets are mostly intact and easily identifiable, and there are large bollards on both sides of the quarterdeck, The hull plating around the stern is in relatively good condition, as is the quarterdeck plating. There are a few patches where the plating has wasted to leave only frames. There is a large rectangular opening in the quarterdeck just abaft the remaining superstructure, which is probably over the engine room, and this provides access to some of the aft structure. Further forward is the after section of the superstructure, which still holds its basic shape, but has lost side plating.

On the port side the deck plating has collapsed outboard of the superstructure, and to some extent on the foredeck. The forward part of the superstructure has collapsed and it is now open. The foredeck is a bit of a mess: the bows have subsided to lower the gantry arm tips to the sand, and the plating of the deck and topsides is buckled and in some places missing. The starboard side is similar but differs in detail. The bulwarks have wasted away leaving only the frames.

Geology: Flat sand bottom

Conditions[edit]

The area is exposed to wind and swell from all directions, and there is no specific season when conditions will be consistently better than others. Dive trips to this site must be planned using short term forecasts for swell and wind.

Best in conditions of limited surge, particularly if penetration is intended. Generally this means a short period swell. Wind chop does not usually reach to the depth of the wreck, but may make the ride unpleasant.


Get in[edit]

The site can only be accessed by boat. It is 9.5km from Miller's Point slipway, and can also be reached from Gordon’s Bay, Kalk Bay or Simon’s Town.

See[edit][add listing]

Marine life[edit]

The wreck is heavily encrusted on the deck by mussels and all over by an astonishing number of strawberry anemones in pink, orange and nearly white. There are also fairly large numbers of Cape urchins, Sinuous and Multicoloured sea fans, some small barnacles, bushy hydroids, and occasional bryozoans. The interior is home to large numbers of White Seacatfish. Kingklip may also be seen. If you are visited by seals at the safety stop it is considered lucky, as it is then presumed less likely for sharks to be nearby.

Features[edit]

Steel wreck of World War II vintage ship in partially collapsed condition.

Photography[edit]

Good site for photography if visibility is good. There are opportunities for some interesting wide angle shots showing the collapsing structure, but only if the light is sufficient. The subjects for close-up and macro work are limited.

Routes[edit]

For your first dive on the wreck, explore the exterior. The wreck is small enough to visit the whole site in one dive. Swim around the hull and over the deck, noting the general layout, and looking into the various holes and breaks.

The exact route will depend on where the shot lands, and the following assumes that it lands near the stern on the starboard side.

Start by identifying where you are on the wreck, so you can find your way back to the shotline, then swim to the stern, and take a look at the rudder and propeller brackets. These are in a scour pit in the sand and this will probably be the deepest point of the dive. Return to deck level and swim along the sheer line (where the deck edge meets the hull side: on this ship it is rounded near the stern).

Swim forward to the superstructure. You can make a detour into the opening in the quarterdeck if conditions are suitable, then forward along the side, past the superstructure to the foredeck. Continue forward to the bows, which are one of the more interesting features of the vessel, as they have a large gantry for handling moorings and other heavy equipment which must be lifted and lowered in the sea.

After examinimg the gantry return along the fordeck to the superstructure, and take a look around it. By this time your no stop time will probably be running out, so return to the shotline in good time to make your ascent.

It is recommended to ascend at the shotline, but if you can't find it or can't get back in time, it is usually quite acceptable to deploy a DSMB and ascend on your reel line. There are usually no significant currents at this site, so as long as your marker is visible to the boat, they are unlikely to lose you.

On subsequent dives if you intend penetration, assess the condition of the structure first, as the wreck is structurally unsound.

Stay safe[edit]

Hazards[edit]

Cold water is possible,. Strong winds may develop over a short time. Great white sharks have been seen in this area. Nitrogen narcosis may be expected on air and Nitrox dives. If there is a current there is a risk of being carried away if you do not descend and ascend on the shotline or anchor cable.

Skills[edit]

Competence and certification to dive to 40m is expected. The ability to deploy a DSMB is strongly recommended. Training and competence in the use of other equipment that may be used is necessary. The charter skippers will generally only take divers that they know are capable or are under direct supervision of an instructor.

Equipment[edit]

A DSMB and reel are highly recommended in case of being separated and off the wreck. There is seldom much current, so an upline is not required. A light is also strongly recommended as it is frequently quite dark due to overcast conditions and poor visibility above the thermocline.

Nitrox can increase no-stop time, and Trimix will reduce the severity of nitrogen narcosis. A dry suit will be warmer both during the dive and while travelling there and back, specially in winter. A fairly large cylinder will be required, and either a pony cylinder or isolation manifolded twins will give the peace of mind of an independent backup gas supply.

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