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Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/Smits Swim

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Chart of the wrecks at Smitswinkel Bay

A Smits Swim is a Scuba dive which takes in all five of the wrecks at Smitswinkel Bay.

It is possible to visit all five wrecks on a single no-decompression dive. This is occasionally organised for people who want to have been there and done that. No T-shirt is issued, but it is quite entertaining and good exercise.

The swim can be done either way, but the easiest and most reliable route from a navigational aspect is from the SAS Transvaal to the MV Rockeater, as this maximises the acceptable error by aiming for the widest possible target on the longer legs. The route may be seen on the chart above, and is described in detail below.

It should not be necessary to go deeper than 27 m during the dive, and most of the dive can be done at about 21 to 24 m. The total distance will be between 320 m and 400 m, and at a comfortable speed of 1 km per hour will take from 19 to 24 minutes.

Planning[edit]

Choose a day with good visibility, and a large cylinder, preferably filled with 34% to 36% Nitrox. For planning purposes, assume 25 minutes bottom time at 24 m depth. Choose your cylinder size based on your known personal air consumption at moderate exertion.

Make sure the skipper knows you will be surfacing a long way from the shotline, and take a DSMB if you don't tow a SMB.

Quarterdeck of SAS Good Hope

Route[edit]

Start at the SAS Transvaal, at whatever part of it is convenient. Orientate yourself a few metres above the wreck so your compass will not be too badly influenced by the steel structure, and head towards the stern (roughly 220°magnetic). Keep left and swim along above the starboard side of the hull until the stern of the Orotava becomes visible a few metres to your left over the sand. If you miss the jump, continue to the transom of the Transvaal and then swim southeast until you get to the starboard side of the Orotava

Cross over to the Orotava and swim to the bow. A depth of 22 m will allow you to see the wreck if visibility is fair, and is far enough above the wreck to reduce the compass deviation. The Orotava lies with the bow heading about 168°magnetic.

A course of 164°magnetic for about 105 m should take you to the stern of the Princess Elizabeth, and is the course which allows the largest tolerance for error if there is no current, which is usually the case. Inaccuracy to the right will take you further forward on the Princess Elizabeth, and inaccuracy to the left will take you to the stern of the Good Hope.

Depending on where you make contact with one of these wrecks, either swim towards the stern of the Princess Elizabeth (about 127°magnetic) and cross over to the Good Hope on the same bearing, or swim forward along the starboard side of the Good Hope (about 203° magnetic), keeping a lookout to your right for the Princess Elizabeth which is a few metres away and usually visible. Make an excursion to the trawler and return to the Good Hope.

Swim forward over the Good Hope (about 203°magnetic) to the bow and turn left about 30°. The course for the middle of the Rockeater is about 170°magnetic, and the distance about 50 m.

Spend any remaining time and air on the Rockeater, before ascending on your marker buoy line.

These directions were tested on 31st July 2005 by a group of 11 divers, who all reached the Rockeater in about 21 minutes.

Reciprocal route[edit]

It is also possible to swim the 5 wrecks starting at the Rockeater, and ending at the Transvaal.

The jump from the Rockeater to the Good Hope is marked (2017) by a permanent guideline from the end of the Rockeater's fallen lattice mast to the bow of the Good Hope. The line lies on the sand for most of the way, and is overgrown by sessile organisms, which makes it considerably more visible. It is possible to swim a few metres above the line to extend bottom time. The bearing is about 010°magnetic and the distance about 55 m. Swim above the starboard side of the Good Hope until the loom of the Princess Elizabeth is visible to your left, and cut across the small gap.

There is no guideline to the Orotava, and the gap is the largest by far, with a narrow acceptable error angle. The direction depends on where you start the jump. From the funnel it is 344°magnetic for about 90 m, and from the bow 356°magnetic, over a shorter distance - about 80 m. Once the Orotava has been seen, swim to the stern and continue in line with the Orotava over the short gap to the Transvaal.

These instructions have not been tested. Please let us know how they work.

Back to Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay#Smitswinkel Bay

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