My placement in Gansbaai is coming to an end. I shall be leaving soon for good ol' bristol. But before I do that, pull up a stool, get yerself a glass of whiskey and let me regale you of my tales of a seasoned shiphand ;-) Arrgggrrh!
Sunrise @ the harbour
A working day starts with me being awakened at 6am by a flock of bloody geese living in my backyard. I have my breakfast and make my way to the harbour (20 mins away) by 7am. Me and Mandla (one of the crew) prep the boat for launch by 9am. This involves tying the bouys and fenders on the side of the boat, getting the bait and the chum ready, checking and warming up the props and engines, sorting out the wetsuits, and giving the boat a wipe down. Meanwhile, the skippers (Gerald and Grant) give their briefing to the clients about the sharks, safety, and how we operate.
Gerald Grant Mandla
We launch the boat by 9am and make our way to Dyer Island. The trip takes about 30 mins and the seas are very choppy. At full capacity, the boat carries 18 passengers and 4 crew. Most of the time(about 80% of the time) there will be someone getting seasick on board (not the crew of course). And they start puking out their breakfast over the side of the boat.
Boat & me
We anchor the boat just off the island (close to the seals) and start chumming the area and throwing the bait into the water. The chum is made up of fish heads (mainly butterfish and tuna) and liver of another shark (soupfin shark). The chum stinks like hell and is very oily. The bait is made up of pieces of tuna tied to a rope. The chum attracts the sharks to the boat and the bait gives the sharks a target to aim for. Once we get a good shark (inquisitive and not aggressive) around the boat, we get the clients into their wetsuits and into the cage. The sharks will try all sorts of tricks to get the bait. You have to see it to believe it. Some of them will rush from below and jump straight out of the water (called breaching). Others peek out of the water at the bait. Its simply amazing to see them try.
Once everyone has a go in the cage, we pack up and go back. When we reach dry land, we wash the wetsuits and the boat and go back home tired. Usually, its just one trip per day. However, on somedays we have two trips, depending on the number of people. I usually reach back home by 6pm and crash out by 8pm. This is what I've been doing for the past 5 weeks, 7 days a week. Its hardwork, especially when lifting the anchor and trying to keep your eyes off some babe changing into her wetsuit ;-) But seriously, its gruelling physical work. And I enjoy every minute of it.
Soon, this will all come to an end and I'll miss it. I've made many friends and learnt many lessons. And now.... the tale's almost over. Got any more whisky left?