Three Bills on a Tick !

10 November 2001

On the 10 November 2001 we hosted the Gauteng North Sailfish 1000 Spearfishing Challenge at Cape Vidal. The response was good with 30 spearo's coming from as far as Pretoria, Durban and Empangeni.

New SA Record Dorado Cape Vidal 13.8kg The stress levels of the organisers went through the roof when they heard that one of the competitors had flipped his boat " Hot Stuff " in heavy seas two days before the competition, that a reverse current was running ( North - South ) and that the water was real cold. Rain was also forecast for the whole weekend. This had the makings of a total wash-out, but all the plans had been made, deposits payed - we had to proceed, but with caution, safety first.

Lenny's Landie called " Shark ", packed to resemble a laden Taxi heading for Zimbabwe, left Pretoria at 21h00 on Thursday night. On board were the three hopefuls - Len Turner, Adriaan Marais and Thys Ellis, that would make up the Gauteng North A Team and crew of " Aqua Tick " following in the slipstream. The TD5 made short work of the 8 hour trip ( in pouring rain and thick mist ). The crew slept all the way with Shark on one-eyed autopilot.

We made it through the St Lucia gate at 05h00, without incident. Putting up a tent in the wet was just like singing in the rain without the music - thank goodness for wetsuits. The bedraggled crew of " Hot Stuff " had chilled out for the night - not talking much to each other and our welcome at Cape Vidal was rather chilling stuff too. Dries being the offender for launching a submersible vehicle prior to it's design modifications of snorkel and ballast tanks was the primary vote for " tail between the legs " and Dr Dirk and Mark were only one degree warmer after losing all their kit to the hungry sea.

Unperturbed by the negative vibes, we braved the sea and launched at 08h00 right on schedule using borrowed petrol from the luckless " Hot Dog " - we later learned that the petrol was contaminated with sea water. Travelling against the South Easter for 20 km to Levin Point certainly kept us awake, not-dry ( who said a Trimcraft is dry ? ) and shaken not stirred. A days diving only produced 3 doses of mal de mer and one small King Mackerel. Talk about the providence of the deep. At least we had food for the night.

The hordes arrived from 18h00 that evening to sign on. Within half and hour we went from 3 to 30 entrants. Having a beer with each of your old pals that you haven't seen for a while became a bit exhausting and I did not make the tent but faded into the back of the Landie quiet early.

Talking about early, at 04h00 the guys were clamoring to launch and get on with the competition. Nursing a hang over that defied gravity, I inched into my cold, wet, wet-suit ( now I know why they call them wet-suits ). To face an hour's trip to Levin was out of the question. When the dust / spray had faded from all the boats launching and rushing North at high speed, we cautiously slipped out the Cape Vidal point and started diving 500 metres from the campsite. What a pitiful sight we were, a virtual hospital ward of ailments. Adriaan was so choked up with flu - he could only dive to about 5m. My beer induced headache and liver damage ensured that I kept my weightbelt on the last notch. Thys' volume of puke threatened to warm up the ambient temperature of the surrounding sea. Our diving attempts were much like Jack Spratt and his wife that could eat no lean. Adriaan pointed out at least 4 'cudas to me on his flashers ( remember he could not dive down far ) and I would dive down to them and proceed either to miss them, shoot short or just nick them and lose them. The early warning premonitions that this was not going to be our day seemed to gain the upper hand in the betting stakes. But, because I am not a betting man, I kept a positive outlook and then things started to turn around.

On one dive down, hovering at about 12 metres by the flashers, something in the corner of my vision came sliding into full view. Not one, not two, but 5 big Sailfish slicing through the water with the ease and grace of master swordsmen. I must be dreaming ! Thoughts and hunting strategies flooded my mind and left me without an idea of what to do. So I did nothing ! The sailies came right up to me and circled once, their intelligent eyes studying this intruder into their domain and then almost disinterestedly started to leave as swiftly as they had appeared. I took this opportunity to glide forward and place a solid shot into the neck of the last fish in the pod. The shot was good but did not hit a vital organ. The sailfish took off at high speed and by the time I reached the surface my buoy was racing past me. I grabbed hold of the buoy and held on tightly. Not wanting to put undue drag onto the spear and nylon, I kicked furiously to keep up with the speared fish. The fight was long and hard. I was screaming so hard to my dive buddy to dive, dive, dive as the other sailfish were still in the area and at the bakkie to pass me another gun and buoy-line that I lost my voice. Deciding to keep my breath for the fight, we went at it dancing this ancient rhyme of hunter and hunted. Sometimes the roles would become blurred as the saily turned and rushed straight back at me and I would need to dodge and jink like a bullfighter. The umbilical cord joining us was a bond of life and the bond of death. Summoning my last remaining strength, I dived down again and again and eventually managed to place a second shot into the beautiful creature. It was all over !

When we got the fish on the boat, I was exhausted and decided to play top man for a while. Whilst I was playing my fish, Adriaan had shot a 15kg Dorado which lay on the deck like a pool of molten gold with emerald chips. We learned later that this was a new SA record ( 13,85kg's gutted and gilled ). I had not even recovered my breath when the sea went alive with action. Both Thys and Adriaan had each shot Sailfish from the same pod. I watched this amazing duel from a distance - not wanting to get in the way of the lines with the boat. Before long we had three sailies and one dorado filling the boat. The boat is only 14 foot and each fish was longer than a tall man. There was no deck space so we had to return, triumphant and exhausted. Once crew member had to hitch a ride in because we were so overloaded.

At the prize giving that night our boat " Aqua Tick " won all the prizes. My Sailfish was the biggest gamefish of the day and it was nice to win first prize. Adriaan came second and Thys third ( this was the first gamefish that Thys had ever shot, a nice 25kg saily ). The only other fish that were boated from 30 top divers and 7 boats were Roy with 5 Queen Mackerel and Rowan with 3 Queen Mackerel diving from a Kayak. Once again this proves that Spearfishing does not negatively impact the ecology / sensitive balance of the sea with an average of 0,4 fish per diver and 1,7 fish per boat.

The coastal guys and girls were blue-green with envy and we held up the flag of Gauteng North high and proud. We maybe inland but we are also in-the-sea a lot and certainly on the 10 November 2001 we were in-your-face.

How fitting for the Gauteng North Team to win the Gauteng North Sailfish 1000 Challenge. Was this luck or skill ? Let's check next year !

Len Turner 083 633 2851