“You have left your footprints, not only in the sand, but also in the sea”.
Thus reads an extract from the book The Sonny Side of Life written by Hazel Lodetti, in honour of her late father, South Coast legend, ‘Sonny’ Evans, who was born in South Africa in 1910. These sentiments were expressed by the Acting Mayor of Shelly Beach on the occasion of Sonny’s 80th birthday bash held at Shelly Beach Ski-Boat Clubhouse back in 1990. Never were truer words uttered in recognition of a stalwart pioneer, a son of the South Coast, in fact, our very own ‘old man of the sea’, to whom the region owes so much.
Long before anyone was enjoying the amenities now provided by the Sonny Evans Small Craft Harbour, this intrepid adventurer would set out to sea from the bay in front of his home to the north of the current harbour, manning his little craft on his way to do what he loved best – fishing! It would not be an exaggeration to say that this was a somewhat dangerous practice, as there was little opportunity to manoeuvre one’s craft in the small bay and, indeed, Sonny had the misfortune of being on the receiving end of Neptune’s wrath on more than one occasion!
As a result of Sonny’s continued ski-boat exploits out of ‘his’ bay, the safe haven of Sonny Evans Small Craft Harbour eventually came into being! From humble beginnings, initiated by Sonny and other local ski-boaters of the time, a safe launching point was gradually and tediously, ‘chiselled out’ of the rocky channel nestled alongside the tidal pool.
Arising from these efforts, the harbour came into existence and it is now controlled by the local Municipality, which oversees the bustling hive of activity. The present day harbour supports several scuba dive and fishing charters which attract adventure seekers from all over the world! In addition, many up-country visitors use the facilities provided to launch their ski-boats and their love of the sea has led them to purchase property in the area over the years. Sonny Evans, with his early fishing expeditions has, in his own way, thus made a significant contribution to the economy of the South Coast!
In the very early days, it was probably considered as folly to venture out to the Protea Banks some 7 kilometres directly offshore from Shelly Beach. Nowadays, thanks to the existence of the harbour, and the presence of the National Sea Rescue Institute, it is a much safer proposition. This extensive reef system, which stretches from Oslo Beach in the north, to around Uvongo in the south, is approximately two kilometres wide in some places. At its shallowest points the ocean floor rises abruptly from 60 metres to around 30 metres. Because of its position close to the ‘drop off’ into the Indian Ocean, the upwelling of the Agulhas current attracts many pelagic species of marine mammals, sharks and fish onto the reef. In particular, yellowfin tuna are found in abundance almost throughout the year, and other species which frequent the reef from early summer are kingfish, amberjack and king mackerel. This makes the Protea Banks a mecca for deep sea anglers.
Scuba divers, on the other hand, who travel from far afield to dive amongst the resident packs of Bull and Ragged Tooth sharks, are frequently treated to sightings of large Tiger sharks and, on occasion, even the odd Great White!
The South Coast owes a debt of gratitude to the pioneering spirit of Sonny Evans and those early ski-boat anglers who assisted in making the harbour a reality. For bringing to us the wonderful place which is Protea Banks, thank you Sonny!
(Sonny was also well known for his innovative engineering designs providing solutions in many industries, but particularly with regards to sugar cane farming and timber. His special talents in providing specific engineering solutions attracted customers from all over South Africa and Swaziland).
How to get there...
Address: Shelly Beach Ski Boat Club