Diving into ‘Bob’s’ world

Trevor Bob Hayward.

As he approaches his 80th birthday Trevor “Bob” Hayward, of Plumstead, looks back on a colourful life that has seen him discover sunken treasure and found an iconic Cape Town tourist attraction.

Bob grew up in Graaff-Reinet and moved to Cape Town in 1956. After matriculating at Sea Point Boys’ High School, he ended up in Hermanus in the early 1960s, diving for abalone.

He describes the 60s and 70s as the golden age of diving, simply because you didn’t need licences.

“There were 30 of us doing the same thing back then. Today, there’s a worldwide shortage of abalone, so it isn’t legal anymore, but back then there were more abalone in the sea than the tiles on your floor.”

After three years in Hermanus, Bob returned to Cape Town, where he started diving on Robben Island for crayfish.

“Being the ignorant white boys that we were, we had no idea that South Africa’s next president was on Robben Island while we were diving there. We wondered why they didn’t want us getting close.”

Bob developed an interest in old wrecks, and when he was able to afford his own diving gear, he started searching for them off the Cape coast.

In 1974, he discovered The Merestein, the Dutch East Indiaman that sank off Saldanha Bay in 1702.

On the wreck he found seven to eight chests of silver coins – the biggest discovery of his diving career.

In 1978, Bob opened a shop to sell some of the antiques he had collected over the year. In 1981, the City council invited him to start a flea market on Greenmarket Square – it was the beginning of a market that has become a key attraction for many visitors to the city.

Bob ran the market until 1999, when he decided to go sailing.

When he returned in 2002, he started selling antiques at the Milnerton Market, and he’s been there since.“I’m going to carry on trading for as long as I can, I’m happy. I love it,” he says.

He hasn’t dived since 1999 and doubts he ever will again.

“I spent so much time at sea, and I’m very happy with what I have achieved,” he says.