Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your Florida Sea Base scuba or sailing adventure. These are offered in no particular order other than the random order in which they came to mind.
Towels – I don’t know why this came to mind first, but I guess it always has been, and maybe always will be, a point of contention. Many vacationers coming to the Florida Keys expect to find miles and miles of white sand beaches. FYI – those beaches can be found in Miami and points north. The only sand beaches in the Keys are small, manmade beaches. Since we don’t have beaches, you don’t need to bring gigantic beach towels. The gigantic towels get saltwater wet, stay saltwater wet and take up tons of room on relatively small vessels where room is at a premium. Please leave your gigantic beach towels at home. Bring two small camp towels and you will be happier in the end.
Knots – If you are articipating in a sailing adventure at the Florida Sea Base, The Bahamas, or St. Thomas, EVERY member of your crew needs to be able to tie a bowline, two half-hitches, a clove hitch and a cleat hitch. They need to be able to tie these knots quickly and properly while under duress. The cleat hitch is the most critical of the four. They need to be able to tie these knots in realistic settings. Tying a clove hitch or two half-hitches around a telephone pole is a good way to mimic tying the knot during dockage. For the cleat hitch, you can buy a cleat pretty cheaply online or maybe at a local hardware store. Invest in an 8″ cleat. Mount the cleat to a board. Practice tying the hitch with at least 1/2″ line, 5/8″ is more realistic. For the bowline, practice tying BIG loops of 3′ or so with the same large line. Tying a bowline with a 2′ piece of string is not the same. Make knot tying lessons a competition. Have everyone tie the knots in the dark or with their eyes closed. BE A LEADER – become proficient with these knots before teaching them to the crew. Have four of the Scouts become a specialist in one knot and have them teach their knot to the other Scouts (under your expert direction). Having a crew that is competent with knots GREATLY reduces stress during the most stressful of times on a boat – docking.
Packing – Regardless of what adventure you are attending, pack light – like you’re going hiking. Bring what you need. You do NOT need socks, shoes (except Sea Exploring) or underwear on the boat. You will live in your swim suits, so bring two and leave the shorts at home. The Florida Sea Base Participants Guide has a good packing list for each adventure.
Travel – It will take longer to get to your adventure than you think. Allow extra time in your travel plans. Getting to the Florida campuses (FSB and the Brinton Center) can take HOURS longer than you think. Spring time travel is the worst. I suggest you plan on three hours from Miami to the Florida Sea Base; add another 90 minutes to two hours if you are traveling to the Brinton Environmental Center from MIami. If you are flying to Fort Lauderdale, add another hour. If you are planning to fly into West Palm Beach – DON’T!
Insurance – Trip cancellation/interruption insurance is like all insurance – a necessary evil. The Florida Sea Base does not require travel insurance, but it strongly encouraged for your piece of mind.
Sleeping – If you are spending your week on base, bring a pillow and a light sleeping bag or a sheet and a light blanket. If you are spending your week on a sailboat, you will need the same PLUS a comfortable mat. The boats are not air conditioned and you will be more comfortable sleeping on deck than below decks. A comfortable mat will make a difference.
CPAP – Speaking of sleeping, CPAP machines can be difficult to manage if you are living on a boat for a week. The vessel will have minimal 12 volt power, usually dedicated to the vessel’s needs, and no (or very limited) 110 volt power. I apologize for being frank, but if you are life dependent on a CPAP machine you may need to consider finding someone to take your place. I am aware that these devices have evolved to the point where they require much less power than in the past. However, there is no guarantee that you will be able to power or recharge batteries (of any type) onboard the sailboats.
More Tips – For many more tips, find the archives on the left side of the screen and click on June 2015. Scroll back through the daily posts and you will find a lot more tips to help you make the best of your Florida Sea Base adventure.
Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Program Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™