18Dec

SCUBA DIRECTOR

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RETIREMENT

If you read this blog on a regular basis you are aware that I retired from the Florida Sea Base effective 01 December 2014 .  My BSA email account has been CLOSED.  I no longer receive emails through my former BSA email address, steve.willis@scouting.org.  Those emails are going to electron heaven and will not be viewed, read or answered.   Joe Angelo is the new Scuba Director.  His office phone number is 305-664-5625 and his email address is Joe.Angelo@scouting.org.

I continue to work part-time at the Florida Sea Base as a contractor and as a volunteer.  I am VERY capable of answering general questions about the Florida Sea Base, especially scuba related questions, and I can direct you to the proper contact if a more official answer is needed.  You can post a comment through this blog and I will reply.

ARRIVAL DAY

Today is the arrival day for the Divemaster Academy candidates.  Tomorrow we will hit the ground running.  I will do my best to post, but it is will be very difficult to do so for the next two weeks.  Our schedule starts at 07:30 daily and concludes on or after 21:00.  Please be understanding if I can’t find much time to post.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

17Dec

INCOMING

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DMA

Cory Lancaster, Trey Black and Colt Bower, all from the Great State of Texas, have joined Bo Busler as the early bird Divemaster Academy  candidates to arrive at the Florida Sea Base.  The trickle will continue until the mob arrives on Thursday.  We try to accommodate candidates arriving a few days early and/or staying a few days late if it helps reduce their travel costs.  And don’t worry, we will feed them breakfast this morning and then put them to work.

ESCAPE

A HUGE thank you to DMA Instructor Rich Goldman for his assistance yesterday on my sailboat, Escape.  Rich helped me locate and repair a piece of hydraulic line that had developed a leak.  There is still much to do to clean up the mess in the bilge, but finding the leak was definitely a two person job and I sincerely appreciate his assistance.  Rich Goldman is a Boy Scout, living the Scout Oath and Law daily.  He is an incredible role model for Scouts and divers and I am very blessed to have him as a friend.

SCUBA FLEET

A gaggle of staff members went to Marathon yesterday to return the last two dive boats from the boatyard to the Florida Sea Base.  The fleet is at dock, awaiting the arrival of Captain Christy “Awesome” Costa to supervise their commissioning for service to the Youth of America for another year.

COUNTDOWN

Class 11 of the Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy begins Friday morning.  Traditional program participants arrive on 26 December.  Rock and roll Suzy Q – here we go again!!!

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

IDC

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! Scuba Director Joe Angelo has announced that the Florida Sea Base will host a PADI Instructor Development Course starting on 01 April 2015.  More details will be released as they become available.  For now, you can get some general information by clicking on the Scuba Training tab on this site and downloading the IDC informational flyer.

MONDAY

Most of the full-time staff were on base yesterday.  So after spending the morning reviewing the DMA schedule again and sharing the specifics with Scuba Director Joe Angelo, I enjoyed my Florida Sea Base lunch and then moseyed over to the Administration Building to say hello to the chain gang.  All seemed to be doing reasonably well.

DIVEMASTER ACADEMY

The remainder of the day was spend on a multitude of preparations for DMA Class 11.  Tanks were being filled, scuba areas cleaned, dorm rooms stocked with linens and paper supplies, office supplies ordered, uniforms separated by size, etc.

WEATHER

The Divemaster Academy starts at 07:30 Friday so we are nearing the fringe of time for a reliable forecast.  The 10 day forecast from Weather Underground calls for possible rain next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

DIVEMASTER ACADEMY

Alex Bergstedt, Captain Kari Dahlquist, Rich Goldman, yours truly with Brenda Mallory looking on meet at 11:30 yesterday to review the Divemaster Academy schedule.  This morphed from review to rewrite as the afternoon progressed.  We met again at dinner time (with Kyle Moran joining our merry band) and wrapped up around 8:30pm.  We had a significantly improved draft and we will meet at breakfast this morning to hopefully make final adjustments.  We are excited to have a well thought out schedule to impress the new Scuba Director, Joe Angelo.  After concluding last night’s work session, the cadre was forced against their will and better judgement to go to Dairy Queen for a celebratory ice cream.

WEATHER

Chilly evenings and mornings, decent afternoons, and more sunshine than we deserve is a fair description of our weather conditions.  But, be prepared.  The only thing we know for sure about weather is that it changes.  You will likely feel cooler than you expect.  If your are too warm, you can remove a layer.  If you are cold and don’t have enough layers you can shiver uncontrollably until you are hauled to the ER for hypothermia.  You choose.  (But choose wisely, Grasshopper.)

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

 

14Dec

TRIUMPHANT

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RETURN

I arrived at the Florida Sea Base around 4pm Saturday; 1, 231 in 24.5 hours including all fuel and bio stops, one 60 minute nap and one two hour nap.  Would you like to know what will wake you up after only 2 hours of sleep when you are totally exhausted?  24°!!!  I was wearing tennis shoes, regular socks, sweat pants, a t-shirt and a jacket plus I had a light blanket pulled over me as I slept in the passenger’s seat of the GMC (to avoid the steering wheel and pedals).  I was in an incredibly deep sleep when I felt like was being forced awake.  I checked my phone and the local temperature was 24.  Time to crank up the heater and drive another 660 miles.

The GMC did well rolling the odometer past 240,000 miles along the way.  I ran her at 65 mph the whole way and averaged a little over 16 mpg.  Not bad for a mature 3/4 ton heavy duty truck.

Everything looked okay with the boat upon first glance.  (It is always a relief to see the water line above the water while walking down the dock.)  Richard Goldman was hard at work following a dive boat prep list Captain Awesome Costa had emailed the previous day.  Alex Bergstedt was preparing forms and the classroom.  Captain Kari Dahlquist was around somewhere doing something constructive, I’m sure.

CADRE BRIEFING #1

Rich, Alex, Kari, Brenda Mallory and I had our first cadre meeting of the 11th annual Divemaster Academy.  All potential issues have now been resolved.  No worries.  Ha!

Following our meeting (across the street at Habano’s), I retired straight away.  All was good for about an hour.  Then the wind shifted and/or picked up just enough from the west to make the rudder (which is housed under the captain’s berth) to start banging.  [At 9pm, the Long Key Buoy was reporting the wind was from 350° (just barely west of due north) gusting to 15 knots.  The forecast showed the wind should have been from the NNE.  It’s amazing how much difference 20° of variation can make to your sanity.]  It was not horrible, just enough to wake me from a dead sleep and prevent future sleep without a resolution.  My fix was somewhat embarrassing to look at but it worked. :)

WEATHER

A little cool, but over all, very nice:

The water temperature at Molasses Reef was in the 72 to 76 degree range yesterday.

Today: Sunny, with a high near 72. North wind around 10 mph.

Tonight: Partly cloudy, with a low around 61. Northeast wind around 10 mph.

Monday: Sunny, with a high near 74. East wind around 10 mph.

Monday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 65. East wind around 10 mph.

Tuesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 76.

Tuesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 66.

Wednesday: Sunny, with a high near 77.

Wednesday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 67.

Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 77.

Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 67.

Friday: Isolated showers. Sunny, with a high near 79. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Friday Night: Isolated showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 67. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Saturday: Isolated showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 79. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

I am going back to bed to TRY to be a little lazy this morning but I have a lot to do (including grocery shopping) so lazy won’t last long.  I think I am going to enjoy being the worker bee instead of the queen.  What?  That ain’t right.  A wrangler instead of the foreman?  Anyway, you know what I mean.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™

 

 

 

I will be on the road Friday and Saturday.  I hope to post on Monday.  Have a great weekend.

Capt. Steve Willis
Florida Sea base Scuba Director – RETIRED

TRAVELS

Due to Monday evening’s puke and squirt fest I decided to delay my exodus from the Mother Country to the Florida Sea Base until this morning.  I hope to be on the road by 04:30 if not sooner.

WEATHER

The weather forecast for the Florida Sea Base is better than much of the country.  But for “paradise” it is not as great as it could be.  Words and phrases like “slight chance of showers”, “breezy” (in the Keys that means honkin’ winds), and temperatures with a first digit of 5 is not what I want when I’m in paradise.  Here’s what the National Weather Service has to say:

Today: Sunny, with a high near 69. Breezy, with a north wind 15 to 20 mph.

Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 56. North wind around 10 mph.

Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 69. North wind around 5 mph.

Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 60.

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 72.

Friday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 62.

Saturday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 73. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Saturday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 65. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Sunday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 74. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Sunday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 67. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Monday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 76. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Point Forecast: Lower Matecumbe Beach FL
24.85°N 80.73°W (Elev. 0 ft)

Visit your local NWS office at: http://www.weather.gov/keywest

Let’s add in the NWS wind forecast:

Today: N wind 10 to 20 kt. Sunny. Seas 1 to 2 ft.

Tonight: N wind around 10 kt. Mostly clear. Seas around 1 ft.

Thursday: Variable winds 5 kt or less. Sunny. Seas around 1 ft.

Thursday Night: NNW wind 5 to 10 kt. Mostly clear. Seas around 1 ft.

Friday: N wind around 10 kt. Sunny. Seas around 1 ft.

Friday Night: N wind around 10 kt. Partly cloudy. Seas around 1 ft.

Saturday: N wind 10 to 15 kt. Isolated showers. Seas 2 to 3 ft.
Zone Forecast: Hawk Channel from Ocean Reef to Craig Key out to the reef (GMZ042)

Visit your local NWS office at: http://www.weather.gov/keywest

The weather buoy at Molasses Reef (oceanside)  is reporting diminishing water temperatures approaching the 74° point.  The Long Key buoy (bayside) water temperature is around 72°.

I also checked the National Hurricane Center site and we are golden.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™

09Dec

FSB BOUND

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TRAVEL

I may be AFK for a few days.  I was planning to make the 5 hour drive today from the D/FW metroplex to the tiny Piney Woods village of Jasper, but late last night I was squirting out both ends simultaneously so know I am going to wait and see how I’m feeling.  I expect to spend a couple of days there making final preparation for the 1,200 mile drive from there to the Florida Sea Base.  If all goes well, I will arrive at the Florida Sea Base ahead of my previous estimate of 15 December.  I will have been away from Escape for over three weeks by the time I get back.  Hopefully she’s still floating and all is well onboard.  I put out a couple of extra dock lines before I left (in the event of any significant wind events during my absence) and I need to get those down so they don’t interfere with Coral Reef vessels arriving for Christmas crews.

STAFF

I expect at least three of the seasonal scuba staff to be on base by the time I arrive.  This is our 11th rodeo, but we still have a lot of prep work to get done in a three or four day time period.

PROGRAM

For those who will be attending the Divemaster Academy or other winter programs, I will keep an eye on the weather forecasts and do my best to keep you informed.  The long-range forecast I posted yesterday suggests temperatures will be in the 60s and 70s, maybe even high 70s during your adventure.  Experience suggests that our low temperatures could be in the 50s.  I realize most of you are from the frozen north and 50° is considered warm.  Those of you who live on the shores of large lakes will understand when I say that 50° on a boat with 15 knots or more of wind is much less friendly than other situations.   You really can’t hide from the wind on a sailboat and the boats do not have heaters.  For what it is worth,  I will arrive prepared for the 50s.  If it turns out to be in the 80s I can strip down to swim trunks and a t-shirt.

Sailing, scuba diving, fishing, snorkeling camping – oh my!  It’s a tough way to spend a winter break.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™

WEATHER

Having a friend like Chip Kasper at the National Weather Service has been a blessing and very educational.  Chip is very passionate and amazingly knowledgable of science, technologies and art of forecasting.  Chip has told me more many times that forecasting the weather more than three days out is very prone to error.  The further out, the greater the chance for error.  Long range “forecasts” are often more of a historic average for the dates in review,

With that said, I took this screen shot from Accuweather.com yesterday while I was making travel plans for returning to the Florida Sea Base.  The time frame captured includes the dates of the Divemaster Academy and Christmas program season.  This forecast does not address wind conditions and has to be taken with a grain of salt due to the length of time we are trying to look into the future.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 12.29.59

All we can do is hope for the best and prepared for the worst. :)  Generally, it looks like cool temperatures and minimal rain.  The limited information above makes me wonder if we will have some type of frontal passage around Christmas.

DMA CADRE

Some members of this year’s DMA cadre are trickling into the Great State of Florida and will be descending on the base starting this weekend.   I spent yesterday morning working on DMA preparations from my card table work space at the fancy house in Midlothian, Texas.  I have moved my departure date up one day and will be driving down to SE Texas tomorrow.  I have a little work to do on the old GMC that like me, has essentially been put out to pasture.  With nearly 250,000 on the odometer, she’s a good ole truck and will make the trip to the Keys just fine.  The challenge will be towing a 10,000 pound trailer 1,200 miles back to the Piney Woods.  Cramming 14 years of your life into a 16’x7′ enclosed trailer is a feet.

LOGISTICS

New plans are afoot at the Florida Sea Base for an enhanced seasonal staff Christmas celebration.  The details are not finalized and the DMA cadre is prepared to make schedule changes to accommodate the new festivities.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™
PADI Course Director

I am struggling with how to keep this post alive and viable for you while I am physically disconnected from the base.  I started this blog because internal and external communications at the Florida Sea Base have always been “lacking”.  When I set up the blog I asked fellow permanent staffers to feed me information to post.  Captain Rich Beliveau was a big help and a few others contributed on rare occasion.  But like a group newsletter, the vast majority of the submissions have been mine alone.

After I started the blog, senior management at the Florida Sea Base decided to set up a Facebook page.  I was never granted permission to post on their page.  Photos and postings from this blog were occasionally posted on the FSB Facebook page with my consent.  My replacement, Joe Angelo, has years of experience promoting his former business on Facebook and may be able to beef up the FSB page.  If that becomes a reality, there will probably be no more need for the blog.

I will be at Sea Base during the DMA.  I will have very limited time to post, but plan to keep you informed of divemaster candidate progression, seasonal staff, program and captain information as time permits.

To save you time and frustration, my suggestion for now is to check this site once a week and we will share what’s left of this ride to the bitter end.  If you have questions, send them in via comment or my email and I will address those.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas.  Thank goodness that much of the retail insanity is behind us.  Have you ever wondered why these marketing geniuses don’t have a summertime version of this insanity?  Instead of coats and sleds we could buy dive gear, boat stuff and swimwear.  I would much prefer spending my money on the latter.

Capt. Steve
FSB – RETIRED