25Jul

FROZEN IN TIME

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POOL CONSTRUCTION

Completion of the new scuba training pool and complex at the Florida Sea Base was promised to be completed by 28 April 2014.  The complex is not completed, so does some bizarre type of logic dictate that, despite what we think the date may be, we are actually at some point in time prior to 28 April?  If so, I have over paid my bills!

The construction “team” still shows up three or four days a week.  There is usually one foreman and one or two workers.  Some days there are four, maybe even six workers.  They frequently arrive around 10 AM and bug out by 2 or 3 PM.  It is enough to make a Christian want to curse!

You may be asking yourself, “Is it really that bad”?  It is bad enough that they can’t even vacuum the sediment from the pool.  Here is a photo of Scuba Commissioner Alex Bergstedt helping with that project.  Apparently a $1,500,000 contract does not include the use of a pole that can reach the bottom of the pool.


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Photo by FSB staff member Alexandra “Alex” Zimmer.

STAFF

Former Director of Conference and Food Services, Chrystene Matthews Speed (hi Chrystene) posted this cool tee shirt on Facebook.

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GET YOURS HERE ==> http://teespring.com/LL_XBScoutXKeepCX_KCS?fb=PE  I don’t know this company, but it is a cool shirt.

Former Florida Sea Base staff member turned Keys resident Trevor O’Keefe, has apparently found a cure for Keys Disease (a type of psychosis that infects many and will not allow them to be away from the Florida Keys for more than a week at a time).  Trevor will be returning to Chicago soon.  I have posted some of Trevor’s artwork over the years.  He has been a great friend of the Florida Sea Base.  While I know the move is the best choice for Trevor, he is leaving a lot of friends behind in the Keys.

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Take it easy, Trevor.

Florida Sea Base Sailing Commissioner Richard Fallon has discovered scuba diving and seems to be liking it A LOT!

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Alex Zimmer and Richard Fallon headed out for a recent night dive.

Whoa!!! I’ve gotta get to the morning staff meeting!

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

23Jul

REAL RAIN

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WEATHER

The Florida Sea Base received a significant rainfall yesterday morning.  It was GREAT for the palm trees, grasses and flowers, but definitely not great for the Coral Reef Sailing crews that were on base for shore leave or the dozens of FSB boats out on the water.  Small boat sailing, kayaking and standup paddle boarding were postponed for quite a while as the system passed passed the base.  I have not heard of any personal or boat injuries on the high seas; just another day of high adventure!

I believe credit for this photo goes to Sailing Commissioner Richard Fallon.

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The heat index remains oppressive with numbers like 102, 103, and 105 appearing most days.  Sunscreen and hydration are essential to good health.  We expect more of the same for the next several weeks.

PROGRAM

For many, the end of the 2014 summer program season is in sight.  Seasonal staff members are starting to trickle out.  Most of the sailing captains have only three or four trips left.  The scuba programs will slow down in about two and a half weeks.  All summer programs will have concluded in 38 days.

DINNER

I told my lovely bride to the Miami International Airport yesterday and she has returned to work in the D/FW law enforcement community this morning.  It was a nice, but too brief, visit.  last night was leftovers so I fixed a tuna dog.  I have never had a tuna dog before and you may be wondering to what I refer.  Leftover tuna salad deposited into a leftover hotdog bun = a tuna dog.  YummEE!

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

TROPICAL DEPRESSION TWO

From area of interest, to Invest 92-L to TD-2, all in a day.  This graphic was from yesterday afternoon.

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This system blossomed yesterday and Hurricane Tracker is two for two in 2014.  What does the future hold?  Yesterday, two computer models said it would fizzle today, two said it would continue and stay south of Cuba, and two more had it working its way through The Bahamas.  Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground posed yesterday that the system would stay south of Cuba and max out as a Tropical Storm.

This morning Hurricane Tracker, the National Hurricane Center and Weather Underground seem to agree that the system will encounter dry air and fizzle out on  Thursday.  It should almost make it to tropical storm strength and it will almost make into the Caribbean which still leaves Dr. Masters’ forecast almost correct.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

WEATHER

We have experienced short lived but at times intense showers the last three evenings at the Florida Sea Base.  But it is still hot and humid with gentle breezes (except during the thunderstorms of course).

Saturday was my last post and I mentioned that Hurricane Tracker was suggesting a wave coming off Africa was worth watching.  At the time they estimated a 15% chance of development.  They are now giving the system a 25% chance of development.  The system has not yet attained the need characteristics to be designated an Invest system, but the National Hurricane Center has labeled it as an area of interest.

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The system is too far away and in an area with minimal instrumentation to gather sufficient data to have a good handle on its future course or intensity.  However, Hurricane Tracker noted that one of the computer models used in this type of forecasting, “the CMC model, does track a TD/TS close to the NE Caribbean Islands by late next week”.

STAFF

The Florida Sea Base staff is doing a great job this summer.  However, our scuba staffing woes are going to remain an issue to the very end of summer.  We have had two scuba staff members depart earlier than contracted and three of the “relief” divemasters that had committed to come to the rescue in August have decided to pursue other activities.  We are going to get by, but Scuba Commissioner Alex Bergstedt has a scheduling nightmare on his hands.  If you have any spare divemasters or scuba instructors laying around, please encourage them to give us a call.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

19Jul

QUICK NOTE

in Weather  •  0 comments

My wife and I hope to get Escape off the dock today.  I do not want to overly concern anyone, but there is a little chatter of a slight possibility of some tropical weather kicking up soon.

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Hurricane Tracker did a great job of providing early warning of Hurricane Arthur.  While they admit the chances of development are slim, I will keep an eye on this.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

18Jul

TOO QUIET?

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TROPICS

It is quiet, very quiet, in the tropics.  Too quiet?  Probably not.  This time of year tends to be a little slow for tropical development.  But that is not sufficient reason to stay on guard.  I look at tropical data at least every three days.  Most days the National Hurricane Center report has been, “No New Tropical Cyclones Are Expected to Form During the Next 5 Days”, so checking about every third day make sense to me.

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(POSSIBLE) COMING ATTRACTIONS

It is premature to disclose the specifics, but, in the spirit of continuous improvement, I have received preliminary approval from Captain Paul Beal, General Manager of the Florida Sea Base, to present a budget proposal that would add even more benefit to the Scuba Certification adventure.  The projected hit to my cost center is less than $10k per year (maybe closer to $8k once I get more accurate projected attendance figures for 2015 next week).

Sailing Director Captain Luke Knuttel and Sailing Commissioner Richard Fallon are working on plans to revamp the Coral Reef Sailing schedule.  While I can hear 30 Coral Reef Captains groaning right now, I have confidence that any changes made by Captain Luke will benefit the participants, staff and captains.

CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

Like almost every business entity in the world, the management at the Florida Sea Base is constantly pressured to do more with less.  And just like the saying goes, it often feels like we are doing way too much with way too little.  But that does not seem to lower the expectation that we must find away to do still more with even less.  Sometimes I feel like a sock that’s been turned inside out.  Apparently this is called “improvement”.

A large part of the dilemma faced by Captain Scott Martin at the Brinton Environmental Center, Logistics Team Leader Tim Stanfill,  Captain Luke and me is the lack of adequate housing for the seasonal staff.  More efficient scheduling and more efficient use of the staff, are key components of our efforts for continuous improvement.  Building more staff housing is not a financial issue, it is a restriction imposed by the local government.

The only realistic way to increase the quantity of Scouts served at the Florida Sea Base is by opening more satellite operations like the Bahamas and USVI operations.  But does “continuous improvement” only mean serving more Scouts?  Certainly not.  I feel that Captain Scott, Captain Luke, Tim and I are focused on providing better adventures to the number of Scouts we are able to serve through better facilities, better opportunities, better programming.  We have been successful in thinking outside our little box.

Sometimes “improvement” means taking a step back.  Captain Scott Martin was effective in improving one of our most popular adventures, the Florida Fishing Adventure, by removing one of the program’s components and using that time, energy, money and resources to improve the program overall.  Other programs will be tweaked, rearranged, reduced, revamped and remolded to make them better for the Scouts, the staff and the captains.

This need for improvement is internal.  The Florida Sea Base is blessed to serve more Scouts almost every year.  We could keep doing what we do.  But our dedication to the Scouts and our customers pushes us to do better.  I first heard the term “continuous improvement” from our former General Manager.  Despite changes in personnel, that philosophy runs deep at the Florida Sea Base.

We will never satisfy everyone every day.  But the number of patrons that depart the Florida Sea Base without having experienced an adventure of a lifetime is infinitesimal.  We do what we can to plan and budget.  But the success is in the presentation.  The seasonal staff and captains make the adventures come to life day after day.  We appreciate that fact, and never loose sight of this reality.  Tim Stanfill, Captain Scott Martin, Captain Luke Knuttel and I all served as seasonal staff and/or captains at the Florida Sea Base before accepting our current assignments.  We know first hand who makes the magic happen at the Florida Sea Base.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

COMMUNICATIONS

I thought it must surely be the end of the modern world.  I don’t know the cause but I know the effect.  Apparently AT&T had a major internal equipment or software disaster.  The Florida Sea Base had no phones and no internet yesterday.  That’s right, NO INTERNET!  Y2K had finally arrived.  And let me correct that statement, it was NOT just the Florida Sea Base.  All of Lower Matecumber Key was suffering and the issue may be even more widespread than that.  No phones, no faxes, no email, no fire alarms, no burglar alarms    It felt like it might be time to run into the backyard and dig up those 25 year life-span rations!  I have not been to the office yet this morning (it’s 5:00 AM) but I heard rumors that the systems may have been restored around dinner time last night.

Fortunately, my AT&T MiFi is working just fine.  Go figure!

For some of you, the AT&T glitch is just the beginning.  I will have very limited opportunities to post Friday through Tuesday.  Please don’t worry.  Everything is fine.  I will probably sneak in a brief post somewhere along the line, maybe a photo of Escape on the open water!

POOL

The new pool is still holding water and the contractor has been using an external filter system for several days to “pre-filter” the water before they flip the switch to run the real filters.  There is some cautious optimism that they may be able to finish the pool by the end of the program season.  (That is assuming that nothing explodes when they crank up the filtration system.)  Yeah!!! No kids and a new pool.  Perfect.  With no kids, how will we get enough urine in the pool to keep the chemicals in balance?  Hummmmm.  We may have to call the Florida Department of Health, Swimming Pool Division for expert assistance with this issue.

WEATHER

Wind, ho!  We had wind yesterday.  It is not forecasted to last long.  It IS forecasted to be hot, humid and a 30% chance of rain FOREVER!  I will take hot and humid over cold and humid any day.  Hot and dry would be a nice change.

For no particular reason, I happened to check the statistics from the Long Key weather buoy (about 7 miles from the Florida Sea Base) yesterday evening.  The 24 hour rain accumulation was reported as -999.00″.  It has apparently been raining UP very hard in Layton, Florida.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

STAFF

Tuesday was staff appreciation day at the Florida Sea Base.  If you are on staff and missed had to work through the celebration, well, we still appreciate you, really, seriously, I promise…

General Manager Captain Paul Beal, Logistics Team Leader Tim Stanfill, Assistant Ranger Rick Kuras, Dive Boat Captain Reed Beasley, and Galley Mate Charles Wozny all cooked smoked brisket, smoked ribs and/or pulled pork.  Senior Tank Adventure Mate Greg St. Amand made some of the best cheeseburgers I’ve ever eaten.  Food Services Manager Captain Rae Murphy and the galley staff also prepared salmon (three different ways), cole slaw, potato salad, beans and millions of cupcakes.  Cheryl Kuras operated the snow cone machine and everyone (who wanted) got a chance to be the dunker or dunked in the dunk tank.  [The salmon was provided by the generosity of a crew who recently attended from Alaska.]

I managed to take these few photos before being called back to the office to check in an arriving Scuba Liveaboard crew.

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You can see some of the same photos on the Florida Sea Base Facebook page.  (You are welcome.)

PROGRAM

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If you can’t swim with the big fish, you better stay in the bowl!  And speaking of big fish, have you ever had a nice grouper dinner?  Did you think it was expensive?  For the FRESHEST in grouper dinners, your crew of eight can join Captain Harry Fink aboard the S/V Gypsy Wind at the Florida Sea Base for a measly $7,000 or so.

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Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

 

15Jul

Oops!

in Program  •  0 comments

COMMENT CORRECTION

Andy Nissly caught a grave error from yesterday’s post.  I guess I had the USVI on my mind for some reason at 2:30 in the morning.  (There are far worst things to have on your mind in the middle of the night!)

Steve,

I enjoy reading your blog every day! It really keeps us informed as to what is going on at Sea Base. In today’s post you talk about Capt. Ted in Great Guana Cay in the USVI. Is there a Great Guana Cay there? I know we sailed to Great Guana Cay in the Abacos, Bahamas from Bahamas Sea Base in 2012. What a great adventure! Our crew is now getting ready to go canoeing at Northern Tier’s Atikokan, Canada base at the end of July. Some on the trip will be earning their Triple Crown patch for experiencing High Adventure at Philmont, Sea Base, and Northern Tier.

So, as it turns out, Captain Ted and Sandy are hanging out in the Bahamas, not the VIs.  My bad.  Thanks for the heads-up Andy.  I’m glad you still read the post.  If you ever need a project to keep you busy all hours of the night, start a blog.

PROGRAM

The wind was a little light to suit the sailors yesterday, but it was a GLORIOUS day for snorkeling, fishing and scuba diving!  If this weather keeps up, I am doing to dynamite myself out of the Program Office and get a little bottom time myself.

Here’s a shot of Troop 20 from Austin, Texas (note the flag – God bless Texas!), aboard S/V Siesta with Captain Ed Marill preparing to snorkel in incredible conditions yesterday.

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And here’s a crew from little Rock , Arkansas snorkeling with Sergeant Majors off S/V Gypsy Wind with Captain Harry Fink.

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You may recognize the name Kyle Moran from so many of the photos he has shared on this site.  And maybe you are wondering, “what does Kyle do when he’s not taking photos?”  Well, here he is, hard at work:


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(Click to enlarge)

Kyle knows only too well the importance of being well rested in the unlikely event he is needed to perform a rescue.  Great job of conserving energy Kyle!

It’s hard to believe that in just over six weeks we will roll up the sidewalks, lock the gates, have a killer dock party for any of the remaining captains and staff and proclaim the end of another successful summer.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

WEATHER

This summer has been very dry at the Florida Sea Base.  That is good for the participants, but tough on the vegetation.  We had a brief shower at about 10:15 PM Saturday.  Every little bit may help, but it was a very little bit.  The National Weather Service forecasted a 60% chance of rain for yesterday.  We did not get a drop.  We had 20 knot winds from the east at 6:00 AM.  That’s pushing the envelope for comfortable sailing and really rough for the divers and snorkelers.  By dinner time the wind was SSE at 7 knots.  As of right now (2:53 AM) the radar shows only a couple of specks NE of us.

We are expecting highs of 90, lows of 82 and a 30% chance of rain daily for the remainder of the week.

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COMMENTS

Former Coral Reef Captain Ted Bezanis commented:

Steve….I sitting here on a mooring ball in Fishher’s Bar, Great Guana Cay reading your blog and anchored right across from us are two Sea Base boats on the hook ….it’s a beautiful sight!!
Ted & Sandy Bezanis

It’s great to hear from Captain Ted.  I hope you and Sandy are having a great time.  I wish I was there.  And it’s really cool to know someone is reading my blog in the Virgin Islands.  Who knew?

I found this photo of Captain Ted (left) from the 2006 Florida Sea Base Captain’s Training.  (Captain John Thompson is on the right.)

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Divemaster Tina Steckler commented:

Pool Looks AWESOME! I have put in the mail to Rita a package lots of pool floats for the next time you have a staff pool party, either saying goodbye to old pool or christening the new pool. Can’t wait to swim laps. All good things comes to those who wait!

This mugshot is Tina’s 2012 Divemaster Academy file photo.

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Tina has enrolled in the PADI Instructor Development Course being taught at the Florida Sea Base in September.  (Click on the LINKS tab and scroll to the bottom of the page for more information on the IDC.)

PROGRAM

There are only 47 days left in the 2014 summer scuba season at the Florida Sea Base.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape