22Sep

THANKS

Thanks for all of the birthday and retirement wishes.  My stress level remains off the chart with the PADI IDC starting this Thursday, still trying to recruit more applicants for the Divemaster Academy in December and the Scuba Tournament and National Aquatics Workshop in October.  I continue to be very blessed with help from some incredible staff members.\ and could not do any of this without them.

SWIM FOR ALLIGATOR LIGHT

Florida Sea base Facilities Director Captain Keith Douglass was kind enough to volunteer “us” to serve as a safety vessel for the 2nd annual Swim for Alligator Light.  The event was organized to bring attention to the neglected lighthouse.  The lighthouse was erected in 1873.  I don’t want to start any political pushback so I will simply say that there is currently no funding available for the Coast Guard to maintain the light and there are plans to abandon or dismantle this historic landmark.

Captain Douglass was too busy to attend himself.  Scuba Commissioner Alex Bergstedt, Scuba Instructor Brenda Mallory and I manned BSA Sea Scout and were on station at Alligator Light, one of the most photographed sites in the Florida Keys, from 08:30 to 16:00.

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Florida Sea Base Logistics Team Leader Tim Stanfill was on a four person relay team that placed third in their division.  Former Florida Sea Base seasonal staff member (also retired Sergeant from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and currently an Officer with the Florida Wildlife Commission) Roy Bogue swam with another team.

This is a true open water swim; 8 nautical miles of current, waves, 4 to 5 hours of sun and saltwater exposure, droves of moon jellies, and yes, the occasional passing shark.  There were no shark attacks, but severe jellyfish stings did cause several swimmers to abort the swim.

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

21Sep

62

in Scuba  •  18 comments

Today is my 62nd birthday.  I felt this was a good time to publicly disclose that Florida Sea Base General Manager Captain Paul Beal and I came to a gentleman’s agreement several months ago that this would be my last summer as Program Director.  Official retirement papers have not been signed, but that is just a pending formality.  My final day as Program Director will probably be 30 November 2014.

I came to the Florida Sea Base in May 2000 as a PADI Master Instructor.  Not to bore anyone, but the certification progression as I came up the ranks was (all PADI courses) Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Divemaster, several Specialty Diver certifications, Assistant Instructor, Open Water Scuba Instructor, Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Master Instructor and Instructor Development Course Staff Instructor.  If you look at the current PADI Continuing Education Flow Chart you might see some discrepancies.

Click to enlarge.

When I took my PADI Open Water Diver course, PADI had not yet released an Open Water Diver training manual.  When I trained for my PADI Divemaster certification the PADI Rescue Diver Course had not been devised (I had to obtain certification as a Red Cross Lifeguard as part of my DM course).  PADI had not written a Divemaster Manual at that point.  I received my Master Instructor rating before IDC Staff Instructor because that was the progression at the time.  PADI later inverted the certifications.

In late 2001 I moved from Scuba Instructor at the Florida Sea Base to Dive Boat Captain; an improvement in salary but less interaction with the participants.  Then Florida Sea Base founder Captain Sam Wampler passed away and the base faced a management turn over.  In late 2002 I was asked to fill the Program Director position.  Another increase in salary, a full-time position, benefits, who could ask for more?  My intent was for that to be a three year commitment while (then) General Manager Dennis St. Jean found someone better.  Mr. St. Jean left the Florida Sea Base unexpectedly and current General Manager Captain Paul Beal arrived on scene.  I decided I would hang around for a while longer until he found a replacement.  I am beginning to think that waiting for the GM to find a replacement is a poor exit strategy.

That was a serious digression.  (A side effect of being awake at 03:00.)  My point is that I came to the Florida Sea Base to teach scuba and over time I have moved FAR away from that pursuit.  Preparing for the PADI Course Director Training Course reminded me of how much I enjoy teaching scuba.

Which brings me to my future plans; I cannot live on the retirement I will receive from the Boy Scouts of America.  My current plan is to help my dad and enjoy my family for most of the year.  If my dad’s health allows, I will operate S/V Escape in the FSB sailing program in the summer.  I will also continue to assist with professional level scuba training (Divemaster Academy and PADI Instructor Development Courses) as long as my replacement (and my dad’s health) will allow.

I am not certain about the future of this blog.  Maybe someone will want to take over.  Maybe it will end with my retirement.  Either way, I have enjoyed my time writing the blog and I am not quite done yet.  As I have mentioned over the past few weeks, September and (especially) October will be very busy months.

So my birthday present to myself is a semi-retirement wherein I will hopefully continue my service to the youth of America, get in a few months of sailing each year, teach scuba, help my dad, and spend time with family.  Happy Birthday to me.

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

Despite being held against our will in the Big Cypress Swamp of SW Florida, we are having a productive meeting.

The “resort” is very interesting.  This photo was (obviously) taken in the men’s room.

photo 1

In case you can read the signs…

photo 2

I was confused.  Please flush COMMODE when done (with the URINAL).  I’ve never been in a men’s room where you had to flush the commode to empty the urinal.  If you finished but someone’s sitting on the toilet, no worries.  No need to flush.  When the guy finishes on the toilet he will flush the urinal for you.  As I am writing this I realize that I failed to check inside the stalls.  I wonder if there were signs saying please flush urinals when done (on the commode).  Life in the swamp.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Surviving in the swamp

 

15Sep

SUNDAY

WEATHER

The rain is gone, the wind is gone.  So what is left?  MOSQUITOS!!!  Good golly Miss Molly!  Swarms of newly hatched, BLOOD THIRSTY mosquitos.  Our heat index was in the triple digits yesterday, the humidity felt like it was 99.99999%, the wind was dead calm, and the mosquitos were loving it.

AFK

I remember AFK – away from keyboard – from an episode of The Big Bang Theory.  As I mentioned yesterday, the full time staff of the Florida Sea Base will be sequestered in a secret location in the swamps of SW Florida Tuesday through Friday.  I don’t know what, if any, connectivity may be available there.  I may post Tuesday morning before we hit the road.  If not, it will likely be Saturday before I can post again.

 TECHNOLOGY

Speaking of connectivity, the Florida Sea Base was without internet, email, and phone service Friday.  Yesterday, a technician was installing g a new fiber optic switch in the Program Office where Logistics Team Leader Tim Stanfill, Sailing Program Director Captain Luke Knuttel, the Office Manager and I are housed.  We have been waiting over 5 years (maybe closer to seven) for this switch that is SUPPOSED to end all of the connectivity issues in our little building.  Why has it taken so long?  Consider that it took more than a MONTH for the switch to arrive at the Florida Sea Base after it was reportedly “overnighted” from the tech guys at National who are responsible for supporting our operation.  We are obviously so low on their priority list that we are not even on the list.  Today we will learn whether the switch works.  If not, maybe tech support will find a solution by 2021.

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

14Sep

SATURDAY

in Weather  •  0 comments

WEATHER

Saturday was very quiet around the Florida Sea Base, until about 5:30 PM.  This system was moving from the SE to the NW and brought us a good deal of rain.

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We had a second round of gusty winds and rain around 9:00 PM.

There are no areas of concern from tropical weather for the Florida Sea Base.  The rain we are receiving is courtesy of a local low pressure system that is not associated with any tropical systems.

UPCOMING EVENTS

There is frequently a misconception that we have nothing to do once the Scouts depart at the end of the summer season.  That is far from true.  Budget and converting the base from program to conference needs comes next and is still in progress.  Our Staff Planning Conference (4 days in Naples, FL) starts Tuesday.  The next two weeks we are hosting a PADI Instructor Development Course and the conference season begins.  October is booked to capacity with conferences including a Scuba Tournament and the BSA National Aquatics Workshop.  “We may doze, but we never close” certainly applies to the Florida Sea Base.

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

13Sep

GRAY SKIES

in Weather  •  0 comments

WEATHER

Yesterday was a total 180° from Thursday.  We woke to slightly cooler temperatures, gray skies and scattered light showers, all courtesy of Invest 92L.

WUNIDS_map

The track for Invest 92L has taken an interesting “turn”.

at201492_model

TD 6 has been upgraded to Tropical Storm Edouard (not a typo).  It may reach hurricane status next week but is not a threat to land.

at201406_5day

 WEEKEND

I hope you have a blessed weekend.  I have given the program staff the weekend off.  Alex Bergstedt is spending time at Mickey’s place in Orlando, Taron Soto will be studying for the upcoming PADI Instructor Development Course, and I have no idea of Bo Bussler’s plans.  I have a lot of work to do and will probably be lazy in the mornings and spend the afternoons in the office.

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

SCUBA

Information for the 2014 Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy can be found on my LINKS page (scroll to the bottom of the page).  We have limited the course to 16 candidates in previous years but hope to accommodate more this year.

The annual Divemaster Academy is the backbone for a successful summer scuba program season the following year.  The candidates will receive a very comprehensive course that will significantly exceed the minimum PADI requirements.  In addition to earning the PADI Divemaster rating, candidates will also complete the PADI Deep Diver Specialty course and the PADI Search and Recovery Specialty Diver course.

The 2014 class is more than 50% booked so please send in application as soon as possible if you are interested in attending.

The Florida Sea Base will host our second PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) on 25 September.  We currently have four candidates.  Captain Bert Hubby and I will co-teach the course.  Alex Bergstedt and Rich Goldman will be assisting with the course to fulfill requirements for their PADI IDC Staff Instructor ratings.  You can find more information about the IDC at the bottom of the LINKS page as well.  Time is growing short, but we are still open to considering additional candidates.

STAFF

Scuba Instructor Rich Goldman is having knee surgery in New Jersey this morning.

It was very comforting to see so many staff members and captains brave Wednesday’s weather to witness the spreading of Captain Bruce’s ashes.  In hindsight, I wish I had made a list to share.

WEATHER

Invest 92L sat between The Bahamas and Florida all yesterday but the Florida Sea Base enjoyed sunshine and very warm temperatures.

WUNIDS_map

Here is the forecast track for 92L.  From a very selfish view, I hope the system is able to bring showers to SE Texas and maybe the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

at201492_model

Invest 91L has intensified and has been designated as Tropical Depression Six.  TD 6 is not expected to threaten the US.

at201406_5day

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

11Sep

FINAL GOODBYES

in Sailing  •  0 comments

CAPTAIN BRUCE

Nearly 50 friends and family members boarded the BSA Centennial Eagle yesterday morning at the Florida Sea Base and rode for an hour and a half in near non-stop rain to deliver the ashes of Captain John Bruce Payette to his favorite site, Pickles Reef.

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As a parting shot, I decided to take a photo of the bare feet of most of our guests.  After all, Captain Bruce’s boat is named S/V Barefoot.

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How many funerals have you attended barefooted?  Welcome to the Keys.

WEATHER

two_atl_5d0

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 PM EDT WED SEP 10 2014

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico:

1. Satellite images indicate that the shower activity associated
with a broad area of low pressure centered about 650 miles west of
the Cape Verde Islands has increased and become a little better
organized this evening. This system is now moving toward an area
more favorable for development, and a tropical depression could form
during the next day or two while the low moves toward the
west-northwest and northwest at about 15 mph over the open Atlantic.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...medium...40 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days...high...70 percent.

2. A weak area of low pressure has formed near the northwestern
Bahamas, and its associated shower activity is showing some signs of
organization. However, the environment is forecast to become
unfavorable for significant development while the low moves slowly
westward toward southern Florida. If necessary, an Air Force plane
will investigate this system tomorrow. Regardless of development,
this low will bring heavy rains over portions of southern Florida
and the Florida Keys during the next couple of days.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...low...20 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days...medium...30 percent.

Forecaster Avila

We are expecting frequent showers until this system moves into the Gulf.

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

WEATHER

It is still hot at the Florida Sea Base.  (I will GLADLY take hot and sweaty over cold and shivering.)  We are expecting highs of 90 and lows of 82 for the next several days with a 30% chance of rain daily.

This thunderstorm rolled over us around 7:30 PM.

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 7.23.06

This is part of a new area of interest (the yellow shaded area) posted by the National Hurricane Center.

two_atl_5d0

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 AM EDT WED SEP 10 2014

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico:

1. A broad area of low pressure is located about 500 miles west of the
Cape Verde Islands. Shower and thunderstorm activity associated with
this low has changed little in organization during the past few
hours. While tropical cyclone formation is not anticipated today,
environmental conditions could become somewhat more favorable for
development by later in the week while the low moves toward the
west-northwest and northwest at about 15 mph over the open Atlantic.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...low...20 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days...high...70 percent.

2. Disorganized cloudiness and showers over the Bahamas and the
adjacent Atlantic are associated with a weak surface trough
interacting with an upper-level low. Development, if any, of this
system is expected to be very slow to occur while it moves generally
westward at 5 to 10 mph during the next few days.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...low...10 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days...low...20 percent.

Forecaster Brennan

Steve Gregory posted these comments regarding Invest 91L (the red shaded area) and related tropical systems:

The overnight global model runs all forecast this system to become a tropical cyclone within 48-72 hrs – and possibly near hurricane intensity by the end of the week. However, all models show the storm turning aforementioned track – making this a low threat to the US.

Meanwhile, upstream from 91L is a tropical wave taking shape over east-central Africa that shows hints of rotation developing – and 2 global models have shown this to be a potential disturbance worth monitoring by next week as it moves across the eastern Atlantic – though it is far too early to conjecture whether this will become a cyclone.

He also commented about the yellow shaded area:

Within the Caribbean region, unseasonable and extremely high wind shear – in some areas over 50Kts – continues to prevent any cyclone development – and this environment is unlikely to change during the rest of this week, especially as a persistent and relatively strong upper level Low over the Bahamas remains nearly stationary. This upper Low is not expected to weaken and begin drifting away from the area before the end of the week. The probability that this type of upper Low will transition into a tropical cyclone is EXTREMELY low (as in close to NIL).

BRUCE

There was a very nice turnout of family and friends in memory of  Captain Bruce Payette last night.  His ashes will be spread at sea this morning.

PROGRAM

Preparations for the 2015 program season officially started in January 2014.  The majority of reservations for 2015 have been booked.  The budget for 2015 has been set.  We will spend next week confined in an undisclosed location in the Florida swamps to further refine plans for 2015.  Does anyone have a spare 55 gallon drum of 100% deet?

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

 

BACK

I left Texas at 4 AM (ET) Monday and pulled into the Florida Sea Base at 1:30 this morning.  1,215 miles in 17 hours and 15 minutes of drive time.  My eyes are stressed to the max and I have serious car lag.  The drive back and forth is tough but it was worth it to spend a few days with my family.

WEATHER

Several African waves have made their way into the Atlantic and fizzled while I was traveling.  This was consistent with the long range forecast.  Another wave (Invest 91L) has emerged but poses no threat to any Florida Sea Base interests at this time.

at201491_model

two_atl_5d0

Tropical Weather Outlook Text

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 AM EDT TUE SEP 9 2014

For the North Atlantic…Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico:

1. A broad area of low pressure located a few hundred miles south of
the Cape Verde Islands continues to produce disorganized showers and
thunderstorms. Environmental conditions are forecast to be
conducive for gradual development of this disturbance during the
next several days while it moves west-northwestward at about 15 mph.
* Formation chance through 48 hours…medium…30 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days…high…70 percent.

Forecaster Beven

MEMORIAL

Family and friends of the late Captain Bruce Payette will meet at the Safari Lounge late this afternoon to celebrate his life.  Captain Bruce passed away in February.  Tomorrow his ashes will be scattered at sea per his wishes.

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