SCUBA

For all of the Florida Sea Base scuba staff – the 2016 PADI Instructor Manual is now available as a free download.  As a PADI professional, you should already have a PADI Pro’s site account.  If not, go to www.padi.com/mypadi to create an account.  Once logged in, click on Training Essentials and scroll down to Instructor Manual.  Part of your membership agreement with PADI is to stay up to date on PADI standards and procedures.  This applies to Divemasters as well as Scuba Instructors.

2016 SPRING SEASON

Nancy Wells, Florida Sea Base Registrar, says the first participants of the 2016 spring season arrive at the Florida Sea Base on 13 February.  Nancy also reminded me that the 2017 reservation lottery is open through 15 February.

The captains are preparing their boats, the Program Directors are tweaking their staff training programs and the staff is rolling in.  Spring fever is here!

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WEATHER

The first few weeks of the spring season looks pretty nice according to AccuWeather:

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

AQUATICS TASK FORCE

Program Director Joe Angelo and I attended the BSA National Aquatics Task Force meeting in Dallas on Saturday.  As always, we had a very full agenda.  Major ongoing projects included whitewater policy, moving water updates, the CDC Model Aquatics Health Code, and the 2016 National Aquatics Workshop. (The National Aquatics Workshop will be held at the Florida Sea Base 27 Oct – 02 Nov.)

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

30Jan

ADVENTURE TIPS

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PROGRAM

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™

WEATHER

I am very aware that I talk about the weather far more than some think I should on this blog.  But the weather is king at the Florida Sea Base.  Weather is the major reason that we are not able to provide crews with detailed itineraries.  The speed and even direction of the wind dictates – in large part – the days activities.  A different way to look at it is the weather conditions may limit or increase our options for activities on any given day.

Scuba diving is impacted even more than the other programs by the weather.  Most mornings the participants are asking where we’re diving today.  That is always a little amusing to me, because regardless of the dive site, they still don’t know where it is or what it looks like.  We can tell them where we HOPE to dive that day (based on current weather conditions), but until we are on site and can check the visibility and current we just don’t know for sure.

With that said, another blustery weather system has passed.  The wind finally clocked to the north between 22:00 (10pm) and 23:00 (11pm) last night.

CONFERENCE

The Scouting U conference ended at the Florida Sea Base yesterday.  The Brinton Environmental Center is currently hosting a week long training session for Ortho Biotics, a company that manufactures probiotics. The Florida Sea Base will be hosting a Scouting Works conference this week along with a “corporate engagement” for which I have no details.

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

REGISTRATION

The registration lottery for all Florida Sea Base, Brinton Environmental Center, Bahamas and USVI programs began on 15 January.  The lottery will close on 15 February.  Click HERE to begin the registration process.

CONFERENCES

The current session of Scouting U concludes on Sunday at the Florida Sea Base.  But not to worry, another session begins Monday.  In the meantime, the Brinton Environmental Center has been hosting a National Camp School that concludes on Tuesday.  Sometimes it is hard to tell, but under the leadership of Director of Program Tim Stanfill, the Florida Sea Base has been striving to reduce the number of adult conferences and filling that time with even more youth programs like STEM.

WEATHER

The Weather Channel, local and national news are all focused on winter storm Jonas.  Meanwhile, the Florida Keys are again ignored.  But at least a few non-Keys residents will now know, here we go again!

Hi everyone,

Another strong cold front will sweep through the Florida Keys and adjacent coastal waters Friday evening.  The front will be preceded by an occasionally rainy period from late tonight through Friday afternoon, and followed by the onset of strong to near-gale breezes blowing from the west and west-northwest.
The storm system which eventually will affect most of the U.S. East Coast with a variety of high-impact winter weather, is organizing this afternoon over the Deep South and northern Gulf of Mexico.  The system will both intensify and expand rapidly tonight through Friday night, as it migrates eastward, across the southeastern United States and adjacent Gulf and Atlantic coastal waters.
Fresh east breezes this evening will turn southeast overnight, with rain developing over much of the area by Friday morning.  Southerly winds Friday morning likely will undergo fits and starts around the Florida Keys, as channels of air accelerate into the developing storm system to our north.  A break in the rain is likely at some point Friday afternoon, before a band of squalls ahead of the oncoming front powers through Friday evening.  Rising west wind and building sea will proceed through Friday night.  Expect sustained west winds near 30 knots with occasional gusts reaching gale force.  Saturday is likely to be very windy and cooler, with a low overcast and occasional sprinkles.  Expect sustained west to northwest winds near 30 knots with occasional gusts reaching gale force.  As the large storm pulls away over the North Atlantic on Sunday, the wind is expected to diminish rapidly across Florida Keys coastal waters.  A residual westerly swell will persist through Monday, in the Gulf and lower Straits, while a long-period north-northeast swell develops in the Straits off the upper Keys by Tuesday.
Attached is an image of forecast significant wave height for 7:00 p.m. EST, Saturday (from our Nearshore Wave Prediction System).  Notice how the waves bend (refract) toward the Florida Reef tract and the Gulf-side flats.
For details on warnings, watches, advisories, wave heights, timing, and more, please consult the following information sources online:
Florida Keys Coastal Waters Forecast:
Hourly Weather Graphs for Florida Keys Marine Locations:
Nearshore Wave Prediction System output:
Smartphone widget:
Best Regards,
Chip K.
 Kennard “Chip” Kasper
Senior Forecaster-Marine Program Meteorologist
NOAA/National Weather Service
1315 White Street
Key West, Florida 33040

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Program Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™
Trying to stay warm in the Mother Country

 

 

 

WEATHER

Wind, rain and more wind and possible tornados; Yikes!!!

From Chip Kasper, National Weather SErvice, Key West:

Hi everyone,

Expect 24 hours of rapidly changing, very windy, and occasionally stormy weather, with potential for severe thunderstorms from late tonight through Sunday morning.
*Gale Warning* has been issued for all marine zones adjoining the Florida Keys for the period 0400-1300 EST (4:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. EST) Sunday.  Gale-force (sustained) winds begin at 34 knots, or Beaufort Force 8.  The gentle southeast breezes this evening will turn out of the south and freshen to near 20 knots by midnight.  Winds then will shift out of the southwest overnight, while increasing to a steady 30 knots over open water, with frequent gusts of 35 knots, and higher in squalls.  Meanwhile, an intensifying low-latitude, low pressure system over the western Gulf of Mexico will move rapidly eastward overnight, supported by an energetic jet stream aloft.  The ingredients will come together quickly to support a fast-moving band of strong to severe thunderstorms (wind gusts 50 knots or greater possible) which likely will sweep through the Florida Keys and adjacent coastal waters, probably between about 0500-1000 EST (5:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m. EST) Sunday.  We are launching a rare overnight weather balloon to support a severe weather threat analysis by our forecasters here in the Florida Keys, and at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.  Stay tuned for possible severe thunderstorm or tornado watches overnight or early Sunday.
Winds will shift out of due west, following the squall line Sunday morning.  Winds then will shift out of the northwest, and start diminishing to 25 knots Sunday afternoon, with cloudy and windy, but rain-free weather setting in.
For details on warnings, watches, advisories, wave heights, timing, and more, please consult the following information sources online:
Florida Keys Coastal Waters Forecast:
Hourly Weather Graphs for Florida Keys Marine Locations:
Nearshore Wave Prediction System output:
Smartphone widget:
Stay safe!
Best Regards,
Chip K.
Kennard “Chip” Kasper
Senior Forecaster-Marine Program Meteorologist
NOAA/National Weather Service
1315 White Street
Key West, Florida 33040

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

We are anticipating difficult weather on Friday and Sunday.  Saturday I am going to try to get Escape to the boatyard in Marathon.  So don’t get antsy if I don’t post again until Sunday or maybe not until Tuesday.

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

14Jan

HOLD ON!!!

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WEATHER

The Florida Keys are in for a blow!  The Florida Sea Base will be especially vulnerable Friday and Sunday when the wind will be coming from the west.  Chip Kasper sent this message out Wednesday afternoon:

Hi everyone,
The cloudy and breezy conditions of the last few days will turn rainy, and increasingly squally, during the next 24-36 hours, with abrupt changes in sky and sea, wind and weather, persisting into next week.  Please check marine weather conditions and forecasts more frequently during this time due to the expected unusually changeable weather pattern.
The fickle weather is being caused in part by an especially strong and deep subtropical jet stream, a current of high-velocity, high-altitude air.  This energetic flow will help form and transport two significant low pressure systems across the Gulf of Mexico/Florida Peninsula during the next four days.  The implications for the Florida Keys and adjacent coastal waters include:
*  Rain, Rain, Rain tonight through Friday.  Thunderstorms (some strong?) possible Thursday night.
*  Strong east breezes beginning Thursday afternoon, turning quickly southeast Thursday evening, then south overnight.  Winds peaking Thursday night (sustained 25 knots), with frequent gusts up to 30 knots possible, higher in squalls and thunderstorms.
*  Strong southwest breezes Friday, turning west (20-25 knots).
*  Slackening breezes will box quickly around to northwest Friday night, then north, and northeast on Saturday, east, then southeast Saturday evening, and south overnight.
*  Winds likely will shift out of the west again on Sunday, with another 20-knot plus blow increasingly likely.
In other news, a rare, January named storm (“Subtropical Storm Alex”) has developed over the far eastern Atlantic Ocean (NO threat to the Florida Keys).
For details on warnings, watches, advisories, wave heights, timing, and more, please consult the following information sources online:
Florida Keys Coastal Waters Forecast:
Hourly Weather Graphs for Florida Keys Marine Locations:
Nearshore Wave Prediction System output:
Smartphone widget:
I would like to acknowledge my colleagues Chris Rothwell and Sean Daida for their assistance with this briefing.  Of course, our team will be working 24/7 from the Operations Floor at our Key West facility to further update and refine the forecasts as necessary.
Best Regards,
Chip K.
Kennard “Chip” Kasper
Senior Forecaster-Marine Program Meteorologist
NOAA/National Weather Service
1315 White Street
Key West, Florida 33040

Thanks for the heads up, Chip.  I now know what I’ll be doing on Thursday.

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 5.37.52

 

This is a combined radar and satellite graphic from 06:39 EDT this morning.  This is not a good day for shipping interests in the Gulf of Mexico.  The potentially good news is we may get a break, almost like the eye of a hurricane, on Saturday and I may be able to get Escape to the boatyard.

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

13Jan

NOT TODAY

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DELAY

I am scheduled to be go to the boatyard today but I have postponed.  The wind was at 25 knots at 06:00 so I had everyone stand down.  Captain Steve Owens (mechanic extraordinaire) was up very early to load tools and supplies onto Escape and Captain Hajo Knuttel was also up and going to make the ride with me.  Captain Brenda Mallory was standing by to drive down later to pick Captain Hajo and me up at the yard.

Saturday is potentially a better weather day.  The National Weather Service says the wind will be out of the west (yuck) in the 15 knot range.  However, WindGuru is calling for light and variable winds while we enjoy a brief lull between two fronts.  The forecast for Sunday calls for gusts as high as 33 knots in the morning.  When I called the yard this morning they were relieved that I wasn’t coming.  They said trying to enter their marina is hazardous when conditions are such as today.

So now I have three days to work on other issues on Escape at the dock.

CONFERENCE

The only participants at the Florida Sea Base this week is a group of 50 volunteer Scouters attending the Scouting U Volunteer Development Conference.  Some of them, the tough and determined, are going snorkeling on Alligator Reef this morning.  Wow!

STAFF

Former FSB Scuba Commissioner and dear friend, Alex Bergstedt, send me this picture of his car’s console this morning.

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Alex lives in Valparaiso, Indiana (just SW of Chicago).  Minus 1?  Too cold for this thin blooded southerner.

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

 

12Jan

MISSING LINKS

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2016 PARTICIPANTS GUIDE

If you go to http://www.bsaseabase.org/filestore/seabase/pdf/HASB_2016_web.pdf it will take you to the 2016 Florida National High Adventure Sea Base Participants Guide.  Tim Stanfill, Director of Program at the Florida Sea Base, has worked very diligently to update this publication.  THIS IS A MUST READ.  However, there is currently a temporary technical difficulty of which you should be aware.  This issue is in the hands of IT and is NOT a problem caused by Tim or the Florida Sea Base.

If you scroll to pages 25 and 26 you will see several awards that can be earned at the Florida Sea Base.  Most of these give you a link to the FSB main website for further information.  If you follow that link you will NOT find any additional information.  The links are supposed to take you to specific articles but the IT folks have not been able to make this work.  I am NOT an IT guy, I am NOT bashing the IT guys, I am simply informing you that these links don’t work so you don’t get frustrated trying to find them.  I will post an update when they are operational.  There may be other non-functional links in the Guide; I have not tried them all.

WEATHER

Cool (cold for us), wet and windy.  Brrrr yuck!!!

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

HAUL OUT

Weather permitting, I am scheduled to have S/V Escape hauled out at Keys Boat Works in Marathon, Florida on Wednesday.  This has become a popular yard for Florida Sea Base captains.  The weather is forecasted to be breezy and very cool (by Keys’ standards).

The reason I am mentioning this is because I will be in the boatyard for several days.  Based on past experience, I will be too tired or simply not have the time to post daily.  So this is just a heads-up in the event you don’t hear from me for about a week.

Boats require a lot of maintenance.  And as I have griped about before, the industry seems to work under the assumption that all boat owners are billionaires.  Most of us are not.  Some own boats because they can’t afford a house note or even rent.  Charging $400 for a water heater that holds six gallons is silly.  It runs off household current and it uses the same heating element as your water heater at home.  But it’s for a boat, so the price is jacked up two million percent.  (Sorry for the rant.)

Anyway, it’s fix-up or sell-out time so I am headed to the yard.  Fortunately, I am not planning on any major repairs.  There may be a few small blister’s on this nearly 40 year old hull.  And the bottom has to be painted.  I have five thru-hull fittings that have to come out; two have to be replaced and three need servicing.  The hull needs to be buffed and waxed and the marine surveyor will need to come by to write up a report for the insurance company.  Hopefully there won’t be any surprises.

WEATHER

Another week of mostly cooler and wet weather:

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 6.35.10

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