27May

NOTHING

That’s what I’ve got for today’s post – nothing.  But they say no news is good news so there you have it; nothing but good news. :)

SO HOW ABOUT A TIP FOR THE DAY?

PROTECTIVE CLOTHING – Yes, it is hot here.  But long sleeves are a reasonable consideration.  The SPF type shirts and the “wicking tees” sold through the Ships Store help keep you cool and reduce sunburn.  Hats, depending on style, can shade your eyes, ears, face and neck.  But remember, we frequently have wind and if you are on a dive boat there will definitely be apparent wind from the boats making 20 knots.  So you need to be able to keep your hat on your head.  Regardless of the type of vessel you are on (sailboat or dive boat), if your hat goes overboard the chances of recovering it are near zero.

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

26May

MISFORTUNE

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PROGRAM

While everything is rocking’ and rollin’ for all Florida Sea Base adventures, one of our double Coral Reef Sailing crews suffered an unfortunate incident.  The crews had stopped in Florida City (the last stop on the mainland) for lunch.  While they were eating, someone broke into the vehicles and stole their luggage which for one Scout, included prescription medications.  That is no way to start a Florida Sea Base adventure but kudos to the captains and Coral Reef staff who helped with getting replacement prescriptions meds and other items needed by the Scouts and leaders.

FSB TIP OF THE DAY

SUNGLASSES  – sunglasses with polarized lenses are as important at the Florida Sea Base as sunscreen.  As a matter of fact, you can think of them as sunscreen for your eyes (certainly less painful than rubbing Coppertone in your eyes).  They do not have to be $1,000 Costas or Oakleys.  Our Ships Store sells reasonably priced shades and you are certainly welcome to by them at home.

WEATHER

There is a 10 to 20% chance of a daily shower this week.  Highs will be near 88°F with overnight lows of 80.  The water temperature on the reef is 83° so leave your wetsuit at home.  The wind should be from the east at 15 to 20 knots until Saturday when it should drop to 10 knots.

This is the graphical forecast from the National Weather Service for the next two days:

Plotter.php

 

Click to enlarge or try this link http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?w0=t&w1=td&w2=hi&w3=sfcwind&w3u=1&w4=sky&w5=pop&w6=rh&w7=rain&w8=thunder&AheadHour=7&Submit=Submit&FcstType=graphical&textField1=24.8501&textField2=-80.7345&site=all&unit=0&dd=&bw=

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

25May

MEMORIAL DAY

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I left for the mainland early this morning and failed to post before I left.  Better late than never.

MEMORIAL DAY

The true meaning of Memorial Day has been lost over time like Christmas.  This year let’s try hard to focus on those who have given their life in service to our country instead of what’s on sale at the mall.  No, I did not buy anything on sale or at a mall this morning.)

TODAY’S FSB TIP

ATTITUDE – The success of your trip depends largely on the attitude of the adult leadership. All Florida Sea Base adventures occur in the ocean. Weather comes and weather goes and weather is weather. There are experiences to enjoy and life lessons to be learned regardless of whether the weather is good or bad. In the end, the participants make the trip what is. The staff and captains are here to help. But if the adult leaders can’t make lemonade when the weather throws lemons at them, the kids will suffer. Attitude is key.

PROGRAM

Despite some dicey winds, the sailors are sailing and the divers are diving.  The machine is operational and almost nothing can stop it until the last Scouts go home.  Lifetime ocean memories are being made daily at the Florida Sea Base.  Come join us.

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

PROGRAM

Sunday arrivals include Scuba Adventure, Scuba Certification, Coral Reef Sailing and Sea Exploring crews.  Eco Adventure and Scuba Liveaboard crews are already underway so all summer programs offered at the Florida Sea Base are now active.

TODAY’S FSB TIP

USE SUNSCREEN.  Even on very cloudy days our U/V index is very high.  Being in the shade will not prevent sunburn here.  The rays reflect off the sand, the water, the boat decks and they penetrate awnings, biminis and other covers.  If you get sunburned you are dehydrated.  Almost every week someone gets sunburned and/or dehydrated bad enough to require a trip to the ER.  At the ER they give you fluids through an IV.  You will likely catch an infection while in the hospital and die.  You can therefore avoid this slow, painful, stupid death by staying hydrated and using sunscreen.  [Okay, maybe you won’t die.  But if you go to the ER for dehydration they WILL give you an IV.  If you have severe sunburn or sun poisoning they will require that you stay indoors.  Either way, you are grounded and your “high adventure” is over.]

WEATHER

Wind is generally our weather element of concern at the Florida Sea Base.  Wind directly impacts all of our programs.  Conditions will be challenging for the next several days according to the National Weather Service marine forecast.

This Afternoon East winds 15 to 20 knots and gusty. Seas 3 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters choppy to rough. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.
Tonight And Monday East winds near 20 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters rough. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.
Monday Night East winds near 20 knots and gusty. Seas 3 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters rough. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.
Tuesday East winds 15 to 20 knots and gusty. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters choppy to rough. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.
Tuesday Night Through Thursday Night East winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Nearshore waters choppy. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.

It will be a little bumpy this week.  Don’t forget to take your Bonine® on your travel day to the Florida Sea Base to start getting it built up in your system and to make sure you have no adverse reactions to the medication.  If you get seasick you will likely vomit.  If you vomit you are losing fluids.  That will lead to dehydration and possibly end your adventure.  Better living through chemistry.  Take your meds; don’t try to tough if out.

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

23May

RAMPING UP

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PROGRAM

One Scuba Liveaboard crew and five Coral Reef Sailing crews checked in on Saturday.  Excitement abounds; the dock is crowed as boats and captains grow impatient to depart for high adventure.

TODAY’S FSB TIP

HYDRATE OR DIE” has been the Florida Sea Base battle cry since before my arrival in 2000. Participants at the Florida Sea Base need to drink a gallon of water a day. You lose about 20 ounces of water through normal respiration WHILE YOU SLEEP. Therefore, if you do not drink at least a quart of water by the end of breakfast time, you are starting your day in a state of dehydration. DRINK WATER!

With daily heat indices in excess of 100°F it is very easy to get dehydrated.  Since you will have multiple opportunities daily to get into the water and cool off it is easy to underestimate the heat.  For the scuba divers, you will recall from your Open Water Diver training that you lose about a quart of water for every tank of compressed gas you breath.  This is in addition to the moisture you lose because of perspiration and other body functions.  And speaking of body functions, dehydration leads to constipation, and sea sickness, and headaches, and sinus congestion, and the list goes on.  PLEASE DRINK WATER!!!

ROAD TRIP MEMORY

As one slowly recovers from sleep deprivation, various memories return.  Case in point.  On the drive from Texas to the Florida Sea Base I frequently stop at travel centers (formerly known as truck stops). During one of my stops, the men’s room was filled with truckers who were essentially bathing in the sinks and others in the stalls praying out load to various deities and generating sounds and odors from another universe.  Meanwhile, in the midst of this chaos from Hades, the good natured employees were piping in “Let it Go” on the intercom.  Truly inspiring!

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

PROGRAM

Friday was the first arrival day of the 2015 summer season at the Florida Sea Base.  One Scuba Liveaboard crew and an Eco-Adventure crew checked in Friday afternoon.  Crew arrivals will grow daily and the first full arrival day will probably happen on Wednesday.

TIP OF THE DAY

This is a work in progress, but I am amassing a list of tips to share.  Today’s tip has to do with scuba divers and underwater navigation.

Imagine being 45 feet underwater, you have used 30%-40% of your air, and it’s time to start heading back to the boat. Where’s the boat? Divers get very little instruction in underwater navigation in their Open Water Diver certification course. If you are coming to the Florida Sea Base for the Scuba Adventure or Scuba Liveaboard programs you should practice navigation. The PADI Underwater Navigation Specialty course is the perfect answer. However, you may not have access to scuba gear and a dive site, but those aren’t necessary. You need a compass, a towel and a buddy. In buddy teams, one buddy navigates while the other accompanies him to make sure he doesn’t step in a hole or run into an object. The buddy who is navigating picks a point in the distance. He then uses the compass to take a bearing on that object (a tree stump for example). The navigator puts a towel over his head so all he can see is the compass and the ground. (The buddy becomes important at this point.) The navigator watches the compass and counts the paces until reaching his target. (The buddy should interrupt if the navigator gets significantly off course or is in danger.) The navigator then turns 180 degrees to the reciprocal course. He then follows the compass and counts paces until he believes he has reached the starting point.

This is more difficult while diving because you have to maintain control of your depth, monitor your air and your buddy, and you may be dealing with cross currents that can push you off course.

WEATHER

It is summertime in the Keys.  It has been hot and humid with those short lived little thunderstorms popping up on occasion.  Be prepared!

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

DAY TWO

There were no issues with the new fuel pump.  I spent most of the day packing for the next leg of the journey to the Florida Sea Base.  I sacked at at 6 pm in preparation for an early start on day three.

DAY THREE

I woke up around 10:30 Tuesday evening.  I spent about an hour trying to get back to sleep without success.  I got up, got dressed, fixed a cup of coffee, loaded the Suburban and headed south to Interstate 10.  I left the house at 12:09 am (9 minutes past midnight) Wednesday morning.  I fueled up in Orange, Texas where I get onto I-10.

Everything was fine until I was half way across the bridge over the Atchafalaya Bayou.  The bridge is 96,096 feet (18.2 miles) long and is between Lafayette and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  It was between 2 and 3 am and another gas issue with the Suburban emerged; or so I thought.  I managed to drive the remainder of the way across the bridge at 25 to 30 mph on the shoulder and praying that I wouldn’t get smashed in the fog from the rear by an 18 wheeler.  A mile or so past the bridge and the problem disappeared – for a while.  Then the problem was back and I was approaching the Mississippi River bridge.  It is a very tall, very steep bridge with no shoulder.  I knew I could not make it over the bridge so I pulled onto LA-1 which runs along the west bank of the river.  It was 3:30 in the morning.  No one to call. No one to help.

I made myself at home in a Walmart parking lot and waited.  To shorten the story a bit, I was able to call two mechanics from back home and we decided that the likely culprit was an excessive amount of ethanol in the fuel.  [This can easily be confused with water in the gas as the symptoms are the same.]  We came up with a plan, I got the Suburban running properly, took a big breath and headed for the Mississippi River bridge.

I had lost several hours of travel time and my usual 20 hour drive was going to be much longer.  I stopped at a roadside park and slept for about an hour.  This sign was posted in the pet walk area.

IMG_1203

DAY FOUR

After my nap I was back on the road.  Totally exhausted, I stopped again at a service plaza on the Florida Turnpike.  I passed out for over four hours.  Then back on the road and finally arrived at the Florida Sea Base at 10:30 am Thursday, more than 12 hours later than I had planned.

PROGRAM

The Florida Sea Base is a beehive of activity.  It is kind of cool to be a spectator for the first time since I joined the staff in 2000.  Coral Reef captains are making final preparations, the dive staff is getting weft and renewing their underwater and rescue skills, and the sail staff is preparing for the incoming sailors.

Captain (and recent PADI IDC Staff Instructor graduate) Brenda Mallory will serve as the second captain aboard the Schooner Pirates Lady in the Scuba Liveaboard program.  Pirates Lady is under new ownership and is very fortunate to have Captain Brenda aboard.

The Schooner Spirit of Independence has moved from the Sea Exploring program to be the third schooner (Conch Pearl being the original) to join the Florida Sea Base Scuba Liveaboard fleet.

Captain Christy Costa has gotten all of the Florida Sea Base Newton Dive Boats through their annual US Coast Guard safety inspections.

Captain Steve Owen has brought a new vessel into our sailing fleet.  S/V Missty (not a typo) will serve in the Order of the Arrow Oceans Adventure program (OAOA).

WEATHER

H-O-T!!!

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

ROAD TRIP – DAY ONE

I started my road trip back to the Florida Sea Base early Monday morning; my first destination was our homestead in SE Texas to visit my dad and to load up some tools and parts that I need for projects onboard Escape.

Right about two hours into the five hour drive the motor in the 1991 Suburban suddenly quit.  I coasted onto the rain soaked grass on the side of a 2 lane highway with no shoulder.  I was not quite in the middle of nowhere, but I was about 10 miles NW of the thriving metropolis of Palestine, Texas.  The big issue was easy to diagnose; fuel was not getting to the motor.  But why?  I suspected it was the fuel pump.

There was some good news at this point.  I have AAA Texas Plus which provides free towing for 100 miles.  And there is a Chevy dealership in Palestine.  (No kidding!)  So I called the Chevy dealer and explained my predicament.  They said they would be happy to look at it in a day or two.  Really?  Really.  They said that was the best they could do.  So I called AAA.  (Three As, not 2.)  They had a “preferred” independent shop in Tyler, Texas, about a 2 hour detour from my scheduled route.  I called that shop and they sounded much more interested in helping so I decided to go with that.  Then AAA called back and said it would take two hours for the wrecker to find me.  Great.

More good news, the wrecker arrived much quicker than anticipated AND the driver knew a shop in Rusk, Texas (on my route) that could get me on the road in short order.  So the Suburban was loaded onto the wrecker and we are off to Rusk.  About half way there all traffic was stopped.  A massive hardwood tree has fallen across both lanes of road.  There were a few guys with chainsaws whittling on the tree.  [Yes, we really haul them around with us in the backs of our trucks.  Case in point.]  We pull up in the wrecker, hook a chain onto the tree, pull the tree into the ditch and the road was open.  On to Rusk!

We arrived at Beck’s Auto just before noon.  The folks were exceptionally nice (most people are around here).  Three and a half hours later (at $100 per hour) I was  singing Willie’s hit, “On the Road Again”.  The first leg of the journey is in the bag.

Tuesday will be spent preparing for the long leg of the trip, the 20+ hour marathon from Jasper, Texas to the Florida Sea Base.  This is going to be challenging because I will have to dodge thunderstorms while trying to load tools, parts, dive gear, computers and personal effects into the Suburban.  I hope to leave here very early Wednesday morning and arrive at the Florida Sea Base before the highways are clogged with Memorial Day vacationers flocking to the Gulf Coast areas.

I’ll post when I can.

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

STAFF

Training for the 2015 summer captains and staff is underway at the Florida Sea Base.  One round of captain’s training has been completed and a second session will be held soon for the later arrivals.  Staff training starts today.

Cory Lancaster and Cody Stepp are both former graduates of the Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy and have been taking the PADI Instructor Development Course over the past week.  They are in Key Largo today to complete the final day of the PADI Instructor Exam.

PROGRAM

Participants begin arriving later this week.  By next Wednesday (27 May) all adventures will be at capacity.  I plan to arrive at the Florida Sea Base later this week to work on Escape and maybe help out a bit with program as needed.

WEATHER

There is a 20% chance of rain all week.  However, the forecast is generally calling for sunny to partly cloudy conditions with highs around 88°F and lows around 79.  The water temperature is holding between 81 and 82 at Molasses Reef so leave the wetsuits at home.

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

WEATHER

The computer models were right last week and Captain Rich Beliveau is dealing with the outermost bands of Tropical Storm Ana this morning.

at201501_5day

It is VERY early to be experiencing tropical weather, but this is NOT an indicator of a busy tropical seasonal overall.  However, if you have an adventure scheduled for the Florida Sea Base this summer, you should strongly consider purchasing trip insurance.  I am not an insurance salesman and  (no offense if you are) but I see insurance as a necessary evil.  Purchasing insurance is like betting that your house will burn down, or you’ll have a car wreck, or you’ll get sick, you know what I mean.  Regardless, the weather is what it is and while unlikely, it is possible for your trip to the Florida Sea Base to get blown out.  Each of you has invested a lot of money for your Sea Base adventure and a few more dollars for trip insurance is a prudent consideration.

PROGRAM

The Florida Sea Base program directors are ramping up quickly for the 2015 summer season.  The biggest logistical problem is getting materials to the Virgin Island sailing program.  Since the program is in the US Virgin Islands you might not think that shipping supplies there would be a problem.  But you would be VERY wrong.  Sailing Director Captain Luke Knuttel spent Friday transporting equipment from the Florida Sea Base to Miami to be shipped (literally) to Saint Thomas.  Once the pallet arrives, it has to clear customs as though it is being shipped to a non-US country.  The process is quite a hassle.

Summer staff training starts on 20 May and programs start a few days later.  The Florida Sea Base is almost at capacity again this summer.  However, there may be a few open dates if you are the organizational guru that can pull a crew together on short notice.  If you are interested, call the Florida Sea Base at 305-664-4173 and ask for Gerri or Nancy.

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