19Apr

FINITO

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PROGRAM

Today is the last dives for Scuba Adventure and Scuba Certification crews and the last day of Sea Exploring for the 2014 spring season at the Florida Sea Base.  All other programs have one more week of participants.

WEATHER

This is not common, but all of South Florida – EXCEPT the Florida Keys – is under a tornado watch until 10 am.

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Click to enlarge.

It is 79° at the Florida Sea Base this morning.  We have a 30% chance of rain as we did yesterday.  (We didn’t get a drop yesterday.)  We will only have a 3 degree rise in temperature today, peaking at 82°.  It is breezy on the reef this morning.  Molasses Reef is reporting southerly breezes at 17 to 19 knots and Sombrero Reef is reporting SW at 13 to 14 knots.  The Florida Sea Base is half way between these reporting stations.

POSTS

This is post #1,460.  Whew!  With spring program winding down, plus my wife visiting this coming week, I will probably not post every morning.

HELP

Yesterday I posted about our Divemaster shortage for this summer.  I have spent a lot of time reaching out to instructors and dive shops that are Sea Base friendly.  Many of you have been instrumental in helping me help the Florida Sea Base with challenges in the past.  We are still woefully short of Divemasters for the summer program.  We have enough to get by, but just barely.  We really need 9 or 10 more.  Please spread the word and maybe we can fill the gap.

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

DIVEMASTERS

Hi boys and girls.  The Florida Sea Base is still in need of Divemasters and/or Scuba Instructors for this summer (starting 18 May).  We hire 27 Divemasters and Scuba Instructors for our summer programs.  As of this morning, I still need 9 or 10.  If you are a certified DM, know one, or know someone that might know a DM who would like to live in paradise this summer, please email me at Steve.Willis@scouting.org.  We are doing well for applicants in all other positions.  We had a small turnout for our last Divemaster Academy which is our primary source for DMs.  Our standards are rather high.  We are looking for people who can be outstanding scuba diving role models AND positive role models for our Scouts.  It is a long 100 days (hey get one day off each week) requiring most of our DMs to make 7 to 15 dives per week (depending on their specific assignment).

While on the subject, I am still undecided on the dates for the 2014 Divemaster Academy.  I am considering several options.  Historically, we have run the DMA during Christmas/Winter school break time, starting a week before Christmas and ending a week after.  However, the school schedules seem to be less consistent and more and more students get out just before Christmas and don’t return until mid January.

Here is what I’m thinking at this point.  We will consider three possibilities.  The 2014 application will ask for dates of availability.  Once I have the applications I will decide on dates.  We might follow our traditional dates.  We might start on 27 or 28 December and go to about 12 January.  OR – we may try to run two smaller, overlapping classes, one starting before Christmas and one starting after Christmas.  The bottom line is we are going to try to accommodate more candidates to avoid this shortage next summer.  I will post a 2014 DMA Flyer and 2014 Application on the LINKS page in the coming weeks.

PROGRAM

The divers had a great day on the reef.  The certification crew completed their PADI Open Water Diver certification.  Several of the Coral Reef Sailing crews were in for shore leave.  And that reminds me……  If you are participating in the Coral Reef Sailing adventure this summer (or thereafter) a change has been made to the shore leave schedule.  Tubing has been removed from the list of activities.  This has been one of those Jekyll and Hyde activities.  A lot of participants really enjoyed tubing, but the rate of injuries combined with the logistical complexities of providing this activity have finally won out.

WEATHER

It was nice yesterday, very nice.  Today?  Not so nice.  We have a 30% chance of showers today and a 50% chance of thunderstorms tonight.  We should get into the mid 80s and the wind will be from the SE at 15 to 20 knots early but laying down later in the day.

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

17Apr

WHAT A VIEW

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MARKETING

Bryan Hayek is the marketing guru for the High Adventure Division of the BSA which includes Northern Tier, Philmont and the Florida Sea Base.  Take 90 seconds and watch this aerial view of the Florida Sea Base, Brinton Environmental Center and Munson Island.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPBKevQBJXY  Bryan took the video using his quad copter.

PROGRAM

I believe we had three Coral Reef Sailing crews on base for shore leave and another five came to dock for their luau night.  Two Sea Exploring, two Scuba Liveaboard, three Scuba Adventure, one Scuba Certification and two NAYLE crews were are experiencing high adventure on the high seas yesterday.

WEATHER

Wednesday started out gray, a little drizzly and cool but ended nice!  It is 77° with 15 knot winds from the east and mostly cloudy conditions at 04:30 this morning.  We have a 20% chance of showers.  The National Weather Service is calling for a high of 84.  Accuweather is forecasting a high of 86.  The Weather Channel says our high will be 78 and Weather Underground (owned by TWC) says “mid 80s”.  So I’m going with mid 80s (3 out of 4 right?).

At 04:30 is was 23°F with light snow in Ely, MN (near Northern Tier) and 32° with light snow in Cimarron, NM (near Philmont).

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

CONFERENCE

The NAYLE program falls within the conference department.  They spent the morning NOT racing on a course set-up by Sailing Director Captain Luke Knuttel on Florida Bay just outside the Florida Sea Base harbor.  When you see sailboats running a buoyed course AND you see this much heel, it is hard to believe they were NOT racing.  But that is their story and they are sticking to it.  Captain Luke took these photos of the non-competitive, vessel maneuvering, experience.

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Click to enlarge.

Above is S/V Misty Shoals, owned and operated by Captain Brian Stolzenberger.

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Click to enlarge.

And this is S/V Chanticleer, owned and operated by Captain Scott Penfield.

Since this was not a race, there was no winner (or loser).

PROGRAM

The sailors were sailing and the divers were diving.  The sailors had the better conditions of the day.  The divers reported very limited visibility.  This was quite unexpected since they had at least 60′ of viz Monday.  Several Coral Reef Sailing crews were in for shore leave yesterday.  With a weak cold front approaching, the Scuba Adventure crews elected to make their night dive last night in the event the conditions deteriorate.

WEATHER

We had a little rain last night; hopefully enough to settle the coral dust a bit.  The dust has been aggravating a lot of sinuses and causing allergy like symptoms.  We have a 30% chance of rain for the remainder of the day, but the radar shows the spotty showers moving away from the Keys.  It is 77° at 05:00 this morning and the forecasted high is 82°.  The wind should be 10 to 15 knots clocking from NW to NE.

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Click to enlarge.

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

15Apr

NICE!

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PROGRAM

Yesterday was very busy from a Florida Sea Base program point of view.  Three Coral Reef Sailing crews were in for shore leave.  Three Coral Reef Sailing crews checked in to start their adventure.  Three Scuba Adventure crews made their first dive of their Florida Sea Base adventure.  One Scuba Liveaboard crew was at sea and a second made their way from the base to their vessel which is stationed at Stock Island.  There was also a Sea Exploring crew at sea and another making it’s way from base to their vessel in Key West.  On top of all of that, NAYLE crews were at sea aboard two of the Coral Reef Sailing vessels.

What does the sailing staff do during their time off?  Go sailing, of course.  Just ask Aaron Parks and Phillip Ferrier.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

One of my accomplishments during my 14 years at the Florida Sea Base was to have our facility recognized as a PADI Five Star Instructor Development Resort.  While several excellent scuba certification agencies exist, PADI is by far the largest (certifying more divers annually that all other agencies combined).  I have been associated with PADI since 1976.  Anyway, PADI posted that they have exceeded the 1 million FaceBook fans mark.

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WEATHER

The weather was very nice yesterday.  The National Weather Service has increased the forecast of rain to 40% today.  It looks like the greatest chance of rain is after dinner tonight.  It is a warm 79° at 5 am.  The stars are incredible with just a few clouds.  We have a mild breeze from the SE.  We should hit 90° this afternoon.  It was perfect for the sailors sleeping on deck on the hook last night.

The folks who were awake after midnight had an incredible view of the “blood moon” in the Keys according to former Florida Sea Base staff member Trevor O’Keefe’s FaceBook post. “That lunar eclipse is awesome. I wish I could share it with everyone. Clear skies and lots of stars. Mars hanging out as the moon gathers the light of Earth’s sunrises and sunsets. A good moment for thinking about how big the universe is.”

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

14Apr

WHAT A DAY!

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PROGRAM

You can’t have a program without participants.  And the Florida Sea Base was swamped by participants Sunday, Palm Sunday, the weekend preceding Easter Sunday.  This is historically a very busy week at the Florida Sea Base and in the Florida Keys.  This year did not disappoint.

But there is a price.  The traffic in the Keys is horrendous.  Travel time to and from the airport is easily increased by and hour or more.  Routine travel is also impacted.  There is an 18 mile stretch of road between the mainland and the top of the Florida Keys.  This road is one lane in each direction with two, brief, passing zones.  The speed limit is 55, but traffic will move at 30 or less frequently.  If there is a traffic accident, the delays run into the hours.  We had two of our crews arrive after 19:00 (7 pm) last night.

WEATHER

I do not want to jinx it, but it appears as though we may actually have a whole week of favorable winds.  Say WHAT???  Look for yourself.

  • Today – East to southeast winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas around 2 feet. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop. Isolated showers.
  • Tonight – Southeast winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas around 2 feet. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop. Isolated showers.
  • Tuesday – South to southwest winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas around 2 feet. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop. Scattered showers.
  • Tuesday Night – Northwest to north winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 1 to 2 feet. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop. Scattered showers.
  • Wednesday – North to northeast winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 1 to 3 feet. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop. Scattered showers.
  • Wednesday Night Through Friday = East winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop. Scattered showers.
  • Friday Night – East winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop. Isolated showers.

The chance of showers is 30% each day.  So far this morning, we are looking good.

2xradard5

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

PROGRAM

Office Manager Zachary Bragg had quite the afternoon Saturday.  Scuba Liveaboard, Sea Exploring and Coral Reef Sailing crews all arrived at the Florida Sea Base to begin their adventures.

The NAYLE crews are onboard S/V Misty Shoals with Captain Brian Stolzenberger and S/V Chanticleer with Captain Scott Penfield.  (Speaking of Captain Scott reminded me that First Mate Gail Penfield stopped by the Florida Sea Base for a couple of days and brought some scrumptious cookies with her.)

WEATHER

It was breezy but otherwise incredible yesterday.  Here is the National Weather Service forecast for the coming week:

  • Today – Mostly sunny, with a high near 83. Light east wind increasing to 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon.
  • Tonight – A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 75. East wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
  • Monday – A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 85. Southeast wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
  • Monday Night – A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 77. Southeast wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
  • Tuesday – A chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 85. Southeast wind around 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
  • Tuesday Night – A chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 74. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
  • Wednesday – A chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 85. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
  • Wednesday Night – A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 75. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
  • Thursday – A chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 84. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
  • Thursday Night – A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 76. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
  • Friday – A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 84. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
  • Friday Night – A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 76. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
  • Saturday – A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 84. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

This is an impressive, approximately 270° shift in wind in less than 24 hours forecasted for Tuesday into Wednesday.

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This can make anchoring overnight more difficult because the boat is going to swing 180° and run over its own anchor.  This can cause the anchor to pull loose and drag.  The good news is the wind should be minimal so there should be no major concerns.

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

WEATHER

The full time staff members of the Florida Sea Base are always attentive of the weather.  The official start date for the 2014 hurricane season is 01 June and runs through 30 November.  Before we talk about this season, here’s a graphic from The Weather Channel of the storms  that impacted the USA in 2013.

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Click HERE for a good recap of the (mild) 2013 hurricane season.

Dr. Klotzbach and Dr. Gray of the Colorado State University have released their forecast for 2014.  (This forecast will be revised as the season progresses.)  Their forecast calls for only 9 named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane.  The average is 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.  The less than average forecast is primarily attributed to El Niño, or cooler Sea Surface Temperatures in the equatorial western Pacific.  HOWEVER, one major hurricane is all it takes to devastate and area such as the Florida Keys.

Friday was gorgeous; very gentle breeze, 81°, clear skies.  Today should be warm with a 10% of showers and a little more wind.

PROGRAM

The weather has been challenging this past week but the participants, adult leaders, captains and staff have worked together to make the best of it.  This has been an unusual spring with a cold front marching through almost every week.  With that said, we have not missed a dive, failed to certify a diver, or canceled a single day of sailing or shore leave.  HIGH ADVENTURE has been the true theme of the past week.  Hopefully, the participants, adult leaders, captains and staff have enjoyed the week, learned a little more about themselves and their abilities, and will have positive lifelong memories of their experience.  “Improvise, adapt and overcome.” – Clint Eastwood as “Gunny” in Heartbreak Ridge.

One Sea Exploring crew and three Coral Reef Sailing crews checked in Friday afternoon.  We have a HUGE week of program ahead.  In addition to Friday’s check-ins, the NAYLE group is here.  One Scuba Liveaboard crew, one Sea Exploring crew, and four Coral Reef Sailing crews check in today.  Tomorrow we will welcome another Scuba Liveaboard crew, a Scuba Certification crew, three Scuba Adventure crews and five Coral Reef Sailing crews.  On Monday we have two more Coral Reef Sailing arrivals.  This is going to be a very busy week.

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

I procrastinated even more than usual on filing my taxes this year.  But Turbo Tax to the rescue.  I took yesterday off and completed my tax return in a LONG, side day.  I hope to be more timely next year.

The tax return was an all day event.  All I can report that I was not made aware of any major injuries or issues.  The weather was pretty decent, better than Wednesday.  The National Weather Service says we will get a break in the wind soon:

.MARINE...
A SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE ENTIRE FLORIDA KEYS
NEAR AND OFF SHORE WATERS THROUGH AT LEAST THE FIRST HALF OF THE DAY.
A RIDGE PARKED ALONG THE EASTERN SEABOARD CONTINUES TO PLAGUE THE
KEYS WITH FRESH...TO AT TIMES STRONG EASTERLY WINDS. THIS RIDGE WILL
REMAIN IN PLACE THROUGH SUNDAY NIGHT BEFORE A TROUGH MOVES ACROSS THE
EASTERN GULF OF MEXICO MONDAY THROUGH MONDAY NIGHT. AS THE TROUGH
APPROACHES...WINDS WILL TURN MORE SOUTHEAST TO SOUTH MONDAY NIGHT
THROUGH EARLY TUESDAY. BY TUESDAY AFTERNOON THE RIDGE WILL BE WELL
BEYOND THE AREA OF INFLUENCE AND WINDS WILL BECOME LIGHT TO
GENTLE...BUT DUE TO THE TURNING OF THE WINDS EXPECT A BETTER CHANCE
OF SHOWERS SUNDAY NIGHT THROUGH TUESDAY NIGHT...WITH ISOLATED
THUNDERSTORMS TUESDAY NIGHT.

We have passed the point where the days are longer than the nights.  We will have almost 13 hours of daylight today.

I’ll have a better report tomorrow.

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

10Apr

NAYLE

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WEATHER

Pick any of the last three or four cold front postings and you can find a weather report just like yesterday’s.  The wind howled out the NW all day.  The temperature cooled down a bit and we had mostly sunny skies.

We have cooled down to 68° this morning.  The wind is from the east at 16 knots, gusting to 19 knots.  The forecast calls for steady breezes from the east, a high of 75 and no chance of rain.

CONFERENCE

The staff has arrived for the second session of NAYLE at Sea.  The staff will spend the next several days preparing for the participants who arrive this coming weekend.  At least one of the staff members was on the dock yesterday eyeing S/V Chanticleer and talking with Captain Scott Penfield in anticipation of the upcoming adventure.

PROGRAM

The Coral Reef Sailing boats got off the dock safely this morning and returned to sailing the high seas.  S/V Comfort Zone II was the only boat inbound for shore leave.  The dive boats were also successful in getting off the dock safely and the divers completed their two scheduled dives.

I have procrastinated more than ever before.  I am taking the morning off to work on my income taxes.  This is my favorite way to spend my time off.  In fact, I like doing tax returns so much I might quit my job and do taxes all year.

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