Archive for the ‘Staff’ Category



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Alex grew up, as much as Professional Scuba Bums™ can, at the Florida Sea Base.  He was a candidate in the 2nd Divemaster Academy in 2005 and grew through the ranks to  PADI Instructor Development Course Staff Instructor and USCG captain.  Alex was my Scuba Commissioner for years and essentially ran the scuba programs last year.  He has taken a lot of abuse from me over the years.  The Scuba Commissioner position is a seasonal job and Alex has suffered significantly to be available to work here for 9 months out of the year for so many years.

We completed the open water components of the 11th annual Divemaster Academy yesterday.  Late last night, after class was over, Alex packed up and drove to Orlando to celebrate his parent’s 40th wedding anniversary with his large family.  Alex has been a true friend, giving everything and asking for nothing.  I’m not sure when we will see each other again, but it is a small world.



Boy Scouts; Florida Sea Base; 2011; Scouts; Topside




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



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Cory Lancaster, Trey Black and Colt Bower, all from the Great State of Texas, have joined Bo Busler as the early bird Divemaster Academy  candidates to arrive at the Florida Sea Base.  The trickle will continue until the mob arrives on Thursday.  We try to accommodate candidates arriving a few days early and/or staying a few days late if it helps reduce their travel costs.  And don’t worry, we will feed them breakfast this morning and then put them to work.


A HUGE thank you to DMA Instructor Rich Goldman for his assistance yesterday on my sailboat, Escape.  Rich helped me locate and repair a piece of hydraulic line that had developed a leak.  There is still much to do to clean up the mess in the bilge, but finding the leak was definitely a two person job and I sincerely appreciate his assistance.  Rich Goldman is a Boy Scout, living the Scout Oath and Law daily.  He is an incredible role model for Scouts and divers and I am very blessed to have him as a friend.


A gaggle of staff members went to Marathon yesterday to return the last two dive boats from the boatyard to the Florida Sea Base.  The fleet is at dock, awaiting the arrival of Captain Christy “Awesome” Costa to supervise their commissioning for service to the Youth of America for another year.


Class 11 of the Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy begins Friday morning.  Traditional program participants arrive on 26 December.  Rock and roll Suzy Q – here we go again!!!

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


Alex Bergstedt, Captain Kari Dahlquist, Rich Goldman, yours truly with Brenda Mallory looking on meet at 11:30 yesterday to review the Divemaster Academy schedule.  This morphed from review to rewrite as the afternoon progressed.  We met again at dinner time (with Kyle Moran joining our merry band) and wrapped up around 8:30pm.  We had a significantly improved draft and we will meet at breakfast this morning to hopefully make final adjustments.  We are excited to have a well thought out schedule to impress the new Scuba Director, Joe Angelo.  After concluding last night’s work session, the cadre was forced against their will and better judgement to go to Dairy Queen for a celebratory ice cream.


Chilly evenings and mornings, decent afternoons, and more sunshine than we deserve is a fair description of our weather conditions.  But, be prepared.  The only thing we know for sure about weather is that it changes.  You will likely feel cooler than you expect.  If your are too warm, you can remove a layer.  If you are cold and don’t have enough layers you can shiver uncontrollably until you are hauled to the ER for hypothermia.  You choose.  (But choose wisely, Grasshopper.)

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



I made it to Texas.  The weather (heavy rain much of the way) and pulling the trailer added about 4 hours to the 1,500 mile trip.  I’ve been up since 04:00 EDT Saturday and still have quit a bit to do.  With a little luck I’ll get to bed relatively early and have to do much until tomorrow afternoon.


I posted a few weeks ago about applying for my PADI Self-Reliant Diver Specialty Instructor rating.  I am now officially sanctioned to the teach the course.


Now all I need is a few prospective students that can meet the prerequisites.

I plan to be back at the Florida Sea Base as a volunteer on or about 15 December for the Divemaster Academy and to be available to help Joe with the winter scuba programming if needed.  When program concludes, I plan to hang around for a week or two to work on Escape.


To the best of my knowledge, the Florida Sea Base and Brinton Environmental Center are locked down through the Thanksgiving weekend.  They will reopen the following Monday.

I will try to have something worth posting before Thanksgiving.  Stay safe, warm and dry.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
FSB Scuba Director – ALMOST Retired



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Scott Costa and Christy Clemenson first worked at the Florida Sea Base as Divemasters.  They both upgraded to Scuba Instructor status and eventually both earned their US Coast Guard Masters License.  Since then, Scott has moved backed to New Jersey where he works as a law enforcement officer.  Christy is attending nursing school in New Jersey and working at the Florida Sea Base in the summers.

Last night, Scott and Christy were married at Coconut Cove Resort in Islamorada by Captain Dennis Wyatt.




Over 100 family and friends attended the ceremony.  It was incredible to see so many former staff members.  I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this celebration.

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



The Florida Sea Base Alumni and Friends Association has announced the winners of the 2014 college scholarships; Nathaniel Krafve from the Brinton Environmental Center and Emily Mathae from Sea Base.  The SBAFA awards two scholarships annually.  Please visit their website and consider joining.  As a charter life member myself, I feel it is a worthwhile way to stay connected and to support the organization and especially the staff.


Ken Wagner, Venture Crew 359 Associate Advisor, emailed the following YouTube links from his crew’s Florida Sea Base Scuba Adventure.
This was a “double crew”, SASU081014AB.  They are from the Western Massachusetts Council (if memory serves me).  The first video was shot at Robbie’s Marina, a popular tourist location about 4.25 miles north of Sea Base.  The second video was shot at Davis Reef.
Ken also sent these two photos of Katrina Surdyka  who endured a very challenging medical ordeal just in time to make the trip to Sea Base.
KS with shark
Katrina with a nurse shark.
Katrina with Florida Sea Base Scuba Instructor/Captain Scott Patton.


Invest 96L was upgraded to Tropical Depression 4 at 4:49 PM Eastern Time yesterday.  As indicated in the graphic, the National Weather Service is forecasting TD 4 to intensify into Tropical Storm Cristobal sometime today.
The system should have minimal, if any, impacts on the Brinton Environmental Center and the Florida Sea Base.  The Sea Base Bahamas programs have concluded so there are no safety concerns for participants.  However, most, if not all, of the captains and their vessels are still in the general vicinity of Abaco.  They have been through much worse and will prepare well for this blow.
The National Weather Service marine forecast for the Florida Keys is calling for maximum winds of 15 knots through Thursday within the areas that we operate our sailing and scuba vessels.
Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape


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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.

Photo by FSB staff member Alexandra “Alex” Zimmer.


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


GET YOURS HERE ==>  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.

Take it easy, Trevor.

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

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



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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.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 5.23.12


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.


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


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.



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.)


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.

Photo Dec 19, 12 48 27 PM

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.)


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



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The Florida Sea Base has a strong staff connection to the Garden State; Richard Goldman, David Ball, Captain Scott Costa and Captain Christy Clemenson to name just a few.  This won’t be news to them, but it is looking like a nasty weekend for the Jersey Shore.  A front moved in from the NW yesterday and (possibly) Hurricane Arthur approaching from the South today or tomorrow.  Captain Christy is safe (for now) at the Florida Sea Base.  The rest of you need to hit the grocery store early and plan for a weekend at home.

Captains Rich and Carol Beliveau may be at ground zero.



I have weather several tropical storms and hurricanes with Rich and Carol.  I am suffering from separation anxiety this morning.  I should be there to help.  I know they don’t NEED my help.  Some of you will understand this.  For some of you it will sound insane.


If you are coming to or departing from the Florida Sea Base or Brinton Environmental Center this weekend, the traffic will be horrible and drive time will very likely take about twice as long as usual.  The Florida Sea Base Logistics Team Leader, Tim Stanfill, lives in Key Largo, about 30 miles north of the Florida Sea Base.  He said it is not unusual for his commute to take three hours (yes, an average speed of 10 mph) on the 4th of July weekend.  I realize it may be too late now, but I always recommend taking a bus or shuttle over driving rental cars from the airport.  The stress of driving is just too much when tagged onto a long day of traveling with a gaggle of Scouts.  “Take the bus and leave the driving to us” sounds like a grand plan.


We are doing well locally.  With Arthur moving north we expect our westerly breezes to diminish.  It is still hot and humid and that won;t change for a while.

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