Archive for the ‘Sailing’ Category



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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.


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!


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


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



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.


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


When I was hired as a full-time, professional Scouter at the Florida Sea Base, I was the program director for scuba and sailing programs.  Later the job was split and I remained as the scuba guru and Captain Rich Beliveau became our first full-time sailing director.  Captain Luke Knuttel is the current sailing director.  Many crew leaders call Captain Luke wanting suggestions on how they can best prepare their crew for their FSB High Adventure.  This is an update to an article posted several years ago.  Things change.  Read on:

The Florida National High Adventure Sea Base has four campuses; Sea Base (Islamorada, FL), Brinton Environmental Center (Summerland Key, FL), Marsh Harbour (Abacos, Bahamas) and St. Thomas (USVI).  The Bahamas and St. Thomas programs are all sailing.  The Bahamas offers two sailing programs, Bahamas Adventure and Bahamas Tall Ship.  One of the programs offered at the BEC is the Keys Adventure which includes a day of sailing.  Sea Base offers the majority of our sailing programs; Coral Reef Sailing, Sea Exploring and STEM Eco Adventure, plus our Scuba Liveaboard Adventure is currently conducted aboard sailboats.  (Details on each Adventure is available at, then click on High Adventures.)  

Here are some suggestions for preparing for any of the sailing adventures offered at any of the FSB campuses:

First, READ THE FLORIDA SEA BASE PARTICIPANT’S GUIDE.  Then, read it again, highlight, take notes and ask questions.

The FSB Participant’s Guide used to contain information on the Captain’s Club Award and a section called the Guide to High Adventure Sailing.  These can still be found at on page 49 and pages 52-60.  It is a WEALTH of information in a very concise package.

Review the Small Boat Sailing merit badge pamphlet.  Most of the info is in the Guide to High Adventure Sailing info mentioned above, but the pamphlet is still worth reviewing.

Contact your local US Power Squadron or Coast Guard Auxiliary.  They can provide a volunteer instructor to meet with you crew and teach them how to read charts and understand basic navigation.

Practice sailing if possible.

Knots are critical.  Each member of your crew needs to know how to tie a bowline, cleat hitch, clove hitch, and 2 half hitches proficiently, in the dark, and from differing angles of attack (around a horizontal pole, around a vertical pole, through a ring, etc.)  This information is also available in the Guide to High Adventure Sailing.

Practice swimming.  You must be able to perform the BSA Swimmer’s Test in a STRONG manner.  A swim review will be held on your arrival day so you can again demonstrate your skills.  A good way to have the Scouts improve their swimming ability is through completion of the Swimming merit badge.

Use a local pool to complete the Snorkel BSA Award.  Strong swimming and snorkeling skills are critical for the adults’ and participants’ safety and enjoyment.

Pack light.  Most people bring too much “stuff”.

Electric power is very limited on most of our boats.  Recharging batteries is a “maybe” and you should not count on it.  With that in mind, electronics like cell phones and video games should not be brought on board.  This is an opportunity to be real people and talk to each other.  CPAP machines requiring 115 volt service can be used on base but will not have power availability on the boats.

It’s a boat.  If you aren’t comfortable with something getting doused in salt water, don’t bring it on the boat.  Lockers are provided on base for these items.

Do NOT bring big towels.  We do not have beaches so you do not need a beach towel.  The bigger the towel the more water they hold.  The more water they hold they longer they take to dry.  You will likely be in and out of the water frequently and the towel will never dry.  What good is a wet towel?  And where will you stow your wet towel?  Instead, bring a chamois or backpacker style towel.  You will be much happier in the long run.

Bring a first aid kit and pack it in a water tight container.  Use a garbage bag if nothing else is available.

Be positive.  This is an outdoor program and the weather dictates the schedule and specific activities.  Don’t allow inclement weather to get you down.  It is part of the adventure.

I hope this helps.

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

Here’s the rundown on how yesterday morning went:

I got out of bed around 7 am.  (Not a bad start.)  It was a little chilly in the boat so I slipped on socks (my feet get cold easily), sweats and a shirt.  I went into the galley to get a drink and behind me I heard it – drip, drip, drip.  It was raining extremely hard and I had a leak.

If you think about it, boats have a lot of holes in them.  People have written books to describe all of the holes.  Holes in the bottom, holes on deck, holes in the sides, big holes for masts and tiny holes for screws.  Wherever there is a hole there is a potential leak.  Leaks on boats are common, hard to find the the source and can be expensive when the water causes damage.

It was easy to find the drip.  SPOILER ALERT – I never found the leak.  The water was dripping into an electrical outlet – not good – so I felt I should do something right away.  Find a towel, put it in the path of the leak and at least the water is no longer going into the electrical outlet.  That’s better.  But the drip is really more of a stream.  The first towel is quickly soaked.  I try a chamois instead.  Better, but it too is soon soaked.  Grab another towel and another chamois.  Ahh, that’s better.

So the immediate issue is under control – the boat is not going to burn down because of an electrical short.  But wait, there is a little trickle of water going behind the cushions.  So I dried that up but saw that the trickle continued into the storage below the seats.  Aha!  Another bodacious mess.  I unloaded everything, clean and dry the inside of the storage area (about 2’x6’x3′).  By now I am sweating profusely and contemplating switching from sweats to shorts but decide there is no time to waste.   The storage space is still damp so I decide to use a fan to accelerate the drying process.  Good plan, poor execution.  Plumbing parts, electrical parts and general boat parts are piled everywhere.  I did not see the quart bottle of teak oil.  I hit it with the fan, propelling it into the storage area.  It’s a plastic bottle so no big deal.  Right?  Well, it was a very old, brittle plastic bottle and it shattered, sending teak oil throughout the storage space.  And to top that off, there’s a 2″ hole in the bottom of the storage that drains directly into the bilge.

Now I’m in the engine compartment with oil absorbent diapers cleaning up the teak oil.  Once that was under control it was back to the salon to clean up that mess.  I used a commercial degreaser to clean the storage space, dried it and thought I had finished that part.  But noooo, the degreaser left an oily film so I scrubbed the storage space again with soap and water.  Much better.  Now back to the bilge.

I clean the bilge with soap and water and vacuum all the water out.  Now I hear a hissing noise.  The fresh water lines run through the bilge in the engine room.  There are 4 Ts in this small space and yards of hose.  After a solid 30 minutes of looking, I find the leak.  I tightened the hose clamps on all 4 Ts and replace the broken clamp that is allowing the water to leak.  Done.  EXCEPT, I still haven’t found the location of the water intrusion.  Too bad, it’s lunch time now (yep, 5 hours to soak up a little rain in the boat).

Is anyone interested in buying a boat?

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



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What is the difference between a sailing vessel (S/V) and a sailing yacht (S/Y)?  Most references define the difference as a function of length.  However, in the Redneck Yacht Club, the difference is ICE.  If your boat has a means to manufacture ice, then it certainly is deserving of the title Yacht.  With the installation of the new refrigeration system a couple of days ago (thanks again, Connor), I think it is fair to upgrade S/V Escape to S/Y Escape.  Here is photo evidence of one-third of my first batch of ice manufactured by the new unit.


Click on image to enlarge


Once again, the Florida Sea Base and Brinton Environmental Center sailed through the annual National Camp Accreditation Program inspection.  There was and is never any doubt.  They run a tight ship here, even though it is led by to retired Army soldiers.  (Oddly enough, the General Manager of the Summit is a retired Navy Admiral).


It is going to be a breezy weekend.  Some of the sailing captains are reporting cases of mal de mar onboard.  It’s time to load your system with Bonine.  Remember, puking leads to dehydration.  And in the Keys, dehydration may lead to death.  Bonine and lots of water is the order of the day.:)

Check below this entry for a post that failed to launch on Wednesday.

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



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I thought I posted this on the 10th but apparently I hit the wrong button and it stayed in the drafts file; my apologies.  But since it was written, I thought I would post it now instead of deleting it.


Here we go!  This system is no threat to the Florida Sea Base, but it is just the beginning of the season.


The wind will favor the Florida Sea Base sailors this week, with 10 to 15 knots today building to 15 to 20 knots from the east and southeast for Thursday through Sunday night.  We have a 30% chance of showers daily with afternoon highs around 90 and morning lows around 80.


We are to the third part of the answer to Andy Davis’ question.  There are three components to the Coral Reef adventure; sailing, snorkeling and fishing.  Sailing entails many skills.  And there are many types of sailing.

The Florida Sea Base does not charter any World Cup racing boats.  All of our sailing vessels, whether in Florida, The Bahamas or the US Virgin Islands, are cruising sailboats.  Five knots is a great speed.  When the wind is blowing hard you may go a little faster.  If the wind is 10 knots you may go a little slower.  If the wind is below 10 knots you will be motoring, not sailing.  Motoring is not bad.  There are still things to do, just no sails.  Most of our sailboats will motor along at – you guessed it – about 5 knots.  If you were to sail (or motor) at 5 knots for 12 hours straight, you would go 60 nautical miles, less than from Sea Base to Key West.  So cruising is NOT what you see during the World Cup on TV.

But we don’t sail at 5 knots for 12 hours per day. We fish, both underway (trolling, not to be confused with trawling) and while stopped on the reef, and we go snorkeling – sometimes for hours each day.  That is generally your call, but weather dependent.

Communicate with your captain.  They are Scout friendly and want you to enjoy your adventure.  If you want to sail, be the helmsman, learn about navigation or knots (the kind you tie), fish, snorkel, whatever your preference, tell the captain.  The will do everything possible to exceed your expectations allowing for weather and safety.  If no one expresses a preference, then the captain will decide.  Either way, you’ll have a good time.

There is a great section in the back of the FSB Participant Guide.  Having training sessions with your crew to cover this information will improve your experience.  It will be easier for everyone if the participants know the difference between port and starboard, bow and stern.  You need to know how to tie a cleat hitch, how to tie it quickly, properly and under pressure.  You will tie cleat hitches each time the boat docks.  Sometimes this is done during challenging weather conditions.  The safety of the crew and vessel can depend on a Scout or leader being able to tie this knot under pressure.


The National Camp Accreditation Program team will be at the Florida Sea Base today through Friday.  This is the first time in 15 years that I will not be part of the insanity, I mean, that I won’t have the pleasure of participating in this relaxed three days of camaraderie.

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



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When the temperature is 87°F and the heat index i 103°F you know there is some serious humidity happening.  That was the case at the Florida Sea Base yesterday.  The morning was perfect and I set off for Davis Reef to begin the day’s dives.  After Davis we moved to Davy Crocker.  Both dive sites had gin clear water, no current or surge and flat seas.  By 3 pm, some nasty weather was brewing to our north so we headed home.  We arrived at the base with about 30 minutes to spare before this caught up with us.


There was lightning in the storm so the base activities ground to a near halt.  However, like the majority of our storms, this cell passed over quickly we everything was back to its normal organized chaotic state.


Andy Davis asked,

What are the three most common mistakes Scouts make when packing gear for their FSB coral reef adventure?

Troop 43
Fort Worth, Texas

In no particular order, I would say they (1) over pack, (2) smuggle electronics aboard and (3) have a poor understanding of traveling under sail.  I think I will break these into three posts so let’s look at over packing first.

In the Florida Sea Base Coral Reef Sailing adventure, the Sea Exploring adventure, the Bahamas Sailing adventure and the Virgin Islands Sailing adventure you are going to live in you bathing suit.  So consider two (maybe three) bathing suits, one pair of shorts, and one or maybe two pair of underwear.  Several pairs of shorts or pants, a daily change of underwear, socks, deck shoes – all of those are unnecessary.  Within a few minutes of arriving at base, everyone in your crew will be a smelly sweat ball.  Minutes after changing clothes you will smell again.  Wear a bathing suit and a t-shirt or long sleeve shirt for sun protection and have fun.  You will all stink equally and you will become accustomed to it quickly.

Also, big towels are a waste.  They get soaking wet with salt water and never dry out.  Bring one or maybe two of the backpacking style towels.  I buy the car drying chamois at Walmart for $10.  They come in an assortment of colors for identification and they work great on a boat.  We also sell backpacking towels in the Ships Store.  You can mail order them or buy them when you get here.  (They are much nicer than the Walmart car chamois.)

Bring one or two bottles of sunscreen for the crew to share.  We sell that in the Ships Store too if you just want to buy it after you get here.  You cannot carry a large bottle in your carry-on luggage.  DO NOT BRING SPRAY OR PUMP SUNSCREEN.  Put it back on the shelf or save it for the water park.  These products turn the deck of a boat into a giant slip and slide and can cause serious bodily injury.

I covered first aid kits previously so back up a week or two and read that post if you missed it.

The bottom line is pack light and consolidate.  If any of the sailing captains or mates reading this have additional suggestions to Andy’s inquiry, please click the comment button and I will post the additional recommendations.

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

Florida Sea Base​ Coral Reef Captain Tim Mahoney lost his battle with lung cancer overnight.  I was honored to have his lovely bride, Susan Mahoney, serve as the Program Office Manager for two summers.  I was always impressed with Captain Tim’s quiet, yet very noticeable, presence.  If you sailed with Captain Tim aboard S/V Flamingo I know you had an experience of a lifetime.

Captain Ed Marill, S/V Siesta, was a childhood friend of Captain Tim and posted the following on Facebook this morning.

Sad news. My good friend Tim Mahoney passed away this morning.

This is the message I just sent to the Boy Scout of America’s sailing staff in Islamorada:

Tim Mahoney had been very ill with lung cancer at his home in Port Charlotte for the last few months. He leaves behind his wife Susan, a daughter Emma, and a son Flynn.

I became friends with Tim when he was my classmate in Cuba, starting in third grade at Ruston Academy, in Havana. We have stayed in touch over many years, and we sailed together aboard SIESTA in San Francisco Bay.

After he lived in Cuba, he and his parents lived in Argentina, among other places. Tim has had a love affair with sailboats since very young. He built several sailboats himself, and owned other very fast racing sailboats in the Bay Area.

When Tim and his wife, Susan, retired and sold their very successful wood flooring business in the Bay Area, they commissioned the building of a beautiful luxury 46′ catamaran in South Africa. They sailed their brand-new boat across the south Atlantic to South Florida. After a successful boat show in Miami, where they sold a sistership, they sailed over to Marathon, and spent a couple of months at our dock with us. We had a wonderful time together. We had some unforgettable sails aboard their cat.

They learned about my work with Seabase, and expressed interest. Rich came down to meet them and see their catamaran boat, FLAMINGO, at our dock. Tim and Susan decided to pursue the SeaBase opportunity.

Subsequently, they sold their catamaran in exchange for some cash plus a beautiful waterfront house in Port Charlotte, purchased their Whitby 42′, and both joined Florida Seabase three years ago.

His boat, FLAMINGO, was sold just a few weeks ago.

Tim was a man of few words, strong but a bit shy. And as a friend, second to none. I will miss him.

Below is the sad text message I received from Susan this morning:

Tim died early this morning very peacefully. I was with him. Hospice was beyond wonderful! I had them dress him in his FSB shorts and shirt. They have taken him to be cremated. We don’t have plans for a service/memorial yet. It will be later in the year when we can get everyone together. Please let FSB know. If anyone chooses, please have donations made to Tidewell Hospice in Port Charlotte. They are on the web. Thank you Ed.”

May Tim’s soul rest in peace.

Captain Ed, S/V SIESTA

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED





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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.



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.


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



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

Happy Birthdays this week to Captain Dennis Wyatt (The Bald Man in the Sea), Captain Martin Ivey (aboard S/V Green Olive) and Cheryl Ferreri (FSB Administrative Assistant extraordinaire)!



Good morning Florida Sea Base!


The good news is T/S Arthur is having a very minimal impact on the Florida Sea Base.  The bad news is my friends, Rich and Carol Beliveau are probably going to get smacked by Hurricane Arthur.


I received this email from Captain Valerie aboard S/V Island Dreamer.

Hi Steve,
I wanted to share this photo of a beautiful sailfish my guys from Troop 5 in Austin, Tx caught aboard Island Dreamer.  We safely released it after pulling it up on the back of the boat.  They were awesome!  Then there was the Marlin that got away earlier in the week!


Congratulations to Troop 5 and Captain Valerie.

Florida Sea Base Sailing Director Captain Luke Knuttel sent some pictures taken in the FSB harbor.

Small boat sailing on a Hunter 170.

Hunter 170

Stand Up Paddleboarding.


And a look at the Florida Sea Base marina from the OTHER end of the T-dock.


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