Archive for January, 2010

If you have checked the official website for the Florida Sea Base, here and maybe other sources, you may have noticed a conspicuous lacking of program itineraries.  That’s because there are so many variables that it is almost impossible to publish an itinerary that is cast in stone.  When we have tried to publish itineraries we have caught all kinds of grief for not sticking with it.  The official motto of the Florida Sea Base is “Semper Gumby” which we translate as “Forever Flexible”.  Some folks just don’t seem to have a flexible bone in their body.  (Well, no one has flexible bones but you know what I mean.)  We try our best to keep the crew leaders advised of our plans for the day and maybe even tomorrow.  However, some people just can’t grasp that the schedule has to change because a boat has broken, the weather stalled instead of clearing as forecasted or some other incident that we cannot control.

If your crew arrives late, your itinerary changes.  If another crew arrives late it may change your itinerary even if you arrived at the proper time.  If the weather changes the itinerary changes.  If a boat breaks down the itinerary changes.  If a staff member is ill or injured it changes the itinerary.  If someone in your crew becomes ill or is injured it can change the itinerary for your crew or several crews.

Why so Captain Steve?  Primarily because we are doing the most we can possibly do with the resources we have available.  Generally speaking, we do not have spare boats or extra staff.  The Keys are relatively “rural” in nature.  Getting anything repaired – a boat, air conditioner, dish washer, vehicle, trailer, swimming pool pump, fire suppression system, oven, anything – can take days.  It can actually take days just to get the needed parts.  “Overnite” delivery in the Florida Keys means two days, not tomorrow.  The only thing I have ever managed to get “tomorrow” was having my broken Dell laptop picked up for a warranty repair.

In the spring (February through April) the weather is subject to frequent changes.  It is not uncommon for the “plan” to change three times a day.  One of our functions during the program seasons is to sit in the office and watch the weather radar and the Weather Channel.  Each boat submits a float plan before departing the Florida Sea Base.  So when the weather is being cantankerous Capt. Rich, Capt. Alex or I (somedays all three of us) may spend the day routing vessels around hazardous weather or recalling them to the base when the weather is getting too nasty.  We take these extraordinary measures to try to deliver as much program as is possible.  It would be easy to say that the weather looks iffy today and all boats should remain at dock.  But that is not what our participants paid for.

So please try to be understanding when you can’t find an itinerary for your adventure.  My promise as an Eagle Scout to each of you is that we are going to massage the itinerary constantly to do our best to give you the most bang for your buck possible.  The Program Directors and Commissioners at the Florida Sea Base and the Brinton Environmental Center are absolutely dedicated to providing you with a life altering experience.  Being shackled by an itinerary would make our lives easier and your adventure less adventurous.  Our goal is to provide High Adventure experiences.  Our General Manager signs his emails with “Delivering ocean adventures that make a lifetime difference”.  We simply haven’t found a way to maximize that promise while being able to stick to a pre-published hour-by-hour itinerary.

The chief complaint from the Florida Sea Base Scuba Adventure and Scuba Certification participants has been that they wanted to do more dives and did not want to spend a non-diving day wandering around Key West.  While this complaint was not unanimous, it was frequent and strong.  Crews were sent to sightsee in Key West for one day of their program simply because the Florida Sea Base did not own enough vessels to be able to have every crew on the water every day.  [When I started working at the Florida Sea Base as a Scuba Instructor in 2000, the crews actually spent two days per week off base; one day in Key West and one day at a third party dive shop.  After I became the Program Director for scuba we were able to add enough boats to only require one day off base which translated into a savings of $50,000 per year.]  Now that has changed.  I mentioned in the 07 December 2009 post that program changes might be made in 2010 for the Scuba Adventure and Scuba Certification programs.  The changes are being made to allow more diving.  This will be accomplished by phasing out the non-diving day that was formerly spent in Key West.

The change will be implemented for the Scuba Certification crews starting in February 2010. In the past, the Scuba Certification crews spent the first three days in the classroom and pool.  Day four was spent on the ocean completing Open Water Training Dives 1 and 2.  Day five was spent on the ocean completing Open Water Training Dives 3 and 4 (which completed the certification requirements).  Day six was spent sight seeing in Key West.  The morning of day seven allowed one “fun dive” (non-training dive)  and the afternoon was dedicated to completing paperwork, cleaning and checking in scuba gear and preparing for the luau.  Day eight was the departure day.  The schedule will remain the same EXCEPT instead of going to Key West on day six, the crew will be on the ocean getting in two more “fun dives”.  So the Scuba Certification crews will now complete their classroom sessions, pool training dives, 4 Open Water Training Dives and three “fun dives”.  This increases the total number of dives from five to seven.

Beginning in May 2010, the Scuba Adventure crews will also have two more dives replacing the former trip to Key West. The Scuba Adventure program currently strives for 9 dives (weather permitting) including one night dive plus one non-diving day sight seeing in Key West.  Effective May 2010 Scuba Adventure crews will not have to miss a day of diving.  They will now complete 11 dives (weather permitting) including a night dive.

These changes were made possible by the addition of a third Newton 46 Dive Special boat to our fleet.  This is a $300,000 custom built dive boat and will be delivered to the Florida Sea Base in April 2010.  The purchase was made possible by donations from several of the Florida Sea Base Advisory Committee members.

This is our original Newton 46 Dive Special. I will post a picture of the new boat when she is received.

We are very excited to be able to add two dives (weather permitting) to the schedule for all of our Scuba Adventure and Scuba Certification crews.  Obviously this is a very expensive improvement in program.  Not only does it require the expense of another vessel, but more Divemasters, Captains and Dive Boats Mates have to be hired.  This change keeps the program on base instead of driving the participants 74 miles each way to visit Key West.

Some crews enjoyed visiting Key West and that is still a possibility BEFORE or AFTER your Florida Sea Base adventure.  The adult leader will need to make arrangements for the crew’s travel and housing in Key West and include this side trip in their National Tour Permit application.

While the ice storm continues to slip across the central US, we are doing very well at the Florida Sea Base.  At 9:00 p.m. the temperature was 72 degrees with clear skies.  We are forecasted to cool off just a few degrees and have a chance of rain Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.  The rain is not good news for getting work done on boats, but hopefully we will get a few brief showers and not the long, soaking type rain.

Please check out the website for the Sea Base Alumni and Friends Association.  2010 would be a great yea to join the SBAFA.  Personally, I think life membership is the way to go.  Membership is open to anyone with an affiliation with the Florida Sea Base including community members, friends, participants, volunteers, charter captains, and former staff.  So sign up and maybe I’ll see you at the annual reunion.

Capt. Rich and Capt. Carol arrived in Miami about 8:00 p.m. on a nonstop flight from Los Angeles.  It’s good to have them back.  Everything else seems to be business as usual.  I do have some news to share about changes to the Scuba Adventure and Scuba Certification Adventures, but I’ll address them tomorrow when I’m less tired and can dedicate more time.  So please tune in tomorrow.

I have made mention of Capt. Mike, the Boat Whisperer, in previous posts.  Here’s what I saw him do today:

Install one new portlight in S/V Escape.
Temporarily install a new ladder on the transom of S/V Escape from the swim platform to the deck.
Custom bend some tubing at the port side gate on S/V Juan Cadiz for Capt. Tom Gaunt.
Take delivery of a new Yanmar diesel mtor that he will be installing Saturday in S/V Trade Wind for Pam Anderson.
Bend and weld several other pieces of tubing for S/V Escape.

Tomorrow he is headed for the boatyard to work on S/V Rainbow Connection for Capt. Kim Hess and then will be back at the Florida Sea Base working on S/V Escape.  He is extending the aft deck on my boat by about 16″. replacing the lifelines with railing all around and adding a ladder and handrails from the swim platform to the deck.  Not only is he doing the labor, but he is designing the whole concept of extending the aft deck.  Sixteen inches may not seem like much, but it will be GREAT to have that extra room.

Capt. Mike is just unbelievable.  I don’t think we have a single captain in our fleet of 40 some odd who hasn’t been saved by Capt. Mike at some point in their chartering career.

The weather was mild here today.  Much of the country is involved with a serious winter storm.  I hope you are safe, warm, dry and have power at your house.

Today was a fairly routine, paperwork kind of day.  Until Carl and Ingred Lindsten arrived.  Carl explained that he was a retired professional Scouter from Sweden.  He and his wife happened to be visiting the Florida Keys and had stopped at the Brinton Environmental Center earlier.

Carl and Ingred Lindsten of Sweden

They took several photos and were kind enough to allow me to take a photo of them in front of our BSA Centennial / FSB 30th Anniversary seal.  So while I had the camera out I took a few photos that relate to earlier posts.

Phase one of the sea wall repairs was completed last Friday as I recall (minus setting the Habitat back in place).  This section of sea wall is about 80 feet long and cost nearly $100,000.

Here are “before” and “during” photos of the exterior repairs to the staff housing unit referred to at the Annex.  It is the original motel from the old Tollgate Inn.

Before repairs

During repairs

The volunteers who are doing this project, plus landscaping and much more are Steve and Leah martin, Warren and Carol Bacon, John and Marlene Reilly and Walter and Maxine Frost.  When they finish here, they will go to the Brinton Environmental Center and meet up with Dennis and Karen Bobo and do even more good works there.  These folks are the epitome of Scouting volunteers.

The El Nino front that has been marching across the southern US arrived at the Florida Sea Base today.  At 1300 (1:00 pm) the wind clocked from southwest at 19 knots to west northwest at 29 knots.  It rained for an hour or so and then the temperature started dropping.  A large palm frond was dislodged from one of our tallest palm trees and hit a power line causing us to loose power for an hour or two.  All is reasonably well now.  The temperature is 66 and still falling.  The wind is howling from the northwest (a bumpy nights sleep on the boat tonight).  But the power is back on and it’s past my bed time.

Here are a few reminders:

2011 reservations are open at www.bsaseabase.org.
Goodies are available for sale at www.fsbshipstore.com.
Summer staff applications need to be faxed to Rob Kolb at 305-664-2039.

What a nail biter the New Orleans / Minnesota game was.  To be honest, I was pulling for NO before the game, but it sure was hard to see Favre take the beating that he took and not feel sympathetic for the guy.  Anyway, the Super Bowl should be a good game.  Good night.

There were no participants at the Florida Sea Base today; no program participants and no conference participants.  I spent the day working on my truck, reviewing applications for summer scuba staff, and reviewing medical forms for spring scuba crews.  Please click on READ MORE.

If you were hoping to work the spring season at the Florida Sea Base or Brinton Environmental Center and have not submitted an application, it may be too late.  Hiring for spring is pretty much done.  I don’t want to give you false hope, but if you want to try to get in an application for spring 2010, please fax it to Rob Kolb at 305-664-2039 IMMEDIATELY.  All scuba positions are filled.  I believe all of the sailing positions are filled but there MIGHT be an opening.  I am not sure about the galley and ranger departments.  They MAY have a spot or two still open.  I think Capt. Scott may be looking for one more Out Island Mate for spring.

If you are hoping to work at Florida Sea Base for the summer of 2010 and have not submitted an application, you need to do so immediately.  Again, the quickest way to get you application in is to fax it to Rob Kolb at 305-664-2039.  We are making good progress on our summer staff hiring.  We are receiving an unusually high number of applications.  The hiring managers, Capt. Rich (sailing), Capt. Scott (BEC), Capt. Keith (rangers), Chrystene (galley and Ships Store) and I (scuba) have been told that we can not just ignore the applications we often receive early from wannabe new staffers while waiting on late applications from a few procrastinating returners.  So whether you are a former staff member hoping to return for another season or a newbe applying for the first time, PLEASE get your applications in now.

The full time staff of the Florida Sea Base meet yesterday at the Brinton Environmental Center.  A lot was accomplished, as usual.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything especially newsworthy, just routine business.  We did spend a little time talking about the environment impact of the past cold snap.  I know this may be getting old for some of you, but one new (sad) development is we have four dead sharks that have washed up on our beach today.  The smallest one is about a foot long and the largest is maybe three feet long.  I decided against including any photos.

Yesterday afternoon afternoon I met with a representative from the Divers Alert Network.  This is a great organization and if you are a diver, I strongly encourage you to consider their scuba diving insurance.  They also offer courses of interest to divers such as how to properly administer oxygen to an injured diver, how to recognize and treat injuries from hazardous marine life, first aid, etc.  Check out their website if you are not familiar with DAN.

A reminder – the Florida Sea Base Ships Store has an eCommerce site, www.fsbshipstore.com.

Phase one of the repairs to the Florida Sea Base sea wall is complete.  It looks marvelous.  The section of wall has been in critical condition for two or three years.  The sidewalk actually caved in while the repairs were underway.

We have a group of volunteers that come down each year and do repairs at the Sea Base and Brinton Environmental Center.  At Sea Base, the are doing a lot of landscaping and they are replacing the exterior walls of the staff housing building (the Annex).  The Annex has needed this work for YEARS.  It is wonderful to see it finally being done.  They remodeled the inside of the rooms over the past three years.

Capt. Rich is on vacation is San Diego.  The weather has been horrible there, but at least he is away from here for a while.  Capt. Carol will fly out to meet him Saturday.  Capt. Kelly is back home visiting family.  Capt. Mike, the Boat Whisperer, is working on boats as usual.  I am still trying to catch up in the office.

That’s all for now.  There should be some great football games this Sunday.

The number of dead fish in the Keys is still a big topic of discussion and front page news in the papers.  The two photos were taken at Big Munson Island, home of the Out Island Adventure, by Sarah Wittke.

Like most of the rest of the country, our temperatures are rising and the massive fish kill is starting to ripen.  Fortunately, most of the dead fish in the harbor at Florida Sea Base have been carried out by the tidal flow.  But there are still a number of dead fish and they are starting to stink.

The Turtle Hospital rescued over 90 turtles during the cold snap and several have been returned to the wild.  There is a great story with lots of photos at http://www.turtlehospital.org/blog/.  I know the focus of the United States is on Haiti right now – and deservedly so.  But if you can spare a few extra bucks, please consider making a donation to the Turtle Hospital.  I have assisted these folks before and I can personally attest that they do good works.

Taken at Big Munson Island by Sarah Wittke.

Taken at Big Munson Island by Sarah Wittke.