Archive for February, 2010

Well, the Florida Sea Base program staff and rangers had the day off.  The conference and galley staff were working hard with the BBYO group.  (As I mentioned yesterday, it’s nice having this enthusiastic group of young people on base.)  Milly McCoy was a Florida Keys Dive Center all day working with an Instructor Development Course.  Capt. Alex helped me with some moving and reorganization.  I also spent some time in the office working on paperwork and other office related chores.

I hoped to have all of the summer scuba staff hiring completed today.  I am running a little behind.  I expect to have 75% or more completed tomorrow.  It’s going to take several hours sending emails to the chosen ones.  If you’re a summer scuba staff prospect and don’t get an email tomorrow, don’t freak out.  “Stuff” manages to happen around here and cause unexpected delays.  My boss has been out of town for a week so who knows what he will need me to do tomorrow.  But completing the summer scuba staff roster is VERY high on my personal agenda and I will do my best to complete it in the next day or two.  Wednesday afternoon I start a Wildnerness First Aid Instructor ocurse that is scheduled to last through Sunday.  So I will really be pushing to get the hirees announced before then.

I would like to say a special “thank you” to Capt. Alex for helping me find the owner’s manual to my dinghy outboard motor.  I looked for days.  Today we found it in my storage trailer.

Today was busy at the Florida Sea Base.  The BBYO (B’NAI B’RITH Youth Organization) is on base.  These young people know how to have a good time.  Their excitement is contagious.  I enjoy having them here.  Sea School is preparing another batch of new captains to take their US Coast Guard examinations.  I taught my first class of the new PADI Emergency Oxygen Specialty Course.  The graduates were Capt. Alex Bergstedt, Bin Lizzo, Dom Alesandrini, Meghann Michalski and Joe Schreiner.

PADI Emergency Oxygen Provider Specialty Course

I saw Captains Joe Wishmeire (S/V Sprindrift), Mike Lucivero (S/V Ciao Bella), Rich Beliveau (S/V Sienna Belle) and Scott Penfield (S/V Chanticleer) on the dock working on various chores.  I spent the morning working on the frayed ends of miscellaneous lines aboard S/V Escape.  Divemaster / Ranger Joe Schreiner went diving in the frigid waters at the Florida Sea Base dock.  He cleaned the bottom on S/V Ciao Bella and cleaned out clogged thru-hulls on S/V Escape, BSA Explorer and BSA Adventure.  He was in the water for over two hours and he was a giant popsicle when he emerged.  Brrrrrr.  Capt. Carol Chapman spent the day at nursing school.

The weather was surprising good this morning.  The forecast called for 49 degrees but it was actually closer to 59.  We’ve been threatened by thunderstorms all day but have been spared so fat.  The wind is currently blowing hard from the southwest.  We will probably get smacked by a squall line in just a few hours.  But for now, it’s not too bad.

I put the owner’s manual to my Mercury outboard someplace safe.  That means I can’t find it.  I need to find it.  I have looked in a lot of places.  I have two remote locations left before I start looking again in places I already looked.  It is driving me a bit bonkers.  Where is that stupid book?

Most of the Florida Sea Base staff spent the day painting and sprucing up the scuba area.  Milly McCoy arrived today.  You may recall reading about her in the Divemaster Academy postings back in December and January.  Milly is an Instructor Development Course Staff Instructor.  Essentially that means she can teach at the Instructor Development Course.  She is here to audit an IDC at the Florida Keys Dive Center.  This is voluntary on her part but helps her improve her instructor skills and it counts as part of her advancement towards Master Instructor.  I need to audit an IDC myself.  It has been a while and PADI has implemented several changes.  However, I think I’ll wait until the water warms up a little.

I took the outboard motor for my dinghy to the shop today.  It’s time for a carburetor rebuild and new water pump.  I also serviced the house batteries on S/V Escape and did some rearranging below decks.

Tomorrow afternoon I am teaching the PADI Emergency Oxygen Provider specialty course to four or five of the staff.  This will be my first time to teach this course.  I have reviewed all of the instructor materials and feel well prepared.  It should be a fun course to teach.  Being able to provide medical grade oxygen to an injured diver is a necessary skill.  All divers should be certified in this skill.  Combined with CPR, it is the most important medical skill a diver can possess.  I’ll try to get some class photos.

Have a good evening.

Today was busy administratively.  I was in the office at 0730 preparing for the monthly Team Meeting of the full-time staff of the Florida Sea Base.  The meeting ran from 0900 to 1130.  Capt. Rich and I had a nice lunch at Mangrove Mike’s after the meeting.  I spent all afternoon reviewing medical forms of scuba participants.  That is a tedious job.  However, it is very important.

Risk is inherent to scuba diving.  It is important for us to minimize those risks as much as possible.  One of the things we do at the Florida Sea Base to reduce risk is to carefully review the medical forms of all of our participants – especially in the scuba department.  Another thing we do is to stay current on policies, training standards and risk management issues.  Tonight we did that by hosting a PADI Member Forum.  About 40 PADI professionals from the upper and middle Keys attended the meeting which was presented by our PADI Regional Director, Mike Kurczewski.  We host this meeting annually.

Because of who we are (the BSA) we are very conservative in our approach to scuba diving.  We have requirements here that you wouldn’t find at a typical dive resort.  We require everyone to complete a swim review before being allowed to dive.  We also require all divers to participate in a scuba review with our dive staff to insure they know how to use the equipment, that they are comfortable underwater, and that they know how to perform all of the skills taught in the Open Water Diver course.  We have much more conservative medical constraints especially in regards to asthma and diabetes.  We review paperwork thoroughly.  We provide a divemaster or scuba instructor for each scuba crew.

We have been very fortunate to have been in the scuba business for more than 30 years and have not had a serious in-water injury or death.  We have had a few close calls, but so far so good.  So come join us for some wonderful underwater experiences in the sunny Florida Keys.

I have fallen a bit behind schedule.  It’s 2130 (9:30 p.m.) and I am just getting to today’s blog.  We spent the day on maintenance and office work again today.  It rained almost all day and we are getting our tails kicked on the dock.  I have tried to describe this before, but the boat is jerking against her dock lines so hard right now that it is a challenge to hit the right keys on the computer keyboard.  The wind has been out of the north northwest at over 30 knots for most of the last hour to 90 minutes.  I spent the last 15 or 20 minutes on the dock with Captains Rich Beliveau, Carol Chapman, Tom Gaunt and Bob Hughes adjusting dock lines and fenders on various boats.  It will be a challenge to get much sleep tonight.  The current forecast calls for the winds to maintain this velocity until about dinner time tomorrow.  Plus it’s going to be “cool” tomorrow.

It is rough enough to get seasick sitting here at the dock.  I have read a lot about seasickness and there is one thing that most researchers and authors seem to agree on – seasickness is frequently a mind game.  A trick I use to keep from being overcome while in current conditions is to convince myself that we are underway.  Motion is normal when underway.  And the crew usually sleeps in shifts while underway.  So the rocking and jerking motions are not unusual while underway and my brain seems to be okay with that.  However, if I focus on how hard we’re bucking just sitting in the slip, my mind doesn’t seem to like that and the queasiness begins.  Stay hydrated, cool and one step ahead of your mind and all seems to be well for me.

So I am headed to bed.  I hope you have a good night.

There were no participants at the Florida Sea base today.  We are in that perennial slump.  We have a busy week at President’s Day and then the following is dead.  Spring breaks start next week and the participants will be back.

The staff were assigned spring cleaning type chores today.  Capt. Alex and I spent most of the day working on S/V Escape, but made very little headway.  I went ashore a few minutes ago and there are two stars peeking through gaps in the clouds.  According to is should start raining at about 0800 tomorrow.  We have yet another front coming through the Keys.  I can not remember a winter with so many fronts making it to and through the Keys.  I hope this is not an omen of how hurricane season is going to be.

I received a reply from yesterday’s blog from  He pointed me to  It’s a good site for information of the Eagle wreck the staff visited yesterday.  This site has some good underwater photos and excellent historical data on the vessel.  One of the cool things about wreck diving is researching the vessel’s history.  This (intentional) wreck is modern enough for there to be lots of information available via the world-wide-web.

We’re getting a long soaking rain today.  Most of our rain comes in short bursts of 20 to 30 minutes.  A shower that lasts an hour is a “long” rain for us.  A light rain started around 1700 (5:00 p.m.) yesterday.  It looks like it will continue through today and probably end tomorrow.  It’s not raining hard, just enough to make it hard to accomplish anything outdoors.  It’s a good rain for the vegetation and we gave the program staff the day off since there are no participants on base.  So it could be much worse.

I’ll post an update later today if anything newsworthy occurs.  I plan on doing paperwork and working on summer scuba staff hiring most of the day.  If I decide I need a break, I may go to the grocery store.  I know, you’re probably asking yourself, “Wow.  How can Capt. Steve manage all of this excitement?  Drizzling rain, paperwork, AND grocery shopping all in one day!  Is he a SUPERMAN?”  All I can say is it’s all in a day of the life of a Program Director at the Florida Sea Base.

UPDATE: About 12 hours have past since the original post.  The rain has just about quit.  Captains Rich and Carol met with the Coast Guard inspector in Marathon this morning.  Both Corinthians (BSA Tarpon and BSA Scoutmaster) had been hauled for their annual inspection.  Both passed, but there are a couple of piddly things that we are going to do at the inspector’s suggestion to make the vessels even better.  We are always striving for excellence, not just satisfactory.  I did NOT make it to the grocery store; tomorrow for sure – maybe.

As I mentioned yesterday, we had no new crews arriving at the Florida Sea Base today.  So we had our 0730 staff meeting followed by flags and breakfast for our departing crews.  Then we loaded up BSA Explorer and went scuba diving.  The staff did a deep dive at the Eagle wreck and then we went to Alligator Reef for lunch and a leisurely reef dive.  The water temperature was 70 degrees.  The visibility was 50 feet or more.  The seas were a little bumpy but not too bad.  We were back by 1430.

The Eagle lies in about 110′ of water, but the dive starts at about 70′.  It is a very basic wreck dive.  The vessel is a small freighter laying on her starboard side with bow pointing generally north.  It think it was Hurricane Georges (1998) that flipped the wreck from her port side down to starboard side down and broke the wreck in half.  She is generally intact and is very popular with many of the commercial dive businesses in the Keys.

The Upper Keys Rotary Club 15th Annual Gigantic Nautical Flea Market was held this weekend in Islamorada.  The proceeds go to local Keys youth for scholarships.  It is ALWAYS a mad house.  The event is a huge success every year.  The Flea Market is held at Founder’s Park in Islamorada.  While it’s only 14 miles from the Florida Sea Base, it took just over an hour to make the drive today.  While I had a short list of items I was hoping to find at bargain prices, I essentially struck out.  I found a fishing rod similar to what I wanted.  It was used and they were only asking $5.00.  But the guides looked very stressed and I decided it wasn’t worth it.  I saw a few folks I know; Captain Martin Ivy, Pamela Anderson (owner of Treasure Harbor Marine), and Diane Wischmeire (wife of the esteemed Capt. Joe Wishmeire).  Local recording “star” Capt. Sam Crutchfield was there selling his CDs.  There were dresses, jewelry, nick-nacks, home decorations, a fiberglass replica cannon that looked so real I should have bought it.  Oh yeah, and there was some boat stuff too.  My wife bought a dress.  I bought a cheese burger and bottled water.  The weather was superb – about 70 degrees, clear skies and a trace of wind.  Someone should have been selling sunscreen.

No crews arrive at the Florida Sea Base tomorrow so I will probably take the staff out for a relaxing day of sun, scuba and snorkeling.  Well, a half day at least.

The weather was overcast but almost windless today.  The computer guys from Dallas, Ray and Scott, put in a full day.  The new server is up and running; Capt. Rich and I have new computers; and I think all of the other computers associated with the Program Department (Office Manager’s computer, Scuba Commissioner’s computer and at least three laptops used for scuba and sailing training programs) were all refurbished.

No new crews arrived today but we did have Coral Reef Sailing crews return from their week of sailing.  Several of us are going to the Upper Keys Rotary Club 15th Annual Gigantic Nautical Flea Market tomorrow to look for “deals”.  (Paul Beal, our General Manager and local Rotarian, will be there flipping burgers all day.)  My personal quest is for halyards and a water maker; but part of the fun of a flea market is you never know what you’re going to find.  I could use a ship’s clock and maybe some fishing gear too.  We will see.