Archive for June, 2010


Hurricane Alex

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Today is Wednesday.  (That is for my benefit, not yours.  It is terribly hard to keep track of the day of the week while working at the Florida Sea Base.)  Alex is a hurricane this morning with 80 mph winds.  It is expected to grow to Cat 2 strength before landfall.  As of 05:00 EDT, the tiny village of San Jose de Los Leones is the projected point of landfall.  The strongest wind and surge will occur to the north of there.  I have been thru a Cat 2 storm.  It is not pleasant.  Please keep these folks in your prayers today.

Our local NOAA forecast is “A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 92. Southeast wind between 10 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.”  The NOAA marine forecast is “Southeast winds near 15 knots early…decreasing to 10 to 15 knots by midday. Seas beyond the reef subsiding to 2 to 4 feet. Seas inside the reef subsiding to 1 to 2 feet. Nearshore waters becoming a light to moderate chop. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.”  The small craft advisory has been lifted.  The wind is laying down.  By Friday the wind  should be 10 knots or less.

The Florida Sea Base is far enough from any major shopping opportunities (Walmart is 57 miles each way) that we do most of our shopping via internet or catalog.  I have two small packages that I hope arrive today.  One is for me and the other is boat parts for one of our captains who was at sea and asked me to purchase on his behalf.  We do what we can for each other down here.  Last month (due to my part in the delivery of the BSA Centennial Eagle from Slidell, LA to the Florida Sea Base) I spent over $4,000 of my personal money on BSA purchases.  I was reimbursed in a timely manner (they still owe me $36 but I can live with that) but there is still an element of stress having that type of obligation.

That’s enough for now.  I need to prep for this morning’s staff meeting.  I am hoping for an uneventful day in the disaster control department at Florida Sea Base.

It’s 08:40 and I’m back.  Capt. Rich and Matt McClure went to Ft. Lauderdale to pick up Spare Time, the power boat used in the tubing program.  She blew an engine 2 weeks ago but is now repowered and hopefully ready for duty.  The disaster department has been a disaster so far.  The mornings can be brutal in the crisis control center.  We have a 22 year old adult demanding to be removed from a vessel 65 miles from here because he doesn’t feel well.  Davis Tours is running late and people are paniced about missing flights.  Just a bunch of little things that stress people out.  Nothing really unusual.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

Tropical Storm Alex continues to strengthen in the Gulf of Mexico between the Yucatan Peninsula and Rio Grande but has not reached hurricane status yet.  At 18:00 EDT T/S Alex was about 4 miles per below hurricane strength.  The projected path still shows landfall near Brownsville, Texas.

After making the brief post this morning I went to the office and dealt with a couple of issues that were so unimportant I have forgotten what they were.  I did get to drive BSA Explorer for the morning trip.  We went to a dive site named Capt. Grumpy (oddly enough not named after me).  We had two foot seas with three foot rollers.  The visibility was like a swimming pool – pretty, blue water.  The divers saw sharks, eels, sea turtles and a huge lobster.  Everyone said it was the largest lobster they had ever seen.  We got back to the Florida Sea Base just in time for some nice tacos for lunch.  I spent most of the remainder of the afternoon in the office.

It has been more overcast than forecasted today.  We still hit 92º.  There was a STRONG squall line between Cuba and the Keys moving northward but it fizzled out an hour or so ago.  There is still some chance of light showers tonight.  We do not have a night dive tonight but Coral Reef Sailing, Sea Exploring, Eco Adventure and Scuba Liveaboard crews are at sea 24 / 7.

That’s all for now.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape


An Early Start

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I am off to an early start at the Florida Sea Base.  I woke up at 05:00; too late to try to get back to sleep before my 06:00 alarm and too early to be motivated to do much.  I have perused the various weather sites.  Alex (whether Tropical Storm or Cat 1 Hurricane) is still bound for Brownsville, Texas.  It appears the storm surge will be in the 3′ – 5′ range.  We suffer that here with Hurricane Wilma and it’s a scary phenomenon with which to deal.

Locally, the National Weather Service (NWS) divides the Florida Keys into several smaller areas for forecast purposes.  One of the dividers is Craig Key which is about a mile southwest of the Florida Sea Base.  For all practical purposes we straddle the line of the areas described as “Ocean Reef (extreme far north Key Largo) to Craig Key” and “Craig Key to the west end of the Seven Mile Bridge”.  For today, the eastern part of the our forecast area is NOT forecasted for small craft warnings but the western part is.  But the wind forecast is the same in both sections.  NWS uses the wind forecast to decide if small craft warnings should be issued.  So they are using detailed wind info for their small craft advisory that they are not sharing with us publicly.  What is suggested from reviewing the data is that it may be a better day for our dive boats to go to the east rather than to the west.  The official NWS marine forecast for the Florida Keys is:

Today…Southeast winds 15 to 20 knots early…decreasing to near 15 knots. Seas beyond the reef subsiding to 3 to 5 feet. Seas inside the reef 2 to 3 feet. Nearshore waters choppy…becoming a moderate chop. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.

The official NWS terrestrial forecast is:

Today: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a high near 92. Southeast wind around 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

So our participants will enjoy mostly sunny conditions, a high of 92º, brisk southeast winds on the reef near 20 knots, and three foot seas with occasional five foot “rollers” possible.  Three feet seas may not sound like much, but I guarantee that there will be a few folks feeding the local reef fish today.  But don’t worry about the fish.  We only use “fish friendly” food products at the Florida Sea Base.  So if we do make any offerings to the ocean, the fish can feast without worry.  Plus I guess it’s a form of recycling.  We use the food then the fish get to use the food.  Very nice.  We are good environmental stewards.

Yesterday was Paul Beal’s birthday (our General Manager).  Cheryl Ferreri (our entire Human Resources Department) and Capt. Dennis Wyatt celebrate birthdays.  The stone table that served as my birth certificate finally crumbled for old age so I  don’t have a birthday anymore.

It’s time to shower, dress, and make the 07:30 staff meeting.  The BSA Explorer is fueled and generally ready for today’s dive trip.  We will be back in time for lunch.  The view from the bridge is much nicer that the view in my office.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

I apologize for not posting an update sooner.  We have one problem adult at the Florida Sea Base who essentially occupied my entire day.  Problem folks need love too so I’ve tried to be patient and understanding.  I think we have an understanding now.

Today is Paul Beal’s birthday.  Paul is the General Manager of the Florida Sea Base. This is about the 15th anniversary of his 39th birthday.  Happy Birthday boss!!!

The computer models are in better agreement this afternoon and forecast Alex to come ashore somewhere near Brownsville, Texas as a category one hurricane.  Unless something bizarre happens I will probably quit commenting on Alex and move on to other news.  The winds from Alex are expected to push the Deepwater Horizon oil north and west.  The Florida Sea Base should not have any weather or oil related worries from Alex.  But the season has only just begun and there will likely be more opportunities for severe weather to affect us before the season is over.

Locally, our winds may start subsiding around Thursday.  I may get to drive BSA Explorer tomorrow morning for a half day trip.  The good news would be that it’s always nice to get out of the office.  The bad news is that it’s still pretty rough out there and the trip will probably leave me with a day or two of intense pain in my bad leg.

I hope you had a great day.  More to come tomorrow.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

I literally have only a few moments this morning.  Here is the latest on Tropical Storm Alex.  It is no threat to the Florida Sea Base but if you live anywhere along the Texas coast you need to read this update from Weather Underground.

Hi, Dr. Rob Carver filling in for Jeff on the late shift again.
As of the 11PM EDT advisory, Alex is once more a tropical storm moving to the W-NW at 6 knots. According to the CIMMS wind shear estimates Alex is experiencing less than 20 knots of shear, so it’s in a favorable location for intensification. The NHC forecast track has Alex moving to the W-NW and making landfall in northern Mexico.

Disagreement between the forecast models
As of 300EDT, there are roughly three different sets of forecast solutions for the forecast models. CMC/GFS have Alex making landfall along the Texas coast north of Corpus Christi, but south of Houston. GFDL/HWRF have Alex coming ashore near Brownsville. UKMET/ECMWF/NOGAPS/NGFDL show Alex coming ashore well south of the Rio Grande. As was the case yesterday, the difference between the CMC/GFS and UKMET/ECMWF forecast lies in the interaction of the trough with the area of high pressure in the Gulf that’s currently steering Alex. Upper-air data from the Gulfstream IV should help refine model forecasts.

What does it mean?
The CMC/GFS/UKMET/ECMWF are all very good global models so it’s hard to discount one model in favor for another. If you live along the Gulf coast from Tampico, MX to the Texas/Louisiana border, it would be very prudent to review your hurricane planning and preparations. I still think the chances of Alex directly interfering with oil spill recovery efforts are low.

04:00 Computer Models from Weather Underground

I Have to run but I’ll post more later today.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape


It’s Over

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Today was a great day at the Florida Sea Base, unless you were in the office.  Thank goodness it’s over.  Here’s how it went.

Before breakfast one of the staff members came into the office and presented with a possible concussion including severe pain at the site of an earlier blow to the head and exceptional drowsiness.  The staff member will receive medical care.  Also before breakfast Capt. Carl Olshenske who drives BSA Explorer for the scuba program reported that he had a youth participant on his boat this week who was having behavioral problems.  After breakfast I had the young man and one of his adult leaders in my office to get the young man’s attention and assure that he acted in a safe and reasonable manner on the boat.  (The captain reported this afternoon that the youth performed much better.)

Shortly thereafter I discovered that Florida Sea Base incident reports were not being completed to reflect these and other issues.  That will be addressed at Monday’s 07:30 staff meeting morning.

Before lunch it was brought to my attention that Davis Tours had not shown up to take a departing crew to the airport.  The crew was in jeapordy of missing thier flight from Fort Lauderdale.  I tried multiple times to call Davis Tours and their emergency phone number to no avail.  We are very short handed on Sundays at the Florida Sea Base.  Capt. Alex Bergstedt volunteered to drive them to the airport.  They barely made it and we never heard from Davis Tours.  I don’t mean to give Davis Tours a black eye.  I am only reporting fact.  For the 10 years that I have worked at the Florida Sea Base they have had an exemplary record.  However, something has happened and they have had major scheduling issues recently.  Our Director of Program, Rob Kolb, will be addressing our concerns with Mr. Davis on Monday.

Immediately before lunch I saw Capt. Dutch VanderLann hobbling across the yard.  He has re-injured his left knee.  He is a trooper and will gut it out.

Check-in begins at 13:00 daily.  Sundays are big scuba crew arrival days.  One of the crews had an adult leader who had refused to submit his medical prior to arrival as required.  So Ellen, the Office Manager, was reviewing the medical he brought with him.  It was on the wrong form and we couldn’t accept it.  So he called backed home and had the appropriate form faxed to us.  The form showed that he is asthmatic and taking three medicications for asthma.  This disqualified him for the Florida Sea Base scuba program.  He was allowed to stay with his crew and he can snorkel, but he cannot scuba dive.  Somehow this gentleman feels that his failure to submit the medical when required (01 March 2010) so we could try to resolve his issue is not the problem.  I am the problem.  I am very sorry for the situation but mostly I am disappointed that this gentleman failed to follow procedure and we were deprived of the opportunity to address his issue.

Then we had a youth check in who was taking some medications that required counseling of him, his adult leaders and divemaster.  He will likely do fine.

Then another crew arrived that had a bad experience with Davis Tours.  They were aggitated but Ellen (and an air conditioned office) helped the leader calm down.

After dinner, Commissioner Matt McClure had a severe alergic reaction to some aloe vera that was being applied to his sunburn.  After two showers and 50mg of Benefryl he decided to go to the ER for a cortisone injection.  Before he left, Divemaster Scott Costa slipped and twisted his knee and decided to accompany Matt to the ER.  By the time they got to the ER, Matt was feeling better and did not see a doctor.  Scott has a sprain or torn ligament and will miss at least a week of work.

Now the latest on T/S Alex.  The official forecast still shows T/S Alex will curve into Mexico below the Texas border.

Tropical Storm Alex - Weather Underground

However, one of the more reliable computer models (GFS) still suggests the possibility of landfall south of Galveston, Texas.  This is a good example of how crazy life can be when a hurricane is forecasted to approach within a thousand miles of the Florida Sea Base.  The forecasted trajectory changes frequently and radically at times.

T/S Alex Computer Models - Weather Underground

It’s past my bedtime.  I will post sometime tomorrow.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

Today’s weather at the Florida Sea Base calls for 90º, mostly clear skies and ESE winds at 15knots.  It should be a warm but pleasant day.  Invest 94L continues to move away from us.

Invest 94L - Weather Underground

Tropical Storm Alex made landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula at about 04:30.  It will move into the Gulf of Mexico and is currently forecasted to make another landfall near Tampico, Mexico as a Category 1 hurricane.

T/S Alex - Weather Underground

I’m running a little late this morning so I have to dash off to the 07:30 staff meeting.  I will update this post later in the day if warranted.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape


Lazy Morning

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I’m enjoying a lazy morning at the Florida Sea Base.  I feel asleep at about 23:00 last night, pretty late for me.  I woke up at 03:00 and 07:20 to pee but didn’t really get up until 09:00.  Then I fixed a nice breakfast and washed dishes.  I spent 30 minutes updating the pages on this website and then I checked the weather.

Tropical Storm Alex - Courtesy of Weather Underground

While it is still early and anything is possible, the current thinking is that TS Alex will move generally westward after crossing the Yucatan Peninsula and probably won’t travel over or near the Deepwater Horizon site.  TS Alex should have NO effect on your travel plans to the Florida Sea Base.

Invest 94L - Courtesy of Weather Underground

The best news for everyone is that Invest 94L is projected to curve north and east into the Atlantic Ocean.  Bermuda was a concern yesterday but it looks like they may miss this one.

Satellite image of the tropics at 9am EDT Saturday 6/26/10. Image credit: GOES Science Project.

Here’s a great overview of the activities in the tropics this morning.

I haven’t received any phone calls this morning.  That’s a good sign and I will check in with the office in a little while to confirm that all is well.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

Good afternoon from the Florida Sea Base.  Just hours after I made this morning’s post NOAA recognized another Invest system, 94L.  We had Invest 92L last week and now 93L and 94L simultaneously.  It looks like it will be and active season in the North Atlantic as predicted.

From Weather Underground

From Weather Underground

We certainly had an active day at the base.  In the morning, Capt. Kim on S/V Rainbow Connection broke a steering cable and was towed in by Capt. Rich for repairs.  This afternoon, Capt. Geoff was unable to start S/V Silent Harmony to return to the Florida Sea Base so Capt. Rich and I towed him in.  Then one of the little sailboats blew out its mainsail and ran aground so Capt. Rich and I towed them back in.  While we appreciate all of God’s gifts, including the wind, we are experiencing just a little too much wind currently.  It will slow down to zero before long and we will be lamenting the lack of wind.  So we do our best to take what we are given and make the best of it.

We received another load of sand for the volleyball court today.  Added to yesterday’s delivery, the court is much better.  If we get really lucky we might get one more load.  We also received a third washer/dryer for the staff laundry.  It’s not connected yet, but we are looking forward to the expansion.

That’s about all for right now.  Tomorrow is my scheduled day off.  I have a lot of personal projects that need my attention.  I may not post tomorrow.  If not, I will certainly be back at it on Sunday.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

The strong winds will dominate for even longer at the Florida Sea Base.  NOAA forecasts 20 knot winds from the east through Saturday and 15 knot winds through Tuesday (the end of the current forecast period).  The wind actually shifted to the east-northeast (ENE) yesterday and gave us a very tolerable day of diving.  As I have mentioned before, the wind has been okay for the sailors.  They are reefing sails and staying mostly on the bay side.

EHre’s the morning report on Invest 93L from Weather Underground:

Credit: Weather Underground

Capt. Alex Bergstedt and Matt McClure are off today.  I am “recovering” from yesterday afternoon and last night.  Without being too graphic, I will just say that I have spent more of the last 12 hours on the toilet than off.  I haven’t felt “bad”; no nausea; but I obviously found some type of bug somewhere, somehow.  I’m doing my best to stay hydrated.  I fixed dinner on the boat and ate well (although it was a challenge to not burn anything while running back and for to the head).  Things seem to have slowed down so maybe the worst is over.  But believe me, I will do my best to not stray far from the bathroom today.

We received one load of good sand for the volleyball court yesterday (we need three more).  We expanded from one to two courts this summer and we are having some growing pains.  I expect the courts will be in pretty good shape about the end of summer (of course).  The courts are in near constant use.  I think we could cut out the sailing and diving and just have volleyball and hammocks under the palm trees and most of the kids would still have a blast.

Some of you may remember that 50 feet of chain disappeared from a bucket on the dock by my boat while we were delivering the BSA Centennial Eagle from Slidell, LA to the Florida Sea Base.  I am very disappointed to report that no one has acknowledged borrowing the chain.  Capt. Dennis Dugas of S/V Wandering Star even snorkeled around the dock to see if the chain somehow fell out of the bucket and into the water.  No luck.  I spent $154 to replace the chain.  The new chain is secured on my boat.  When I was a kid this situation would have been considered theft.  But in today’s society it is apparently my fault because I presented some otherwise honest person with too much temptation and caused them to take the chain.  Shame on me.

It’s time to hit the shower and prepare for another “opening day” at the Florida Sea Base.  So far, we remain oil free, there are no imminent threats of hurricanes for the next week and only 60 days of summer program are left.  Time flies when you’re having fun!!!

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape