Archive for October, 2010


Trick or Treat

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Tomas intensified very quickly over the last two days to go from Invest, to Tropical Storm (skipping over the tropical depression stage) to hurricane.  Category 2 Hurricane Tomas is now west of the Antilles, in the Caribbean Sea.  So far, the computer models agree that we should be bared any serious effects from Hurricane Tomas.  Since Tomas will likely grow to category 3 or 4 status by Wednesday, we will continue to watch this one VERY closely.  If the system does NOT make a hard turn, we could get NAILED. Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground said Hurricane Tomas is “an unprecedented Lesser Antilles hurricane for late in the season”.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

I don’t have anything else.  I expect to spend a few hours in the office today.  I would like to get another email or two out to the Divemaster candidates.  Plus my expense report is due and I need to work on my presentation for Thursday at the BSA Aquatics Workshop.

Happy Halloween!!!

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

Invest 91L has been upgraded to Tropical Storm Tomas.  While it is is still a week or more away from the Florida Sea Base, the hurricane experts in Miami are giving this system special attention.  Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground wrote:

In discussions I had with hurricane experts at NHC and NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division yesterday, it was widely agreed that this system was unusually large and well-organized for this time of year–something one would expect to see in early September, but not late October. The historical Atlantic hurricane data base shows no cases where a tropical depression has formed so far south and east so late in the year. “Ominous” and “unprecedented” were a few of the adjectives I heard used to describe 91L, and this system has the potential to be a dangerous storm for the islands of the eastern and central Caribbean.

That quote was from his blog yesterday morning.  Last night so much had happened that he posted again, rather rare for Dr. Masters.

Computer models.

Five day track.

We had a little rain and lightning last night.  It lasted an hour or less.

Friday night radar.

Yesterday evening Dr. Masters made these comments:

Track forecast for Tomas
After Tomas reaches the central Caribbean 4 – 6 days from now, there are two possible track scenarios depicted by the models–a continued westerly motion towards Nicaragua, or a sharp turn to the north, with a track over Hispaniola or Puerto Rico. Steering currents will be weak, and we’ll just have to wait and see how the steering currents evolve.

Tomas’ formation location unprecedented this late in the season
The formation of a tropical storm so far south and east this late in the season is unprecedented in the historical record; no named storm has ever been present east of the Lesser Antilles (60°W) and south of 12°N latitude so late in the year. Hurricane Six of 1896 came close–it was also a tropical storm south of 12°N and east of 60°W on October 29, but nine hours earlier in the day. That storm recurved to the north and missed the Lesser Antilles. Tomas’ track through the southern Lesser Antilles so late in the year is unprecedented. There have been only two other tropical storms that formed after October 15 south of 12°N and east of 60°W: Hurricane Jose, which was a tropical storm in that region on October 18, 1999, and Tropical Storm Nicolas, on October 16, 2003. Tomas most reminds me of Hurricane Joan of 1988, which was a tropical storm on October 14 near Tomas’ current location, and later strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane that hit Nicaragua.

As of 04:00 Atlantic Standard Time hurricane watches had been posted in several of the Windward Antilles and Barbados was already reporting tropical storm conditions.  Tomas was producing winds just under hurricane strength so he may be Hurricane Tomas by the time you read this.

The base was quiet yesterday with most of the staff tending to their usual chores.  Capt, Rich is winding up his vacation.  Paul Beal took a three day weekend to fly to West Point , visit his daughters and attended the Army / Virginia Military Institute game.  Enjoy your weekend.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

The Florida Sea Base had two years worth of used scuba equipment to sell this fall.  The sales is actually a budget line. Lindsay Kuc, Christy Clemenson and Laura Kuras teamed up this fall to exceed our budgeted amount.  We now have a buyer lined up to buy everything that’s left.  All sales will cease on Sunday, 31 October 2010.  If you are interested in purchasing used scuba gear from the Florida Sea Base you have two options.  (1) Send an email before Sunday to or leave a phone message for Laura at 305-664-5627.  (2) Wait until mid August 2011 when we will be selling scuba gear again.

We were blessed with a few minutes of rain yesterday morning.  The remainder of the day was sunny and warm.  While there is some chatter about tropical weather, the only system of any concern is the one near Brazil and Guyana (Invest 91L).  The computer models show this system headed into the Caribbean, somewhere between Puerto Rico and Jamaica.  But it still a week or so away from being any concern to the Florida Sea Base.

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Click to enlarge.

We also have Tropical Storm Shary this morning.  It will bring some gale force weather to Bermuda, but nothing serious.

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The “cold” front that is coming our way doesn’t appear to be much of an issue either.  We have a 20% – 30% chance of rain every day for the next week.  That’s not very unusual.  Are we are not forecasted to cool down much with daily highs around 83º.

I sent out two more emails to the Divemaster Academy candidates yesterday.  There is SO much for them to learn and so little time to share knowledge.  It’s great to watch them grow through this process.  Some of them are going to be changed forever by this experience.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

The Florida Sea Base was very quiet yesterday, but that is not to say people weren’t busy.  There was nothing outstanding.  “Routine” was the general mood.  Capt. Rich is still on vacation and went lobstering with his brother.  Capt. Carol was studying chemistry.  Chrystene and Maria were busy working on conference and food needs and Ships Store business.  Laura was busy selling used scuba gear and tending to assigned chores from me.  Teri and Dom were still working on the Thomas Building cleaning.  Derek, Capt. Martin and Rafael were doing maintenance. Capt. Dave Munzel was smoking (as in cooking) mullet for dinner.  I briefly saw Capt. Harold Ochstein and it looked like he was working on his boat.  Capt. Luke Knuttel was working off base somewhere today.  Captains Joey and Katie were tending to the new baby.  Bear (Chrystene’s pup) spent the day soaking up air conditioning in Chrystene’s office.  Capt. Keith had business at the Brinton Environmental Center.  I received one phone call from Nancy Wells but didn’t talk with anyone else in Admin today.

There is no tropical weather of concern for at least the next week to ten days.  The weather system in the central US was still the big weather story yesterday.  Our local weather was gorgeous.

I worked on Divemaster Academy and Aquatic Workshop issues.  That’s about it.  No drama.  Just a lot of good work getting done.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

It’s close to 04:00.  I am having a bit of a restless night; not quite as bad as the previous night though.  Anyway, I thought I would take advantage of this free time and bang out today’s post.

The meteorologists have declared Richard “a remnant low” meaning that he is less than tropical depression status and even less than Invest status.  At this time there are no tropical systems threatening the US or the entire Atlantic Basin for that matter.  But there was a super-storm in the midwest.  Dr. Jeff Masters had some good information in his WunderBlog yesterday.  It’s impressive to me that the central pressure of the system was consistent with a Category 2 hurricane.  That is amazing.  If you have time, take a moment to look at Dr. Masters’ report.

We have no conference groups on base until this weekend.  Teri Wells and Dominic Alesandrini are taking advantage of this lull to clean the Thomas Building and Scuba Dorms before the next onslaught.  The BSA Aquatics Workshop will be here the middle of next week with 80 attendees.  Laura Kuras sold some more used scuba gear today and got a commitment from an individual to buy all of our leftovers.  She also mailed out the training materials for the Divemaster Academy candidates.

Our winds have stabilized at about 15 knots for a while but are forecasted to increase again as the weekend approaches.  (It certainly beats a hurricane.)  Our temperatures are pretty stable too with daily highs around 83 and cooling off about 5 degrees for lows around 78.  The chance of rain is about 20% most days but we see very little of it.

We have been working towards replacing our two dive tanks with a real swimming pool for the past year.  The main reason was because our tanks will not be in compliance when more safety regulations become effective in the Virginia Graham Baker Act.  A potential structural defect had also emerged.  Yesterday our Head Ranger, Rafael Arrom, was doing some maintenance on the tank and found cause for concern.  Back when our tanks were built, many of the bridges in the Keys (there are 42 of them) were not strong enough to support loaded cement trucks.  So cement was mixed locally using saltwater.  After 30 years, the saltwater has destroyed the rebar in the cement.  The cement is not very strong without the rebar.  As the rebar rusts it actually swells and is destroying the cement from the inside out.  This is the same problem we are experiencing with sections of our seawall.  While it will be an almost impossible task, our General Manager, Paul Beal, will HAVE to find a way to have a new pool in place by the beginning of the program season in 2012.

Thanks for reading.  I’m going to go lay down.  I have taken some meds for my headache so hopefully I can get two or three hours of shut-eye.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

The weather is still breezy and we will get a little rain in less than an hour, but has we are having a GREAT fall at the Florida Sea Base.  It is cooling down a little allowing for a small reduction in air conditioning dependence.  Hurricane Richard made landfall yesterday south of Belize City.  The storm was downgraded to tropical storm status soon thereafter.  It has survived the trek across land to the Gulf of Mexico but it is forecasted to get ripped apart on Wednesday by wind shear.  Here’s a better picture of the storm making landfall than what we had yesterday.  I copied it from Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog on Weather Underground.

Click to enlarge.

Laura Kuras sold three or four more sets of used scuba gear yesterday afternoon.  She was forced to spend her morning scuba diving.  The supply of used gear is steadily dwindling.  Capt. Rich is off this week.  Our Registrar, Nancy Wells, provided me with a current copy of the 2011 spring Scuba Adventure, Scuba Certification and Scuba Liveaboard registrations.  There may be some cancellations between now and then (a common occurrence) but as of yesterday there were 19 Scuba Adventure crews, 2 Scuba Certification crews and 6 Scuba Liveaboard crews registered.  I realize it is getting late, but there are several openings in all of the Florida Sea Base programs for spring 2011.  You can contact our Registrar at or 305-664-5616.

Coming to the Florida Sea Base in the spring (we consider “spring” to be from early February until the end of April) has several advantages.  There are fewer bugs.  That’s in part because there is generally more breeze in the spring than summer.  That also means that the sailing is better.  That’s also great news for the Out Island participants.  Sleeping outdoors (Out Island, Coral Reef Sailing, Eco Adventure, Sea Exploring and Scuba Liveaboard) is cooler.

We can offer much greater flexibility in the scuba programs in the spring because we have fewer crews and aren’t logistically hog-tied.  One great option is to do your classroom and confined water (pool) scuba skills back home and then come to the Florida Sea Base for your Open Water Training Dives and finish out your week with several “fun dives”.  Crews coming for Scuba Adventure may have the ability to earn PADI Specialty Certifications for less than $20 per course.  Check with some of your local dive centers.  The going price for Specialty Certifications is probably in the $150 – $200 range per course.  Bear in mind that I did say “may”.  There is additional paperwork and logistics that have to be arranged in advanced.  We are NOT able to offer Specialty Certifications to Scuba Aventure crews in the summer because all of our Scuba Instructors are assigned to Scuba Certification or Scuba Liveaboard crews.  Okay, enough of the sales pitch.  If you have any questions about the scuba programs email me at  If you go to the “About” page on this site there is a directory of who to contact for each specific program.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

It’s Monday morning and the beginning of a busy week of preparations for next week’s Aquatic Workshop.  Between 70 and 80 people are expected from around the US including interests from outside Scouting.  The 2008 Workshop was big; this one will be massive.

Yesterday I wrote about Hurricane Wilma on the 5th anniversary of that storm visiting the Florida Sea Base.  I didn’t put in any details about what happened Saturday at the Florida Sea Base, so here goes.  You may recall that I had posted early Saturday morning that the weather was iffy and the scheduled snorkel trips might get cancelled.  I was wrong.  Well, I was partly correct – the wind was howling and it rained much of the morning.  But the Troops felt up to the task so Capt. Rich with First Mate Teri Wells took a group on BSA Adventure and yours truly with First Mate Dominic Alesandrini and Second Mate Megan Broyles took the rest on BSA Tarpon and the race was on to Alligator Reef.  We got there first and moored on the ball nearest the Alligator Lighthouse.  BSA Adventure anchored on our port side, between us and the lighthouse.  The seas were three to four feet with a howling wind from the southeast.  Plus it was raining.  We were only in 10 feet of water and the visibility was astonishing clear.  But the wind driven surface current was too much for some of the Scouts and Scouters.  First Mates Teri and Dom both had to be dispatched to swim to the aid of snorkelers who just could not out swim the current.  I launched most of the 600′ of rescue line from BSA Tarpon to allow the snorkelers to pull themselves back to the boat.  Don’t get me wrong, many of the snorkelers did fine and had a good snorkel.  Only a dozen or so needed assistance.  Capt. Rich had 10 to 12 guests overcome by gastroenpukeulitis onboard.  I was about 100 feet from the stern of BSA Advemture and I saw one or two hurl a good 10 feet or more.  People were scooping up buckets of water to wash down the deck so fast I thought the boat was on fire.  I had two or three who got really queazy but I did not see any of them feeding the fish.  In the meantime, Capt. Carol with First Mate Lauras Kuras took the shark researchers out on BSA Explorer.  I did not get a report on their degree of success.

Hurricane Richard has made landfall in Belize.  The good news is the storm is expected to fall apart once it crosses the Yucatan and emerges into the Gulf of Mexico.  Most experts are forecasting the system will fizzle on Wednesday.  Here’s a great image as Hurricane Richard approached Belize yesterday.

Click to enlarge.

The Bay Islands of Honduras did get spanked a bit yesterday.  The impact certainly grounded any would be scuba divers but did little damage to the islands.

Accoring to the National Weather SErvice Office in Key West the coming week will remain breezy.

Monday…East to southeast winds near 15 knots. Seas beyond the reef 3 to 5 feet. Seas inside the reef around 2 feet. Nearshore waters a moderate chop to choppy. Isolated showers.

Monday Night Through Tuesday Night…East to southeast winds near 15 knots. Seas beyond the reef 3 to 5 feet. Seas inside the reef around 2 feet. Nearshore waters a moderate chop. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.

Wednesday…East winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas beyond the reef 2 to 4 feet…except higher in the gulf stream. Seas inside the reef 1 to 2 feet. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.

Thursday…Northeast to east winds near 15 knots. Seas beyond the reef 3 to 5 feet…except higher in the gulf stream. Seas inside the reef around 2 feet. Nearshore waters a moderate chop. Isolated showers.

Friday…Northeast winds 15 to 20 knots and gusty. Seas beyond the reef 4 to 7 feet…except higher in the gulf stream. Seas inside the reef 2 to 3 feet. Nearshore waters choppy to rough. Isolated showers.

That’s all for now.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

2005 was a harsh year of hurricanes for the Florida Sea Base.  Hurricane Wilma was the worst.  The good news was program was over and all of the participants were gone before Wilma came to visit.

First was Hurricane Dennis in the first week of July.  We were forced to evacuate participants and close the base, but received minimal impact.

Then in late August it was Hurricane Katrina.  Thank goodness Katrina was a minimal hurricane when she passed right over the Florida Sea Base.  Katrina started in the Bahamas and was forecast to cross the Florida mainland near Miami and continue west into the Gulf.  Instead, she made landfall in Miami and then made a 90 degree turn south, straight for the Florida Sea Base.  We were hunkered down for tropical storm conditions but got our tails kicked as Katrina’s eye moved over the Florida Sea Base around 05:30.  Katrina then turned west again and decimated the city of New Orleans.

In September, one day before my birthday Hurricane Rita slid south of Key West as a Category 2 hurricane.  The Brinton Environmental Center was hit worse than the Florida Sea Base.  The kids were gone for the year and the physical damage was minimal.  Hurricane Rita made landfall on the Texas / Louisiana border causing significant damage at my parent’s house and leaving their community without electricity for 6 weeks.

Then on 24 October 2005 Wilma came knocking.  She passed the Florida Keys as a Category 3 system.  We had 3 to 5 feet of storm surge at the Florida Sea Base.  Click on “READ MORE” to see just a few photos from Hurricane Wilma.

It’s very breezy here again today, and forecasted to remain so for the rest of the week.  T/S Richard should become Hurricane Richard sometime today.  Tuesday evening he should be in the far western Gulf of Mexico over Campeche Bank.

Enjoy the photos of Hurricane Wilma.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape


Windy Day

in Weather  •  0 comments

Good morning.  I have been up since 04:00.  I’ve having one of those “I’m tired but can’t sleep” episodes.  I also have a killer sinus headache and I’m sure that’s making the situation worse.  I didn’t notice until just a minute or so ago that yesterday’s post did not display properly.  I apologize for that.  It is fixed now.

Yesterday was breezy with ENE winds holding at over 15 knots from 09:00 through the day.  By 18:00 the winds were consistently over 20 knots, gusting to 27.  Since 01:00 this morning the winds have been from the east at 23 to 27 knots.  The good news is that the direction and intensity of the wind has been just right to rock the boat just enough to make you feel like you’re swaying in a havoc or relaxing in a rocking chair.  A very smooth back and forth motion.

The wind will definitely impact our scheduled programming for this morning at the Florida Sea Base.   NOAA issued a Small Craft Advisory yesterday that is still in effect.  The wind and seas have been building all night.  There is no instrumentation at the reef line that measures wave or duration.  My guess, based on 10 years of experience at the Florida Sea Base is the waves are in the four feet range.  The shark research team MIGHT get out on the water this morning.  They frequently operate on the Gulf of Mexico side of the Keys and conditions will be rough but safe enough.  The snorkelers need to go the reef line on the Atlantic Ocean side of the islands.  If the group was scuba diving I would say they might be able to get in a dive.  It would be sloppy with poor visibility, but doable.  Snorkeling will be worse.  The reduced visibility (caused by the waves stirring up the sand) may obscure the reef from the surface and the snorkelers bobbing around in 4′ seas equals a lot of queasy stomachs.  I will discuss the situation in a few hours with Captains Rich and Carol and with Chrystene Matthews who is in charge of the groups wanting to go out today.

I have been putting up with a minor (yet very annoying) leak on S/V Escape where the mizzen mast goes through the deck.  I think (hope) I corrected the problem yesterday.  I am going to let the new caulk dry until this afternoon and then I will put a cover over my work to reduce UV damage.  Having a leaking mast boot is very much like having a leaky roof; it can cause a lot of unseen damage that is difficult and expensive to repair.

Hot off the press – the 05:00 update on T/S Richard.

Click to enlarge.

The track continues to look good for the Florida Sea Base.  But I have many interests in Texas as well and this system could be bad news on that that end.  By tomorrow the system will be right on top of Roatan and the other Bay Islands of Honduras.  That is a very popular scuba destination so I am sure there a a lot of disappointment from those vacationing there.

That’s all I have this morning.  My head’s feeling a little better so I am going to try to get back to sleep for an hour or so.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

Good afternoon.  It’s about 14:30 local time.  I spent the night in Miami (sans computer) and just returned to the Florida Sea Base about an hour ago.  It was good timing as I was fortunate to run into to Capt. Kelly Stickney-Lucivero (S/V Endeavour) and Capt. Mike Lucivero(S/V Ciao Bella) who are leaving their dock at Smugglers Cove Marina to stage for their trip to the Bahamas.  If all goes well, they will stay in the Bahamas until late April or early May.  Captains Mike and Kelly have operated their vessels in the summer Scuba Liveaboard program for the past three years.    Prior to working the Scuba Liveaboard program they used their boats in the Coral Reef Sailing Adventure.  Capt. Mikehas been captaining boats at the Florida Sea Base for about 17 years.  Capt. Kelly has worked here for at least 10 years working her way up from Galley Mate to Captain.  They are taking Ciao Bella to the Bahamas and retiring her from the Florida Sea Base programs.  This summerCapt. Kelly will pilot Endeavour and Capt. Mike will operate S/V Silent Harmony in the Scuba Liveaboard program.

Tropical Storm Richard should pose no threat to the Florida Sea Base for at least the next five days, and probably never. There is a very slim chance that Richard could threaten the Keys after he crosses the Yucatan peninsula and enters the Gulf of Mexico.  Wait and watch.

We have two Florida BSA Troops joining us today for a long weekend of fun along with the University of Miami shark research group.  Capt. Rich, Capt. Carol and I will each be driving big boats tomorrow for these three groups. Capt. Carol has the shark group and Capt. Rich and I will be taking the Scouts to Alligator Reef for several hours of snorkeling.

Divemaster Academy Candidates – if you were notified of your acceptance into the 2010 DMA yesterday, please send me your UPS address.  Most of you have – thank you.  Two or three have not.  No es bueno.

I’m not sure what our morining departure time is for tomorrow but I will try to make at least a brief post in the morning.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape