Archive for December, 2010

The temperature actually increased all night from 18:00 Wednesday through 17:00 Thursday.  We topped out at 72º yesterday.  The wind picked up a bit making conditions bouncy.

The DMA reported three pukers.  Their first dive yesterday was at Victory Reef (one of my favorite sites).  The top of the reef is a huge sand lot that starts in 45′ of water with a slope of very healthy coral that bottoms at about 95′.  There was a thermocline at about 35′ that made sitting on the sand in 45′ of water a chilling event.  [A thermocline is a line of distinct change in water temperature .  As it was today, it is frequently visible and looks like a layer of distortion like alcohol mixing with water.]  They did their second dive at a patch reef named Hamm.  The water is significantly shallower there and there was no thermocline.

The Scuba Adventure crews had two awesome dives yesterday.  The first was at the Landing Strip.  It was named this because the bottom looks like a series of cut stones that have been put together to form a long, straight (UFO) landing strip.  Some of Megan’s crew reported finding the body and head of a decapitated cat.  Their second dive was at Long Key Ledge.  This site is located south of Long Key.

More Coral Reef Sailing crews returned to the base today for their mid-week break.  Today was a GREAT day for small boat sailing.

Capt. Rich had a challenging day yesterday.  And I was part of the problem.  I sincerely regret making his day tougher than it already was.  I apologized in person and I know he knows I had no intention of adding to his stress.  But the bottom line is I did and I and sincerely sorry.

I will go out with the DMA this morning.  They are scheduled for two dives and to be on base in time for lunch.  It may be a little bumpy again today but the temperature will be even better than yesterday.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

We started out at a cool 56º Wednesday morning but warmed up nicely to 71 with sunshine and a mild breeze at the Florida Sea Base.

Some of the Coral Reef Sailing crews returned for their mid-week break.  They spent the day sailing our small boats, kayaking, tubing, playing volleyball and even worked in a little time to play some pool and ping-pong.

The DMA candidates spent the early morning in the classroom and went diving before lunch.  They were back in the classroom after dinner.  Mike Kurczewski, the Regional Manager for PADI, stopped by and addresses the class for an hour.  We are getting right down to the wire now.  Instructors Dave Ball, Rich Goldman, Paul Bilisko and Capt. Scott Costa are doing an incredible job.

The Scuba Adventure crews completed another two dives yesterday and a night dive last night.  I forgot to ask Laura and Megan which sites the visited.  In some ways, it doesn’t matter.  They had a good time.  That’s what it’s all about.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

Yesterday’s low was 42º.  As I got off my boat at 07:10 one of the crews was completing the swim review.  One kid looked like a stick figure of Barney; skinny as a pole and purple.  I thought you might find this information from the National Weather Service interesting:

These data are preliminary and have not undergone final quality control by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Therefore, these data are subject to revision. Final and certified climate data can be accessed at the NCDC –

Record Report
SXUS72 KEYW 290551

1255 AM EST WED DEC 29 2010





By 09:15 I was aboard BSA Explorer with Capt. Dennis and the candidates and staff of the Divemaster Academy.  The candidates completed three dives at a 30′ deep ledge reef named Arno’s Reef.  The water temperature was 70º with about 20′ of visibility.  The wind was still blowing pretty hard and the air temperature was in the low 50s.  Then we moved to Cheeca Rocks, a 15′ site, for lunch and a few of the candidates did a 4th dive.  We returned to base around 15:00 and the candidates reported to the classroom.  They had dinner at 17:00 and left the dock again at 17:45 to do two night dives at Alligator Reef.

The Scuba Adventure crews completed two dives yesterday and enjoyed some continuing education sessions taught by Megan Ware and Laura Kuras.

The wind was great for the sailors, albeit a little cold.  We finally start warming up today.  Despite the cool temperatures yesterday, we had a LOT of sunshine and several people were showing signs of sunburn by the end of the day.

Some of the sailing crews will be returning to the Florida Sea Base today for their mid-week break.  There will be tubing, small boat sailing, and kayaking.  The DMA, Scuba Liveaboard crew and Scuba Adventure crews should have a great day of diving.

I forgot to mention that Santa Claus (aka Oliver Bateman) went diving with us on Christmas day, but here’s the proof.

Make it a good one.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

Sorry for posting so late. The server was done.

The seven Coral Reef Sailing crews and one Sea Exploring crew scheduled to arrive yesterday at the Florida Sea Base were successful.  One crew arrived much later than scheduled, but they made it none the less.

We are starting out about 5 degrees cooler than yesterday.  Yesterday was productive but miserable on the water.  Capt. Dennis and I had on most of the clothes we own and we were still cold.  The good news is it starts warming up slowly beginning tomorrow.

The DMA candidates completed three open water dives yesterday and took on test last night.  They are scheduled for three more open water dives today and two night dives tonight.  They are going to be cold, tired puppies by the time they finally get to bed.  The Scuba Liveaboard crew are out on the water aboard the Schooner Conch Pearl.  The Scuba Adventure crews completed their scuba review yesterday morning and completed their first scuba dive yesterday afternoon at Alligator Reef as scheduled.

I am about to head out with the DMA candidates for the day.  I have on thermal underwear, sweatpants, a shirt, a hooded coat, gloves, a watch cap, warm socks and insulated boots.  I don’t like being cold.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

The good news from yesterday was that all incoming participants were successful in getting out of the snow and arriving at the Florida Sea Base except one young man from New York.  We have 7 Coral Reef Sailing crews scheduled to arrive today.  I am very concerned that some may not be able to make it.  I will let you know tomorrow.

The staff did and INCREDIBLE job yesterday of going forward with program despite the gale force winds.  My hat is off to all of them.  What an incredible display of determination, teamwork, and professionalism.

At 14:00 yesterday we had an official wind speed of 39 knots from the Northwest.  The temperature was near 62º at the time.  It is 51º this morning (10º warmer than forecasted yesterday) with 18 knots of wind from the North.  Life on our dock is much easier with the wind shifting to the North.

With gale conditions out of the WNW yesterday we had many issues.  Many of the captains on the dock contributed time, knowledge and equipment in an attempt to keep S/V Siesta from being damaged by the dock.  This was no fault of Capt. Ed, the owner.  Our dock is currently full for the Christmas season and Siesta was docked on the outside of the T-dock head which is fully exposed to the westerly winds.  She was being bashed into the dock.  Fenders were put in place multiple times but kept shifting and popping out.  Finally one anchor was set to windward and that helped pull Siesta off the dock – but was not enough.  Later, a second anchor was added and I think that proved to be barely enough make the situation acceptable.  The bad news was that the upper lifeline on the port side was broken before the anchors were set.  I am not aware of any additional damage.

I ran into former staff members Lindsay Kuc and Dave Rumbaugh in the Chartroom last evening watching TV with Capt. Luke of S/V Lady Nell.  They seem to be happy and healthy.  They are great young adults.  I am sure they will find great success in their future.

Here we go!  The quote of the week will be, “Its high adventure”.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape (and running a little late)

Today is the first of two crew arrival days for the Christmas season at the Florida Sea Base.  Two Scuba Adventure crews, one Scuba Liveaboard crew, two Sea Exploring crews and ten Coral Reef Sailing crews are scheduled to arrive today and tomorrow.

It’s about 03:15 as I start today’s post.  I am up with some stomach issues which I don’t mind describing in detail but I think many of you might not really care to read about.  (More correctly it’s not my stomach but other organs located further down stream.)  So we will leave it at that.  The wind is blowing 25 knots from the Southwest.  The temperature is still a warm 70 degrees.  The cold front is scheduled to arrive before 07:00 and our temperatures will drop for the rest of the day with the wind increasing to gale strength (35 knots).  That’s nothing like many of you are experiencing up north, but will be disappointing for our crews who arrive today and tomorrow.  The good news is the weather is forecasted to improve through the week.

Yesterday the galley prepared a very nice Christmas brunch.  At 09:15 the dive boat shoved off and the DMA candidates did one dive at the wreck of the Eagle (about a 100′ dive) followed by a second dive at a reef site named Alligator Deep.  I took some notes and we will debrief the dives this evening.  We returned to the base around 14:00 and cleaned up.  At 16:00 we arrived at Tom’s Harbor House Restaurant at Hawk’s Cay Resort for a Christmas dinner.  The food was served family style.  We had salad, mixed vegetables (broccoli, green beans, and carrots), new potatoes (prepared and served separately from the other veggies), roast beef, gravy and a choice of desserts including chocolate cake, strawberry short cake or Key Lime pie.

I have a long, cold, windy day with DMA activities, crew arrivals and orientation meetings (this evening) ahead of me.  I think (hope) my stomach has calmed down enough that I may be able to get back to sleep.  Wherever you are, I hope you stay warm and dry and that you’re not awake at 03:30 in the morning pooping like the proverbial Christmas goose.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

Merry Christmas from the staff of the Florida Sea Base.  I hope you have a blessed day.  As is common in the “tourist industry” some of the staff is working today.  The DMA candidates and instructors and some of the seasonal staff will go diving this morning.  It has become a bit of a tradition to do a wreck dive on the Eagle on Christmas morning.  Then we will go to Tom’s Harbor Restaurant at Hawk’s Cay Resort for an early Christmas dinner (16:00 to 18:00).

Scuba and sailing crews arrive tomorrow.  Here is the local forecast:

Christmas Day: A slight chance of showers after 7am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 72. East wind 5 to 10 mph becoming south. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Tonight: Scattered showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 64. Breezy, with a southwest wind between 10 and 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

Sunday: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm before 4pm, then a slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 71. Windy, with a west wind between 20 and 25 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.

Sunday Night: A slight chance of showers before 9pm. Partly cloudy, with a low around 44. Windy, with a north wind between 15 and 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Monday: Sunny, with a high near 54. Breezy, with a north wind between 15 and 20 mph.

Monday Night: Clear, with a low around 46.

Tuesday: Sunny, with a high near 62.

Tuesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 54.

Wednesday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 71. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Wednesday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 62. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Thursday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 73. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Thursday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 65. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Friday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 75. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

So again, Merry Christmas!The week will start out very cool and breezy for our guests, but will become much warmer toward the middle of their stay.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escap

We have a full day planned for the Divemaster Academy today.  But after dinner, the DMA candidates will join the Florida Sea Base staff to go caroling via boat (BSA Tarpon) through the canals in our neighborhood.  This is an old Florida Sea Base tradition that is being revived under the diretion of our Facilities Director, Capt. Keith Douglass.

Speaking of the DMA candidates, they were in classroom yesterday morning.  After lunch we went to a dive site named Pillars of Atlantis and performed rescue scenarios for score.  After dinner I met with the candidates to discuss the rescue scenarios and their professional score and to address any issues that have been noted to date.  Once I left, the candidates took an test on scuba equipment.

DMA Class 7 (2010)

Yesterday’s weather was sunny but a little cool (high 60s) and with breazy winds of 15 to 20 knots from the WNW.  It’s 56 this morning, warming to 69 this afternoon, strong NE winds and sunny skies.  It will be perfect if you are in the sun and out of the wind and chilly if you are in the shade and wind.

The base is looking great and ready to receive our participants on 26 December thanks to the hard work of our seasonal staff members.  The sailboat captains are making last minute preparations.  Yesterday Laura Kuras and Sargon Smith loaded scuba tanks for transfer to the Schooner Conch Pearl (which is at dock on Stock Island awaiting the arrival of the Scuba Liveaboard crew).

Yesterday was Megan Broyles’ last day as an administrative intern.  I think she has today off and then joins the Coral Reef Sailing staff on Christmas Day.

Have a great day.  I am on my way to Miami for a doctor’s appointment.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape (with operating heat!!!!)

The Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy candidates had a challenging day yesterday.  In the morning they observed rescue demonstrations by Instructors Rich Goldman and Scott Costa and then practiced those skills for a while.  After lunch they loaded up and went to Founders Park Pool and completed their timed 400 yard swim, 800 yard snorkel and 15 minute tread.  Later in the day they completed classroom sessions and written exams on physiology, equipment and physics.  Whew!!!

Meghann Mikalski arrived yesterday.  She will be the Sea Exploring Mate aboard the Schooner Yankee for the Christmas season.

With the assistance of Capt. Dennis, I was able to get my new ac/heater working yesterday afternoon.  I still have a little work to do on the cabinet and duct work but the unit is operable.  Hopefully this will cause the cold front that’s scheduled to arrive on Christmas Day or the day after to stall out.  The incoming crews would certainly appreciate that.

Speaking of weather, ours was gorgeous again yesterday; moderate winds, clear skies and 75º.  Tomorrow is supposed to be very nice as well so Dave Ball massaged the DMA schedule so we can go diving.

If your son, daughter or husband is working on staff at the Florida Sea Base or Brinton Environmental Center this Christmas season, I want to say thank you for allowing them to be here and to have a positive effect on the participants that will arrive in a few days.  As a treat, we are going to take them to a VERY nice Christmas dinner at the world renowned Hawks Cay Resort.  It may not seem like much, but former staff members have really enjoyed themselves there.

Time to go back to bed (01:20).  Today is going to be another fun filled day.

Enough said.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

Our weather was GREAT yesterday at the Florida Sea Base.  The Divemaster Academy candidates completed three dives for scores on topics such as dive briefings and conducting Discover Local Diving.

Today should be very nice weather wise.  The DMA will practice rescue scenarios this morning and we have the city swimming pool reserved for their timed swimming skills this afternoon.  There will be a lot of pressure on some of the candidates on the timed swims.  The Founder’s Park Pool is owned by the Village of Islamorada.  The pool is used this time of year by college swim teams from around the US making it challenging to get pool time.  Anyone who does not meet the minimum swim times today will be in jeopardy of failing out of the Academy.  Today’s rescues will be for practice.  But this is one of my areas of greatest scrutiny.  Tomorrow (I think) they will be evaluated on the rescue skills for score.  If they can’t perform a flawless rescue they aren’t of much use to the Florida Sea Base as Divemasters.  Their performance will be critical.

More of the sailing staff arrived and Capt. Rich kept them very busy.  The big project they completed was repainting the picnic tables under the Quarterdeck where most of our participants are seated for meals.  They look MUCH better.  The key to their success was they actually did some prep work on the tables instead of just hurriedly slapping another coat of paint on top of old paint.

My new air conditioner/heater arrived yesterday morning so I spent the afternoon removing the old unit and got about 75% of the installation of the new unit completed.  My hope is to get the installation to about 98% completion (enough to run the heat cycle) this afternoon.  Capt. Dennis has pledged his assistance.

Have a great day.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape