Archive for July, 2011

21Jul

The Scout Law

in Staff  •  0 comments

I don’t think the seasonal staff will believe me, but it’s tough on me when I have to let a staff member go.  Each of us is presented with a multitude of opportunities each day to make choices.  Sometimes we make a poor choice.  For each choice there are consequences.  We label the choices “good” or “bad” based on the consequences.  Bad choices are frequently mistakes, mistakes made due to a lack of experience.  Young people have fewer life experiences to draw on so we expect them to choose poorly from time to time.  (Old people make mistakes too.  That’s called Old-timers Disease.)  Hopefully we learn from our mistakes and get better (until Old-timers Disease sets in).  One of the tools used to diagnose Old-timers is the inability to learn new behavior.  When a person repeatedly makes the same or similar poor choices, it’s no longer a mistake.

We expect the Florida Sea Base staff to strive to live by the Scout Law.  I like to kid about there being two more points to the Scout Law than there are Commandments.  So we are understanding when someone (including ourselves) stumbles on a point.  But sometimes life pitches us curves.  “A Scout is trustworthy.”  “A Scout is helpful.”  “A Scout is friendly.”  “A Scout is courteous.”  “A Scout is kind.” “A Scout is obedient”.  “A Scout is cheerful”.  These are half of the 12 points of the Scout Law.  When a staff member struggles repeatedly with half of our Scout Law, it is time for them to move on; even when they are decent people who are trying hard.

We received a very brief, light shower yesterday.  I was privileged to stand radio/radar watch for Capt. Dennis Wyatt last night during the night dive.  There was a pretty nasty thunderstorm cell a few miles north of the Alligator Reef dive site.  Otherwise, refer to yesterday’s post for the weather forecast for this week.  In a word, the weather is “typical” for this time of year.  The thunder woke (some of) us up at 0500.  Again, very typical for this time a year, we had a small but very strong thunderstorm cell pop up right on top of us.

Click to Enlarge.

Budget preparations are coming along nicely.  If Capt. Rich and I can sit down together for 30 minutes, we may be able to complete our first submission Friday.  Our monthly Team Meeting is schedule for 0900-1200 tomorrow so it may be hard for us to make time after that for the budget.  Regardless, I think we are ahead of schedule and may be the first cost center to turn in a proposal.  We don’t get a prize, just bragging rights.  In all honesty, I am pretty sure no one cares except me.  Since Texas is home for me, whatever I’m doing needs to be the biggest, or the fastest, or the ugliest, or the dumbest, or the prettiest, or the smartest, ANYTHING that ends in “est”.

Saturday is my scheduled day off.  I may get to drive a boat for a scuba crew.  If that doesn’t happen I hope to nap as much as possible and see if I can recharge a little.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape 

Tropical Storm Bret continues northeast into the open Atlantic and appears to be no threat in the future to the Florida Sea Base’s operations in Florida or The Bahamas.  Here’s what Dr. Jeff Masters had to report yesterday in his Wunderblog:

Tropical Storm Bret weakens
Tropical Storm Bret enjoyed a brief burst of intensification yesterday afternoon that brought the storm’s winds up to 65 mph. However, Bret has sucked in a lot of dry air today, and is now a much weaker storm with winds of just 50 mph. Satellite imagery shows that Bret has not improved in organization this morning, thanks to dry air to the northwest that has been blown into the storm’s core by upper-level northwesterly winds. Wind shear is a high 20 – 25 knots, and is expected to remain in the high range for the next three days. The combination of high wind shear and dry air nearby should act to keep Bret from strengthening, and the storm should slowly decay as it heads out to sea over the next few days. Bret is not a threat to any land areas.

None of the reliable models predict tropical cyclone development over the remainder of the Atlantic through July 26.

With T/S Bret out of the picture, here is our local National Weather Service forecast:

Wednesday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 93. Calm wind becoming west around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Wednesday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 81. Calm wind. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Thursday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 94. Calm wind becoming east around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Thursday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 82. East wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Friday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 94. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Friday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 83. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Saturday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 94. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Saturday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 83. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Sunday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 94. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Sunday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 83. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Monday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 94. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Monday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 83. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Tuesday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 94. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

The marine forecast (also courtesy of the NWS):

Synopsis…A WEAK PRESSURE PATTERN WILL PERSIST OVER THE FLORIDA KEYS THROUGH WEDNESDAY. HIGH PRESSURE WILL BEGIN TO BUILD ACROSS THE KEYS ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT…THEN SLOWLY INTENSIFY AND LIFT NORTHWARD ACROSS THE FLORIDA PENINSULA THROUGH THE END OF THE WEEK.

Wednesday And Wednesday Night…Variable winds near 5 knots. Seas 1 to 2 feet. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.
Thursday And Thursday Night…East to southeast winds near 10 knots. Seas 1 to 3 feet. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.
Friday…East to southeast winds increasing to 10 to 15 knots. Seas building to 2 to 4 feet. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.
Saturday And Sunday…East to southeast winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.

The ocean water temperature on the reef line is 85ºF.

General Manager Captain Paul Beal, Director of Program Rob Kolb, Program Director (BEC) Captain Scott Martin, Program Director (Sailing) Captain Rich Beliveau, Food and Conference Director Tim Stanfill, Registrar Nancy Wells, and I (Program Director – Scuba) had a working lunch yesterday at the Islamorada Fishing Club to discuss 2012 attendance and budget.  There is still a lot of work to be done still, but at this point I would increase my guess of the 2012 Florida Sea Base budget from $9 million to $9.5 million.  I sincerely wish we could be more successful in filling our spring (February through April) programs.  Director of Program Rob Kolb is doing what he can.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Capt. George Clements, owner/operator of S/V Silver Crow.  I have bragged on him in previous posts.  He is an honest, sincere, no nonsense sailor with outstanding common sense.  He brought one of his youth participants into the program office yesterday to meet Capt. Rich.  The young man is 17 years old will but turning 18 “on April the 7th”.  Capt. George was very impressed with the young man and following a brief interview, Capt. Rich announced that the young man is the first staff member hired for the 2012 summer season.  Like me, Capt. George has VERY high expectations of the youth that attend the Florida Sea Base.  I have never heard him brag on anyone like he did this young man.

It’s 0455 .  I’ve been at this for about 30 minutes, had a cup of coffee and should be wide awake; but I’m dragging.  I’ll get back to work on the 2012 budget in about an hour.  I will put in my 8 hours by 1300.  Yesterday started out rough in the program office.  Hopefully this morning will be a little smoother.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape

Tropical Storm Bret is moving to the northeast, away from the Bahamas.  The rain in Marsh Harbour subsided yesterday and the winds should diminish greatly today.  There are no reports of injuries or property damage to the Florida Sea Base operations in Marsh Harbour, Abaco Islands, The Bahamas.

All is well locally; divers and diving and the sailors, while not having the best of conditions for sailing (calm winds) are snorkeling and fishing.  [Not enough wind is always better than too much wind.  This weeks Bahama’s crews could testify to that.]  The waters were absolutely flat on the reefs yesterday.  Tuesdays are always busy check-out days for Dr. Ellen as the Wednesday scuba crews prepare to depart tomorrow.  Scuba Commissioner Laura Kuras is off on Tuesdays.

I received a brief email from Dave Ball yesterday.  You can search for Dave Ball on this site to read all of my accolades.  Dave is the lead instructor for the Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy.  I mention him now because he is already on the fifth revision of the 2011 Divemaster Academy.  It’s hard for me to not get caught up in what’s happening at the Florida Sea Base on a day-to-day basis.  But that is technically the Scuba Commissioner’s job.  Like Dave Ball, my focus needs to be several months to two years down the road.  Significant changes have been made to the PADI Divemaster course and I am most fortunate to have Dave Ball working on the scheduling. Dave will be working the last two weeks of this summer season (he is a volunteer and mostly works when we have challenges meeting staffing needs).  I am looking forward to being able to sit with him to discuss the changes for this year’s DMA.

Have a great day.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape

Invest 98L was reclassified as Tropical Storm Bret yesterday.  The system is moving away from us and poses no threat to the Florida Sea Base.  However, the center of this system is very close to our Marsh Harbour, Bahamas operation.  I have not received any reports from the Bahamas base, but from what I can see on the internet they are getting rain and maybe gale force winds.  Marsh Harbour is naturally well protected and this system is moving away from them.

Click to Enlarge

Locally we were spanked by a thunderstorm shortly after 1900 (7:00 pm) yesterday.  As is common, the system was shorted lived.  We had very gusty winds, lightning (never a fun experience while sitting in a sailboat with a 60′ metal rod sticking up from it) and rain.  About 90 minutes later the system had passed us by.  As Tropical Storm Bret moves northwest into the Atlantic, we expect to have dry air fill into our area.

Captain Paul Beal, Captain Rich Beliveau, Captain Scott Martin, Rob Kolb, Captain Keith Douglass, Tim Stanfill and I will be focusing very hard on the 2012 budget for the next few weeks.  Captain Rich, Captain Scott and I also have to keep program running.  Fortunately, we each have capable Commissioners (seasonal staff members) that will be able to handle most of the day-to-day issues.  I don’t have the numbers yet, but the 2012 Florida Sea Base operations budget will likely exceed $9 million.  (There is a separate capital budget for major improvements like dredging, boat purchases, etc.)  Everyone listed above plus our Registrar, Nancy Wells, will meet Tuesday for a long business lunch to review 2012 reservations and forecast additional enrollments and cancellations.  That data will become the basis for our budget.

Today is my son’s birthday.  Aaron is the technical expertise behind this blog.  I love you Kiddo; see you soon.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape 

 

If you click on the LINKS tab and scroll down to the bottom of that page, you will see a link for an informational flyer for the 2011 Divemaster Academy.  THE DATES FOR THE 2011 FLORIDA SEA BASE DIVEMASTER ACADEMY HAVE BEEN CHANGED.  Actually, the dates have been corrected.  Please read the updated flyer for the correct dates.

Invest 98L is located off the east coast of Northern Florida.  One of the computer models shows it may track southwest, but it doesn’t look like it will have much effect on the Florida Sea Base.  We do have a 20 – 30% chance of rain each day for the next week, but that is very common for this time of year.  The reality is that any showers are likely to be in small cells and short lived.  We will continue to be seasonably warm (highs around 90-93), humid (heat indices of 100-105) and gentle breezes (great for snorkeling and scuba but not so great for sailing).

Click on photo to enlarge.

There are 42 days left in the 2011 Florida Sea Base summer program season.  So we will be about two-thirds through the season ten days from now.  Time flies when you’re having fun.

I apologize if I have posted this before, but if you have 4-5 minutes, I find this YouTube video amazing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WK2LpUoqX6A&feature=feedf

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape 

I completed the first of my PADI Instructor Development Course audits yesterday.  Hopefully there will be another next month and hopefully I will be able to attend.  I owe a debt of gratitude to PADI Course Director Bert Hubby for allowing me to audit the course.  I also appreciate store manager Jason Steinke and the staff of the Florida Keys Dive Center for putting up with me for a week.  Thanks also to Scuba Commissioner Laura Kuras and Captain Rich for covering for me while I was auditing this course.

We have a 30% chance of scattered showers through the weekend.  Otherwise, we are expecting it to be hot with mild easterly breezes.  A little system popped up in the Caribbean two days ago but it has dissipated near Guatemala.  Overall, everything is going well.

After spending eight days in a row auditing the IDC and keeping up with phone calls and emails, Escape is a wreck.  I MUST make some time today to straighten up below decks.

I am working on 2012 budget and 2011 Staff Planning Conference topics.  I am requesting two to four hours (I will be lucky to be given two hours) at the Staff Planning Conference to discuss possible changes to the scuba programs and ways to utilize the $1,000,000 swimming pool that will be completed in May of 2013.

It’s 0430 so I am going to try to get a little more sleep.  I hope you have a great weekend.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape 

15Jul

Sad News

in Scuba  •  0 comments

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of two young Scouts who died Wednesday in unrelated events at a BSA summer camp in Utah.  One of the children was scuba diving.  The staff of the Florida Sea Base is reminded daily that we are entrusted with precious cargo, other people’s children.  We strongly enforce a “safety first” policy.  Leaders, parents and Scouts sometimes get very angry with me when they are denied participation in our scuba program.  Even when everything is done perfectly by divers who are in perfect health, tragedy can strike.  We certainly want our participants to have fun; literally the time of their life.  But it is my job to see that the scuba diving activities at the Florida Sea Base are conducted safely and in accordance with all health and safety protocols of the BSA, FSB, PADI, the diving community in general and good old common sense.

The loss of two young Scouts is a sad, sad tragedy.  I wrote a post earlier this summer estimating that Scouts will make about 30,000 scuba dives at the Florida Sea Base this summer.  We are just over half-way through our summer season.  After another 14,000 or so dives I will be able to get some sleep.  In the meantime, I will continue to be “the bear” (an affectionate term, I’m sure, sometimes used by the staff when discussing my lack of tolerance for stupidity).

Please remember the families of these young Scouts in your prayers.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape

14Jul

Grrrreat!

in Weather  •  0 comments

The weather at the Florida Sea Base is GREAT!  The water conditions at the Florida Sea Base are GREAT!  The Florida Sea Base seasonal staff is doing a GREAT job!  The participants at the Florida Sea Base are having a GREAT time!  Being at the Florida Sea Base is just like eating a bowl of Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes.  (I have no idea where that came from.  Sleep deprivation does weird stuff to your brain.)

Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center:

All Quiet.

Courtesy of the National Weather Service:

Thursday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 92. Southeast wind between 5 and 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Thursday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 80. Southeast wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Friday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 92. East wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Friday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 81. East wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Saturday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 92. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Saturday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 80. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Sunday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 91. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Sunday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 81. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Monday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 91. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Monday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 82. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Tuesday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 92. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Tuesday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 81. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Wednesday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 92. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

And the marine forecast, also courtesy of the National Weather Service:

Synopsis…AN ATLANTIC RIDGE OF HIGH PRESSURE WILL EXTEND ACROSS SOUTH FLORIDA THROUGH AT LEAST SATURDAY…RESULTING IN LIGHT TO GENTLE EAST TO SOUTHEAST BREEZES. THIS RIDGE OF HIGH PRESSURE MAY STRENGTHEN A BIT LATE THIS WEEKEND INTO EARLY NEXT WEEK.

THE APPROXIMATE SHOREWARD EDGE OF THE GULF STREAM CURRENT…AS OF JULY 13TH…

41 NM SOUTH OF DRY TORTUGAS LIGHT…ON LOGGERHEAD KEY. 45 NM SOUTH OF COSGROVE SHOAL LIGHT…OFF THE MARQUESAS KEYS. 41 NM SOUTH OF SAND KEY LIGHT…OFF KEY WEST. 24 NM SOUTH OF LOOE KEY…OFF BIG PINE KEY. 12 NM SOUTH OF SOMBRERO KEY LIGHT…OFF MARATHON. 13 NM SOUTHEAST OF ALLIGATOR REEF LIGHT…OFF ISLAMORADA. 12 NM SOUTHEAST OF MOLASSES REEF LIGHT…OFF KEY LARGO. 8 NM EAST OF CARYSFORT REEF LIGHT…OFF OCEAN REEF.

GULF STREAM INFORMATION COURTESY OF THE NAVAL OCEANOGRAPHIC OFFICE.


Thursday…Southeast winds near 10 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. isolated showers.
Thursday Night Through Saturday…East to southeast winds near 10 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.
Sunday And Monday…East to southeast winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.

Remember, they’re only forecasts.  But for now, everything is Grrrreat!!!

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape 

About noon yesterday I received a call from Captain Bert Hubby saying the schedule had changed and I needed to beat feet back to the IDC.  I am headed that way again this morning.  We will wrap this up late Friday.

In yesterday’s post I mentioned an issue with the flashlights used for our night dives.  With assistance from Captain Dennis Wyatt, I took two flashlights and new batteries with me when I went back to Florida Keys Dive Center yesterday afternoon.  The lights were still burning strong after two hours.  That makes me wonder if the dive staff are making some kind of mistake.  I will discuss this with Scuba Commissioner Laura Kuras later today and see if we can get the issue resolved.

Here’s our marine weather forecast from the National Weather Service:

Wednesday Through Thursday…East to southeast winds near 10 knots. seas 2 to 3 feet. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.
Thursday Night And Friday…East to southeast winds near 10 knots. seas 2 to 3 feet. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.
Saturday And Sunday…East to southeast winds near 10 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.

The terrestrial forecast has not changed in several days and there is still nothing in the tropical forecast for the next few days.

That’s it for today.  I am headed to the IDC for pool and classroom training in the morning and open water training in the afternoon.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape

I apologize for not posting earlier this morning.  I did not have to go to the IDC this morning and since I didn’t get a day off this week, I slept in until 0630 and didn’t have time to write anything before the 0730 staff meeting.

Scuba Commissioner Laura Kuras is off today so it was good that I could be here.  I was given two “opportunities” after breakfast.  One was to help my boss address an issue with one of the Schooner Halie and Matthews crews.  The other was presented by Capt. Dennis Wyatt.  On Monday’s night dive, the flashlights reportedly burned out after 25 minutes.  I was told the flashlights had new batteries.  We have been using the same manufacturer and model of dive lights for over 10 years.  We have been using the same manufacturer and supplier of batteries for over 5 years.  This has never been an issue in the past.  I checked with Capt. Scott Martin at the Brinton Environmental Center.  He uses the same lights and batteries from the same sources.  He reported no problems.  I am on Escape now with two flashlights and fresh batteries so I can test them.  Same flashlights, same manufacturer, same model, same brand of batteries, same supplier, same ocean, same dive site, same time of year, same, same, same.  No problems for years; so what’s the problem?  I am going to test the battery voltage before and after use.  Maybe that will tell us something.  If you know the answer, please email me.  I am also going to pull the bulbs to make sure they are the same.  It’s a mystery.

The weather is hot, humid, very few, light showers, mild breezes, no threats of severe weather for the next several days.  The potential for tropical waves, depressions, storms and hurricanes are on a day-by-day basis at this time of year.  Mid July through October is the best chance of severe weather.  September is our worst month historically.

Okay, time to test flashlights and fix breakfast.  I guess you could call it lunch since it’s 1145, but I haven’t had breakfast this morning so I’m going to have breakfast now.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape