Archive for September, 2011

Never count your chickens before they’re hatched.  BUT…I have been lead to believe that the Florida Sea Base has finally received final approval from the Village of Islamorada to dredge the harbor.  (It’s only taken 18 years, over $250,000 in “mitigation” fees, and thousands more to lawyers.)  Work should begin very soon (but about a month behind schedule) on dredging and reorganizing our harbor.

Today is the final day of this round of the PADI IDC audit.  (Yeah!!!)  Course Director Bert Hubby decided to start late today so I am going to have a couple of hours to try to get a couple of days’ work knocked out.

It looks like we have no threat of major weather for the next week or two according to Dr. Jeff Masters’ Wunderblog:

By Dr. Jeff Masters

Published: 9:51 AM EDT on September 29, 2011
Tropical Storm Ophelia is strengthening as it pulls away from the Lesser Antilles Islands and heads north-northwest. Recent satellite loops show that Ophelia has developed a Central Dense Overcast (CDO) of high cirrus clouds over its core, which is characteristic of strengthening tropical storms that are nearing hurricane intensity. Dry air and moderate wind shear of 15 – 20 knots are slowing down Ophelia’s intensification, but by Friday morning, wind shear is expected to fall to 10 – 15 knots, and remain below 15 knots through Sunday morning. This should allow Ophelia to intensify into a hurricane on Friday. Most of the models agree that Ophelia will track far enough to the east of Bermuda that the island should see sustained winds below 45 mph, since it will be on the weak (left) side of the storm. We can’t rule out the possibility that Bermuda will receive hurricane force winds yet, but the odds are low–the 5 am wind probability forecast from NHC gave Bermuda just a 3% chance of receiving hurricane force winds. Ophelia’s closest approach to the island will be late Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Ophelia is likely to bring high winds and heavy rains to Southeast Newfoundland Sunday night, as a weakening tropical storm.In the middle Atlantic, Tropical Storm Philippe is headed west-northwest, and is not expected to trouble any land areas.  Satellite loops show Philippe is a small system with little heavy thunderstorm activity. Wind shear is expected to diminish some today over the storm, which should allow the storm to intensify. However, by Saturday, Philippe will be encountering very high wind shear of 30 – 40 knots associated with the upper-level outflow from Ophelia. This shear will probably be high enough to destroy Philippe by Monday. In the event Philippe does survive the shear, the storm could penetrate far enough west that Bermuda might need to be concerned with it.Elsewhere in the Atlantic, none of the computer models is calling for a new tropical storm to form in the coming seven days. The large-scale environment over the Atlantic currently favors sinking air, due to the current phase of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). This situation will likely last well into next week, and will discourage formation of new tropical storms. The MJO is a 30-60 day cycle of thunderstorm activity that affects the tropics.

Year-end spending is going well.  Capt. Rich and I have spent about $70,000 this week.  High Adventure does not come cheap.

That’s all the time I have this morning.  Enjoy your day.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape 

Tropical Storm Ophelia is continuing on a northward course and is forecasted to be in the far North Atlantic by Monday.

Click on image to enlarge.

Tropical Storm Phillippe on the other hand is making a hard turn to port (the west) and is now forecasted to move in the general direction of the Florida Sea Base.  The good news is there may be enough wind shear to cause Phillippe to dissipate long before arriving in our immediate vicinity.

Click to image to enlarge.

The Emergency First Response Instructor training was the focus at the IDC yesterday.  EFR is a first aid, CPR, AED training company owned by PADI.  EFR Instructor certification is a prerequisite for PADI Instructors to be in teaching status.

Today we will spend the morning in the swimming pool and the afternoon back in the classroom.  I REALLY hope we get through a little early.  I am hoping to leave for Texas by noon Saturday but I have a lot to get done first.  Just a few hours to work on some of those projects would be very helpful.  But the worst case scenario will be that I get out of here on Sunday.  I can still meet my obligation to deliver my truck to my dad and still make the BSA Aquatics Task Force meeting.

As always, what needs to be done will be.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape 

Some of the PADI Divemaster Crew Packs and supplemental training materials went out yesterday, with more trickling out daily.  With most of the candidates being college students, one of the issues is to insure that UPS will deliver to their college address.  Laura Kuras and Kyle Moran are handling the shipping on my behalf and I certainly appeciate their assistance.  More information about the 2011 Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy can be found by clicking on the LINKS page of this website and scrolling to the bottom.

Today I’m headed back to the IDC audit.  We will wrap this up on Friday.  If all goes well I will leave here sometime Saturday (Sunday at the latest) driving my GMC truck with the Honda Civic in tow.  [Capt. Dennis, if you are reading this, I may need a place to stay Saturday or Sunday night, but only if you allow me to take you and Dr. Ellen to dinner.]  The plan is to drop the GMC at my parents’ place for my dad to use and then I will drive on to Dallas in the Civic for the BSA Aquatics Task Force meeting being held the following weekend.  I will stay in Texas for a few weeks bouncing back and forth from the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex to rural southeast Texas to do chores for my parents.  It is a 5 hour drive each way so I will be planning my travels carefully.  I may also make a side trip to Houston to inspect a schooner that has expressed interest in our Sea Exploring program.  Capt. Rich said he may fly in to Houston for the inspection as well.  When I leave Texas,I may stop in Louisiana to talk with Newton Custom Boats and then proceed to Orlando for a week at the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association show.

Ophelia is back as a Tropical Depression but is forecasted to go north rather than west and therefore should not pose a threat to the Florida Sea Base or Bahamas.

Click on image to enlarge.

Locally we continue to have a 30% chance of showers daily with lows around 80 and highs around 85 for the remainder of our forecast period.

Have a great day.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape 


The Wall

Monday was another quiet day at the Florida Sea Base.  Due to my participation in the IDC audit, I have not crossed paths with our Food and Conference Director, Tim Stanfill.  But I feel certain he is working hard on preparations for our fall conference season which will start in about a week.  He is also searching for a full time Galley Manager.  If you know anyone who might be interested in the Galley Manager position, they can call Tim at 305-664-5628 for more information.

During the orientation for each of the Instructor Development Courses, the Course Director, Capt. Bert Hubby, explains to the candidates that somewhere around Monday or Tuesday they are likely to “hit the wall” with the overload of information that is being thrown at them.  We saw a little of that yesterday.  In the open water, a couple of the candidates failed to identify the (staged) problem that their (pretend) students were having.  This caused them to earn low scores on their evaluations.  But they learned some good lessons and won’t repeat those mistakes.  After two ocean dives we moved to the pool.  It had rained the day before and was raining (but not lightning) much of the time we were in the pool.  This drastically reduced the pool temperature (it is an unheated, outdoor pool and you know how cool the rain can be) and everyone was uncomfortable.  This helped to break their concentration and – while everyone received passing scores at the pool – everyone did not ace everything like they had the day before.  Once we got to the classroom (around 1630) and everyone warmed up, the presentations improved with near perfect scores.

We finished at the IDC around 1820 yesterday.  I stopped at Treasure Harbor Marina on my way back to the Florida Sea Base.  Captains Mike Lucivero and Kelly Stickney are making final preparations before heading to the Bahamas for the next five months.  Capt. Guiseppe Passanisi was there as well andSailing Program Director Capt. Rich Beliveau and Captain Bruce Payette (S/V Barefoot) stopped by shortly after I arrived.

Monday’s weather forecast called for a break in the rainy conditions starting tomorrow.  However, today’s forecast is calling for a 30% chance of rain each day for the coming week.  Being mindful of the horrible drought conditions back home in Texas, it seems inappropriate to complain about rain.  I just wish it was raining there and not here.  They need desperately, we’re doing okay.  We have some chores we need to accomplish and the rain is making life more challenging.  On the upside, a little rain is much better than a hurricane. 🙂

Speaking of tropical weather, the remnants of Ophelia are expected to reform in the next two days.  The National Hurricane Center is forecasting a 70% of redevelopment within the next 48 hours.

Click on image to enlarge.

Hurricane Hilary has made a hard turn to the north, but should begin to become less intense and probably won’t bring any rain to Texas.

Click on image to enlarge.

I am going to meet briefly with General Manager Capt. Paul Beal this morning to talk about year end spending issues.  I also need to check in with Nancy Wells who has some paperwork for me to complete so the BSA can get a refund on travel fees that were paid for me to attend the Staff Planning Conference.  (You may recall I missed the conference due to a death in the family.)  Then I’m headed to Miami for an EMG.  If I get back in time I will stop by the IDC to see how they’re doing.

Be safe.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape 



Long Day

Sunday was a quiet day at the Florida Sea Base but a long day at the IDC.  I left the Florida Sea Base just before 0700.  We had a briefing in the classroom at 0800 and then relocated to the swimming pool a couple of blocks day the street.  After two and a half hours in the pool we hustled back to the dive shop and loaded gear aboard the boat.  We then completed two open water training sessions and returned to the dive shop around 1600.  We quickly rinsed our dive gear and moved into the classroom where the instructor candidates made classroom presentations.  Everyone did extremely well; each scored 4.7 out of a possible 5.0 on their presentations.  Today we are going out on the boat first, then going to the pool and ending in the classroom.

We finished in the classroom around 1815.  Shortly before 1900 I meet with Kyle Moran at the Florida Sea Base and gave him instructions on how to begin preparations for shipping the Divemaster Academy training materials.

Former Tropical Storm Ophelia has fallen apart and Tropical Storm Phillipe is no threat to the Florida Sea Base or the United States.  Locally, we had a light rain for a while  yesterday evening, but nothing severe.  The wind clocked to the west for a while and made for a bouncy ride at the dock aboard Escape.  A significant chance of showers is in the forecast through Tuesday night.

That’s it for now.  I’m headed back to the IDC audit.  I hope you have an excellent Monday.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape

I don’t want to jinx it, but I think the a/c systems aboard Escape are back online.  Bert Hubby was kind enough to excuse me from the IDC activities yesterday afternoon and I think I was successful in cleaning both a/c systems enough for them to run for a while.  I still have one small issue with the aft a/c unit; now it won’t cycle off.  That’s a thermostat malfunction that has occurred before and it will take some tweaking to get it working properly again.

I spent yesterday morning scoring classroom presentations made by the IDC candidates.  Everyone did VERY well, one even earned a perfect score.  I’m headed back to the IDC shortly.  Today should be very busy with classroom, confined water (pool) and open water training presentations and evaluations.

It seems to be a very quiet weekend around the Florida Sea Base.  It’s still hot and humid and we had about 2 minutes of rain yesterday afternoon.  Tropical Storm Ophelia and Tropical Storm Phillippe are no threat to the Florida Sea Base or Bahamas.

Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.

We were hopeful early on that Hurricane Hilary (in the Pacific) might bring some rain to Texas.  That now appears unlikely according to Dr. Jeff Masters:

Powerful Hurricane Hilary remains at Category 4 strength 
In the Eastern Pacific, Hurricane Hilary remains an impressive Category 4 hurricane with 140 mph winds. Hilary is headed west, away from Mexico, and the storm is small enough that its outer bands are not causing flooding problems for Mexico. A trough of low pressure expected to move over the Western U.S. by the middle of the week may be strong enough to turn Hilary to the north, eventually bringing Hilary to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. The timing of this event is highly uncertain, though. Hilary is small enough that it is unlikely to bring significant drought relief to Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas if the storm’s remnants move north into those states. Hilary is the fourth Category 4 hurricane in the Eastern Pacific this year, and the second strongest, behind Hurricane Dora, which had 155 mph winds.

One of my personal sayings around the Florida Sea Base is, “Never say never”.  With that in mind, I THINK we have completed the 2012 budget.  General Manager Captain Paul Beal was reportedly observed to “the happy dance” Friday afternoon.   I am taking that as a sign.

I am going to meet with Laura and/or Kyle this evening after the IDC and get them started on sending out the Divemaster Academy training materials to the people that have meet all of the PADI mandated prerequisites.  I promise I will get some emails out in the next few days to those of you who have been accepted explaining the PADI Divemaster eLearning program and how that is going to work.  If you have applied for the DMA but are working towards satisfying the prerequisites, I cannot get you signed up for the eLearning until you meet those requirements.  Please hustle, or you may miss the boat.  The eLearning component MUST be completed in its entirety before the candidates arrive for the DMA.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape 

Yesterday was okay, but I have had better days.  It started out nice.  I got to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic while driving to the PADI Instructor Development Course audit.  And it almost ended nice, watching the sun set into the Gulf of Mexico while driving home.  But there were a few hick-ups.

Early in the IDC I realized that my flash drive (with all of my PADI training materials on it) had crashed.  I had the data backed-up, but I had may several changes since my last back-up.  But at least I didn’t loose everything.

I tried to reschedule an appointment with my cardiologist (just a routine follow-up) but the next available appointment was after I have to return to Texas.  Now it will have to wait until November.

When I got to the boat last night both air conditioners were off and it was 95 degrees inside.  I reset the filter monitor on the forward unit and cleaned the strainer for the incoming water flow and both units resumed operation.  Then I realized I had left the power cord to my laptop at the Florida Keys Dive Center.  (It’s a good thing that laptops run on batteries.)

With the air conditioners running and the boat cooling down all was well and I laid down around 2300.  But all was not well.  At 0300 this morning I woke up and the temperature in the aft cabin was 82 and I could tell that the a/c was not working; it turned out that the circuit breaker had tripped.  I checked the air intake filter.  It was dusty but not bad but I removed and cleaned it anyway.  Then I crawled into the engine compartment.  The raw water strainer appeared okay.  There is a siphon valve in the engine room so I opened it and water gravity fed through the line as it should.  I turned on the a/c unit and the pump seemed fine.  But after a minute or two the unit overheated and threw the breaker again.  I rechecked everything in the engine compartment and all seemed well there.  That leaves three primary suspects: (1) the coil that the water flows through to cool the a/c unit is gunked up with slim so the heat is not being carried away, or (2) the discharge line between the a/c and the hull is clogged, or (3) both.  Cleaning the coil and discharge line is a challenging and time consuming process.  It will have to wait until this evening.

Some of you may be wondering, “Hey Steve, what about the forward a/c?”  At this moment, I’m not sure.  I have a small household, window type a/c unit in the salon that supplements the marine system.  The window unit is holding the salon at 80 degrees so the marine unit is not cycling on.  Or at least I hope that’s why it’s not cycling on.

To top it off, I got back late so I didn’t get anything done in the office so tonight I will have twice as much to catch up with.  But working on the a/c will have to come first so I’ll be even further behind on Sunday.  There are no days off from the IDC until it concludes on Friday (except I have to mis Tuesday to drive to Miami for an EMC test).  Such is the price of living in paradise.

We are having hot, humid, overcast (I know, hot and overcast don’t usually go together) weather locally.  The “feels like” temperature at 0415 is 87 degrees outside and in my sleeping quarters.  Tropical Storm Ophelia is going to stay in the Atlantic and should have very little effect on the Florida Sea Base.  Invest 90L is south of Cape Verde but will not be of threat.

Click image to enlarge.

Click on Image to Enlarge.

I hope to get some emails out to the Divemaster Academy candidates this week so they can start studying.  I will have Laura and Kyle mail training materials to the applicants that have been accepted as candidates early next week.  Applications are still coming in and are still being reviewed, but I need to give those who have been selected the opportunity to start their studies.  Dave Ball, assisted by Rich Goldman, are working hard on a revised schedule.  I think Dave is working on version 7 or 8 not.  I have not made time to review the latest version Dave sent to me but MAYBE I can peak at it during class today.

A final few words.  I guess it’s just going to be a challenging few days.  I was wrong about the forward a/c.  While I was working on the above few paragraphs the salon temperature crept up to 82, the unit turned on, but only for a few moments and cycled back off.  So now only the little window unit is running and it was running yesterday when the inside temperature got up to 95.  Essentially I am without a/c until I get this figured out.  I may be sleeping in the dorm tonight.  I may have to miss a day or partial day of the IDC to get this resolved.  I may need to dive under the boat to check for an obstruction on the raw water intake.  It seems to be flowing well from inside, and I have done what I can to clean the line from inside the boat.  A mystery.  The common link between the two a/c units is the raw water intake.  But is that  really the culprit or is it just coincidence that both units have developed separate issues at the same time?

I apologize for whining so much.  I will let you know what was wrong after I get this resolved.  Back to the IDC audit this morning; another long day.  We are scheduled to be working in the classroom and pool today.  I have about an hour before I have to get up so I’m going to work on the a/c while I have the time.  It’s too warm to sleep anyway.  (But that’s certainly better than being too cold!)

Enjoy your weekend.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape 

We had brief, spotty rain showers yesterday.  When I got up at 0500 yesterday (the last official day of summer), the “feels like” temperature was 93 degrees.  That was the LOW temperature.  Today is the first day of fall and we are starting out at “feels like” 93 degrees again this morning.  This is NOT meant as a complaint.  Florida is forecasted to be cooler than normal this winter.  Is anyone out there interested in donation $100,000,000 so we can open a BSA High Adventure facility somewhere closer to the equator?  I guess I am going to have to bite the bullet and actually buy a new heater for the aft cabin before winter arrives.  I about froze by caboose trying to sleep back there last winter.

Invest 99L has dissipated and a new wave has rolled off the coast of Africa.  It has some potential, but for now we only have Tropical Storm Ophelia to monitor.  She is turning north faster than expected.  That is good news for everyone except Bermuda.

Click on image to enlarge.

I got up at 0500 yesterday and was on the road by 0540 for the drive to the mainland.  I was third in line at LabCorp for a series of blood tests.  I was stabbed six times and lost count of the vials of blood drawn, but I think it was 22 over a two hour period.  It seems that being a doctor is sometimes be like being a cop.  Eliminate as many suspects as possible and focus on whatever’s left over.  Two MRIs, a billion blood screens and an EMG on Tuesday.  I’m glad I’m not sick.

I returned to the Florida Sea Base (with both arms looking like they belonged to a junkie) around noon.  Shortly after 1300 Capt. Rich and I started on the seasonalization of our 2012 budget.  This is a very scientific process.  First we look at the seasonalization from 2 years ago as a template.  If our budget for a particular account has gone up 1.365847 times, we multiply each monthly amount by that factor.  Generally that works.  But sometimes it doesn’t.  Let’s say for example that we have an account that, after seasonalization, differs from our annual account total by $23,456.  We look in the monthly breakdown for a “seasonalized” amount of say $224,987.  Since there is a 2 in the ten-thousands column we change that to a zero.  Then we look in the monthly sub-totals for a month that has a 3 in the thousands column and change that to a zero and so forth until the monthly seasonalization equals the annual total.  Yes, it is as confusing at it sounds.  It is a tad more scientific than throwing darts (which we are not allowed to play with in the office).  But you can’t argue with success.

This morning I am on my way to Florida Keys Dive Center to start round 3 of the Instructor Development Course audits.  Class on Friday.  Class and pool on Saturday.  Class, pool and open water on Sunday, and more of the same through next Friday.  Busy, busy.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape 

I met with the owner and salesman at Newton Custom Boats on Tuesday morning as planned.  We did not get our differences resolved.  More negotiations will ensue.  The costs of everything has gone up, a fact that I can appreciate very much.  But our resources for acquiring this new boat have not.  The Newton 46′ Dive Special (we own three) has increased in list price from around $275,000 to about $366,500.  We can’t spend money we don’t have.  Fortunately we are currently in the market for a Newton 36, not 46, so the cost is a bit cheaper, but we still have a big gap to close.

From Slidell, Louisiana I drove to Lady Lake, Florida and arrived at Capt. Dennis’ and Dr. Ellen’s house around 2045.  I was meet by a nearly impenetrable mass of chizzywinks.  (Click on the word for an explanation.)  The chizzywinks started about a half mile before I got to the house.  The Wyatts came out to the driveway and encouraged me to hurry into the house.  Once inside, I was greeted to a (one day early) birthday cake.  We talked and laughed until it really was my birthday and went to bed around 0030.

I woke up at 0500 Wednesday morning, dressed, loaded up (the chizzywinks were gone), and headed south.  I cruised into the Florida Sea Base around 1315, unpacked, checked the boat systems to insure all was well, and took a short break before going into the office.

Invest 98L is now Tropical Storm Ophelia and may stay to our east.

Click image to enlarge.

Invest 99L is closer, but less organized and the computer models are very unsure of it’s track.

Click image to enlarge.

The rumor is that the BSA National Office has it’s budget software and rules changes ironed out.  Capt. Rich and I hope to complete all of the necessary changes to our 2012 budget by the end of the day.  We would have had this completed a couple of weeks ago if HQ had not made several major last minute changes.  Go Team!!!

I have to be on the mainland for an 0700 appointment for some weird blood tests so I’ve got to get going.  I hope you have a great day.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape 

I left the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex at about 0800 yesterday morning and drove about four and a half hours to Southeast Texas to visit my mom and dad for just a few hours.  Then I pressed on to Slidell, Louisiana (far eastern La, about 20 miles north of New Orleans) to spend the night.  I checked in around 2130.

Slidell is the home of Newton Custom Boats; they build the Newton 46′ Dive Specials that the Florida Sea Base uses in the Scuba Adventure program.  We own three of those.  I am meeting with the company owner, Larry Newton, this morning to begin negotiations on the purchase of a Newton 36′ Dive Special to use in the Scuba Certification program starting summer 2012.

Once I finish here, I hope to press on to Lady Lake, Florida to spend the night as a guest of Capt. Dennis and Dr. Ellen Wyatt.  The main issue will be how soon I can get on the highway and what time I might arrive in Lady Lake.  With the time change from Central to Eastern time, it will take me about 11 clock hours to make the drive.  I spoke with Capt. Dennis yesterday evening and the plan is for me to call him as soon as I am on the highway and decide if my arrival time is too late.  The Weather Underground forecast calls for rain the entire way so that may slow me down.  However, the forecast also called for rain on my route yesterday and I never saw a drop.

Speaking of weather, Invest 97L has disappeared.  Invest 98L is still headed generally towards the Florida Sea Base and now Invest 99L is also on the chart heading in the same general direction.

Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.

Have a great day.  It is VERY unlikely that I will make a post tomorrow morning, but I will probably have time to post Thursday morning.

Capt. Steve Willis
At the Home of Newton Boats