Archive for October, 2011

I received word Sunday that our Facility Director, Captain Keith Douglass’ father passed away.  I think his dad, a resident of Philadelphia, was about 98 and in failing health.  Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with Keith.

I enjoyed a quiet Sunday at Chateau Wyatt.  Capt. Dennis prepared a lovely breakfast.  Afterwards, I spent about two hours studying for my upcoming Emergency First Response Instructor Trainer course.  Dr. Ellen prepared a nice tossed salad with chicken for lunch.  Capt. Dennis and I wrestled with a computer issue he was experiencing and we watched the Pittsburg game with Dr. Ellen.  We went to the Oakwood Smokehouse for dinner.  (My fat doctor would have been proud.  I avoided the BBQ and had blackened mahi instead.)

Based on what I saw on the computer, the Florida Sea Base may have received a little rain yesterday, but nothing of concern.  The wind was generally from the northeast with gusts up to 24 knots.  The high temperature was in the mid 80s.

Captain Rich is still on the road.  He is visiting family in the general Tampa/St. Petersburg area this weekend and working his way back to base.  He said he has had a successful road trip, potentially recruiting three Coral Reef Sailing vessels and maybe a schooner for the Sea Exploring program.  He has more vessels to inspect and more owners to interview before heading back.

Captain Dennis and I are heading out early this morning to go canoeing at Juniper Spings in the Ocala National Forest.  My understanding is it will be about a 7 mile trek, downstream all the way.  I wonder if we can rig a sail to the canoe.  Dr. Ellen has made the trip before and has opted out for today.

Capt. Steve Willis
From Chateau Wyatt

Saturday’s drive from Gulfport, Mississippi to Lady Lake, Florida was only 440 miles, but it seemed to take forever.  I haven’t slept particularly well for the past several nights and about 20 minutes after leaving the hotel I was ready for a nap.  A strong head wind, combined with the hilly terrain of the Florid Panhandle made it very challenging to not over tax the Civic while pulling the trailer.  Gas mileage suffered until I finally turned south onto Interstate 75.  Regardless, I made it safe and sound and had a wonderful evening with Dr. Ellen and Capt. Dennis at their beautiful home, Chateau Wyatt.

Despite the 50-60% chance of rain in the forecast for the Florida Sea Base, here’s what the radar looked like last night.

Click image to enlarge.

There are a few light showers offshore this morning, but no rain on the Keys proper.  The forecast calls for a high chance of rain through Tuesday.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the weather system that was the basis for the movie, “The Perfect Storm” (one of my wife’s all time favorite movies).  I’m not sure if this link will work, but you can try clicking HERE to see a brief video commentary from The Weather Channel.

A friendly reminder that a week from today we will “fall back” to Standard Time.  Make a note now.  I will be at DEMA all next week and I don’t know if I will have time to post next Saturday or if I will remember to remind you again.  (I’m not sure what made me think of it now.)

The Florida Sea Base still has used regulators and BCs for sale.  You can contact Laura at Laura.Kuras@gmail.com or me at Steve.Willis@scouting.org if you are interested in buying a set.  The money is used to off-set the cost of the new gear.  It is priced less than ever before this year.  Yesterday’s post has a link to the sales flyer if you are interested.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Capt. Steve Willis
Humble guest of Chateau Wyatt

I spoke with Laura Kuras at the Florida Sea Base yesterday.  She asked me to remind everyone that we still have used BCs and regulators for sale.  Click HERE to view the 2011 Used Scuba Equipment sales flyer.  I think the flyer says the regulator does not include a compass.  That is not correct.  The gauge console includes a depth gauge, tank pressure gauge and compass.  The 2011 prices were reduced from 2010, a rare event indeed.  This would make an incredible Christmas gift.  The equipment is in very good to excellent condition and the price is unbeatable for name brand equipment.  For faster service, email Laura at Laura.Kuras@gmail.com.

After visiting with my parents for a few more hours yesterday morning, I drove about 340 miles to Gulfport, Mississippi.  The trip was generally uneventful.  However, traffic was moving at about 7 mph (frequently stopped) on Interstate 10 from about 10 miles west of Baton Rogue, Louisiana to 10 miles east of town.  People were behaving like jerks and keeping my composure was challenging at times.  With the wind howling from the north and hitting me broadside, I was expecting dismal fuel milage.  However, with the trailer in tow I averaged better than 34 mpg.  We will see how it goes today.  The hills of the Florida Panhandle are gas mileage killers.

I will work my way to central Florida today.  I have to call Dr. Ellen and Capt. Dennis, but I will either spend a couple of days with them or continue on to Orlando and hold up in a hotel.

Click image to enlarge.

It was a wet day in South Florida, including at the Florida Sea Base, yesterday.  The forecast includes a very high probability of rain through Monday (courtesy of the remnants of Rina).

Saturday: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 79. South wind between 10 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.
Saturday Night: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm before 2am, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 74. North wind between 10 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Sunday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 82. Breezy, with a northeast wind around 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Sunday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 75. Breezy, with a east wind between 15 and 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Monday: A chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 83. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Monday Night: A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy and breezy, with a low around 74. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

I hope you have a great weekend.  Stay warm and dry.

Capt. Steve Willis
From the “hump back” state

 

28Oct

Bye-Bye Rina

in Weather  •  0 comments

The National Weather Service, National Hurricane Center, the Weather Channel and Weather Underground agree that what was Hurricane Rina no longer poses a threat to the Florida Sea Base.  The NWS forecast still calls for some messy weather, but this is not associated with Rina.

Friday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 84. East wind between 10 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Friday Night: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 75. East wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Saturday: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 82. East wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Saturday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy and breezy, with a low around 75. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Sunday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny and breezy, with a high near 82. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Sunday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy and breezy, with a low around 76. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Monday: A chance of showers. Partly sunny and breezy, with a high near 83. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Monday Night: A chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 75. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Tuesday: A chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 83. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Tuesday Night: A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 74. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Wednesday: A chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 82. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

This means that Captain Rich and I no longer have an urgent need to make our way back to the Florida Sea Base.  I will essentially revert to my original plan to work my way from Southeast Texas to Lady Lake, Florida and then to Orlando on Tuesday morning to attend the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association trade show.  My first appointment is at 1400 Tuesday and I have a very hectic schedule through Saturday.  (Captain Dennis Wyatt is going to meet me at DEMA Saturday for a fun filled day!)

My plan for today is to spend the morning with my folks and then drive east, probably to Gulfport, MS.  I am towing a trailer back which is having a significant negative impact on my fuel mileage.  So I will slow down some to see if I can get a little of that back.  With trailer in tow I’m only getting about 30 mpg.  1,200 miles divided by 30 mpg = 40 gallons.  Forty gallons at $3.50 per gallon is $140 in gas.  (When I was in college gas was about $0.25/gallon.  I have paid as little as $0.10/gallon when corner stations would have “gas wars”.  That’s why the call it “the good old days”.  I have been paying $2.999 this past week, but expect the price to be higher along the interstate.

I will try to post something tomorrow morning.

Capt. Steve Willis
Leaving the Mother Country

27Oct

Looking Better

in Weather  •  0 comments

The forecast for Hurricane Rina is looking better for the Florida Sea Base.  Yesterday morning they were expecting Hurricane Rina to intensify to category 3 status.  Instead, the system dropped back to category 1 and became less organized.  There is a lot of talk about the system dying in Western Cuba Saturday or Sunday.  However, there is still some chance of the system visiting the Florida Sea Base as a minimal tropical storm or tropical depression.  They should have a much better handle on this later today or tomorrow.  The key factors include whether Rina stays over water or makes landfall in the Yucatan Peninsula, wind shear, the impact of the cold front that is moving through Texas today, and Rina’s ability to hold herself together.

Click image to enlarge.

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I spoke with Captain Rich briefly yesterday.  He was in Georgia.  He is logging a lot of hours on the highway.  I made the 4.5 hour drive from Dallas/Fort Worth to my parent’s place in Southeast Texas yesterday morning and hammered out several chores before dinner.  I will run some errands in town this morning with my dad and then get back to chores on his 10 acres.  Ten acres is quite a bit for a 79 year old to tend on his own.  But he is in great shape and does a great job of tending to the property and my mom.

Have a great day.

Capt. Steve Willis

Captain Rich is in northern North Carolina walking the docks and looking for Sea Exploring and maybe Scuba Liveaboard size boats (about 60′ and up) for potential charter with the Florida Sea Base.  I am on my way to Southeast Texas to visit my folks one more time as I migrate back towards Florida.

Hurricane Rina is constantly on our minds.  This is a little dated (Tuesday) but here are comments from two hurricane experts.

Dr. Jeff Masters, Weather Underground

This afternoon’s (Tuesday’s) computer model runs continue to be somewhat divided on the likely track for the hurricane, although they seem to be coming into agreement that Rina will struggle to maintain its intensity after the land interaction with the Yucatan, as well as the high shear it will encounter in the coming days. The GFS continues to forecast that Rina will remain intact after a brief brush with the Yucatan before turning northeast and heading toward southern Florida. The HWRF model is also predicting a similar outcome. The ECMWF, on the other hand, is sticking to its forecast that Rina will lose organization once it reaches the Peninsula, and instead providing a heavy rain event for Florida in conjunction with the trough of low pressure that is expected to move through later this week.

Dr. Rick Nabb, The Weather Channel (the emphasis is mine)

Most models forecast Rina to significantly weaken while moving eastward toward Cuba or southern Florida later this week or this weekend, while some forecast it to dissipate over Yucatan; only one model currently forecasts a hurricane to reach southern Florida, and this scenario appears unlikely due to increasing wind shear later this week.

The 0650 EDT “Tropical Update” on the Weather Channel was somewhat good news.  They are still forecasting a potential turn towards Florida with the system diminishing to tropical storm strength.  We will remain optimistic but poised to return to the Florida Sea Base if the conditions warrant.

Click to enlarge.

Locally (in Texas, that is) we are forecasted for RAIN accompanied by cooler temperatures on Thursday.   As everyone knows, all of Texas needs rain.

Capt. Steve Willis
Headed east with a heavy heart

“Timing is everything.”  “Location, location, location.”  I’m in Texas.  Captain Rich is in or on his way to Maryland.  So MAYBE the Florida Sea Base is about to see it’s first hurricane of 2011.  The system that started near Nicaragua as a tropical disturbance designed Invest 96L was upgraded Sunday morning to Tropical Depression 18 and by Monday morning was again upgraded to Tropical Storm Rina.  By late Monday the system was designated Hurricane Rina and this morning the system has attained category 2 status.  What a difference a day can make.

Rina is expected to move slowly for the next several days (hovering over VERY warm water) in the Western Caribbean. This could provide more than enough energy to upgrade Rina to major (category 3 or higher) hurricane status.  The concern is the possibility that once the system gets to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico it may turn east and make a run for Florida.  This is somewhat reminiscent of Hurricane Wilma that spanked the Florida Sea Base as a category 3 storm with a significant storm surge.  Hurricane Wilma was the strongest system to hit the Florida Sea Base since my arrival in 2000.  The good news is all but one model shows the system dying near the Yucatan Peninsula.

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And don’t forget about Invest 97L, still a ways off (near the leeward islands), but doing what it can to intercept and potentially add to the energy in Rina.

Click to enlarge.

I am remaining optimistic that the storm will track as forecasted and NOT pose a major threat to the Florida Sea Base.  However, I am staying in contact with Captain Rich and keeping my plans flexible so I can scream back to the base if necessary.  I will email Captain Beal and Mr. Kolb this morning to reassure them that, while away, Captain Rich and I are monitoring the situation and will do everything to be there to assist with last minute preparations if necessary.

A diver from Houston, Texas was the third person killed this year by a great white shark in Australia.  A kill order has been issued, but is very controversial.  Is one shark responsible for all three deaths?  How will they know if they are about to kill the guilty shark?  If you play you pay.  That may sound harsh, but family members of the deceased diver have been on the news opposing the shark hunt.

Personally I have a very good understanding with all species of shark.  I don’t buy shark skin boots, I don’t have a shark’s tooth necklace, I don’t eat shark fin soap, I don’t knowingly use ANY shark products, I donate money to PADI’s Project AWARE Foundation to help protect sharks.  But the primary stipulation in my Memorandum of Understanding with the shark is, I don’t eat sharks and sharks don’t eat me.  I have never had the opportunity to discuss this face to face with a great white.  But I have had this discussion on a quiet Florida Keys reef with a tiger shark as we met face to face rounding a curve.  It was a little spooky.  We seemed to have startled each other, then made eye contact, continued swimming towards each other on a collision course, and finally passing left shoulder to left fin within arms reach of one another.  I glanced back over my shoulder as we passed (just to be sure), the shark simply maintained course and speed – I was no threat to the 12′ tiger that easily weighed three times as much as me.

I do not mean to make light of a fatality.  I don’t want anyone to get hurt, especially while scuba diving.  However, I’m not convinced that killing a wild animal, in it’s natural environment, doing what it naturally does, is the correct response.  Especially when identification of the shark will come after its demise.  If the first one killed is the wrong one, how many more will be killed?

Anyway, come to the Florida Sea Base for your diving vacation instead of going all the way to Australia.  We have NEVER fed a scuba diver to a shark.  Nor have we ever left a diver/buddy team on the reef (as in the movie “Open Water”).

Capt. Steve Willis
Packing for the return journey

24Oct

The Tropics

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What a mess.  Invest 96L is now Tropical Depression 18 and is temporarily headed west, but threatening to curve north or possibly northeast.  Invest 97L is creeping westward and may intercept, interact, or become influenced by TD-18.  The potential impact for the Florida Sea Base is anyone’s guess at this time.  The best case scenario is for both of the systems to continue west or, better yet, curve north and bring some rain to Texas.  The worst case scenario is they could combine, curve to the northeast and clobber the Florida Keys.  Click HERE for a track forecast.

Since I have no news regarding the Florida Sea Base this morning, I thought I would show Dr. Jeff Master’s Wunderblog from Sunday in full.

Western Caribbean disturbance 96L close to tropical depression status

Published: 11:21 AM EDT on October 23, 2011

A region of disturbed weather in the Western Caribbean (Invest 96L) has become more organized this morning, and is close to tropical depression status. A hurricane hunter aircraft is scheduled to investigate 96L this afternoon at 2 pm EDT to see if a tropical depression has formed. The system is located just offshore from the Nicaragua/Honduras border, and is bringing heavy rains to northeastern Honduras. Visible satellite loops show that 96L is close to having a well-developed surface circulation, but the heavy thunderstorm activity is all on the west side of the center, due to a large region of dry air to the east. Wind shear is a moderate 10 – 20 knots due to strong upper-level winds out of the east, and these winds are injecting dry air into 96L’s east side, keeping any heavy thunderstorms from developing on that side. Water temperatures are very warm, 29 – 30°C, and these warm waters extend to great depth. Figure 1. Morning satellite image of 96L.Forecast for 96L
I expect 96L will be able to organize into a tropical depression later today or on Monday, though this process will be slowed by the dry air to the storm’s east, and perhaps by proximity to the land areas of Nicaragua and Honduras. NHC gave 96L a 60% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Tuesday in their 8 am Tropical Weather Outlook today. Steering currents favor a motion to the west-northwest or northwest, and it is likely that heavy rains from 96L will spread over Belize by Tuesday night, when the storm will probably be called Tropical Storm Rina. Heavy rains from the storm will spread over Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, including Cozumel and Cancun, by Wednesday afternoon. On Wednesday, 96L will be encountering a dry airmass with high wind shear that lies over the extreme northwestern Caribbean. Since 96L is a small storm, these hostile conditions should cause the storm to weaken significantly before any potential landfall occurs.

97L
A broad region of low pressure near 11°N, 55°W, about 300 hundred miles east of the southern Lesser Antilles Islands(Invest 97L), is moving slowly west-northwest towards the Lesser Antilles. This low has very limited heavy thunderstorm activity, due to dry air. NHC is giving 97L just a 10% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Tuesday. 97L is under a moderate 10 – 20 knots of wind shear, and this shear is expected to drop to the low range, less than 10 knots, by Monday, when the storm will be in the Eastern Caribbean Sea. By the time 97L approaches Jamaica in the Central Caribbean on Friday, the storm should find a moister environment, and could develop into a tropical depression then, as predicted by the NOGAPS model.

Jeff Masters

Have a great Monday.

Capt. Steve Willis
Watching the weather and scratching my head

23Oct

96L Waivering

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The signs are ambiguous.  Friday there were concerns that Invest 96L would develop by the end of this coming week and possibly threaten the Florida Sea Base with some dicey weather.  Saturday’s reports were better, indicating less likelihood for development.

Forecast for 96L
The moderate wind shear and warm waters should allow for some development of 96L over the next few days, though this will be slowed by the dry air to the storm’s east, and perhaps by proximity to the land areas of Nicaragua and Honduras. The models are less enthusiastic today about developing 96L into a tropical depression than they were yesterday. The ECMWF no longer predicts development, and the GFS and NOGAPS predict only weak development before 96L moves ashore over Honduras on Tuesday. On Wednesday, a strong trough of low pressure will be passing over the Eastern U.S., and this trough has the potential to turn 96L northwards into Western Cuba. This is more likely to happen if 96L is stronger and deeper, and thus able to “feel” the upper-level winds the trough will bring. The UKMET model predicts 96L will develop into a tropical storm that moves through the Yucatan Channel between Cuba and Mexico on Thursday. If 96L remains a weak and shallow system, though, it is more likely to stay trapped in the Western Caribbean and make landfall in Nicaragua or Honduras. NHC gave 96L a 60% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Monday in their 8 am Tropical Weather Outlook today. The hurricane hunter mission scheduled for today was cancelled due to the lack of development of 96L; the mission has been re-scheduled for Sunday afternoon.  (Submitted by Dr. Jeff Masters on Saturday).

Wow, the Texas Rangers baseball franchise took a BEATING last night.  I don’t consider myself to be a “fan” on any professional sport.  I lost 99.9% of my interest in professional sports with the advent of “free agency”.  Regardless, congratulations to the St. Louis fans on last night’s tromping of the Rangers.  For the Ranger fans, I realize it’s not over until the third out of game seven.  MAYBE the Rangers will find a way to pull it together tonight.  (I wonder how many millions of dollars were paid to Rangers players for last night’s game alone.)

We had a front bring rain through the D/FW metroplex around 0200.  I haven’t look to see how much rain, but ALL precipitation is welcomed to our drought burdened area.  The system has cleared out of the metroplex and is bringing a little relief to my parent’s part of the State this morning.

Captain Rich is on his way to Annapolis to inspect a vessel for possible acceptance into one the Florida Sea Base sailing programs.  I will spend most of the coming week in Texas, then drive to the Wyatt’s home in Lady Lake, Florida for a day or two and then spend a week in Orlando, Florida at the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association trade show.  That means Rob Kolb is now the on-site director for all scuba and sailing programs.

Have a great day.

Capt. Steve Willis
Studying for my ERF Instructor Trainer course

 

Good Saturday morning.  I hope you have an enjoyable week-end planned.  I’m going to spend some time with my son today and my wife tomorrow.  Sue and I may be able to visit with my son’s wife and the grandbaby tomorrow.  They have been on a road trip to Lubbock, Texas so we will have to see what their energy level is like.  Plus Sue is still weak from her former stomach flu.  (Me too actually, but I am about 2 days more recovered than Sue.)

On Friday, Laura Kuras and Christy Clemenson worked with Rescue Diver students Kyle Moran and Michael Runowich at the Florida Sea Base.  Captain Rich called me around lunch time Friday.  He is planning on a long road trip starting Monday.  He will be driving around the USA looking for schooners and sailboats for the Florida Sea Base sailing programs.

I could have missed something, but all I saw on the Key West and Miami radars yesterday was blue skies.  It was cool (high in the low to mid 70s) and breezy.  The wind is going to continue at 15 knots from the N or NE for the next several days.  The temperatures will creep back into the 80s and the chance of light showers will increase.  Tropical disturbance Invest 96L is churning near Nicaragua and may effect the Florida Sea Base next week.  Dr. Masters made this post yesterday (emphasis is mine):

Forecast for 96L
The moderate wind shear and warm waters should allow some modest development of 96L over the next few days, though this will be slowed by the dry air to the storm’s east. The models are quite enthusiastic about developing 96L into a tropical depression, and our top four reliable models for forecasting genesis–the ECMWF, GFS, UKMET, and NOGAPS–have all been predicting formation of a tropical depression by Monday in one or more of their runs over the past day. 96L is in an area of weak steering currents, and will move little over the next three days. On Tuesday and Wednesday, a strong trough of low pressure will be passing over the Eastern U.S., and this trough has the potential to turn 96L northwards into Cuba. This is more likely to happen if 96L is stronger and deeper, and thus able to “feel” the upper-level winds the trough will bring. The 12Z run of the GFS model and 00Z runs of the ECMWF and UKMET models predict 96L will develop into a tropical storm that hits Western Cuba on Wednesday or Thursday, and potentially affecting the Cayman Islands, South Florida, and the Bahamas as well. If 96L remains a weak and shallow system, it is more likely to stay trapped in the Western Caribbean and make landfall in Nicaragua. This is the solution of the NOGAPS model, which has 96L moving ashore on Tuesday over Nicaragua as a weak system. NHC gave 96L a 30% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Sunday in their 8 am Tropical Weather Outlook. A hurricane hunter mission is scheduled to investigate 96L Saturday afternoon.

I believe the Hurricane Hunters are scheduled to fly into 96L this morning.  If so, Dr. Masters will likely post an update sometime this afternoon that MAY give us a better idea of the forecast for this system.

I am going to take tomorrow morning off, maybe Monday morning too.  If anything of consequence happens I will let you know when I know.

Stay safe.

Capt. Steve
Winding things down in the metroplex

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