Archive for December, 2011

I have worked the past 20 days.  I have doctors’ appointments on 04 January; that will be my next day off.  Then I get to take a long working weekend in Dallas for the Circle 10 Council University of Scouting.  But i will be to spend a few hours with family during that stay.

I am running very late this morning.  I went to bed a little after midnight so I slept in until 0630.

The sailors were out sailing, snorkeling and fishing all day.  The Scuba Adventure crew went to two dive sits yesterday; Eagle Ray and Davis Reef. I haven’t visited Eagle Ray but I understand it to be a deeper, spur and groove type reef with good relief.  Davis Reef is a nice ledge reef, very similar to Alligator Reef.  The Divemaster Academy spent ALL day in the pool, essentially from 0900 to 1700 (5 pm) with a break for lunch.  After dinner the DMA caught up on logbooks, presented dive site briefings to the instructors for score, and received a brief counseling session and their final professionalism scores.

The Coral Reef sailors will return to the Florida Sea Base today to wind down their adventure.  The Scuba Adventure crew will complete two more open water dives.  The DMA candidates will do a deep dive this morning (probably at the Eagle wreck) with a reef dive or two to follow.

Have a great weekend and a safe New Years celebration.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape (and running late)

30Dec

Busy Day

in Staff  •  0 comments

I spent Wednesday on the water with Class 8 of the Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy.  I supervised as Captain Alex Bergstedt, Dave Ball and Rich Goldman led the candidates on their final dive of the PADI Search and Recovery Specialty Diver course at a large patch reef known as Captain Grumpy’s.  We conducted our second dive at Crescent Reef.  We went to the classroom after dinner and talked about equipment.  The candidates submitted their emergency action plans and I brought those to the boat for review.  I didn’t finish, but I gave up around 2300 (11:00 pm).

The Scuba Adventure crew, led by Sargon Smith and Kari Dahlquist, completed two open water divers and most of the Snorkel BSA Award.

The Coral Reef Sailing crews returned to the Florida Sea Base for a day of shore leave.  They went small boat sailing, kayaking and played volleyball.  This morning they will leave the dock for a few more days of sailing on the high seas.

I apologize for being brief.  I am running late and have a killer headache.  Onward through the fog!

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

Our Hero

Earlier I reported that Captain Carol Chapman and Christy Clemenson had repaired the starboard trim tab on BSA Explorer.

I WAS REMISS IN REPORTING THAT CAPTAIN JAMES “DENNIS” WYATT AND CAPTAIN SCOTT COSTA ALSO ASSISTED WITH THE REPAIR.  I appreciate CAPTAIN DENNIS WYATT pointing out my omission.

CAPTAIN DENNIS WYATT is revered for his advanced diesel mechanic skills and it is doubtful that the operation could have been successful without his direction.

Thank you CAPTAIN DENNIS WYATT for your untiring dedication to the youth of America.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape 

M/V Bodacious

M/V Bodacious has returned to the Florida Sea Base harbor.  This is the primary platform that will be used to dredge our harbor and reset some of our aging pilings.  The work is scheduled to begin on 02 January 2012, the day our winter participants depart.  This process has taken more than 17 years to accomplish.

We thought the cold front had stalled to our north Tuesday night.  But we woke up yesterday morning to brisk winds from the NNW and 69º.  It will be cooler tonight and start warming up again tomorrow.

Christy Clemenson was instrumental in making a dockside repair to BSA Explorer’s starboard trim tab yesterday under the direction of Captain Carol Chapman.  Thanks to their hard work, the DMA class was able to move forward with the scheduled program.

The Divemaster candidates completed their exercise in supervising students in continuing education courses yesterday and leading certified divers on a night dive last night.  I supervised a group of four candidates during the night dive.  All did well for their first try.  There were a few counseling points which is expected at this point in their development.

The Scuba Adventure crew completed two dives yesterday and a night dive at Alligator Reef last night.

The Coral Reef Sailing crews will return to the Florida Sea Base today for a day of shore leave.  They will go small boat sailing, kayaking, tubing and play volleyball.

Our forecasted low for this morning is 59º; that is equivalent to freezing here in the Keys.  Fortunately, at 0500 we have bottomed out at 66º.  The wind diminished significantly last night during the night dive.  We are hopeful that it will remain mild today.

DMA being briefed by Capt. Dennis

I hope you are warm, dry and safe.  Make it a great day.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape 

Yesterday morning was warm and sunny but a little breezy at the Florida Sea Base.  The Scuba Liveaboard, Coral Reef Sailing and Sea Exploring crews got underway.  The Scuba Adventure crew (that arrived late the night before) completed their swim reviews and scuba reviews.  The Divemaster Academy candidates loaded up and made way for Alligator Reef for two training dives; mapping and Search and Recovery dive 3.  These were both long dives (Captain Alex Bergstedt logged 76 minutes on the S&R dive) and we returned to the Florida Sea base around 1700 (5 pm).  Shortly after lunch the Scuba Adventure crew rendezvoused with us at Alligator for their first open water dive at the Florida Sea Base.

The DMA candidates returned to the Florida Sea Base shortly before dinner.  After dinner they reconvened at the scuba pools for scored exercises on their ability to lead a PADI Scuba Review.  Not only is this a requirement for the PADI Divemaster certification, it is important because all certified divers attending the Florida Sea Base are lead through a Scuba Review by their Divemaster prior to any open water diving.

One Sea Exploring crew checked in yesterday.  They will be on their way in a couple of hours.  The Scuba Adventure crew will be heading out for two dives, a lunch break and some snorkeling and swimming.  The Divemaster Academy candidates will be headed out for two open water dives.  We will have a night dive this evening.

I am hoping the DMA returns from the day dives in time to take a short nap before the night dive.  This is not likely because we moved dinner up to 1700 (5 pm) so we can get to Alligator Reef before sunset.  But it is going to be much needed by me.  Contrary to the Wind Guru forecast, the winds shifted to the west last night and increased to 20 knots. I was only able to get a few hours sleep.  As I have explained many times, the Florida Sea Base dock is not protected from west winds and the boats at the dock (including Escape) get slapped broadside by the waves.  This makes the boats jek around in their slips and makes sleeping very challenging.

It’s 0358.  I’m going to try to get a little more sleep.  Have a great day.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape 

Three Coral Reef Sailing, one Sea Exploring, one Scuba Liveaboard and one Scuba Adventure crew arrived yesterday at the Florida Sea Base.  Plus the Class 8 of the Divemaster Academy is still in progress.  Busy, busy.

The DMA candidate that had the medical incident was doing well yesterday.  The remaining candidates completed their timed, 100 yard tired diver tow and an exercise called an “equipment exchange” for score yesterday morning.  After lunch, we went to a deep spur and groove site named Victory Reef.  The site was dubbed Victory because the coral wall is in the shape of a V.  We completed dive three (of four) of the PADI Deep Diver Specialty course.  We bottomed out at 91 feet.

After dinner the DMA candidates logged their last three dives.  Dave Ball made a night dive presentation and we looked at the remaining schedule so everyone could review the goals of each exercise in advance.

The Divemaster candidates are scheduled for three dives this morning.  The Coral Reef Sailing crews will be leaving the dock shortly.  The Sea Exploring and Scuba Liveaboard crews will be taken by van to their vessels waiting at non Sea base docks.  The Scuba Adventure crew complete the BSA Swimmers Test this morning and go diving this afternoon.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

 

Christmas Day started out very promising at the Florida Sea Base.  The Divemaster Academy candidates and staff loaded up after breakfast and returned to Pillars of Atlantis for more Search and Recovery dives.  We enjoyed two very successful dives.  The dive site is about 25′ deep and each dive was about 40 minutes with a 30 minute surface interval.  The maximum allowed bottom time for the first dive was 205 minutes (we were down 30 to 40 minutes).  After a 30 minute surface interval, we had an adjusted no decompression limit of 176 minutes (we were down 30 to 40 minutes on this dive as well).  There were no rapid or uncontrolled ascents.  The dives went as planned.  It was breezy and a bit choppy.  Visibility was 20 – 30 feet.

After the dives we ate our sandwiches as Captain Dennis Wyatt drove us back to the Florida Sea Base.  After securing our gear we cleaned up and drove to Duck Key for an early dinner at Tom’s Harbour Restaurant.  During dinner (about 3 hours after our last dive) one of our DMA candidates suffered a serious medical condition.  After hours at Fisherman’s Hospital in Marathon he was transferred to Mariner’s Hospital in Tavernier for a hyperbaric treatment.  The final decision was that the incident was likely not dive related; the candidate was taking some medication for a knee injury and the medicine is the suspected culprit.

The schedule calls for us to stay at base today, but IF (and it is unlikely) we can hurry this herd of turtles along, we MIGHT be able to squeeze in an afternoon dive.  We have a pool skill that everyone has to complete for score.  It is best describe as a problem solving challenge to evaluate how the candidates deal with unexpected problems and to test their skills under stress.  The second skill is the dreaded “inert diver tow”.  The candidate will be in full scuba gear.  Their “victim” will also be in full scuba gear.  The candidate must tow the inert diver 100 yards as quickly as possible.  The highest possible score is 5.  The time allowed to score a 5 is only 2 minutes.  This skill will be done in our harbor with waves and current.  VERY few people earn a 5.

I hope your Christmas was less eventful than ours.  Our diver is expected to make a full recovery.  One Scuba Adventure crew and one Scuba Liveaboard crew arrive today.  There is also a Sea Exploring crew and a few Coral Reef Sailing crews (5 I think but I don’t remember for sure) scheduled to check in today.  In just a few hours we will have the DMA and regular Scout programs underway.  Ho,ho, ho!!!

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape 

FSB T-Dock @ sunset.

It is tough being away from home during the holidays, but this is the only time of year we can make the time for our annual Divemaster Academy.  I sincerely appreciate the dedication of our participants and staff.  Thank you.

Captain Rich and I are continually searching for a new location to move the sailing programs; a large marina with deep water access, good hurricane protection and access to the Atlantic Ocean without bridges.  We can build everything else we need.  When that happens, the original Florida Sea Base property in Islamorada will be dedicated to all non-sailing water sports. The scuba program will be expanded, the Scuba Liveaboard vessels can operate from here, more water sports will be added.  The new swimming pool complex (if built as originally specified) will allow us to venture into National Camp School and PADI Instructor Exam opportunities.  We will also have space to conduct the Divemaster Academy during the summer when it’s generally more convenient for our candidates.  Money may not buy you happiness, but it can make life more fun.

Today the Divemaster Academy staff and candidates are going diving right after breakfast.  This afternoon the DMA candidates will have a late lunch with the Florida Sea Base seasonal staff and a few of the full time staff at Tom’s Harbour Restaurant on Hawk’s Cay.  We MAY take the evening off.

This is my 747th post.  I never expected this to be a (nearly) daily commitment.  Thank you for reading it.  I am obviously not a writer. Thank you for your patience and tolerance.  If you’re new to the blog, use the search bar to look for previous articles of interest.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!  Regardless of your religion, I hope you have a blessed day.  Take a few moments to hug your loved ones.  Please don’t take opportunity for granted.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape 

24Dec

Ups and Downs

in Scuba  •  4 comments

No pun intended, but the 6th day of the 2011 Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy had its ups and downs.  First thing in the morning, before breakfast, one of our candidates unexpectedly withdrew.  He had spoken with his parents the evening before and elected to pack up yesterday and head to the house.  In the morning, Captain Alex, Dave and Rich lead the three DMA teams through some exercises in the pool.  After lunch we did our first dive (93′) at Alligator Deep.  Dave Ball took the afternoon off so I had the honor of diving with the Green Team.  My divers did an excellent job with navigation and showed no signs of narcosis at 93 feet.  Our second dive was at Alligator Reef ball #4.  We had the candidates take turns being the Divemaster leading certified divers on a dive in an unfamiliar location (Discover Local Diving). The Green Team performed very well, each member scoring 4 out of a possible 5 points.  After dinner they returned to the classroom for two lectures and exam #2.  Everyone pasted the written exam.  Now they only have practical exercises in front of them.

Captain Scott Costa and Will Yanni arrived at dinner time.  Sargon Smith called to let me know he was going to arrive today.

I WANT TO APPLAUD DUSTIN SPEED.  Yesterday, in just one day, he was able to fix the front door of the Program Office.  The door has been broken since August and our Ranger staff has been “working on it” for the past four months.  Thank you VERY much Dustin.

Today we hope to get two dives and several rescue scenarios completed.  Yahoo!!!

I hope you have a glorious weekend.  Tomorrow, much of the World will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  I think this is my eleventh year away from my family for Christmas.  Today and tomorrow will be tough.  If you have the privilege of sharing tomorrow with family, please do not take it for granted.  Their are thousands, tens of thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands of soldier, police, fire, EMs, nurses, doctors and others who re working or on call tomorrow.

I empathize with and greatly appreciate the staff who are willing to spend this time at the Florida Sea Base, in service to the youth of America, and away from their families.  Thank you very much.

Captain Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape 

Captain Rich and Captain Carol returned from their travels to Costa Rica yesterday.

“The best laid plans of mice and men……”  That describes day 5 of the Divemaster Academy at the Florida Sea Base.  We were mostly successful with our first dive of the day, a deep dive at the Eagle wreck.  Seas were about 4′, several Divemaster Academy candidates became ill and one aborted the dive.

From there we were planning on moving to Pillars of Atlantis for the Search and Recovery dive but we were concerned that the candidates suffering from gastroenpukulitus would not be able to recover from the rocking & rolling of the boat decided the visibility was still too bad.  So we moved to the bay side of the Keys and moored behind Lignum Vitae Key to evaluate rescue skills.

This is supposed to be a re-test of one specific skill scenario learned in the PADI Rescue Diver course.  Of 18 candidates, Hank Gordon did excellent.  Four others earned barely passing scores.  The remaining 13 were given MULTIPLE opportunities to pass the scenario but were unsuccessful.  We are falling further behind schedule.  I am incredibly disappointed that the candidates were not trained or didn’t retain the training to pass this course component.  We were on the water until 1645 (4:45 pm).

After dinner we returned to class for two lectures and a 60 question exam.  Everyone passes the written exam on their first try.  Yeah!!!!!!!!!!  I think the lowest score was 91 or 92%.  It was a very positive way to end a tough day.

The DMA is scheduled to be in the pool again today.  We are hopeful that the seas will lay down a bit and the visibility will improve so we can have more successful days at sea for the remainder of the Academy.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape