Archive for January, 2012

Captain Steve is on a road trip to the “Mother Country” as the great state of Texas is referred to around here. I had the privilege of driving through it once and I didn’t leave anything there so I shouldn’t have to go back. I’ll do my best to render the happenings of the Florida Sea Base.

Today Captain Drew Mead and I repaired our kayak trailer. It literally fell apart 3 weeks ago when we were bringing the Kayaks around back. We spent the day cutting, grinding and welding using our best OSHA work practices (keys version) flip flops and shorts. Captain Drew is a fast study and I had him welding in no time. He learned to use a cutting torch, stick welder and to grind without losing body parts. I only caught myself on fire once and the ground around us 5 or 6 times. We’re trying to help the ranger staff by burning all the grass down so they wouldn’t have to mow.

Dave from Upper Keys Construction was hard at it again. They hauled off 8 dump truck loads of goo. He says he’s on schedule and has never let us down. The electricians and plumbers were out as well getting ready to pull permits for the new sea wall. Dave whispered in my ear to make sure we had everything ready to go so we didn’t have any hiccups. Not that it’s ever happened around here. Upper Keys is a top notch company and Dave’s word is golden. The Florida Keys is almost a third world country when it comes to services. I once saw a logo on a local electrician’s truck being their highlight as “We Show Up”. It seems pretty pathetic if you ask me. Not that they do great work or anything. They try to push the envelope of “on keys time”.

Admiral Dan McCarthy, one of our committee members was hired to run the new BSA Facility called the Summit. They are planning the next Jamboree there. He will be missed here at the Sea Base. Anytime I have Navy or Coast Guard here life has better meaning. Capt. Beal and Mr. Kolb are ex Army guys and give me a hard time about being ex Navy. The tides turn when Admirals Wurster and McCarthy come in for a visit. I wished him luck being land locked. I know most sailors HATE that feeling.

The PM1 conference is going well. Everyone seems happy. I talked to a few of them today. I think they were a little scared of me with my freshly charred skin and shirt.

The Miami Counsel came and got our old Hunter 14 sailboats. When we first started the shore leave day they were part of the program. We’ve since moved to bigger and faster sailboats. They seemed happy with the score.

Other than that all is well. We’re getting ready for our Spring Season to start. I’ve secured dockage for the big boats in Key West and Marathon.

Be safe,
Captain Rich

I picked up my son, Aaron, at Tampa International Airport yesterday.  Today we are going to the Homosassas Springs Wildlife State Park.  We woke to 46º, clear skies, and dead calm winds.  The forecasted high is 76º.  Tomorrow morning we are going snorkeling with manatees in the wild.  We have to check in at 0615 (apparently manatees are early risers and take siesta during the afternoon) so I will not post on Wednesday.  I may not post on Thursday either. Aaron and I plan to hit the highway as soon as our manatee encounter concludes and drive straight to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex; about a 20 hour drive).  If I’m still kicking, I will post Friday.

The Florida Sea Base is hosting a session of PM-1, People Management Level 1, this week.  The weather is forecasted to be warm (upper 70s) and windy with a slight chance of showers; not bad for February.

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


It’s a fairly yucky morning at the Florida Sea Base; heavy overcast, 73º, and winds from the NE at 30 knots.

I will be on the road very soon; first stop, Tampa International Airport.  In general, I am working my way from the Florida Sea Base to the BSA National Committee meetings in Dallas. This should be a memorable trip because I get to spend about 2 and a half days with my son; a very rare treat!

Richard Goldman returned home yesterday but hopes to be back next weekend to continue the scuba training with staff members.

I spent the day packing and tying up loose ends.  There was no dredging yesterday. 🙁  The conference schedule is very busy starting tomorrow.  There will be no breaks prior to the beginning of the spring program season.

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



We had a 40-50% chance of rain yesterday.  There were some light scattered showers on the mainland and a decent line of showers over the Gulf Stream but no precipitation at the Florida Sea Base.

Click to enlarge.

Richard Goldman was in the pool from about 0900 to about 1630 (4:30 pm) working with staff members working on their PADI Open Water Diver certification course.  Richard allowed me to help a little with out-of-the-pool issues like swim checks, issuing gear, and running a few errands.  He is determined to carry the burden of this offering.  He was kind enough to join me for dinner across the highway at Habanos Oceanfront Dining.

The dredger showed up for 2 or 3 hours yesterday and then bugged out.  Some people just can’t grasp our urgency.  If Captain Rich Beliveau and I were assigned the task we would be out there 24 hours a day getting it done.  I wonder if we can talk the guy into teaching us how to use the equipment?  The local contractors have  captive audience.  Frequently, they are the only act in town.

Captain Rich Beliveau and Captain Bruce Payette worked on their boats yesterday.  In the late afternoon I think I saw Captain Tom Gaunt arrive aboard S/V Juan Caldiz.  If so, welcome home Captain Tom!

Enjoy your Sunday.  The Pro Bowl is on today.  Im not sure it qualifies as a real football game.  I doubt that I will make time to watch it.

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

The forecast for the Florida Sea Base calls for a 40% chance of rain, a high of 79º and a low tonight of 69º.  I will meet with Richard Goldman this morning to discuss his strategy for today’s scuba training for the seasonal staff.  Christy Clemenson said she would also be available if needed.  We will see how it goes.

I expect it to be a quiet weekend at the base, no conferences and no program participants.  In addition to possibly assisting with the PADI Open Water Diver course, I have laundry to do and a car to pack.  I will drive to Tampa, Florida on Monday, the beginning of a two week road trip.

Here are two interesting items to check out:

Enjoy your weekend.

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


The first half of Wednesday was a wonderful time meeting with the full time staff of the Florida Sea Base in our monthly Team Meeting.  We discussed such mesmerizing topics as budget, purchase orders, W-9 forms, vacation scheduling, professional training opportunities and staffing issues.  I am so sorry you weren’t there.  It was a party!

The dredgers were hard at it again today.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is they no longer expect to be through before the beginning of spring.

We had about 15 minutes of a very light shower.  Otherwise, the weather was very pleasant yesterday.  Our chance for rain is 50% by Saturday but then tapers off again.  The temperature will drop about 5º to 7º.  Still not bad for January.  here’s the radar view of our approaching cold front.

Click to enlarge.

I have another acupuncture appointment this afternoon.  Since my last visit my left hand is operating at about 90%, my right hand is around 80%.  Obviously the goal is 100%, but the acupuncturist is providing much more relief than I was getting from “conventional” medicine.  Whatever works, right?

Rain gear an 1,000 tiny needles are in store for me today.  FGIF.  Have a great weekend.

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


There were no conference attendees or participants at the Florida Sea Base yesterday.  Captain Rich Beliveau, Tim Stanfill and I spent most of our day working in the program office.  The weather was great.  No one died and I didn’t poop my pants.  It was a good day (except for the “in the office” part).

Everyone, except Nancy Wells, was in the Admin office yesterday.  Nancy, our Registrar, was a bit under the weather.

The dredge was hard at work all day.  The job is very tedious and time consuming.  A crane sits on a large barge.  The crane is attached to a large bucket and lifts muck out of the water, one bucket-full at a time.  Then the muck is deposited into one of two large dumpsters that also sit on the barge.  When the dumpsters are full, the barge is towed to the beach.  The crane lifts the muck out of the dumpsters and deposits it on the shore so all of the salt water can drain.  (We have to pay by the ton to have the muck transported to the mainland.  Dry muck weighs much less than wet muck.)  Then another crane scoops the fried muck off the beach and puts it in another set of dumpsters.  These dumpsters and then rolled onto trucks and taken to the mainland and sold as fill.  (It’s a nice gig for the transport company.  We pay them to remove the muck and then they sell it to someone else.  They make money coming and going.)  Hopefully the dredging will continue today.

Our weather will remain pleasant for a few more days; lows in the upper 70s and highs in the low 80s.  We have a cold front coming through Friday evening.  Once the front passes, the forecast calls for lows in the upper 60s and highs in mid to upper 70s.  There will be a “slight chance of showers” until the front passes.

Alright; my headache has eased up so I’m going to lay down for a couple of hours.  We have our monthly Team Meeting this morning.  Yeah!

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


Staff News

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I failed to mention that Captain Zach Woodmancy, former Brinton Environmental Center Commissioner, has joined the Florida Sea Base team as the Marine Superintendent.  Zach is responsible for maintenance and US Coast Guard inspections on all of the power boats stationed at our facility.  In addition, he will captain one of the Newtons during the summer program season.  This position was formerly held by Captain Carol Chapman who stepped down while pursuing her nursing career.

Christy Clemenson passed the written exam for her US Coast Guard Master license Tuesday.  She will drive a Newton this spring under the direction of Captain Dennis Wyatt in hopes of being selected as summer Dive Boat Captain.  We will be calling her Captain Christy as soon as the ink dries on her paperwork.  Congratulations!!!

Captain Rich Beliveau is a generally optimistic guy.  Today he commented that he is concerned that the harbor dredging might not be completed before the beginning of the spring season.  That would be very disappointing, but very common for contractors in the Keys.

The weather remains very pleasant.  Sleeping aboard Escape has been a bit challenging; to warm without the air conditioning and too cool with it.  The air conditioning unit is old, cheap, contrary and on its last leg.  Hopefully I can find a way to accrue adequate funds (and time) to replace the unit before spring turns into summer.

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




in Staff  •  0 comments

Monday’s post was #777.

Monday was an administrative type day at the Florida Sea Base with no conference or program participants.I placed an order with Aqua Lung, began a preliminary review of summer scuba applications, called Maureen at PADI headquarters, and returned phone calls and answered emails.  I will hire four US Coast Guard Masters, four Dive Boat Mates, two Scuba Mates (fill tanks, maintain the scuba compressors and perform minor equipment repairs), seven Scuba Instructors, one Scuba Commissioner, one Office Manager, and at least 17 Divemasters.  Finding personnel with the proper professional credentials who can arrive on 19 May and stay until late August is an annual challenge.

We hit 83º yesterday afternoon.  Hopefully that will help warm the pool up a little.  Rich Goldman sent an email saying he hopes to come back down this weekend to continue working on seasonal staff scuba certifications.  I may be able to help him.  I haven’t asked Christy Clemenson if she’s available, but if so, the three of us should be able to make some serious progress with the students.

The dredgers did not show up yesterday. 🙁  But volunteers Steve Martin and Warren Bacon made some MUCH needed repairs in the scuba area. 🙂

I’m heading for the fat doctor.  Hopefully I’ve lost a pound or two this week.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape (with the A/C on!)

Most important, Rich Goldman reports that all is well at home.  His efforts to certify the seasonal staff are greatly appreciated.  I know him well enough to say he will be back to help again soon.  He is a prime example of what Scouting is supposed to be about; cheerful service, family values, respect for nature and obedience to God.

Several of the seasonal staff members were wandering around base yesterday.  They were given Sunday and Monday off because the next scheduled conference group cancelled.  Some of them are not quite sure what they should do with themselves.

I have completed the audit of my FIFTH PADI Instructor Development Course.  I owe a great deal of thanks to my mentor, PADI Course Director Captain Bert Hubby and to Captain Tom Timmerman, owner of the Florida Keys Dive Center (and also a PADI Course Director).  Here’s a photo taken Sunday at the Instructor Exam.  Candidate Selin Harmankaya is demonstrating a rescue on fellow candidate Betsy Baste while being evaluated by Captain Bert Hubby.  All candidates successfully completed the IE and will be PADI Open Water Scuba Divers as soon as their paperwork is processed by PADI headquarters in Rancho Santa Margarita, California.

Click to enlarge.

The IE festivities wrapped up around 1230.  I stopped at Office Depot and the Florida Keys Dive Center on the way back to the base.  I washed clothes (the bed linens were past due), worked in the office, and worked on summer staffing.

I will spend most of today in the office.  I hope to get time to wash my car later this afternoon, after it gets hot.  Speaking of hot, here’s the National Weather Service forcast for the upcoming week:

Today: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 81. East wind between 10 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Tonight: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 70. East wind around 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Tuesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 80. East wind around 15 mph.
Tuesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 71. East wind around 15 mph.
Wednesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 81. East wind around 15 mph.
Wednesday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 72. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Thursday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 82. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Thursday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 72. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Friday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 82. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Friday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 72. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Saturday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 79. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Saturday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 71. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Sunday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 78. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Make it a great Monday!

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