Archive for March, 2012



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Last night, Captain Dennis Wyatt said he had read on Dan Gill’s Facebook® page that former Florida Sea Base Divemaster John Purvis has passed away after a long battle with cancer.  John was well liked by his co-workers and a dive site was named after him during his tenure.  We still dive that site (Purvis Reef).

Scuba Instructor Rich Goldman is planning to take Phillip Ferrier, Rob Rinaldo and Connor Closs out this morning to complete PADI Open Water Training Dive 4.  I haven’t decided if I am going to tag along.  It would be nice to be out of the office for half a day. 🙂

The Florida panhandle is getting rain this morning but we are clear at the Florida Sea Base.  At 0500 it was 76ºF and the wind was from the south at 15 knots.

Click to enlarge.

Captain Kelly Stickney sent me a very brief email yesterday.  She and Captain Mike Lucivero have been in the Bahamas since the conclusion of last year’s summer session at the Florida Sea Base.  They will be back and operating in the Scuba Liveaboard program again this summer.

I forgot to ask the divers where they went yesterday.  But I know from personal experience that the seas were about 1 foot, visibility was excellent and the water temperature was 77ºF.

The sailing staff was busy yesterday with five Coral Reef Sailing crews returning for their luau.  The festivities were great but ran very late.  We have one Scuba Liveaboard crew, one Sea Exploring crew and one Coral Reef Sailing crew arriving today.

Enjoy your weekend.

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

Three Coral Reef Sailing crews returned to the Florida Sea Base yesterday to end their 2012 spring adventure.  Five crews return today and two new Coral Reef Sailing and one Sea Exploring crew will arrive to begin their adventures.

The scuba divers had a decent day Thursday.  They completed dives at Victory and Davis before returning to the base for dinner.  After dinner they departed again and completed a night dive at Alligator Reef.

I am going diving this morning with staff members Connor Closs, Rob Rinaldo, and Phillip Ferrier for PADI Open Water Training Dives 1 and 2.  Captain Dennis Wyatt has volunteered to drive us.  We really have to hustle; the guys have to receive Coral Reef Sailing crews that will return to the Florida Sea Base at 1400 (2 pm).

The weather should be very good for the next few days.  The wind should drop to 10 – 15 knots under sunny skies and 84ºF afternoons. The water temperature is 77ºF.

Steven Raymond and Mike Roesel are off to their last day of the PADI Instructor Development Course.  They will take their Instructor Exams Saturday and Sunday.

Have a great weekend.

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



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The Florida Sea Base was busy yesterday with five Coral Reef Sailing crews in for shore leave.  In the past, they have spent the day small boat sailing, tubing, kayaking and playing volley-ball.  Last summer we purchased a fleet of bicycles and added a bike ride to the activities.  Captain Rich Beliveau is working on a significant improvement to the shore leave activities for this summer.  So yesterday the crews were guinea pigs in testing one sub-part of the new activity.  As soon as the final details are worked out, I will share those with you.  The centerpiece of the activity will be relocating the kayaking to Robbie’s Marina. There are some incredible mangrove areas to explore, plus the possibility of kayaking to Indian Key State Historical Site.  You could easily spend a full day there, but the time will be limited because no one wants to miss out on the other activities.

The divers went to Pillars of Atlantis, but after making a short dive to check conditions, Divemaster Scott Patton aborted the dive; the wind, waves and surge were a little too much.  Three of the participants reportedly succumbed to gastroenpukeulitus.  The dive boat relocated to Port Antigua for a dive and then the crew played for a couple of hours at White Marlin Beach.

Captain Rich Beliveau (Sailing), Captain Scott Martin (BEC), Tim Stanfill (Food & Conference), Captain Paul Beal (GM), Captain Keith Douglass (Facilities), Robert Kolb (Program), Sulibel Mendez (Finance & Insurance) and I (Scuba) meet yesterday morning to review our 2011 accidents and injuries.  We did not find any specific trends but did discuss some pro-active improvements we could make to prevent accidents.

The dredgers are still moving mud out of the harbor.  They are getting closer to the permitted 5′ depth at low tide, but still have some work to do.

The National Weather Service forecast:

Today: Mostly sunny, with a high near 84. East wind around 10 mph.
Tonight: Partly cloudy, with a low around 72. East wind around 10 mph.
Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 84. East wind between 5 and 10 mph.
Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 71. East wind around 10 mph.
Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 84. Southeast wind around 10 mph.
Saturday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 72. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Sunday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 84. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Sunday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 73. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Monday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 84. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Monday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 74. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Tuesday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 84. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Tuesday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 74. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Wednesday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 84. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

And the NWS Marine forecast:

Today…East winds 15 to 20 knots…decreasing to 10 to 15 knots. Seas 5 to 7 feet…subsiding to 4 to 6 feet. Isolated showers in the morning.
Tonight…East winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 3 to 5 feet.
Friday Through Saturday…Southeast winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet.
Sunday And Monday…Southeast to south winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Isolated showers.

I looks like it may be another bumpy day for the scuba crew, but conditions may then improve for the rest of the week.

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



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Yesterday was nice at the Florida Sea Base.  The wind was manageable for the divers and sailors on shore leave.  The Scuba Adventure crew made three dives at Hamm, Capt. Grumpy and Hens and Chickens reefs.  The conditions were reportedly exceptional.

Captain Rich hired a few more summer staff members.  I made time to relocate some of the materials used during the Divemaster Academy (we have a serious storage space issue) and completed February’s expense report and, with encouragement from Ellen Wyatt, brought my March expense report up to date.

The dredgers dug in our harbor some more, trying to reach that magical number of 5 feet at low tide.  A few more tries and we may be okay.

Mike Roesel and Steven Raymond had today off from the PADI Instructor Development Course.  The other candidates will be completing their Emergency First Response  Instructor certification today.  Steven and Mike completed that course last week with me.  Yesterday was Stephanie Sander’s birthday!  Meghann Michalski reminded me yesterday morning that her parents sometimes read my blog.  I am proud to note that Meghann seems to be very happy, well feed and rested.  She frequently exceeds my expectations.  My only disappointment is that she will not be with us for the Tarpon Tournament or the summer session this year.  David Ball has been woking on overhauling scuba equipment for the past two days.  Richard Goldman has been locked in Annex Room 9 all day every day working insane hours for AT&T and then volunteering to do staff scuba certifications in the evenings.  It is genuinely difficult to single out one exceptional staff member this spring.  All except two of them are doing GREAT.  Now that I’m thinking of it, make that count three, not two.:)

That’s all for now.  It’s time to crack the whip.

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

The Florida Sea Base had no arriving or departing sailing crews and no crews in for shore leave Monday; a perfect day for most of the sailing staff to enjoy a day off.

The wind continued from the west all day but the speed dropped into the single digits in time for the afternoon scuba dive.  According to the National Weather Service Marine Forecast:


Tuesday…Northeast to east winds 10 to 15 knots…increasing to 15 to 20 knots in the afternoon. Seas 2 to 4 feet…building to 4 to 6 feet. Isolated showers.
Tuesday Night And Wednesday…East winds near 20 knots. Seas 5 to 7 feet. Isolated showers.
Wednesday Night…East winds near 20 knots…decreasing to near 15 knots by midnight. Seas 5 to 7 feet…subsiding to 3 to 5 feet.
Thursday…East winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet.
Friday And Saturday…East to southeast winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet.

Windguru concurs.  Our wind finally clocked to the north around 2200 (10 pm) and the wind speed dropped to 0 at 0400.  Whatever we get, we will make the best of it.

The sailing staff will be hard at it today; four Coral Reef Sailing crews will return for shore leave this morning.

I hope you have a great day.

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

The 2012 Divemaster Academy flyer has been posted.  You can click on the LINKS page on this site and scroll to the bottom OR you can go to the official Florida Sea Base website and scroll to the bottom of that page.  I do not have administrative rights on the FSB site so the DMA information on my blog site is generally updated more often.  Regardless, look at the prerequisites and requirements.  If you are interested and qualified, apply now.  If you’re interested but not yet qualified, you have all summer to get up to speed.  Participation is limited and I have already received some applications.

I managed to keep in until 0630 yesterday; early enough to make the morning staff meeting but too late to have time to write a post first.

Controlled chaos was the order of the day at the Florida Sea Base yesterday.  I managed to get the final “final touches” completed on my PADI Course Director Training Course application.  Today it will be overnighted to PADI – Americas office in California.  My fate will then lie with the PADI  review committee in Rancho Santa Margarita, California.

A promised, the crews flooded in Sunday, with more on the way today.  We have definitely hit the busy weeks of our 2012 spring season at the Florida Sea Base.

One of the things I really appreciated about former Florida Sea Base Chef Deanza Richards was her occasional use of “heat” on some of her dishes.  Don’t get me wrong, our current cooks are top notch and doing a great job.  But one day De made a baggie of spices for me to use on my boat.  I am almost out.  The first time I used it I coated both sides of the chicken and fish I was grilling.  Woooo-doggie!  Hot stuff!  Tears and sweat on the brow hot.  I like hot, but I don’t like pain.  When I told De, she was amazed that I was able to eat it.  After that, I toned it down so that both sides have a light dusting instead of a heavy coat.  Yum-E!  I cooked another batch of Deanza chicken yesterday.  My baggie of De’s secret spices is getting low.  I don’t Facebook© yet and I don’t have any contact information for De.  Maybe I can talk her out of the recipe the next time she stops by the base.  [I am using an electric grill down below because the $250 West Marine outdoor grill is an absolute BEAR to keep functional.  I have every hatch open and 5 fans blowing.  The fumes from the spices are like breathing pepper-spray vapors.  No stuffed up sinuses tonight!]

We received a trace of rain Sunday in disassociated, scattered showers.  It was still a very warm afternoon.  The water temperature on the reef is 77.4ºF at the Molasses Reef buoy owned and maintained by NOAA’s National Buoy Data Center.  If you click on my WEATHER link at the top of the page you will see that the average water temperature for March is 75 and April is 79.  Since we’re into late March, I would say 77 is just about average.  The winds clocked to the west as a weak front passed through.  That made sleeping a little challenging.  West winds are good for the divers but really tough for the captains docking the boats when they return.  Hopefully the wind will move to the north before this afternoon.

Ahhh, Monday; just another day at the Florida Sea Base.  When you work seven days a week or have sporadic days off, Monday, Friday and weekends have no special joy or dread.  They’re just days.  BUT I plan on talking with the bosses today or tomorrow about returning to Texas the week between our last scuba crew and the Tarpon Tournament.  A little girl is awaiting my visit.

Click to enlarge.

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



I may sleep in a little Sunday.  If so, I will post on Monday morning.

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

Three Coral Reef Sailing crews and one Sea Exploring crew returned to the Florida Sea Base for their luau and to prepare to return home.  S/V Misty Shoals, S/V Silver Crow, S/V Silent Harmony and the Schooner Yankee all returned from sea yesterday.

The Scuba Adventure and Scuba Certification crews completed two more dives yesterday plus a night dive last night.  They have one dive this morning and then have their luau tonight.  They will depart the Florida Sea Base tomorrow morning.

Four Coral Reef Sailing crews will arrive at the Florida Sea Base today.  They will be aboard S/V Misty Shoals, S/V Lady Nell II, S/V Midnight Dragon and S/V Jewel of Athena.

More crews arrive at the Florida Sea Base Sunday including five Coral Reef Sailing crews, one Sea Exploring crew and one Scuba Adventure crew.  The sailing crews will be aboard S/V Silent Harmony, S/V Excalibur, S/V Silver Crow, S/V Spindrift, S/V Adventure and S/V Calypso Gypsy.

Next week is fairly busy, but the week after that, the week before Easter, the sailing and scuba programs will both be full.  The galley will be insanely busy.  Our Galley Manager, Captain Rae Murphy, has not yet experienced the volume of Scouts that will be feed that week.  But it will be a good eye opener for summer because as busy as it will be, it will only be half the volume that we will have for about 100 days in a row this summer.  And the Florida Sea Base sailing schedule is also full for the two weeks following Easter although the scuba schedule lightens up dramatically.  More on all of that as we get closer to the arrival dates.

Coral Reef sailing vessels on the Florida Sea Base T-dock are having to play musical chairs as they move from slip to slip during the installation of new pilings.  Hopefully this part of the game will conclude prior to 01 April when we get super busy.

Have a great weekend.

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



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Captain Rich and I spent 12 hours yesterday driving (round trip) from the Florida Sea Base to Cape Canaveral to look at prospective program boats.  It was the most time we have had to sit together and discuss program enhancements is a VERY long time.  The conversation was quite enjoyable.  But I am having an issue with my 2010 Honda Civic.  Below 68 mph everything is good.  At 68 to 70 a vibration sets in.  It gets much worse above 70.  It also seems to be worse when decelerating (as in coasting, not braking) or driving downhill (another situation when the drivetrain is not under load).  Captain Rich and I looked at the tires and they seem to be okay, now noticable bulges or unusual tread wear.  The tires have 39,000 miles on them, decent tread, have been rotated at every oil change and are inflated to manufacturer specs.  Any ideas?

No one died at the Florida Sea Base while we were gone so we will call it a good day.  The Scuba Adventure and Scuba Certification crews decided they could share a boat yesterday.  They went to Port Antigua and had a successful dive experience.  Then they ventured out to Alligator Reef but conditions were too rough for the Scuba Certification crew.  The Scuba Adventure crew completed a dive at Alligator and then the crews returned to Port Antigua so the Scuba Certification participants could complete their final PADI Open Water Training Dive.  It was a long day for all involved with the boat returning to base around 1730 (5:30 pm).

Other than the two scuba crews, the only other crew on base yesterday was the Sea Exploring crew that returned from the Calypso Gypsy.

Divemasters (now Scuba Instructor Wanna Bes) Steven Raymond and Michael Roesel will be heading out early this morning for day one of the PADI Instructor Development Course with Captain Bert Hubby at the Florida Keys Dive Center.  They will train for the next eight days and then spend two days taking written and practical exams.

Captain Carol Chapman is on spring break from nursing school.  But instead of having a wild and crazy time on a beach or in one of those disco bars you see on TV, she’s fighting a cold.  Captain Rich said he’s trying hard to not catch it.

Scuba Instructor Rich Goldman arrived back at the base late last night.  He is very fortunate that he is able to perform his “work” remotely.  I think the plan is for him to be clocked in from 8 to 5 and then work with the staff members on their PADI Open Water Scuba Diver certifications in the evenings.

The placement of the pilings is proceeding nicely.  However, the dredging will resume soon; even the barge ran aground yesterday!  Our harbor is NOT at 5′ at low tide (yet).

Make it a good day.

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

The sailors enjoyed a great shore leave day yesterday.  The Scuba Adventure crew had a tough time on the reef.  They were able to complete two dives, but they were under trying conditions.  The Scuba Certification crew went to Port Antigua and completed PADI Open Water Training Dives 1 and 2.  They returned to the base a little early so they went to the pool and completed PADI Confined Water Dive #5.  They only need two more dives to complete their PADI Open Water Diver certification.  I appreciate the Captains, mates and dive staff that helped make these dives a safe experience.

The Florida Sea Base offers a Divemaster Training Academy each winter.  This is a chance for select individuals to obtain their PADI Divemaster credentials at a relatively low cost.  I have posted a 2012 DMA Informational Flyer and 2012 DMA Application on the LINKS page of this site.

Selection for the DMA is a competitive process.  Last year was our largest class to date with 18 candidates.  I have not set the class size for 2012.  This will in part be determined by the instructors who are available to staff the course.  The prerequisites listed on the application are the bare minimum.  More logged dives, deep dive experience or certification, search and recovery certification, and other scuba continuing educational certifications are a real boost.  Applicants are not required to be Eagle Scouts (or equivalents) but accomplishments such as Eagle, Quartermaster, Ranger, Gold Award, or Stars and Stripes Award are given heavy consideration.

As you will see on the flyer and the application, one prerequisite is Rescue Diver certification.  I definitely prefer PADI Rescue Diver training, but other RSTC agencies or NAUI certifications are acceptable.  As last year’s DMA candidates can attest, I take the rescue skills VERY seriously.  During the course, Divemaster candidates are required to complete the following exercise (reproduced here verbatim from the Divemaster Course Guide of the 2012 PADI Instructor Manual:

Diver Rescue

Respond to an unresponsive, nonbreathing diver, including these steps:

• Enter the water, locate and surface a submerged diver who is about 25 metres/yards away
• Turn the diver face up and establish buoyancy
• Remove the diver’s mask and regulator, open the airway and check for breathing
• Call for help
• Give two initial rescue breaths, and continue with an effective rescue breath every five seconds with no or very few interruptions
• Tow the diver to safety while protecting the airway, continuing rescue breathing
• Remove both sets of equipment (Equipment handlers allowed)
• Exit the water with the diver. (Assistance allowed only when physical challenges or the environment make it necessary.)

This exercise will be performed in open water from a dive boat.  If you are thinking of applying, be certain that you can complete this skill before arriving at the DMA.  I WILL NOT EMPLOY A DIVEMASTER OR INSTRUCTOR WHO CANNOT PERFORM THIS SKILL PROPERLY.  The lives of other people’s children may be at stake.  “Good” performance is not acceptable.

By the way, if you have been hired as a Dive Boat Mate, Divemaster of Scuba Instructor for the 2012 summer Florida Sea Base season, be forewarned; YOU WILL PERFORM THIS SKILL PROPERLY IN OPEN WATER DURING STAFF TRAINING OR YOU WILL GO HOME.  All of you are Rescue Diver certified.  If you don’t remember how to perform this skill, find a Scuba Instructor and a swimming pool and get it worked out.  Click on READ MORE at the end of this post for a detailed description of the critical attributes of this skill.

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