Archive for May, 2012

I was not able to view the Weather Underground website for most of Wednesday; every time I tried I received a 502 error.  But they were back online by mid to late afternoon.  The Florida Sea Base has access to several other weather products so it was not a big deal, but I definitely prefer their radar outlook.

I had the pleasure of making a 225 mile, 4.5 hour roundtrip drive from the Florida Sea Base to Bauer Compressors – Miami and back yesterday.  Who won’t enjoy a two way drive through the scenic Miami traffic?  The name is a little misleading as the facility is actually a LONG way northwest of Miami; it’s not even in Dade County.  But we have now have MOST of the parts we need for the summer, and all that we needed a few days ago.

Beryl is headed out to sea and having no direct impact on the Florida Sea Base.  However, our chances of rain are increasing significantly for the next few days so I m wondering if the motion of Beryl is pulling this moisture in behind it.  The good news for the divers is that we are expecting VERY light winds through Monday.  Sorry sailors; but this is your opportunity to rejoice with great snorkeling and fishing opportunities.

Our NWS forecast:

Today: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 90. Calm wind. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Tonight: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Cloudy, with a low around 77. Southeast wind between 5 and 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Friday: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 87. South wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.
Friday Night: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm before 2am, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 76. South wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Saturday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 91. Southwest wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Saturday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 78. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Sunday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Sunday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 79. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Monday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Monday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 79. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Tuesday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Tuesday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 79. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Wednesday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Last evening was chaotic.  At dinner time an adult leader from a Scuba Adventure crew decided he needed to go to the ER.  The Florida Sea Base vans were being used so I drove him the 30 minutes to the ER.  I returned to base and arranged for Divemaster Justin Evans to pick him up if released.  In between, two new staff members arrived at the base.  Someone had taken down the room assignment sheet so Captain Rich and I didn’t know where to bunk them.  At least one of them spent the night in the participant dorms.  We will get it figured out this morning.  Then, shortly after Justin reported he was at the hospital to pick up the adult leader, another staff member called me to report she had hit her head on something while stand-up paddling and needed to go to the ER.

SIDEBAR:  She sent me a text shortly after midnight.  She received two staples in her head which is proof that life is not fair.  I stapled a kid’s head in elementary school and got a spanking.  (In the 1960s a spanking was a method of discipline for children.  Some of our staffers now understand spanking to be an activity engaged in by consenting adults.  I received the 60s style spanking, not the modern style spanking.  I just wanted to make that clear.)  Anyway, someone got to staple our staff member in the head TWICE and got paid thousands of dollars.  Not fair.

On top of all of this we have had at least two or three sick Coral Reef Sailing participants this week.  There’s a marina very close to the hospital.  Maybe we should relocate our operation there for easier access. If there is a MD out there who owns a travel trailer or bus and would like to set it up at the Florida Sea Base during program season you could make a killing here.

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

We have survived the first three days of the 2012 summer season at the Florida Sea Base.  Is it September yet?  Don’t get me wrong, program is going, well, fine.  But it was so hot out today that, with two air conditioning units running in my main salon, it was a “cool” 88º.  I prefer being too hot to being almost any degree of cold.  But usually there’s at least a little warm up period.  We have gone from spring to late summer.  And we are not alone.  A significant part of the country is already experiencing August temperatures.  This graphic is courtesy of Weather Underground.

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We have a 50% chance of rain Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  However, the temperature is only expected to drop 2 degrees.

The divers went diving and the sailors went sailing.  No one died.  It was a great Tuesday. 🙂  I was supposed to attend a meeting of the BSA National Health and Safety Committee in Orlando yesterday.  But I received too little information too late to make plans.  Besides, I really can’t afford the time right now.

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

 

Memorial Day was day 2 of the 2012 summer season at the Florida Sea Base.  The question of the day was, “What are we supposed to do?”  A week of training, a week of asking if they understand, a week of them saying they understand while they  aren’t even listening to what you’ve been saying, that’s what staff training week seems to have been.  That’s a gross exaggeration.  The lessons seem to be starting to sink in and maybe they will get it in another day or two; the learning curve is steep.

Good news/bad news; the water temperature on the reef is 83ºF at the Molasses Reef station.  That’s good news because wetsuits are definitely NOT warranted.  It is bad news because warm water contributes to stormy weather.  Many experts have assured us that the general weather patterns should be such as to protect the eastern US from hurricanes this season.  But that does not eliminate the possibility of tropical weather, maybe even increased tropical weather. Weather is weather and we will deal with it as it comes.

Beryl is bring much needed rain to the southeast US.

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We don’t need any more rain at the Florida Sea Base; the mosquitoes are eating us alive.  The local radar is mostly clear this morning.

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The NWS marine forecast is calling for light breezes (as evidenced by the mosquitoes).  This is very pod to excellent for the divers and a little disappointing for sailing.  But the sailors should have great snorkeling opportunities and the fishing may be decent.

Today…Southeast to south winds near 10 knots early…decreasing to 5 to 10 knots. Seas 1 to 2 feet. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.
Tonight…Southeast to south winds 5 to 10 knots. Seas 1 to 2 feet. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.
Wednesday And Wednesday Night…South to southwest winds 5 to 10 knots. Seas 1 to 2 feet. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.
Thursday…Southeast to south winds 5 to 10 knots. Seas 1 to 2 feet. Scattered showers and thunderstorms.
Thursday Night Through Saturday Night…Southeast to south winds near 10 knots. Seas 1 to 2 feet. Scattered showers and thunderstorms.

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

28May

SUMMER STARTS!!!

in Staff  •  0 comments

FIRST AND FOREMOST, TODAY IS A DAY TO HONOR ALL OF THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE GIVEN THEIR LIFE TO PROTECT OUR COUNTRY, OUR FAMILIES AND OUR FREEDOMS FROM THOSE WHO WISH US HARM.  Many of them are on my mind and in my prayers daily.  Our family plot has graves of soldiers since the Republic of Texas and Civil War.  For those of you who are serving or have served and survived, thank you.

Sunday was opening day of the 2012 summer season at the Florida Sea Base.  Despite the fact that 5 of the 7 scuba crews arrived post dinner (13:00/1:00pm is the recommended check-in time), everything went very well for the first day.  Kudos to the staff, especially Scuba Commissioner Laura Kuras and Sailing Commissioner Stephanie Mansburger.

I remember visiting my Aunt Maggie Mae (great-aunt actually) in the 60s and 70s.  Despite the fact that she lived within the city limits of jasper, Texas, she lived on a dirt road, had an out-house in the back yard instead of an indoor toilet, and raised chickens in the yard.  The chickens were raised to sell the eggs and poultry.  To have eggs you need roosters.  Some roosters are M-E-A-N mean.  Anyway, the preferred method for dispatching the chickens was to snatch them by the head, spin them around quickly and their head would pop off in your hand.  The bodies would hit the ground and the headless chickens would run about the yard.  Hence the phrase, “running around like a chicken with its head cut off”.  That pretty much described my Sunday.

Tropical Storm Beryl continues on its roller coaster path, keeping a safe distance from the Florida Sea Base and turning northeast soon.

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Our local forecast is calling for 30% chance of rain, highs near 90, lows near 78 and winds near 10 knots for the next several days.

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

Yesterday was my dad’s 80th birthday.  I have written about my dad before; he is a legitimate American hero.

We pretty much wrapped up staff training at the Florida Sea Base yesterday and will put a bow on it this morning.    The weather was very cooperative; I even had the opportunity to go diving.  I used the dive to work on skills for my upcoming PADI Course Director Training Course.

Yesterday Dr. Jeff Masters of WeatherUnderground noted,

The second named storm of this unusually fast-starting 2012 Atlantic hurricane season is here. Subtropical Storm Beryl formed Friday night, a few hundred miles east of the South Carolina coast, from an area of disturbed weather that had moved from the Western Caribbean northeastward. Beryl’s formation marks the first time since the hurricane season of 1908 that two Atlantic named storms have formed so early in the year. The only other year with two storms so early in the year was 1887. Records of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic extend back to 1851.

We are expecting decent weather day today (with a 20% of rain).  After lunch the onslaught of arrivals will begin!  We are expecting 116 Scouts and Scouters.  Pray for us.  (Thankfully Captain Dennis will be attending church this morning with his mother, Wanda, so he can put in a good word for us.)

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

The first crew to arrive for the Florida Sea Base 2012 summer season, a Scuba Liveaboard crew from the Boston, Massachusetts area, checked in yesterday afternoon.  Divemaster Kevin Schmidt was assigned to the first crew.  The crew will be aboard S/V Silent Harmony with Captain Mike Lucivero and S/V Endeavour with Captain Kelly Stickney-Lucivero.  Office Manager Sue Mahoney survived her first crew check-in.  Another Scuba Liveaboard crew will arrive today.  On Sunday,  Sue will be SLAMMED by a full compliment of crew arrivals.

Invest 94L has made it all the way to the Carolina coast and has intensified to become Subtropical Storm Beryl.  Our marine forecast looks pretty good for the next several days.

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Synopsis…SUBTROPICAL STORM BERYL WILL MOVE WEST-SOUTHWESTWARD OVER THE WESTERN NORTH ATLANTIC TOWARD SOUTHEASTERN GEORGIA AND NORTHEASTERN FLORIDA TODAY THROUGH SATURDAY. THE PRESENCE OF BERYL IN THIS AREA WILL MAINTAIN A WEAK PRESSURE PATTERN ACROSS FLORIDA KEYS COASTAL WATERS…WITH LIGHT TO GENTLE BREEZES RANGING FROM NORTHEAST TO SOUTH. BREEZES WILL TURN FROM SOUTH-SOUTHWEST AND FRESHEN BY MONDAY NIGHT AS BERYL MOVES NORTHEASTWARD.

The staff was very busy yesterday with more training and season preparations.  Today is the last official day of staff training and the final round of Captain’s training; busy, busy day.

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

The BSA Burglar has arrived at her new home at the Florida Sea Base.   Captain Dennis Wyatt, Captain Zach Woodmancy and Captain Derrek Polt were successful in their quest to transit the Gulf of Mexico (well, half of the Gulf of Mexico) in near record time.  Thank you, gentlemen.  Now we have a lot to do to get her ready for the Coast Guard inspection.

My younger granddaughter, Josie, is about nine and a half months old.  Yesterday was her first swimming lesson.

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I went out on the BSA Explorer with the scuba staff yesterday morning.  Our goal was Alligator Reef.  We didn’t make it due to weather from Invest 94L.  (Dr. Knabb, from The Weather Channel, thinks this system could become our next named system.  It should be well to the north of the Florida Sea Base when/if that happens.)

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So we doubled backed and moored at Lignum Vitae Key.  From there we practiced rescue scenarios.  The practice went reasonably well but we will practice more today (and tomorrow if all goes well).  The system seems to be moving north at a pretty good clip so maybe the weather will improve soon.  Our forecast from the National Weather Service:

Friday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 90. Southwest wind around 10 mph becoming east. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Friday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 78. South wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Saturday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 89. East wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Saturday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 79. East wind between 5 and 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Sunday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 90. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Sunday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 78. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Memorial Day: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 89. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Monday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 79. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Tuesday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 89. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Tuesday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 79. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Wednesday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 89. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Wednesday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 79. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Thursday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 89. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

The marine forecast reads:

Synopsis…A LOW PRESSURE CENTER IN THE VICINITY OF THE KEYS WILL CONTINUE TO PULL OFF TO THE NORTHWEST TONIGHT CAUSING VARIABLE WIND CONDITIONS THROUGH EARLY FRIDAY. LATE ON FRIDAY AND INTO THE WEEKEND HIGH PRESSURE WILL BUILD OFFSHORE OF THE SOUTHEAST UNITED STATES BUT WILL REMAIN WELL NORTH OF OUR REGION THROUGH THIS WEEKEND AND EARLY NEXT WEEK.

Friday…Southwest winds 10 to 15 knots backing east to southeast 5 to 10 knots in the afternoon. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.
Friday Night…South winds 5 to 10 knots shifting southwest early in the morning. Seas 1 to 2 feet. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.
Saturday Night Through Sunday…Variable winds near 10 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.
Sunday Night…Variable winds near 10 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.
Monday Through Tuesday Night…Southeast to south winds 5 to 10 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.

It’s almost scary, but there is only a tiny bit of rain on the radar this morning and the wind has dropped to 5 knots.  Hopefully the seas have dissipated and we can get in a decent dive to two today.

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

I created this blog to share news about the Florida Sea Base.  But I own it, I pay for it, I write, and I take responsibility for it, so I’m going to vent a little.  (By the way, this is post number 888).

The safety of “other peoples’ children” is always first and foremost on the minds of the personnel at the Florida Sea Base.  We have children miles, sometimes MANY miles into the ocean away from a harbor of safe refuge.  It is part of the high adventure experience.  To manage the risks of threatening weather, we depend on many products, agencies, and companies.  Almost daily I post images and/or text from NOAA (or one or more of its subsidiaries such as the National Weather Service or National Hurricane Center) and Weather Underground.  Most of the graphics come from Weather Underground because they are so user friendly.  I use other products a little less frequently.

As soon as I get up in the morning I turn on The Weather Channel.  (This morning they are having some audio difficulties.)  I also check their website while checking the other sources.  For the past several weeks they have raved about their updated website and device apps.  I don’t use Facebook or Twitter and doubt anyone from The Weather Channel will stumble onto this little blog, but I am very displeased with the radar aspect of their new products, especially on my iPad and iPhone.  WeatherUnderground’s radar image is rarely more the 5 minutes old.  It is frequently up to the minute.  The radar images on my Apple devices from The Weather Channel are frequently an hour or more old.  What do they expect us to be able to do with that?  “Oh no, it was raining on us an hour ago.”  They show tablets being used on their sets, they show folks in the field chasing severe weather with smartphones and tablets.  If there is a secret to getting up-to-date radar images on these devices from The Weather Channel I would appreciate being brought into the loop.  In the meantime, their product is of limited use to us.  It is really nice that the new apps make it easier to tweet and post to Facebook.  For those of use trying to protect lives, the new app is a HUGE disappointment.

Just minutes after yesterday’s post, Captain Dennis called to report that they were near the Apalachacola region of Florida and all was generally well.  A fitting in the hydraulic  steering system came loose but they were able to fix that without incident (other than temporarily loosing steerage).  Captain Dennis reported a list of 30 deficiencies he has found with the vessel.  Most of them are small things that are common and/or easily fixed; some are more significant but do not jeopardize safety to the delivery crew.  Captain Derreck Polt emailed this photo of the BSA Burglar prior to departing Louisiana.

Click to enlarge.

At 17:15 (5:15pm) yesterday Captain Dennis called again to report they had successfully crossed the Gulf of Mexico and were approaching Clearwater, Florida, north of St. Petersburg.  The plan was to make a quick fuel stop and continue on, possibly arriving at the Florida Sea Base around noon today.

The sailing staff spent much of Wednesday tubing; one of the shore leave activities enjoyed by the Coral Reef Sailing crews.  The scuba staff completed driver’s training, emergency oxygen provider training, dive boat mate training and night program training.

Shortly after lunch yesterday, one of our newest and youngest Coral Reef Sailing captains, Captain Chris Jenner, arrived in the Florida Sea Base harbor aboard his 41′ Morgan Out Island, S/V Stormalong.  Captain Chris had single handed the vessel from New Port Ritchie (north of Tampa/St.Pete) for 46 hours straight.

Our local weather remains less than perfect.  The scuba staff is scheduled to spend this morning diving and practicing rescues.  We are also scheduled to dive tonight.  We will do our best to work around the weather cells.  Here’s what our radar looked like at 05:41 this morning:

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Our first Scuba Live Aboard crew arrives tomorrow; then another arrives Saturday and the season officially opens on Sunday with one Sea Exploring crew (20 participants), one Scuba Certification crew (8 participants), five Coral Reef Sailing participants (40 participants), and six Scuba Adventure crews (48 participants) = 116 participants.  Ready or not, here they come!!!

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

23May

TRAINING

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The Florida Sea Base staff members had department specific training yesterday.  Sailing Commissioner Stephanie Mansburger and company lead the sailing staff through small boat sailing while Scuba Commissioner Laura Kuras and company lead the scuba staff through swim reviews, scuba reviews and round one of the rescue scenarios.

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After dinner, both staffs combined to learn about luau procedures.

The tropical weather of the day is Tropical Storm Bud off the western coast of Mexico.  It is not expected to intensify to hurricane strength and possibly dissipate without making landfall.

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There is a potential tropical weather threat for the Florida Sea Base from Invest 94L.  It may bring us more rain and maybe a little wind, but I don’t think it will become a major system in our area.

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We dodged a large, nasty weather cell last night.

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I have not heard from our delivery team since their departure from Slidell, LA yesterday.  Captain Dennis said he would call from their next fuel stop.  He may have called Captain Rich instead, and I’m sure he called Ellen.  I’ll check with Captain Rich in about an hour.  If he hasn’t heard from him then I’ll call Ellen later this morning. I’m not really concerned.  In this scenario, no news is good news.  The vessel has three cell phones on board, a VHF radio and an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).  The absolute worst case scenario is if the boat sank, the EPIRB automatically floats free, activates, and sends a satellite signal to the US Coast Guard with their position and identification.  In turn, the USCG would respond and call us.  So no news is good news.

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

The Florida Sea Base has been fortunate in dodging the rain – so far.  Yesterday’s forecast was for 60% chance, but we received NO rain.  We had a 50% chance overnight and had a clear, starry sky instead.  But, it is probably going to catch up with us before the week is over.  Here’s our forecast from the National Weather Service:

Tuesday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 86. East wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Tuesday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 78. East wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Wednesday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 89. North wind around 10 mph becoming east. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Wednesday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 79. South wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Thursday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 89. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Thursday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 79. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Friday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 89. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Friday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 78. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Saturday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Sunny, with a high near 88. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Saturday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 78. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Sunday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 88. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Sunday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 78. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Memorial Day: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Sunny, with a high near 88. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

We have completed “Admin Day” of the summer staff training.  Thank goodness that’s behind us!  Maybe the best part was the staff contributing over 60 units of blood and platelets to the local blood bank.  Now we will have a few days to spend on department specific training.  For the scuba staff that includes a lot of rescue scenarios, learning about compressor use and maintenance, learning to present our evening continuing education courses, first aid, CPR, and oxygen provider refreshers, how to conduct scuba reviews, and a few other topics that have slipped my mind.

By the time most of you read this, the BSA Burglar should be underway from Slidell, LA to the Florida Sea Base.  Godspeed gentlemen.

Here we go again.  I am REALLY getting too old for this!

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

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