Archive for December, 2012

30Dec

SHORE LEAVE!

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WEATHER

Yesterday afternoon we topped out at 78°F at the Florida Sea Base.  This morning it is 60° with 25 knot winds screaming from the north.  The National Weather Service forecast is not too great for diving today, but improving thereafter:

Today: Sunny, with a high near 69. Breezy, with a northeast wind 15 to 20 mph.
Tonight: Partly cloudy, with a low around 65. Breezy, with a east wind 15 to 20 mph.
Monday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 75. East wind around 15 mph.
Monday Night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 69. East wind around 15 mph.
New Year’s Day: Partly sunny, with a high near 79. Southeast wind around 10 mph.
Tuesday Night: A slight chance of showers after 8pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 71. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Wednesday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 80. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Wednesday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 72. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Thursday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 81. 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. Partly sunny, with a high near 77. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Friday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 71. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Saturday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 77. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

The good news is the water temperature has remained unusually warm for this time of year.  Yesterday, The Molasses Reef Buoy was reporting an official water temperature of 77.2°F and my dive computer showed 75.2°F at 85′ below the surface.

SAILING

The first wave of Coral Reef Sailing crews returned to the Florida Sea Base yesterday for shore leave.  They went small boat sailing, paddleboarding, kayaking and tubing.

SCUBA

The Scuba Certification crew finished their final two open water training dives and are now certified PADI Open Water Divers.  The Scuba Adventure crew completed two more dives plus a night dive.

DIVEMASTER ACADEMY

The DMA candidates completed two deep dives at Victory Reef and a third (shallow) training dive at Alligator Reef yesterday.

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Divemaster Kyle Moran took this photo a couple of days ago as the dive boat was outboard for a night dive.  Captain Alex Bergstedt is modeling the first issue of the Professional Scuba Bum™ t-shirts.

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Click to enlarge.

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

SAILING

The final Coral Reef Sailing crew of our brief winter season checked in yesterday.  They will be spending the week with Captain Brian Stolzenberger aboard S/V Misty Shoals.

SCUBA

The Scuba Certification crew spent the morning in the pool with Scuba Instructors Laura Kuras and Will Yanni.  Captain Rich Beliveau took them to Alligator Reef for Open Water Training Dives in the afternoon aboard BSA Burglar.  The class only has four students so they are progressing rapidly.

The Scuba Adventure crews enjoyed two dives on the reefs yesterday but I fail to get a report on the sites visited.   Emily Sepeta and Captain Ed Miller are the Divemasters.  They are spending the week with Captain Dennis Wyatt and Captain Sargon Smith as crew aboard BSA Explorer.

The Scuba Liveaboard crew is spending the week aboard the Schooner Conch Pearl with Captain Denny Webb and Captain Holly Whitley.  Charles Kantlehner and Hank Gordon are their Divemasters this week.

DIVEMASTER ACADEMY

We aborted the deep dive yesterday morning due to strong currents.  The candidates completed their mapping assignments after two very long dives at Alligator Reef.  The maps were very well done. 🙂

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Click to enlarge.

They are scheduled for three training dives today and a fun night dive tonight.

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

I thought I was running late yesterday.  I am running even later this morning.

SAILING

All of Wednesday’s sailing crews left the dock yesterday morning to truly begin their adventure.  Five more Coral Reef Sailing crews arrived yesterday afternoon.  The wind is blowing just enough for sailing while not trashing the scuba diving and snorkeling.  The water temperature is 75°, very nice for snorkeling without a wetsuit.

SCUBA

The Scuba Certification spent the day in class learning the basics.  The Scuba Adventure crews completed their scuba review yesterday morning and went to Alligator Reef yesterday afternoon for the first dive of the week.

DIVEMASTER ACADEMY

The DMA had a GLORIOUS day at sea.  We were diving from the BSA Centennial Eagle and our first dive was on a sunken freighter named Eagle.  The visibility was 50′, no current, 1′ or less seas.  The candidates completed the second of four dives for their PADI Deep Diver Specialty certification.

Then we moved to a patch reef known as Capital.  We have not visited this site before.  It is similar to a site we call Landing Strip; 20′-25′ feet deep, a lot of soft corals and tons of juvenile fish.  It’s very much like diving in a home saltwater aquarium.  Adjacent to the patch reef is acres of sandy bottom.  We used that are for the candidates to complete the second and third dives of the PADI Search and Recovery Diver specialty.

I used my GoPro Hero2 underwater for the first time yesterday.  The video is still unedited and too large to upload.  Here’s a photo:

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Gotta go, gotta go.

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

I have very little time this morning so here’s the CliffsNotes version of what’s going on.

SAILING

All of the scheduled crews (plus two crews that arrived a day early for some reason) checked in yesterday.  Our sunset is around 17:30 (5:50 pm) so the their was not sufficient time to get the participants through the required gear issue, shakedown, swim review, snorkel lesson and dinner before dark.  So the boats will be blasting out of here at first light.

SCUBA

All of the scheduled scuba crews and staff also arrived yesterday.  The two Scuba Adventure crews did not complete their scuba review because of the early nightfall so they will knock that out this morning.  The Scuba Liveaboard crew has a boat to catch this morning so we turned on the pool lights so they could complete their exercises after dinner.

DIVEMASTER ACADEMY

The DMA candidates spent another LONG day in the swimming pool yesterday.  Other than an hour for lunch, they were in the pool from 09:00 to nearly 17:00 (5 pm).  Then we had dinner and went to the classroom from 18:45 to 20:00 (8 pm).  We have a LONGER more arduous day ahead.  If ll goes well, we will complete a deep wreck dive, two search and recovery dives PLUS an early dinner and a night dive tonight.  Wowie Zowie.

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

26Dec

CHRISTMAS DAY

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WEATHER

The  Christmas weather at the Florida Sea Base was incredible; sunny, 75°F, and a gentle breeze.

National Weather Service forecast  for the 180 Scouts and Scouters arriving at the Florida Sea Base today and tomorrow:

Today: A slight chance of showers after 8am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 80. Southwest wind around 15 mph.
Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Tonight: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 65. Southwest wind 10 to 15 mph becoming
northwest after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Thursday: A slight chance of showers before 8am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 72. North wind 10 to 15 mph.
Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Thursday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 63. North wind 5 to 10 mph.
Friday: A slight chance of showers after 8am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 77. East wind around 10 mph.
Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Friday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 69. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Saturday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 80. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Saturday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 65. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Sunday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 72. Breezy. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Sunday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 63. Breezy.
Monday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 73.
Monday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 66.
New Year’s Day: Mostly sunny, with a high near 77.

DIVEMASTER ACADEMY

The DMA candidates spent Christmas morning performing a 100 yard tired diver tow.  This is a timed skill.  Times ranged from about 2.5 minutes to 4.5 minutes.  The diver and victim must both be in full scuba gear.  This is an exhausting exercise.  All of the candidates gave full effort.

They also performed the Equipment Exchange skill in the swimming pool.  In this exercise, two divers descend in the deep pool.  They share a single regulator and have to exchange all equipment with each other except their weights and wetsuit.  Everyone performed well.  The intent of this skill is to evaluate the candidates’ ability to deal with unusual circumstances while underwater.

Assistant Galley Manager David Mitchell and his staff prepared an excellent Christmas dinner for the DMA candidates and the Florida Sea Base staff.  After dinner, most of the DMA candidates and several staff members (including Captain Dennis Wyatt) made a night dive at Alligator Reef.  Captain Christy Clemenson was kind enough to drive and Captain Kari Dahlquist served as First Mate.

This morning the cadre will discuss the wind conditions and possibly consider changing our scheduled deep dive for a shallower diver option to avoid the heavy seas.  The trade-off will be reduced visibility.  But having seasick staff and students is not a good recipe for success.

ARRIVALS

We have two Scuba Adventure crews, one Scuba Certification crew, one Scuba Liveaboard crew, two Sea Exploring crews and five or six Coral Reef Sailing crews arriving at the Florida Sea Base after lunch today.  More sailing crews will arrive tomorrow.

STAFF

Most of the winter staff rolled in yesterday;  I have two who had not reported in as of bedtime so hopefully the will report for the 07:30 staff meeting.  If not, we will figure something out, we always do.

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy candidates Bob and Tina Stecker from Austin, Texas were kind enough to organize an Christmas Eve service.  A Scout is reverent and the service was well attended.  If you have the pleasure of sharing this day with family, you should be thankful and prayerful.  Keep the soldiers, police, firefighters, and others who will be away from home today in your prayers.

DIVEMASTER ACADEMY

The DMA candidates were dismissed a little earlier than usual Monday evening.  We started at 07:45 per usual.  We practiced rescues in the pool until lunch.  Then we went to a dive site known as Alligator Deep and completed the first dive of the PADI Deep Diver Specialty certification.  Next we relocated to the bay (gulf) side of the Keys for more rescue evaluations.  We returned to the Florida Sea Base around 17:00 (5 pm).  We rinsed and secured our gear, retired the colors for the night and enjoyed dinner.  Our Christmas celebration followed dinner and then the class met until 20:00 (8 pm).  The cadre met for a while afterwards.  As of this writing, we are scheduled to operate from 07:45 to 16:00 today.  However, I have planted the seed and we may go diving late this afternoon or maybe go on a night dive.

WEATHER

The weather was a little breezy but much improved Monday.  It was very sunny, our high temperature was 74 but the wind was blowing over 15 knots part of the day.

I have been following Winter Storm Euclid on the Weather Channel as best I can.  At 06:10 this morning they were explaining how they were going to update the area that will be affected by this system and move what we refer to as the “cone of death” in hurricane forecasts to the south and east “as the computer models change”.  Now other parts of the country can share with us in the nerve racking forecasts that say you’re going to die, no wait, the storm track is shifting and you will be fine, oops, we were wrong, it’s not going to shift after all and yes you are going to die and you should evacuate now, but wait, the storm is going somewhere else so don’t evacuate to that location………..

Ho, Ho, Ho.

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

DIVEMASTER ACADEMY

The DMA candidates completed three dives at the San Pedro Underwater Archeology Preserve Saturday.

This underwater archaeological preserve features a submerged shipwreck that is available for diving and snorkeling. Part of a Spanish flotilla, the San Pedro was a 287-ton, Dutch-built ship which sank in a hurricane on July 13, 1733. Her remains were discovered in 1960 in Hawk Channel near Indian Key. After major salvage efforts in the 1960s, all that remains of San Pedro is a large pile of ballast stones covering an area 90 feet long and 30 feet wide. The underwater site has been enhanced with seven replica cannons, an anchor, and an information plaque. Visitors can also appreciate the marine life that occupies the site. Located in 18 feet of water, approximately 1.25 nautical miles south from Indian Key at GPS coordinates 24 degrees 51.802’N, 80 degrees 40.795’W. To prevent anchor damage, please tie up to mooring buoys located at the site. For more information about the San Pedro and other Florida underwater archaeological preserves, please visit Florida’s Museums in the Sea.

The first two dives were training dives.  One dive was Search and Recovery Diver Specialty training and the other was simulating Discover Local Diving experience where certified divers are lead by a PADI Divemaster in an environment with which they are unfamiliar.  I also worked with Scuba Instructor/Captain Kari Dahlquist who is completing her PADI Search and Recovery Specialty Instructor rating during the DMA.

We returned to the Florida Sea Base at 16:30, secured our gear, showered, met for flags at 17:50, had dinner at 18:00 and were back in class from 18:45 to 21:00.

WEATHER

The weather is slowly but steadily improving.  The wind is gradually decreasing and the temperature is gradually rising.

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Click to enlarge.

STAFF

PADI Scuba Instructor Will Yanni checked in at the Florida SEa Base yesterday.  He will be assigned to one of the crews arriving on 26 December.  I haven’t seen any other new arrivals lately.  Others will arrive in the next two days.

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

23Dec

BE PREPARED

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WEATHER

The Florida Sea Base staff and DMA candidates started out in shorts and short sleeved shirts Friday.  An hour later we were in sweat pants.  The hoodies came out shortly thereafter.  By noon it was a situation where jackets were warranted unless you were in a sunny spot protected from the wind.  At dinner I loaned a jacket to Coral Reef Mate Aaron Parks; another life saved.

Saturday morning we started out at 54° and 25 knot winds.  Captain Dennis Wyatt and I were well prepared.

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Click to enlarge.

This morning we’re starting at 57°F.  Today’s high temperature should be in the high 60s and the wind is decreasing some.  This is not our best diving weather, but there is work to be done, and a narrow window in which to complete it.  The DMA candidates will make three dives today.

DIVEMASTER ACADEMY

The DMA candidates spent Saturday morning making presentations in the Florida Sea Base scuba area.

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Click to enlarge.

They spent the afternoon in the 68° dive training tanks.

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The evening was spent in the classroom with Captain Kari Dahlquist and Captain Alex Bergstedt teaching the PADI Search and Recovery Specialty Diver course.  I evaluated Captain Kari’s presentation for her PADI Search and Recovery Specialty Instructor certification.

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

22Dec

BRRRRRRRR

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WEATHER

Weather was definitely the topic of the day yesterday at the Florida Sea Base.  I checked the radar at 06:00 (yesterday) and a well defined squall line was west of Key West.  It did not look terribly strong.  The local temperature was 74°F.  That was the high temperature of the day.  The front was at the Florida Sea Base at 08:00; that’s over 90 miles covered in just two hours.  By noon it was very sunny, but windy and the temperature had dropped to 68°.  By dinner time the temperature had fallen to 65°.  This morning it was 52° and the wind was from the North at 24-26 knots.  Our forecasted high for today is only 66° but we may break 70 on Sunday with a warming trend for the next several days.  Overrall, the forecast is much better than it was two weeks ago.

DIVEMASTER ACADEMY

Candidates from the Divemaster Academy stayed busy despite the falling temperatures and increased winds.  The first order of business was flags, then breakfast.  Captain Dennis Wyatt played “Happy Birthday” on the saw in honor of DMA candidate Mitchell Evans’ birthday at flags yesterday morning.  Captain Christy Clemenson donated a ice-cream cake.

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Click to enlarge.

At 08:45 we met at the Florida Sea Base scuba area where the candidates watched as Captain Alex Bergstedt performed a demonstration quality presentation on assembling the scuba gear.  Then each candidate had to demonstrate this skill for one of the DMA cadre for score.

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Click to enlarge.

After an early lunch, went to the Founders Park Pool, the municipal pool owned by the Village of Islamorada.  The candidates had to perform a 800 yard swim (with mask, snorkel and fins), a 400 yard free-style swim, a 15 minute tread (keeping their hands out of the water for the last 2 minutes), and demonstrated four skin diving skills.  Each of these exercises was scored; the swim scores were time based.

The DMA candidates took their written exam last night.  Candidate Brenda Mallory scored 100%.  The lowest score in the class was 92%.  An EXCELLENT job by all.

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

21Dec

30 UNDER 30

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STAFF

Former Florida Sea Base staff member Russell Conard has made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.  CONGRATULATIONS to Russell and his wife Whitney, both of whom served in various capacities, including Divemasters, at the Florida Sea Base.  (Captain Dennis Wyatt was kind enough to provide the link.)

WEATHER

Just follow the plot of wind,temperature and rain over the next two days.  That tells the story.  Hello winter storm Draco!

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We may not be digging out of snow or scraping ice off our windshields at the Florida Sea Base, but this fast moving winter storm is certainly having an effect all the way to the Florida Keys.  Break out the parkas and furry boots!!!

DIVEMASTER ACADEMY

Thursday morning the DMA candidates practiced navigation on land in the morning.  After having lunch at the Florida Sea Base they went to Alligator Reef for a two tank dive.  The first dive was a familiarity dive.  The second was an evaluated dive where they demonstrated their ability to lead PADI Discover Scuba Diving participants on a subsequent dive.  Divemaster Kyle Moran was kind enough to provide this photo of one of the three DMA teams preparing to descend.

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Click to enlarge.

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

 

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