Archive for January, 2013

31Jan

TRAVEL

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HAVE CIVIC WILL TRAVEL

Wednesday I left the Florida Sea Base at 03:30ish.  I drove 922 miles to Slidell, LA.  My moving time was 13 hours and 28 minutes.  I took 1 hour and 7 minutes of break time (including one potty stop where I managed to deal with 20 emails – true multitasking!).  The total elapsed time from the Florida Sea Base to the Hampton Inn in Slidell, LA was 14 hours and 35 minutes.  My moving average was 68 mph and my total average (including the breaks) was 63 mph.  My best fill-up was 41.9 mpg.  (My Civic is NOT a hybrid.)

I ran into some very nasty weather in the Florida panhandle including blinding rain and some serious wind that made staying on the road a real challenge.  I was forced onto the shoulder TWICE by 18 wheelers.  The Escambia bridge is on the east side of Pensacola, FL; the wind was coming from the south (hitting us broadside) and gusting to 50 mph as we crossed.  The Civic was so light that a few times it felt like I was floating.

When I crossed the Florida/Alabama state line the temperature dropped dramatically behind the front.  I had to turn the a/c off and turn on the heater.  By the time I got into Mississippi it was warm enough to shut off the heater.  It was just a little cool when I arrived in Slidell yesterday but this morning it was only 34°F.

BACK AT THE BASE

I only received to reports from folks back at base  yesterday.  The scuba staff were conducting an inventory of our emergency oxygen kits for the dive boats.  Captain Rich had a conference call with the Sea Scouts.  He has been very involved with improving the relationship between the Sea Scouts and the Florida Sea Base.  I hope there are no negative repercussions with Captain Rich’s departure.

TODAY

I will meet with the nice folks at Newton Dive Boats this morning.  I have a list of electronics and diagrams (thanks Captain Christy) showing how we want the bridge arranged.  Then I have a 10 hour drive to Dallas.  Today will be another LONG day.

NEXT POST

I will post when I can.  It is challenging when I’m traveling.  Captain Rich is making a mad dash to North Carolina and back this weekend to take a load of stuff to his new 4 bedroom house which sits on 9 acres.  What a change that will be after living on a boat for so many years. 🙂

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
In room 311, Hampton Inn, Slidell, LA

 

29Jan

WELCOME ABOARD

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SAILING DIRECTOR

Captain Luke Knuttel has officially accepted the position of Sailing Director for Florida Sea Base.  Welcome aboard Captain Luke; enjoy the ride!

SCUBA COMMISSIONER

Former Scuba Commissioner Laura Kuras has agreed to re-join the team for this spring.  She has an incredible job lined up for the summer but has made her services available to us for the spring. Welcome back Commish!

ROAD TRIP!!!!

I will be on the road by 04:00 Wednesday morning (about 9 hours from this writing).  With a little luck I will make it to Slidell, Louisiana by 20:00 (8 pm).  Thursday morning I will meet with Newton Dive Boat personnel to discuss the electronics and installation aboard BSA Sea Scout which is currently under construction.

NEXT POST

I will post Wednesday evening or Thursday morning if possible.

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

END OF AN ERA

I will be on the road early (VERY early) Wednesday morning on my way to Slidell, LA to check on the BSA Sea Scout and then to Dallas for the BSA national committee meetings.  So today is my last day of working with Captain Rich Beliveau.  He will be on his way to North Carolina and a new beginning before I get back.  Captain Rich and I have been a great team.  I love him like a brother.  I will miss him very day.  BUT, never say never; there remains the chance of a sequel on a future endeavor.  A plan for future collaboration is afoot.  Godspeed & fair winds Captain Rich.

SCUBA

With the combined efforts of Florida Sea Base staff members Captain Christy Clemenson, Captain Sargon Smith, Divemaster Brenda Mallory, and Captain Rich Beliveau the pros from the BSA Centennial Eagle have been removed, resurfaced, and reinstalled.  Captain Christy reports the vessel is running better than ever.  Way to go team!!!

CONFERENCES

The Bay Lakes Council conference attendees were taken on an eco-tour that included Lignum Vitae State Park, Indian Key State Park and the Alligator Reef lighthouse.  I was busy elsewhere so I am not sure what staff members attended.  Food and Conference Director Tim Stanfill spent most of the day at the Brinton Environmental Center where the Ortho-Biony group is meeting.

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

28Jan

SPRING 2013

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SPRING SEASON

The Florida Sea Base will have a busy spring.  While we continue to struggle to attract enough Scouting units to fill the spring season with program activities, Food and Conference Director Tim Stanfill has done an excellent job of filling all of the holes with conferences.

The program season kicks off 16 February.  I don’t have copies of any of the schedules except scuba at this time.  The first week we have one Scuba Adventure crew and one Scuba Liveaboard crew.  The next 12 days there are no Scout units but the place will be a beehive of conference activity.  After that we have three scuba crews, then three more.  The week before Easter we have eight scuba crews and the week post Easter we have another eight crews.  The following week we are down to six crews, then one crew and then one final crew and the 2013 spring program season will conclude.

While I don’t have a copy of the other program schedules, their general trends follow those of the scuba attendance.  Generally speaking we start about President’s Day, then nothing, then a crescendo until the week before and after Easter (when we get slammed) and then it tapers off until the end of April.

 STAFF

Many of the Florida Sea base staff members are very involved with their local councils when not serving Scouts here.  To wit, and email from PADI Divemaster Paul Mangone who is the Cubmaster back home:

Steve and Tim,
Thought you all might be interested in our pack trip to the Florida Aquarium. We have other really great shots of the boys. We had a great time during this overnight adventure “sleeping with the fishes”, dissecting a carp, and learning about or wonderful Florida marine environment. We had about 56 scouts, parents and siblings attend. See you all soon!
Paul Mangone
Pack 8463
SW FL Council
Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Captain Christy Clemenson spent Sunday working on the paperwork for all of the US Coast Guard inspected dive boat at the Florida Sea Base.  This was an all day project.  I appreciate her detail to regulations and neatness.

Captain Sargon Smith was granted Sunday off.  So he spent the morning driving a dive boat in an attempt to take some of the staff diving.  (The attempt was aborted due to sea state.)  The Food and Conference Director Tim Stanfill had to dispatch some of his staff to the Brinton Environmental Center to assist with a conference there and Captain Sargon was drafted to take the Sea Base conference group stand-up paddle boarding.

WEATHER

Breezy – in one word, that’s it.  The wind has been blowing for a week or more.  For the coming week, the National Weather Service is forecasting high temperatures near 80, lows around 72, a 10%-20% chance of some rainfall, and continued 20 knot winds except on Thursday when we might get a one day break.

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

CONFERENCE

The Volunteer Development conference spouses went snorkeling yesterday.  The weather conditions at the Florida Sea Base were not great but the participants seemed to have a VERY good time. 🙂  Yesterday evening several of the attendees went on a sunset cruise.  Captain Christy, Captain Sargon and Conference Mates Ronnie, Jim and Jessica were aboard as support.

The groups leaves the Florida Sea Base tomorrow morning and is replaced by the Bay Lakes Council group in the afternoon.  The staff has a very limited time to flip rooms in between.  To make this happen, we are ordering pizza so the Galley staff can help with the process.

WOODBADGE

Scuba Instructor David Ball sent me this email yesterday:

A little news from the world of Scouts at home…

I don’t know how much you remember about Boy Scouts but I just completed my Woodbadge Ticket, which means I have passed my training and will be awarded my beads. I took 15 months to complete…my ‘ticket project’ involved presenting high adventure opportunities to Scouts of my council. Big deal for us since Chris and Barbara also have earned theirs and we will have the award ceremony together.

Just an old Boy Scout.

Chris is Dave’s son and Barbara is Dave’s wife.  Congratulations to the Ball family!

WEATHER

The forecast looks like more of the same for the coming week; breezy, lows in the mid 60s, highs in the mid to upper 70s, and a slight chance of scattered showers.

SUNDAY

I am anticipating a quiet weekend so I probably won’t post Sunday.

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

25Jan

TEAM MEETING

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JANUARY TEAM MEETING

The full time staff of the Florida Sea Base (all 14 of us) meet monthly.  Yesterday was the day.  We discussed exciting things like budget, workers comp claims for seasonal staff, and a lot of things that we want to do but can’t.  But there was a lot of good news too.  So many requests for 2014 Virgin Island Sailing Adventures have already been made that we may (or may not) add more boats to the inaugural year of the program.  Despite the BSA National Jamboree (which usually reduces our attendance), the Florida Sea Base is expecting another record breaking year in the number of crews and Scouts served.

SCUBA WAGONS

I have mentioned several times in the past few days that Captain Sargon Smith and Divemaster Brenda Mallory have been assembling scuba wagons.  Here are a couple of photos of their hard work.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

The old wagons were in bad shape.  This is just one of those behind the scenes chores that makes the magic of Sea Base a reality but is rarely (if ever) considered by the participants.  It’s not unusual for us to hire former participants as seasonal staff members.  Every once in a great while they end their summer of service greatly disillusioned.  They don’t realize that it takes a lot of hard work to provide lifetime memories to the Florida Sea Base participants.  Working on the Florida Sea Base staff is a lot of fun.  But “working” is the key word in that sentence.

SUMMER STAFF

Speaking of working at the Florida Sea Base, it is past time to submit applications for the 2013 summer season.  So if you are thinking about working here you need to get your applicants in pronto.  Record numbers of participants and crews served requires record numbers of staff.  You can download a staff application HERE.

WEATHER

Warm and windy.  The end.

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

 

24Jan

CHILL-EEEE

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WEATHER

Welcome, from the warm (?) and sunny Florida Keys.  The National Weather Service is reporting 66º at the Marathon Airport.  The Florida Sea Base temperature (according to the unofficial thermometer aboard S/V Escape) is 59°F.  In all fairness, my thermometer is sitting on the deck top (temporarily) where it is exposed to the 21 knot winds blowing across the water.  So my reading is more of a “feels like” temperature.  But that is one of the things on which The Weather Channel Meteorologist Stephanie Abrams and I agree – if it feels like 59 then it’s 59.  Our water temperatures have dropped to 73°F on the ocean side and 69°F on the bay side.

SAILING DIRECTOR

We expect to learn who Captain Paul Beal has chosen to be the next Florida Sea Base Sailing Director very soon.  We have our monthly Team Meeting this morning so maybe the selectee will be announced then.  I know Captain Rich is running short on his remaining time at the Florida Sea Base and he is anxious about giving the newbie as much guidance as possible before he leaves.  That statement alone shows his extraordinary dedication to the Florida Sea Base.  Many individuals would develop short-timer’s disease and just walk away.  Even a super hero (like Super Sailor Person) would have a difficult time replacing Captain Rich.  He has raised the expectations of the captains and staff to an unimaginably high level.

STAFF

Captain Sargon Smith and Divemaster Brenda Mallory have completed the assembly of 30 new wagons for the convenience of our spring and summer scuba participants.  Captain Christy Clemenson is working hard to prepare the dive boats for the upcoming season and the annual US Coast Guard safety inspections.

I overheard plans yesterday morning for Ronnie Fye and Jessica Skiba to take the spouses of the Volunteer Development Conference to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for the day.  Pennekamp was the first underwater park in the USA.  The remainder of the Food and Conference staff remained behind to serve the conference attendees.

The heater aboard Escape is working well.  The forward head is operational.  Other than walking down the dock to the office I will not be exposed to the bone chilling 60 degree weather this morning.  So the day is off to a good start.  We will see how the 3 hour Team Meeting affects that.

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

23Jan

YESTERDAY

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“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away”, or so sung the Beetles during the British music invasion of the USA.  And what does that have to do with the Florida Sea Base?  Not much; but I am struggling to remember what happened yesterday which means nothing unusual.

Everyone was very busy.  I was in the office very early and worked on various paperwork assignments.  Then I went to Admin right after breakfast anticipating a meeting being called to discuss the applicants for the Sailing Director position.  But everyone was too busy.  So I collected mail and packages that needed to go to the Program Office.  But there was too much so I summoned Captain Sargon Smith to bring a wagon and help me out.  I returned to the office and Captain Sargon went to the scuba area to assemble more wagons.  Later in the day I saw Divemaster Brenda Mallory working on the wagon assembly.  (She’s a really hard worker.)

Meanwhile, Captain Christy Clemenson loaded up before breakfast (she was up early too) and headed for Marathon.  She took the props from BSA Centennial Eagle to the prop shop , went shopping for boat supplies at West Marine, and then visited the BSA Tarpon in the boat yard and removed the fire extinguishers to bring them back to the Florida Sea Base for inspection.

The Food and Conference staff members stayed busy with the Volunteer Development conference group.  Many of the attendees were taken on a “sunset” cruise with conference staff members Ronnie, Jim and Jessica, Sailing Commissioner Bryce as the First Mate, Captain Sargon Smith at the helm, and Captain Rich Beliveau and I tagging along as tour guides.  I put “sunset” in quotes because the sky was very cloudy to the west and we did not actually see the sun set.  There was a sliver or two of bright orange blazing through the cloud cover and then it went away.  We are going to try again Friday. 🙂

There was a lot of other day-to-day activities going on in Admin, with the facilities folks and the volunteers were working like maniacs (as they do every day) on landscaping projects.

That’s it; yesterday was a very productive day.  PLUS, there is even more fun ahead today at the Florida Sea Base.  Office Manager Susan Mahoney will be arriving today or tomorrow.  (She is sailing in with husband Captain Tim aboard S/V Flamingo and a firm schedule is frequently challenging when sailing.)

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

22Jan

MLK DAY

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HOLIDAY

Monday was a BSA holiday.  However, most of the full time staff at the Florida Sea Base reported for duty.  If you were fortunate enough to have a three day weekend I hope you made the most of it and had a great time.

CONFERENCE

The BBYO departed yesterday morning and another Volunteer Development group arrived yesterday evening.  The Florida Sea Base Food and Conference Director, Tim Stanfill, has done an excellent job of keeping the non-program dates filled with conference attendees this year.

SCUBA

The last time Captain Christy Clemenson drove BSA Centennial Eagle she noticed a vibration.  So Captain Sargon Smith jumped in the water yesterday to inspect the props and shafts; we assumed that the boat had run over a lobster trap and line was wrapped on a shaft.  What Captain Sargon found was much worse; two of the four blades on the port prop were bent.  Captain Christy and Captain Sargon suited up and a few hours later had removed both props.  (The props have to be balanced for proper performance.  So if one prop is worked on they both require adjustment.)

Late in the afternoon I caught Divemaster Brenda Mallory assembling scuba carts.  Rob and Bart from Breathing Air Concepts showed up around 16:00 to work on our scuba compressors.  They are and incredible, competent, fair team.  It is rare in the Keys to find a service company that is completely above reproach.  Breathing Air Concepts is a rare gem.

WEATHER

Between 15:00 (3 pm) and 16:00 (4 pm) our wind speed almost doubled from 8 knots to 13 knots.  By 19:00 (7 pm) we were at 16 knots.  I did not foresee this change when looking at the forecast Monday morning.  Here is today’s marine forecast from the National Weather Service.

Today: North winds near 15 knots…decreasing to 10 to 15 knots in the afternoon. Seas around 2 feet. Nearshore waters a moderate chop…becoming a light to moderate chop.
Tonight: North to northeast 10 to 15 knots early…increasing to near 20 knots. Seas building to 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters becoming rough. Isolated showers.
Wednesday: Northeast winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. nearshore waters choppy.
Wednesday Night And Thursday: Northeast to east winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters choppy. Isolated showers.
Thursday Night: Northeast to east winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters choppy. Isolated showers.
Friday: East winds near 15 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Nearshore waters a moderate chop. Isolated showers.
Friday Night: Northeast to east winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas around 2 feet. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop. Isolated showers.
Saturday: Northeast winds near 15 knots. Seas around 2 feet. nearshore waters a moderate chop. Isolated showers.
Saturday Night: North to northeast winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Nearshore waters choppy. Isolated showers.

As of this morning, the week looks like lows in the mid 60s, highs in the mid 70s, very breezy, and a 10% chance of light scattered showers daily.

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

CONFERENCE

The Food and Conference staff were again occupied by the B’Nai B’Rith Youth Organization.  They are a fun group.

STAFF

Most of the rest of the staff was off.  Captain Christy Clemenson put in a full day preparing information for me to take to Newton Dive Boats on my way to the BSA committee meetings in Dallas.  Captain Rich Beliveau took some of the staff scuba diving.  I stayed on base, doing laundry, cleaning up the head project, putting away tools, etc.  My L7-S1 disc is toast.  It always takes a day or two to recover after a day of bending and twisting like Saturday.  The good news is my left leg/hip (the side with the titanium femora) was good to go Sunday morning.  The bad news is between that and my back I did not sleep any Saturday night.  So i took about a 2 hour nap while the divers were out.

WEATHER

Our forecast looks good for winter; highs in the mid 70s, lows in the upper 60s, slight chance of brief showers, a just a titch breezy at 15 knots from the north.  At 07:00 ET it is 66°F at the Florida Sea Base, -8°F in Cimarron, NM, and -22°F in Ely, MN.

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

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