Archive for October, 2013

31Oct

TRAVEL TIME

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Captain Alex and I spent yesterday wrapping up projects at the Florida Sea Base in preparation for upcoming travels.  We had one person withdraw from the winter scuba staff so one divemaster opening remains.  The Scuba Liveaboard crew arriving on 26 December has requested to be on two boats so they will be scheduled on S/V Adventure with Captain Hans and S/V Lady Nell II, hopefully with Captain Maggie at the helm.  The second Scuba Liveaboard crew arrives on the 27th and will be aboard the Schooner Conch Pearl with Captain Denny and Captain Holly.

BSA AQUATICS TASK FORCE

I fly out of Fort Lauderdale / Hollywood International Airport (FLL) Friday and have the privilege of returning to the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex.  I will attend the BSA Aquatics Task Force Meeting on Saturday and Sunday.  We have a very full agenda including Cub Aquatics Update, Whitewater Policy, Aquatics Website Development, Staff Guide and Section V Update, Aquatics Play Structure Guidance , Jamboree Aquatics Update, Activity Award Review, Whitewater Merit Badge Update, SUP Activity Award Launch and Observations, Aquatics Merit Badge Discussion, and the 2014 National Aquatics Workshop Discussion.  Fortunately, all of this high power BSA policy stuff will be tempered by some time spent with my family.

DEMA

Monday I fly back to FLL, pick up my car, and drive to Orlando where I will be met by Captain Alex on Tuesday.  We will spend the week at the DEMA show attending updates on policies, procedures and risk management and viewing new and improved scuba equipment.  PADI is rolling out several revisions to their Open Water Diver course and the instructional and participant materials for the course.  It is also a great networking opportunity.

2014

The Florida Sea Base scheduling calendar is so all-over-the-place that it could make a pirate’s parrot seasick.  We are wrapping up the 2013 program season, we have wrapped up the budget for 2014, we have taken reservations for 2014, we have now sent out all of the crew packets for 2014 and in just 10 weeks we open reservations for 2015.  People laugh at me when I ask what year it is.  This is why I am confused.  (Well, ONE reason why I’m confused.  It really does not explain ALL of my confusion!)

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

 

30Oct

WINDY

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WEATHER

Like yesterday, there is nothing of significance to post today.  Fortunately, we are not diving at the Florida Sea Base.  The wind has been blowing from the east for over a week.  As you can see in this graphic from the National Weather Service, the wind is forecasted to stay in the 15 knot range from the east for a while longer.  Strong east winds make diving in the middle and upper Keys very challenging.  Hopefully this will settle down in time for Christmas.

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SCUBA

Scuba Commissioner Captain Alex Bergstedt has put everything away from the Instructor Development Course.  Winter staff hiring is coming along very well.  If you are interested, please call Captain Alex or me TODAY or we may not be able to fit you in. A few days ago I was very concerned about having enough staff for the winter season.  Captain Alex has been sending emails and making phone calls to recruit experience Florida Sea Base scuba staff.  We generally hire only returning staff during the winter because we don’t have time for staff training.

As a former seasonal staff member, I am very aware of the fact that working at the Florida Sea Base for one week during the winter is not a profitable experience.  One week’s pay barely covers travel expenses.  The staff members who work at the Florida Sea Base during this week have a higher motivation.  Travel is expensive at that time of year and Christmas is a major family holiday for many.  Most parents would rather have their kids home for a few weeks between college semesters.  But the staff who serve the participants of the Florida Sea Base are generally motivated by their support of the Scouting movement and the desire to give back to Scouting.  They understand how vital they are to a successful program and are willing to make this sacrifice.  I cannot adequately express my appreciation to these staffers and to the families who support their presence here.  Most of our participants will not understand the sacrifice these staff members are making until later in life.  And that is the magic that keeps Scouting alive; at some point in the future, the young men and women attending the Florida Sea Base this winter will feel the need to give back as they realize the Christmas gift they received from this year’s staff.

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

29Oct

CLEAN-UP

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There is not much to report from the Florida Sea Base this morning.  The weather is gorgeous.  Scuba Commissioner Captain Alex Bergstedt and I spent the day cleaning up after the IDC.  Newly certified PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor Scott Patton helped us remove some software from the FSB computer.  Captain Alex and I removed all of our training materials and equipment from the Matecumbe Room to make room for the next conference group.  We also started working on an IDC library.  I had a lunch meeting in Marathon with one of the Florida Sea Base vessel owners regarding future programming.  When I returned to base I finally had time to clean out the trunk of my car from my last visit to Texas and to do some maintenance on the salon air conditioner on S/V Escape.  That’s it!  Have a great day.

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

28Oct

IE – DAY 2

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SCUBA

Click to enlarge.

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Success!!!  The four Florida Sea Base candidates attending the PADI Instructor Exam this weekend were successful.  Austen Potter was – again – the frosting on the cake earning perfect scores on both of his open water teaching presentations.  That does not take anything away from Brenda Mallory, Tyler Giblin or Scott Patton.  Each and every one will make excellent Scuba Instructors for the Florida Sea Base.  PADI Course Director Captain Bert Hubby was instrumental in the team’s success.  Thank you so much Bert.  Shown in the photo, from left to right: PADI Course Director Captain Steve Willis, PADI Open Water ScubaInstructor Tyler Giblin, PADI Educational Consultant and Instructor Examiner Eric Albinsson, PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor Austen Potter, PADI Course Director Captain Bert Hubby, PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor Brenda Mallory, PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor Scott Patton, and PADI Instructor Examiner Gary Newman.

WEATHER

The weather was perfect yesterday for the IE; mostly sunny, warm and just enough breeze to keep it from feeling too warm.  We are expecting more of the same for at least the coming week.

UPCOMING

Now that the IDC and IE have concluded, it is time to return to more routine tasks.  Scuba Commissioner Captain Alex Bergstedt and I  have two more Divemaster Academy candidates to send training materials.  We have scuba gear to purchase for next season, bills to pay, boats to contract, staff to hire, ad nauseam.

I fly to Dallas on Friday to attend the BSA National Aquatics Task Force Meeting on Saturday and Sunday.  I fly back to Fort Lauderdale Monday morning and then drive to Orlando, FL to attend the Dive Equipment and Marketing Association show.  DEMA is a week long scuba trade show.  By the time the DEMA show concludes, I will have worked exactly 4 weeks with one day off for a doctor’s appointment.  Fortunately this is our “slow” season. 🙂

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

26Oct

IE – DAY 1

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SCUBA

Saturday was the first day of the PADI Instructor Exam for the first candidates to ever attend as graduates from a Florida Sea Base Instructor Development Course.  Team Sea Base (Tyler Giblin, Scott Patton, Brenda Mallory and Austin Potter) is four of the 28 candidates present at this IE.

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There was MUCH to celebrate.  Each member of Team Sea Base had a perfect score on the skills demonstration circuit and their Confined Water (pool) presentation.  On top of that, Austen Potter also had a perfect score on his classroom teaching presentation!

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The bottom line is that all of our candidates have successfully completed all evaluations for day one.  Two more evaluations will be conducted today.

WINTER SCUBA STAFF

We are still shorthanded for scuba staff this winter.  If you have worked on the Florida Sea Base scuba staff in the past, we could really use your help.

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

SCUBA

“Today’s the day” is attributed to treasure hunter Mel Fisher who discovered the wreck of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha (near Key West) and the billions of dollars of treasure she was carrying.  And today IS the day (first day) of Instructor Exams for the first IDC candidates from the Florida Sea Base.  Today’s written exams will cover PADI standards and procedures, physics, physiology, recreational dive planner, general skills and the environment and equipment.  They will also be  evaluated on their demonstration quality dive skills and teaching ability in the swimming pool.  Tomorrow the candidates will be evaluated on their ability to conduct training dives in open water and on their rescue technique.

The Florida Sea Base has provided room and board, training materials, instructors, boats and other logistical support for these candidates.  However, they still have a significant financial investment (prerequisite eLearning course fees, travel, instructor application fees and $575 just for the testing fee) in this pursuit.  In return for our support, each of these candidates will work at the Florida Sea Base for a season as a Scuba Instructor.  I am truly excited to finally have this program up and running.  Hopefully we will have many successful IDCs to come after the completion of the new swimming pool.

WEATHER

It looks like we may have windy, but otherwise good conditions for the Instructor Exam.  There are no major weather threats on the radar in the near future.

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Click to enlarge.

There is a slim chance of increased activity in the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico over the next few weeks.

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

PROGRAM

Today is the conclusion of the first PADI Instructor Development Course to be hosted by the Florida Sea Base.  The course was attended by five IDC candidates, two IDC Staff Instructor candidates and led by PADI Course Director Captain Bert Hubby and me.

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The course began on 17 October 2013 and it has been a grueling schedule for the candidates and staff of 12 plus hours a day for nine days.  Austen Potter, Brenda Mallory, Scott Patton and Tyler Giblin will attend the PADI Instructor Exam this Saturday and Sunday in Key Largo.  (Paul Mangone has a scheduling conflict and will attend the IE next month.)

I cannot express my gratitude to Captain Bert Hubby for his exceptional instruction and leadership during this course.  Captain Bert and I have a long history starting in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex as PADI professionals at Arlington Scuba Center, then working together at the Florida Sea Base as scuba instructors, proposing the concept and co-teaching the first Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy, proposing the idea of a Scuba Liveaboard program for the Florida Sea Base, and now co-teaching the first FSB IDC.

WEATHER

We are doing better than much of the country despite the arrival of a cold front on Thursday.  “Cold” is a bit of a misnomer.  But since there is no such animal as a “wind”  or “rain”front, cold will have to do.  Here is our forecast from the National Weather Service:

Friday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 83. Breezy, with a northeast wind 15 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Friday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 73. Windy, with a northeast wind 20 to 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Saturday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 83. Breezy, with a northeast wind 15 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Saturday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 73. Breezy, with a northeast wind 15 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Sunday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 83. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Sunday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 75. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Monday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 83. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Monday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 77. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Tuesday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 84. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Tuesday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 77. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Wednesday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 85. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Wednesday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 77. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Thursday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 84. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

CONSTRUCTION

Progress is being made on the new swimming pool complex.  The question is whether they are on schedule.  The answer is I have no idea.  I will try to make time to post a photo or two next week (after the IE).

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

16Oct

IDC

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PADI INSTRUCTOR DEVELOPMENT COURSE

Candidates arrive today for the first PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) ever hosted by the Florida Sea Base.  We held our first Divemaster Training Academy (DMA) in 2004 and are hosting our 10th DMA this winter.  The motivation for incurring the expenses of the DMA is that it allows us to take individuals with significant Scouting backgrounds and allow them to earn the rating of PADI Divemaster for our scuba programs.  It also affords us a two week observation of these individuals to determine if they are likely to make good employees and serve as positive role models for our participants.  We are now extending that philosophy to our instructional staff.  We are hopeful that this will benefit individuals with significant Scouting backgrounds by giving them the opportunity to earn the  PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor rating at a somewhat reduced cost and it will increase our pool of potential scuba staff members.

I must again thank my friend and mentor, Captain Bert Hubby, a PADI Course Director (instructor trainer), for guiding me through the process of becoming the first BSA National Council employee to earn the rating of PADI Course Director.  I am also indebted to Florida Sea Base General Manager Captain Paul Beal and a very long list of PADI Americas management and employees for making this a reality.  It is our goal to constantly improve all of the programs offered at the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base.  This is a big step.

My blog posts will likely be few and far between this week.  The IDC is essentially an intense, eight day, 12 plus hours a day, development course followed by two days of evaluation by Instructor Examiners who are dispatched from PADI headquarters to determine if the Course Directors have effectively prepared the IDC candidates to become PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors.  We will wrap up the course and exams on 27 October.  The only time I will have to answer emails and return phone calls will be in the evenings.

USED SCUBA GEAR SALE

Every year we replace about one third of our scuba regulators and buoyancy compensators.  This is a great opportunity to you to score the deal of a lifetime on some gently used and well maintain dive gear.  BC/regulator sets are only $350 per set.  This is high quality equipment manufactured by Aqua Lung.  The BCs are Wave models.  The regulators are Calypso models with ABS alternate air sources, BC inflator hoses, and Apex three gauge analog consoles that include a depth gauge, tank air pressure gauge and compass.  Please email fsbscubagear@gmail.com for further information and to place orders.

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WEATHER

The tropics should remain quiet for the coming week or two with a possible increase in activity near the end of the month.  The water temperature on the reef is 82°F.  Locally, we have a chance of some showers over the next two weeks, but overall if looks favorable for the IDC and upcoming conferences.  Stay warm and dry wherever you are.

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

WEATHER

We are still enjoying decent weather at the Florida Sea Base.  But there are two interesting systems out there that I found interesting because they will have unexpected results quite a ways from their current location.

Tropical Storm Octave is in the Pacific Ocean near the Baja Peninsula.  This system  brought much needed rain to Texas.  But in a few areas of the state if was too much too quickly and caused flash flooding.

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Click to enlarge.

The other system is more amazing.  Typhoon Wipha will be skirting Japan over the next few days.  The remnants of this system will cross the Pacific and will likely bring very nasty weather to Alaska by the weekend.  But the truly amazing part is that the remnants will push cold air all the way from Alaska, through west-central Canada, into the central United States and as far south as Texas.

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Click to enlarge.

I have not read or seen any discussion about the possibility of these two systems colliding in north Texas.  Stay tuned!

PROGRAM

A few days ago I promised so photos of the construction that is underway at the Florida Sea Base.  Monday afternoon I made time to take these photos from the participant dormitories.  I went to Florida Sea Base General Manager Captain Paul Beal and told him the construction was making a high mess and we should just call it off and patch up the old pool.  Captain Beal replied that the new pool would be named the “Steve Willis Memorial Pool” because he was going to kill me.

This first shot is basically an overview taken from the middle of the participant dorms and showing the majority of the area under construction.

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Click to enlarge.

The next four photos were taken from the west corner of the dorms (closest to the submarine) and were taken from right to left.  If you taped these together it would make somewhat of a panoramic view of the area that makes up the parade grounds, former volleyball courts and former Ship’s Store site.

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Progress!

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

13Oct

ALEX’S SOUL

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STAFF

A tiny replica of a pirate’s treasure chest sits on a shelf in my office.  I don’t remember how many years it has sat there or what precipitated my coming into its possession.  The label on the chest reads, “Alex’s Soul”.  After Sunday’s events, I feel obligated to return custody of this chest to Scuba Commissioner Captain Alex Bergstedt.  I will be brief (mainly because I am exhausted and need to lay down).

Captain Alex volunteered to accompany me on the delivery of S/V Escape from Treasure Harbor Marine to the Florida Sea Base Sunday.  I had made the trip from FSB to Treasure Harbor alone without incident.  I had no reason to anticipate any issues on Sunday.  For brevity’s sake let me simply say that we had a fuel issue (as in fuel not getting to the engine).  We were blessed that the engine conked out after we had navigated the twisty, shallow channel leading out of Treasure Harbor Marine and prior to us entering the twisty, narrow, current ridden, Snake Creek Channel that leads to the draw bridge on US 1.  Either of those locations could have resulted in major safety issues for the boat and even for Captain Alex and I on a personal level.

It took about 2 hours to fix the fuel problem.  We thought we were about to be on our way when we discovered the anchor was entangled with a lobster trap.  More than 30 minutes later the lobster trap was released undamaged.  But now we had a 2.5 hour drive ahead of us in the dark with lobster traps littering the water like a World War II mine field.

Allow me to digress.  Captain Rich Beliveau, Captain Jon Strydom, and Captain Pam Anderson of Treasure Harbor Marine all provided assistance or guidance via cell phone.  Captain Martin Ivey and Captain Derek Polt came to the scene of our anchorage to assist just as we got the engine started (of course).  Captain Martin and Captain Derek were kind enough to follow us back to the Florida Sea Base in the dark.

Escape is safely secured in Florida Sea Base slip 14 this evening with the help of all the above named.  But the situation would have been much worse without Captain Alex on board.  So Monday morning Captain Alex will get his “soul” back.

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

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