Archive for February, 2014

28Feb

RAIN

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UNEXPECTED OPPORTUNITY

Reservations for the 2014 Florida Sea Base US Virgin Islands sailing program booked completely and quickly during the 2013 lottery.  I noticed yesterday that there may be a crew with some openings.  You can find the details at http://www.bsaseabase.org/ScoutConnections/GroupList.aspx.  It is the 6th listing from the top.

The USVI program is going to be INCREDIBLE.  All first year participants are going to have bragging rights for decades to come.

WEATHER

We had a 60% chance of rain yesterday.  Here’s what it looked like.

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The REVISED forecast moved the 60% chance of rain to last night and today.  By 19:30 the radar was covered in green.  Maybe the Accord will get a Keys car wash after all.

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Click to enlarge.

We had light rain overnight and it looks like we will have light rain off and on for part of the day.  The overnight rain should have loosened much of the dirt on my car.  I will rub it with a sponge this morning and hopefully the rain will continue long enough to give her a decent rinse.

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

27Feb

IT’S COMING

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WEATHER

This is the NEXRAD regional radar shot from 07:00 Wednesday morning.  It’s amazing how close mixed and frozen precipitation was to the Florida Sea Base.  Our temperatures have dropped a few degrees, but comparatively, we are still toasty.

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Miami and the northern Keys experienced a foggy morning yesterday.  Fog is a rare experience in the area of operations usually visited by Florida Sea Base crews.  Captains Rich and Carol Beliveau can tell you a funny story about our first experience with fog on the bay near base.

We had some heavy fog/rain bands south of us yesterday afternoon.

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Click to enlarge.

The wind has continued to blow from the West.  It has increased to 17 knots this morning.  Rain is likely coming to the Keys.  How much and whether we will see any is, of course, the question.  We have a 50% chance today, 70% chance tonight and 50% chance again tomorrow.  I am going to move my car out from under the funeral home awning that serves as my garage and hope we get a down-pour.  We refer to that as a Key’s car wash.  Our resident ospreys have new chicks and they like to sit atop the mast on Escape while they eat their fish. The deck could also use a good washing to remove some of the fish gusts and osprey poop.  So rain or no rain, there are good points either way.

The 06:10 radar image from Weather Underground shows a thin, but intense line of showers is rapidly approaching.

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Click to enlarge.

STAFF

Another graduate of the most recent Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy, Andrew Laing, reported for duty yesterday afternoon.  Andrew will join Jenna, Alec and Captain Alex who are performing annual servicing of the scuba tanks.

POOL

Captain Steve Harrison shared one of the newest arial photos of the Florida Sea Base pool construction.

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Click to enlarge.

The weak attempt at labeling is my doing.

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

 

26Feb

AGAIN?

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WEATHER

Yesterday morning the fresh westerly breeze that had been building through Monday clocked to the North and diminished substantially.  But Tuesday afternoon the wind returned to the West and strengthened again.  We have a 40% to 60% chance of rain Thursday through Friday.  I assume this off and on westerly breeze is a sign of the impending change.  Where I sit while typing these posts has a decent view of the barometer aboard Escape.  So far, it is still indicating decent weather.

CONFERENCE

The Nature Conservancy group was off base most of Tuesday.  They will be holding sessions most of today.

HELP WANTED

I need an Office Manager that can start IMMEDIATELY and stay until the end of summer.  I can be contacted at 305-393-7373 or steve.willis@scouting.org.  The position requires the usual: good phone skills, use of Word, Excel and especially Outlook.  Any medical background is a real plus.  Primary duties include checking crews in and out and the monumental task of reviewing the scuba crew medicals.  Pay is negotiable (this is one of our better paying jobs).  The office Manager needs to be mature enough to deal with parents and leaders.

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

25Feb

RAIN?

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WEATHER

Yesterday I noticed that the wind had clocked to the West.  As I was walking the dock from dinner, returning to Escape, the westerly breeze had freshened and was started to growl through the rigging of the sailboats.  Westerly winds are almost always bad news.  I cranked up the MacBook Pro and AT&T MiFi to see if something was brewing or if this was just a tease from Mother Nature.

The NWS marine forecast looked ok.  The NWS forecast called for rain starting Wednesday night.  WeatherUnderground – nothing.  The Weather Channel – nothing either.  AccuWeather – nope.  NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (it’s real – Google it) – zip.

This morning the wind has clocked to the North and diminished significantly.  Apparently yesterday was just a tease.

The National Weather Service says we have a chance of rain for the latter half of the week at the Florida Sea Base.

Today: Mostly sunny, with a high near 82. North wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon.
Tonight: Partly cloudy, with a low around 71. North wind 10 to 15 mph decreasing to 5 to 10 mph after midnight.
Wednesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 82. North wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon.
Wednesday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 70. West wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Thursday: A chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 80. West wind 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Thursday Night: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 68. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Friday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Cloudy, with a high near 78. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Friday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 68. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Saturday: A slight chance of showers. Sunny, with a high near 80. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Saturday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly clear, with a low around 70. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Sunday: A slight chance of showers. Sunny, with a high near 82. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Sunday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly clear, with a low around 71. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Monday: A slight chance of showers. Sunny, with a high near 83. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

I’m not sure if it’s because of our lack of land mass or other factors, but we generally receive must less precipitation at the Florida Sea Base than Key Largo (to our north) and Marathon (to our west).  A 10% chance usually means we might get a sprinkle.  A 20% chance usually translate into the possibility of a very brief, isolated shower.  By 30% we have a better chance of on-and-off isolated showers, frequently lasting around 20 minutes (give or take).

CONFERENCE

The Nature Conservancy is holding a meeting/seminar at the Florida Sea Base this week.  This group has an incredible reputation and it is our pleasure to be their host.

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

24Feb

DAY OFF

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SUNDAY

0 scuba crews + 0 sailing crews + 0 conferences + 0 bosses (except me and I don’t really count) = a day off.  Well, a day off for everyone except the under appreciated Galley staff.  Noah Sutter and Jess(ica) Smith prepared a nice breakfast (waffles and Canadian bacon, ey), and a nicer lunch (chicken fingers, salad, veggies, a tater-tot casserole and pumpkin pie) for the handful of staff that were on base.  (It seemed that by lunch time most of the staff had scattered like roaches when you turn on the kitchen light.)

My morning itinerary was sleep in ’til 05:10, research the weather, write yesterday’s post, have a cup of coffee.  A little before 8:00 I made my way to the staff laundry and started 2 loads of clothes.  I went to breakfast around 8:15 and checked the laundry around 8:40.  The clothes were still washing so I went a few steps away to the scuba area.  I worked on my personal dive gear while waiting for the clothes to finish washing and drying.  Several of the staff were roaming around, some in suspicious packs.  I talked with Zachary Bragg for a few minutes; he is wanting to become a professional scuba diver.  About 10 I crossed paths with Captain Alex Bergstedt who was about to leave for Mass.  I tended to chores on Escape (filled the fresh water tank, washed dishes, made a gallon of iced tea, and messed with the computer which is experiencing a USB hub issue of some sort).

I went to lunch about 12:15 and visited with Noah, Jess, Will Richards (Coral Reef Sailing) and Ian Witte (Ships Store) for a while.  Brian Hayek (from Philmont) came in about 30 minutes later and Captain Alex returned from Mass a little later still.  After lunch I retired to Escape and tried to watch the Daytona 500 but it was postponed (6 hours 22 minutes) by severe weather.  So I took a 1-hour nap and then tended to more chores on the boat.  Once the race resumed, I noticed that Pilot/Flying J was sponsoring the #7 car.  Those of you who read this blog frequently know that I stop at Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers frequently on my marathon drives between the Florida Sea Base and the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

At dinner I learned that some of the staff spent the day on S/V Jewel of Athena with Captain Hammer.  They went sailing and caught a tuna.  Sailing Commissioner Phillip Ferrier said Captain Hammer served instant sushi.  The group also did some snorkeling at Pillars of Atlantis and said conditions were perfect.  After dinner I went to the grocery store in Marathon.  My Honda Accord got 40.2 mpg on the 50 mile round trip.  It is not a hybrid, but with a maximum speed limit of 55, very few traffic lights, light traffic conditions and near calm winds, overall conditions are very conducive to good fuel milage in the Keys.

SCUBA

While catching up with my Google+ account, I saw this photo from PADI:

4odcA

“Flailing” refers to scuba divers waiving their arms throughout a dive to maintain balance and directional control.  While not uncommon with Open Water Diver course students, it’s not a pretty sight and immediately marks one as a rookie.

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

 

23Feb

SUMMER LIKE

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WEATHER

We topped out at 84° under sunny skies and with light breezes yesterday – very summer like.  There is no immediate rain threat to the Florida Sea Base this morning.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

You can check yesterday’s post for the weekly forecast.

SCUBA

Captain Alex Bergstedt completed the Open Water Training Dives for Florida Sea Base Director of Logistics Tim Stanfill and the BSA High Adventure Photographer, Brian Hayek.  Rich Goldman competed PADI Open Water Training Dives 1, 2 and 3 with Office Mate Zachary Bragg and Commissary Mate Brian Hudgins.  Divemasters Jenna Burton and Alec Wahlborn and I assisted with the evaluations.  Captain Carl Olshenske manned the helm.

SAILING

I misspoke Friday; Saturday was our last sailing luau for a week to 10 days with one Sea Exploring crew and one Coral Reef Sailing crew returning to the Florida Sea Base.

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

WEATHER

The wind slowly subsided throughout the day Friday.  The National Weather Service says we have a very decent week ahead of us.

Today: Sunny, with a high near 83. Southeast wind 5 to 10 mph.
Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 74. East wind 5 to 10 mph.
Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 83. East wind 5 to 10 mph.
Sunday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 72. East wind around 5 mph.
Monday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 82. Southeast wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Monday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly clear, with a low around 71. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Tuesday: A slight chance of showers. Sunny, with a high near 82. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Tuesday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly clear, with a low around 71. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Wednesday: A slight chance of showers. Sunny, with a high near 82. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Wednesday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 69. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Thursday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 79. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Thursday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 68. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Friday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 81. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

SUPER CELEBRITY

The one and only Super Star Senior Marine Forecaster for the Key West office of the National Weather Service, Mr. Kennard “Chip” Kasper , was kind enough to stop by the Florida Sea Base and visited with several staff members.  Chip has become a friend of the Florida Sea Base over the past three or four years.  It is nice to have someone like him looking out for us.

SAILING

The last of this week’s sailing crews had luau last night and are heading home after breakfast this morning.  We have about a 10 day to two week break before any more crews arrive.  The time will be filled with conference attendees.

SCUBA

We are taking several of theFlorida Sea Base staff members out this morning (who needs a day off?) for PADI Open Water Training dives.

The spring scuba staff is trickling in.  Alec Walhborn, graduate of our most recent Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy arrived Wednesday night.  Our first scuba crews arrive on 09 March.

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

21Feb

ROUGH

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WEATHER

At 05:00 the Molasses Reef Buoy was reporting 16-18 knot winds from the ESE and the Sombrero Reef buoy was reporting 18-20 knot winds from the East.  Easterly winds have the biggest impact on the wave state at the reef line.  Generally speaking, 15 knots is when the conditions become a little challenging for divers and sailors.  The sailboats can retreat to the bay side (Gulf of Mexico side if you prefer) to escape the waves but still enjoy the fresh breezes.  But the scuba diving opportunities on the bay side are very limited.  The winds continued to build through the morning and we reluctantly cancelled our dives for the day.

At midnight the wind was from the SE at 23 knots.  It looks like it is on a slow decline through today and tomorrow the wind will be down to 10 knots.

POOL CONSTRUCTION

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Click to enlarge.

There were workers EVERYWHERE working on the building that wraps around what will be the new pool at the Florida Sea Base.  The picture is a big “busy”, but so were the workers.  Two or three pickups full of masons can build a cement wall in no time.

GIGANTIC NAUTICAL FLEA MARKET

Each year, the Upper Keys Rotary Club holds the Annual Gigantic Nautical Flea Market at Founders Park in Islamorada.  What does this mean for you?  Great question!  If you are arriving at the Florida Sea Base or Brinton Environmental Center this Saturday or Sunday expect an hour travel delay.  This annual event is GIGANTIC by Keys standards.  There will be hundreds if not thousands of attendees from the mainland.  With only a two lane road to handle traffic, the going is VERY slow.  This same traffic has to deal with the only remaining draw bridge in the Keys.  This combination can bring traffic to a complete standstill for 15-20 minutes at a time.  Be prepared and be patient.  And please call us if you see you are running late (305-664-7766).

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

20Feb

ON THE WATER

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WEATHER

Most sunny skies, 80°, and 15 knot winds from the ESE – perfect for the sailors and just a little bumpy for the divers.  The Florida Sea Base was very blessed yesterday as you can see from this regional radar shot from Weather Underground.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

SCUBA

Captain Alex and I supervised Tim Stanfill and Brian Hayek through PADI Open Water Dives 1, 2, and 3.  Captain Carl Olshenske was at the helm and Jenna Burton was our Mate.  We are headed out again this morning to complete their certification.

Last night we hosted the PADI Member Forum.  The Forum is an annual event that is held in a number of venues, including the Florida Sea Base.  Mike Kurczewski, our Regional PADI Manager was our presenter.  The Forum is attended by PADI Members (Divemasters and above) and covers new programs, , changes in standards and risk management tools.

SAILING

Yesterday was another busy shore leave day for the sailing staff.  Sometimes you have to wonder who’s having more fun, the participants or the staff.

I apologize for being so brief, but I had a late night and have a lot to do today.

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

19Feb

SHORE LEAVE

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SAILING

Tuesday was the first day of shore leave for the Coral Reef Sailing crews this season at the Florida Sea Base.  Sailing Director Captain Luke Knuttel, Sailing Commissioner Phillip Ferrier and the sailing staff guided the crews through several great activities to fill their day.  There will be twice as many crews on base today for shore leave.

SCUBA

Scuba Commissioner Captain Alex Bergstedt and Divemaster Jenna Burton finished the confined water divers with Florida Sea Base Director of Logistics, Tim Stanfill, and BSA High Adventure photographer, Brian Hayek.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Today we will go to the reef for open water training dives.  MAYBE, just MAYBE, I will get to lead some of the training dives.  (Imagine that, a Scuba Director that scuba dives!)

WEATHER

Blizzards in the northeast, and 80°F at the Florida Sea Base yesterday.  I pick the latter.  But all is not perfect in the Keys.  We have a 10% of rain Thursday through Sunday.  (But we are still MUCH better off than blizzards.)

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