Archive for February, 2014



in Program  •  0 comments


We had a conference group scheduled for this week but they apparently cancelled at the last minute.  What a shame for them; not only are they not having their conference, but they are missing out on some wonderful spring weather at the Florida Sea Base.


While yet another winter storm system was approaching the Noertheast US, we enjoyed 79° with a few clouds and Easterly winds at 13 knots.  We expect more of the same for the remainder of the week.

Spring breakers started the annual pilgrimage into the Keys last weekend.  If you are coming to the Florida Sea Base or Brinton Environmental Center this spring, please consider that it will likely take you an hour longer than you think to get here.  If there is a traffic accident it could take HOURS for the wreck to clear and highway to open.  Please do us a favor.  Put this contact in your cell phone: FSB Duty Officer 305-664-7766 and call us if you are going to arrive later than is listed on your crew roster.


We are in the process of hiring summer staff members for the Florida Sea Base and Brinton Environmental Center.  Applications should be sent as soon as possible to the attention of the Director of Program at the Florida Sea Base.  I need a bus-load of scuba staff for the summer.  Let me see if I can break that down off the top of my head.

1 Scuba Commissioner – hired
1 Office Manager
1 Marine Superintendant – hired
4 USCG Master Captains
5 Dive Boat Mates (minimum of Rescue Diver certified)
3 Scuba Instructors
24 Divemasters (some DM positions will be filled by Instructors)
2 Scuba Mates

That’s 41 minimum.  Putting 150 divers a day in the water on five $300.000.00 dive boats plus a fleet of four chartered sailboats/schooners is not inexpensive.

The reporting day for summer staff members will be Saturday, 17 May 2014.  Staff training will start at 07:30 on Sunday, 18 May.


A couple of weeks ago there was a big to-do about the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first performance in the US.  I enjoyed a lot of their music, but was never fanatical about the group.  Anyway, I accidentally stumbled across a bit of trivia last night.  All four Beatles were ordained ministers.  I’m sure that is not news to true Beatles fans, but it was news to me.

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


I hope you are among the lucky who are enjoying a three day weekend.  Several of the full time Florida Sea Base employees fall into that category.  Some of us do not.


The is no official scuba programming this week at the Florida Sea Base.  But Scuba Commissioner Captain Alex Bergstedt and I will be conducting a PADI Open Water Diver certification course for Brian Hayek, the BSA High Adventure photographer, and Tim Stanfill, FSB Director of Logistics.

Meanwhile, Captain Luke Knuttel and the sailing department are having a busy week with two Sea Exploring crews and seven Coral Reef Sailing crews on the water this week.


There have been no significant changes in the forecast I posted a few days ago.  Conditions should be great for sailing and fairly decent for the scuba class.

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



in Program  •  2 comments


The Florida Sea base pool construction has reached a point where we can’t see much from ground level.  Captain Steve Harrison was kind enough to give me this shot taken from his copter mounted GoPro camera.  If you spin this around, you might make yourself seasick.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Florida Sea Base General Manager Captain Paul Beal remains insistent that the project will be completed before 06 May (the opening of our annual fund raising Invitational Tarpon Tournament).  I certainly hope so.  But even if it is finished by then, it will be VERY challenging to have it fully functional in time for the first summer crews.  We are exceptional at accomplishing the impossible at the Florida Sea Base.  Captain Luke Knuttel (Sailing Director), Captain Alex Bergstedt (Scuba Commissioner) and I are in the “hope for the best but prepare for the worse” mode.  This is an incredibly stressful transition.  But, like major highway construction, should be very nice once the project is fully completed.


If you are ever on”Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” you want my long-time friend, Detective TJ Doyle, Fort Worth PD, Retired, to be your life-line.  The more trivial the issue, the more TJ can tell you about it.  Case in point:

Ford, who  made the first pick-up trucks, shipped them to dealers  in crates that the new owners had to assemble using the  crates as the beds of the trucks.  The new owners  had to go to the dealers to get them, thus they had to  “pick-up” the trucks.  And now you know the “rest  of the story”.

My wife and I were VERY fortunate to have lunch with TJ and his wife, Nancy, on my last trip to Texas.


We experienced fresh breezes from the west Saturday afternoon into part of Sunday.  Westerly winds make for challenging conditions in our harbor and marina.  All sailing vessels left safely this morning and the wind will diminish through the day.  The crews arriving this weekend should enjoy great weather.

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


Regardless of the weather, the calendar or the ground hound, today is the first day of spring!  The 2014 spring program season starts today,  Two Coral Reef Sailing crews and one Sea Exploring crew will check in this afternoon.  Another Sea Exploring crew and three or four (old timer’s disease) Coral Reef Sailing crews arrive Sunday afternoon.  Phillip Ferrier returned as the Sailing Commissioner for 2014 while I was away.


Despite not having any scuba crews until 09 March, the staff is very busy.  Commissioner Captain Alex Bergstedt and Jenna Burton have been slaving away on tank maintenance.  PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer Rich Goldman is in for the weekend working with several staff members on their PADI Open Water Diver certification.


We are not expecting any rain this week.  The lows will ranger from 61-71 and the highs will be between 72 and 78.  The wind will be 10-15 knots (good sailing conditions) clocking from the West, to North and then to East.


My travels are over for a good while.  I left Southeast Texas at 04:00 CT Thursday and arrived at the Florida Sea Base at 03:30 ET (02:30 CT).  I slept about 4 hours.  I did not accomplish much Friday, but I did walk around the base in zombie mode so everyone would know I’m back.

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



in Weather  •  0 comments

In a few hours I will be leaving the freezing rain of Southeast Texas and heading for this?

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

The phrase, “can’t win for losing” fills my head.

This ugliness should be long gone before I get there.  The weather looks pretty decent at the Florida Sea Base for the remainder of the week.

Thursday: A chance of showers, mainly before 1pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 75. Windy, with a west wind around 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 61. Breezy, with a northwest wind 15 to 20 mph.
Friday: Sunny, with a high near 72. North wind 10 to 15 mph becoming light northwest in the afternoon.
Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 62. Light southwest wind becoming northwest 10 to 15 mph in the evening.
Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 74.
Saturday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 65.
Sunday: Partly sunny, with a high near 76.
Sunday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 67.
Washington’s Birthday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 76.
Monday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 70.
Tuesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 76.
Tuesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 71.
Wednesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 76.

I’ll post in a few days.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™


Summer 2014 is the inaugural season for the Florida Sea Base Virgin Islands sailing adventure.  Captains Mike and Kelly are onsite at the Sapphire BeachResort and Marina on St. Thomas.  Click HERE for the best photo I could find on the web of the marina.  Captain Kelly sent me this photo from ground level recently.  Bear in mind that this is the dead of winter at St. Thomas.  The summer is going to be even more incredible!

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

I am anxious for program to start.  I am hopeful that Captain Kelly will be able to send me short reports to share with you about the success of the program.


That’s a lot of almost anything.  Today, I am 22,424 days old.  Would you like to know how many days old you are?


I am in Jasper, Texas spending a final day with my dad before making the 22+ hour drive back to the Florida Sea Base.  Chances are that I will not see any family members until next fall (except my wife who will come over to visit).  The drive back is always harder, slower, and sadder than the drive to Texas.

I think I will stay south of the current ice storm but I am a little concern about the road conditions.  I probably won’t post again until Sunday or Monday.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™



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Being on the road is filled with distractions that make it hard to catch everything.  I saw an earthquake alert on Tuesday, but forgot to mention it in the blog.  The Miami Herald has a good, brief, article.  There was no tsunami risk to the Florida Sea Base which may be another reason I forgot to post it.


Speaking of being on the road, I will be hitting the road on Monday or Tuesday (depending on the weather) for the drive back to the Florida Sea Base (and warmer temperatures).  I will miss a few days of posting


Captain Alex Bergstedt and Divemaster Jenna Burton are working hard on preparations for the spring scuba season.  Friday morning they were working with Bart Jamagin of Breathing Air Concepts to disconnect our large storage bank tanks.  The bank tanks are over 5′ tall, high pressure (4,600 psi) cylinders that connect to our scuba compressors.  These bank tanks hold extra air to make the tank refilling process progress faster than when using the compressors alone.  When you fill over 300 scuba tanks a day, anything that will safely speed up the process is a big help.  The 16 bank tanks are due for hydrostatic testing.  We decided to take advantage of this lull between seasons to take care of this chore.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™



in Weather  •  0 comments


It’s 18° with a wind chill of 3° and snowing.  Am I having a bad dream?  No, I’m in Dallas, Texas.  I can tolerate this miserable weather in order to visit with family, but I will be headed back to warmer than this Florida very soon.

Meanwhile, the Florida Sea Base is enjoying 80° weather through the weekend.  Next week is forecasted to be a bit cooler, but the highs will be in the mid to upper 70s.


Scuba Commissioner Captain Alex Bergstedt is back at the Florida Sea Base, holding down the fort.  Divemaster Jenna Burton has returned from her adventures in Hawaii and has rejoined the scuba staff.


Due to travels and meetings, I have been remiss in reviewing the reader comments.

As a Triple Crown award recipient, I have been wondering what they were going to do about the 4th base. I like the name Grand Slam for getting to all 4 bases! (Spring Training coming soon to a warm state near you?)
Thanks for the update. – Tim Gaffron

As an Eagle Scout, and an outdoorsman, I strongly believe everyone should have what I call a “Car Bag”– A couple changes of clothes (Cold and warm weather), overnight gear, first aid kit, extra glasses from a prescription or two ago (at the oldest), TP, and some basic tools. A change of nice clothes can even come in handy for a last minute social gathering. I find myself using mine several times a year, never for life threading emergencies, but it has come in handy. – Dan Mikalian

Many of us “Atlantan’s” (The metro Atlanta area is comprised of a dozen or so counties that surround the city proper) are extremely disappointed in the preparation and response of our elected and appointed leaders. All indications are that everyone in our troop made it home safely on Tuesday or Wednesday morning. This situation has really brought Be Prepared to life for many. Taking this “snow day” opportunity to work on my 14 medical forms! Safe travels everyone! – Jonathan Warner

In Minnesota we keep shovels and snowpants in the car from September through May. I have been snowed on or freezing rained on in every month of the year somewhere in the state. Had snow in mid-August once in the BWCAW near Northern Tier! And woke up to an ice-covered tent in my in-laws front yard on 4th of July weekend once in Northern MN too!

It’s easy for us Northerners to sit back and scoff at the folks down south floundering around and not knowing how to cope with it. BUT – we really hope that they come out of this all OK and understand that they cannot be ready for something that happens only once every decade or so. Good luck! – Tim Gaffron in MN

I ALWAYS appreciate feed-back from readers.  It is nice to know someone out there is reading this stuff.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™



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I attended three more BSA National Committee meetings Tuesday.  (Woo Hoo!)


This was a large group with more than 30 persons in attendance. The Florida Sea Base was represented by General Manager Captain Paul Beal, FSB Committee members Bari Sanders and Bruce Trefz, and me.  Bari Sanders was our spokesperson.  He presented information on the status of the pool construction and the new Ships Store.  He explained that improvements to the T-dock and seawall had been postponed because the pool construction is blocking access to the area.  He also asked for funds to buy a piece of property that adjoins the Florida Sea Base.  A motion was made and passed to request this funding.


The National High Adventure Bases contributed more than 68% of the BSA surplus in 2013.  Most of you are probably familiar with the Triple Crown Award.  This can be received by youth and adults who have attended all three of the National High Adventure Bases.  With the addition of the fourth so-called NHB, the Paul R. Christen National High Adventure Base at the Summit, two awards have been added.  The traditional Triple Crown award stands as is, requiring participation at the Florida Sea Base, Northern Tier and Philmont Scout Ranch.  A new version of the Triple Crown will be awarded for participation at any three of the four National High Adventure Bases.  Another new award, the Gland Slam Award, will require participation at all four bases.


The Outdoors Adventures meeting was a recap of all the previous meetings with no significant additional comments.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™


Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

One of the most popular captains to ever run in the Florida Sea Base Coral Reef Sailing Adventure, Captain John “Bruce” Payette, passed away on 03 February 2014 following a long illness.  There is not much I can say.  I don’t think there is anyone who ever met Captain Bruce who didn’t love him.  Everything he did was first-class and the the participants he served will have great memories of him for life.  He was a good friend and we are very saddened by his death.


I attended four BSA Health and Safety meetings Monday; Safety Team, Education & Publications Team, Medical Team and the BSA National Health and Safety Support Committee.  My primary roles are to intervene if any of the Teams or the Committee proposes policies that would adversely effect operations at the Florida Sea Base, act as a subject matter expert on scuba, snorkeling and boating issues, and keep the General Manager of the Florida Sea Base informed on the actions of the H&S Committee.  (Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Seven hours of sitting in the same chair is hard on an “outside dog”.)

The Safety Team has worked for years in trying to improve safety from the top down, such as influencing the Top Three to support safety measures (“BSA’s Commitment to Safety”).  The Team is now focusing more on influencing the Unit level and working up the chain.  The arguments made within the meeting make this sound like an excellent change in tactics.  Incident reporting is still very weak nationwide.  Units in some instances are doing well in reporting to the Council but the Council is failing to report to the National Office.

One of the top priorities of the Education and Publications Team is the development of an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2).  The hope to have a draft copy for the national meeting in May.  First implementation is to be within National Council, High Adventure Bases, Scout Shops, etc. and then on a local council level.  The Team is also moving forward with a BSA Emergency Preparedness Award.  I do not have any specifics on the requirements, but leaders should keep and eye open for the role-out of this new award.

The Medical Team announced that the BSA Annual Health and Medical Record has been revised (yes, again) for 2014.  The new form is GREATLY shortened from the model that has been in use since 2011.  Part D has gone away and the form is no longer bilingual.  (A Spanish version will be available as a separate document.)  The impact for High Adventure is each base will have a separate addendum to accompany the AHMR.  The Florida Sea Base will accept the old form for 2014.  EMR (electronic medical record) stored online is being investigated for National Jamboree, High Adventure Bases, large events and Council events).  The EMR may be ready by 2017.  The Team is also working on a new publication, “Practical Guide for Promoting Mental Health & Wellness in Scouting”.

The BSA Health and Safety Support Committee announced that the 2015 BSA Health and Safety Summit will be held in February (2015) at the Florida Sea Base (not a bad venue at that time of year).  Much of the rest of this meeting was a review of the previous three meetings.  I was allowed to make a brief presentation on the status ofo the Florida Sea Base.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™