Archive for June, 2014

20Jun

NCAP 2014

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NCAP

Two teams of inspectors from the National Camp Accreditation Program assaulted the Florida Sea Base while a third assault squad hit the Brinton Environmental Center all day Thursday.  We will have a debriefing this morning to find out how we did.

PROGRAM

We are running at full throttle; what a machine!  The staff is doing awesome.  The kids are having a  great time.  The biggest complaint from the scuba side of program is some ongoing problems with the showers.  Hopefully, the facilities department will come up with a fix soon.

WEATHER

There is a little chatter, but nothing worth worrying about in the tropical weather arena.  Locally, we are getting our usual summertime spotty showers, especially in the evening.  The night divers (headed up by Captain Christy Clemenson) blasted off the dock after dinner, drove through the rain, and completed an awesome night dive.  On the other end of the spectrum, we had a kid blow out an eardrum while snorkeling.  We tell them they have to equalize their ears.  Most of them listen.

Gotta run.

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

18Jun

RAIN

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PROGRAM

Yesterday morning was picture perfect at the Florida Sea Base and all programming was proceeding per usual.  But right at lunch, the rain came.  It only lasted about an hour and a half, but the occasional (distant) lighting put a stop to the land based activities.  The Scuba Certification crew moved from the (old) pool back to the classroom.  The Coral Reef Sailing crews that were on shore leave had to move from small sailboats and paddle boards to activities under the dorms.  (I suspect it was a banner sales day in the snack bar.)  By dinner it was still overcast but the rain and lightning were long gone and activities returned to normal.

WEATHER

We have a higher than usual chance of rain for the next two days.

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Today’s forecast calls for “occasional sun” but our UV index is still “very high”.  We had breezy conditions and some light rain overnight at the Florida Sea Base.  The rain is to our SW this morning and it looks like Munson Island (home of the Out Island adventure) and the Brinton Environmental Center are getting quite a bit of rain.

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NCAP

The 2014 National Camp Accreditation Program inspectors arrive at the Florida Sea Base today.  Tomorrow is the big inspection day.  I have been so overwhelmed that I do not feel the least bit prepared.  But I have been through this 15 times and an optimistic that we will survive.  I may not have time to post tomorrow morning and almost certainly won’t have time Friday morning.

SCUBA MEDICAL REVIEWS

I had 116 emails yesterday regarding participants with scuba medical issues.  In the morning I conducted scuba reviews with three new dive staff that had arrived the day before.  Half of the afternoon was spent checking in new crews that were arriving (in the rain) to start their Florida Sea Base adventure.  I dedicated four hours to responding to emails.  I finally gave up at 7:00 pm and I was no where near finished with all of the emails.  (12 hours a day 6 or 7 days a week is about all I can handle in my old age.)  The count will climb today as they come in faster than I can respond and I will be with the inspectors all day Thursday and half of Friday.  If you are waiting on a response from me, I am trying very hard.

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

17Jun

NHC BLOG

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WEATHER

The National Hurricane Center now has its own blog.  It appears to be well done and I am looking forward to this new tool.

BLOG

I am very aware that my blog has evolved into mostly weather and a tiny bit of news about the Florida Sea Base.  I created this blog to keep people informed about program happenings, staff, captains, ways to make your visit easier and more fun, and yes, the weather.

So what happened?  Growth, to put it in a word.  We are at, some would argue exceeding, capacity.  I spend 60 to 70 hours a week working on administrating the scuba programs.  I may well be the most pale person on the Florida Sea Base staff.  If I am outside, there is usually a big problem.

I hope that I am making enough headway to get out of the office more in just a few weeks.  Maybe, just maybe, I will get a reprieve for good behavior.  Bear with me and I will do what I can to get back to providing some useful reading.

PROGRAM

Yesterday afternoon I was chasing down a staff member to deliver his new phone and spotted Scuba Instructor Austen Potter, aka Mustang, working with his first PADI Open Water Diver students.

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Austen is near the bottom, center.

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

16Jun

POOL PICS

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I mentioned that the deck on the new pool complex had been poured.  Feast your eyes:

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Every time they complete a major project everyones gets exited about the pool being finished in two weeks.  Two weeks sounds great.  If I was a betting man I would put my money on another month.  I did not see a single soul working on the pool today.

“The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful.”

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

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FATHERS DAY

I hope all of the dads have the opportunity to spend at least a few minutes with their kids today.  My dad is in Southeast Texas and my son is traveling on business somewhere in the Central Plains.

Today is very bitter-sweet.  it is a special day to celebrate my dad, an incredible man who has been the topic of past posts.  But it is also the second anniversary of my mom’s death.  I love and miss them both.

WEATHER

Here’s the official report from the National Hurricane Center:

000
ABNT20 KNHC 141727
TWOAT 

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 PM EDT SAT JUN 14 2014

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of
Mexico:  Tropical cyclone formation is not expected during 
the next 5 days.

$$
Forecaster Brennan

Locally we are enjoying the summer weather with heat indices of more than 100°F daily.  The daily highs are 88-89.  But 70% and higher humidity has the “feels like” temperatures in the 100s.  The morning lows are 78-79, so if feels very warm and muggy 24/7.  Combined with light easterly breezes (which are well blocked from the Florida Sea Base harbor) and it is hot, humid and still on the dock.  Yeah summer!!!

PROGRAM

Summer weather brings summer program.  Arrivals seven days a week, luaus seven days a week, crews on shore leave seven days a week, sailors sailing seven days a week, divers diving seven days a week; what a machine.  Only 76 summer program days left.

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

14Jun

GIRL

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STAFF

Girl was the Florida Sea Base mascot for years.  She was rescued by the late Captain Bruce Payette and was voted as Florida Sea Base Staff Member of the Year once.  When Captain Bruce passed away, Captains Rich and Carol Beliveau adopted her.  She has been playing with their other dog, Tux, for a year or so.  Girl developed liver problems as was put down Thursday.

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POOL CONSTRUCTION

I haven’t commented on the swimming pool construction in quite a while.  That’s because my mom told me I shouldn’t say anything if I didn’t have something good to say.  We were promised repeatedly that the pool would be completed by the end of April. Then they said the end of June.  This project would have been knocked out in two or three months in most areas.  But we live in the Florida Keys and the speed of construction here is vastly inferior to most 3rd world countries.  But, a significant step forward was made yesterday when someone was able to finally hijack a cement truck from the mainland.  The deck of the pool has finally been poured.

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Don’t get me wrong.  There is still a lot, a whole lot, more to do.  Walls have been waiting for painters for MONTHS.  Door frames have been up for weeks, well over a month, but the only person in the known universe that can hang a door on a frame has been unavailable.  (Sorry Mom; I’ll shut up now.)  I could certainly go on and on.

WEATHER

Looking good!

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

13Jun

RECOVERY

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WEATHER

It was definitely a blow last night at the Florida Sea Base.  The worst boat damage I heard of was a blown out headsail.  The VHF antenna that serves the Program Office, the Sailing Directors Office and my office was struck by lightning.

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You may be able to see the damage better zoomed in.

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The strike traveled through the antenna wire into the VHF radio and power source in the office.

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Most of the Florida Sea Base telephones were (and still are) offline.  The office circuit breaker that served the radio, fax and Captain Luke’s office was tripped.  It took a bit to reboot the fax machine and Captain Luke’s computer but they seem okay.

PROGRAM

One of the positive components of this brief but powerful event was the attitude of the Scouts.  I was on the dock yesterday morning as Scouts were emerging from the boats.  They were tired, some were damp, but all them were stoked about the experience.  There were stories and smiles; like a release of nervous energy after surviving a thrill ride.

Skies started clearing just after breakfast and – from the Scouts point of view – it was like a ServPro commercial, “like it never even happened”.  Sailors went sailing, divers went diving, and I crawled back into the storage closet I call my office to spend my next 10 hours in paradise resolving medical issues with participants.

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

12Jun

SUNSET

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PROGRAM

Dive Boat Mate Kyle Moran sent these pictures from last night’s dive.  Many of you may recognize the Alligator Reef lighthouse.  The pictures were taken from BSA Centennial Eagle.  Kyle has worked for us for several seasons.  He IS a Scout.  That might make him blush a little because he is also very humble.  The Florida Sea Base is very fortunate to have Kyle Moran.  Thanks for the photos.

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I crossed paths with Coral Reef Sailing Captain Scott Penfield on the Florida Sea Base dock yesterday.  He commented that the water clarity on the reef was rivaling what we see in the Bahamas; incredible!

WEATHER

For a full weather report, see the above photos.  UNTIL – remember that 30% chance of rain?  Well, we didn’t get a lot of rainfall, but those of us on boats at the Florida Sea Base dock were tossed out of bed at 2:00 AM when the wind went from South at 4 knots to West at 43 knots almost instantly.  I realy missed Captains Rich and Carol Beliveau as I made a quick safety check down the dock alone, in the rain and lightning.  I suspected the blow would not be long lived.

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The strongest gusts (near 50 knots) and severe lightning hit at 2:22, just as some of the other captains appeared on the dock.  At 2:25 the wind had dropped dramatically (compared to the peak gusts).  By 2:35 it was like a spring shower and most folks were probably asleep again around 3:00 AM.  Check out the wind speed spike from the Long Key weather buoy.

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At post time I had not heard any reports from the vessels at anchor.  And no news is generally good news during events like this.  I am sure there will be some good sailor stories for moms and dads back home.  A few of the boats may have drug anchor during the blow.  I will certainly share anything news worthy tomorrow.  Otherwise, we had 30 minutes of high adventure and some participants experienced what sailing can truly be like; hours and hours of being lulled by the calm and beauty of the seas interrupted by sudden, unexpected terror.  What’s that Boy Scout motto?  Oh yeah, Be Prepared.  Two words to live by.

For those who have been complaining of light winds, it looks like we will have scattered showers and breezy winds for at least this morning.  The wind started building again at 6:30 AM.  Nothing like earlier (so far) but it looks like we will have several cells blow through to with gusty winds.

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

11Jun

CRISTINA

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TROPICS

Tropical Storm Cristina formed yesterday in the Eastern Pacific and has reached hurricane status this morning.  The system is moving to the west and will curve to the NW soon.  This system is NO threat to the Florida Sea Base.

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Everything is VERY quiet in the Atlantic Basin and no tropical development is expected in the near future.

PROGRAM

We are at 100%, absolutely maximum capacity!  The weather has been excellent of late. The diving, snorkeling and fishing has been fantastic.  We are enjoying sailing, but it can be slow going in the light breezes.  We have 80 glorious days of program remaining this summer!

WEATHER

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We had about 45 minutes of light lightning overnight.  There were very spotty showers widely scattered over the area, but no weather of any consequence.

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

10Jun

FISH TALES

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PROGRAM

Captain Denny Webb on the Florida Sea Base Scuba Liveaboard Schooner Conch Pearl sent these photos.  The first is a Goliath Grouper checking out the tag line while the Scouts were in the water Sunday at Looe Key (a GREAT dive site).

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Here’s supper for Monday; a very nice maui maui (locally called a dolphin fish).

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Several of the other crews are also having fishing success this week.

WEATHER

Just look at the photos; calm seas and blue skies.  Add hot, humid, and warm water temperatures and that’s our weather – summer.

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