Archive for July, 2014

WEATHER

Finally, some ENCOURAGING news about Invest 93L.  Every source that I checked yesterday said it appears to be “struggling” and the forecast has been downgraded.

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The system is still 1,000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles.  ANYTHING can happen.

Locally, I was awakened by wind and then lightning at 11:45 last night when this cell built mostly to our north.  I’m sure we had several sailboats riding anchor through this event.

WUNIDS_map

The local forecast remains essentially the same as the last few weeks; hot, humid (90% yesterday), and scattered showers.  All things considered, we are having a very dry year.  You can see the stress in the palm trees.

PROGRAM

All programs are still running at capacity.  The good news is that we are serving a lot of Scouts.  The bad news is that everything we have is in constant use and there is no backup.  When something breaks, it has to be fixed right now.  That can be dry challenging when you have a fleet of nearly 100 boats, each of which is running 6 or 7 days a week.  We are very fortunate to be having very few issues this late in the season.  It is not unusual to have mechanical issues with the boats and vehicles due to their excessive use.   We put more hours on boats motors in a single summer than most people do over several years.  Electrical systems, water systems, toilets, EVERYTHING on land and on the boats are worked well beyond design specifications for three and a half months straight.  Even with frequent preventative maintenance, wear and tear is high and expected.  The captains are doing an excellent job of running, maintaining and repairing their machinery this summer.

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

30Jul

TROPICS

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PLEASE DO NOT CALL THE FLORIDA SEA BASE WITH ANY QUESTIONS RAISED BY THIS POST.  My cell phone number is 305-393-7373.  If you must call someone, CALL ME.  PLEASE!  (Or better yet, submit a comment and I can share your question with everyone.)  WHEN MY POSTS CAUSE “EXTRA WORK” FOR THE OFFICE STAFF, I GET IN TROUBLE.  PLEASE DON’T GET ME IN TROUBLE.

WEATHER

I realize I have focused primarily on the tropical weather recently.  This system has the potential to adversely affect all interests of the Florida Sea Base.  Therefore, I assume that many readers are interested in this subject as it may impact their travel to or from or their adventure.  The system is still very far away, but of definite interest.  At this time, it is unlikely that the Florida Sea Base will cancel any programs.  The boats and crews may have to hunker down for 24-48 hours as the system passes, but that may be the extent of the interruption.  So far, no one is predicting that this system will exceed tropical storm status.  We have experienced dozens of those over the years and are well prepared and capable of protecting our participants and staff.

These two graphics were posted by Hurricane Tracker yesterday:

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Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 7.55.54

If these predictions are accurate, Sea Base St. Thomas and Sea Base Bahamas are likely to get some wind and rain events.  I like the notation on the upper graphic saying the storm is likely to favor the right side of the cone.  That could put both facilities on the weaker side of the storm.  The Brinton Environmental Center and the Florida Sea Base are on the less likely, left side, of the track.

LOBSTER MINI SEASON

The Monroe County lobster mini season is open today and tomorrow for recreational lobster hunters.  There are tens of thousands of tourists in the Keys this week slaughtering as many lobsters as possible.  it is a mixed bag of emotions for the management of the Florida Sea Base.  We recognize that this two day massacre brings in millions of dollars for local establishments.  But it also puts thousands of untrained, often intoxicated boaters on the water.  There is a near 100% chance that some people will die during these two days while trying to catch a lobster.  Untold numbers of undersized and egg bearing females will be taken illegally.  The highway, the ONLY road in and out of the Keys, will be clogged.  Getting someone to the doctor or hospital will take much longer than normal.  Be prepared for serious traffic delays if you are coming to or going home from the Brinton Environmental Center or Florida Sea Base any time between now and Monday.  I hope every has a fun, safe, legal mini season.  Some of our staff have already limited out for today.

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The other bad news for the Florida Sea Base is that mini season is the precursor for the commercial season.  Within a week, hundreds of thousands of lobster traps will be set creating navigational challenges for all of our vessels.  Striking a lobster float usually results in a large repair bill for the boats lower unit, prop, shaft, and/or transmission.  It frequently disables the vessel which causes delays and even risk to the staff and participants on board.

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STAFF

Former Florida Sea Base Divemaster Leslie Boucherie (seated) has been making appearances as a mermaid for Scuba Radio for a year or two now.

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I believe Leslie is headed back to the University of Florida on Monday to work on her Masters Degree in psychology.

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

29Jul

INVEST 93-L

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WEATHER

There is nothing to update regarding the local weather at the Florida Sea Base.  Very warm, very humid, sunny, and gentle breezes – the perfect summer!

However, our area of interest in the Atlantic has been designated as Invest 93-L.

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The system is a long way out and there is no firm agreement on its future track.  The computer models show it curving north.

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However, Hurricane Tracker posted this comment:

The NHC is highlighting a tropical wave in the far eastern Atlantic which is now Invest 93L. At this time there is a 70% chance of development during the next 5 days. Every model is showing development and we should see TS Bertha form by WED and then track WNW toward the Lesser Antilles this weekend. A US impact cannot be ruled out as there is no clear indication yet that the system will recurve out into the Atlantic. Stay tuned for updates.

This statement deserves serious consideration based on Hurricane Tracker’s record to date this year.

STAFF

The captains and staff are doing an excellent job.  It is very hot, there is little sleep, and folks get tired.  But they are holding up well.

Many of our staff members have no previous work experience.  Some do not grasp that we establish their start and end dates based not only on their dates of availability, but also on the needs of our participants.  They may decide they have had enough fun and are ready to go home.  They don’t realize the problems they are making for those who fulfill their commitment.  Most of those who terminate their employment early will not be eligible for rehire.  But the vast majority acknowledge their commitment and run strong through the end.  Those are the keepers.

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

28Jul

ROUND 2

in Weather  •  2 comments

TROPICAL WEATHER

There is strong agreement that the wave of interest in the Atlantic has the potential to intensify.  The system will likely arrive in the Leeward Islands by Saturday.  The US computer models suggest it will develop into a tropical storm.  The European models indicate it will remain less organized.  if it survives beyond there, Dr. Jeff Masters feels there is reason to believe it will curve back into the ocean and miss the East Coast of the US.

two_atl_5d0

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 PM EDT SUN JUL 27 2014

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico:

1. A tropical wave is producing disorganized shower activity several
hundred miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands.
Environmental conditions appear conducive for some gradual
development, especially by the middle of the week, while the system
moves westward to west-northwestward at 10 to 15 mph.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...low...10 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days...medium...40 percent.

Forecaster Berg

Locally we are doing fine, stuck in a rut of sorts.

PROGRAM

We have about a month (give or take a few days depending on the specific adventure) of summer programming ahead.  We have been very blessed with good weather.  The wind has been a little light at times, but that is much better than too much wind.  With light winds we have a lot of program options for everyone.  Too much wind has a significant impact on all of the programs, including sailing.  Overall, the weather has been great.

The scuba training complex is (surprise!) still under construction.  With the 28 April deadline three months behind us, we have no credible completion date.  Frustration has come and gone.  We no have a choice between being really mad or just resigning ourselves to accepting that it will simply be done someday.  I am fortunate to NOT be responsible for this project.  The pressure on the Facilities Director and the General Manager is indescribable.

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

27Jul

HARD DAY OFF

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DAY OFF

I apologize for posting late today.  I was off yesterday.  I spent the day rebuilding the steering ram on Escape. More correctly, I spent MOST of the day removing and reinstalling the ram.  As almost all things on a boat, it is in a tight, hard to reach area and anything you drop is written off as a sacrifice to bilge demons.  It took about 12½ hours, but it seems to be working.  Then, just as I was pulling the shower curtain closed (8:50 pm), the DirecTv repairman arrived.  He was done around 9:45.  All of that is to say I slept in as late as possible this morning, went to the 7:30 staff meeting, and I am skipping breakfast (the most important meal of the day!) to write this brief post.

WEATHER

There is mixed news about the wave that came off Africa a few days ago.  The five day outlook calls for a 40% chance of intensification, but the longer term looks somewhat optimistic.

NHC

two_atl_5d0

 

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 AM EDT SUN JUL 27 2014

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico:

1. A tropical wave is located about 420 miles southwest of the Cape
Verde Islands. The associated shower activity is limited
and disorganized, and development should be slow to occur over the
next couple of days. By the middle of this week, however,
environmental conditions are expected to become conducive for
gradual development over the central tropical Atlantic as the
system moves westward at 10 to 15 mph.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...low...near 0 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days...medium...40 percent.

Forecaster Roberts

Hurricane Tracker posted:

SAT 7/26 9AM EDT – DEVELOPMENT POSSIBLE NEXT WEEK

The NHC is highlighting a tropical wave in the far eastern Atlantic. At this time there is a 20% chance of development during the next 5 days. Wind shear is forecasted to be low across the Atlantic next week, but dry air & Saharan dust remains. If you are a resident or have interests in the Lesser Antilles, please monitor this system. Check the Model Watch section to see the model runs for this system. We will continue to keep you updated.

Here’s the model watch to which they referred:

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 8.07.45

PROGRAM

All program elements rolled along well yesterday.  The sailors on shore leave definitely appreciated some time playing in the water on the small sailboats, paddle boards and kayaks.  The incoming crews were surprised by how warm the bay side water was (90.3°F).  The reef is running a little cooler (as always during this time of year) at 85.  Conditions have been excellent for diving and snorkeling.  The fishing seems to have tapered off a bit.  The sailing has been a little slow.

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

26Jul

DIVE DIVE DIVE

in Scuba  •  0 comments

STAFF

What do the Florida Sea base staff members do on their days off?  They go diving.  Captain/Scuba Instructor Scott Patton sent these pictures of Dive Boat Captain Ed Miller, Divemaster Ben Aaron, and Dive Boat Captain Reed Beasley diving on the wreck of the Adolphus Busch off Big Pine Key.

capt ed

DM Ben

reed in stack

When they are working, they watch the sunset over and over and over – how boring!

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The sunset pictures were submitted by Kyle Moran.

Project AWARE

A favourite amongst scuba divers around the world, sea turtles have been on Earth for more than 100 million years. Six of the seven sea turtle species are now classified as threatened or endangered. Find out how you can help protect these beautiful creatures with one of our 100% AWARE partners: http://www.projectaware.org/blog/blue-guru/jul-23-14/terrific-turtles– Photo by Blue Guru

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The Florida Sea Base has been a 100% AWARE facility for three or four years.  Love diving?  Become a member!

WEATHER

We have another African wave to watch.  This will be a frequent threat for the next month.

two_atl_5d0

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 AM EDT SAT JUL 26 2014

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico:

1. A tropical wave located south of the Cape Verde Islands could
develop into an area of low pressure by early next week over
the central tropical Atlantic.  Environmental conditions are
expected to be marginally conducive for gradual development of
this system through midweek as it moves westward.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...low...near 0 percent
* Formation chance through 5 days...low...20 percent

Forecaster Stewart

Locally we are still very dry, warm and humid with mostly SE breezes at less than 15 knots.

Plotter.php

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

25Jul

FROZEN IN TIME

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POOL CONSTRUCTION

Completion of the new scuba training pool and complex at the Florida Sea Base was promised to be completed by 28 April 2014.  The complex is not completed, so does some bizarre type of logic dictate that, despite what we think the date may be, we are actually at some point in time prior to 28 April?  If so, I have over paid my bills!

The construction “team” still shows up three or four days a week.  There is usually one foreman and one or two workers.  Some days there are four, maybe even six workers.  They frequently arrive around 10 AM and bug out by 2 or 3 PM.  It is enough to make a Christian want to curse!

You may be asking yourself, “Is it really that bad”?  It is bad enough that they can’t even vacuum the sediment from the pool.  Here is a photo of Scuba Commissioner Alex Bergstedt helping with that project.  Apparently a $1,500,000 contract does not include the use of a pole that can reach the bottom of the pool.


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Photo by FSB staff member Alexandra “Alex” Zimmer.

STAFF

Former Director of Conference and Food Services, Chrystene Matthews Speed (hi Chrystene) posted this cool tee shirt on Facebook.

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GET YOURS HERE ==> http://teespring.com/LL_XBScoutXKeepCX_KCS?fb=PE  I don’t know this company, but it is a cool shirt.

Former Florida Sea Base staff member turned Keys resident Trevor O’Keefe, has apparently found a cure for Keys Disease (a type of psychosis that infects many and will not allow them to be away from the Florida Keys for more than a week at a time).  Trevor will be returning to Chicago soon.  I have posted some of Trevor’s artwork over the years.  He has been a great friend of the Florida Sea Base.  While I know the move is the best choice for Trevor, he is leaving a lot of friends behind in the Keys.

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Take it easy, Trevor.

Florida Sea Base Sailing Commissioner Richard Fallon has discovered scuba diving and seems to be liking it A LOT!

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Alex Zimmer and Richard Fallon headed out for a recent night dive.

Whoa!!! I’ve gotta get to the morning staff meeting!

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

23Jul

REAL RAIN

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WEATHER

The Florida Sea Base received a significant rainfall yesterday morning.  It was GREAT for the palm trees, grasses and flowers, but definitely not great for the Coral Reef Sailing crews that were on base for shore leave or the dozens of FSB boats out on the water.  Small boat sailing, kayaking and standup paddle boarding were postponed for quite a while as the system passed passed the base.  I have not heard of any personal or boat injuries on the high seas; just another day of high adventure!

I believe credit for this photo goes to Sailing Commissioner Richard Fallon.

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The heat index remains oppressive with numbers like 102, 103, and 105 appearing most days.  Sunscreen and hydration are essential to good health.  We expect more of the same for the next several weeks.

PROGRAM

For many, the end of the 2014 summer program season is in sight.  Seasonal staff members are starting to trickle out.  Most of the sailing captains have only three or four trips left.  The scuba programs will slow down in about two and a half weeks.  All summer programs will have concluded in 38 days.

DINNER

I told my lovely bride to the Miami International Airport yesterday and she has returned to work in the D/FW law enforcement community this morning.  It was a nice, but too brief, visit.  last night was leftovers so I fixed a tuna dog.  I have never had a tuna dog before and you may be wondering to what I refer.  Leftover tuna salad deposited into a leftover hotdog bun = a tuna dog.  YummEE!

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

TROPICAL DEPRESSION TWO

From area of interest, to Invest 92-L to TD-2, all in a day.  This graphic was from yesterday afternoon.

at201402

This system blossomed yesterday and Hurricane Tracker is two for two in 2014.  What does the future hold?  Yesterday, two computer models said it would fizzle today, two said it would continue and stay south of Cuba, and two more had it working its way through The Bahamas.  Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground posed yesterday that the system would stay south of Cuba and max out as a Tropical Storm.

This morning Hurricane Tracker, the National Hurricane Center and Weather Underground seem to agree that the system will encounter dry air and fizzle out on  Thursday.  It should almost make it to tropical storm strength and it will almost make into the Caribbean which still leaves Dr. Masters’ forecast almost correct.

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

WEATHER

We have experienced short lived but at times intense showers the last three evenings at the Florida Sea Base.  But it is still hot and humid with gentle breezes (except during the thunderstorms of course).

Saturday was my last post and I mentioned that Hurricane Tracker was suggesting a wave coming off Africa was worth watching.  At the time they estimated a 15% chance of development.  They are now giving the system a 25% chance of development.  The system has not yet attained the need characteristics to be designated an Invest system, but the National Hurricane Center has labeled it as an area of interest.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 8.15.15

two_atl_5d0

The system is too far away and in an area with minimal instrumentation to gather sufficient data to have a good handle on its future course or intensity.  However, Hurricane Tracker noted that one of the computer models used in this type of forecasting, “the CMC model, does track a TD/TS close to the NE Caribbean Islands by late next week”.

STAFF

The Florida Sea Base staff is doing a great job this summer.  However, our scuba staffing woes are going to remain an issue to the very end of summer.  We have had two scuba staff members depart earlier than contracted and three of the “relief” divemasters that had committed to come to the rescue in August have decided to pursue other activities.  We are going to get by, but Scuba Commissioner Alex Bergstedt has a scheduling nightmare on his hands.  If you have any spare divemasters or scuba instructors laying around, please encourage them to give us a call.

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

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