Archive for January, 2015


Florida Sea Base’s good friend Chip Kasper of the National Weather Service office in Key West sent the following email earlier this afternoon.

Hi everyone,

You can expect some rapid changes in wind velocity over the next 24 hours, with west winds dominating.

Breezes are laying down fast this afternoon across the Florida Keys coastal waters, and likely will slacken further to 5-10 knots for a time early this evening. However, an expansive, fast-moving low pressure system will move from the Ohio Valley to the western North Atlantic tonight through Monday. An associated cold front and wind surge will traverse the entire Gulf of Mexico during that time frame.

After a period of light and variable winds early this evening, a steady westerly breeze should ensue before midnight. The wind may even turn southwest for a time overnight. The big wind surge will come with due west winds during the morning hours on Monday, setting in first around the Dry Tortugas around 4:00 to 6:00 a.m., and spreading through the Keys, reaching the Cay Sal Bank by about noon. Winds will turn west-northwest during the day, with peak sustained winds near 25 knots Monday afternoon with some gusts around 30 knots. Northwest winds will lay down quickly Monday night into Tuesday, before surging again Tuesday night and Wednesday (more out of the north).

Please consult the following web links for additional details on expected winds and seas.

NWS Key West Marine Weather page:

Hourly Weather Graph for Selected Florida Keys Marine Locations:

Coastal Waters Forecast for the Florida Keys:

Best Regards,

Chip K.

Also in weather news, we have a lot of FSB staff, alumni and supporters in the NCY area.  If you are in New York City, get out!  What I heard on The Weather Channel sounds like winter storm Juno is worse than a billion atomic bombs.


I am feeling helpless in Texas.  Captain Brenda Mallory is going to check on Escape for me and add a line to the port stern cleat to help insure the westerly winds don’t blow the swim platform into the dock.  THANKS, BRENDA.

I am in the D/FW metroplex.  I’ll be going to bed very soon (hopefully no later than 8 pm) so I can be out of here no later than 2:45 am.  I have a 4.5 to 5 hour drive to SE Texas to accompany my dad to an 8 am dental appointment.  He is having implant surgery as a result of his osteoporosis.  I will spend the week with him.

Florida Sea Base Galley Manager Charles Wozny is learning to scuba dive in his spare time.  Captain Brenda is doing the honors.  Charles is fortunate to have her as an instructor.


I am sure the Florida Sea Base is very busy with conferences.  However, I no longer have access to the conference schedule and everyone at base is way too busy to take time to feed me information for the blog.

Stay warm, stay dry!

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED



I received an email from Tim Gaffron just as I was leaving the Florida Sea Base.  I have not been in an area with a reliable internet connection until Friday.

Hi Steve,

Hope you have/had a safe trip home and no issues with the trailer, etc.

I have attached a picture of our crew at the ski resort yesterday (Sunday 1-11-15).  4 of the youth shown will be on the crew that is attending Sea Base this summer. CRTH061815C.

Take care!

Tim Gaffron
Venture Crew 3084 – Maple Grove, MN


Scouting is simply amazing to me.  I struggle with understanding why any kid would not join an organization that can take him skiing in the winter and sailing in the summer.  North to south, east to west, there is so much to do and learn outdoors.  I received my Eagle award in 1968.  I use the skills I learned in Scouting every day and especially when I’m on a boat or scuba diving. Who knew that learning to use a compass in Scouting would contribute to my being able to find an aggressor base during night maneuvers in SROTC or navigate my own boat from Houston to Mexico to the Cayman Islands to Louisiana and back to Houston or how to navigate a search pattern in near zero visibility underwater while looking for a drowning victim?  I still have my old BSA compass.


For now, the Florida Sea Base is in full conference mode.  Meanwhile, Program Directors Joe Angelo, Captain Luke Knuttle and Captain Scott Martin are making preparations for spring crews that will start their influx the weekend of President’s Day.


The lottery for program reservations for 2016 opened on 15 January and will close on 15 February.  Please visit the official Florida Sea Base website to begin your reservation process.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional scuba Bum™


Monday (Sunday night for that matter) did not go quite as planned.  Step one was to go to bed immediately after dinner.  Done (sorta); but sleep was not happening.  Step two was to depart the Florida Sea Base around 3 am on Monday.  Since I couldn’t sleep, I left the base at 4 minutes after midnight.

So now I’m holed up in a motel that seems to be occupied predominantly by families with children who (I assume) are otherwise homeless.  The room is clean, I am very familiar with the stench.  It is the same smell that happens in the galley when the Scouts don’t realize that they have to change the water in the mop bucket from time to time; something like barf mixed with bleach.

I got up at 6 am Sunday.  It’s 7:45 pm Monday.  I am going to try to sleep for a few hours.  The plan for tomorrow is to arrive at the homestead before dark.

I have not heard from anyone at base so I am sure everything is great.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™
NOT on S/V Escape



in Conference  •  0 comments


Scouting, the Boy Scouts of America, and certainly the Florida Sea Base would not exist without volunteers.  You are an amazing lot.

I received this comment from Tim Gaffron in the Minneapolis area:

Hi Steve!
Thanks for the shout-out in your posting! Yes, it’s been extremely cold for the last couple of weeks, and tough to drag oneself out from under the warm covers. They actually cancelled a lot of schools yesterday due to below zero highs and wind chill factors in the -30 to -40 range. (What’s wind chill? )

Snowing and windy today, with blizzard warnings out for the southern half of the state… it’s good to be you in the Keys!

Warm up is in sight as we are supposed to get to +15 or so on Sunday when we have a Crew ski trip scheduled. Yay!

Cursing my Norwegian ancestors for settling here…
Take care!

I also meet Steve Everett from Pennsylvania last week.  He was attending a conference at Sea Base.  He is an regular reader of the blog, and like most of the BSA volunteers I have meet over the years, he is VERY dedicated to our cause and willing to share ideas on how we can improve.  “Continuous improvement” pursued relentlessly at the Florida Sea Base.  Sometimes we strike out and have to try again.  But occasionally we hit a home run and, more often than not, there was a volunteer coaching us up to the plate.

Steve and Leah Martin and their band of volunteers have returned after missing last winter due to the construction of the new scuba training facility.  For years, several volunteers have donated a month or more to improving the facilities at the Florida Sea Base during the winter months.  I am VERY pleased that they are back.


A new group of conference attendees started arriving yesterday, a day ahead of schedule.  Their conference doesn’t start until after dinner today.  Food Services Administrator Captain Rae Murphy said this is a repeat of last week’s conference.


The trailer and pickup are loaded and I plan to ease out of here very early Monday morning.  If all goes well I will beat rush hour in Miami.  The toll roads in Florida are expense but expedient.  With four axles the toll more than doubles and the expediency becomes too pricey.  The alternate route is to drive to Miami, then due west to Naples and north along the Gulf Coast.  This adds about an hour of drive time due reduces the toll expense significantly.  Besides, I haven’t gone that way in several years and the change of scenery will be nice.


There is a good chance that I will be leaving in the rain.  We have a 30% chance of rain today, increasing to 40% tonight and tomorrow.


I should have a tail wind as I cut across the state and with 8,000 pounds in tow any help is a blessing.


I do not expect to post again until Thursday or later.  I appreciate your patience and your loyalty to this blog.  Hopefully I will have something worth sharing.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

Florida Sea Base Administrative Assistant Cheryl Ferreri was gracious in hosting a “Please Go Back to Texas” party at her residence last night.  The event reminded me of a quote attributed to Davy Crockett.  Crockett had served as a Congressman from Tennessee for several years.  In 1835 he apparently lost his bid for reelection.  He was quoted in several newspapers as stating, “I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not, they might go to hell, and I would go to Texas.”  So with much less animosity than Mr. Crockett, I too am headed to Texas.  Hopefully NOT to meet my demise at the Alamo as did he in 1836.  (Although I would like to visit San Antonio again in the near future.)

[As a matter of fact, I SERIOUSLY thought I may have met my demise at the party.  I managed to inhale a chunk of brownie and was barely able to breath (to the point I couldn’t talk and thought seriously about signing someone to call an ambulance.  I coughed violently for several minutes and the issue finally resolved itself; or so I thought.  After sleeping for about 2 and a half hours, I woke up.   My throat has never hurt like this before.  I assume I strained some muscles.]

Anyway, I’m still alive and sincerely appreciate those who came to the gathering.  I thought about listing everyone but I’m afraid I’ll leave someone out and I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Some of you may recognize this photo.

Morgan Rainbow Enhanced

I took this photo with a cheap Olympus point-and-shot digital camera in 2006.  It was a fluke shot but I thought it had potential.  I emailed it to my son, Aaron, who enhanced it a tad and sent it back.  The photo has been in and on the cover of several Florida Sea Base publications.  It was even used on an FSB t-shirt and eventually (2011 or 2012 maybe) converted into a painting and given as the grand prize for the Florida Sea Base Annual Invitational Tarpon Tournament that year.  As of this writing, it is the banner photo on the Florida Sea Base Facebook page (  Despite its use, I don’t believe I have ever received any public credit for the photo – until last night.  I was presented with a large, framed and matted copy of “Morgan Rainbow”.  [I originally named the photo “Easter Egg Fleet” because the first boat is not a Morgan.  The boat with the yellow stripe is Escape.  The name is not on the bow because the boat had been recently painted.]  A second matte was made and several of the FSB staff and captains signed it.  I will replace the original matte with the new one when I get back to Texas.  I will post a photo of the photo when I get it re-matted and hung.

This is my second retirement, once from law enforcement and now the BSA.  Having a “go away” party is always very humbling and I appreciate all of the effort put forth by so many staff members.  Thank you.

I am almost packed but have a few must do items left aboard Escape.  My plan is to be on the road very early Monday morning so I can get past Miami before the morning traffic rush.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape



in Weather  •  0 comment


The arctic dome has arrived at the Florida Sea Base!!!  I was awaken shortly before 04:30 by little noises topside that were telling me I should poke my head out and make sure all was well.  A quick check of my cheap onboard weather data indicted the temperature was 63° and falling.  It has cooled to 70° inside the boat.  The weather data buoys are reporting gusts in the 30 knot range.

We are VERY blessed that the wind has clocked from West to NNE and even at 30 knots we are having minor consequences in our marina.  However, Captain Bert Hubby keeps his boat in a marina in Tavernier and it is exposed to northerly winds and he may be getting kicked around a bit this morning.  He lives on a catamaran and does not feel the same impact as those of us in monohulls.

The National Weather Service says the winds will decrease a fraction of a knot each hour over the next 27 hours when we should be back to a respectable 12 knots or less from the east.  We should warm up to 70° on Friday morning.  The winds will build back to the 20+ knot range and the temperature will be in the mid 70s by Saturday.

Except for any craft that are out on the water, the “arctic dome” – as scary as it sounds – is obviously nothing to compare to what most of you are enduring.  My wife is in Midlothian, Texas (sick as a dog unfortunately) where it is 19°, my dad is in Jasper, Texas (28°) and my kids are in Denton, Texas (17°).  (They are eagerly awaiting my return so I too can enjoy the cooler weather.)

Tim Gaffron in Minneapolis is (hopefully) warm in bed while the outside temperature is -4°.  Four degrees BELOW zero?  I am SO happy that so many people are okay with living in that.  I suffered through that nonsense for three years as a kid when my dad was stationed in Michigan.  Despite the wonderful TV ads, I have never been back to Michigan and have no plans of ever returning.

Wherever you are, STAY WARM!!!  But even more importantly, stay safe.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape



in Weather  •  0 comments


After further review, FSB Scuba Director Joe Angelo has decided that the April IDC must be scratched.  The IDC dates overlap the two busiest program weeks of the Florida Sea Base spring program season and will pose too many logistical challenges to overcome.  I concur.  Additionally, only two people expressed any interest in the course and Joe felt that did not warrant the expense.  I apologize for this set back.  The IDC scheduled for September will likely make.


I received this email from Chip Kasper of the National Weather Service Office in Key West yesterday:
An Arctic blow will arrive Wednesday night in the Florida Keys.  However, both the strongest breezes and cooler and drier weather should be short-lived.
Air temperatures and humidity have been well above average in the Florida Keys since the third week in December, even while much of the country has been experiencing cold, ice, and snow.  Currently, a dome of cold, dry air of Arctic origin is spilling southward across the Canadian border into the Northern Plains.  A region of high pressure associated with this frigid air mass is expected to expand and intensify today through Wednesday, allowing the Arctic dome of cold air to plunge rapidly southeastward.  Its leading edge will sweep across the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Peninsula on Wednesday, reaching the Florida Keys around sunset (give or take a few hours).  Breezes, which have been blowing fresh overnight, actually will slacken later today, and remain fairly light through at least midday Wednesday.  The breeze will pick up from west to east Wednesday afternoon and evening, with due north winds picking up to a steady 25 knots most areas by daybreak Thursday.  The wind surge will peak during the Thursday morning hours, with a slow drop-off Thursday afternoon and night, and a lull Friday.  Measurable rain chances will be low, around 10 percent or less, with this front.  The “gustiness” factor will be elevated, though, as cold air arrives over warmer-than-average seas.  Frequent gusts around 30 knots are a distinct possibility late Wednesday night through midday Thursday.
We anticipate Small Craft Advisories going up for most zones by early Wednesday evening.
I have attached a couple of graphics showing predicted “significant wave height” valid at 7:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. EST on Thursday.  These graphics are produced by our experimental nearshore wave prediction system.  This system incorporates a forecaster-driven local nearshore wave model that resolves the complex water depths around the Florida Keys and accounts for ocean current-wave interactions.  Your feedback on this information is always welcome!
As always, check back for updates at the following links:
Main web site for NOAA/Florida Keys National Weather Service:
Special *marine weather* page:
Social Media (Facebook and Twitter):
Best Regards,
Chip K.

Kennard “Chip” Kasper
Senior Forecaster-Marine Program Meteorologist
NOAA/National Weather Service
1315 White Street
Key West, Florida 33040
Office:    (305) 295-1316
FAX:       (305) 296-2011
Time for sweats, a jacket and even SOCKS!  I miss you summer.
Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape


in Staff  •  0 comments


We have had, and currently have, several staff members at the Florida Sea Base that epitomize what it means to be a Scout.  And while these young men and women may or may not become President of the United States, Congressmen, Generals, Admirals, industry moguls, astronauts, or famous in any way, it is my prayer that maybe, just maybe, they can save this nation and our society from destroying itself.

I am aware that these young people are who they are because of their parents, grandparents and other key figures in their youth.  I do not mean to embarrass Austen (he prefers to be called Mustang – long story) or Jake Potter but these two staff members are truly Scouts.  Mr. and Mrs. Potter, you have raised two amazing sons.  I have only spoken with Jake a little but I have spent hours upon hours with Austen as a Divemaster Academy candidate, Florida Sea Base staff member and Instructor Development Course candidate.  Both of these young men are polite, hard working, intelligent, and paying forward what family and Scouting has given to them.  As most parents do, I feel my son is an incredible man and I tend to compare others to him.  In my 15 years at the Florida Sea Base, there have been less than a dozen staff members that have impressed me as much as the Potters.  Now that Jake has had a small taste of Sea Base (this is his first time to work on staff) I hope he will return.


Captain Christy Costa will have her hands full this morning when the USCG Marine Safety Officer arrives to conduct the annual inspections on two of the Newton 46 Dive Specials.


We are in for a drop in temperature with nightly lows in the 60s on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  Time to dig out sweat pants and jackets and maybe even wear socks!

Stay warm my friends.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape



The last of the program participants departed the Florida Sea Base yesterday morning and two conference groups arrived in the afternoon.   The conference department will rule the base from now until mid-February when program season will return.


Most of the winter program staff has departed.  The base is quickly becoming a lonely place.  I think Bo Busler, Cory Lancaster and Tyler Burns plan to start working for the scuba department today.  There is a lot of work to be done in preparation of spring crews.  The transformation from the old scuba area to the new scuba training facility is FAR from complete.

My family is anxious for me to return to Texas but I have a few issues aboard Escape that MUST be addressed before I leave for three months.  I hope to be back in the frigid Mother Country by 15 January.  Low 80s in the Keys versus barely above freezing back home.  I think they should all consider moving down here.  I have NO tolerance for cold as long time readers know only too well.


There are TENTATIVE plans for the Florida Sea Base to host a PADI Instructor Development Course 01 – 10 April 2015 with the PADI Instructor Exam to be held in Key Largo on 11 – 12 April.  More information can be found on the ScubaTraining page of this site.  Please email with specific questions.


Not perfect, but probably better than wherever you are.

NWS Forecast for: Lower Matecumbe Beach FL
Issued by: National Weather Service Key West, FL
Last Update: 2:15 am EST Jan 5, 2015

Hazardous Weather Outlook

Overnight: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 77. East wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Monday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 80. East wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Monday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 73. Northeast wind around 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Tuesday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 79. East wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Tuesday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 72. East wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Wednesday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 77. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Wednesday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 62. Breezy. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Thursday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 71. Windy. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Thursday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 66. Windy. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Friday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 75. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Friday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 70. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Saturday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 77. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Saturday Night: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 72. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Sunday: A slight chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 78. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Point Forecast: Lower Matecumbe Beach FL
24.85°N 80.73°W (Elev. 0 ft)

Visit your local NWS office at:

We certainly lucked out weather wise with the DMA and winter program.  The wind has been very brisk from the east for the past few days and will continue to blow for several more.


Captain Dennis and Dr. Ellen Wyatt treated me to dinner last night.  They are wonderful people and I cherish their friendship.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape


The 11th annual Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy class has been dismissed!!!  Congratulations are in order for all 16 candidates.  Special thanks to the scuba instructors (Rich Goldman, Alex Bergstedt, Captain Kari Dahlquist, Brenda Mallory and Tyler Giblin), Captain Christy Costa, Boat Mate Kyle Moran, Second Captain Scott Costa, and Scuba Director Joe Angelo for making this event a success.  We have done what we could; now it is up to Joe Angelo to decide who will be hired and to further mentor them into working PADI Divemasters.

We submitted 15 Divemaster applications and two Master Scuba Diver applications to PADI and issued 16 PADI Search and Recovery Specialty Diver certifications, 14 PADI Deep Diver Specialty certifications and two PADI Boat Diver certifications in a two week period.  Rich Goldman and I have each invested over 200 hours in the DMA with no days off.  (I am very thankful that this happens only once a year.)  Alex Bergstedt was right there with us, every step of the way, until his departure for family reasons.


The winter scuba program (Scuba Liveaboard and Scuba Adventure) has also concluded.  Several Coral Reef Sailing crews and a couple of Sea Exploring crews are still cruising the reefs.  In a few days the winter program season will officially conclude and the Florida Sea Base will switch back to conference/training center mode.


With program winding down, my posts will also diminish.  My plan is to spend about 12 days working on S/V Escape and then make the 1,200 mile drive towing a 16’x7′ fully loaded enclosed trailer back to SE Texas.I have gotten into the habit of driving straight through on my Florida to Texas runs but I feel certain that I will make this next trip a two day event.  My departure day is not set in stone.  I will probably wait until a massive ice storms marches all the way down to I-10 so the drive can be as treacherous as possible.

While I do not make any money from the site, I hope you won’t go away.  Check back about once a week just in case something worthwhile has been posted.  And you can help with the posts by sending in questions or comments.  (I feel like Mike Rowe asking viewers to send in suggestions for Dirty Jobs.)

I know Joe Angelo wants to contribute more frequent updates to the Florida Sea Base Facebook page and hopefully he will be allowed to do so.  Regardless, I will keep you posted as warranted.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape