Archive for May, 2015

PROGRAM

It was four hours, not 30 days, and it was a tiny, cramped, suffocating hot engine room, not solitary confinement, but yesterday morning seemed like an eternity.  During the afternoon it was simply too hot to be in there.  But after dinner I was back in the hole.

And why put that paragraph under program?  Because the only exposure I had to program yesterday was watching some arriving crews do their swim review and listening at dinner while the participants talked about the great day they had.

I’m sorry for being repetitive, but the Scouts, leaders, staff, and captains are all having a great time.  The weather is great and there just isn’t much to complain about.  “The weather is here, wish you were beautiful”.

STAFF

CONGRATULATIONS to Cody Stepp who passed the last of his PADI Scuba Instructor exams yesterday.  Cody came to the Florida Sea Base a couple of years ago as a Rescue Diver/Boat Mate.  Then he attended the Divemaster Academy and came back last year as a Divemaster.  And know he is working at the Florida Sea Base as a Scuba Instructor.  This is more common for our staff members than you might think.  It is an outstanding way to learn a trade at a very reasonable cost, to learn responsibility and to mature.  Way to go, Cody!

FSB TIP OF THE DAY

Participants in the Scuba Adventure and Scuba Liveaboard programs are welcome to bring their personally owned scuba gear.  However, do NOT bring TANKS.  You cannot use your tanks here.  Leave them at home.  Don’t even ask.  The answer is NO.  The Florida Sea Base provides aluminum 80cf and aluminum 63cf tanks.  Most of our bottom times are less than an hour (usually more like 45 minutes) and our best dive sites are at 45′ or less.  High pressure steel 120s are a bit overkill.  Besides, our camp standards restrict our fills to an absolute maximum of 3,000 psi so we can’t fill a 3,500 psi tank anyway.  Sure, some of you really big guys may have to add some extra weight to your pockets/belt.  But it is what it is.

WEATHER

Perfect for now (assuming you like it hot, humid and sunny).  But the chances of rain increase significantly Tuesday through Wednesday evening.

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

 

PROGRAM

The old scuba training tanks stood at the Florida Sea Base for 35 years and served the Scouts well before being replaced.  The hand cut tile Ship’s Wheel was salvaged from the old 10′ deep tank and is now on display adjacent to the new complex.

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The new pool has a Ship’s Wheel too.  However, the old one is a real piece of art.  The new one is a computer generated set of painted tile.

TODAY’S FSB TIP

WATCHES – We don’t worry about time much in the Keys.  But SCUBA DIVERS NEED WATCHES.  Not just a watch, but a watch that is water resistant to AT LEAST 150’.  Divers need to be able to track time under water.  Scuba Liveaboard and Scuba Adventure participants are no longer in training.  You are certified divers.  And you should have been taught the importance of tracking your time during your Open Water Diver course.  YOU are responsible for tracking your depth, bottom time, and rate of ascent to make sure you don’t get decompression illness.  At a bare minimum, there should be at least one watch, bottom timer or dive computer per buddy team.  THE FLORIDA SEA BASE DOES NOT PROVIDE THESE DEVICES.  There is no need to buy a Rolex Submariner; a relatively inexpensive Casio® or Timex® will suffice.  I personally use of the less expensive Casio G-Shock models.  I have used it for about 15 years.

I am quickly running out of tips.  If you have any suggestions, please click on the comment tab.  I will be more than happy to give you credit.

WEATHER

As forecasted, the wind has diminished.  It should be very warm and sunny for the next several days with the always present possibility of a stray shower.

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

29May

PACKED

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PROGRAM

The Florida Sea Base is crawling with Scouts.  The place is packed.  I have not heard a single Scout complain about the wind or heat.  Everyone is grinning from ear to ear and having a blast.  I get to drive a dive boat next week.  I am looking forward to the interaction with the Scouts.

FSB TIP OF THE DAY

FIRST AID – All crews are required to bring a first aid kit to the Florida Sea Base.  Each crew is required to have at least one person certified in wilderness first aid and at least one person certified in CPR.  This could be one person certified in both, one certified in WFA and another certified in CPR or everyone might be certified in both or either.

Unlike every other camp you have attended, the Florida Sea Base has NO MEDICAL STAFF.  None.  No EMT, no paramedic, no nurse, no physician’s assistant, no doctor.  In the event of an injury or illness we follow these general protocols.  (1) The crew member(s) certified in WFA and CPR handle the situation with their first aid kit.  (2) If the injury or illness exceeds the training or ability of the crew the Florida Sea Base will transport the patient to the hospital.  (3) If the situation is more serious we call 911 and request an ambulance for transport.  (4) If it’s even worse than that we call the Coroner and the Sheriff’s Office.  [Exceptions include FSB scuba staff administering emergency oxygen or using AEDs on the dive boats only.]

Your crew needs to bring an adequate first aid kit, in a watertight container, and take it everywhere they go.  These same protocols apply when at sea during your adventure.  MEDICAL TREATMENT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.  Training and proper supplies must be taken seriously.

WEATHER

We retain a 20% chance of a daily shower through the weekend with the chance increasing to 30% on Monday.  Our daily highs will be in the upper 80s and lows in the upper 70s.  The best part of the forecast is diminishing winds today remaining easterly but dropping to the 10 to 15 knot range through Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the hard rains back home are relentless.  We have gone from the most extreme drought to significant flooding in just a few weeks.  Even the Red River (the border between Texas and Oklahoma) which is generally not much more than a trickle, is significantly out of its banks.  I took this screenshot last night.

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Last night’s system extended from the Big Bend of Texas to near Oklahoma City.  The pin is at Midlothian, Texas, about 25 miles south of downtown Dallas and 35 miles SE of downtown Fort Worth.

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

28May

BREEZY

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PROGRAM

The summer season is in full production at the Florida Sea Base.  Despite the persistent easterly breezes, the divers have reported decent conditions on the reef.  The visibility has been good and I have not heard any reports of seasickness.  The wind has been very good for sailing on the bay side of the Keys.  All of the participants that I have spoken with are having a great time.

FSB TIP OF THE DAY

SHOES – I started to list shoes under protective clothing (in yesterday’s post) but decided they deserved their own paragraph. Unless you are on a boat, in the water, playing volleyball, showering or sleeping, YOU MUST WEAR SHOES.  “Shoes” in the Keys means flip-flops or sandals.  [We wear shorts and flip-flops to church.  God doesn’t seem to mind.]  The Florida Keys are tops of fossilized coral reefs exposed by the receding seas.  (By the year 2100 the Keys will likely no longer exist and will have returned to the sea.)  Anyway, the fossilized coral has been covered with fill dirt to grow grass (the kind you walk on, not the other kind).  The fill dirt has glass shards, nails, screws, and other debris. New chunks of debris work their way to the surface daily.  A nasty cut on the bottom of the foot witll cause you to be grounded and your adventure will be over.  WEAR SHOES!

WEATHER

The wind is forecasted to diminish Friday or Saturday.  Otherwise it has been hot with clear skies.  Don’t forget your sunscreen.

IN THE MOTHER COUNTRY

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

27May

NOTHING

That’s what I’ve got for today’s post – nothing.  But they say no news is good news so there you have it; nothing but good news. 🙂

SO HOW ABOUT A TIP FOR THE DAY?

PROTECTIVE CLOTHING – Yes, it is hot here.  But long sleeves are a reasonable consideration.  The SPF type shirts and the “wicking tees” sold through the Ships Store help keep you cool and reduce sunburn.  Hats, depending on style, can shade your eyes, ears, face and neck.  But remember, we frequently have wind and if you are on a dive boat there will definitely be apparent wind from the boats making 20 knots.  So you need to be able to keep your hat on your head.  Regardless of the type of vessel you are on (sailboat or dive boat), if your hat goes overboard the chances of recovering it are near zero.

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

26May

MISFORTUNE

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PROGRAM

While everything is rocking’ and rollin’ for all Florida Sea Base adventures, one of our double Coral Reef Sailing crews suffered an unfortunate incident.  The crews had stopped in Florida City (the last stop on the mainland) for lunch.  While they were eating, someone broke into the vehicles and stole their luggage which for one Scout, included prescription medications.  That is no way to start a Florida Sea Base adventure but kudos to the captains and Coral Reef staff who helped with getting replacement prescriptions meds and other items needed by the Scouts and leaders.

FSB TIP OF THE DAY

SUNGLASSES  – sunglasses with polarized lenses are as important at the Florida Sea Base as sunscreen.  As a matter of fact, you can think of them as sunscreen for your eyes (certainly less painful than rubbing Coppertone in your eyes).  They do not have to be $1,000 Costas or Oakleys.  Our Ships Store sells reasonably priced shades and you are certainly welcome to by them at home.

WEATHER

There is a 10 to 20% chance of a daily shower this week.  Highs will be near 88°F with overnight lows of 80.  The water temperature on the reef is 83° so leave your wetsuit at home.  The wind should be from the east at 15 to 20 knots until Saturday when it should drop to 10 knots.

This is the graphical forecast from the National Weather Service for the next two days:

Plotter.php

 

Click to enlarge or try this link http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?w0=t&w1=td&w2=hi&w3=sfcwind&w3u=1&w4=sky&w5=pop&w6=rh&w7=rain&w8=thunder&AheadHour=7&Submit=Submit&FcstType=graphical&textField1=24.8501&textField2=-80.7345&site=all&unit=0&dd=&bw=

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

25May

MEMORIAL DAY

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I left for the mainland early this morning and failed to post before I left.  Better late than never.

MEMORIAL DAY

The true meaning of Memorial Day has been lost over time like Christmas.  This year let’s try hard to focus on those who have given their life in service to our country instead of what’s on sale at the mall.  No, I did not buy anything on sale or at a mall this morning.)

TODAY’S FSB TIP

ATTITUDE – The success of your trip depends largely on the attitude of the adult leadership. All Florida Sea Base adventures occur in the ocean. Weather comes and weather goes and weather is weather. There are experiences to enjoy and life lessons to be learned regardless of whether the weather is good or bad. In the end, the participants make the trip what is. The staff and captains are here to help. But if the adult leaders can’t make lemonade when the weather throws lemons at them, the kids will suffer. Attitude is key.

PROGRAM

Despite some dicey winds, the sailors are sailing and the divers are diving.  The machine is operational and almost nothing can stop it until the last Scouts go home.  Lifetime ocean memories are being made daily at the Florida Sea Base.  Come join us.

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

PROGRAM

Sunday arrivals include Scuba Adventure, Scuba Certification, Coral Reef Sailing and Sea Exploring crews.  Eco Adventure and Scuba Liveaboard crews are already underway so all summer programs offered at the Florida Sea Base are now active.

TODAY’S FSB TIP

USE SUNSCREEN.  Even on very cloudy days our U/V index is very high.  Being in the shade will not prevent sunburn here.  The rays reflect off the sand, the water, the boat decks and they penetrate awnings, biminis and other covers.  If you get sunburned you are dehydrated.  Almost every week someone gets sunburned and/or dehydrated bad enough to require a trip to the ER.  At the ER they give you fluids through an IV.  You will likely catch an infection while in the hospital and die.  You can therefore avoid this slow, painful, stupid death by staying hydrated and using sunscreen.  [Okay, maybe you won’t die.  But if you go to the ER for dehydration they WILL give you an IV.  If you have severe sunburn or sun poisoning they will require that you stay indoors.  Either way, you are grounded and your “high adventure” is over.]

WEATHER

Wind is generally our weather element of concern at the Florida Sea Base.  Wind directly impacts all of our programs.  Conditions will be challenging for the next several days according to the National Weather Service marine forecast.

This Afternoon East winds 15 to 20 knots and gusty. Seas 3 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters choppy to rough. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.
Tonight And Monday East winds near 20 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters rough. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.
Monday Night East winds near 20 knots and gusty. Seas 3 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters rough. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.
Tuesday East winds 15 to 20 knots and gusty. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters choppy to rough. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.
Tuesday Night Through Thursday Night East winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Nearshore waters choppy. Isolated showers and thunderstorms.

It will be a little bumpy this week.  Don’t forget to take your Bonine® on your travel day to the Florida Sea Base to start getting it built up in your system and to make sure you have no adverse reactions to the medication.  If you get seasick you will likely vomit.  If you vomit you are losing fluids.  That will lead to dehydration and possibly end your adventure.  Better living through chemistry.  Take your meds; don’t try to tough if out.

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

23May

RAMPING UP

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PROGRAM

One Scuba Liveaboard crew and five Coral Reef Sailing crews checked in on Saturday.  Excitement abounds; the dock is crowed as boats and captains grow impatient to depart for high adventure.

TODAY’S FSB TIP

HYDRATE OR DIE” has been the Florida Sea Base battle cry since before my arrival in 2000. Participants at the Florida Sea Base need to drink a gallon of water a day. You lose about 20 ounces of water through normal respiration WHILE YOU SLEEP. Therefore, if you do not drink at least a quart of water by the end of breakfast time, you are starting your day in a state of dehydration. DRINK WATER!

With daily heat indices in excess of 100°F it is very easy to get dehydrated.  Since you will have multiple opportunities daily to get into the water and cool off it is easy to underestimate the heat.  For the scuba divers, you will recall from your Open Water Diver training that you lose about a quart of water for every tank of compressed gas you breath.  This is in addition to the moisture you lose because of perspiration and other body functions.  And speaking of body functions, dehydration leads to constipation, and sea sickness, and headaches, and sinus congestion, and the list goes on.  PLEASE DRINK WATER!!!

ROAD TRIP MEMORY

As one slowly recovers from sleep deprivation, various memories return.  Case in point.  On the drive from Texas to the Florida Sea Base I frequently stop at travel centers (formerly known as truck stops). During one of my stops, the men’s room was filled with truckers who were essentially bathing in the sinks and others in the stalls praying out load to various deities and generating sounds and odors from another universe.  Meanwhile, in the midst of this chaos from Hades, the good natured employees were piping in “Let it Go” on the intercom.  Truly inspiring!

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

PROGRAM

Friday was the first arrival day of the 2015 summer season at the Florida Sea Base.  One Scuba Liveaboard crew and an Eco-Adventure crew checked in Friday afternoon.  Crew arrivals will grow daily and the first full arrival day will probably happen on Wednesday.

TIP OF THE DAY

This is a work in progress, but I am amassing a list of tips to share.  Today’s tip has to do with scuba divers and underwater navigation.

Imagine being 45 feet underwater, you have used 30%-40% of your air, and it’s time to start heading back to the boat. Where’s the boat? Divers get very little instruction in underwater navigation in their Open Water Diver certification course. If you are coming to the Florida Sea Base for the Scuba Adventure or Scuba Liveaboard programs you should practice navigation. The PADI Underwater Navigation Specialty course is the perfect answer. However, you may not have access to scuba gear and a dive site, but those aren’t necessary. You need a compass, a towel and a buddy. In buddy teams, one buddy navigates while the other accompanies him to make sure he doesn’t step in a hole or run into an object. The buddy who is navigating picks a point in the distance. He then uses the compass to take a bearing on that object (a tree stump for example). The navigator puts a towel over his head so all he can see is the compass and the ground. (The buddy becomes important at this point.) The navigator watches the compass and counts the paces until reaching his target. (The buddy should interrupt if the navigator gets significantly off course or is in danger.) The navigator then turns 180 degrees to the reciprocal course. He then follows the compass and counts paces until he believes he has reached the starting point.

This is more difficult while diving because you have to maintain control of your depth, monitor your air and your buddy, and you may be dealing with cross currents that can push you off course.

WEATHER

It is summertime in the Keys.  It has been hot and humid with those short lived little thunderstorms popping up on occasion.  Be prepared!

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