Archive for March, 2016



in Weather  •  0 comments


I posted yesterday that the “feels like” temperature broke 90° at the Florida Sea Base and I thought that was unusually warm for this time of year.  According to AccuWeather, our Real Feel® temperature will peak at 104°F this afternoon.  We also have a 40% chance of showers today, dropping back to 10% daily for the remainder of the week.  As the late Jerry Reed said, “When your hot, you’re hot!”

That’s all.  When I saw the AccuWeather report this morning I just felt I needed to share.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Program Director – RETIRED
Aboard S/V Escape



in Weather  •  0 comments


The Florida Sea Base survived the cold front.  As usual, the wind was more punishing than the cold.  But everyone kept a good attitude.  The wind then tapered off a bit but still held above our comfort zone of 15 knots and clocked to the east making the reefs less comfortable and affecting visibility to some extent.  Monday we broke the 90° mark.


The Florida Sea Base was packed with Scouts the week prior to Easter.  This week is quieter, not only at Sea Base, but throughout the Keys.  I must surmize that spring break is over for most school districts.

After this week, many of the reinforcement staff will be heading home.  The Florida Sea Base is much blessed to have such dedicated supporters.  I, for one, am very aware of the stress this sometimes causes for the parents, spouses and children back home.  If you are one of those people, please know that these folks are doing good work and giving Scouts the opportunity to see Scouting values in action; something I fear they see less and less of.


In the spring in the Florida Keys (a time of year many refer to as winter elsewhere), this is a mecca for tourists from around the world. Many are not used to driving on the right side of the road, many don’t speak English, some are the nicest people on Earth, and some aren’t. Here are two true stories that I observed on the same day.

I was at Burger King for breakfast in Marathon. There is a young man and young lady (20s?) in line in front of me. They do not speak English, but they do understand the menu. (I don’t know how either.) So they decide what they want, the lady uses her phone to take pictures of the items and they show the pictures to the cashier. Ingenious.

Later I was shopping at Winn Dixie in Tavernier. I was on the cereal aisle. I did not need cereal. I did not choose to be on the cereal aisle. But the wave of tourists was guiding me like I was caught in a rip current at the beach and the rip current was going down the cereal aisle – and taking me with it.

Also on the cereal aisle was a lovely family of tourists from somewhere in Eastern Europe (my best guess). Four generations represent by 2 kids, two parents, two grandparents and two great-grandparents. One of the kids told mama he wanted cereal A. The other kid started screaming, she wanted cereal B. The first kid starts screaming back in defense of cereal A. Mama starts screaming no and chooses cereal C. Grandma starts screaming at mama to get both A and B. A non-associated 30 something lady wearing yoga pants and with a small child bullies her way through the screaming match and apparently great-grandpa pinches her on the rump. Now the lady starts screaming at great-grandpa. Great-grandma doesn’t know what’s going on so she starts screaming at the lady. By the way, the lady does not speak the same foreign language as the other family, but they’re all screaming anyway. I abandoned my cart, forced my way downstream, went back to the front of the store, got another cart, and started shopping all over again.

And not to leave out the Americans….. Later, the same evening….. An intoxicated motorcycle operator is trying to turn left onto the highway from the bar parking lot. He revs up the engine, but the bike is not in gear. He picks up his foot and the bike falls on its left side. Many people rush to his aide. He is ok. They help him pick up the bike. The man is holding the bike upright and standing on the left side of it. He fails to put down the kickstand, but releases the bike so he can survey the damage. The bike crashes onto its right side. Now both sides are smashed up. Someone finally convinced him to park the bike and they gave him a lift.

That, dear friends, is just one day of springtime tourism in the Florida Keys. I wonder if the tourism board would be interested in publishing my observations?


I will be on the road again late this week or this coming weekend; Texas is calling me home.  So please be patient if it takes me a couple of weeks to post again.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Program Director – RETIRED
Aboard S/V Escape



in Program  •  0 comments


All crews attending the Florida Sea Base, regardless of which campus (Sea Base, Brinton Center, Bahamas or USVI) and regardless of which specific adventure (except Scuba Certification and Scuba Adventure), engage in fishing at some point.  Each crew must have at least one adult leader certified in Wilderness First Aid.  My question to each of you WFA certified adult leaders is, were you taught how to remove a fish hook, or first aid for an eel bite, or man-of-war sting?  If not, I think you have homework to do, and maybe I can help.  I’ll start including information on some of these aquatics injuries to help our adult leaders, captains and staff members be better prepared.


Let’s start with marine envenomation (stings).  There are no critters out there that will intentionally swim up and sting you.  Stings generally happen by carelessness on the part of the diver/snorkeler.  Stings can come from fire coral, stone/rock fish, lion fish, jelly fish, man-o-war, etc.  These stings can range from a very sharp burning sensation that is not life threatening, to major envenomation that can cause anaphylaxis, necrosis and death.

Fortunately, with thousands of dives under my weight belt, I have never suffered a truly major sting.  I accidentally rubbed against a small piece of fire coral while teaching the Divemaster Academy this past winter.  This photo was taken about 10 days after contact.


In the summer of 2000 I had an encounter with a small man-o-war.  The scars stayed with me for over 6 months.

Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.

Here’s a participant who encountered some moon jellies that are common in Keys waters in August

Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge. Photo by Capt. Dennis Wyatt.

He was a real trooper and did not miss any dives.

In the past, the recommended first aid for minor marine stings, like those shown above, was to rinse the area with sea water (NOT fresh water), remove any remaining tentacles and flush the area with vinegar.  Urine was reported as an acceptable substitute if vinegar was not available, but that is a wives tale.

Regardless, the current recommended treatment is:

Flush area with large amounts of sea water (NOT fresh water)
Remove tentacles with forceps
Shave area w/ shave cream & safety razor (do NOT use menthol or perfumed shave cream)
Immerse the area in hot water or 30 – 90 minutes (as hot as can be tolerated)
Apply hydrocortisone lotion or cream
Monitor for allergic reaction or infection
Apply warm packs for pain control

Remember, more potent stings, or patients who are allergic, can result in anaphylactic shock which can be life threatening.  Adult leaders and boat captains should stock the items needed to treat marine envenomations in their first aid kit.

Safety razor
Non-menthol shave cream or soap to make lather
Hydrocortisone lotion or cream
Warm packs

Based on personal experience, I HIGHLY recommend a product called Wipe Away Pain®.  This product has proven to be very effective at reducing the pain after the initial first aid has been rendered.  This product can be found online and is sometimes carried in the Florida Sea Base Ship’s Store.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Program Director – RETIRED
Aboard S/V Escape



The cold front I posted about yesterday slowed down and will be passing through the Florida Keys this evening and most of tomorrow.  This graphic was taken from

Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.


The Florida Sea Base is SLAMMED with participants this week and next.  This will be a challenging week, but the staff and captains are prepared and there is no reason for our participants to not have a very fun, high adventure experience.

We have over 20 NAYLE participants, 2 Scuba Liveaboard crews, a Sea Exploring crew, slews of Coral Reef sailors and a couple of boat loads of Scuba Adventure crews.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Program Director – RETIRED
Aboard S/V Escape


Marine forecast from the National Weather Service:

NWS Forecast for: Hawk Channel from Ocean Reef to Craig Key out to the reef (GMZ042)Issued by: National Weather Service Key West, FLLast Update: 1147 AM EDT SAT MAR 19 2016

This Afternoon: South winds 15 to 20 knots…becoming south to southwest and decreasing 10 to 15 knots late. Seas 2 to 4 feet… Subsiding to 1 to 3 feet late. Nearshore waters choppy…becoming a light to moderate chop late. Isolated showers developing.

Tonight: South to southwest winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 1 to 2 feet. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop. Scattered showers.

Sunday: Southwest winds 10 to 15 knots…becoming west and increasing to 15 to 20 knots late. Seas 1 to 3 feet. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop…becoming choppy late. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.

Sunday Night: Northwest to north winds 20 to 25 knots. Seas building to 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters very rough. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.

Monday: North winds 20 to 25 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters very rough. Isolated showers.

Monday Night: North to northeast winds near 20 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters rough.

Tuesday And Tuesday Night: Northeast to east winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Nearshore waters choppy.

Wednesday And Wednesday Night: East winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters choppy. Isolated showers.

And here’s the rest of the story:

This Afternoon: A slight chance of showers. Sunny, with a high near 83. South wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Tonight: A slight chance of showers, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after 8pm. Partly cloudy, with a low around 75. Southeast wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Sunday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 82. Southwest wind 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.

Sunday Night: A chance of showers. Cloudy, with a low around 62. Breezy, with a west wind 15 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.

Monday: A slight chance of showers before 2pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 68. Breezy, with a north wind around 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Monday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 59.

Tuesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 75.

Tuesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 68.

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

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

Thursday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 81. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Thursday Night: A slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 74. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

Friday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 82. Chance of precipitation is 10%.

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

Very windy for most of this first week of spring break, some rain tomorrow and BBrrrrr ouch cold tomorrow night, all day Monday and Monday night.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Program Director – RETIRED
Aboard S/V Escape


I have been inexcusably remiss in welcoming MATTHEW REINECK to the professional staff at the Florida Sea Base.  Last year, former Director of Programs Robert Kolb as promoted to the National Office.  Tim Stanfill was then promoted from Team Leader – Logistics Support to fill Rob’s spot.  Sometime near the first of the year Matt was selected to fill the Team Leader position.

So what does the Team Leader – Logistics Support do?  (First, what a mouthful of a title!) Essentially, Matt is responsible for everything except program and facilities.  What’s left you ask?  Retail sales at our two retail outlets, internet sales, conference reservations and management and all things food.  It’s good they found a young guy for the job.  Whew!


Welcome aboard, Matt!!!


After spending (many) thousands of dollars in the boat yard, Escape is back in her slip at the Florida Sea Base.  There are still several things to do, but soon, Escape will have made the conversion from floating-condo-at-the-dock back to being a sailboat.  If all goes well, she will sail in the Coral Reef Sailing program this summer and maybe, just maybe, I’ll earn back what I spent on her.


Click image to enlarge.


With the surge in springtime crews, Scuba Instructors Dale Davis and Paul Mangone have both reported for a few weeks of duty at the Florida Sea Base.


Overall, conditions have been exceptional this past week for scuba diving and snorkeling.


However, 72°F water temperature is a little chilly for me!

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Program Director – RETIRED
Aboard S/V Escape


I returned to the Florida Sea Base Tuesday evening.  I left Texas at 11:00pm Monday and 1,300 miles and 22 and a half hours later I was driving through the FSB gates.  I had a busy day Wednesday.  I slept in until 7:00am and then got busy.  I had a lot of stuff to move onto the boat, some cleaning to do and systems to check.

I said hello to folks I hadn’t seen for a few months but I got a special treat at dinner.  Tom (Sr.) and Tina Sander are back at the base volunteering.  Tom and Tina are delightful people.  Their oldest son, Tom Jr., first came to the Florida Sea Base as a seasonal staff member in 2003 or 2004 (I have always been horrible with dates).  Tom Jr. was shy and maybe the quietest guy I had ever met.  It was incredible to see him evolve and come out of his shell as a Sea Base staffer.  Since then, the other son, John, and sisters Stephanie and Lauren have been multi-season staff members.  I had a long visit with Tom and Tina after dinner; it was a very pleasant end to a hot, sweaty day.


There were no crews at the Florida Sea Base when I arrived, so Scuba Director Joe Angelo and Sailing Director Luke Knuttel took advantage of the time for some serious staff training.  Lindsey Smith is the Sailing Commissioner this spring and Taron Soto is leading the scuba staff.  Scuba Instructor/Captain Scott Patton has returned to help for the busy weeks of spring and Scuba Instructor Rich Goldman will be down in a week or so.


Last week more crews started rolling in including 2 Scuba Liveaboard crews and a few Coral Reef Sailing crews.  The wind was very stout all week.  I suspect the diving was sparse.  The spring really ramps up this week and the weather is going to be great!


Captain Hajo Knuttel helped me deliver S/V Escape to the boatyard a week ago Friday.  A lot of progress was made Saturday through Wednesday.  But by Thursday is was death bed sick from breathing all of the coral dust being kicked up in the yard by the strong winds.  My work crew had other obligations on Thursday and Friday.  We plan to wrap up a few projects Monday morning.  The marine surveyor arrives at 10 (a survey is required by most insurance companies every two or three years) and I plan bring Escape back to Sea Base on Tuesday.

That’s it for now.  I’ll try to post next weekend.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Program Director – RETIRED
Soon to be back aboard S/V Escape