Thursday was Mr. Rob Kolb’s day to address the combined staffs from the Florida Sea Base and the Brinton Environmental Center.  The meeting was hosted at our facility again this year.  Almost every year we discuss having this part of training at the Brinton Center, but it never happens.  I’m sure that a part of the reason is because most of the guest speakers are from the Upper Keys and the 50 mile drive to Brinton may be asking too much of them.  A representative from Bank of America made a pitch about why the staff members should open an account with them.  Former FSB staff member and now Deputy Director of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Mary Tagliarini, and former FSB staff member and now Florida Wildlife Commission Lieutenant Liz Reisz made presentations plus the local blood bank was on site taking donations.  For the third year in a row we set a new record for the number of blood and platelet donations made by the Florida Sea Base / Brinton Environment Center staff members.  Most of the full time FSB staff members were also assigned topics for the day’s meeting.  Training concluded early and Mr. Kolb took the staff to see the newest Pirates of the Caribbean movie followed by dinner back at base.

This coming weekend is Memorial Day and the big opening weekend for this summer’s participants.  The chance of rain has been increased to 30% for today through Monday.  The Colorado State University releases an update to their 2011 hurricane forecast on 01 June.  I hope to put together a post on 02 June addressing that topic – stay tuned.

Jim Aspell sent in the following comment:

Steve,

I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. Our Troop 146 from West Hartford, CT does the coral reef trip every two years and we always have a great time. I personally was on base in 2010 and did a week with Harman on Dutch Love. Our second crew that year did the week with Ed on Siesta and had an equaly great time (although a little more on island time than we were with Harman., lol) I enjoyed myself so much I came back here and bought an O’Day Mariner and have begun to dream of the cruising life :)

We will be back in April 2012 for another week of sailing on the reefs. What a great program! I understand the reasons the program changed (fuel endurance/morality) but our only wish is that the Coral Reef program still did the Key West run.

You should post a bicture of Escape on your blog!

YIS

Jim

Thanks for the kind words Jim.  I understand your sentiments about Key West.  The “Key West Day” has been removed from all programs except Sea Exploring (which may happen in 2012 or 2013), Open Oceans Adventure (which starts and ends in Key West), Order of the Arrow Oceans Adventure (OA members only), Keys Adventure and maybe the Florida Fishing Adventure (I stay confused about whether they go or not).  As you can see, there are some programs still visiting Key West.  To be clear, here are the programs that DO NOT visit Key West as part of the itinerary: Coral Reef Sailing (Jim’s favorite), Eco Adventure, Scuba Adventure, Scuba Certification, Scuba Liveaboard, Out Island Adventure, and (as noted above) maybe the Florida Fishing Adventure.

Fuel and concerns over the lack of proper adult supervision of the kids while in Key West were considerations in removing Key West from these programs.  However, what drove the changes were two other factors. First was YEARS of Coral Reef Sailing participant critiques complaining that they did not get to sail enough due to the “forced march” to Key West.  The boats were forced to average around 5 knots to make the trip.  Sometimes the wind doesn’t cooperate with a set schedule so a lot of motoring was required to insure timely arrival at Key West and to return to the Florida Sea Base.  So we decided to model the program after our very successful Bahamas Sailing program and remove the destination.  Now, wind is the only determining factor.  The crew can literally go where the wind carries them from day to day and we are seeing a LOT more sailing and (as pointed out by Jim) a reduction in fuel purchases.

The second reason was also based on participant critiques; the scuba crews wanted more dives.  So we removed Key West from the itinerary and replaced that day with another day of diving.  Accomplishing this required the purchase of another $300,000 dive boat (so there went the savings from the Coral Reef Sailing fuel reduction).

Finally, the Risk Management folks in Dallas felt that transporting kids on US 1 was the most dangerous thing we did.  Obviously that didn’t affect Coral Reef Sailing going to Key West, but the other crews were taken by school bus or vans.  We had a perfect safety record, but it was likely a matter of time until we had a catastrophe.

Again, thanks for the comment Jim.  What we are suggesting for those who really want a day in Key West is to come a day early or stay a day late and add the Key West day to your Tour Plan.  Key West is a GREAT place to visit.  But the trip needs to be planned and supervised.  Key West can be a positive experience for Scouts when state parks, museums and Scout appropriate sites are scheduled.  But without adult supervision there are inappropriate opportunities for the kids (and adults).  And speaking of adults, while very rare, it was very infuriating to be called in the middle of the night to drive an hour and a half to Key West to liberate adult Scouters from the local police because the leaders were holed up at Sloppy Joe’s (or one of the other 650 bars in Key West) while the kids roamed Duval Street without supervision.  As we know, all it takes is one numb-skull to ruin an otherwise great opportunity.

Ok, off the soap-box.  Here’s a photo of S/V Escape at Morgans Bluff, Andros Island, Bahamas.

Click to enlarge.

Yesterday was my dad’s 79th birthday.  I love you, Dad.  As with many Eagle Scouts, my award should have gone to my dad; he worked harder guiding me along than I did.  I remember him hiking with serious blisters and the torturous bike ride from Fort Worth to Burkburnett, Texas in the grueling heat of the Texas summer on single speed bikes with camping gear and rations for the weekend.  There were many other sacrifices on his part, but those were the two most painful that I recall.

Have a great day.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

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