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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 9.07.53

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

DAY TWO

There were no issues with the new fuel pump.  I spent most of the day packing for the next leg of the journey to the Florida Sea Base.  I sacked at at 6 pm in preparation for an early start on day three.

DAY THREE

I woke up around 10:30 Tuesday evening.  I spent about an hour trying to get back to sleep without success.  I got up, got dressed, fixed a cup of coffee, loaded the Suburban and headed south to Interstate 10.  I left the house at 12:09 am (9 minutes past midnight) Wednesday morning.  I fueled up in Orange, Texas where I get onto I-10.

Everything was fine until I was half way across the bridge over the Atchafalaya Bayou.  The bridge is 96,096 feet (18.2 miles) long and is between Lafayette and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  It was between 2 and 3 am and another gas issue with the Suburban emerged; or so I thought.  I managed to drive the remainder of the way across the bridge at 25 to 30 mph on the shoulder and praying that I wouldn’t get smashed in the fog from the rear by an 18 wheeler.  A mile or so past the bridge and the problem disappeared – for a while.  Then the problem was back and I was approaching the Mississippi River bridge.  It is a very tall, very steep bridge with no shoulder.  I knew I could not make it over the bridge so I pulled onto LA-1 which runs along the west bank of the river.  It was 3:30 in the morning.  No one to call. No one to help.

I made myself at home in a Walmart parking lot and waited.  To shorten the story a bit, I was able to call two mechanics from back home and we decided that the likely culprit was an excessive amount of ethanol in the fuel.  [This can easily be confused with water in the gas as the symptoms are the same.]  We came up with a plan, I got the Suburban running properly, took a big breath and headed for the Mississippi River bridge.

I had lost several hours of travel time and my usual 20 hour drive was going to be much longer.  I stopped at a roadside park and slept for about an hour.  This sign was posted in the pet walk area.

IMG_1203

DAY FOUR

After my nap I was back on the road.  Totally exhausted, I stopped again at a service plaza on the Florida Turnpike.  I passed out for over four hours.  Then back on the road and finally arrived at the Florida Sea Base at 10:30 am Thursday, more than 12 hours later than I had planned.

PROGRAM

The Florida Sea Base is a beehive of activity.  It is kind of cool to be a spectator for the first time since I joined the staff in 2000.  Coral Reef captains are making final preparations, the dive staff is getting weft and renewing their underwater and rescue skills, and the sail staff is preparing for the incoming sailors.

Captain (and recent PADI IDC Staff Instructor graduate) Brenda Mallory will serve as the second captain aboard the Schooner Pirates Lady in the Scuba Liveaboard program.  Pirates Lady is under new ownership and is very fortunate to have Captain Brenda aboard.

The Schooner Spirit of Independence has moved from the Sea Exploring program to be the third schooner (Conch Pearl being the original) to join the Florida Sea Base Scuba Liveaboard fleet.

Captain Christy Costa has gotten all of the Florida Sea Base Newton Dive Boats through their annual US Coast Guard safety inspections.

Captain Steve Owen has brought a new vessel into our sailing fleet.  S/V Missty (not a typo) will serve in the Order of the Arrow Oceans Adventure program (OAOA).

WEATHER

H-O-T!!!

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

ROAD TRIP – DAY ONE

I started my road trip back to the Florida Sea Base early Monday morning; my first destination was our homestead in SE Texas to visit my dad and to load up some tools and parts that I need for projects onboard Escape.

Right about two hours into the five hour drive the motor in the 1991 Suburban suddenly quit.  I coasted onto the rain soaked grass on the side of a 2 lane highway with no shoulder.  I was not quite in the middle of nowhere, but I was about 10 miles NW of the thriving metropolis of Palestine, Texas.  The big issue was easy to diagnose; fuel was not getting to the motor.  But why?  I suspected it was the fuel pump.

There was some good news at this point.  I have AAA Texas Plus which provides free towing for 100 miles.  And there is a Chevy dealership in Palestine.  (No kidding!)  So I called the Chevy dealer and explained my predicament.  They said they would be happy to look at it in a day or two.  Really?  Really.  They said that was the best they could do.  So I called AAA.  (Three As, not 2.)  They had a “preferred” independent shop in Tyler, Texas, about a 2 hour detour from my scheduled route.  I called that shop and they sounded much more interested in helping so I decided to go with that.  Then AAA called back and said it would take two hours for the wrecker to find me.  Great.

More good news, the wrecker arrived much quicker than anticipated AND the driver knew a shop in Rusk, Texas (on my route) that could get me on the road in short order.  So the Suburban was loaded onto the wrecker and we are off to Rusk.  About half way there all traffic was stopped.  A massive hardwood tree has fallen across both lanes of road.  There were a few guys with chainsaws whittling on the tree.  [Yes, we really haul them around with us in the backs of our trucks.  Case in point.]  We pull up in the wrecker, hook a chain onto the tree, pull the tree into the ditch and the road was open.  On to Rusk!

We arrived at Beck’s Auto just before noon.  The folks were exceptionally nice (most people are around here).  Three and a half hours later (at $100 per hour) I was  singing Willie’s hit, “On the Road Again”.  The first leg of the journey is in the bag.

Tuesday will be spent preparing for the long leg of the trip, the 20+ hour marathon from Jasper, Texas to the Florida Sea Base.  This is going to be challenging because I will have to dodge thunderstorms while trying to load tools, parts, dive gear, computers and personal effects into the Suburban.  I hope to leave here very early Wednesday morning and arrive at the Florida Sea Base before the highways are clogged with Memorial Day vacationers flocking to the Gulf Coast areas.

I’ll post when I can.

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