Posts Tagged ‘cold’



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We are struggling a little with near record low temperatures.  The skies were clear at the Florida Sea Base yesterday but the wind was still ripping in the morning.  The wind dropped significantly in the afternoon.  It is up a little this morning, around 15 knots from the NNE.  It’s 59°F but should warm up to 70 this afternoon under clear skies.  We are expecting sunny conditions through Saturday.  The wind should remain at a tolerable 10 to 15 knots for the rest of the week.  Temperatures are creeping up very slowly.


The sailors are doing well.  They too have weather challenges but have more flexibility within their program than do the divers.  But cold is cold and it has been pretty cool at the Florida Sea Base.  Six crews were in for shore leave yesterday.  One of the scheduled events for the crews is volleyball.  We apparently had two very dedicated players who managed to head-butt each other during the game.  One was transported to Mariners Hospital for a lacerated forehead.  OUCH!  He will be fine but no more in water activities for the rest of his week.


The divers at the Florida Sea Base completed all of their scheduled dives yesterday.  I was out with the Scuba Certification crews.  Our first dive was at the Pillars of Atlantis.  We had a lot of sand for completing skills without damaging the coral.  It was a fairly strong current, surge and only 10’=15′ visibility.  The instructors were stressed a little, but the participants had a BLAST.  We moved to Alligator Reef for our second dive.  During the drive the wind dropped significantly.  We had about twice as much visibility, very little current and much less surge for our second dive.   I want to thank Captain Alex Bergstedt and Commissioner Laura Kuras for helping out with the Scuba Certification crews yesterday.  Half of our Scuba Adventure crews went to Alligator Reef for their night dive last night.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
Aboard S/V Escape

I spent four hours instructing at the Aquatics Workshop at the Florida Sea Base today.  I’m not sure what I did to make the coordinator of this year’s workshop hate me, but I had a two and a half hour session right after lunch and another 2.5 hour session right after dinner.  Maybe he doesn’t hate me.  Maybe he thought I was a skilled orator who could keep the attendees awake and amazed in these difficult time slots.  (HA!!!)  Many of you know I have a cripple leg.  After 5 hours plus of standing on it today it is SCREAMING.  My leg thinks I should find a hack saw and cut it off.

I’m not sure what happened, but Milly McCoy submitted this comment on 30 October.  She was on a cruise and got chased around during the early stages of Hurricane Tomas.

we left st maarten last night for st lucia. (middle of 16 day carnival cruise). around dinnertime the captain announced we were not going to st lucia but would go to st kitts. this morninig we made two attempts to dock at st kitts, then the pilot jumped off and away we went. now heading for grand turk. where we dived last week. who knows where we will go between now and wednesday, our scheduled arrival at fort lauderdale. the wind is currently about 40 kts and we are moving at 11 km. seas look ginormous but probably 15s. thinking about you all and fsb.

The weather here is finally turning on us.  We have a cold front moving through.  It should be in the 70s this morning and in the 60s tomorrow afternoon.  Saturday morning is forecasted to be in the 50s.  Brrrrrrrrr.  I dug out blankets, coats and hats last night to be prepared.  Here’s our weather forecast from the National Weather Service.

Friday…A chance of showers in the morning…otherwise decreasing cloudiness. Becoming windy and cooler. Highs in the lower 70s in the morning…with temperatures slowly falling into and through the upper 60s in the afternoon. Northwest winds 15 to 20 mph…becoming north and increasing to 20 to 25 mph and gusty. Chance of rain 30 percent.

Friday Night…Clear and windy. Lows in the mid 50s. North winds 20 to 25 mph and gusty.

Saturday And Saturday Night…Clear and windy. Highs near 70. Lows in the mid 50s. North winds near 20 mph.

Sunday And Sunday Night…Mostly clear and breezy. Highs near 70. lows in the mid 60s.

Monday And Monday Night…Partly cloudy. A slight chance of showers. Highs in the mid 70s. Lows in the upper 60s. Chance of rain 10 percent both periods.

Tuesday Through Veterans Day…Partly cloudy. A slight chance of showers. Highs near 80. Lows near 70. Chance of rain 10 percent each period.

So we should be back to normal on Tuesday.

I’m out of time.  Have a good day.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape

The Florida Sea Base is the FIRST location to host an Instructor Certification Course for the new BSA Wilderness First Aid course.  I am one of 22 persons soon to be certified BSA Wilderness First Aid instructors. By this time tomorrow ww will be prepared to start offering BSA Wilderness First Aid certifications.  Yahoo!!

The “mild” cold front I commented on yesterday grew a bit overnight.  I was up around 0300 adding lines to the boat.  The wind is still howling from the west and it is very chilly on the dock.  Still, we are better off than much of the country.  EVERYONE I have talked with says this is the coldest winter they can recall in the Keys.  Brrrr.

Milly McCoy put in another day at the PADI Instructor Development Course at Flakeys.  And GREAT NEWS — Ellen and Capt. Dennis Wyatt are back at the Florida Sea Base.  I am SO glad they are here.  Ellen and Capt. Dennis keep everyone laughing.

Speaking of laughing, I would like to share an experience from this evening’s BSA Wilderness First Aid Instructor Training Course.  Tonight we were doing CPR.  They had 10 adult dummies one the floor and 10 infant dummies on a table.  So half of the class were on their knees working with adult dummies while the other half were standing working with the infant dummies.  You had to be there to appreciate this part, but our good Divemaster friend “Ranger Joe” kept ripping the head off the infant dummy while performing the choking hazard skills.  That was funny but this part is better.  I am fat and old and have a bad leg.  So kneeling on the floor is very difficult for me.  But it was time to cowboy up and save a dummies life so on the floor I went.  I tried to get on the back row but wound up on the next to the back row with another rescuer right behind me.  I was okay in the compression position, but I had a little gas so everytime I leaned all the way down to give rescue breaths I farted.  So it went like this: compressions 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-20-21-22-23-24-25-26-27-28-29-30, FART, 2 rescue breaths, compressions 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-20-21-22-23-24-25-26-27-28-29-30, FART, 2 rescue breaths, etc for five cycles.  We are lucky that we didn’t have to do a real resuscitation for the poor person behind me.  Because we were doing these skills in unison, every time I was bent all the way forward farting, the person behind me had their face very close to my  “gas producing area”.  It was sad, but I was about to pass out from trying not to laugh.  The instructor said to have fun, but I don’t think this is what he meant.  At my age we were all lucky that it was only gas!

With that said, it is very much past my bed time.  Good night.

The number of dead fish in the Keys is still a big topic of discussion and front page news in the papers.  The two photos were taken at Big Munson Island, home of the Out Island Adventure, by Sarah Wittke.

Like most of the rest of the country, our temperatures are rising and the massive fish kill is starting to ripen.  Fortunately, most of the dead fish in the harbor at Florida Sea Base have been carried out by the tidal flow.  But there are still a number of dead fish and they are starting to stink.

The Turtle Hospital rescued over 90 turtles during the cold snap and several have been returned to the wild.  There is a great story with lots of photos at  I know the focus of the United States is on Haiti right now – and deservedly so.  But if you can spare a few extra bucks, please consider making a donation to the Turtle Hospital.  I have assisted these folks before and I can personally attest that they do good works.

Taken at Big Munson Island by Sarah Wittke.

Taken at Big Munson Island by Sarah Wittke.

I’m back!  I arrived early yesterday afternoon at the Florida Sea Base and stayed in the office until after dinner time.  There is a LOT to catch up.  “Job security” some folks say.  A lack of manpower is another way to look at it.  Everything seems in order aboard Escape, EXCEPT I forgot to empty the galley trash before I left.  Needless to say, I have had all of the hatches open all afternoon.  Actually I was very surprised by how little stench was present.  I spent too much time in the office and so I didn’t get everything unloaded from the truck.  But there will time for that in the next few days.

Ice.  I was gone for 12 days.  It was so cold while I was gone that I still have ice in the ice chest that I put in the truck the day I left.  I have heard some horrible first hand accounts about the fish kill that occurred with that arctic blast that lingered about 10 days ago.  I’m glad I wasn;t here to see it.  The accounts make me even more concerned about what happened to our reefs.  I copied the following information from which is compiled by the National Data Buoy Center.  The columns didn’t copy well but I’m sure you can follow the information. What’s important is that the water temperature on Molasses Reef hit 60.6 degrees Fahrenheit (15.9 Celsius) at 0900 Eastern Daylight Time (1400 UTC) on 11 January 2011. That’s about 10 degrees (F) cooler than normal and is certain to have hurt the coral as well as the fish.

#yr    mo   dy    hr mn   degT   m/s      m/s  degC     degC

2010 01   11   23   00     360     5.7       6.7    14.3      23.3
2010 01   11   22   00     360     5.7       6.7    14.4      22.8
2010 01   11   21   00     360     6.2       6.7    14.0      22.8
2010 01   11   20   00    340     6.2       7.2    13.0      22.8
2010 01   11   19   00     340     7.2       8.2    12.1      22.7
2010 01   11   18   00     340     7.2       8.2    11.1      22.7
2010 01   11   17   00     340     7.2       7.7     9.1       22.5
2010 01   11   16   00     350     6.7       7.2     7.3       20.6
2010 01   11   15   00     360     8.2      8.8     5.9       16.7
2010 01   11    14   00    360     10.3    10.8    MM     15.9
2010 01   11   13   00     360    12.4     13.4   MM      MM
2010 01   11   12   00     360    11.8     13.4   MM      21.3
2010 01   11   11   00     360    11.3     12.9   MM       21.8
2010 01   11   10   00    360    10.8     11.8   MM       21.9
2010 01   11   09   00    360    11.3     12.4   MM       21.8
2010 01   11   08   00    360    12.4     13.4   MM       21.8
2010 01   11   07   00    360    12.4     14.4   MM       21.9
2010 01   1  1 06   00    360    11.8     12.9    5.8       21.9
2010 01   11   05   00    350    13.9     15.4    6.7       21.9
2010 01   11   04   00    350    12.9     14.4    7.3       21.9
2010 01   11   00   00    360    10.3     11.8    8.4      21.7

WDIR = wind direction
WSPD = wind speed
GST = wind gust
ATMP = air temperature
WTMP = water temperature

Time starts at the bottom and goes up.  Time is UTC so subtract 5 hours to get local time.

Joe Scheiner, multi-season Ranger at the Florida Sea Base and recent graduate of the Divemaster Academy sent the following response to yesterday’s post:

The fish are washing up on the shore across the entire Keys. The water temperature bay-side is hovering just above 50 degrees. The FWC is using Sea Base as a staging point to save sea turtles, they have sent over 100 to the Turtle hospital in Marathon so far.

FWC is the Florida Wildlife Commission.  Their officers are similar to “Game Wardens” in many states.  I am sure the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida would appreciate any donations.  You can get more information on how to donate at  It is remarkable (in a sad way) how little change in temperature (up or down) it takes to have devastating effects on our environment.

There is Free Press Newspaper article posted at  The article is on page 11.  It is a big file (51 pages) so be patient.  In the meantime, I have posted just page 11 out of the document.  Click READ MORE to see the page.  You may have to click on the article to see the whole page.  As I have warned before, I am not computer literate so I have gotten it on here the best I can for now.

I was surprised (pleasantly surprised) to see that Florida Sea Base News has been moved to the first page of hits when doing a Google search on “Florida Sea Base”.  Please remember that I don’t know squat about this techno stuff.  So maybe it’s no big deal.  But it seems cool to me to have surpassed most of the YouTube type entries.  Hopefully more people will now see the site.  The reason I started this project was to try to keep our staff, captains, participants, parents and leaders better informed of changing policies, situations, weather and general information about the Florida Sea Base.

On the weather front, you might find this article from the National Weather Service in Key West of interest:  It is a detailed accounting of the recent cold wave in the Keys.  I was talking with Capt. Rich at Sea Base about two days ago and he told me the water in the harbor has gotten so cold that the fish are dying.

Speaking of weather, if all goes well I will be inspecting our newest Newton 46 Dive Special which is in production at the Newton facility in Slidell, LA next Monday or Tuesday.  The name has not been announced yet, but I am lobbying for (1) BSA Centurian (which was suggested by staff member Milly McCoy) or (2) BSA Centennial.  Both names have to do with the vessel being acquired during the centennial year of the Boy Scouts of America.

Don’t forget that reservations for 2011 open TOMORROW.
Go to for details.

From the National Weather Service:





It is very rare that the National Weather Service issues windchill information for the Keys.

The winter weather is hanging on at Florida Sea Base.  I understand that many of you think I’m whining.  If you choose to live where it’s really cold all I can say is you are much tougher than me.  I lived in Michigan for about three years as a kid.  No offense, but it wasn’t the most pleasant time of my life.  There were some really great, fun times.  But trying to live everyday life in the cold, frozen, snow, ice, slush mess was not a joy.

I have generally lived in more temperate areas.  Other than the stint in Michigan, the furtherest I have ever lived from the equator was Burkburnett, Texas (on the Texas/Oklahoma border) at approximately 34.1 degrees north latitude.  I lived in Pasadena, Texas (a suburb of Houston) for several years at 29.7 degrees north.  The Florida Sea Base is near 24.8 degrees north.  But the warmest place I ever lived was Tripoli, Libya at 32.7 degrees north latitude, further north than Pasadena but hotter due to its proximity to the Sahara desert.  [Here’s a bit of trivia for you.  Austin, Texas is the southern most state capitol in the contiguous United States of America, further south than Tallahassee, FL by 0.1 degrees.]

Every time winter comes to the Keys, several of us discuss moving further south.  It would be nice if the US government would lift the ban on visiting Cuba.  I usually don’t discuss politics, but I am not alone in wondering why we can visit China, Vietnam, and Russia but not Cuba.  Anyway, getting 90 miles closer to the equator would be a nice option this time of year.  Sam Wampler, founder of the Florida Sea Base, frequently talked about opening a base in Cuba.  Maybe someday…

Do your best to stay warm.

The last of the winter season crews went home today along with most of the Divemaster Academy graduates.  I spent most of the day catching up.  I washed clothes, took down Christmas lights, cleaned my office (some but there’s still more to do), secured my scuba gear, changed the batteries in two of my dive computers with the help of Matt McClure, answered uddles of emails, made a huge “to do” list for tomorrow, counseled with some of the staff and DMA grads, worked on 2009 Incident Reports, emptied the trash on my boat, etc.  (Ellen, if you’re reading this, I really did make some headway in my office today.  You can see much of the top of my desk.)

In the meantime, winter has arrived at Florida Sea Base.  The temperature is forecast to be in the 40s tomorrow morning.  It’s supposed to be cold for the next week or so.  I am trying to make preparations to drive back to Texas late this week.  I will stop in Slidell, LA to check on the progress of our new dive boat.  It looks like the temperatures are going to be brutally cold along the Gulf coast.  Brrr.

I have forgotten the exact date, but the beginning of our spring season is only about 7 weeks away.  Time flies when you’re having fun.  For now, I’m pooped.  I hope to sleep in ’til maybe 0700 in the morning, then fix a nice breakfast aboard Escape and then tackle my giant “to do” list.