Posts Tagged ‘medical’

I was not able to view the Weather Underground website for most of Wednesday; every time I tried I received a 502 error.  But they were back online by mid to late afternoon.  The Florida Sea Base has access to several other weather products so it was not a big deal, but I definitely prefer their radar outlook.

I had the pleasure of making a 225 mile, 4.5 hour roundtrip drive from the Florida Sea Base to Bauer Compressors – Miami and back yesterday.  Who won’t enjoy a two way drive through the scenic Miami traffic?  The name is a little misleading as the facility is actually a LONG way northwest of Miami; it’s not even in Dade County.  But we have now have MOST of the parts we need for the summer, and all that we needed a few days ago.

Beryl is headed out to sea and having no direct impact on the Florida Sea Base.  However, our chances of rain are increasing significantly for the next few days so I m wondering if the motion of Beryl is pulling this moisture in behind it.  The good news for the divers is that we are expecting VERY light winds through Monday.  Sorry sailors; but this is your opportunity to rejoice with great snorkeling and fishing opportunities.

Our NWS forecast:

Today: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 90. Calm wind. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Tonight: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Cloudy, with a low around 77. Southeast wind between 5 and 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Friday: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 87. South wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.
Friday Night: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm before 2am, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 76. South wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Saturday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 91. Southwest wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Saturday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 78. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Sunday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Sunday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 79. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Monday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Monday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 79. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Tuesday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Tuesday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 79. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Wednesday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Last evening was chaotic.  At dinner time an adult leader from a Scuba Adventure crew decided he needed to go to the ER.  The Florida Sea Base vans were being used so I drove him the 30 minutes to the ER.  I returned to base and arranged for Divemaster Justin Evans to pick him up if released.  In between, two new staff members arrived at the base.  Someone had taken down the room assignment sheet so Captain Rich and I didn’t know where to bunk them.  At least one of them spent the night in the participant dorms.  We will get it figured out this morning.  Then, shortly after Justin reported he was at the hospital to pick up the adult leader, another staff member called me to report she had hit her head on something while stand-up paddling and needed to go to the ER.

SIDEBAR:  She sent me a text shortly after midnight.  She received two staples in her head which is proof that life is not fair.  I stapled a kid’s head in elementary school and got a spanking.  (In the 1960s a spanking was a method of discipline for children.  Some of our staffers now understand spanking to be an activity engaged in by consenting adults.  I received the 60s style spanking, not the modern style spanking.  I just wanted to make that clear.)  Anyway, someone got to staple our staff member in the head TWICE and got paid thousands of dollars.  Not fair.

On top of all of this we have had at least two or three sick Coral Reef Sailing participants this week.  There’s a marina very close to the hospital.  Maybe we should relocate our operation there for easier access. If there is a MD out there who owns a travel trailer or bus and would like to set it up at the Florida Sea Base during program season you could make a killing here.

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


Decent Weather

in Weather  •  0 comments

Our weather remains typical for the season.  I drove to town late yesterday afternoon and saw three of our ketches sailing along the reef line under full sail.  At the same time the wind was gentle enough to allow a great day for scuba diving.  At 0530 this morning our heat index (feels like temperature) was 93º.  The chance of daily showers lingers until Saturday.  We had a little storm cell come through between 0100 and 0130 this morning.  We did not get any rain during the day yesterday.  There is a tropical disturbance near the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.  It may better organize tomorrow.  It poses no threat to the Florida Sea Base but will likely bring heavy rains to parts of Mexico and south Texas at a minimum.  The rest of the Atlantic/Caribbean remains quiet for at least the next two days.

Sunday is always a big day for Dr. Ellen due to the arrival of scuba crews.  As far as I could tell everything went smoothly.  Capt. Rich and Capt. Dennis were off and Sunday was Capt. Bruce Payette’s birthday (S/V Barefoot).  Capt. Dennis and I both got our clothes washed PLUS I got the week’s “lost-and-found” clothes washed.  Sunday is usually a busy day at the staff laundry but it was pretty tame yesterday.  The three washers and three driers sit outside.  I spent about an hour wiping down the machines and folding tables, picking up dryer sheets, throwing away empty detergent containers, sweeping, and generally cleaning up the area.

I’m running short on time this morning.  I have one adult leader to talk with this morning about his disqualification from the scuba program due to medical issues.  We had a youth participant check in for scuba yesterday who barley made the weigh in at 298 pounds.  (He is NOT a professional football player.)  I have lost about 80-85 pounds since November and I got the choices that this young man is going to face.  It’s not fun.  (I had three strawberries for breakfast this morning.)

Anyway, I ‘ve got to go.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape


The final program participants of the 2011 Spring Season at the Florida Sea Base will be on the road, headed for home, prior to noon today.  The sailing staff has been given the day off and the scuba staff have been told to stand down as soon as the 1 Scuba Certification crew and 2 Scuba Adventure crews are gone.  BSA Adventure is in dry-dock in Marathon and will hopefully be ready to splash early next week.

I’m sorry I didn’t post yesterday.  Capt. Alex Bergstedt got up extra early and accompanied me to the mainland where I had a colonoscopy (my second) and some other tests in preparation for abdominal surgery to repair a hernia.  I was given a clean bill of health by the gastroenterologist and told to retest in 10 years.  I hope to hear from the doctor early this week about scheduling the surgery.

In response to a comment I received, the discussions with the US Coast Guard will have no impact on any of the programs at the Brinton Environmental Center (Out Island, Keys Adventure, or Florida Keys Fishing Adventure).  In fact, it will not have any impact on any of the programs from a participants point of view.  There will likely be some changes that affect the owners, captains, and professional crew aboard chartered, inspected vessels used in the Sea Exploring and Scuba Liveaboard adventures.  Those owners have been contacted and we are working to insure everything is in order.

Tomorrow and Tuesday are the last full days of preparation for the Annual Tarpon Tournament.  I’m sure everyone will be scurrying around like ants with jillions of last minute projects.  With Ellen on leave I am busy in the office with medical reviews and attempts to resolve last minute issues with summer scuba crews.  This is not an easy job and if I could pay Ellen 10 times as much as I do it would not be enough.

Scuba is fun, generally safe and the industry has done an incredible job of making certification easy.  Unfortunately, scuba just isn’t for everyone.  Somedays it seems very hard to convince adult leaders and parents of youth participants that we don’t want to exclude anyone from the scuba programs at the Florida Sea Base.  But safety will always come first and certain medications and certain medical conditions are simply not compatible with scuba diving.  And what is even sadder is that many MDs don’t understand the issues and sign off on medical forms for people who are at great risk of serious injury or death if they are scuba diving.  That’s why we have a team employed at the Florida Sea Base to review all of the medical forms for scuba participants.  Ellen screens the medicals.  Medicals with red flags are forwarded to our hyperbaric medical specialist for a secondary review and I am the angel of death that deals with the difficult cases.

Sorry to get on a rant.  Unfortunately our jobs here include more than gorgeous weather, perfect sunsets, sailing, scuba diving and umbrella drinks.  But no medical reviews today.  I hope to go sailing, and if I’m not up to that then I have several other potential plans to keep my mind off work.  Have a great day!

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

The Divemaster Academy is hosted each year by the Florida Sea Base.  The 2010 Brochure contains many of the details.  The Divemaster Academy (DMA) was started in 2004 by Capt. Bert Hubby, Milly McCoy, and me.  In previous years, the Florida Sea Base had a hard time finding scuba professionals (Divemasters and Instructors) with Scouting backgrounds or who were familiar with the Scouting culture.  We went through some difficult staffing times and dismissed several Divemasters who just could not get into the Scouting way of life.  I was able to convince the General Manager that while expensive, training Eagles Scouts to be Divemasters was easier than converting Divemasters into Scout role models.  And the Divemaster Academy was born.  The Florida Sea Base spends about $1,200 per candidate to train up to a maximum of 16 Divemasters at each Academy.  The Academy is held once a year, in December, when many of the interested, college attending applicants can attend.  The 2010 DMA dates are listed on the brochure.  The DMA is opened to basically anyone who meets the prerequisites, but Eagle Scouts and Gold Award recipients do get preference.  There are frequently more than 16 applicants so I review each application, conduct email and telephone interviews and do my best to select the top candidates.  Some years we have had as few as 6 or 7 candidates accepted into the program.  We are looking for QUALITY, not QUANTITY.  If accepted, the DMA is essentially free.  You will sign a contract agreeing to work the spring or summer season at the Florida Sea Base for the usual compensation (currently $265 per week plus room and board).  The Florida Sea Base provides everything except transportation, the membership fee which is paid to PADI and some other incidentals.  Again, refer to the brochure.  Also, in the very near future I plan to post Frequently Asked Questions about the DMA.  If you are interested in applying for the 2010 DMA please download the 2010 DMA application and mail it to the address on the application.  If you have questions, please email those to  Please don’t submit your questions to this blog.  You can click for a copy of the Academy Application.

Yesterday’s weather was windy and rainy.  The sailors went sailing and the divers went diving but it was rough.  Invest 94 became Tropical Depression 5 at about 19:30 last night but as of 05:00 this morning it appears to be out of our lives and moving towards the Louisiana/Mississippi border.  Our radar is clear and the winds are down to 10 knots or less.  With only 13 days of program remaining, we have at least some chance of finishing this season with nice weather.  “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”

I will be spending today in Miami.  Our BSA insurance is not “in network” in the Keys.  We get to drive 1.5 – 2 hours to see in network doctors.  A day of lost work, tolls, $36 in gas, parking, lunch, insurance co-pay, all add up to an expensive doctor’s visit.  By the time I drive up, see the doctor, and run a couple of errands I will do good to get back in time for dinner.  That’s part of the price you pay for living in paradise.  Even the nearest in network ER is on the mainland.  I don’t mean to sound like I’m whining.  I’m just telling the truth.

I’m going to get cleaned up and hit the highway (yeah Miami rush hour traffic!!!).

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

Good morning from the Florida Sea Base!  Invest 95 is not forecasted to grow to more than a 31 mph tropical wave.  It’s still bad news for the Louisiana coast but shouldn’t grow much bigger.  Invest 96 might grow to tropical depression strength and then a hurricane by Tuesday.  If so, it would be named Bonnie and yesterday all of the computer models concurred that it  would follow a path very similar to Hurricane Alex.  This morning the computer models are all over the place.

Invest 96 - Weather Underground

Alex from the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association sent the following comment regarding parmalat:

The taste difference is due to flavor being lost as part of the UHT process. It is no different than any other pasteurized product on store shelves. If I remember the preferred method for dairy is HTST — used for packaged products like soft serve or frozen yogurt mix as more flavor is retained.

Alex maintains a great website and blog that deals primarily with Northern Tier at  I hope Coach Carl G. Boyles and all of the staff at Northern Tier are having a great summer.  I have met most of the permanent staff and they are really nice folks.  But I’m not sure that I have met anyone nice enough to get this thin blooded sailor to go dog sledding in Canada in the heart of winter time.  Sorry guys.  That one is NOT on my bucket list.  Maybe we could go sailing to the Bahamas instead.

Yesterday was a big scuba check-in day.  It went pretty smooth.  We have one adult leader who arrived unhappy.  As is more frequent than we hope for, instead of submitting the crew medicals on 01 March in compliance with Florida Sea Base procedures, he waited until last week.  There was a medical issue with his son and the youth was disqualified from scuba diving.  That is the EXACT scenario we try to avoid by sending medical forms far in advance (usually October of the year preceding the reservation).  It is hard on all of us to deny a youth participation – especially when they are a week away from arrival.

But everything else went GREAT.  The staff all did a great job with new sailors arriving, new scuba arriving, old sailors departing, old scuba crews departing, sailing crews in for mid-week activities, special 4th of July activities, and all the routine efforts that are required to “make the magic” happen for our participants.

So here we go again.  Staff meeting at 07:30 (45 minutes from now), flags, breakfast and then a full day of program magic.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape


It’s Over

in Staff  •  3 comments

Today was a great day at the Florida Sea Base, unless you were in the office.  Thank goodness it’s over.  Here’s how it went.

Before breakfast one of the staff members came into the office and presented with a possible concussion including severe pain at the site of an earlier blow to the head and exceptional drowsiness.  The staff member will receive medical care.  Also before breakfast Capt. Carl Olshenske who drives BSA Explorer for the scuba program reported that he had a youth participant on his boat this week who was having behavioral problems.  After breakfast I had the young man and one of his adult leaders in my office to get the young man’s attention and assure that he acted in a safe and reasonable manner on the boat.  (The captain reported this afternoon that the youth performed much better.)

Shortly thereafter I discovered that Florida Sea Base incident reports were not being completed to reflect these and other issues.  That will be addressed at Monday’s 07:30 staff meeting morning.

Before lunch it was brought to my attention that Davis Tours had not shown up to take a departing crew to the airport.  The crew was in jeapordy of missing thier flight from Fort Lauderdale.  I tried multiple times to call Davis Tours and their emergency phone number to no avail.  We are very short handed on Sundays at the Florida Sea Base.  Capt. Alex Bergstedt volunteered to drive them to the airport.  They barely made it and we never heard from Davis Tours.  I don’t mean to give Davis Tours a black eye.  I am only reporting fact.  For the 10 years that I have worked at the Florida Sea Base they have had an exemplary record.  However, something has happened and they have had major scheduling issues recently.  Our Director of Program, Rob Kolb, will be addressing our concerns with Mr. Davis on Monday.

Immediately before lunch I saw Capt. Dutch VanderLann hobbling across the yard.  He has re-injured his left knee.  He is a trooper and will gut it out.

Check-in begins at 13:00 daily.  Sundays are big scuba crew arrival days.  One of the crews had an adult leader who had refused to submit his medical prior to arrival as required.  So Ellen, the Office Manager, was reviewing the medical he brought with him.  It was on the wrong form and we couldn’t accept it.  So he called backed home and had the appropriate form faxed to us.  The form showed that he is asthmatic and taking three medicications for asthma.  This disqualified him for the Florida Sea Base scuba program.  He was allowed to stay with his crew and he can snorkel, but he cannot scuba dive.  Somehow this gentleman feels that his failure to submit the medical when required (01 March 2010) so we could try to resolve his issue is not the problem.  I am the problem.  I am very sorry for the situation but mostly I am disappointed that this gentleman failed to follow procedure and we were deprived of the opportunity to address his issue.

Then we had a youth check in who was taking some medications that required counseling of him, his adult leaders and divemaster.  He will likely do fine.

Then another crew arrived that had a bad experience with Davis Tours.  They were aggitated but Ellen (and an air conditioned office) helped the leader calm down.

After dinner, Commissioner Matt McClure had a severe alergic reaction to some aloe vera that was being applied to his sunburn.  After two showers and 50mg of Benefryl he decided to go to the ER for a cortisone injection.  Before he left, Divemaster Scott Costa slipped and twisted his knee and decided to accompany Matt to the ER.  By the time they got to the ER, Matt was feeling better and did not see a doctor.  Scott has a sprain or torn ligament and will miss at least a week of work.

Now the latest on T/S Alex.  The official forecast still shows T/S Alex will curve into Mexico below the Texas border.

Tropical Storm Alex - Weather Underground

However, one of the more reliable computer models (GFS) still suggests the possibility of landfall south of Galveston, Texas.  This is a good example of how crazy life can be when a hurricane is forecasted to approach within a thousand miles of the Florida Sea Base.  The forecasted trajectory changes frequently and radically at times.

T/S Alex Computer Models - Weather Underground

It’s past my bedtime.  I will post sometime tomorrow.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

Today was busy administratively.  I was in the office at 0730 preparing for the monthly Team Meeting of the full-time staff of the Florida Sea Base.  The meeting ran from 0900 to 1130.  Capt. Rich and I had a nice lunch at Mangrove Mike’s after the meeting.  I spent all afternoon reviewing medical forms of scuba participants.  That is a tedious job.  However, it is very important.

Risk is inherent to scuba diving.  It is important for us to minimize those risks as much as possible.  One of the things we do at the Florida Sea Base to reduce risk is to carefully review the medical forms of all of our participants – especially in the scuba department.  Another thing we do is to stay current on policies, training standards and risk management issues.  Tonight we did that by hosting a PADI Member Forum.  About 40 PADI professionals from the upper and middle Keys attended the meeting which was presented by our PADI Regional Director, Mike Kurczewski.  We host this meeting annually.

Because of who we are (the BSA) we are very conservative in our approach to scuba diving.  We have requirements here that you wouldn’t find at a typical dive resort.  We require everyone to complete a swim review before being allowed to dive.  We also require all divers to participate in a scuba review with our dive staff to insure they know how to use the equipment, that they are comfortable underwater, and that they know how to perform all of the skills taught in the Open Water Diver course.  We have much more conservative medical constraints especially in regards to asthma and diabetes.  We review paperwork thoroughly.  We provide a divemaster or scuba instructor for each scuba crew.

We have been very fortunate to have been in the scuba business for more than 30 years and have not had a serious in-water injury or death.  We have had a few close calls, but so far so good.  So come join us for some wonderful underwater experiences in the sunny Florida Keys.

Ear problems are very common at the Florida Sea Base for participants and staff members.  For participants, it can bring an early end to your in-water activities during your Sea Base Adventure.  For the staff it can mean missed work (and a VERY unhappy Program Director).  The problem with ear infections (or swimmer’s ear) applies equally to participants who are snorkeling (all Adventures) as well as participants in our scuba programs.  PLEASE READ MORE.

Dehydration is a common malady at the Florida Sea Base.  It is surprising how much body water can be lost in the sub-tropic conditions that are experienced in the Florida Keys.  Most doctors recommend people drink one-half gallon of water per day under normal conditions.  In the sub-tropics, you need to drink even more.  Increase your physical activity and you need more still. Now consider the UV index being four or more times what you are used to and the likelihood of at least minor sunburn and you need more water. If you happen to get seasick (quite common) you need replace all of the water lost through vomiting or diarrhea.  Go scuba diving and you need to add still another quart for each dive of the day.  PLEASE READ MORE.

One of the frequent questions we are asked has to do with the recommended weight guidelines included on the FSB Health and Medical Record.  Many of our leaders are aware that Philmont requires strict adherence to the guidelines.

The policy is a little different at Sea Base – at least for the time being.  The weight guidelines are meant as a guide for the participants and their doctors.  If the participant is overweight for their height according to the guidelines, they can still participate at Sea Base provided their doctor approves.  However, there is an absolute maximum allowable weight of 300 pounds regardless of how tall or how fit a participant may be.  There are two primary reasons for the 300 pound limit.  First, the ladders and other equipment on most of our boats cannot accommodate a 300 pound load.  Second, in the event of an in-the-water emergency that rendered a participant unconscious, egressing a 300 pound person from the water onto a vessel is nearly impossible.  Just try to imagine removing a limp, 300 pound person from the water, up four to six feet of freeboard (on a sailboat), on a rolling, pitching vessel when only one or two rescuers may be immediately available.

This policy is subject to change so please check this website from time to time for any updates.  I am also positive that there will not be any changes to this policy in 2010.  However, the National Office is creating some pressure for all BSA facilities to strictly comply with the weight / height guidelines.  There is legitimate reason for their concern – most fatalities within the BSA are adult leaders having heart attacks and most of those victims are significantly overweight.  So stay tuned.  If there are any changes, they will posted here immediately.