Posts Tagged ‘spring’



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I ventured from the Florida Sea Base to Marathon Thursday for groceries.  Based on the traffic (both ways) I am assuming that spring break has begun.  Which brings up a good point to make to our spring crews.  There is one way into the Keys and one way out, US 1.  Within the Keys, US 1 is primarily a two lane road.  There will be millions of people driving on this two lane road during the spring.  This makes drive time to/from the Miami or Fort Lauderdale Airport longer than you think.  You should add at least an hour to your anticipated drive time.  Also, we have 20-25 fatalities a year on US 1.  When this happens, the road can be closed in both directions for hours; MANY hours.  There is also a drawbridge on US 1 in Islamorada.  When a boat of more than 40′ needs to cross from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean (or vice versa) the bridge stops all traffic in both directions.  Additionally, traffic will likely be traveling well below the posted 45 mph limit.  So PLEASE take this into consideration as you plan your travel to and from the Florida Sea Base.


The first crews of the 2013 spring season check in this afternoon at the Florida Sea Base.  We only have sailing arrivals today.  Tomorrow we will have scuba and sailing arrivals.  This is my 13th spring – TOO many.  We will start the day with a staff meeting at 07:30.  Ready or not, the 2013 program season is here.

Captain Giuseppe Passanisi arrived Thursday to prepare for today’s Coral Reef Sailing trip.  I also saw Captain Brian Stolzenberger on the dock yesterday.  These are two of our most tenured captains.  The crews will have a great time with these guys at the helm.  Captain Brian said his wife, Brenda, was concerned about my failure to write a post for several days.  Thanks for your concern Brenda.  The next time you’re here I’ll fill you in on the details.  In the meantime, all is “normal” around here.


The first few days of program are not going to be the typical warm, sunny Florida.  The rain has been light but is clearing out; the organized showers are in the Straits of Florida and moving SE, away from us.  The National Weather Service is forecasting a breezy week:


Today: Northwest to north winds 10 to 15 knots early…increasing to near 25 knots and gusty in the afternoon. Seas 1 to 3 feet…building to 3 to 5 feet in the afternoon. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop…becoming extremely rough. Isolated showers in the morning.
Tonight: Northwest to north winds near 25 knots and gusty. Seas 3 to 6 feet. Nearshore waters extremely rough.
Sunday: North to northeast winds near 25 knots and gusty…decreasing to near 20 knots in the afternoon. Seas subsiding to 3 to 5 feet. Nearshore waters becoming very rough.
Sunday Night: Northeast winds near 20 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters rough.
Monday: East winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters choppy.
Monday Night And Tuesday: East to southeast winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 3 to 5 feet. Nearshore waters choppy.
Tuesday Night And Wednesday: East winds near 15 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop.
Wednesday Night: Northeast to east winds 15 to 20 knots. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters choppy. Isolated showers.

High Adventure!!!

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



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I was really exhausted when I arrived back at the Florida Sea Base Tuesday.  In my post I failed to mention that on my trip back from Dallas I was fortunate enough to spend an evening with the Wyatts.  Captain Dennis and Ellen are both working as van drivers at  a college near their home.  They have some wonderful tales that I look forward to reading in their next book.  I suggested they call the school Deacon College in in the book.  I will let you know as soon as the book becomes available.  I must apologize PROFUSELY to the Wyatts for yesterday’s oversight.


I realize several of you are getting antsy about summer employment at the Florida Sea Base.  If you read this blog regularly you know I have been out of town for 2 weeks.  I have reviewed most of the applications.  With a little cooperation, I will be able to call or email notifications for scuba staff hiring early next week.  If you are hoping to work on the summer staff and have NOT submitted an application, you need to fax it to the attention of Rob Kolb at 305-664-2039 IMMEDIATELY.

Summer staff are scheduled to arrive on or before 18 May 2013.  Staff training will begin at 07:30, Sunday, 19 May 2013.  While exceptions are made occasionally, not being here for staff training is a detriment for the staff member, the Florida Sea Base and for our participants.  (That is a clue that arriving in time for staff training is VERY important.)


Our new Sailing Director, Captain Luke Knuttel, has taken the bull by the horns and is doing a great job.  Marine Superintendent, Captain Christy Clemenson, is working untiringly on the dive boats.  Scuba Commissioner Laura Kuras and the scuba staff have been working very hard on the scuba regulators while I was gone.  Several needed a little tweaking to be perfectly adjust for the participants.Wednesday they starting working on the tank visual inspection process.  The valves and boots must be removed from all 500+ tanks and the interior inspected for pitting and debris.


The first sailing crews of the 2013 spring program season at the Florida Sea Base arrive Saturday.  The first divers, one Scuba Liveaboard crew and one Scuba Adventure crew, arrive on Sunday (along with more sailing crews).  We have a significant chance of rain daily through Saturday, but the system should pass by Sunday.  Sunday will be a bit chilly (by Florida Sea Base standards) and breezy but we should see improving conditions by Monday.


I want to wish my lovely bride a happy Valentine’s Day.  I miss you.

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



in Scuba  •  0 comments


The Florida Sea Base will have a busy spring.  While we continue to struggle to attract enough Scouting units to fill the spring season with program activities, Food and Conference Director Tim Stanfill has done an excellent job of filling all of the holes with conferences.

The program season kicks off 16 February.  I don’t have copies of any of the schedules except scuba at this time.  The first week we have one Scuba Adventure crew and one Scuba Liveaboard crew.  The next 12 days there are no Scout units but the place will be a beehive of conference activity.  After that we have three scuba crews, then three more.  The week before Easter we have eight scuba crews and the week post Easter we have another eight crews.  The following week we are down to six crews, then one crew and then one final crew and the 2013 spring program season will conclude.

While I don’t have a copy of the other program schedules, their general trends follow those of the scuba attendance.  Generally speaking we start about President’s Day, then nothing, then a crescendo until the week before and after Easter (when we get slammed) and then it tapers off until the end of April.


Many of the Florida Sea base staff members are very involved with their local councils when not serving Scouts here.  To wit, and email from PADI Divemaster Paul Mangone who is the Cubmaster back home:

Steve and Tim,
Thought you all might be interested in our pack trip to the Florida Aquarium. We have other really great shots of the boys. We had a great time during this overnight adventure “sleeping with the fishes”, dissecting a carp, and learning about or wonderful Florida marine environment. We had about 56 scouts, parents and siblings attend. See you all soon!
Paul Mangone
Pack 8463
SW FL Council
Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Captain Christy Clemenson spent Sunday working on the paperwork for all of the US Coast Guard inspected dive boat at the Florida Sea Base.  This was an all day project.  I appreciate her detail to regulations and neatness.

Captain Sargon Smith was granted Sunday off.  So he spent the morning driving a dive boat in an attempt to take some of the staff diving.  (The attempt was aborted due to sea state.)  The Food and Conference Director Tim Stanfill had to dispatch some of his staff to the Brinton Environmental Center to assist with a conference there and Captain Sargon was drafted to take the Sea Base conference group stand-up paddle boarding.


Breezy – in one word, that’s it.  The wind has been blowing for a week or more.  For the coming week, the National Weather Service is forecasting high temperatures near 80, lows around 72, a 10%-20% chance of some rainfall, and continued 20 knot winds except on Thursday when we might get a one day break.

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


Several members of the National Supply Division have been meeting at the Florida Sea Base for the last several days.  However, they have domiciled at Hawks Cay Resort and have had most of their meals off base.  Captain Rich Beliveau, Emily Sepeta and Mel Rynd took the group snorkeling yesterday. They wind was howling and the conditions on the reef we not conducive to snorkeling; zero visibility, large seas, wind driven surface current, etc.  After a miserable boat ride to the reef line, Captain Rich took the group to a bay-side snorkeling site called The Quarry.


While Captain Rich was entertaining the National Supply Group, I continued working on the spring scuba staff hiring.  I have submitted information for most of the spring Letters of Employment for the scuba department to Cheryl Ferreri for processing.  I still need a couple of scuba instructors.  Hiring for all seasons is a very stressful time.  Since most of our potential staff members are college students and the school calendars vary so much it is very challenging to cover the entire season with an adequate number of qualified staff members.


The online reservation lottery for 2014 Florida Sea Base adventures will open on 15 January 2013 and close on 15 February 2013.  More information is available on the Florida Sea Base website at  With that said, there are a few dates available for 2013 from crews who have cancelled their reservations.  And while thrips to the Florida Sea Base are not cheap, they do offer a rather liberal scholarship program.  So don’t be bashful about exploring this option.  There are dedicated funds to help provide the Florida Sea Base experience to all Scouts.


I have received several applications for summer scuba staff employment.  Please do not procrastinate; if you want to work here this summer you need to submit an application ASAP.

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




Peter Houston sent this nice comment:

Many thanks to the Sea Base staff at the BEC for our awesome trek. Troop 55 out of Lawrence, Ks sent a crew of 6 youth and 2 adults for a week of high adventure featuring 5 days on Big “MUNSON!” Island. We were in fact, one of 3 troops that enjoyed a special New Years Eve campfire on the beach under a full moon…and then spent New Years Day, 2013 paddling our war canoes back to Summerland Key. Our awesome OI mate was SirJoseph Hoyt Watkins and we could not have asked for a better island companion.

We were the last crew to officially depart the BEC on January 2nd… headed to Fort Lauderdale and, along the way, we stopped off at North Base to walk around and tour the grounds/docks. It looked like there were still a couple of crews there that were finishing up their sailing/scuba weeks.

So, just wanted to express our gratitude to the entire Sea Base staff for a terrific program! All the best to each of you in 2013!!!

Big Munson Island, home of the Out Island Adventure, was donated to the Boy Scouts of America as part of the Florida Sea Base by Homer Formby, of Formby’s Furniture Polish fame, in 1982.  Many lifetime memories have been made there for Scouts, Scouters and staff members.  The Out Island Adventure is managed by Captain Scott Martin at the Brinton Environment Center.


We still have one conference group at the Florida Sea Base but they are so quiet I keep forgetting they are here.  Due to computer idiosyncrasies I do not have access to the posted Conference calendar, but another group arrives this weekend.

Captain Christy Clemenson, Emily Sepeta, Jenna Burton and Brenda Mallory assisted me with the spring scuba schedule yesterday morning.  Afterwards, Emily and I prepped some tanks for hydrostatic testing.  I stayed crazy busy, even working through lunch (but taking an hour to go get a haircut later) but I don’t have anything to show for my efforts.  That seems to happen a lot.


I still need Divemasters, Instructors and Captains for the spring scuba program.  Captain Rich is also looking for help in the sailing department.  Our contact information is on the ABOUT page.


It’s official; information regarding the 2014 pilot sailing program in the US Virgin Islands can be found on the Florida Sea Base website,

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


The Florida Sea Base will open for the 2013 spring season in about 9 weeks.  Captain Rich Beliveau is looking for help in the sailing department for this coming spring.  Likewise, Captain Scott Martin could use some help at the Brinton Environmental Center and I am in need of some help in the scuba department.  Sailing crews start arriving on 16 February 2013 and the spring sailing season ends on 26 April.  Contact Captain Rich directly at or 305-394-0365.  Crews arrive at the Brinton Environmental Center on 16 February and their season ends on 20 April.  Interested staff applicants can contact Captain Scott at or 305-664-5642.  Scuba crews start arriving on 17 February and the spring scuba season ends on 28 April.  You can contact me directly at or 305-393-7373 if you are interested in working in the scuba department this spring.

All applications should be mailed to the Florida Sea Base, PO Box 1906, Islamorada, FL 33036 for proper processing.  However, you can contact any of the listed program directors directly with questions.

I am fortunate enough to have some key personnel lined up for this spring.  While contracts have not been signed, I have commitments for the Office Manager, Marine Superintendent, Instructor for Scuba Liveaboard #1, and one other DM/Instructor.  But that still leaves several openings for a Scuba Commissioner, at least 2 Dive Boat Mates, 2 or 3 more Scuba Instructors and 6 or 7 more Divemasters.

Speaking of busy weeks, I need a LOT of help the weeks of 24 March, 31 March and 07 April.  ( I am guessing that Captain Rich and Captain Scott are very busy those weeks as well.)


The 2012 Florida Sea Base Divemaster Academy is my current obsession.  This program is a HUGE logistical challenge.  There is a lot riding on the success of our annual DMA.  Transforming recreational divers into professional divers is serious business.  I hope to hire most of our 18 candidates for this summer’s scuba programs.  I know that you want your kids to be as safe as possible while diving at the Florida Sea Base and our Divemaster staff is a key component of that mission.

Not only will our candidates earn their PADI Divemaster certification, they will also earn certifications as PADI Deep Specialty Divers and PADI Search and Recovery Divers.  I will have direct involvement with all aspects of the DMA including the open water dives.  But this is certainly more than I can do alone. We will have three additional PADI Scuba Instructors, one PADI Divemaster, one USCG Master (Captain) and a Dive Boat Mate.  Many of the staff are cross trained.  Among our seven staff members (including me) we have two Divemasters, five Scuba Instructors, and four Captains.  Flexibility and redundancy are essential elements to our success.

LONG RANGE WEATHER has a favorable forecast for this year’s DMA and winter program season.  According to their extended forecast we should expect high temperatures around 77°F, lows around 69°F and just two or three days with any potential for rain.  But it is ALWAYS important to realize this is just a forecast,  Whatever the weather, we will capitalize upon our opportunities.


I have been selected to represent the Florida Sea base at the Circle 10 Council’s University of Scouting which will be held on the SMU campus in Dallas, Texas on Saturday, 05 January 2013.  The hours are 08:00 – 16:00.  In addition to having a booth at the event, I am scheduled to make a presentation from 09:54 to 10:45.  If you are in the Dallas/Fort Worth/North Texas area and have any questions about the Florida Sea Base this is an excellent chance to discuss those live.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
PADI Course Director #39713
Aboard S/V Escape 

Good morning from the Florida Sea Base.  Yesterday I commented on spring staff hiring.  After making my post, I started thinking I should recognize the individuals who work the spring scuba programs year after year.  The scuba programs would simply have to be discontinued in the spring if it weren’t for people like Dr. Ellen Wyatt and her husband, Captain Dennis Wyatt, long time Scuba Liveaboard Instructor David Ball, and Scuba Instructors Richard Goldman and Mark Gilbert.  Captain Scott Costa is becoming a regular fixture, willing to work Christmas and spring and Mark Whitson and Captain Ed Miller are also looking like they may be involved in bailing us out at spring time for the next few years.  All of these general individuals, except Captain Scott Costa and Richard Goldman, are retired.  Others have been on this list in the past.  There are too many for me to list but Milly McCoy, Captain Carol Chapman, Ray and Marthe Born and Michael Lee certainly went above and beyond the call of duty for years taking time away from their families at Christmas and during the spring to  be of service to the youth of America during their Florida Sea Base scuba program.

Spring season is a challenge for Captain Rich, Captain Scott and me because the attendance varies significantly from week to week.  We have asked for help from upstream to make the bookings more consistent, but we simply have to work with what we are given.  I’ll use the scuba schedule for spring 2012 as an example.  Our first scuba arrival of the season is a Scuba Liveaboard crew on 18 February and the Scuba Liveaboard crews arrive almost weekly through the spring.  One Scuba Certification crew arrives on 19 February but the next Scuba Certification crew doesn’t arrive until 01 April, three weeks for two staff members to be crew-less.  Five Scuba Adventure Crews arrive on 11 March and six arrive on 01 April, but all of the other weeks have just one or two Scuba Adventure crews, some weeks we have no scuba crews period.

Most dive centers pay their staff on a per trip basis.  Our staff members are guaranteed a monthly salary and get paid whether we have scuba crews or not.  Part of my responsibility is to balance the expense of the staff against the income from the crews.  Having people who are able to work on staff for one or two weeks in the spring is essential to good fiscal responsibility.

I hope you are enjoying a long weekend off.  If you went shopping, I hope you had a safe experience.  Tomorrow is Cyber Monday so I expect the emails to start rolling in with a vengeance soon.

Capt. Steve Willis
Aboard S/V Escape

Yesterday I mention that my boss, Rob Kolb, had told me the day before that he thought “we” should attend a presentation by Dan Orr at the History of Diving Museum.  Late yesterday afternoon I received confirmation from Rob that “we” means “me”.  So I went to the meeting.  It was very informative and entertaining plus I got to say hello to Mr. Orr, President of DAN, his wife, Betty, and Debra Illes, Museum Director.

Our weather was perfect yesterday and should be just a little warmer today.  It is spring break time in the Florida Keys.  But fear not.  Just like the rest of the US, we still have a significant chance for several more days of wintry weather.  For now, the forecast calls for 80 degrees every day for the next week.  We’ll take it!!!

Today is our monthly Florida Sea Base Team Meeting.  This gathering is for all of the full time staff members (currently 12) to discuss budget, staffing, current challenges, staffing, and status reports from each department.  My single biggest challenge at this time is I need more Scuba Instructors for summer.  I have plenty of Divemaster applicants, but part time Scuba Instructors are more challenging to come by.  Additionally, I plan to discuss maintenance items that need to be completed before summer in the scuba area and get a progress report on the new pool project.

I have heard a lot on the news about the significant number of snow days taken by many schools this winter.  I haven’t heard anything from our registrar yet, but I am a little concerned that we may have some spring and early summer cancellations due to possible make-up days.  I heard one report of a school district that is considering staying in session until 04 July.  Another is going to have school Monday through Saturday until they get caught up.  On the Weather Channel, one school administrator said her district was doing okay with the snow days but all future storms could only happen on weekends or they would find themselves in a bind.

Our Coral Reef Sailing crew returned to the Florida Sea Base yesterday afternoon.  They had been aboard S/V Spindrift for the week with Capt. Joe Wischmeier.  They will be headed home this morning.  Capt. Giuseppe Passanisi (S/V Silent Harmony) and Capt. George Clements (S/V Silver Crow) arrived at the Florida Sea Base dock yesterday in preparation for the onslaught of sailing crews arriving this weekend.  Capt. Tom Gaunt (S/V Juan Cadiz) was also on the dock this afternoon.  Since I have been out of town, I am not sure if Capt. Tom arrived today or has maybe been here for a day or two.  I also saw Capt. Frank Papy on the dock today.  Capt. Frank is a long time Florida Sea Base captain and a legend in the Florida Keys.  He is the author of Cruising Guide to the Florida Keys.

I have to get to the 07:30 staff meeting and then the 09:00 Team Meeting.  What would we do without meetings?

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

The weather is still breezy and we will get a little rain in less than an hour, but has we are having a GREAT fall at the Florida Sea Base.  It is cooling down a little allowing for a small reduction in air conditioning dependence.  Hurricane Richard made landfall yesterday south of Belize City.  The storm was downgraded to tropical storm status soon thereafter.  It has survived the trek across land to the Gulf of Mexico but it is forecasted to get ripped apart on Wednesday by wind shear.  Here’s a better picture of the storm making landfall than what we had yesterday.  I copied it from Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog on Weather Underground.

Click to enlarge.

Laura Kuras sold three or four more sets of used scuba gear yesterday afternoon.  She was forced to spend her morning scuba diving.  The supply of used gear is steadily dwindling.  Capt. Rich is off this week.  Our Registrar, Nancy Wells, provided me with a current copy of the 2011 spring Scuba Adventure, Scuba Certification and Scuba Liveaboard registrations.  There may be some cancellations between now and then (a common occurrence) but as of yesterday there were 19 Scuba Adventure crews, 2 Scuba Certification crews and 6 Scuba Liveaboard crews registered.  I realize it is getting late, but there are several openings in all of the Florida Sea Base programs for spring 2011.  You can contact our Registrar at or 305-664-5616.

Coming to the Florida Sea Base in the spring (we consider “spring” to be from early February until the end of April) has several advantages.  There are fewer bugs.  That’s in part because there is generally more breeze in the spring than summer.  That also means that the sailing is better.  That’s also great news for the Out Island participants.  Sleeping outdoors (Out Island, Coral Reef Sailing, Eco Adventure, Sea Exploring and Scuba Liveaboard) is cooler.

We can offer much greater flexibility in the scuba programs in the spring because we have fewer crews and aren’t logistically hog-tied.  One great option is to do your classroom and confined water (pool) scuba skills back home and then come to the Florida Sea Base for your Open Water Training Dives and finish out your week with several “fun dives”.  Crews coming for Scuba Adventure may have the ability to earn PADI Specialty Certifications for less than $20 per course.  Check with some of your local dive centers.  The going price for Specialty Certifications is probably in the $150 – $200 range per course.  Bear in mind that I did say “may”.  There is additional paperwork and logistics that have to be arranged in advanced.  We are NOT able to offer Specialty Certifications to Scuba Aventure crews in the summer because all of our Scuba Instructors are assigned to Scuba Certification or Scuba Liveaboard crews.  Okay, enough of the sales pitch.  If you have any questions about the scuba programs email me at  If you go to the “About” page on this site there is a directory of who to contact for each specific program.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

When I left the Florida Sea Base at 07:00 we were dealing with Tropical Depression 16 (since my post earlier today).  When I returned from Miami, we were dealing with Tropical Storm Nicole.  I arrived back at the base at 14:00, just a few minutes ago.  It is raining MUCH harder than this morning and the wind is MUCH stronger.  But it could be a lot worse and we are thankful that all we are getting is flooding.

Capt. Bob Hughes rode to Miami with me.  He is scheduled to deliver a 35′ Pearson sailboat from Miami to the Brinton Center today with the owner who is making the donation.  However, I strongly suspect that they will stay at the dock today and maybe try to bring the boat down tomorrow.  The plan is to put the Pearson in service for the Keys Adventure program at the Brinton Environmental Center and retire one of the 33′ Morgan sailboats, Kalypso.

If you have worked at the Florida Sea Base or Brinton Environmental Center in the past and are considering working here in 2011, it is imperative that you read Capt. Rich’s post from earlier today.  Mr. Kolb is very serious about the dates imposed in his hiring matrix.  As you can see, Capt. Rich, Capt. Scott, Capt. Keith, Chrystene and I are to hire our spring 2011 staff by 15 December 2010.  If you wait any later than that there will likely NOT be a position available.  PLEASE consider submitting your application for spring 2011 employment as soon as possible.  “You snooze, you loose.”

Christy Clemenson and Laura Kuras scored a $2,600 used gear sale this morning.  Great job!!!

I hope you weather is better than ours this afternoon.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

16:30 Update:

The good news is TS Nicole is gradually clearing to our west.  The edge of the rain is only about 11 miles away.  The bad news is our local winds will shift to the west as Nicole passes and it will likely be a bumpy, sleepless night on the dock.

Click on image to enlarge.

Capt. Steve