Posts Tagged ‘training’



in Staff  •  2 comments

I made a mistake in yesterday’s post regarding the scuba schedule for Sunday.  I was under the impression the Florida Sea Base dive boats had headed out as scheduled and were chased back to base by the lightning and stormy weather.  That was not the case.  The boats had to delay their departure until after lunch.  We believe we received about 4″ of rain Sunday morning.  The divers were able to complete their two scheduled dives and the boats returned to base t 17:30 (5:30pm); just in time for dinner.  I VERY MUCH appreciate the efforts of the captains, divemasters and scuba staff for making these dives happen.

A weak low pressure system continues to hover over Florida.  The system has moved far enough to the north to give us a break.  We enjoyed a rain-free day Monday and it looks like we should be dry for the next several days.  Hope for the best!!!

Monday was yet another scary day at the Florida Sea Base; one of the Coral Reef Sailing adult Scouters was taken off the boat by the US Coast Guard and transported to the hospital after coughing up copious amounts of blood.  The coconut telegraph report is the Scouter will be fine.  We have not been informed of a diagnosis but an ulcer is a possible suspect.  Captain Rich Beliveau had a long, tension-filled day dealing with the paperwork.

In the early phases of the above emergency, I received a phone call from a very nice Scouter from California.  I was trying hard to be polite but I may have made him feel like I was shrugging him off.  He even commented on being a fan of this blog.  I did not catch his name and I wish I could have taken more time instead of being short with him.  If you happen to be reading today’s post, please accept my apologizes.  My rudeness was not intentional, I simply had my hands full.

Some of the Florida Sea Base staff members are pursuing the PADI Emergency Oxygen Provider Specialty certification.  I met with Karren Supplee, Jason Carter, Hank Gordon, Justin Evans and April Oster last night to review their Knowledge Reviews.  I am hoping that some of the others who are interested will complete their self-study and turn in the homework soon.  The current plan is to meet Thursday evening with the five plus any others that get their homework completed in time to complete the practical exercises.  This is a simple yet important certification.  All members of the Florida Sea Base scuba staff are required to be “trained” in the administration of emergency oxygen.  We cover that during staff training.  Due to time constraints, we cannot “certify” everyone during staff training.  Completing this certification will benefit the recipients by proving credentials that they can carry with them as they apply for other jobs or scuba certifications.

Monday ended in the “good day” category.  Right now we are in the one-day-at-a-time mode.  I hope you had a good day. 🙂

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



in Weather  •  0 comments

The Florida Sea Base staff members had department specific training yesterday.  Sailing Commissioner Stephanie Mansburger and company lead the sailing staff through small boat sailing while Scuba Commissioner Laura Kuras and company lead the scuba staff through swim reviews, scuba reviews and round one of the rescue scenarios.

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After dinner, both staffs combined to learn about luau procedures.

The tropical weather of the day is Tropical Storm Bud off the western coast of Mexico.  It is not expected to intensify to hurricane strength and possibly dissipate without making landfall.

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There is a potential tropical weather threat for the Florida Sea Base from Invest 94L.  It may bring us more rain and maybe a little wind, but I don’t think it will become a major system in our area.

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We dodged a large, nasty weather cell last night.

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I have not heard from our delivery team since their departure from Slidell, LA yesterday.  Captain Dennis said he would call from their next fuel stop.  He may have called Captain Rich instead, and I’m sure he called Ellen.  I’ll check with Captain Rich in about an hour.  If he hasn’t heard from him then I’ll call Ellen later this morning. I’m not really concerned.  In this scenario, no news is good news.  The vessel has three cell phones on board, a VHF radio and an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).  The absolute worst case scenario is if the boat sank, the EPIRB automatically floats free, activates, and sends a satellite signal to the US Coast Guard with their position and identification.  In turn, the USCG would respond and call us.  So no news is good news.

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

We are in the home stretch for the 2011 summer staff training at the Florida Sea Base.  On Friday the scuba staff focused on the care and maintenance of scuba equipment in the morning and went diving (and mostly practiced more rescue scenarios) in the afternoon.

While all of this great training is going on, we are also having to prepare for our annual camp “visitation” that will take place in about two weeks.  It used to be called what it really is, an inspection, but the kinder, gentler BSA decided visitation sounded nicer.  We welcome the dedicated volunteers and professional Scouters who make the visitation happen.  And we sincerely appreciate having fresh eyes review our programs and policies.  These annual inspections (I mean visitations) have lead to many improvements in the quality of our programs.  And we have had, and will continue to draw, some people with serious inspection skills, such as two Admirals, the CEO of AT&T, MDs, PhDs, attorneys, BSA professionals, subject matter experts from all walks of life, members of the BSA Health and Safety Committee, etc.

One Scuba Liveaboard crew returned to base yesterday for their luau.  One Scuba Liveaboard crew and four Coral Reef Sailing crews arrived to begin their adventures.  Dr. Ellen was swamped but handled it (as always) with a pleasantness and professionalism beyond my level of comprehension.  Theresa Wells received the Scuba Liveaboard crew.  They will be aboard S/V Endeavour with Capt. Kelly and S/V Silent Harmony with Capt. Mike.  The Coral Reef Sailing crews are aboard S/Vs Midnight Dragon, Silver Crow, Siesta and Chanticleer with Captains Jim, George, Ed and Scott, respectively.

Here’s our forecast from the National Weather Service:

Saturday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 89. East wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Saturday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 78. East wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Sunday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 89. East wind around 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Sunday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 78. East wind around 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Memorial Day: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 89. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Monday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 78. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Tuesday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny and breezy, with a high near 89. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Tuesday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 78. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Wednesday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 89. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Wednesday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 78. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Thursday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 89. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Thursday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 78. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Friday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 89. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Point Forecast: Marathon FL [Similar City Names]
24.72°N 81.07°W (Elev. 7 ft)
Visit your local NWS office at:

I hope you have a safe and enjoyable weekend.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

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:


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!



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.

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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

We are more than half way through this summer’s staff training.  Yesterday morning was dedicated to van driver training.  Almost everyone on staff will be required to drive a van load of participants somewhere this summer.  Many of the staff have never driven anything as large as a one ton, 12 passenger van so our insurance carrier requires several hours of training.  After lunch the scuba staff worked on boat mate training, including how the systems on the boats work, safe boarding techniques for the participants, safe loading techniques for the dive gear, how to safety depart and return to dock, cleaning the vessel, common knots used on the vessels, etc.  After dinner the staff went to Alligator Reef to learn how we conduct night dives.

The knot tying is one of my pet-peeves.  Most of our staff are Eagle Scouts.  It is sad that many of them don’t know, or have forgotten, how to tie a bowline, clove hitch, and two half-hitches.  In medieval times (when I was a Scout) these were fundamentals.  It is also critical for them to know how to tie a cleat hitch but I can understand their lack of experience with that knot.  These four knots are critical when handling boats and can be the difference between safe operation and docking of the vessel and significant property damage or personal injury, especially when operating in dicy conditions.

The success to the night dive is preparation.  I’m always comparing this place to Disney Land and the “secrets” that go on behind the scenes is what makes the “magic” for our participants.  The night dive at the Florida Sea Base is the first night dive for most of our scuba participants.  Step one is classroom preparation where the participants are taught proper etiquette and procedures for safely and effectively using the flashlight (it’s harder than it sounds).  The divers are now challenged with carrying something in their hand while diving, not blinding the other divers with their light, and using the light for signaling each other.  They have to control the light, control their buoyancy and BC, equalize their ears, and communicate.  Four or five hands would be enough; two handed this process is a bit of a ballet.  Another issue is fear of the dark water and the “monsters” that lurk below.  So we start our night dive right at sunset so there is some ambient light and the darkness happens gradually and with less of a shock factor.  The divemaster is responsible for herding the eight cats (participants) in his/her crew through this experience and insuring their safety and comfort.  This is no easy task and very difficult for ADD challenged staff.  Attention to detail and focus for an hour is essential.  There is also the equipment preparation: batteries, bulbs, lanyards for the flashlights, tank marker lights and strobes (used as underwater markers).

Once again it was a productive day.  No overcast skies yesterday morning.  It was very sunny all day.  Summer is here!

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

Today was very productive and the staff is progressing well.  This morning started with a staff meeting, flags and breakfast.  Next the staff went swimming (BSA Swimmer’s Test) before breaking for lunch.  After lunch the scuba staff worked on scuba skills review, rescue skills, and providing emergency oxygen.  Flags and dinner followed AND, due to the hustle displayed during the day, the scuba staff had the evening off.  In between the routine items of flags and meals, the sailing staff completed their swim review, learned how to teach the Snorkel BSA program, did some small boat sailing and I think I saw some kayaking going on as well.

The ranger staff spent much of the day on vehicle maintenance.  The food service staff went swimming this morning with the scuba staff and spent the rest of the day on meal preparation and internal training.  Overall a very productive day.

The weather was overcast and somewhat threatening early but it did not rain.  We have a 20% chance of rain through Memorial Day.

I will be absent from this morning’s training due to a follow-up appointment with the surgeon.  I am optimistic that he will give me good news.  I hope you have a good day as well.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

Sunday was a full day of staff training, starting at 0730 and ending at 1730 with a 45 minute lunch break.  The facilities staff and galley staff joined us for much of the day.  We also completed all US Coast Guard drug testing for the sailing and scuba staff.  After training, the staff lowered the colors and enjoyed Mexican food for dinner.

We were indoors all day but the weather was nice; no sign of that 10% chance of rain so far.

This morning will start with a short staff meeting, flags ceremony and breakfast.  Then we will do swim tests and scuba reviews for the scuba staff.


Productive Day

in Scuba  •  0 comments

While several departments allowed their staff to sleep in and take the day off, the Scuba staff met at 09:00 and worked hard until mid-afternoon.  Repairs were made in the scuba pool area that I have been promised by the facilities department would be completed two years ago.  The scuba area is ready for participants and the scuba staff is becoming a fine tuned machine.

We also had our first Scuba Liveaboard crew arrive today.  Yes, staff training has not started but crews are arriving.  There is no explanation that I can make here that won’t get me in trouble.  So I will say Dr. Ellen checked the crew in, Captains Denny and Holly are ready aboard the Schooner Conch Pearl and Scuba Instructors Sargon Smith and Megan Ware are packed and ready to roll.  The crew completed their check-in, swim review and scuba review yesterday.  This morning they will have breakfast, load vans and a trailer with personal effects, scuba gear, fishing gear and provisions and head off to meet up with the Pearl.

Our summer staff training starts at 07:30 this morning and will conclude whenever we get through – likely after dinner tonight.  It is the first day of a week of long days and serious fun.

The weather is a little iffy for the week with a 10% chance of rain through Monday night and a 20% chance of rain for the remainder of the forecast period.  So we will look at that as an 80 to 90% chance on no rain.

On a personal note, my 12 year old granddaughter, Juliet, won the Bonnie look-alike contest yesterday at the Bonnie and Clyde Festival in Gibsland, Louisiana (near Shreveport).  I don’t have a photo yet but will post one later if I can.

That’s it for this morning.  It’s going to be a long day of rules, paperwork, and uniforming – all of the fun stuff.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

Yesterday, Capt. Rich and I spent the day completing our DEMP instructor training with Larry Zettwock of the Divers Alert Network.  (Former Florida Sea Base staff member Tracy Brennan is working on her DAN Instructor Trainer certification and joined in with Capt. Rich and I.)  As a result, we are now certified to teach Basic Life Support/1st Aid, CPR, AEDs, Oxygen Provider, Advanced Oxygen Provider, 1st Aid for Hazardous Marine Life Injuries and On-Scene Neurologic Assessments.  What a day!!!  All of the above qualifies us to teach the Dive Emergency Management Program.  I want to thank Larry as well as Sam Merrill, DAN Business Membership Manager, for getting us through these courses.  Larry, Sam and her husband are all BSA volunteers.

For our 2011 season staff, Capt. Dennis asks, “do you have more time than money for getting to the Florida Sea Base”?  If so, please click on the READ MORE button at the bottom of today’s post to learn how you can get from the Fort Lauderdale or Miami Airport to the Florida Sea Base for less than $10.  This took Capt. Dennis literally HOURS to research.  Thanks Capt. Dennis.  You’re the man.

I have too much on my plate today.  Staff hiring continues, we have a meeting at 09:00 in Admin with the BSA Purchasing Department, the refrigerator repair guy is coming at  09:00, I have to pick up a sailboat in Key Largo and bring to to Sea Base (via truck), I really need to do laundry and I need to go grocery shopping.  Whew!

Today’s forecast is 83º, sunny, and east winds at 15 mph.

Remember to click on READ MORE to read Capt. Dennis’ travel report.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

I was partially wrong about yesterday’s forecast.  We had on-again-off-again showers that I did not expect.  The temperature was warm until fairly late though.  Then at 19:24 we were hit by a rain cell that clobbered us with NNW winds.  It didn’t last long but it was pretty stout while it lasted.

I think this the third year for the Florida Sea Base to host the Boy Scout/Venturing Leader Training Conference.  There are Scoutmasters, Commissioners, volunteers and professional Scouters from all over the US with us this week.  This is some serious, top-notch training.

I am sorry to be so brief this morning but I am on my way to the Baptist Cardiac and Vascular Institute (a special unit of Baptist Hospital System) in Miami.  Everything is fine.  I have been invited to a recording session.  My cardiologist and I will be interviewed by some people from the local NBC station and the footage may be used for an upcoming Public Service Announce for Heart Month (February).  It’s sort of a long story and I will try to explain in the next day or two.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape