Posts Tagged ‘travel’



in Staff  •  0 comments


Wednesday I left the Florida Sea Base at 03:30ish.  I drove 922 miles to Slidell, LA.  My moving time was 13 hours and 28 minutes.  I took 1 hour and 7 minutes of break time (including one potty stop where I managed to deal with 20 emails – true multitasking!).  The total elapsed time from the Florida Sea Base to the Hampton Inn in Slidell, LA was 14 hours and 35 minutes.  My moving average was 68 mph and my total average (including the breaks) was 63 mph.  My best fill-up was 41.9 mpg.  (My Civic is NOT a hybrid.)

I ran into some very nasty weather in the Florida panhandle including blinding rain and some serious wind that made staying on the road a real challenge.  I was forced onto the shoulder TWICE by 18 wheelers.  The Escambia bridge is on the east side of Pensacola, FL; the wind was coming from the south (hitting us broadside) and gusting to 50 mph as we crossed.  The Civic was so light that a few times it felt like I was floating.

When I crossed the Florida/Alabama state line the temperature dropped dramatically behind the front.  I had to turn the a/c off and turn on the heater.  By the time I got into Mississippi it was warm enough to shut off the heater.  It was just a little cool when I arrived in Slidell yesterday but this morning it was only 34°F.


I only received to reports from folks back at base  yesterday.  The scuba staff were conducting an inventory of our emergency oxygen kits for the dive boats.  Captain Rich had a conference call with the Sea Scouts.  He has been very involved with improving the relationship between the Sea Scouts and the Florida Sea Base.  I hope there are no negative repercussions with Captain Rich’s departure.


I will meet with the nice folks at Newton Dive Boats this morning.  I have a list of electronics and diagrams (thanks Captain Christy) showing how we want the bridge arranged.  Then I have a 10 hour drive to Dallas.  Today will be another LONG day.


I will post when I can.  It is challenging when I’m traveling.  Captain Rich is making a mad dash to North Carolina and back this weekend to take a load of stuff to his new 4 bedroom house which sits on 9 acres.  What a change that will be after living on a boat for so many years. 🙂

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
In room 311, Hampton Inn, Slidell, LA




in Scuba  •  0 comment

Not surprisingly, I woke up at 02:30.  The alarm was set for 03:00 and I have always had this infernal internal clock that almost always wakes me up before the alarm.  By 03:45 I was on my way to the D/FW International Airport for my return flight to Fort Lauderdale.  From there I have a 2+ hour drive to the Florida Sea Base.

I flew in on Friday, spent Saturday at the Circle 10 University of Scouting and was allowed to stay over Sunday.  I am very grateful to have been afforded the opportunity spend a day with my wife, son, his wife and my granddaughter.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to make the 10 hour round trip drive to visit with my dad.  I will get to see him next month.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

There are no scuba crews scheduled to arrive at the Florida Sea Base until 16 February.  However; I have a long list of chores, both personal and professional.  Making final hiring decisions for the spring season is at the top of the list for work.  Rebuilding the heads aboard S/V Escape tops my personal list.

Have a great Monday!

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
From Terminal C Gate 31 D/FW International Airport


Yesterday was a travel day; 350 miles in 7 hours (including three trips through downtown Dallas, Texas at morning rush hour).  One pass throughDallas would have sufficed.  But just as I emerged triumphantly on the northeast side of Dallas, my phone rang.  It was my daughter – I had left my wallet on the counter.  She was kind enough to head my way as I turned around and traversed the Dallas morning rush hour a second time.  We met on the south side of downtown and I made yet a third trip through the 57 billion vehicles trying to get into downtown Dallas.  The rest of the trip was very uneventful.


I heard from Rich Goldman and Dave Ball yesterday.  They are fine.  They hope to have electricity in two or three days.  I am relieved. 🙂  I also talked with Kyle Moran yesterday.  He said the wind is finally subsiding at the Florida Sea Base.  Dr. Masters’ blog is definitely worth a read.  There is a link to Angela Fritz’ post within Dr. Masters’ post.  The last I read, Sandy was responsible for at least 65 deaths as it passed through the Caribbean.  The highest report I have seen for US deaths is 50 so far.


The plan was to have dinner with Brad Smith last night.  Brad is the PADI liaison with the BSA.  He is also a PADI Course Director, personal friend, and all around good guy.  We were going to discuss a minor change for the Scuba BSA Award (NOT the Scuba Diving Merit Badge) but his plane had mechanical problems and his flight was delayed.  We will discuss the possible revision with the BSA Aquatics Task Force this morning at Gus Blass Scout Reservation near Damascus, Arkansas.  I’m optimistic  it will be a non-issue and I’ll try to remember to post details tomorrow.


The bi-annual BSA Aquatics Workshop starts tomorrow.  As always, it will be very difficult to cram two years worth of improvements, issues, comments and suggestions into three and a half days.  Aquatic programs are crucial to Scouting.  The “Every Scout a Swimmer” program began in 1924 and the BSA continues to work towards ensure that happens.  Cubs aquatic program are the specialty of Jay Fox, Ph.D., member of the BSA Aquatics Task Force.  The task force has been looking at creative ways to encourage Cubs to learn to swim for several years.  The limited availability of year ’round swimming pools is a key impediment.


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The HMS Bounty sank during Hurricane Sandy.  Fourteen survivors were recovered by the US Coast Guard.  One victim was recovered and I believe the Captain has not been located.

Captains Harold and Margie Ochstein are the Eco-Adventure program at the Florida Sea Base.  They also have asuccessfull private sailing charter operation.  Captain Harold posted this comment:

I thought you might want to read my thoughts on the HMS bounty sinking and hurricane prep on our blog at

I’m running late.  Have a great day.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
PADI Course Director #39713



in Staff  •  0 comments


Captain Rich Beliveau returned to the Florida Sea Base Friday.  He reported having a very successful business trip.  I am still in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex and will be returning to base this Thursday.


We have a Scuba Liveaboard crew arriving on Saturday, 06 October.  They will spend a week diving, sailing and fishing with Captain Luke and Captain Hans.  Kyle Moran and Emily Sepeta will be the Divemasters for the trip.


We had two Coral Reef Sailing crews booked to arrive a week or two after the Scuba Liveaboard crew, but Captain Rich Beliveau reports that one of the crews has cancelled.  The remaining crew will sail with Captain Bruce aboard S/V Barefoot with Girl, the sailing dog.


The water temperature on the reef is still a balmy 83-84ºF; VERY nice for diving and snorkeling.  The local weather remains seasonal with spotty, brief showers, highs in the mid 80s and lows in the low 80s.  That’s not a typo; it is common for the temperature to very little during the night and afternoon at this time of year.  I think it was Wednesday when the low was 81 and the high was 83.  The winds are gentle enough for great snorkeling and diving and just enough to get in some sailing.  With a few weeks remaining before the Coral Reef Sailing crew arrives I suspect that we may see some frontal activity by then and that would provide more wind which equals better sailing.

The tropical Atlantic, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico are almost too quiet.  Nadine is still alive in the northeast Atlantic.  She may set a record for the longest lasting tropical storm ever.

Drought is still a major issue in the US but it is getting a little better with the much needed rains and cooler temperatures that have arrived in some locations.  While short term relief from the drought is very welcomed, the long term weather pattern is not encouraging for food production.


If you are considering applying for the 2012 Divemaster Academy, please do so ASAP.  I will continue to accept applications as late as possible or until the final slot if filled.  I do not have a definite cut off point but 15 October is about as long as I can wait.  It you can’t submit an application for some reason, I strongly suggest you at least send me an email to let me know your intentions.  Kyle Moran has been sending out packets of PADI training materials to the candidates who have met all of the prerequisites.  They have also been provided information for registering for the PADI Divemaster eLearning course and the PADI Dive Theory Online course.


The full time staff of the Florida Sea Base, Northern Tier, some of the Philmont Scout Ranch staff and at least one senior manager from the National Office will come together in Miami next week for four glorious days of strategic planning meetings.

Have a great week.  I will be on the road all day Monday.  I will post again when I can.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
PADI Course Director #39713



in Weather  •  2 comments

The Florida Sea Base remains generally quiet but very busy.  Any thoughts that fall is our “slow” season is a misnomer.  Purchasing, selling, planning and maintenance make for long, busy days.  The stress level remains at heart attack status year ’round.  Staff and captains sometimes wonder why Captain Rich and I are grumpy all the time; the simple answer is it never ends.


We are now half way through the 2012 hurricane season.  So put on your big boy panties, hang onto your hat, buckle your seat belt, and get ready for Round 2.

Yesterday, Dr. Jeff Masters included the following in his post:

Elsewhere in the Atlantic
Most of the models predict that a trough of low pressure about 600 miles off the U.S. East Coast will serve as the focus for development of a non-tropical low pressure system on Sunday or Monday. This low may spend enough time over water to acquire tropical characteristics and become a named storm by the middle of next week.

The most excellent news is there are no major weather systems threatening the Florida Sea Base at this time.  We have a 60% chance of showers today; the cells are spotty but some are very intense.  I was awakened by a cell at 23:30 (11:30) last night.  It lasted about 30 minutes with winds gusting to 25 knots (28.769 mph).


This is going to remain a hot topic for a while at the Florida Sea Base.  Tim Stanfill, Conference Director, Captain Scott Martin, BEC Director, Captain Rich Beliveau, Sailing Director, and I are scheduled to meet this afternoon to discuss this program in more detail.  The Florida Sea Base is recognized by the Florida Department of Education as a STEM facility.  You can read the Florida STEM Strategic Plan by clicking on the link.   Tim Stanfill has taken the lead in an attempt to bring more youth to the Florida Sea Base during our non-program seasons (primarily the fall and co-mingling with our spring program season).  Many of our Coral Reef Sailing captains are educators or related to educators in STEM related areas of study.  We have the resources and logistical abilities to serve as an INCREDIBLE STEM facility when not serving traditional Scouting units.  Maybe I should add that serving the Boy Scouts of America will always be our first priority.  But adding programs like this may bring more people into Scouting and the monies raised through these programs would be used to improve the Scouting programs.  It is one of those win-win scenarios.

Also, let me throw in the now infamous disclaimer.  This project is in the early stages of review to see if we can make it happen.  PLEASE do NOT contact the Florida Sea Base administration with any concerns, comments or questions.  If you go to the ABOUT page on this blog you can find email addresses for Tim Stanfill, Captain Rich Beliveau, Captain Scott Martin and me.  Please contact one of us, or click on the comment button on the bottom of this post if you have any questions.  But PLEASE do NOT call or email the FSB Admin office.  I get in trouble when my posts cause them additional work.


I have a busy travel schedule for the fall.  My original plan was to leave tomorrow for Texas.  That has been postponed, but I MUST be on the road by Tuesday.  I will be there for about 10 days with my family; my older granddaughter, sister and I have birthdays within a three day period.  My mom’s birthday is two days later.  This will be her first birthday since she passed away.  Then I fly back to the Florida Sea Base for about 10 days for an incoming Scuba Liveaboard crew and a week of FSB Staff Planning meetings.  Next I fly back to Texas for a week of BSA National Committee meetings.  I will remain in Texas for the next 10 days working on the Divemaster Academy, winter staff hiring, STEM and other assignments.  My next drive is to the BSA Aquatics Workshop at Reynolds Training Center, Gus Blass Scout Reservation. Damascus, Arkansas.  I will be there for about 5 days and then drive back to Texas.  I will hang out in Texas for another week (working remotely) before flying to Las Vegas for a week at the Diving Equipment and Marketing Show.  Following DEMA I return to Texas for Thanksgiving and then I drive back to the Florida Sea Base.  I assume there will be a side trip on the drive back to stop in the Newton Boat facility in Slidell, Louisiana to discuss our newest dive boat order but that has not yet been arranged.


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

What a day.  I left the Florida Sea Base at 08:45 and pulled into the Hampton Inn, Fayetteville, North Carolina at 21:45 (9:45pm).  822 miles in 13 hours, including four fuel stops, two potty breaks, lunch and dinner.  Google Maps estimated 13 hours and 26 minutes without stops.  A NEW WORLD RECORD!!!  The bad news is I have another 225 miles to cover in the morning before arriving in Portsmouth, VA to inspect the boat.  AND, it is supposed to be raining hard there tomorrow (Wednesday).  After inspecting the vessel I will plan my return route.  I have never been in Virginia before this and it would be cool to hang out a few days but my schedule simply won’t allow it.  I will drive part way back on Wednesday, find a place to crash and limp in to the Florida Sea Base some time Thursday.

HIGH ADVENTURE!!!  (And an aching lower back.  Fourteen hours was tough.)

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the PADI training materials for the 2013 Scuba Certification crews were delivered to the Florida Sea Base Tuesday morning (before I left).  They are scheduled to be shipped out sometime in October.  (Unfortunately I will be away from the base attending some sort of BSA training at the time.)

That’s it.  I need sleep.  I’ll post again as soon as I can make time.

One last thing.  I want to say “thanks” to my son Aaron.  He helped find me a place to crash that was within my pain tolerance range for today and not too far off for tomorrow’s drive.  He’s my go to guy.

Capt. Steve Willis
Professional Scuba Bum™
PADI Course Director #39713
Crashing at the Hampton Inn Fayetteville I-95



Wow, more than 900 posts have appeared on this blog.  It’s always nice when a participant at the Florida Sea Base tells me they have read the blog; some say they read it frequently.  I have two suggestions.  First, if you are looking for specific information try using the search function.  Second, if that doesn’t work, send me a comment or email and I will find an answer or resource to help with your question.  I have never rejected a negative comment.  So long as they are Scout appropriate, feel free to let me know what you don’t like.  I’ll try to address your concern and try to insure that it doesn’t happen again to another unit.  (Bear in mind that I am NOT the boss of this place.  I can suggest, plead, argue, but some issues are beyond my control.)

Many of you know that I am working towards my PADI Course Director certification.  I am struggling with running program and making time for studies and practice.  It reminds me of my least successful semester in college, two part time jobs and a full course load was more than I could handle.  Now I’m 40 years older and this 18 hour a day schedule has not gotten any easier.  The actual exams for the Course Director rating are held over a 10 day period, twice a year, in either Malaysia (in the spring) or the Dominican Republic (in the summer).  The DR is a lot closer than Malaysia, so I will depart on 17 June and return on 29 June.  Even if they have internet access, I do not expect to have time to write and I won’t have a clue about what’s going on at the Florida Sea Base.  Captain Rich may find some time to post while I’m gone.  Last month I took a week off without notice and caused some concern.  So just a heads-up that I will be off the air for two weeks later this month.  (I would ask you to pray for me but I’m not sure the circumstances are appropriate.)

Captain Rich went to the orthopedic doctor today and it is official, he has broken his foot.  You can send wishes for a speedy recovery to  The biggest challenge will be to get him to follow restrictions.

We (minus Captain Rich) met for our pre-inspection review.  The sailing stuff is done (with a little help from me).  Laura Kuras has one report to type up for scuba.  Some of the other staff members have a few things to tidy up, but overall we are in very good condition.

I apologize for posting late this morning.  I got up before 04:30 but started working on CDTC stuff and lost track of time.

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

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 

“Highwayman” is a Jimmy Webb song recorded by Willie Nelson and a slew of others.  What does that have to do with the Florida Sea Base?  Nothing.  But time the most of you read this, I will be on the highway enroute to the Mother Country (Texas) where Willie Nelson lives.  The plan is to cover 920 miles Wednesday driving from the Florida Sea Base to Slidell, Louisiana, home of Newton Boats, Inc.  I should arrive pretty late tonight.  I will stop by the plant as early as possible in the morning for a surprise check-up on the status of our Newton 36′ Dive Special.  Once I finish there it is on to the Mother Country to tend to the chores I mentioned a day or two ago.  It’s tough to be 1,200 miles away when your family needs help.

Tuesday was a get ‘r done day at the Florida Sea Base.  The staff laid more sod in preparation for the Tarpon Tournament.  The divers tried multiple sites before making two dives at Labyrinth.  I sincerely applaud their tenacity and appreciate Captains Christy and Dennis for working diligently to locate a suitable site under very difficult weather conditions.  One Coral Reef Sailing crew was on base for shore leave.  No crews arrived or returned for luau.

I will try to post Wednesday night or Thursday morning, but no promises.  Worst case scenario I should have a new post sometime Friday.

By the way, Ronnie Fye took some good photos of the staff laying sod.  You can see them at

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

It’s a fairly yucky morning at the Florida Sea Base; heavy overcast, 73º, and winds from the NE at 30 knots.

I will be on the road very soon; first stop, Tampa International Airport.  In general, I am working my way from the Florida Sea Base to the BSA National Committee meetings in Dallas. This should be a memorable trip because I get to spend about 2 and a half days with my son; a very rare treat!

Richard Goldman returned home yesterday but hopes to be back next weekend to continue the scuba training with staff members.

I spent the day packing and tying up loose ends.  There was no dredging yesterday. 🙁  The conference schedule is very busy starting tomorrow.  There will be no breaks prior to the beginning of the spring program season.

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