I rolled out of bed at about 06:15 (overslept a bit) and turned on the Weather Channel on TV and booted up the computer to make this morning’s post.  (Then while everything’s getting cranked up I usually attend to some , well, “personal business”).  So I’m in the forward head and Al is talking about an earthquake in Japan and a series of 13 feet tsunamis that are about to hit Hawaii.  Is this a “War of the Worlds” type prank broadcast, or movie I accidentally recorded on the DVR overnight or the end of the Earth?  What a way to wake up!

Based on earthquakes, tsunamis, and flooding happening elsewhere in the world, we are doing GREAT!!!!!  It is a bit chilly this morning, about 60º.  I realize that doesn’t sound especially cool to most of you, but it was 85º yesterday afternoon.  It’s also breezy so that makes it feel even worse.  We had one Coral Reef crew on the water yesterday but S/V Misty Shoals returned to the dock about three minutes before the front hit.  At 12:47 we had gale force winds of 38 knots.  S/V Excalibur and S/V Juan Cadiz were out, not on Scouting trips.  They got caught in the storm and had to drop anchor and hang on.  By 16:00 the wind had eased substantially and the rain was gone.  Unfortunately, the wind picked up overnight and I was awakened a couple of times from the boat being jerked about in the slip.

Justin Cardiff and Jessica Arms have arrived to join our spring scuba staff.  Rich Goldman is scheduled to arrive this evening but I heard a rumor that he snuck in last night.  I’ll find out at our 07:30 minute (about an hour from now).

Speaking of meeting, I have to get in gear.  I hope to have a meeting with Captain Paul Beal this morning to discuss how we are going to function now that the fiber optic cables delivering computer access to the Program Office (aka Registration Office) have been damaged while they were being re-routed yesterday.  We have no access to files, schedules, calendars or emails.  Some of us do have access to email and weather (internet) via iPhone.  I am trying to stay optimistic and hope that we will get this fixed today, but the reality is we could be down over the weekend and beyond.  This could have a major impact on Ellen’s processing of the summer scuba medicals and crew check-ins.  We have no one on staff who knows anything about repairing fiber optic cable.  Our IT people are 1,500 miles away in Dallas.  It’s not as bad as an earthquake or tsunami, but it is an aggravation.  As Fort Worth Police Detective TJ Doyle frequently reminded me in my life prior to Sea Base, “hope for the best but prepare for the worst”.  I’m thinking that the “worse” would be they can’t fix the cables for several weeks.  In that case the “best” would be to load up the boat and go sailing in the Bahamas while we wait.  Not a bad plan.  I wonder if I can sell it to Capt. Paul.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

10Mar

Rain, Rain

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Our meeting yesterday morning with the BSA Purchasing Department representatives was not a TOTAL waste of time.  I promise that I went into the meeting with an open mind.  I may have the opportunity for a two-on-one meeting with them sometime today.  The objective of this exercise is to try to reduce spending.  No one can argue with that.  However, it appears that what seems like a good deal to one person may not make the best sense to someone else.  It is going to be a real challenge to get the National Office, three High Adventure Bases and 300 local Council Offices to agree on what toilet paper they prefer.

I have completed one of my 2011 BSA Smart Goals.  I turned in all of my paperwork to become certified by the Divers Alert Network as a Diving Emergency Management Program instructor.  Now I only have 5 or 6 more goals to satisfy.  We used to call Smart Goals Critical Achievements.  A rose by any other name…….  This was not a Smart Goal for Capt. Rich, but he completed the program with me.

Divemasters Mike Roesel and Jim Funnell arrived yesterday.  Capt. Scott Costa arrived Tuesday but I didn’t see him until lunch yesterday.  I think two more DMs are scheduled to arrive today.  Megan Ware and Sargon Smith with be transferring from the Conference staff to the Scuba staff on Saturday.

We have a pretty good chance of rain today.  The front is in Tampa, Florida right now, but is sliding our direction.

Starting tomorrow (once the front has passed) it should be a little more like spring than summer.  Our forecast, courtesy of the National Weather Service…

Thursday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 83. South wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
Thursday Night: A slight chance of showers before 1am. Mostly cloudy during the early evening, then gradual clearing, with a low around 60. Breezy, with a north wind between 15 and 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Friday: Sunny, with a high near 69. Breezy, with a north wind around 20 mph.
Friday Night: Clear, with a low around 57. Northeast wind around 15 mph.
Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 73.
Saturday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 63.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 77.
Sunday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 66.
Monday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 77.
Monday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 66.
Tuesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 79.
Tuesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 67.
Wednesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 80.

I may take Capt. Dennis to the Fort Lauderdale or Miami Airport tomorrow so he can validate the travel instructions he submitted in yesterday’s post.  He is an adventurist.

The computers for the program, conference, galley and retail departments will be off line today.  Ellen is taking the day off. Capt. Rich and I will out of service, unable to access email, the internet or the server.  All of our work documents are saved to the server, not to our hard drives.

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

Half of the seasonal program staff were off yesterday.  The rest worked on scuba tanks again.  We are very close to completing that task. Capt. Dennis Wyatt and First Mate Kyle Beighle took a high school group out snorkeling yesterday morning.

Capt. Rich, Capt. Paul Beal, Capt. Keith Douglass, Rob Kolb and I spent a couple of hours  in a meeting yesterday morning with representatives from Aquatic Design and Engineering discussing the design and costs of  new swimming pool.  The meeting went very well.  I was pleasantly surprised by their cost projection of less than $1 million.  My biggest concern with the entire project is securing permits from the Village of Islamorada.  That will be very tough.  Anyway, no final plans were made but the design company left with the input they needed to make a final proposal.

After the meeting, Capt. Rich and I spent most of the rest of the day working on summer hiring.  We are getting down to the nitty-gritty and dealing with the harsh reality of not being able to hire everyone who has applied.  I’m not sure how well Capt. Rich is holding up this morning, but it’s 02:30 and I’m composing this post because I got tired of tossing and turning in bed.  If I’m going to be awake anyway, I may as well be accomplishing something.

We have a Coral Reef Sailing crew (aboard Misty Shoals) returning to base this morning for their mid-week day.  The staff (who aren’t working on scuba tanks) will be busy taking the crew sailing, kayaking, tubing and challenging them to a game of volleyball.  Capt. Rich and I are hoping to finish our instructor training with Divers Alert Network today.

Right now the temperature is a very comfortable 70, but the humidity is 82% with little likelihood of rain.  It is very common occurrence during the spring.  Arizona may have “dry heat”.  But even during the summer it is the norm for us to have a humidity almost as high as the temperature.  When our temperature reaches 90º and the humidity is as low as 70% we experience a heat index (or “feels like” temperature) of more than 105º IN THE SHADE.  Add another 15º if you’re on the sunny deck of a sail or dive boat.  The National Weather Service cautions “with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity… sunstroke, muscle cramps and/or heat exhaustion (is) likely”.  Welcome to HIGH ADVENTURE.

Heat Index Chart

The Heat Index is the temperature the body feels when heat and humidity are combined. The chart below shows the Heat Index that corresponds to the actual air temperature and relative humidity. This chart is based upon shady, light wind conditions. Exposure to direct sunlight can increase the Heat Index by up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Relative Humidity (%)
40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 90 95 100
110 136 - - - - - - - - - - - -
108 130 137 - - - - - - - - - - -
106 124 130 137 - - - - - - - - - -
104 119 124 131 137 - - - - - - - - -
102 114 119 124 130 137 - - - - - - - -
100 109 114 118 124 129 136 - - - - - - -
98 105 109 113 117 123 128 134 - - - - - -
96 101 104 108 112 116 121 126 132 - - - - -
94 97 100 102 106 110 114 119 124 129 135 - -

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-
92 94 96 99 101 105 108 112 116 121 126 131 - -
90 91 93 95 97 100 103 106 109 113 117 122 127 132
88 88 89 91 93 95 98 100 103 106 110 113 117 121
86 85 87 88 89 91

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93
95 97 100 102 105 108 112
84 83 84 85 86 88 89 90 92 94 96 98 100 103
82 81 82 83 84 84 85 86 88 89 90 91 93 95
80

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80
80 81 81 82 82 83 84 84 85 86 86 87
With Prolonged Exposure and/or Physical Activity:
Caution:
Fatigue possible
Extreme Caution:
Sunstroke, muscle cramps, and/or heat exhaustion possible
Danger:
Sunstroke, muscle cramps, and/or heat exhaustion likely
Extreme Danger:
Heat Stroke or Sunstroke likely

Approximately 400 people die each year from exposure to heat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our bodies dissipate heat by varying the rate and depth of blood circulation, by losing water through the skin and sweat glands, and as a last resort, by panting, when blood is heated above 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sweating cools the body through evaporation. However, high relative humidity retards evaporation, robbing the body of its ability to cool itself. When heat gain exceeds the level the body can remove, body temperature begins to rise, and heat-related illnesses and disorders may develop.

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If you must be out in the heat:

  • Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
  • Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.
    Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage.
  • Try to rest often in shady areas.
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).

Provided by the National Weather Service.

I hope you are warm and dry and avoiding the unpleasant weather in parts of our country.  We are very blessed to be in the Keys (until hurricane season rolls around).  I’m going to try to get two hours sleep.  It’s going to be a LONG Tuesday.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

We got a little rain yesterday morning, very little.  It was partly cloudy most of the day but still very warm.  Half the staff took the day off and the others continued working on servicing and filling scuba tanks.  Capt. Rich and I both took the day off.  I spent the day sorting through clothes, cleaning inside Escape and doing a little reorganization.

I have a meeting with Facilities Director Keith Douglass and our swimming pool consulting company this morning.  Our existing scuba training tanks are showing their age.  Because of the Virginia Graham Baker Act (new federal regulations for swimming pools) it is unfeasible to fix the existing pools and try to bring them into compliance with the new laws.  We are working very hard to get permits and funding for a junior olympic pool.  Raising the money may be easier than getting the permits.Getting the pool constructed before the existing ones have to be closed due to non-compliance with the new laws is a race against time that will be very hard to beat.  Without a few breaks from local and state governments we could conceivably wind up without a swimming pool for a season or two.  That would likely require a temporary cancellation of the Scuba Certification program in 2012 or 2013.  But we have worked out challenging issues in the past and I’m optimistic we will prevail once again.

After the meeting I have to get back to staff hiring.  The 15 March deadline is only a week away and I have some very difficult choices to make in these last few days.  It’s always hard on me to disappoint good young men and women who want to work here.  I have several applicants that will be disqualified because their school is starting so early that they can’t be here for the last 10 days to two weeks of the season.  This is not their fault in any way.  But I must have personnel to care for all of the crews arriving at the Florida Sea Base from the first day of the season to the last.  I lose sleep and get very cranky knowing that I am going to disappoint some good people.  It’s one of the parts of my job that I don’t enjoy in the least.

That’s it for this morning.  Have a great day.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

I always wondered how West Summerland Key was so named when it was actually east of Summerland Key.  But it doesn’t matter anymore because it was recently renamed Scout Key.  Scout Key is the home of  South Miami Councli BSA Camp Sawyer and Girl Scout Camp Wesumkee.  Crews going to the Brinton Environmental Center will now pass the Scout Key road sign on their journey.

Most of the staff worked on servicing the scuba tanks yesterday.  Capt. Aaron Foster reported that there was a leak in one of the high pressure lines between the compressors and the tanks that were being filled.  So I checked it out and he was right.  One of the quarter inch lines had gotten a little rust on it and had developed a pin-hole leak.  I dismantled that section of line and took it to Quiescence Diving in Key Largo to have a new one bent into the proper configuration.  When I got back to the base I realized they had not provided one of the fittings. Kyle Beighle was kind enough to drive back to Key Largo to get the needed part.  We are back in the scuba tank filling business!  We have to be very diligent while filling the tanks.  Most compressors used to paint houses or run mechanic or construction tools use 200 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure.  The scuba compressors generate up to 5,000 psi.

One Coral Reef Sailing crew arrived yesterday afternoon.  Since we have no crews on base today or tomorrow, Capt. Rich is giving half of the program staff off todayand the other half will be off tomorrow.

Twenty or more States had severe weather yesterday with multiple tornadoes and at least one fatality.  We are still doing pretty well.  The chance of rain is still lingering in our forecast but, otherwise, we are doing well.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

We still have too much wind at the Florida Sea Base.  It should start laying down on Monday.  Other than the wind, the weather is very nice.  It is 71º at 05:30.  We should top out with a high near 80.  We have a “slight chance” of rain every day for the remainder of the forecast period.

Laura, Dave and Stephanie worked on scuba tank maintenance all day yesterday.  Ellen, Capt. Rich and I had a hectic day in the office.  Capt. Carol worked on prepping the big dive boats for US Cost Guard inspection.  The Sea Base ranger staff (Capt. Keith, Raphael, Capt. Martin and Aaron) are working feverishly on several maintenance projects.  Capt. Brian (Misty Shoals) and Capt. Hammer (Jewel of Athena) took some of the conference attendees out for a sunset sail.

We have a Coral Reef Sailing crew arriving this afternoon.  They will be going out with Capt. Brian on S/V Misty Shoals.

Seasonal staff member Clyde Clark has taken over the conference part of our business since Chrystene resigned and her replacement won’t report for duty until the spring conference season is nearly over.  Clyde has been hopping around here like a one legged man in a butt kicking contest.  He is retired and works at the Florida Sea Base during the spring and Philmont (his real preference) during the summer.  We are pressing Clyde to the limit (and beyond on some days) but he is hanging tough and doing a great job.  He is fortunate to have Megan Ware and Sargon Smith assisting him.  They are very hard workers and very reliable staff members.

That’s it for this morning.  Have a great day.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

04Mar

Windy

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Wowy-zowy; the wind is howling.  Our maximum wind speed was 30 knots yesterday.  Otherwise, the weather is quite pleasant; low 70s and lots of sunshine.  Courtesy of the National Weather Service:

Friday And Friday Night…East winds near 25 knots and gusty. Seas beyond the reef 6 to 9 feet. Seas higher in the gulf stream. Seas inside the reef 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters very rough. Isolated showers.
Saturday…East to southeast winds near 20 knots and gusty early…decreasing to 15 to 20 knots. Seas beyond the reef 6 to 9 feet early…subsiding to 5 to 8 feet. Seas inside the reef 2 to 4 feet. Nearshore waters rough early…becoming choppy. Isolated showers.
Saturday Night…Southeast winds 15 to 20 knots early…decreasing to near 15 knots. Seas beyond the reef 5 to 8 feet early…subsiding to 4 to 7 feet. Seas inside the reef 2 to 3 feet. Nearshore waters choppy early…becoming a moderate chop. Isolated showers.
Sunday…Southeast to south winds 10 to 15 knots…becoming southwest to west and decreasing to near 10 knots in the afternoon. Seas beyond the reef subsiding to 2 to 4 feet. Seas inside the reef around 2 feet. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop…becoming a light chop. Isolated showers.
Monday…Winds becoming northeast to east 10 to 15 knots. Seas beyond the reef 2 to 4 feet. Seas higher in the gulf stream. Seas inside the reef around 2 feet. Nearshore waters a light to moderate chop. Isolated showers.
Tuesday…East winds near 15 knots. Seas beyond the reef 3 to 5 feet. Seas higher in the gulf stream. Seas inside the reef around 2 feet. Nearshore waters a moderate chop. Isolated showers.

Scuba tank preparations are coming along nicely.  They still have a long ways to go, but we will be ready for the onslaught of scuba crews arriving on 13 March.  The facilities department will spent a few days making additional preparations in the scuba area next week.  Several additional scuba staff members arrive on 10 March and that will help us meet our deadline.

Capt. Carol and I talked a little while this morning and she is now on a crusade to do what we can to protect our carrying capacity on the dive boats.  The solution may cost a pretty penny, but we may not be as impacted by the new limitations as some of the other dive centers.  We have some smart cookies working for us and tend to creative ways to meet these challenges.

Captains Dennis, Allan and Mike have returned after a successful oat delivery to Belize.  Maybe Capt. Dennis will find time to write an essay on the adventure.  If so, I’ll post it if he will let me.

The refrigeration guy diagnosed the problem with Escape’s refrigerator yesterday.  Another week and $500 – $600 and it should be chillin’ like a villain.  I’m scheduled to drive to Aventura this morning to see the fat doctor.  But I may put that off until next week.  Gas prices have hit $3.75 a gallon here and the weekly trip is getting to be pricey.  I am considering an every-other-week schedule to save gas money and wear and tear on the car.  The good news is I’m still losing weight.  The bad news is I’m not losing as fast as I was and I am struggling with my lack of patience.  Losing weight is expensive.  Besides gas and doctor’s bills, I have given away most of my clothes in the past two weeks.  I’m only replacing what’s absolutely necessary because, if all goes well, I should lose another size or maybe two before this struggle is over.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

03Mar

USCG “Industry Day”

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in Uncategorized  •  0 comments

The meeting hosted by the US Coast Guard Sector Key West was, as usual, mostly bad news.  The Coast Guard personnel were great and tried very hard to be helpful and positive.  They don’t make most of these rules, Congress does.  The Coast Guard is the messenger and the enforcer and it’s hard to NOT translate that into them being the bad guys.  I can relate because my job is somewhat similar.  I have to enforce unpopular policies in an attempt to keep our participants safe.

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We are being allowing to carry fewer people on inspected boats than was originally allowed.  For example, our Newton 46′ Dive Specials are currently certified to carry 49 persons.  After 01 December 2011 we will only be allowed to carry 42 persons.  Many boats will have to go through new stability tests (possibly four of the big dive boats owned by the Florida Sea Base), each test costing $$$$$$.  Owners of large sailing vessels like our Scuba Liveaboard and Sea Exploring vessels will be required to have all masts and all rigging removed at least every six years.  Some may be required to decommission annually.  That too will cost big bucks.  Some of the very large sailing catamarans in Key West (and other venues) do day sails and sunset cruises and frequently serve cocktails.  With their diminished carrying capacity they will no longer qualify with the State of Florida for a liquor license and will not be allowed to serve drinks.  Sailing vessels that have drilled holes in the mast to attach speakers, lights, etc. may be required to replace their masts before being allowed to carry passengers for hire.  That will be even bigger bucks.  The Coast Guard presented us with NO good news.  All of these new regulations are in response to ONE catamaran that dismasted in 2003 resulting in one death in the Northeastern US.  Because of that incident thousands, maybe tens of thousands of commercial operators of small passenger vessels will be required to spend thousands of dollars to stay in business.  What a crazy over-reaction.

Since I was gone all day I have no idea of what was accomplished by the seasonal staff other than Laura’s report that the 100+ new scuba tanks have been visually inspected and assembled.

That’s all for this morning.  A repairman is coming in a while to see if he can find the refrigerant leak in my refrigerator.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape

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02Mar

Key West Bound

in Weather  •  0 comments

By the time most of you read this I will be on my way to Key West to attend a meeting with the US Coast Guard regarding policies for boats carrying passengers for hire.  I heard one rumor at last night’s PADI Member Forum that will be a great inconvenience if true.  There’s no need for speculation at this time.  The meeting is supposed to last until 14:00 which means the day will be pretty much over by the time I get back.

Tuesday the seasonal program staff of the Florida Sea Base accomplished quite a bit; dock carts and scuba carts were assembled, the sailing dorms and showers got a deep cleaning and the process of assembling new scuba tanks got started.

We have some weather moving in.  Chip Kasper, Senior Marine Forecaster for NOAA sent this email today:

March came in “like a lamb” today with the mild, sunny, and dry weather pattern that characterized most of February.  However, changes are on the way, particularly with respect to wind.  We have been watching computer model solutions converge on a weather pattern that will feature the development and rapid southward expansion of a sprawling high pressure system with origins over the Canadian prairies.  An approaching dying cold front this evening will bring winds around to west, then north.  The breeze will under go “fits and starts” overnight through the first half of Wednesday as the pressure gradient becomes established.

Look for winds to turn around from the northeast on Wednesday while gradually picking up, especially late.  The main blow is expected Thursday through Friday night when sustained northeast to east winds will come in at 20-25 knots.  We could see some short-period gusts in the high 20s during this time frame.  The weekend looks like another transition period with gusty east breezes early Saturday morning, slackening and boxing around to southwest by late Sunday, in advance of another front.

We have not issued a Small Craft Advisory in over three weeks.  However, that will change by tomorrow (Wednesday) evening when advisories likely will be posted for all marine zones surrounding the Keys.  Unlike some of the blows in December and January, this one will be from the northeast and east.  Also, it will not be quite as strong as a few of those observed earlier in the season.  The northeast wind can really jack up waves in the opposing Gulf Stream, particularly off the upper Keys where the current is strongest.  Attached is a graphic showing the shoreward edge of the Gulf Stream as of yesterday (analysis prepared by the Naval Oceanographic Office in Mississippi).  Another graphic is attached showing the significant wave height predictions for 7:00 a.m. Friday from our experimental high-resolution nearshore wave model.  Note the large area of 8-9-feet seas in the Gulf Stream.

(I couldn’t get the significant wave height graphic to post.)

That’s all I have time for.  More tomorrow.

Capt. Steve
Aboard S/V Escape