1989 Florida Sea Base


The following is a journal of the days we spent on our trip. The Scouts attending were John Combs, Perry Westhaus, Jeff Brining, Jason Heaton, Jason Karl, Mike Stelzer, and Dan Walsh.

Saturday, July 8
We left the Combs' household shortly after 8:00 a.m. amid a joyous and jubilant group of parents. We were finally on our way to the Keys. We drove for over four hours before making our first stop at the Kentucky/Tennessee border. After a quick picture, we continued onward through the mountainous countryside. Our lunch stop was the Knoxville McDonald's, a true reward after sitting almost thirty minutes in road construction traffic. Refueled and refreshed we resumed our ride. Upon crossing the Georgia border, we encountered several heavy thunderstorms. Finally, at 8:00 p.m., twelve hours from initial departure, we reached Robins Air Force Base. We obtained our visitor's pass and Scout hut keys and headed for our place of lodging, the Radisson Roach Plaza. Since another troop was staying in the Boy Scout hut, we lodged in the Girl Scout hut, complete with refrigerator, stove, air-conditioning, and roaches. After a quick dinner of spaghetti, we made phone calls home and turned in for the night.

Sunday, July 9
Our Scoutmaster's alarm woke us at the brain shattering hour of 6:00 a.m. We gathered up our belongings, making it a point to leave the cockroaches behind and left for the dining hall. We ate a hearty meal with the bill totaling $6.20. We amused ourselves during breakfast by watching a roach tap dance on the ceiling of the cafeteria. After a nice shower at the gym we resumed our travels. The major calamity of the day occurred when our driver took the wrong exit and went west instead of east. Our navigator did not catch this error until we had traveled for over 25 minutes. We decided to stop for lunch. Robins had provided us each with a huge lunch consisting of three sandwiches, chips, peanut butter crackers, candy bar, apple, juice, and two cartons of milk! We resumed our travels, making a short stop at Daytona Beach to take in the numerous sights. We finally arrived at Patrick Air Force Base at 7:30 p.m. We set up camp in the woods, but then decided to move next to the sea water lake. We feasted on hamburgers, potato sticks, and Twinkies while the sunset provided us with an incredible evening display. Perry and Mike watched a duel between a jellyfish and a crab which ended in a draw. We finally got to bed at 1:34 a.m. During the night a raccoon raided our trash can and brown pelicans dove in the water for fish.

Monday, July 10
We awoke at 7:00 a.m. after a restless night in the hot muggy weather. We drove to the dining hall and gorged ourselves, but the total bill still only came to seven dollars. After taking showers at the gym we went to the Kennedy Space Center. The space center had a large variety of displays such as the first Gemini capsule, space rockets, lunar lander, and the planets of the solar system. The air conditioning in the buildings were a great escape from the 100 degree temperature outside. We saw an incredible IMAX film on the space shuttle program and ended our visit with a walk through the rocket garden. We returned to camp, quickly donned our swimsuits and headed for Bocoa Beach. The ocean was nice and warm and provided some great breakers. We headed back to camp for a dinner of sloppy joes and fruit. After the dishes were washed, the guys went to the gym for a short game of basketball and a trip to the sauna. John and Perry zonked out at 9:00 p.m. and the guys followed suit after returning from the gym.

Tuesday, July 11
We arose again at 7:00 a.m., ate a good breakfast and took showers at the gym. Dressed in our civvies, we drove to Walt Disney World for a day of excitement. After buying our tickets, the entire group voted to explore the wonders of Epcot Center. Perry issued $10.00 to each person to cover the cost of meals and we broke up into groups. Epcot was indeed a fantastic place! The World Showcase was broken into many different areas, each one depicting a different part of the world. Norway had an incredible indoor (air-conditioned) water ride complete with spraying storms and terrifying trolls. China featured a 360 degree cinema, the United States used mechanical figures to step you through its history, Germany featured a bubbly German band, and the story of Robin Hood using people from the audience as characters could be viewed on the streets of London. Epcot had another section which featured exhibits, rides, and films sponsored by various companies. Most outstanding of these was Captain EO, an amazing 3-D movie starring Michael Jackson. Perry and John met up with some of the Scouts later in the day and learned of the Jason Karl tragedy. Poor Jason had left the park and later tried to get back in, only to discover he had lost his admission ticket. Fortunately, the park attendants finally allowed him to return. The day ended with Illuminations, an eye popping outdoor show which consisted of lacer, lights, water sprays' and fireworks. We then fought the crowds for last minute purchases in the gift shop and returned to the van. We crawled into camp at 1:30 a.m. and immediately became good friends with our sleeping bags.

Wednesday, July 12
Finally a sleep-in day! We leisurely emerged from our beds at 9:45 a.m. and then headed for the showers at the gym. Having missed breakfast, we proceeded to the dining hall at the speed of a photon. With a mighty effort, the Scouts finally got our meal total (lunch) to break $10.00. Heavily bloated, we bid a last farewell to Patrick Air Force Base at 12:30 p.m. and made a quick stop for ice for our coolers. Our Scoutmaster bought a Super Guzzler, a mammoth 1.5 liter thirst quencher. We then set out for Miami and Homestead Air Force Base. We traveled all afternoon making one major stop for Perry: Mustang modification information! We cruised into Miami under heavy traffic conditions. With help from Perry, our expert navigator, we finally arrived at Homestead Air Force Base at 7:10 p.m. Here we met Sgt. Carter, the Boy Scout liaison officer, who took us to the Scout hut. After unloading our gear, we headed to the picnic shelter for a delicious meal of foaming hot dogs, pretzels, and cookies. We returned to our air-conditioned hut and enjoyed a variety of activities including, but not limited to human pyramid building, the Homestead pull up championship, indoor frog catching, flight simulator training, and cockroach hide-and-go seek. Scouts finally began losing consciousness around 11:00 p.m.

Thursday, July 13
We experienced a good night's sleep in the air-conditioned Scout hut, a pleasant change from the hot humid nights at Patrick Air Force Base. We went to the dining hall and enjoyed another good yet inexpensive breakfast. We then drove to the mole hill for a nice shower. However, the showers were not so nice! Not even the cockroaches could tolerate them. Fortunately, our Scoutmaster devised an alternate plan. He took us to the gym and told the attendant there that our showers were out of commission and we had been given permission to use these. The attendant, seeing our Scout uniforms, believed every word without question. (If YOU had seen the mole hill showers, you would have lied tool!) We then traveled the short distance to Everglades National Park. When we arrived at the park entrance sign, we got out of the van for a picture and were immediately engulfed by mosquitoes. As soon as the last shutter clicked, we stampeded to the van as if our lives depended on it (and they might have!) We made a quick stop at the visitor's center and covered ourselves with bug repellent. We then hiked three trails, all of which boasted of an infinite supply of blood thirsty mosquitoes. We drove to a boat launch for lunch. Some Scouts climbed coconut trees while others marveled at a hawk which was flying around with a live fish in its claws. Before we could sit down for lunch, the mosquitoes, spying human banquet tables of their own, drove us from the park. We returned to Homestead Air Force Base, ate lunch, and did laundry. We ate an early dinner, which came to a grand total of $9.00 and then headed into the wild town of Homestead. Our Scoutmaster finally achieved one of his most important goals for the trip, the purchase of the ultimate in broad-brimmed hats: a Mexican sombrero with a bird on top. Perry bought a pirate's eye patch and our mature, responsible adult leaders began parading through the various shops. The Scouts, following the example set by their fine adult leaders, bought equally outrageous hats. We returned to the Scout hut and Perry took the Scouts to the Youth Center for an hour of fun. The Scouts returned at closing time and read magazines and wrote postcards until bedtime.

Friday, July 14
We slept in till 8:00 a.m. and ate a continental breakfast. We took showers and headed for the Florida Sea Base. The drive was a quick one hour trip which put us two hours early for arrival. We took a group picture at the sea base's entrance sign and then visited some shops in the nearby town. We returned to the sea base at 1:45 p.m. and met Paige, our crew staff member. She took us on a quick tour of the sea base and then showed us to our quarters. We changed into our swimsuits and then returned to the boat docks for a safety talk and take our swim tests. Next, Paige taught us the fine art of snorkeling. We snorkeled for half an hour, becoming well acquainted with the stinging coral in the bay. We then had some free time to explore the camp or shop in the ship's store. At 6:00 p.m. we had our group picture taken in front of our boat, the TINSTAAFL. This magnificent craft is almost 46 feet long and had a full galley, several bedrooms, and two heads. We then ate dinner at the quarter deck. Following dinner, John and Perry went to a meeting with the camp director, Sam Wampler. Sam took all the adult leaders out on his boat and had a very informal meeting at sea. At the very same time, Jeff Brining, our crew chief, was at a meeting where he learned his responsibilities and got trip information. At 8:30 p.m. we rejoined and met with our Captain, Wil Russell. He talked to us about the sailing program and took us aboard the boat for a tour. At 9:00 p.m. we watched a slide show on the various creatures we would meet in the ocean. We then had free time until lights out at 11:00 p.m.

Saturday, July 15
Paige woke us at 7:00 a.m. We got our personal gear ready and put it on board the TINSTAAFL. After a quick flag raising ceremony and an "interesting" breakfast, we loaded the ship with provisions. Our vessel left the sea base at 9:30 a.m., the first of the three boats to leave. Mike was the first to act as helmsman, Dan was radio man, Perry was engineer and navigator, Jason Heaton was anchor person, Jason Karl was assistant engineer and cook, and Jeff was assistant cook. We unfurled the sails at 10:40 a.m. Since the wind was not very strong, we did some motor sailing, using the boat's motor to help propel us through the ocean waters. At 12:34 p.m. we made our first dive. The water was sixteen feet deep and crystal clear all the way to the white sandy bottom. Not much fish or coral was here, but it was still great to explore the ocean and sharpen our snorkeling skills. We finished our snorkeling at 2:00 p.m. and ate our first meal at sea. The other coral reef sailing yachts, the Tondoleyo and the Therapy Too, anchored near us. After lunch was over, we pulled up anchor and set sail. The Therapy Too had engine problems and stayed behind for repair. As we sailed the calm waters, we cast out fishing lines in hopes of catching something exciting. Dan was the first to catch a fish, a small dolphin fish. We soon arrived at our first diving buoy called Sombrero. The sights here were incredible! We saw thousands of brightly colored fish which swam almost within reach. The coral was a multicolor landscape of hills, valleys, and caverns. Some of us saw barracuda floating by in the currents, evil smiles pasted on long thin bodies. Captain Wil had to yell at us repeatedly to get us out of the water for departure. Once underway, the cooks began preparing an incredible dinner of spaghetti, garlic bread, and a chef's salad. We then headed for a spot to pull in for the night. We passed under an abandoned bridge and saw a crowd of people waving to us. We were now in a small cove just outside of a state park. Here we dropped anchor, along with the Tondoleyo, and ate our dinner as a beautiful sunset filled the background. After the dishes were washed, we made our beds on the deck of the boat and turned in by 10:00 p.m. Throughout the night and early morning, the bilge alarm repeatedly went off, telling us that water was being pumped out of the ship's hull.

Sunday, July 16
Most of us awoke at 7:00 a.m. and the cooks began cooking breakfast. It was then that we discovered we had run out of fresh water and could not get into the dock at the state park to replenish our supply. We left the cove at 8:40 a.m. and began our journey to Looe Key. Along the way, we spotted many flying fish and dolphin popping out of the water. The flying fish were amazing, skimming the top of the water like skipping a stone. We arrived at Looe Key buoy and snorkeled for over an hour. We saw many colorful fish and coral. Some of us saw sting rays and barracuda and our Scoutmaster got a close up look at a shark. We eventually got back underway and some of us again tried our hand at fishing. The winds began to pick up and we unfurled our huge sails. For the first time we were totally under sail power. The cooks began preparing lunch and also laid out the food for dinner. This was necessary since most of the items were in the freezer and had to have time to thaw. We ate a quick lunch, set out our fishing lines, and took a short nap on the deck. The stereo blared out loud rock and roll which probably explains why we did not catch any fish. Arriving at West Sombrero, we donned our snorkeling gear and quickly jumped into the water. Again, the snorkeling was incredible. Colorful fish and coral were everywhere. Jeff received a cut on his leg, probably from rubbing up against a piece of the sharp coral. while we were snorkeling, Captain Wil siphoned a little bit of water from the Tondoleyo. Soon it was time to resume our voyage. The Captain put Jimmy Buffet in the tape deck and the guys instantly fell in love with the music. Clouds began to roll in and we had the first rain of our cruise. We finally arrived at Key West and pulled into the main dock. We dropped off our trash and picked up 110 gallons of water. Dan made a very important restroom stop, and Jason Karl mopped the deck of the boat. We left the dock and anchored off a small island south of Key West. Mike and Jason Heaton prepared an excellent dinner of hamburgers cooked on the propane grill on the back of the boat. Around 8:00 p.m. we were hit by a huge thunderstorm. The waves had whitecaps and the lightning strikes came fairly close. The guys talked until 10:00 p.m. and then turned in for the night.

Monday, July 17
We awoke at 7:00 a.m. and ate a cold breakfast of cereal and granola bars. We headed for Sand Key, but an approaching storm caused us to change our mind. At the edge of the storm we saw two funnel clouds. Captain Wil told us that if they touch down in the ocean, they will become water spouts, picking up tons and tons of water. If they then hit land, they dissipate and dump all its water on land, causing massive flooding. Along the way back to Key West, we saw many different boats including a cruise liner, navy destroyer, coast guard ship, and tug boat. As we got nearer to Key West, our engine trouble light came on. Our captain tried many things to remedy the situation, but to no avail. We eventually had to turn off the engine so it could cool down. Since no winds were blowing, we were almost dead in the water. Mike and Jeff got in the dingy so they could row and pull our boat into dock. Unfortunately, the tide pulled them farther and farther away from the boat. The captain turned the engine on long enough to pick up the two drifting souls. Perry and Jason Karl decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, as soon as they got in the dingy, the winds picked up and the boat quickly sailed away. Perry and Jason rowed feverishly, trying to catch up with our boat when suddenly the dingy capsized! Captain Wil again started the engine and came to their rescue. We picked the pair up, righted the dingy, and motored toward the dock for several minutes. We dropped anchor and ate a cold lunch. The captain ordered the anchor up and then began motoring toward the dock. As the engine became hot, he cut the engine and coasted through the water. Suddenly, we heard a loud pop come from the engine room. Ignoring the problem, we prepared to tie the ship to the dock at Key West. We docked next to the Randall Lynn, a million dollar boat from the Dallas, Texas area. Upon docking, we filled up with water and made our electrical hookup. Upon inspection, the captain found two damaged parts which fortunately, could be repaired. However, the engine would need three to four hours to cool off before he could work on it. Thus, the captain and crew headed into Key West for a much needed diversion. Key West had quite an unusual variety of the human race. The gay crowd numbered almost as high as the tourist crowd. We visited gift shops and took in some of the points of interest. Everyone returned to the boat around 9:00 p.m.

Tuesday, July 18
We awoke at 7:04 a.m. and began preparing the ship for departure. Breakfast was cooked, the decks were swabbed, the boat's water tanks were filled, and ice was brought on board. Strangely, the water tanks were almost empty. Jason Heaton took the head apart and cleaned it thoroughly. The captain finished the necessary repairs and took a much needed shower. Jason Karl cut his finger on the lid to our thermos and was promptly treated by the captain. At last it was time to shove off. Mike and John got on the dock and untied the mooring lines. Suddenly, the boat jerked from the dock and the scoutmaster was thrown into the water, clothes and all. He saved his watch from getting wet, but the troop's traveler's checks were soaked. Departure came at 10:00 a.m. We all joined in sailing the boat and racing the Tondoleyo. Lunch was prepared and we ate while underway. We anchored at a diving buoy called West Washerwoman for some snorkeling. We were very disappointed! The water was very murky due to the storm thus making the snorkeling very poor. We traveled on to another location, but found the waters to be murky there also. We pulled into Newfound Harbor for the night, where we ran into shallow waters and ran aground. We tried setting the anchor and using the boat's engines to pull us loose, but to no avail. The captain prepared a special dinner of barbecued chicken and fried potatoes. After cleanup was finished, the tide came in and we were able to move the boat to deeper waters. As we went to bed, Captain Wil promised to wake us up in the morning. We were expecting the worst.

Wednesday, July 19
We awoke at 7:00 a.m. sharp. The captain woke us up with an ear shattering blast from his portable air horn. We scrambled out of bed, ate a cold breakfast and got underway by 8:00 a.m. The winds were strong for the first time during our cruise. Jeff "whipped the crew into a frenzy!" We unfurled the sails and traveled at over six knots. The ocean was rough, causing us to roll and sway. Sea sickness began to set in. We stopped at Looe Key, but the winds had made the waters too murky. Mike and Jason Heaton decided they were even too sick to snorkel. Mike was the first to puke. With the smell of vomit in the air, we resumed our travels. We stopped at Sombrero, but here too the waters were murky. This brought us to the conclusion that when the sailing was good, the snorkeling was not and vice versa. Our navigator set our course and we were once again off, with John, Jason Heaton, and Mike checking into sick bay. The captain brought the boat nearer to land where the waters were somewhat smoother. When we arrived at Duck Key, we dropped anchor for the night. Steaks were put on the grill and some of the Scouts went swimming. After dinner, the guys went back into the water to scrub the hull of the ship. They then washed their hair with Joy soap and did back flips into the water. We listened to the ship's radio and stumbled onto a conversation between the Coast Guard and a boat which contained a man with a gun, a screaming woman, and her two kids. A great bedtime story just before we went nighty-night. Since the wind was still very strong, the guys had to take turns on anchor watch. This was supplemented with the bilge alarm going off regularly, thus forcing several sleepy souls to get out of bed and pump the bilge. We still could not understand why the hull of the boat was filling with water.

Thursday, July 20
We woke up at 7:00 a.m. and fixed a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and ham. Some of the guys were so tired from the late night activities that they did not get up for breakfast. It was 9:30 a.m. before everyone was up and ready to hoist anchor. Unfortunately, our dingy broke free from the ship during the night and floated away. The Tondoleyo had tried to inform us of this last night, but we did not have our radio on. All eyes and binoculars scan the shore for a glimpse of our dingy. We spotted our dingy and set a course to retrieve it. Our boat could not pull up to the shore without getting stuck. Therefore, we went into a shallow moat which was inside the key. We did not know if the moat was deep enough for our craft so we were constantly watching the depth gauge. We finally arrived at the spot and sent two Scouts after the dingy. They retrieved it, dragged it across the beach and hoisted it up to the ship's deck. We then exited the moat and set sail for the sea base. Dan acted as helmsman and the race was on against the Tondoleyo. We took turns eating lunch and working the boat so as to stay ahead of our competitors. The captain asked our radio man to contact the Tondoleyo to see if it had caught fire. It was the captain's way of telling them he knew they were using their motor in an attempt to cheat to win the race. Even with using the engine, the Tondoleyo kept falling farther and farther behind. As we approached Islamorada, dolphins followed our boat and leaped out of the water. Soon we were within sight of the sea base. However, the sea base would not let us dock since we had returned too early. The Tondoleyo chose to drop anchor and let the Scouts snorkel. Suddenly, the Therapy Too came from out of nowhere and were launching water balloons at us using a giant sling shot. We had water balloons too, but discovered that we were mysteriously out of water. Our boats engaged in combat for over half an hour. Jason Karl was the only casualty, catching a water balloon directly in the face. We finally returned to dock and began the process of cleaning the ship from top to bottom. Finally, it was our turn to clean up. Yes, that shower felt good! The evening meal was a special luau with stuffed crab, scallops, rice, bread, and cherry pie. We then had some free time until the evening program. The program was composed of staff and crew skits, with our Scouts doing a midget act entitled "Little Ernest". We then went to our boats and received our special sea base patches. We talked with Wil and Paige about the trip and thanked them for all they had done. The guys then spent the rest of the evening talking with girls.

Friday, July 21
We got up at 5 45 a.m. and met Paige for breakfast. We said our goodbye at 6:15 a.m. and got in the van to leave. However, the van would not start! One of the adults from another troop gave us a jump start, but we still could not get it started. We tried to get a towing company to help us, but nobody was open yet. Finally, a sea base person put his jumper cables between our van and his truck and let it sit for a while. At 8:30 a.m. our van started and we were on our way home. We drove for four hours before stopping for gas and lunch. The guys then spent a good deal of time sleeping and relaxing. We reached the Florida-Georgia border at 5:26 p.m. and stopped at the Georgia welcome center for a free glass of orange juice. After several more hours of driving, we stopped at a Georgia rest stop for a dinner of ravioli and pudding. We resumed our travels and arrived at Warner- Robins Air Force Base at 9:00 p.m. Returning to the old roach motel, we unloaded our gear and went to take showers.

Saturday, July 22
We ate breakfast in the cafeteria, our last Air Force Base meal and settled down in the van for another long day of driving. We crossed the Georgia-Tennessee line at 11:20 a.m. and then Stopped for gas in Knoxville. At 3:00 p.m., we encountered the Eppley clan who were just returning from their vacation. We hit the Kentucky-Ohio line at 5:15 p.m. amid a chorus of cheers. Finally, after fifteen days, 42 meals, 5 states, and 3,151.4 miles of driving, we arrived in Englewood. We gassed up the van and took it to the Scoutmaster's home to be washed and vacuumed. Since we returned a day early, some of the parents were not home to pick up their Scouts. Fortunately for the Scoutmaster, they were able to get a ride home with other Scouts.


Last revised: December 7, 1999


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