Saturday, August 1
We left the Combs' household shortly after 8:00 a.m. after several Scouts sent their parents home to retrieve forgotten lunches. We were finally on our way to the Keys! After getting on the highway, we put our theme song "On the Keys" into the cassette player and sang along. We continued to listen to cassettes until the cassette player shot a tape back out at us. We arrived at the Kentucky/Tennessee border at 12:34 p.m. and enjoyed a Kodak moment at the state border sign. We ate lunch at the Tennessee Welcome Center in an area we later realized was the pet walking area. Mike called Robins Air Force Base and made arrangements for our Sunday box lunches. We resumed our travels, stopping once for gas and free popcorn. The long day's driving forced the Scout's into a creative frenzy. They made a "Hey babe(s) you look awesome!" sign and displayed it for every passing car to view. Many different and interesting reactions were received including one van that wrote back. Finally, after nearly twelve hours of travel, we arrived at 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 several other troops were staying in the Boy Scout hut, we stayed in the Girl Scout hut, complete with refrigerator, stove, air conditioning, and roaches. A dinner of spaghetti, garlic bread, homemade cookies, and Kool-Aid was quickly prepared and gobbled down. We went to the gym for showers, returned to the hut for a short game of tennis ball keep away, and then turned in for the night.
Sunday, August 2 - Day Two
Our skulls were split open at 6:50 a.m. by the sound of our Scoutmaster's alarm clock. We gathered up our belongings, packed the van, and headed for the dining hall. We ate a hearty breakfast with the bill totaling $9.40. After picking up our box lunches and some free ice for our cooler, we resumed our travels. We drove nonstop to the Florida Welcome Center, stopping for a picture and some free orange juice. Back on the road again our Scouts began playing Star Wars, a role playing game. As we entered downtown Jacksonville, we encountered a heavy rain. As soon as we left the downtown area, the rain stopped. Why? Why ask why? We stopped at a roadside park and devoured the two sandwiches, apple, crackers, cookies, and pop that Robins had provided for us. Refueled and refreshed we resumed our ride. We drove through St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, and saw many historic buildings. We made a quick stop at a lighthouse and then took a group picture by the city's sign. We drove Route A1A, which snakes along the Florida coastline, and took in some very beautiful scenery. We stopped at Daytona Beach and took in some even more incredible sights. The Scouts went swimming, but had to leave after 20 minutes due to an approaching lightning storm. From here we headed to Camp Hedrick, our night's lodging. A passing motorist yelled at us that we had left the back door to the van open. Oooopppsss! We stopped the van and Dave closed the door stating that everything seemed to be in place. We spent the next three hours driving through pouring rain and some very wicked lightning. We were not looking forward to setting up tents in this kind of weather. Upon arriving at Camp Hedrick, John conned the Camp master into letting us sleep in the lodge for one night. We drove back to the lodge, but wound up taking an unplanned wild country safari. After 20 minutes of
vehicular bushwhacking, we finally met the Camp master who took us to the lodge. She unlocked the door for us and we unloaded the entire contents of the van. Mike, Dave, and Rob prepared a delicious dinner of hamburgers, cheese curls, cookies, and Kool-Aid in the air-conditioned comforts of the bug free lodge. The meal consumed, the dishes done, and the bodies washed, we played some indoor tennis using our hands as tennis rackets. Keith led a Star Wars adventure that never quite got off the ground due to some heckling. We finally crawled into bed at 11:00 p.m.
Monday, August 3 - Day Three
We awoke at 7:30 a.m. after a wonderful night's sleep in our cool, insectless quarters. Oh, if we could only spend the next two nights in this wonderful lodge! Matt and Chris whipped up a breakfast of sausage and eggs while everyone else took showers. The water in the building had a high content of iron which turned the toilet, sink, and shower stall a murky orange color and left you feeling a little less than clean. However, it was better than not taking a shower. During breakfast, John took an orange juice bath courtesy of Jeremy. We left at 9:00 a.m. after cleanup and several tennis games were finished. We traveled to Kennedy Space Center crossing several scenic bridges on the way. We bought tickets for a bus tour and then did some sightseeing until boarding time. The bus tour took us to see the launch pad, vehicle assembly building, training and command center, and a Saturn V rocket (where we experienced problems with our bus). We visited the gift shop and returned to the van. After five minutes of traveling, Mike realized he had left his camera and postcards on the top of the van. We retraced our steps, but the items were never found. We stopped in Cocoa Beach and ate lunch in a public beach parking lot. After finishing lunch the Scouts changed into their swimsuits and headed for the beach. Scouts divided their time between playing in the ocean waves and checking out the latest in female swim wear. After an hour the beach was closed due to lightning (again). We took advantage of the moment and went to Ron Jon's Surf Shop to check out this unique store. As we left Ron Jon's, we noticed the storm had changed directions. We returned to the beach and spent another hour soaking up those rays and playing in the ocean's breakers. We headed back to camp and ate a late dinner of BBQ sandwiches, potato chips, and cookies. John handed out $10.00 for tomorrow's lunch and dinner at DisneyWorld. Scouts played tennis and Star Wars until lights out at 10:30 p.m. Yes, another night in the lodge!
Tuesday, August 4 - Day Four
We awoke at 6:30 a.m. so we could get an early start at DisneyWorld. We showered and ate a quick breakfast of sweet rolls, cereal, and apples. Dressed in our civies, we drove to DisneyWorld for a day of pure fun and excitement. Matt, Chris, and Rob chose to spend the day at the Magic Kingdom while everyone else went to MGM. The attractions at MGM were truly spectacular! The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular provided awesome action, spectacular stunts, and earsplitting explosions. Jim Henson's Muppets in 3D was an incredible 3D movie complete with real water from above. The Little Mermaid Show provided live action and a laser light show. The Backstage Tour provided a behind the scenes look at what scenery and props are used to make a movie. During the tour, we entered Catastrophe Canyon, where the audience viewed fire, flood, and earthquake disasters up close. The Great Movie ride provided a tour through some of the greatest moments in film making history. At 3:30 p.m., a one hour downpour sent the crowds scurrying for cover. Dave and John enjoyed the rain from the air-conditioned comfort of the Artist's Animation Tour. The day ended with Mike, Jeremy, Keith, Dave, and John getting together to see the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular in the dark and catch the eight minutes of spectacular fireworks. We then fought the crowds for a few last minute purchases and then returned to the van. Matt, Chris, and Rob returned just before 11:00 p.m. and we headed back to camp. On the way back, the guys traded stories with each other about their day at DisneyWorld. We crawled into camp at 12:20 a.m. and returned to the lodge. Since we left early in the morning and returned late at night, the Camp master was unable to discuss our leaving the lodge. All three nights in cool, bug free comfort!
Wednesday, August 5 - Day Five
Our dependable Scoutmaster forgot to wind his alarm clock so we got to sleep until 7:30 a.m. Some of the Scouts took showers while Dave, Matt, and Chris whipped up a magnificent breakfast of pancakes and bacon. We hurriedly packed our gear and loaded it into the van. We left Camp Hedrick at 9:15 a.m. and began to feed our lonely cassette player a variety of classical, rock, and new age tapes. We drove straight to Miami, only stopping once to refuel. Matt, who was anxious to see Miami, wound up sleeping the whole way through it. At 3:30 p.m., we arrived at the town of Homestead and quickly found a laundry mat. Mike prepared a lunch of hot dogs and cheese curls in the parking lot while Dave and John fed quarters into the washing machines. Next, we headed to Homestead Air Force Base, checked in at the visitor's center, and proceeded to the Scout hut. As we entered the Scout hut we were hit by an overwhelming wave of hot, stale air. The two window air conditioners were immediately put into action and we unloaded our belongings for the night. At 5:20 p.m. we headed for the Bolivar dinning hall for dinner. The main entrees were fish and veal, but our Scoutmaster, who was first in line, took the last portion of veal. Our total bill came to $10.85, thus meeting our Scoutmaster's challenge to break $10.00. We returned to our now cool Scout hut, put on our swimsuits, and headed to Homestead Bay Front Resort for a quick dip. Some of the guys went swimming while others tried to get coconuts out of the surrounding palm trees. Rob was the only Scout to successfully climb the tree and retrieve a coconut. He broke it open on the ground and several brave soles ventured a taste. Several young kids appeared and Rob and Chris entertained them until we left. We returned to Homestead and went straight to the showers at the gym. The adults used the officer's showers while the Scouts used the enlisted men's showers, complete with sauna. After showering, we stopped and watched a volleyball game. Returning to the Scout hut, we found the building was very cool and comfortable. However, the room temperature did not reflect the Scouts attitudes. The guys were beginning to get a little tense with each other. Some Scouts played tennis while others read books or listened to music. Lights out came none to soon at 10:30 p.m.
Thursday, August 6 - Day Six
Eating breakfast at an air force base has one big disadvantage: serving times are always early in the morning. Homestead serves from 5:00-7:00 a.m. so we had to get up at 6:00 a.m., hurriedly get dressed and dash to the dinning hall The breakfast menu included omelets, French toast, sausage, bacon, grits, fried potatoes, toast, cereal, and fresh fruit. We finally broke the $10.00 mark for breakfast with our total squeaking past at $10.30. With our eyes bulging, we returned to our Scout hut and put away our belongings (in case someone used the building during the day). We then traveled the short distance to Everglades National Park. Arriving at the park entrance sign, we got out of the van for a picture and were immediately consumed by mosquitoes. As soon as the last shutter clicked, we stampeded to the van as if our lives depended upon it (and they very well might have!). Upon arriving at the visitor's center, John heard air leaking from our left front tire. John changed the flat while the others checked out the visitor's center and covered themselves with bug repellent. We then drove through the park, stopping to take a trail or two. The first trail was relatively bug free and provided views of fish, turtles, and birds. The second trail was a suicide march into mosquito territory with blood sucking insects that eagerly devoured our bug repellent. The next trail was again relatively bug free and provided us with an excellent view of a baby alligator. We then drove to the campground (who would ever camp in a place like this?) and the Scouts retrieved themselves a coconut. As we left the campground it began to rain thus making it the fifth day in a row that it had rained. We made a lakeside stop and saw two alligator heads sticking out of the water. Although it was lunch time, better judgment got the best of us and we decided not to dine in the park. We happily exited the park and stopped at a BP gas station to get our tire repaired. We fixed lunch in the parking lot while the mechanic removed a horseshoe nail from our tire. We finished lunch just as our tire was finished. Our "brush with death" in mosquito valley taught us nothing as we drove to Chekika Park for some fresh water swimming in alligator infested waters. Scouts swam, threw Frisbee, and played in a water fountain. Darkening skies and lightning forced us to leave the park and return to Homestead. After a quick stop at the Scout hut, we went to the Bolivar Center and enjoyed a pleasant dinner of turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, Jell-O, and ice cream. Our bill was a respectable $12.85! Returning to the Scout hut, the guys did various things to entertain themselves until our 10:30 p.m. curfew.
Friday, August 7 - Day Seven
Again our alarm woke us up at 6:00 a.m. We went to breakfast, but were unable to break the $10.00 mark! In defeat, we returned to the hut, packed up our gear and loaded the van. We made a quick stop at the gym for showers and then headed for the Florida Sea Base. The drive was a quick one hour trip which put us at the base four hours early. After a group picture at the sign, we decided to drive further down into the keys. We drove through many of the keys, taking in the beauty of the blue waters and the uniqueness of the small towns. After crossing Seven Mile Bridge, we turned around and headed back towards the sea base. We made a stop at a small beach to eat lunch and take a quick swim. After drying off and dressing into our Scout uniforms, we drove to the sea base, arriving there at 1:45 p.m. Steve, our sea base mate, greeted us and took us to the administration building to check in. Dave and John checked in with Eric Schmidt, the business manager, while Steve kept the Scouts occupied. Then Steve took us on a tour of the sea base including a walk past our yacht, the Madame Backade. We checked into our air conditioned quarters and changed into our swimsuits, Next, we went down to the beach to take our swimmers test. This was a very important moment for those who flunk the swim test must wear a life jacket aboard the boat at all times. We all passed the 100 yard swim despite the disgusting taste of the super salty water! We then proceeded to the equipment room where we were issued our snorkeling equipment. Steve took us to the boat docks where we were given brief instruction in the art of snorkeling. After picking snorkeling buddies, we jumped into the water and began to explore as well as check out our equipment. The water was pretty murky, but we still saw some fish and several Christmas trees. At the end of the 30 minute session, we returned to our cool quarters to change clothes and kill some time. At 6:30 p.m. we left in full uniform to get our group picture taken aboard our ship. We met our captain, Don Dillard, who gave us a quick tour of the boat. This magnificent craft is 41 feet long and had a full galley, several bedrooms, head, and separate quarters for the captain. The clanging of the dinner bell ended our tour and sent us scurrying toward the chow line. We enjoyed a dinner of spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad under the shade of the quarter deck. Following dinner, Dave and John went to a leader's meeting with the assistant camp director. He took all the adult leaders out on his boat and had a very informal meeting at sea with a magnificent sunset taking place in the background. At the same time, Mike Hennie, our crew chief, was at a meeting where he learned his responsibilities and got trip information. As the adults returned from their meeting, the yacht captains were discussing the options of going to Key West or Key Largo. At 9:00 p.m. we watched a slide show on the various creatures we would meet in the ocean. Then we went to a nondenominational church service with our troop being the only one in attendance. After services were over, we got our gear ready for the boat, anticipating an early departure in the morning. Lights out, normally at 11:00 p.m., was delayed due to one of the troops returning late from having to return a rental car. After much grumbling, complaining, and yelling from the other troops, the lights were turned off at 11:20 p.m.
Saturday, August 8 - Day Eight
Our silly Scoutmaster woke us up at 6:30 a.m. in hopes of having our boat be the first to set sail. At the speed of a photon, we gathered up our equipment and headed for the boat. We loaded our gear on board plus four blocks and ten bags of ice. We then puttered around the boat until the flag raising ceremony at 7:50 a.m. Next, we ate a hot breakfast of pancakes, sausage, and fresh fruit. It was following breakfast that we discovered our boat drew the last slot to be provisioned! All our hurrying around for nothing! At 9:00 a.m. we were finally issued our provisions. Matt, head of provisions, loaded our food down below, trying very hard to remember where he put everything. We finally cast off our ropes at 10:00 a.m. Steve, our mate, was on the dock to bid us farewell. We motored out of the bay, under the large metal bridge, and into the ocean. Rob took the helm while Mike tried his hand at salt water fishing. A slight breeze was present so Captain Don had the Scouts hoist the sails. At 11:07 a.m. the yacht was under sail power for the first time. We celebrated with a lunch of PB&J sandwiches and granola bars. Rob, still at the helm, had his work cut out for him. This was the seventh day of lobster season and buoys from lobster traps were everywhere. We had to ensure the yacht stayed at least ten feet away from the buoys so the ropes attached to the buoys would not get caught in the ship's propeller. As the wind caused the yacht to rock and roll, several in the group began to get queasy stomachs. At 1:30 p.m. we made our first dive at Sombrero. The sights here were incredible. The water was an average of sixteen feet deep and crystal clear all the way to the white sandy bottom. 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. We also saw brain coral, fan coral, and an abandoned lobster trap. Motion sickness and the taste of salt water set in and Jeremy, John, and Chris became charter members in the puke club. Several others in the group were looking pretty pale also. The listless crew retrieved the anchor and continued the voyage. The fatigue from snorkeling and the queasiness from sailing persuaded everyone to take naps. At 5:45 p.m. our captain pulled into the bay of Bahia Honda State Park to anchor for the night. Matt and Captain Don fixed a dinner of stew, bread, and applesauce. After the dishes were washed, most of the Scouts swam to the beach at the park. When the Scouts returned, Don moved the boat to a better anchoring spot. Later in the evening, the Scouts did some night snorkeling around our yacht with flashlights. Mike became our first casualty of the trip with a case of stinging lice. Several of the Scouts dove on a lobster trap and found several future dinner entrees inside. As the day drew to a close, we got our beds ready below deck. Due to the possibility of sudden storms, the Scouts would maintain an all night anchor watch. Rob and Mike would take the 10:00-12:00 midnight shift, Matt and Chris the 12:00-2:00 a.m. slot, Keith and Jeremy the 2:00-4:00 a.m. slot, and Rob and Mike returning for the 4:00-6:00 a.m. shift. John got up during each shift to ensure the watch team kept their eyes open. However, despite all our efforts, we could not keep Rob awake during his appointed times. A final entry in the log for today: we completed our first day without rain since the beginning of our trip.
Sunday, August 9 - Day Nine
Most of the Scouts were still asleep as we retrieved our anchor and headed for Looe Key, the finest snorkeling waters in the United States. We left the harbor at 8:10 a.m. amid some light showers thus ending our one day drought. We ate a cold breakfast of Poptarts and cereal. A large waterspout appeared on the other side of the keys and we watched until it returned to the clouds. A large sea turtle appeared, but dove underwater before anyone could get a picture of him. We arrived at Looe Key and excitedly put on our snorkeling gear. The crystal clear water varied in depth from 2 to 20 feet and provided ideal picture taking conditions for our underwater cameras. Four eyed butterfly fish, sergeant majors, French angelfish, queen angelfish, tiger grouper, midnight parrot fish, yellowtail snapper, and barracuda were everywhere. The hills and valleys of coral were dressed in reds, yellows, and tans and were dotted with brain coral and coral sea fans. After an hour of outstanding snorkeling, we reluctantly returned to the ship. Don talked with the guys about what they felt the itinerary should be for the next day or two. The Scouts decided to head for Wisteria Island off of Key West and fix lunch as we go. Bologna sandwiches, pears, and corn chips were served up in short order. After cleaning up lunch, the Scouts went down below and took long naps. Dave took the helm for the first time and continued on our course to Key West. We saw another waterspout and watched until it too disappeared into the clouds. As we approached Key West, the boat traffic began to pick up. We saw shrimp boats, cargo ships, sailboats, and parasailing. Our Captain suggested we put the covers on our sails and store all our belongings down below so as to not appear like a Haitian refugee boat. We took a quick tour of Key West's ocean side which was full of hotels, boat docks, and naval bases. We saw the drug traffic surveillance balloons and the Navy's hydroplane boats used to catch drug runners. We stopped at the fuel dock and filled our tanks. Next, we motored to Wisteria Island to anchor for the night. It wasn't easy finding a good anchorage since there were over 70 boats on the calm waters side of the island. Our first anchorage spot was good, but a man on a green boat said we were too close to him. Don heeded the man's advice, informing us that this man and his wife lived year round on that boat. We moved another 200 feet away which was still close enough to a wreck of a shrimp boat that we wanted to snorkel. Several of the Scouts snorkeled the shrimp boat wreck and got a close up view of both the man and the woman on the green boat changing out of their swimsuits. Rob did a little fishing and was able to catch several small fish using bologna as bait. Several of the guys took baths, washing with liquid soap and rinsing with fresh water from the boat. Keith and Mike cooked an incredible dinner of hamburgers, peaches, and corn which we devoured with lightning speed. After dinner, Rob resumed his fishing and almost caught a shark using a live fish as bait. The other four sea base boats anchored around us with the Jennie Rose anchoring a bit too close for Captain Don's comfort. As evening set in, the sky began to darken. Large dark clouds moved in and rain began to fall in torrents. As the intensity of the rain increased, lightning began to strike all around us. The deafening roar of the nearly continuous lightning sent a chill of fear through all aboard. Our Captain advised us to not touch anything metal since indeed our two steel masts would make perfect lightning rods. An old white boat several hundred yards away from us was struck by lightning and caught fire. Fortunately, the heavy rains soon extinguished the flames. Unfortunately, our radio was not working so we had no way to check to see if anyone was aboard the white boat. The lightning and rain continued on for almost half an hour and then faded off into the distance. Soon everything calmed down and the water became incredibly still. As the wind changed directions, our boat swung around, heading straight for the Jennie Rose. Don and Dave were able to push it away before the two collided. Don later said he regretted not putting our garbage bags on board the Jennie Rose. At 10:00 p.m. the Scouts began their anchor watch, this time keeping a close eye out for storms or boat collisions.
Monday, August 10 - Day Ten
At 7:00 a.m. our crew started crawling out of bed. Rob and Matt cooked a nice breakfast of sausage, scrambled eggs, and muffins. Jeremy and Rob fished a little, trying to recreate yesterday's "shark attacking the live fish" scene. After the dishes were washed, we pulled up anchor and traveled past the white boat which was struck by lightning. Its radio antenna was frayed and its plastic windshield was melted and burnt. Fortunately, it looked like no one was aboard. We then motored to the Galleon Marina, arriving there shortly after 9:00 a.m. Finding our radio now working, we called the marina, and were assigned a dock slip of D-31. Our captain skillfully pulled the boat into the slip and the guys put out the fenders and tied the boat up. The Scouts began cleaning the boat inside and out while the adults checked in at the marina. After the boat was thoroughly cleaned, we went to the Galleon Hotel and made good use of their shower facilities. Next, we headed into Key West for a much needed diversion. Our first stop was the Mel Fisher Treasure Museum. We viewed a 20 minute film on Mel Fisher's discovery of the Atosha, the richest sunken treasure ship ever discovered. The museum was full of various items recovered from sunken ships such as swords, cannons, pottery, $9,000.00 silver bars, jewelry, and coins. Our next stop was the Key West Aquarium where we got close up views of sharks, sting rays, saw fish, moray eels, and other assorted saltwater fish. The Scoutmaster then turned the Scouts loose on Key West to do a little site seeing. Later in the afternoon, the guys returned to the boat, donned swimsuits and headed for the hotel's swimming pool. While we were taking it easy, our dedicated, hard working captain worked on various repair jobs including fixing our ship's radio. At dinner time, Dave, Mike, and Chris prepared a nice meal of BBQ chicken (cooked over charcoal), green beans, macaroni and cheese, and fruit cocktail. As we ate dinner on our yacht, we watched boat and bikini traffic around the marina. One boat in particular caught our eye. It was a multimillion dollar boat complete with a full time captain and mate. After the dishes were washed, the Scouts took off for Key West to enjoy an evening of freshwater swimming, site seeing, and a "celebrate the setting of the sun" festival. All Scouts returned by the 10:00 p.m. curfew. Tonight's sleep would be in an air conditioned cabin and no anchor watch was required. Saint Dave went to the laundry to wash all of our salt infested clothes and towels while we drifted off to sleep.
Tuesday, August 11 - Day Eleven
We awoke at 7:00 a.m., cooked French toast, and began preparing our ship for departure. John filled the boat's fresh water tanks while the guys stowed their gear. At 9:00 a.m. we cast off the dock and returned to the service station dock to pick up 150 pounds of ice. Leaving the marina, we headed out to sea, passing a large cruise ship anchored off Key West. Our Scoutmaster discovered that standing up behind the cockpit eased his motion sickness. He would remain there for over five hours. After traveling over an hour, we arrived at our next diving spot, West Sambo. The snorkeling here was pretty good, and John saw a four foot shark. Rob insisted on staying close to the boat after that. Leaving West Sambo, we put up our sails for the best sailing of the trip. The Scouts cheered as the boat pitched almost continually which sent sea water breaking over our bow. The good sailing winds brought an incredible storm with it. Heavy winds pelted us with warm stinging rain. Fortunately, no lightning accompanied this storm. John continued to stand up on the boat and braved the weather. As the storm subsided, we ate ham sandwiches, pretzels, and granola bars, all sprayed with sea water mist. As the rains dwindled away, we were engulfed in a second storm which lasted for over 30 minutes. As luck would have it, the rains ceased just before we arrived at Looe Key. We took down our sails and tied up at the first available mooring buoy. Everyone went sea exploring except Rob and John who were too busy exploring the insides of their eyelids. This dive treated the guys to some new sights such as sting ray, jellyfish, and shark. After 40 minutes of saltwater fun, we pulled up anchor and headed to Newfound Harbor, our night's anchorage. As we entered the harbor, our captain pointed out Little Palm Island, the site where the movie PT109 was filmed. Soon we were anchored in the bay and preparations were made for dinner. Don cooked steaks over charcoal for us while the guys cooked peas, potatoes, and pudding. The meal was great except for the fact Mike had fixed far too many potatoes. The Scouts entertained themselves by feeding an airborne seagull who refused to eat anything except steak scraps. With the dishes washed, the Scouts gathered below deck to talk. Were they planning a mutiny? Jeremy and Rob again tried their luck at fishing. Rob got spooked when a big fish came out of the water and refused to fish further. Everyone (except the first anchor watch crew) was asleep by 10:00 p.m.
Wednesday, August 12 - Day Twelve
John rose early at 6:45 a.m. and relieved the anchor watch team. This would be our sleep late morning. Mike and Don were the first ones up at 8:10 a.m., and everyone else was up by 8:30 a.m. We ate a cold breakfast and watched a drug enforcement balloon as we headed out of Newfound Harbor. We returned to Looe Key to dive on it one more time. The snorkeling was pretty good and we noticed there was a high concentration of smiling barracuda. As we left Looe Key, Matt Barnes took the wheel and guided our boat to Sombrero. The other Scouts slept most of the two hour trip pausing only once to eat lunch. As we approached Sombrero, the Palaemon advised us that this was the best diving waters he had seen all summer long with visibility up to 50 feet. It took us several minutes to find an available mooring buoy. Everyone went snorkeling except Rob and Chris. The snorkeling was indeed unsurpassed! The water was crystal clear and extremely calm. Multicolored fish were everywhere as were barracuda and jellyfish. The coral shone in the sun and some of us even discovered a beautiful coral archway. Without a doubt, this was our best dive yet! All good things must come to an end and now it was time to begin the four hour sail to Long Key Bight, our night's anchorage. Yes, the Scouts slept the entire way. Mike fell asleep on the deck and received an outstanding sunburn, thus earning him the title of Lobster Man. John took the wheel for the final two hours of the trip, but let Don motor the boat to the final anchorage location. We anchored at 7:23 p.m. with the Quest (another sea base boat) by our side. Mike and Rob fixed dinner while Jeremy and Matt did some fishing. After dinner, Don held a solemn ceremony and presented us with our sea base patch and snorkeling BSA card. He also informed us that we were the best crew he had had all summer. We thanked him for being such an outstanding captain as well as being a lot of fun. Everyone decided to sleep on deck for our last night on the boat. However, everyone (except John) eventually returned below deck.
Thursday, August 13 - Day Thirteen
John woke at 6:00 a.m. to a very beautiful sunrise. Mike got up and dutifully made coffee for the captain. We ate a cold breakfast and prepared to get underway. However, the Quest, who wished to travel with us, was not ready. Finally, at 7:53 a.m. they were ready and we headed for Indian Key. Again the Scouts slept as we traveled. We arrived at Indian Key and the Scouts swam ashore while the wimps of the Quest rode in on their dingy. Touring the island, they learned that it was the first capital of Dade County and was later overrun by Indians. Returning to the boat, we motored to the wreck of the San Pedro, one of the Spanish fleet sailing from Havana in 1733 accompanying the Atosha. While snorkeling the San Pedro, the Scouts saw cannons, ballast stones, and a plate telling about the wreck. Don showed us some information he had on the Atosha and the other ships in the Spanish fleet. It said that on July 13, 1733 three armed galleons and 18 merchant ships laden with tanned hides, rare spices, jewels, silver and gold set sail from Havana for Spain. A fierce storm wrecked the ships along an 80 mile stretch of the keys. Only one ship was able to return to Havana to report the disaster. Some of the ships were found and salvaged while others would remain undiscovered for over 200 years. At 11:11 a.m., we set sail for the sea base. The Quest also raised her sails and the race was on. The Quest continually positioned herself between us and the wind thus reducing our sailing power. In an effort to win the race, Don took a shortcut through shallow waters at the sea base's entrance channel. Just before reaching the channel we heard a thud as our ship ran aground. A humbling moment indeed! Dave swam out from the ship to check the depth of the water ahead while the Quest stood by to offer help if needed. Using the wind-filled sails and having everyone lean on the starboard side of the ship, we were able to get off the sand bar. Dave got back aboard and we motored into the channel. The engine now was running hot and Don discovered that sea grass had clogged his engine strainer, a result from running aground. When we got to the middle of the channel we dropped anchor and Don cleaned out the sea grass. We continued on our way, but at a slow speed since our engine continued to run hot. We finally pulled into the sea base dock. Don's family was waiting for him on the dock, ready to take a four day cruise with him. We quickly began to clean the boat from top to bottom. Jeremy and Matt got in the water and washed the hull of the boat, Rob cleaned the head, Chris cleaned up below deck and Mike and Keith scrubbed the deck of the boat. We returned our snorkeling equipment and then headed to our sleeping quarters. We took a much needed shower. Boy did that ever feel good! At 5:30 p.m. we met under the quarter deck and filled out an evaluation sheet on our coral reef sailing program. John met with Eric and got our $100.00 damage deposit back. After filling out the evaluation forms, the guys had some free time to play volleyball or visit the gift shop. At 6:30 p.m. we met under the quarter deck for our Hawaiian Luau. The first activity was to play Izzy Dizzy. Scouts ran across a field, put one end of a baseball bat on the ground and then put their forehead on the other end and ran around the bat three times. They then staggered, swayed, and fell down as they tried to race across the field to tag a team mate. Next, the Scouts were given the opportunity to try the Limbo bar. Matt did the best from our troop and was one of the last in the competition. We feasted on an incredible dinner of dolphin, crab cakes, rice with shrimp sauce, corn, pudding, watermelon, and grapes. We then had free time until the evening program. The 8:30 p.m. evening program was hosted by the sea base chaplain, a caustic jokester with a fiendish smile. He gave out awards for the best limbo dancer, biggest edible fish and biggest non edible fish caught by coral reef sailors. He then had each troop perform a skit and threatened to hose down anybody who did a poor job. "Cool and Creamy" was without a doubt the best skit of the evening. Our troop did a "slide show" of magic moments on our coral reef sailing trip, complete with real waves dousing the audience. We had lots of free time until lights out at 11:00 p.m. The most significant event of the evening is that Rick is accepting a job transfer to Atlanta.
Friday, August 14 - Day Fourteen
John woke everyone at 6:10 a.m. so we could get an early start on the long day of traveling. We gathered up our belongings trying not to wake the other troops around us. While the Scouts loaded their gear John discovered the van's battery was totally dead. Dave recruited an adult from another troop (which was also leaving early) to give us a jump start. The fellow was very reluctant of using his small Toyota to jump our old van, but Dave kept him talking long enough for us to get a good charge. We left the van running while we ate a cold breakfast. We finally left the sea base at 7:10 a.m. Our cassette tape player died after playing several minutes of a Led Zeppelin tape. Did the tape player die from sitting in the heat or playing Led Zeppelin? We will never know. We drove for four hours before stopping in Fort Pierce to refuel the van and our bodies. By 12:00 noon we were on the road again. The drive amused us with traffic jams, rain, and getting lost. The Scouts spent time sleeping, reading a newspaper, playing games, listening to their tape players or just plain relaxing. We arrived with empty stomachs at Robins Air Force Base at 8:05 p.m. Dave saved us from cooking dinner by treating us to the buffet at Ryan's. Thanks Dave! We returned to the Robins roach motel at 9:30 p.m. and unloaded our gear. Our Scoutmaster talked with us about the sea base trip and let us know that we were one of the best crews he has ever had. We became good friends with our sleeping bags by 10:45 p.m.
Saturday, August 15 - Day Fifteen
The alarm accidentally went off at 6:00 a.m. Our Scoutmaster let us sleep another 30 minutes before getting us up to load the van one last time. We ate breakfast in the cafeteria, our last Air Force base meal, and were just barely able to break the $10.00 mark. We picked up our box lunches and free ice and began the last leg of our journey. Shortly after crossing the Georgia/Tennessee line over van began to sputter. We were running out of gas! Fortunately, we found a gasoline station before finishing up the last drop of fuel. The problem stems from the gas gauge not registering properly and also the gas pump clicks off before the tank is completely full. Onward we traveled, stopping only to eat lunch or take restroom breaks. We hit the Kentucky-Ohio border at 6:14 p.m. amid a chorus of cheers. Finally, after fifteen days, 42 meals, 5 states, and 3,063.1 miles of driving, we arrived in Englewood. We gassed up the van and took it to John's home to be washed and vacuumed. The Scouts were picked up by parents whose responses ranged from "We're so glad to see you!" to "So you're back, huh?" However, our Scoutmaster would like to report that "there's no place like home!"
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