Wednesday, July 2
We left the Combs' household at 8:18 a.m. in the troop╠s 12 passenger van. Our last view of our parents were of them laughing, singing and dancing. Scouts listened to music, read their scuba books and took naps. We approached Lexington, Kentucky with some apprehension since we heard there could be up to a two hour delay due to blasting/highway construction. Fortunately, we breezed right on through! We drove nonstop to the Kentucky/Tennessee border where we enjoyed a Kodak moment at the state sign. We then drove sixty seconds to the Tennessee welcome center for a lunch stop. It was 95 degrees so we were back to the van in record time. We resumed our travels, stopping for gas and restrooms. The Cafe Erotica signs along the highway had several of the scouts begging for their Scoutmaster to stop. We made a fast food stop for dinner (Burger King or McDonald╠s) and continued our travels. Finally, after 12 hours of travel, we arrived at the Econo Lodge. Last sea base trip we stayed at Warner-Robbins Air Force Base in tents. Since this turned out to be an all night sweat box, we decided to really rough it this trip. Our Econo Lodge ¤tentsË had air conditioning, microwave ovens, refrigerators, televisions with HBO and showers. After pitching our ¤tentsË and unloading our gear, we headed to the pool to cool off. After passing their 200 yard swim test, the crew practiced diving feats and water wrestling. When the pool closed at 9:30 p.m., we returned to our rooms for a short trip meeting. We went to bed at 10:30 p.m. in cool comfortable air conditioning.
Thursday, July 3
Our hotel wake up call came at a brain shattering 7:00 a.m. The silly Scouts stayed up until 5:30 a.m. watching TV and horsing around. We showered, dressed in full uniform, packed our gear and iced down the coolers. We went to the check-in desk and ate a continental breakfast of donuts and orange juice. It was nice not having to do dishes! Eric politely held the door open for two elderly ladies. A Scout is courteous! We continued our travels and sailed right through the construction zone at 70 mph! The Georgia Highway Patrol were out in great numbers. We saw nine in just two and a half hours. We stopped at a Speedway and got gas. John received a booklet that would get the troop three dollars in free gas if they made four more refueling stops at Speedway. Needless to say, we would be watching for Speedway stations from here on out! At 11:00 a.m. we stopped at the Florida visitor center. Every boat we saw in the parking lot belonged to Eric (or so he said). After another hour╠s drive, we stopped at a rest stop for a lunch of cold cuts, chips and pop. The scenery was really beginning to change with Spanish moss hanging from trees and an over abundance of pine trees. Refueled and refreshed we resumed our ride. John stopped to take our picture at the 325 mileage sign. 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 with Marsha paying the fee for all the Scouts to scramble the stairs to the top. We then drove to Daytona Beach, arriving at 4:30 p.m. We drove the troop van a short distance down the beach and then let the guys out to unwind. Time was spent ocean wave riding, sand throwing fights, sand castle building and checking out female swim wear. The beach was a swarm of activity: ATVs, sailboats, parasailers, sunbathers and birds were everywhere. Waders were pleasantly surprised to have little fish nibbling at their toes. The guys spotted a girl wearing white shorts and white tee shirt swimming in the ocean. Upon their closer inspection, they discovered she was not wearing any underwear. The ever playful Marcia asked the Scouts if they would like her to go over and get the girl to wave to them. Thinking she wouldn╠t do it, the Scouts double dog dared her. Boldly she walked over to the girl and explained there was a group of Boy Scouts who would like her to wave to them. By this time all the Scouts had ran and hid behind in the van, except for John who stood there with an amused look on his face. At 6:00 p.m. the crew got in the van and headed down the beach with the sliding van door open for better viewing. John got his revenge when he stopped the van in front of the girl in the white outfit. She waved to the guys. The guys, now protected by steel and glass, waved back meekly. With an amused chuckled, John left the beach and began the drive to St. Cloud. Worn out from the day╠s adventures and with the road noise droning in their ears, the Scouts quickly dozed off to sleep. Marsha entertained John by trying to toss the cap to a plastic pop bottle into sleeping Jake╠s open mouth. After two hours of driving from Daytona Beach, we arrived at St. Clouds United Methodist Church╠s Family Life Center. What a beautiful facility! The janitor (who just happened to be there) gave us a quick tour. It had a carpeted half court basketball gym, fully equipped kitchen with ice machine, restrooms with showers, and air conditioning! We unloaded the van and began fixing dinner. Soon Ryan and Jake were serving up hamburgers, potato sticks, cookies, and Kool-Aid. Man, did the air conditioning feel good! Cleaning up greasy skillets was much easier with sinks and hot running water. The guys played basketball, read scuba books or took showers. Eric found a large quantity of dead cockroaches (Oh, I mean Palmetto bugs) which he collected on an upside down Frisbee. With that the group moved their sleeping bags up onto tables. Some discussion ensued over whether Allen Riancho (who was finishing up a family vacation) would join up with us at the youth center or at DisneyWorld. One Scout was very sure Allen would be meeting us at DisneyWorld so we decided to go there first thing in the morning. Lights out was 11:00 p.m. and everyone quickly passed out.
Friday, July 4
We enjoyed a wonderful night╠s sleep in our cool quarters. Our quiet slumber was broken at 7:00 a.m. with John yelling, ¤You are what is standing between me and DisneyWorld!Ë We quickly arose and gobbled down a breakfast of cereal and orange juice. Dressed in our civvies, we headed to DisneyWorld for a day of fun and excitement. John stopped at a pay phone and called Kenny Riancho to tell him we would be meeting him at DisneyWorld. Unfortunately, he had to leave a message on his answering machine (routed via cell phone). John took a wrong exit into DisneyWorld and we did not arrive there until 8:50 a.m. Once we arrived at the entrance to MGM, we made a vigilant search for Allen. Unfortunately we did not find him so John bought our tickets and turned us loose. Eric met his father Ted (who lives in Florida) and stepmother Pam at the gate. He had not seen his father in many years! Allen and his parents showed up at 9:50 a.m. As it turned out, we were supposed to have met them at the youth center. John bought Allen a ticket and told him to try to find the group. If he didn╠t find them then he was to return to the van where John would be waiting. Allen╠s parents left, but then returned, deciding to see if Allen found the other Scouts. He didn╠t so Alice, Kenny, Allen, Allen╠s cousin and John went to MGM as a group. After taking in a few of the attractions, the two groups finally bumped into each other and all was well. 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 Backstage Tour provided a behind the scenes look at the scenery and props used to make a movie. During the tour, we entered Catastrophe Canyon, where the audience sat in the middle of fire, flood and earthquake. The Great Movie ride, a kinder, gentler attraction, provided a tour through some of the greatest moments in film making history. Star Tours was a virtual reality trip through space. And then there was the Hollywood Tower Hotel, an elevator free fall of over ten stories, twice! It was definitely the most popular ride in the park with some Scouts riding it five times. A large thunderstorm resulted in an hour of lost fun time, but the guys more than made up for it when they bumped into a group of girls from Brazil. Fireworks closed the park at 10:00 p.m. and we regrouped at the van. We were on the road by 10:38 p.m. and the guys traded stories with each other about their day at DisneyWorld. Unfortunately, construction caused numerous traffic jams and it took us two hours to return! To add to the dismal ride, the Scouts were not permitted to talk due to saying some very unScoutlike things. Back at our gym, the guys took showers, played basketball or piano or just fooled around. Lights out was at 1:15 a.m. and we immediately became good friends with our bed rolls.
Saturday, July 5
Who is bouncing a basketball six inches from my head at 8:00 a.m. in the morning?!? Why it is my Scoutmaster, of course! After this rude awakening, Eric and Allen began fixing a breakfast of pancakes, sausage and orange juice. We finished our meal, cleaned dishes, packed gear, loaded the van, and cleaned the Family Life Center. We left at 10:09 a.m. with Matt thanking the janitor for our stay. We headed for Cocoa Beach, taking a wrong turn on a toll expressway. Since the next exit was 51 miles and the grassy median looked very soft, we backed the van up on the shoulder for almost a mile. After almost two hours of driving we arrived at Cocoa Beach and made our traditional stop at Ron Jon╠s Surf Shop. We left our van in their parking lot and walked to the beach. The 100+ degree weather caused us to return to the air conditioned van after only half an hour. We drove for about an hour and stopped at a roadside park for a lunch of lunch meat sandwiches, potato chips and pop. Eric stayed in the van saying he was too tired to get out and eat. We continued driving and finally arrived at Homestead Air Reserve Base at 5:50 p.m. Each pair of Scouts got a room with cable TV, air conditioning, microwave oven and telephone for $7.00 each. One interesting twist was each pair of rooms shared a common bathroom. This would later become amusing when Marcia╠s bathroom door would be left locked indefinitely by the other room╠s occupants. Unloading the van was a brutal task! As soon as we emerged from the vehicle, ten gazillion mosquitoes descended on our unprotected bodies. Fearing that we might be sucked dry of blood, we chose to cook our hamburgers in the microwave instead of the outdoor grill. After dinner, the guys did laundry, studied scuba books and watched TV. John passed out on his bed and wasn╠t seen from again until morning.
Sunday, July 6
John and Marcia permitted us to sleep late since we were less than an hour and a half from the sea base and check in time was after 2:00 p.m. One of the rooms did not crawl out of bed until 10:30 a.m.! We showered, dressed in full uniform and ate breakfast. John checked us out at the front desk and we hit the road. Within minutes we entered the Florida Keys. Swamp, scrub trees, and neon colored tourist towns were everywhere. After one hour and twenty three minutes of driving we were at the sea base. We were greeted by a staff member who we enlisted to take a group picture at the sea base sign. John and Marcia checked us in while the guys were given a tour of the base. Laurie Easton, our staff mate, told us to stow our gear in the dormitory and change to our swimsuits for our swim test. Our third floor dormitory (used by scuba crews only) was both brand new and beautiful! A lounge area with table, padded chairs and book shelf greet you at the door. Hand painted murals are everywhere. Our crew╠s room had brand new wooden bunk beds each with its own reading light, night stands with drawers, clothes closet, ceiling fan and air conditioning! Adults and Scouts had separate bathrooms. Each bathroom had tiled floors, three sinks with a large mirror behind them, two toilets, urinals, and three private fiberglass shower stalls. Without a doubt, this is the best Scouting accommodations we have experienced in our 22 year history! Marcia, being of the female persuasion, had to stay in the second floor women╠s dormitory. After changing into our suits, we headed down to the boat dock to take our 100 yard swim test. The buoyant water easily kept us afloat and we passed the test without difficulty. Next, we were issued our scuba gear which we took to the scuba tank area for storage. We then visited the ship╠s store and bought our troop trip tee shirts. Unfortunately, an unanimous decision could not be reached so some of us selected the tie dye shirt while others selected the shirt displaying the scuba diving symbol. Marcia and John met with John Haley, the scuba director to check over all medical forms and take care of some necessary paper work. John Haley was both professional and friendly, making for a very pleasant check-in. After the flag ceremony, we chowed down to a dinner of barbecue chicken, rice, salad, green beans, fresh fruit and chocolate cake under the quarterdeck. It was neat eating a tasty meal while watching the gentle sway of the palm trees in the breeze. Welcome to paradise! At 8:00 p.m. we met to finish filling out scuba certification paperwork. Laurie asked John and Marcia to sign as the Scout╠s legal guardians on the certification forms. They both balked saying they could not legally do so. Laurie had Ron (a higher authority scuba type guy) talk to us about doing this. He could not explain why these forms had not been sent home to parents prior to the trip (as all other forms had), but gruffly stated others crews had signed these forms in the past without question. (Editor╠s note - Remember Mommy telling you not to do something just because someone else does?) He then informed them if they did not sign as legal guardians then the crew would not be permitted to scuba dive. John and Marcia signed the forms with John vowing to check this out with National B.S.A. The crew then went to a slide show on ocean sea life while John made a call home. John talked to Jerry Amos, our Committee Chairperson, and asked him to call National B.S.A. in the morning and relay our dilemma. After the show, the guys had about 30 minutes of free time until curfew. They spent it getting acquainted with every female crew member in camp. Not one Scout returned to the room by the Scoutmaster╠s 10:00 p.m. curfew time. After everyone finally checked in, John gave them a strong discipline talk to encourage better behavior. The crew went meekly to bed at 11:20 p.m.
Monday, July 7
Our Scoutmaster, a human alarm clock, woke us at 7:00 a.m. We dressed in our troop tee shirt and Scout shorts and headed to the boat dock for crew pictures. After a fine Kodak moment, we went to flag raising. Our crew was lucky enough to be chosen for color guard duty and performed the flag raising without a hitch. Breakfast was sausage, biscuits, gravy and cereal. At 9:00 a.m. it was time to head for our scuba class. The classroom itself was a screened room below the dormitories containing several tables with white plastic chairs, a large floor stand fan, an instructors desk and marker board and a TV/VCR. Murty, our scuba instructor, talked to us for several minutes explaining what the certification process entailed. He also stated we would be fined a can of pop for the following offenses: being late to class, placing your scuba mask on top of your head (universal distress signal) or leaving your diving tank standing up. He told us he hoped we had read and studies the entire scuba book before we arrived since the class would proceed at an incredible rate of speed. Next, he gave us a quiz to see how well we knew our scuba material. One member of our group failed and had to take a second quiz. Next, we watched a scuba instructional video for about an hour. It was difficult staying awake in the Florida heat, listening to the video over the drone of the large fan. We were rewarded for our wide-eyed efforts with a lunch of charcoal grilled hamburgers (on the base╠s brand new grill), corn chips and chocolate pudding. Sea base food is definitely several cuts above our summer camp style chow! Allen and Matt used some left over breakfast sausage to fish off the dock. We reluctantly returned to class at 1:30 p.m. Murty began teaching us about scuba equipment and diving procedures. We took a quiz over the second module and everyone passed the first time. This was followed by more lecture and more video with Murty even falling asleep during the viewing. We took a quiz over the third module with one member of our group failing. Fortunately, he passed the retake exam. We quickly moved on to the fourth module and covered dive tables. Dive tables are used to prevent you from diving too much. Excess diving causes too much nitrogen in the body which leads to decompression sickness (¤the bendsË), a very serious condition. The tables were hard to understand at first, but soon almost everyone had the hang of them. At the end of class, Murty asked John and Marcia to stay behind. He informed them that he suspected two of the Scouts were cheating. He said if the Scouts cheated again tomorrow, he would have to confront them. Flag lowering was followed by a dinner of veal parmesan, green beans, garlic bread and cobbler. With several hours of free time on their hands, the guys fished, visited the ship╠s store and played with glow sticks. John called Jerry and asked what National B.S.A. had said about the advisors signing as legal guardians. The National B.S.A. safety director told Jerry that the signatures where not valid since John nor Marcia were the legal guardians. Thus, the signatures would not stand up in a court of law. What a relief! John returned to the crew╠s quarters and reminded the Scouts to study their scuba books. Lights out was at 11:00 p.m. and the guys went quickly to sleep.
Tuesday, July 8
John woke the Scouts at 7:15 a.m. for the flag raising ceremony. Allen complained both his ear and throat hurt. John said he may need to make a trip to the doctor. After flag ceremony, the guys feasted on breakfast burritos, cereal, fresh fruit and milk. John and Ryan bumped into Captain Joe, their boat captain from their 1995 coral reef sailing trip. Captain Joe said he saw our troop╠s coral reef sailing journal posted on the sea base╠s Internet site. He teased John about the way he was portrayed in the journal. Moments later Joe was dining at the Captains table. Ryan approached him and said he saw Joe with a young boy the day before. He inquired if that was his grandson. Now Captain Joe is not really old enough to have a grandson, but the other captains at the table got a hysterical hoot out of the remark. Poor Captain Joe! Our crew returned to the classroom and resumed their instruction. We practiced tons of dive tables in preparation for the quiz. Fortunately, everyone passed the quiz. Unfortunately, Murty accused two Scouts of cheating on the quiz. They both denied it. Murty was uncertain on how to proceed so he had the group break for lunch while he talked to a higher authority. Lunch was grilled cheese sandwiches, onion rings, fresh fruit, salad and punch. After lunch, Murty took the whole incident before the John Haley, the scuba director. John Haley spoke with the suspected Scouts (hereafter referred to as the ¤SSË) and decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. They would be allowed to pursue their certification, but would have to start back at the beginning. Laurie would perform the classroom skills while John Haley would cover the actual diving skills. Most of the day was shot due to the incident. We ate a dinner of pork chops, mashed potatoes, rolls, applesauce and salad. After dinner, the scuba staff made the necessary arrangements to proceed with two certification classes, one for the suspected cheaters (SS) and one for the other guys (hereafter referred to as the ¤OGsË). The ¤suspectsË called their parents and informed them of all the details of the incident. Lights out gratefully came at 11:00 p.m.
Thursday, July 9
We dragged our tired bodies out of bed at 7:15 a.m. and headed for flag ceremony. Several of our crew arrived late! A breakfast of bagels, cherry strudel, cinnamon sticky buns, English muffins, cereal and oranges were consumed in short order. We then took our 200 yard swim test with John even putting in a few extra laps. Marcia and Laurie took Allen to the doctor for his ear infection while some of the others went to the dive tank for scuba instruction. Here we learned how to assemble and put on our scuba gear. We first demonstrated some scuba skills in the four feet pool such as using your fins to move around, buoyancy control and breathing through your regulator. What an incredible experience to be able to breathe under water! The fun ended all too soon when it came time to break for lunch. Appropriately, we ate fish sandwiches! We all gulped down salad, Cole slaw and muffins. After lunch, Marcia ran to get Allen╠s prescription. The SS continued studying with Laurie while the OGs moved to the ten foot deep circular diving tank. Here the OGs learned many scuba techniques while sitting on the bottom of the pool. These included how to recover a lost regulator (device used to deliver low pressure air to your mouth), clearing a flooded mask, switching from snorkel to regulator, fin pivoting (adding small amounts of air to your jacket (BCD) until you slowly pivot upward on your fin tips as you inhale and slowly pivot downward as you exhale), floating in mid water, emergency ascents, taking equipment off and putting it back on, sharing your regulator with a buddy (buddy breathing), swimming for several minutes without a mask and breathing with a free flow regulator. While in the tank, Eric experienced dizziness and pain above his eye. Murty brought him out of the pool and had him lie down on a picnic table. Fortunately, an experienced physician from another troop was close by and provided assistance. After a short examination, he determined Eric had a sinus squeeze, a pressure imbalance/buildup condition. He told Eric not to enter the pool any more that day and to see a doctor for medication. The SS continued work on their modules while the rest of the OGs continued their scuba skills. The OGs had so much fun in fact that they voluntarily continued their training through dinner and late into the evening. We continued to practice old skills and also learned how to put on our full scuba suit in the middle of the water. They finally quit at 8:15 p.m. and ate leftover pizza and salad. The OGs killed time in their room while the SS studied for their final exam in the morning. Lights out was at 11:00 p.m. and everyone quickly dozed off and dreamed of adventure.
Friday, July 10
Crew Chief Ryan got everyone up at 7:00 a.m. He had got us up 15 minutes earlier so some of us would not be late for flag ceremony again. We were hoping for a bland breakfast since this would be our first day of ocean diving. Although French toast sticks, waffles, sausage links and cereal isn╠t the blandest stuff around, we figured it could have been a lot worse. The OGs gathered up their diving equipment and headed for the dock while the SS were sweating over their final exam. Travis Golding, a bald headed scuba instructor with a comedian╠s wit came along to assist Murty with our dive. We loaded our gear aboard the Dusky, a 25 footer with a Bimini top, 225hp Evinrude engine and seating for 12. Marshal, our boat captain, fired up the engine and headed for Alligator Reef while Travis sang ¤Kung Fu FightingË. What a ride! At times the front of the boat came completely out of the water and slammed back down again. We loved it! After anchoring at the reef, it was finally time to scuba dive in the ocean. To enter the ocean from the Dusky, each Scout first put on his weight belt and then proceeded to the back of the boat. Here they sat down on the back corner and put on his mask and fins. Finally, they did a seated entry into the ocean and the dive master threw them their BCD/tank/regulator unit into the water. At this point, they used one of the many techniques to get this equipment on their back. Once we were all suited up in the water, the time came to descend. Unfortunately, Eric had a sinus squeeze within a minute of descending and had to spend the rest of the time in the boat. For the next half hour we practiced our scuba skills with Murty and Travis while Marshal stayed with the boat. We practiced mask clearing, fin pivot, lost regulator, buddy breathing and ascent techniques. With one successful dive under our belts and a smile on our faces, we headed back to base. Just another day in paradise. Upon arrival, we learned the SS had passed their exam and were practicing scuba skills in the diving tanks with Laurie and John Haley. We all got together at lunch and ate burritos, salad and apple crisp. Marcia took Eric to the doctor╠s office for a prescription for his sinus squeeze. As if things weren╠t bad enough already, Allen got a tooth squeeze while diving (air pocket under a tooth which causes pain) and was forced to quit the certification process. The OGs headed back to Alligator Reef and spent another 45 minutes in the ocean performing scuba skills. On the return trip to base, Matt and Jake were looking a little sea sick. John suggested they take Bonine since their symptoms indicated motion sickness. Once back at base, we rinsed and stored our gear and took showers. Boy, did that ever feel good! Dinner was surprise patties (not even the cooks could tell us what they were made of), mashed potatoes, carrots, salad and cobbler. Murty told us he would not be diving with us tomorrow since he had to attend to some personal business. With a little free time on their hands, the Scouts had the opportunity to crack open a few coconuts they found on the ground, shop in the ship╠s store, explore the base or just plain relax. As an extra treat, an incredibly beautiful sunset brought the day to an end. At 11:00 p.m. the crew was in bed and asleep.
Saturday, July 11
Ryan, our ever efficient crew chief, woke us up at 7:15 a.m. Jake got out of bed with a pretty good cold. With the flags raised, the breakfast (eggs, hash browns and cereal) eaten and the gear rounded up, we all headed to the boat dock for the day╠s dive. By this time, the SS and OGs would be on the same boat together, but would be doing different skills in the ocean. John Haley was the boat dude with Travis and Laurie working as diving instructors. Matt and Jake traveled much better on the boat with the help of Bonine. We stopped at Long╠s Key pile, an artificial reef created by concrete rubble dumped from the old cement highway bridge. Everyone hit the water and proceeded to perform their scuba tricks. The current was a little strong and visibility was fair at best. Eric (who was responding well to medication) saw an old soda can on the floor of the ocean and motioned to Travis to get it for him. Once Eric had it in his hands he yanked the pull tab off and returned the can to a very puzzled Travis. Eric would later give the pull tab to John╠s son John Michael (age 5) who saves them for the Ronald McDonald house program. (Side note - John Michael was pretty excited to get a pull tab from the bottom of the ocean!) At the end of the instruction, we toured each of the rubble piles watching closely for marine wildlife. We saw lots of fish and a lobster or two. During the whole session, a snorkeling Marcia and Allen observed from above. All to soon, it was time to get back into the boat. However, Laurie had a different idea when she spotted a school of dolphins about 100 yards from the boat. By swimming fast, she was able to get within 30 feet of them and hear them ¤talkË to each other. ¤It was really rad!Ë she exclaimed. Just another day in paradise. On the way back, John started a tradition of putting his towel over his head with a print of a sun covering his face and singing ¤Mr. Golden SunË. This man must be stopped! When we arrived back at base, safety conscious John Haley informed us, ¤This is a bank robbery. Everyone hold still and no one will get hurt.Ë This indeed was wise advice since earlier in the week we saw a staff member jump off the boat before it came to a stop, missed the dock and fell into the water. She might have been hurt if not for the sharp and quick reactions of the boat captain. Lunch was miniature pizzas, salad and cookies. Everyone traded their empty tanks for full ones and then took a nap back at the room. At 2:30 p.m. we returned to the boat dock all the while wiping the sleep from our eyes. The sun and activity were definitely taking its toll. We loaded the boat and headed out for the B.S.A.╠s special diving spot. Again we hit the water and quickly performed our diving skills while Marcia and Allen snorkeled from above. We had a little extra air left in our tanks so our instructors took us on a long tour. It was here at the B.S.A╠s special location that they were creating an artificial reef. Back at the base troops made large concrete bowls from molds, brought them to this location and grouped them in various spots on the ocean floor to create a habitat for fish. Indeed, lots of fish were gathered around these bowls. In one of the bowls we saw a large grouper and in several others we discovered some cautious lobsters. At one point, Travis picked up a dead lobster and shook it in Eric╠s unsuspecting face. Eric got even by discovering a shark╠s tooth, something Travis had constantly been trying to find since arriving at the sea base. Visibility was again fair at best, but the dive was great none the less. While heading back to base Jake had a nose bleed, but got it to stop fairly quick. After that he laid down and dozed off to sleep. The guys remarked that he could sleep just about anywhere. Matt traveled back much easier so the Bonine has really done the trick. Upon arriving, John Haley instructed us to unload the boat by saying, ¤Okay folks, this is a blue light special, everything must go!Ë We unloaded the boat, washed our gear and our bodies and headed for supper. Ham, green beans, salad, rolls and mini apple pies were consumed in short order. We filled out our diving logs for the day and had them signed. Eric, Matt and Allen went fishing using turkey bologna and caught six grunts. John stopped by the sea base╠s new concession stand. Diane, Captain Joe╠s girl friend, was doing her best to draw business into the ¤Snack ShackË. The shack itself was constructed out of a former diving equipment storage trailer and sells pizza, hot dogs, sno cones and such. Diane really seems to enjoy talking to the Scouts and listening to their ¤tales of adventureË. She talked about reading our previous trip╠s journal which was posted on the sea base╠s Internet site. Captain Joe stopped by and said he had to make an emergency run to get an underwater cable loose from a coral reef. John offered to go and get on-the-job night dive training, but was refused! The rest of the evening was spent putting more money into the ship╠s store, playing volleyball and finishing laundry. Worn beyond a frazzle, the guys turned in at an early 10:23 p.m.
Thursday, July 12
Ryan again woke the crew at 7:15 a.m. We went to flag raising and then ate a breakfast of pancakes, sausage, fresh fruit and cereal. During the meal, Ryan went over to the captain╠s table to talk with Captain Joe. As fate would have it, Captain Joe broke off part of his tooth while eating cereal. With the ¤grandson incidentË and now this geriatric calamity, Captain Joe became known as Grandpa Joe, much to the delight of the other captains! I guess Ryan indirectly got Captain Joe back for throwing ice water in his crotch during our previous trip. Revenge is a dish served best when cold! We loaded our gear on the boat and headed again for Alligator Reef. The fast rushing wind claimed Jake╠s hat and John Haley broke with standard operating procedure and went back for him to retrieve it. The scuba group again hit the water while Marcia and Allen snorkeled on the surface above. Visibility was pretty good and marine life abound. We saw reef squid, lobster, sergeant majors, midnight parrotfish, file fish, blue parrotfish, barracuda, jellyfish and French angelfish. The reefs were full of sea anemone and pipe coral. We even saw a brain coral that was taller than we were. The most fascinating moment came when we ended a mammoth school of fish. We swam in and out of what seemed like curtains of fish. They all stayed the same distance from one another with heads down while we swam through them. It was absolutely mesmerizing! While snorkeling, Allen returned to the wrong boat. This must have been quite a surprise for him. The group achieved a maximum depth of approximately 30 feet and spent almost 40 minutes underwater. We returned to the boat, stowed our gear and joined John in a verse of ¤Mr. Golden SunË. We returned to base and swapped tanks for our afternoon dive. Lunch was chicken strips, tatter tots, fresh fruit and cobbler. With our bellies full, we returned to our air conditioned room and took a nice little nap. Ahhh, just another day in paradise! At 2:00 p.m. we loaded our gear on the boat and headed for Davis Reef. On the way out, we had some trouble with the boat trim and had to stop and make some adjustments. We arrived at the dive site, hooked to the ball and hit the water. It indeed was the best dive yet. The reef was full of ocean life: blue parrotfish, moray, lobster, trumpet fish (which swims backward) and a large brain coral. We also encountered several other scuba divers. Travis impressed us by floating motionless upside down, looking under the reef and letting the current carry him along. He only rose and fell ever so slightly with the rhythm of his breathing. As we returned to the boat, a large thunderstorm was looming in the distance. The wind was really picking up and flashes of lightning in the distance produced worried looks on our faces. The cloud cover turned the ocean an eerie fluorescent green color which was broken by numerous whitecaps. Rain began to fall (the first we had seen while at sea base) and the temperature turned slightly chilly. To add even further excitement, the boat motor began to sputter again. Waves started breaking over the side of the boat and into the faces of John and Marcia. High adventure! Again the boat motor failed and several members of the group started singing the theme song to ¤Gilligan╠s IslandË. John Haley quickly got the motor running again and began to try to out race the storm. The wind continued to pick up causing the waves to grow larger and then magically the storm... began to dissipate. What a relief! We continued to motor through sprinkling rain until we arrived at sea base. We unloaded our gear for the final time, rinsed it and put it away. We had a few moments of free time so we showered the ocean salt from our bodies one final time. How sad! At 6:15 p.m. we returned our scuba gear to the storage area above the quarterdeck and headed to our Luau dinner. We ate a fish/rice/sauce kinda thing, corn and Key lime pie! Next, we met with Travis and had our pictures taken for our scuba certification cards. John and Marcia met with John Haley for final check out while Laurie had the guys fill out some paperwork. At 8:00 p.m. we went to the diving tank area for our final program. Each of the scuba crews performed a skit. Our motley crew did the ¤Cool and Creamy skitË finishing it off by spraying whipped cream on top of Laurie╠s blonde hair and Travis╠ bald head! The program ended with a scuba fin being passed from person to person. While the person had the fin, he had permission to speak. All the participants used the opportunity to praise the staff and the staff in turn praised the crew╠s efforts. In closing, we were presented with our sea base patches. These colorful patches cannot be purchased, but may only be earned by participating in a sea base program. A high value item indeed! Travis and Laurie then requested our crew return to the classroom to complete some module paperwork that Murty neglected to have us do. Afterwards, we presented Laurie and Travis with our official Troop 325 tee shirts. With our final block of free time, we took showers, pursued girls, made phone calls or did laundry. Eric, Allen and Matt cleaned out the van and ice coolers to prepare for our trip home. Since the fenced in parking compound would not be unlocked until at least 7:00 a.m. the next morning, John moved the van to the lot beside the main building. The entire crew cleaned our room and bathrooms and settled down at 11:30 p.m.
Friday, July 13
John woke the Scouts at 6:20 a.m. We carried our gear to the van and headed for breakfast. After a quick breakfast of cold cereal, fresh fruit, toaster pastries and Combos (a special gift from Laurie), we bid our goodbyes to the base and got into the van. We left at 7:08 a.m. and the occupants in the troop van were pleased to find the air conditioning was working (unlike last sea base trip). John stopped to get a cloud picture and again a few minutes later so Marcia could get money from an ATM. The Scouts slept until our lunch stop at 12:21 p.m. We ate PB&J, potato chips, cookies, M&M granola bars and pop. Several Scouts were spooked by the discovery of a spider with hugh mandibles. They just don╠t make Scouts like they used to! The driving was clear of construction and the traffic was light. Eventually, boredom drove the guys to wave to people in other cars and try to get them to wave back. After growing tired of this, they began writing notes to people. One car in particular had a mom and a beautiful teenage daughter in it. The daughter had a beautiful Sheltie puppy on her lap. The guys wrote a note asking for her phone number. The mother provided paper and the phone number was promptly displayed on their window. All the guys copied it down, noted the Georgia county on the car╠s license plate and begged John to stay with the car. Unfortunately, a DQ was in sight and the troop van exited the interstate. Marcia bought sandwiches, fries and drinks for everyone. Thanks Marcia! Refueled and refreshed we continued on to the Econo Lodge. John held a big trip meeting in his room where everyone discussed all the details of the trip. The guys then swam and watched TV until 11:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 14
Marcia woke everyone up at 6:15 a.m. We packed our gear, loaded the van and ate our free continental breakfast in the hotel lobby. John got free Hercules toys for his kids as part of our stay at the Econo Lodge. We left the lodge by 6:57 a.m. and hit the highway with our sights set on home. We had a major backup on the Atlanta bypass, but pretty much sailed through until hitting Kentucky. We ate PB&J at a roadside park and sped on home. Sleeping was the main event, but all eyes were wide open when we crossed the Ohio River into Cincinnati. The traffic here was slow, but the excitement level was high. We finally arrived at John╠s home at 5:34 p.m. John went for pizza while everyone else washed and vacuumed the van. Parent╠s promptly picked their sons up, listening intently to their exciting tales of adventure. The Scoutmaster, after ingesting seven tranquilizers, putting his feet up and listening to several hours of soft music declared, ¤There╠s no place like home!Ë
Written by Scoutmaster John Combs.
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