1999 Florida Sea Base - SCUBA

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The following is a journal of the adventure filled days we spent on our trip.  The individuals attending were Brian Alexander, Ken and Ryan Bonenberger, John Combs, Jeff Gardner, John and Mike McFall, Derek, Tom and Vicki Sasman, Ryan Shick, Andrew Smith and Jeff Vent.  This journal was written by John Combs with some sections written by Ken Bonenberger and Ryan Shick.
 

Saturday, August 7

We met at the Combs house around 8:00 a.m., took a few group pictures and told our families good-bye.  We were on the road by 8:22 a.m. Our last view of our parents were of them laughing, singing and dancing.  The traveling went smoothly and we made one brief rest stop.  At 12:25 p.m. we enjoyed a Kodak moment at the Tennessee state sign and then entered the nearby rest stop.  It was very hot (99 degrees) and humid which made eating our lunches a somewhat unpleasant experience.  We then continued our journey.  The traffic was very light and the miles went by quickly.  Ryan B. had brought a Battleship game and several Scouts joined in.  We stopped at the Georgia state line for a picture with Ryan S. climbing to the top of the sign. We finally arrived at the EconoLodge at 7:16 p.m. and the SasmanĖs arrived five minutes later.  We had four rooms each of which had an adult in it.  John had all the Scouts head for the hotel swimming pool and do their swim test of 200 yards and a ten minute float.  Jeff G., Andrew and Mike cooked dinner in a grassy area behind the hotel.  When it was discovered that most people had not brought eating utensils and plates, John McFall made a trip to a convenience store and bought some.  We feasted on beef stew, applesauce and chocolate cake.  Tom and Vicki Sasman decided to dine on their own and thus missed the culinary delight.  When the meal was finished, the Scouts cleaned the dishes and reloaded the van.  Soon thereafter Brian announced he had lost his room key.  John told him there might be a lost key fee and he should search for it again.  Fortunately, he found it.  John held a short crew meeting and then everyone spent the rest of the evening  watching TV and enjoying the A/C.  Quiet time was 10:30 p.m., but most of the Scouts stayed up until 1:00 a.m. watching the tube.
 

Sunday, August 8

Our hotel wake up call came at a brain shattering 7:00 a.m. We showered, dressed in full uniform, packed our gear and iced down the coolers. We feasted on a continental breakfast of donuts and orange juice in the EconoLodge lobby.  It was nice not having to do dishes!  Refreshed and refueled, we resumed our travels.  We stopped at the Florida state line for a few photographs.  This was followed by a brief stop at the Florida VisitorĖs Center for some free orange juice.  Not long after entering the Sunshine state, we encountered rain showers.  During the drive, quartermaster Jeff Gardner remembered he had left the cheese, mayonnaise and jelly at home so we stopped at a Wynn Dixie and bought these lunch items.  Next, we stopped at a roadside rest area and ate our lunch.  It was then that we discovered most of our bread was moldy. We picked out the best looking pieces, but vowed to buy more bread in the near future.  With lunch complete, we headed for St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States.  We drove through the city, viewed the historic buildings and made a stop at the lighthouse.  The Scouts wanted to go up inside to the top, but it was closed due to a lightning threat.  As we started to get back into our vehicles, the park staff announced the lighthouse was now open (sounds like a marketing tactic).  The fee for the museum and lighthouse was $5.00 and they refused give a price break to our Scout troop.  Therefore, our crew voted to go on to Daytona Beach.  We stopped for a Kodak moment at the St. Augustine city sign and then resumed our travels.  About an hour later we arrived at Daytona Beach.  After paying the fee at an entrance gate, we drove our vehicles onto the beach.  What a unique adventure! The beach was a swarm of activity: ATVs, sailboats, parasailers, sunbathers and birds were everywhere.  We found an empty spot for our three vehicles to park.  The Scouts changed to swimsuits and headed for the ocean.  They enjoyed body surfing the waves, playing in the sand and checking out female swim wear.  The Scouts buried Ryan B. and Andrew in the sand.  All too quickly, it was time to leave.  The troop van got stuck in the sand and had to be pushed out.  At 5:45 p.m. we were on the road again and almost immediately drove into a rainstorm.  To complicate matters, we took the wrong turn on the Florida Turnpike and had to do some extensive backtracking.  We finally got to the turnpike entrance. John pulled into the ÏExact Change OnlyÓ lane and paid the toll for the troop van.  Next up was John McFall with his van.  Unfortunately, he did not have the exact change and frantically searched his vehicle for coins.  Eventually, Tom Sasman got out of his car, went up to the McFall van and paid the toll for him.  After another couple of hours of driving, we arrived at the St. Cloud United Methodist ChurchĖs Youth facility. The building had a carpeted half court basketball gym, a huge kitchen complete with industrial dish washer and ice machine, restrooms with showers, and air conditioning!  At this point, the SasmanĖs bailed out and headed for a motel.  Ryan B. and Mike set to work on dinner while the others unloaded the vans.  We ate a dinner of spaghetti, garlic bread, peaches and chocolate cake.  Jeff G. had a bad headache and eventually passed out on the floor for the rest of the evening.  The rest of the crew played games, talked or just enjoyed the A/C and the showers.  AndrewĖs brother stopped by for a visit and gave some advice on what to see and do at Universal Studios.  Since the Scouts had behaved well during the day, John let them stay up until 11:30 p.m.  After the lights were turned off, there was a minimum of horseplay with Derek pushing Brian off of the table he was sleeping on.
 

Monday, August 9

We awoke at 7:00 a.m. with our Scoutmaster dribbling a basketball next to our heads, saying ÏYou are whatĖs standing between me and Universal StudiosÓ.  We ate a breakfast of cereal, poptarts and orange juice.  The SasmanĖs returned from their hotel at 8:00 a.m. and we left shortly thereafter. We drove to Universal Studios and parked in a large parking garage on the King Kong level, row 10.  We took the motorized walkways to the entrance to the parks.  John M. and John C. went to Universal Studios while the others went to Islands of Adventure.  The following is an account of each groupĖs adventures.

Universal Studios
John M. and John C. started the day by entering the Twister sound stage.  It recreated the drive-in scene from the movie complete with lightning, flying cows and explosions.  The awning they were standing under waved violently in the wind and the stage dropped several feet.  Next, they went to the Jaws set and took a boat out into the ocean.  Jaws made several attempts to capsize their boat, but the guide was able to kill it with a grenade launcher.  Next, John C. about lost his breakfast on the ÏBack to the FutureÓ ride.  Although the car never moved from its spot, the visuals took them on a wild ride through time.  They finished the morning by surviving an earthquake based on the movie Earthquake.  For lunch, they visited the largest Hard Rock Cafe in the world and ate some truly outstanding sandwiches.  Next, they visited the Alfred Hitchcock sound stage where they saw a 3-D presentation on several Hitchcock films including ÏThe BirdsÓ.  Many of the birds flew right into our faces and tried to peck our eyes out.  They made a trip to the Terminator 3-D set which combined real actors with 3-D.  They finally spent some time chillinĖ and talking before heading back to the van at 10:00 p.m.

Islands of Adventure
Islands of Adventure is a new theme park adjacent to Universal Studios.  We rode the Incredible Hulk roller coaster as soon as we arrived, and then to finish stirring up breakfast rode the Tower, which shoots you straight into the air 200 feet and lets you bounce up and down a few times.  Those poptarts tasted great the second time.  Then it was on to Jurassic Park.  We rode boats through Jurassic Park where you could see ÏliveÓ dinosaurs just like in the movie.  After a close call with Velociraptors and a T-Rex, the boat went down a waterfall and to safety.  We ate pizza for lunch in The Lost Continent and immediately got on the Dueling Dragons roller coaster.  So far no casualties.  The Escape from Atlantis and Dr. Seuss ride was OK, then we rode The Dudley DoRight Falls and got a little wet, unless you sat in the back like Derek and Ryan, and got a whole lot wet.  So why not go to the whitewater rapids ride and get really, really wet?  Some of us got back in line and rode the rapids a second time, and then just stayed on for a third time around.  We ate hamburgers at WimpyĖs and set out for Spiderman, probably the best feature in the park.  It was a 3D ride through the streets of the Big Apple while being attacked by 3D villains.  We were electrocuted, shot at,  had to duck flying bricks, and fell from a 30 story building before being saved in SpidermanĖs web.  Two more rides on the Hulk, two more on Dueling Dragons, and another Spiderman adventure, and we finally  headed back to the van dizzy and exhausted from a busy day.

We were on the road by 10:16 p.m. and the crew traded stories with each other about their adventures.  Back at our gym, the guys took showers, played basketball or  piano or just fooled around.  Lights out was at  midnight and we immediately became good friends with our bed rolls.
 

Tuesday, August 10

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, Brian had the breakfast crew start cooking (who Ryan had to help every 5 minutes because they had trouble cooking bacon and pancakes). During this, the other scouts were packing up their gear and cleaning up as best as they could without a sweeper or any other conventional cleaning tools. Before long, breakfast had come and gone with a minimum of fuss and final packing of troop gear had begun. After everything was packed and everyone (including Jeff Vent) had relieved themselves, we left and took the check and key back to the church office and began to head to Cocoa Beach. While leaving the parking lot, the McFall and Sasman vehicles decided to give John a heart attack and start the million man Chinese fire drill. YESSS!!!! -- we have arrived; at the beach and Ron JonĖs. After a brief and disappointing foray into the famous Ron Jon surf shop, our boys decided to head out to the beach. Once there, they all rushed out into the water heedless of all the extremely hot chicks swarming all over the beach. Those of us with a more mature mentality (can you tell Ryan S. wrote this section?) decided to hang back and take photo ops of the best there was to offer. After spending a while in the water all of the boys decided to build a ÏdripÓ sand castle and spent one to two hours just having fun. Ryan, sent on a holy mission by John, tried to get a photo with a babe; after two separate rejections, Ryan finally got two girls (ironically from Zainesville, Ohio) to take a group picture with the boys. After the excitement of the picture, Jeff G. set lunch on the table, which the birds got to before we did. Finally, we were on our way to Homestead AFB.  Once on the road though, John was beginning to get slightly peeved about all of the tolls on the ÏexpresswayÓ. O.K. after about a zillion tolls,  $18.50 lighter and one U-turn later, we arrive at Homestead Air Reserve Base. Ryan was a little surprised when John McFall brought out a note for him to call his parents; it was a good thing he did though because we found out that his father found his PADI card and sent it down to the sea-base thereby eliminating a small hassle. Each pair of Scouts got a room with cable TV, air conditioning, microwave oven, coffee maker and telephone for $7.00 each.  One interesting twist was each pair of rooms shared a common bathroom.  Thus the day ended with a meal of dogs and beans with a side order of clean clothes and lots of rest. On a side note, Ryan, while cleaning his and JohnĖs clothes, did a Scout-like thing and folded a complete strangers clothes and surprised the people who they belonged to with his act of kindness (especially since he looks a little disreputable because of his shaved head, stubbly chin, pierced ear, and tattoo).
 

Wednesday, August 11

John permitted everyone 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. We ate a cold breakfast, loaded up the van and paid our phone bills.  We took a group picture at both the Homestead sign and the F-4 by the entrance.  We began our drive and were in the Keys after 15 minutes.    The rest of the drive was full of beautiful fields, turquoise waters and quaint little towns.  We arrived at the sea base (mile marker 74) at 12:30 p.m. and took  a quick picture or two at the entrance sign.  We then went to a grocery and bought bread for our lunch sandwiches.  We ate at a roadside park and several Scouts climbed the trees there.  We then returned to the sea base.  The sea base is an 18 acre site which accommodates the scuba certification, scuba adventure, sea exploring and coral reef sailing programs.  It was established in the early 1980s and as of this year will have 6,500 Scouts and Scouters pass through.  John M. and John C. checked us in while the rest of the group sat with Chris, our divemaster.  He then had us unload our vehicles and take our belongings to our crew quarters.  Our third floor dormitory (used by scuba crews only) was almost brand new and very beautiful!  A lounge area with table, padded chairs and book shelf greet you at the door.  Hand painted murals are everywhere. Our crewĖs room had 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!  Vicki, being of the female persuasion, had to stay in the second floor womenĖs dormitory.  We changed into our swim suits and headed to the boat docks to take our swim test.  Ryan and John were the first to get into the bay.  They found that they were in the middle of three manatees.  They were able to pet them as well as swim along side of them.  Everybody passed their swim test!  Next, scuba equipment was issued.  We got our BCDs, octopus, fins, snorkel, mask and mesh bag.  Chris had us go to the diving pool while he changed into his swimsuit.  We got a weight belt and put lead weights on it.  We then donned the rest of our scuba gear and put on our tank.  Chris had us get into the scuba tank for a refresher on our scuba techniques.  We spent almost an hour in the pool making sure we could do basic skills such as partial mask fill, fin pivot, buddy breathing and BCD removal.  We then rinsed our equipment and stored it in our crew locker.   After cleaning up, we headed to the T dock and had our group picture taken.  After the flag lowering ceremony, we ate a huge meal of turkey, stuffing, peas, roll, salad and ice cream.  The weather was very nice with cooler temperatures, a warm breeze and a beautiful sunset.    Next, we spent a little free time exploring the base.  The leaders had a meeting at 7:30 p.m. which was followed by a crew meeting.  The purpose of these meetings was to inform us of the program and how sea base operates.  This was followed by a video on fine tuning your buoyancy.  We then went to the dinning hall and saw a slide show on aquatic and animal life in the Keys.  The staff furnished popcorn and a disco light provided a unique atmosphere.  The slides ended at 9:30 p.m., and the Scouts occupied themselves with various activities until lights out at 11:00 p.m.
 

Thursday, August 12

Our Scoutmaster, a human alarm clock, woke us at 7:15 a.m. The Scouts complained about how cold the A/C was during the night.  We got dressed in full uniform and went downstairs for the flag raising ceremony.  Breakfast was scrambled eggs, potatoes, roll, milk and cereal.  Next, we changed into our swimsuits in preparation of the dayĖs activities.  However, since we had finished our scuba refresher course the day before, there were no planned activities for the morning.  Jeff G., Andrew, Mike and Ryan S. played a game of volleyball.  Ryan B. went fishing and caught several fish.  Mike, Ryan B. and Ryan S. went snorkeling under the T dock.  They saw lots of jellyfish and a barracuda.  Derek, Jeff G., Brian and John C. slept in the dormitory for over two hours.  Jeff V. walked around the base and also visited the shipĖs store.  Andrew and Mike filled the troop cooler with ice.  Ryan B. found a coconut and brought it to John C. to sign it.  Tom and Vicki went shopping in Islamorada.  Vicki got a wet suit, Tom got a dive log (his other one completely full) and they also bought chocolate for the Scoutmaster.  Cool!  Finally, it was time for lunch.  We feasted on barbecue sandwiches, French fries, rolls and salad.  It was finally time to don our scuba gear and take to the ocean!  We set up our gear, loaded it onto the wagon and Ryan S. pulled it the 200 yards from the scuba area to the boat docks.  We loaded our gear onboard and prepared for departure.  Unfortunately,  a bad storm came through the area and several staff members even spotted a waterspout.  The weather report also stated that more storms would be coming through.  Under orders of the staff, we solemnly unloaded our gear and returned it to storage.  Eventually, we got word that diving was canceled for the entire day.  The Scouts were very disappointed!  To boost moral and provide entertainment, the staff showed a movie called Billy Madison starring Adam Sandler.  About half of our crew watched the movie while the rest either slept, fished or wandered aimlessly around.  During the movie, Chris our divemaster, fell out of his chair.  Lesson learned: always keep all four feet of the chair on the floor!  After the movie was over, everyone killed time until the 6:20 p.m. flag lowering.  We ate a dinner of Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, roll and pudding.  At 7:15 p.m. we watched a video on underwater navigation and practiced with our scuba compasses.  After finishing our skills, the guys fanned out in various directions.  Ryan B., Jeff G. and Brian Alexander all went fishing with squid and caught some good sized fish.  Ryan S. and Andrew sat out on the porch and talked with guys from other troops.  John had the guys pick out a crew t-shirt at the shipĖs store.  Lights out finally came at 11:00 p.m.
 

Friday, August 13

We woke up at 7:15 a.m. and the Scouts expressed blissful happiness that the room had not felt like a meat locker during the night.  We got dressed and headed out the door for the 7:50 a.m. flag raising.  Breakfast was French Toast sticks, bacon and roll.  We then eagerly headed to the scuba area.  We quickly set up our gear, grabbed two tanks (for each of our two dives) and headed for the boats.  We were on board a pontoon boat called the ÏScoutmasterÓ with another scuba crew.  With Pete and Captain Joe navigating our boat, we headed out to sea.  The ride to Alligator Reef was somewhat smooth, but storm clouds loomed ominously in the distance.  After an hour of boat travel, we arrived at Alligator Reef.  This reef got its name during the late 1800s when a ship named Alligator ran aground on the reef and broke up.  They later put a lighthouse there to help prevent other boats from incurring the same tragedy.  We anchored to the mooring buoy, put on our gear and did a giant stride off the boat and into the ocean.  The water was a warm 85 degrees and we had about 50 feet of visibility.  Upon our initial descent, Jeff V. had problems equalizing so the rest of the group sat on the bottom while our divemaster assisted.  While we were sitting on the bottom, we saw a spotted stingray.  A great start to our dive!  Once we were all together again, we followed the instructor in single file fashion along the reefĖs wall.  We saw hundreds of fish, midnight parrotfish, blue tangs, grunts, yellowtail snapper French angelfish and foureyed butterflyfish.  We also saw plant life such as tube sponge, sea anemone, sea fans, elkhorn coral and brain coral.  The dive ended all too soon and we reluctantly got back on the boat.  About this time, Brian started feeling some motion sickness.  Captain Joe gave him some crackers to chew on.  We then motored to Davis Reef and anchored to a mooring buoy.  To ensure we didnĖt have too much residual nitrogen in our system from the previous dive, Captain Joe gave us an opportunity to swim, snorkel or ride Thunderbolt, a large boat bumper.  The object of riding Thunderbolt was to sit astride of it, hold the rope on both ends, jump from the boat into the ocean and stay upright as long as possible.  Mike McFall was the first from our troop to give it a try and wound upside down in the water.  Other contestants had similar results until one skilled staff member (Jason) stayed on for 23 seconds.  Next, we ate a lunch of sandwiches, potato chips and snack cakes.  Some of the Scouts were a little reluctant to dive in since there were some jellyfish bobbing around at the surface.  However, we all got in the water with only Tom Sasman getting stung.  The current was pretty strong here and made it more of a challenge getting around.  We saw lots of multicolored coral, a five foot diameter brain coral and a sunken Buddha.  Some of the crew even saw a four foot nurse shark!  Eventually, the 45 minute dive came to an end and it was time to climb back into the boat.  Unfortunately, the waters had grown rougher and getting back in was somewhat difficult.  Once back on the boat, we headed back to base through some very choppy waters.  The bow of the boat would rise high out of the water and then slam back down with a loud thud.  This excited our crew greatly.  As we entered the bay, the waters calmed back down as did the people with queasy stomachs.  We entered the sea baseĖs boat docks with a bang as Pete struck one of the docks with the boat.  We carried our gear back to the scuba area, rinsed it off and put it away.  Most of the crowd headed for the showers to rinse the salt water off.  At 6:20 p.m. we (minus Jeff V. who chose to sleep until breakfast the next morning) went to the flag lowering.  Next, we ate a dinner of ham, baked potato, corn, roll and salad.  John M. and John C. took Ryan S. to a bank teller machine so he would have enough money to buy his lobstering license.  After some free time we headed to the classroom for a debriefing and to fill out our log books.  Vicki also did a load of laundry for us.  Some of the Scouts went fishing and almost caught sharks and barracudas.  As bedtime drew nearer, people began to drag themselves into the dorm room.  Several of the guys entertained the others by trying to recite the alphabet while burping.  However, fatigue finally got the best of them, and they all went to bed almost 30 minutes early.
 

Saturday, August 14

John let the Scouts sleep in until 7:25 a.m. (very civil of him).  Several of the early risers (i.e. Tom Sasman) were even found to still be in bed.  We went to the 7:50 a.m. flag raising and then headed to breakfast.  We ate eggs, sausage and cereal.  As we finished our breakfast, a large storm began approaching our area.  Undaunted, we loaded our gear and two sets of tanks aboard the other pontoon boat, the Tarpon.  Our boat captain headed out to sea at 9:20 a.m., but turned back after 15 minutes due to the approaching storm.  We glumly got off the boat and sat under the chickee to see what the storm would do.  Unfortunately, it continued to intensify and display a great deal of lightning so the staff canceled both dives.  This was very disappointing!  Some of us spent our newly acquired free time sleeping while others fished or goofed around.  Just before lunch, a bolt of lightning struck near the sea base and made everyone jump out of their skin!  Lunch  was chicken sandwiches, French fries and salad.  With a great deal of frustration, we watched the storm continue to rage offshore.  Chris told us our afternoon dive was canceled, but that we would go to Key West instead.  Since we were supposed to go to Key West on Monday, that day would be used for diving thus hopefully reducing the number of dives missed. We removed our gear from the Tarpon and stowed it in the diving area.  Chris told us to change into clothes that did not display the BSA logo since there were some Key West residents that did not agree with Scouting philosophies.  We boarded the air conditioned sea base van at 1:40 p.m. and started the long drive down to Key West.  At mile marker 24 we passed the future site of the Florida Sea BaseĖs scuba site.  This will be a 23 acre site with dormitory, commissary, rangerĖs house and maintenance shed.  Hopefully, ground breaking will be in September and the completion will be June of 2000.  The base will move itĖs scuba adventure program here as well as its Out Island Adventure program (which is currently at 18 acre Camp Sawyer, mile marker 24).  After an hour and 35 minutes of driving, we finally arrived at Key West.  Chris told us to meet back at the Ben and JerryĖs ice cream shop at 9:00 p.m. and to enjoy our visit.  We broke up into three groups with the Scouts going one way, the SasmanĖs going another and the adults going another.  The adult group went to Mel FisherĖs Treasure Museum, ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe (where they bumped into Chris), had Key Lime pie at Jimmy BuffetĖs Margarietteville, had beverages at Hooters (where Shick got some very interesting pictures (wink, wink)) and finished at the sunset festival where they watched street performers demonstrate magic skills, dog acts and fortune telling.  The Scouts went to a lot of stores, almost went into Hooters, ate at the Seafood Buffet, Taco Bell or Planet Hollywood and got kicked out of the toy store (due to Ryan B.).  The SasmanĖs visited Wyland Galleries and ate at Jimmy BuffetĖs.  We all met back at 9:00 p.m. and headed back to the sea base.  Again the drive was long and to make matters worse, the Scouts started picking on each other.  We finally returned to base at 11:15 p.m. under a sky full of stars.  We quickly got into knowing we had an early wake up call in the morning.
 

Sunday, August 15

We awoke at 6:05 a.m., slowly got dressed and headed to the quarterdeck for breakfast.  The continental breakfast was a big disappointment consisting only of a meager bowl of cereal and poptarts.  Upon finishing our poor-manĖs breakfast, we went to the scuba area to retrieve our gear.  Unfortunately, the gate to the scuba area was locked so the Scouts went to ChrisĖ room and woke him up from a comatose sleep.  Chris unlocked the gate and we scampered in to get our equipment ready.  The Calypso Cruises bus arrived at 7:07 a.m. and we loaded our equipment and ourselves onboard.  The drive to Ocean Divers at the Marina Del Mar in Key Largo took about 30 minutes and was filled by a nest of sleeping Scouts.  Upon arrival, we unloaded our gear and filled out a release form only to find that we had filled out the wrong one so, after figuring out what we did, we finally found the right form and completed it.  The Scouts then assisted in the unloading of empty scuba tanks and the reloading of full ones aboard our boat, the Santana.  This boat looked fairly new,  was in excellent condition  and it also quite easily held the 30 people including crew of 14.  The captain and crew were pleasant and were very laid back with its operation.  Within 30 minutes of cruising, we arrived at our first dive site, Benwood Wreck.  In 1942 (during WW II) the Benwood, a huge freighter carrying phosphor, was traveling through the Florida Straits with its lights off to avoid detection by German U-boats that patrolled the area. Unfortunately, it got slightly out of the shipping lane and was struck broadside by the Tuttle, a freighter twice its size which was also slightly out of its own shipping lane.  The Benwood sunk in 40-50 feet of water and was later blown apart to ensure it did not interfere with future boat traffic.  As soon as we dove into the water, we began to see the sizable remains of the freighter.  It was easy to identify the deck and ribbing as well as the railing and giant cleats.  Many different types of marine life used the remains of the freighter as a habitat, so there was a great deal of ocean life to see.  Some of the highlights included a three foot midnight parrotfish, a huge school of yellowtail and several moray eels.  However, the highlight of the dive was an eight foot moray eel who was over a foot in diameter.  He lay back in his hole with his jaws opening and closing, probably as a warning to the divers not to encroach into his territory.  After 45 minutes the group returned to the boat eagerly swapping stories and jumping around the boat.  Unfortunately, John and Andrew started feeling seasick.  The boat traveled to a second dive site called Grecian Rocks.  Here the divers were rewarded with coral reef clusters of immense size, beautiful purple fans, a three foot barracuda and a shark the size of ShickĖs body.  After 45-50 minutes the group returned to the boat just in time to see John feed the fish.  We then headed back to the harbor under some very beautiful blue skies.  After docking, we ate a lunch of sandwiches, Pringles, and snack cakes with Vicki buying two orders of French fries for us.  We got back on the bus and began the sleepy ride home.  We returned to base at 1:47 p.m. and set up our gear for the night dive.  We then had some free time.  Some of us slept while others fished or cavorted around.  We went to flag lowering ceremony.  Ryan B. skipped this and also dinner because he wasnĖt feeling well.  At this point, Chris pulled us aside and said Jeff V. wasnĖt feeling well and would be skipping the night dive.  Chris said a troop adult was needed to stay with him, and since Ryan S. had a migraine, he would remain behind and sacrifice himself for the others (Can you tell who wrote this section?).  We then ate a dinner of pork chops, mashed potatoes, corn and salad.  As soon as we finished dinner, we got on the boat and headed out to Alligator Reef.  We got there at 7:40 p.m. and received our dive briefing.  We then waited about 15 minutes for the sun set before we got our equipment on.  This time each Scout was issued a flashlight and had a light placed on their tank valve.  We dove into the ocean just as the sun began sinking below the horizon.  It was exciting to see the same reef in a totally new way.  Lobsters, turtles, eagle and spotted stingrays, squid and moray eels were now out and about.  Scouts focused their lights on various finds and the scene took on one of alien spaceships beaming their lights to the earth below.  The group seemed to cluster very close together which made for very cumbersome progress.  Things grew even worse when we switched directions on the reef.  The groups began to return to the boat one by one.  The Bonenberger/Combs/McFall group became separated from the rest and Chris had to retrieve them.  Since they were low on air, they had to swim to the boat on the surface.  Once everyone was on the boat, we headed for home  The sky was full of bright stars and several took to star gazing.  One of the staff members sat on the front of the boat and shined a large flood light ahead every now and then to pick up other boats or ocean markers.  The trip back seemed long, but was very enjoyable.  Upon returning, we unloaded the boat, rinsed the scuba gear and packed for an early start the next morning.  Lights out came at 11:00 p.m., but it wasnĖt until 11:20 p.m. that everyone was in bed.
 

Monday, August 16

We awoke at 6:40 a.m., quickly got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast.  The meal was the usual disgusting continental thing of poptarts and cereal.  The Scoutmaster of another crew was very displeased with this meal and spent many minutes venting steam and looking for a higher authority.  We then loaded our gear into the vanĖs trailer and headed to Travertine.  After 20 minutes we arrived at our charter, Lady Cyana.  We again filled out our release forms and waited for the boat to be ready.  We then loaded our gear onto this cramped boat and heard a boat briefing.    We then headed out to sea under partly cloudy skies and 90 degree temperatures.  We anchored at Newfound Reef and shuffled through the other divers to get into the ocean.  The 45 minute dive had an incredible visibility of 70 to 100 feet!  There were many fish, plants and reefs.  Some of the divers even got to see a four foot nurse shark!  We got back into the boat and everyone agreed that it was a fantastic dive.  We then traveled about a half hour to our next  dive site, Elfuego Reef.  Ryan and Jeff V. decided to sit out this dive.  The visibility was not as good here, but there were several gems hidden beneath the waves.  Some of the divers began by taking group and/or family underwater portraits.  Next, we searched out the area for adventure.  Several divers saw a five foot nurse shark.  Some found a lobster trap with five lobsters in it.  We also spotted a stingray or two.  We then returned to the dock.  Next, we headed for a beach picnic area and ate a lunch of sandwiches, chips and snack cakes.  We then headed back to sea base and carried out one of John C.Ės strange ideas.  We all got into our Scout uniforms, put on our diving equipment, dove into the ten foot scuba training tank and got our picture taken as a group.  Several of the guys stayed in for an extra swim.  We then returned to our rooms to take showers and clean up our uniforms.  Free time was spent sleeping, lounging around, clipping toenails or visiting the shipĖs store.  Dinner was roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, roll, salad and a brownie.  Many complaints were to be heard of the meat and most people stayed away from the green beans which resembled seaweed.  At 7:30 p.m. we worked on our log books.  After this, the guys spent their free time fishing, meeting girls, shopping at the shipĖs store and just plain hanging out.  The highlight of the evening was Jeff G. and Ryan B. catching a three foot nurse shark off the end of the dock.  It took them two fishing poles using the same bait to catch him.  They pulled the shark onto the dock and took a bizillion photos.  A neighboring boat captain came over and showed the elated Scouts how to remove the hook from its mouth.  Then the boat captain made each Scout kiss the shark before releasing it back into the ocean.  While all this was going on Shick ,the Rico Suave of the group, was plying the female staff for photos to put into the court of honor slide show.  After spending all of the afternoon with our divemaster Chris, Shick was finally rewarded with a picture of one of the very good looking girls with whom he talked to until he rescued the store workers from one of our scouts, who shall remain nameless. Other than that, all of the boys and the adults had a very enjoyable day claiming that it was the best  that they had during the entire trip.  As a side note, Ryan B. caught another nurse shark (3.5 ft.), a sand ray, and a rock crab.
 

Tuesday, August 17

Today begins our last day at the Sea Base, and our last dive into the liquid salt called the ocean. We started out with a breakfast of French toast sticks and sausage (so far, our most favorite) and then begin to get our gear ready for our dive.  After debating for what seemed like forever, our captain and crew finally picked a spot for our deep dive that also had a supply of lobster. A half-hour later with 30 people (counting crew) and a boat full of gear we headed out for our Ïthree hour tourÓ.  Once at the site, we were briefed on the conditions of the dive and the consequences of going too deep. Finally with nets in hand and a grim determination to have ÏbugsÓ for dinner we all jumped in and hurriedly sank to the bottom. On the bottom we all headed in different directions like a school of frightened squid.  Back on the boat about thirty minutes later we all had stories to tell of the things that we had seen while under water.  The best was the one where Shick and Chris lost a lobster that would have fed two people comfortably. Although we caught no lobster and a few of the guys went down way too far; we had an altogether great dive.  After an uneventful ride home we took our gear back to the scuba area and got ready for lunch (chili dogs and fries). After bumminĖ around for a while, we headed out to get ready for our Luau. Once outside we were surprised to find Chris grilling lobster that he had bought himself for us to enjoy even though he could not eat them himself. Dinner finally arrived and we all rushed to get in line before everyone else. A limbo stick greeted us at the entrance to the dining hall with the smell of food hovering tantalizingly in the air. Food, glorious food. Ham, crab, Mahi Mahi, and those ever delicious lobster tails marinated in butter and herbs. Contentment and full stomachs gave arise to a series of games and brutish competition. First there was a game that you and your opponent took a hold of a staff and had to try to force your end of the staff to the ground while keeping your opponent from doing the same. Next there was a game that you had to wrestle the staff away from your opponent while hanging on for dear life. The last game was a test of balance.  Feet planted firmly on the ground, you had to push your opponent off balance so he either moved his feet or fell over. Shick, the buff guy of the troop, won the first two games by having numerous people challenge him, but never being defeated. Andrew took ShickĖs place in the last competition and remained undefeated to the end (ShickĖs protégé). To complete a wondrous day and a superb night were the skits and the handing out of our very unique badges.  This was JohnĖs fifth badge and ShickĖs third while all the others received their first. At the hand out there were some very emotional moments from Derek S., John M., and John. Needless to say it was a very special moment for all involved and it will hopefully be something that they will all remember for the rest of their lives.
 

Wednesday, August 18

Today is the first day of the trip home (duh!). On a side note the boys switched the coolers they were supposed to put ice in, and let all of the food spoil making the van smell rather nasty.  After a stimulating breakfast of Pop-tarts and cold cereal we said our final good-byes to the staff and Chris.  On the road again, two and a half hours later we stopped for the first time for gas at 9:37 a.m. Three hours and $15.25 in tolls later we stopped for a quick lunch of PB&JĖs and a little bird chasing.  At 5 P.M. we finally made it out of Florida and into the wonderfully humid state of Georgia. With little else to do besides sleep and read while listening to music it was a rather quiet ride to the EconoLodge in Macon. (After all this time without a real bed it seems as if the hotel has turned into a tropical resort.) The hotel is within sight, the beds are within reach, and rest within reach. A dinner of ravioli and chocolate pudding was ready after cleaning out the van and after an hour of arguing. Next, we had a crew meeting and discussed our eveningĖs and next dayĖs plans.  We also shared our thorns (negatives), roses (positives) and buds (future development) with the group.  We then headed to our rooms for conversation and television.
 

Thursday, August 19

Our telephone wake up calls came in at 6:00 a.m.  We packed the van and then ate donuts and orange juice in the hotel lobby.  We left the EconoLodge at 6:53 p.m. and began our last long travel day.  The morning drive was good with partly cloudy skies and light traffic.  The guys passed the time sleeping. For the first time, we hit a construction site which caused us a brief delay.  It made us realize how lucky we were to not have been stopped in traffic during any of our driving.  We stopped for lunch at a Pizza Hut.  We ordered four large pizzas and five pitchers of drinks.  After an hour and 15 minutes we were back on the road again.  The guys in the troop van began picking at each other and had to be verbally reprimanded several times.  We breezed through Cincinnati without a hitch and finally returned to the CombsĖ house at 6:42 p.m.  We unloaded our gear and vacuumed and washed both vans.  We then made calls for rides home.  Everyone seemed to have really enjoyed the trip, but were glad to be home.


Written by Scoutmaster John Combs.

Last revised: December 7, 1999


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