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
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.
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
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.
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