The week of October 11-18 (Fall Break for Oak Ridge Schools) we sent 3 crews to Florida Sea Base. Two of the crews were made up of 6 scouts and two leaders and they both did the Florida Keys Adventure Program. There were 6 venturers and two leaders in the third crew and they did the Coral Reef Sailing Program. Here is the link to the 2014 Participant Guide. The three crews drove there and back together in a rented 15 passenger van pulling the troop trailer to haul the gear plus Keith's SUV. On Saturday, Oct 11, we drove from Oak Ridge to Ft. Pierce, FL where we spent the night at a Hampton Inn. On Sunday morning we drove on to the Sea Base compound on Lower Matecumbe Key in Islamorada, FL. We got there just after 1:00PM and dropped off the venturers and leaders going on the Coral Reef Sailing Adventure. The other two crews continued on for 50 more miles out along the keys to the Brinton Environmental Center on Summerland Key (almost to Key West) for the Keys Adventure Program. After a week of fun and adventure, all three crews joined up again late Friday night at the Sea Base compound in Islamorada. Saturday morning we got up and drove all the way back to Oak Ridge getting in around 2:00AM. The only excitement on the trip home was a loose battery cable that prevented Keith's SUV from starting, leaving a scout behind at a rest stop, and a blown tire on the trailer.
Loading up at the church on Saturday morning
Making a pit stop in Georgia
Having dinner at Cowboy's BBQ in Ft. Pierce, FL before we head over to the Hampton Inn for the night
Sunday morning in front of our hotel
Gas/bathroom break on the Florida Turnpike
Driving from Islamorada to Brinton Environmental Center
Tire blowout on the trailer near Tifton, GA. The trailer spare did not fit the lugs but the spare tire form Keith's SUV did fit.
A miracle! We were able to make it to Jorge's Tire Repair in Warner Robbins (that just happened to be next to a Dairy Queen).
At Jorge's Tire Repair
As part of our Sea Base contingent, we had one Venture Crew go on a Coral Reef Sailing Adventure. There were two guys and four girls (two are sisters of Troop 328 scouts) making up our crew. After passing our swim and snorkel tests, we loaded our gear aboard the Dutch Love, our home for the next 5 days. Captain Harman was awesome, showing us the ropes for sailing and taking us to the best snorkeling spots. On our first day on the Atlantic side of the Keys, we had a pod of 7-8 dolphins swim along the bow of our boat. The water was especially beautiful with many kinds of fish at Sombrero Reef. We had to learn to swim around jellyfish, but we all got the hang of it. We were able to do some fishing in the Atlantic on Tuesday. Our lines had been out for some time with no action, when suddenly we got a big strike. We could immediately tell there was a big fish on the line and handed the rod over to Evan. After about 15 minutes of work, Evan landed a 5 foot sailfish. It was gorgeous. Captain Harman said that was the fifth sailfish ever caught from his boat in 20 years!! The next day, we put our fishing lines out again. At first we caught 4 jack fish in a row with all the girls taking a turn reeling them in. It would be Zeke’s turn for the next fish. After about 30 more minutes, we got another big strike. Zeke took the rod and fought the fish for about 20 minutes. He landed a 30 pound Wahoo! Captain Harman said that was the first Wahoo in over 10 years caught by his boat!! The Wahoo is fabulous eating, and we got about 15 pounds of filets to share with Sea Base staff and other captains. We grilled the fish right on the boat! It doesn't get any better than that! Our Coral Reef Sailing Adventure was outstanding. Pictures of the crew with the Wahoo and Sailfish are now on the Sea Base Facebook homepage. We are hoping we might make the 2016 brochure!
After we arrived at the Brinton Center and got checked-in and met up with our "mates", Connor and Charles. We got settled into our dormatory and did the BSA swim test and then had a snorkeling lesson. After dinner we had a short but entertaining slide show that went over what we would be doing for the next week. Monday morning one crew went snorkeling for lobster while the other went sailing out to Looe Key where they snorkeled. Both crews had a great time. The crew snorkeling for lobster came back with four lobsters, one was huge. We had the lobsters with dinner that night and they were unbelivably good. The other crew got to operate the sail boat anthough there was so much wind that we only needed to jib sial to make 6 knots! The snorkeling was awesome, we saw a shark (4-5 ft -- hard to tell exactly how long it was) and two baracuda in addition to all the colorful reef fish and coral. The colors were breathertaking, scouts from both crews described it as like being at an aquarium or looking at the computer screen saver. On Tuesday, the crews swapped activities. The lobster snorkelers came back with 3 lobsters (there was a fourth but it was too small to keep. These lobsters were also very tasty. The crew that sailed out to Looe Key also had a good time but several of the souts were sea sick due to the rough seas. They saw a shark, a baracuda, and a spotted eagle ray while snorkeling. On Wednesday, we went paddle boarding around the mangroves and then we took a field trip into Key West. For lunch, Connor and Charles grilled hambugers and hot dogs while we toured Fort Zachery Taylor. After lunch we were free to sight see around Key West and met up the Connor and Charles for dinner at the Boathouse Grill on the waterfront. Later we went over to the Sunset Festival to watch some of the street performers. Thursday, both crews went fishing on separate boats. The fishing was excellent and we both quickly filled our coolers and had to start just throwing the fish back. After fishing, we were all dropped off on Big Munson Key to camp for the night. We setup camp and cleaned the fish and had them for dinner (there was more than we could eat). The next morning we went kayaking and spent some time exploring the island. After lunch, we heading back to Brinton Center to packup and have a luau. After the luau we had a closing ceremony and headed back to spend the night with the venturer crew at the Sea Base compound in Islamorada.
Here is the official Sea Base photo for the two crews on the Keys Adventure
Connor (left) and Charles (right) were our "Keys Adventure Mates"
Check-in and orientation
Picking up or snorkel gear and dive bags
Taking our swim test (75 yards forward power stroke, 25 yards backstroke, float for ~30 seconds)
Getting ready for our snorkeling lesson
Breakfast on Monday morning
These photos are from the crew that went sailing/snorkeling on Monday
Riding out to where the sailboat was moored
Getting situated on the sailboat
Sailing out to Looe Key. It was an obstacle course through all the lobster trap buoys.
Snorkeling at Looe Key. The photos do not come close to capturing how spectacular the colors were
Scouts played football any time they were supposed to be resting up
Chowing down on the lobsters that the Monday crew caught
Night fishing off the bridge next to Brinton Center (we didn't catch a thing)
Heading out to snorkel for lobsters on Tuesday morning
Here is a blimp (called Fat Albert) we passed. It belongs to the US Air Force and serves as a tethered aerostat radar system
for detecting low flying aircraft. It is used for drug enforcement by the Coast Guard and is also rented out to airlines. It is normally deployed at 10,000 ft.
Here the scouts are showing off the lobsters we caught
After all that snorkeling for lobsters, we had some tired scouts.
But they revived pretty quickly when we stopped for lunch (pulled pork BBQ). We anchored over in
the flats where the bottom was sandy and it was only waste deep so we could jump out of the boat and walk around.
While we were there the scouts decided to play catch with a sea urchin. Probably not the smartest move.
After lunch, we ran into some dolphins on the way back to Brinton Center. The captain would steer
the boat in a large circle to get the dolphins to surf in the wake.
Back at the dock cleaning the lobsters. After you twist off the tail (the only part you eat) you
have top break off one of the "feelers" and stick it up the lobsters butt to pull out the intestine.
After dropping the lobsters off at the galley, we headed over to Bahia Honda State Park where we
saw part of the old bridge, got some ice cream, and played on the beach.
Here we are at dinner on Tuesday chowing down on lobsters again.
Wednesday morning we went paddle boarding around the mangroves near Brinton Center.
It wasn't long before the scouts were looking for shade.
After getting cleaned up from paddle boarding, we headed into Key West for the afternoon.
Our first stop was to see a bat tower. Some rich guy built these a long time ago to house imported
bats (there are no bats in the keys) to eat the mosquitos.
As soon as the bats were released the flew away and never came back.
Here we are at the "southern most point" monument.
Next we headed over to the park next to Fort Zachary Tailor for a picnic. While Connor and Charles
grilled the hamburgers and hot dogs, we explored the fort.
Here we are back at the picnic ground. Apparently the scouts were hungry.
After lunch we spent the afternoon wandering around Key West.
Aaron was chosen to be the audience volunteer ....
In Thursday morning we went fishing. It only took about 15 minutes to fill up the cooler with
Mangrove Snapper once we found a good spot to fish.
After fishing we were dropped off to camp overnight on Big Munson Island.
The water was very shallow so we had to wade the last 100 yards or so.
The first job on the island was to clean the fish.
About 20 minutes later the other crew arrived at Big Munson from their fishing trip.
They also caught plenty of fish.
We setup camp right on the beach.
Cooking breakfast in camp in Friday morning.
There were at least 4 key deer on the island including a fawn.
After breakfast we kayaked along the entire length of the island.
When we got back from kayaking, we had some time to explore the island. Here is a "shrine" we
came across made of sea turtle bones.
After lunch it was time to wade back out to the Duskies and head back to base.
Right next to Big Munson Island was the location where the movie PT 109 was filmed.
The coconut palms were plated to make it look like a south pacific island.
The scouts were pretty tired on the ride back to base.
Back at the dock it was time to wash down the boats. Pack up for the trip home. And get ready for the luau.
At the luau we played several games. Here the game is like tug-of-war. You try to pull your opponent off their box.
The next game was also a lot of fun. You lock arms in a circle around a barrel and try to force
someone to touch the barrel. If you touch the barrel or let go of the other person's arm you are
out and the remaining players start over without you until one player is left.
After we ate, the scouts from each crew put on a sit. One crew sang a song they made up about
coconuts and the other did a parody of the game show Jepordy.
Finally, we had a closing ceremony before driving the 50 miles back to Islamorada send the night
at the Sea Base compound where the crew doing the Coral Sea Adventure was staying.