Sea Base Adventure

This past summer we travelled with the Boy Scouts to the Sea Base High Adventure Camp in Islamorada, Fl. for a full week of SCUBA diving.  We were there from July 31st to August 7th with 8 scouts and 4 adults.  The scouts were between the ages of 14 and 18.

We did a total of 11 dives during the week.  All the dives were coral reef dives on the Atlantic ocean side of the keys.  The divers were to a depth of 20 to 30 feet.  Water visibility was anywhere from 80 to 40 feet, depending upon the weather conditions.    The scouts got to dive both hard corals and soft coral reefs.

The abundance of sea life was just out of this world.  We got to see tons of reef fish.   Just about every dive we saw at least one barracuda.  On the night dive, we saw the barracuda schooling over the reef. We saw a couple of nurse sharks.  On one dive some of the boys got to see some black tip reef sharks.  The nurse sharks were great.  They were between 5 and 6 feet in length and we were able to swim with them for quite some time.  We saw some grey spotted eels and several moray eels.  On one dive we swam with a sea turtle that was about 3 feet in diameter.

All the scouts and two of the adults had to get PADI certified in SCUBA diving before going on the trip.  The scouts did their certification in May & June.

Dive Log:

Dive Date Location Depth Time In Time Out Dive Time
1 8/1/11 Alligator Reef 23′ 1:58pm 2:41pm 43min
2 8/2/11 Long Key Reef 25′ 12:13pm 12:55pm 42min
3 8/2/11 Pillars of Atlantis 25′ 1:45pm 2:30pm 45min
4 8/3/11 Ham Reef 36′ 10:36am 11:35am 59min
5 8/3/11 Capt Grumpy Reef 27′ 12:00pm 12:50pm 50min
6 8/3/11 Alligator Reef 24′ 7:37pm 8:31pm 54min
7 8/4/11 Boink Reef 39′ 9:41am 10:30am 49min
8 8/4/11 Labyrinth Reef 29′ 11:02am 12:03pm 59min
9 8/5/11 South End of Alligator Reef 25′ 11:09am 12:11pm 58min
10 8/5/11 North End of Alligator Reef 21′ 12:32pm 1:26pm 54min
11 8/6/11 Landing Strip Reef 34′ 9:34am 10:26am 54min

Wilderness First Aid

In December I completed the Wilderness First Aid that is offered by Solo (Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities).  This was in preparation for the Philmont trip in June/July.  The adults needed to be certified in Wilderness First Aid, so we would have the background to handle any issues that occur while we are in the back-country.

What a fun course!  It has been a number of years since I took a first aid course.  Wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was not expecting the course to be so interesting.  With the focus being on the back-country, where medical services are typically hours away, the course covered topics that is normally left for medical professionals.  Restoring circulation for a broken limb, de-crumpling a person who has fallen  and learning about clearing a head-neck-spine injury were some of the topics we covered.

I have to say that the course really boosted my confidence to be able to handle the situations we may face while we’re in the back-country.  If you every have the opportunity to take a wilderness first aid course, even if you are not a outdoors type of person, there is a lot you can learn.

Cheesequake Day Hike

We took the crew on a day hike to Cheesequake State Park on Saturday. We had a few errors with the map that resulted in us going the wrong way on the green trail. We realized the error when we reached the dock road. To head to the docks we should have made a left turn to head north. Instead it was a right turn. Since we didn’t have to be at a specific location, other than return to the parking lot, the mistake was a small one.

When we reached Dock road, the boys crossed the road and kept going on the green trail. Now we specifically wanted to head down to the docks. So Frank and I stopped at the intersection to wait for the boys to come back. After 5 minutes none of them returned. So we decided to wait them out. The rule in hiking is that if you get separated, after 5 minutes you should send a party back down the trail to reconnect. If after about 10 minutes the whole crew should retrace the trails to reconnect. The cardinal rule that should never ever be violated is to hike solo. Everyone should always be buddied up.

Well, after about 10 minutes a single scout came back down the trail. Oh no! So right there, on the spot, Frank & I decided that we need to have a safety lesson! We discussed with the lone scout the importance of staying with a buddy. The area of the country we’re heading to in June has the largest concentration of mountain lions and grizzly bears. There is always safety in numbers. After talking to the lone scout, we placed him on Dock road about 200 yards away, out of sight. Frank went down the green trail, found the crew and had them come back. At first they didn’t. The second time Frank went to get them, they finally came back to the intersection. As we sat there and discussed the trail and making a wrong turn, we did a head count and surprise, surprise, came up with one short!! For the first few minutes you could see shock on their faces.  The shock turned into serious concern when they realized the scout missing was the one that went alone back down the trail.

So began our exercise in forming search parties and conducting a search.  The crew formed three parties, each to head down a different trail for approximately 200 yards to see if they can find the “lost” scout.  As we conducted the search, the crew realized Frank & I were just to calm about having a “lost” scout and they came to the conclusion that we were up to something.  The one party that went down Dock Road found our “lost” scout.  When the crew regrouped at the intersection we had a good discussion about the buddy system, about the rules of hiking and retracing your steps if the crew gets separated.  From the time we initially came to the Dock Road intersection until the search was over took about 45 minutes.  We lost a lot of time and ultimately shorten the total distance of the day hike, but the crew gained an invaluable lesson.

About 2 hours later the trail intersected a road and made a sharp bend.  The trail was clearly marked and Frank & I were about 50 feet behind the crew.  At the sharp bend I turned to Frank and said “not sure which way they went” – even though at that point we could still see the last scout in the line.  So Frank & I waited.  About 5 minutes 2 scouts came back.  Good!  They’re following the rules so far.  We made the 2 scouts wait with us.  About 5 minutes later the entire crew came back.  Yes!  The lesson is sinking in!  For the remainder of the hike, the crew kept grumbling about the search and how they knew we had set it up. Yes! Let the lesson sink in real deep!!

So we ended up with a hike of about 4 or 5 miles.  It was about 2 miles shorter than we had wanted, but it was so worth the time and lost distance.  Our next hike is an overnight hike in Harriman State Park, NY.  I can hardly wait to see what adventures await us!!

Philmont Shakedown Hike

We had our first Philmont shakedown hike last weekend. The whole Monmouth Council Contingent of 90 scouts, 20 advisor’s and more than 20 staffers travelled up to Stokes State Forest on Friday evening. On Saturday the boys packed up all the tents and loaded up our backpacks. Our crew was somewhere in the middle of all the crews in getting out of camp in the morning. It took the boys an hour and 15 minutes to break camp.

We hiked 10 miles up to theAppalachian trail and over to the fire tower. The boys did well physically. Most of the backpacks were in the 40lb range weight wise. Although the packs were not balanced correctly and there was a lot of loose gear on the outside. So we do have to work on the skills to pack a backpack. One of the games Frank & I were playing is to guess who would lose a piece of gear next.  Along the trail we had to stop several times to re-strap on someone’s sleeping bag or tent.

The crew really enjoyed getting to the fire tower. At the fire tower we had our lunch and enjoyed the overlooks. We saw a single hawk riding the thermals while we ate.

Getting back to camp, we were the second crew in. Both Frank and I were amazed. We didn’t think we hiked at a breakneck speed. Being 2nd into camp gave us time to setup the tents and relax before we had to start cooking dinner. All the food we ate was Philmont style food. That is to say it was dehydrated backpacking meals. For the most part the food was good.

Saturday night it rained like hell. One tent the scouts pitched in a small depression. All the rain water collected in their tent. Suffice it to say this is a self correcting problem. The scouts whose tent is was will definitely take more care in setting up their tents in the future.

Overall the shakedown was a success. The boys got a good taste for backpacking and what will be expected of them in the coming months. Next Sunday, 10/11 we’re going to take a day hike to get the crew together and stretch the legs.

Summer Camp

Last week we took the Boy Scout Troop up to Ten Mile River Scout Camp. What an amazing time! In addition to the boys working on the merit badges, we also did a lot of other activities such as the polar bear swim, high cope course, mountain biking, repelling and barbecuing. The kids had an amazing time. They earned a ton of merit badges.

If  you are involved in Scouting, but have not yet gone to Summer Camp, it is a very relaxing week. It was very nice to have a few hours each day where there was absolutely no demands and you could sit back, chill out. The fact that cell phones either didn’t work or were very spotty (depending upon your carrier) was an added bonus.