Oh Say, Can You Sea Scout?

Sea Scouts being towed out for rowing competition time trials.

Some scouts go to camp.  Others go to sea.

Over Memorial Day weekend, the largest Sea Scout event in the United States took place at Alameda Point.  But I was surprised to learn that Alameda, flush with its yacht clubs, Navy retirees, Coast Guard personnel, and waterfront activities, had one of the smallest contingents at the event.  Both of Alameda’s Sea Scout leaders and two of the four scouts who attended do not even live in Alameda.

Spending three nights on the USS Hornet, 400 Sea Scouts from around California gathered to compete in fun and challenging nautical exercises.  It was an action-packed weekend for all involved.  An obstacle course for field competition was built at Enterprise Park. The scouts climbed, jumped, rolled, hoisted a scuttlebutt (water barrel), rode a bosun’s chair, and tied knots.  They also participated in regattas—a series of row boat races.

Sea Scouts is a branch of the Boy Scouts of America.  They are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.  Sea Scouts is a coed program for teenagers that teaches navigation, sailing, rowing, vessel maintenance, engine mechanics, mariner history, finding one’s bearings at sea, the semaphor flag signaling system, and how to guard against water accidents.  Sea Scouts even learn to plan and prepare meals during long cruises.

While emphasizing how much fun scouting is, kids and adults alike agreed that Sea Scouting also teaches discipline, leadership, and organizational skills.  All of the mentoring adults I spoke to are committed to the Sea Scouts because they themselves were once scouts and they want to pass on an experience that made such a positive impact on their lives.

Sea Scout units are called ships, rather than troops.  Many communities have their own boats, often former Coast Guard or Fish & Game boats that have been donated.  Some “ships” adopt fellow scouts who don’t have a boat of their own to join them for training.  Alameda’s boat, the Sea Fox, is berthed at Ballena Isle Marina.  The Sea Fox and its scouts will spend 10 days on the Delta this summer.

Some of the Sea Scout ships docked at Alameda Point

The skipper of the Alameda crew said others are encouraged and welcome to join or to stop by and see what they do.  They meet twice a week: Wednesday evenings at Alameda Marina, 1815 Clement Street, and Saturdays aboard the vessel.  You can learn more about other units and service or training opportunities through the Sea Scout website.

Originally published in the Alameda Sun.          Slideshow is on Flickr.

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