Sea Scouts: Boy Scouts on a Boat
The Sea Scouts are a little-known division of the Boy Scouts of America founded in 1912. In its beginning years it struggled to stay afloat, but nowadays it has spanned the country and then the world, preparing young adults to take leadership positions while getting their favorite jeans greasy and covered in 40 percent copper bottom-paint. William Larsen, currently a sophomore at UC Irvine, says that when he joined it was difficult to get into, but that he really bonded with the crew after a few weeks. “I was hooked on the sense of brotherhood and adventure that the Sea Scouts gave me.“
He is currently working on his Quarter Master project, though says it is difficult to accomplish from over 500 miles away from the Gryphon, which resides in Redwood City. He has until he is twenty-one to complete the rank. Quartermaster is the most difficult rank and the tasks to earn it include taking complete command for a cruise and completing a project to help the boat. It has been equated with the Boy Scout’s Eagle Award and only about eleven people earn it per year.
The Sea Scouts program is aimed towards both male and female high school students, but will take thirteen-year-olds if they have finished eighth grade. During their time as a scout, the youth learn seafaring skills, how to care for their boat, and a myriad of other hands-on skills as well as skills for life. They adopt leadership roles on the “quarterdeck” and develop crucial work skills such as delegation and teamwork. Terra Flusche, a sixteen-year-old Mariner Scout on the MSS Tradewind and the Bosun’s Mate of the crew says that even without all the friends she has made, she has also learned more about what she can do in life. “Mariner Scouts has really opened my eyes to possibilities in the Navy and Coast Guard.”
About the ship: the Mariner Scout Ship Tradewind is not technically a Sea Scout ship, but competes in the same events and learns the same skills under the Girl Scout banner. Leslie Feyling, an adult onboard the MSS Tradewind, has been in the program for several years and knows about the maturing effect it has on both girls and boys. “My favorite part of the program is watching the crew change as they get older. … More often than not, each crew member becomes an interesting, mature individual with goals and many more life and problem solving skills than when they started.”
Those skills are put to the test at competitions called regattas, where boats from up and down the coast gather to compete. For most regattas, the Sea Scouts can either dock their boats nearby or sleep on land, trying to pack about twenty events into only a few days of hard work. On the final day, or later in the afternoon for the shorter regattas, awards are handed out to all the crews who attended. Sometimes these awards matter so much that tears have been shed over them.
Joining the crew requires paying an annual fee, but there are scholarships and grants available for those who want to join, but are unable to pay. The Gryphon and Tradewind are on the same pier at Redwood City and meet every Saturday to train or repair the boat. The website for the MSS Tradewind is here and the SSS Gryphon’s is here. Be sure to check out their photo galleries for a more complete look at what the Scout life is like.