Ships Ahoy!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What do kids who love boats do in the winter? If you are a local Sea Scout, you participate in winter training and practice the skills you'll need when boating season starts again.

This country's Sea Scout organization began in 1912. While it is part of the Boy Scouts of America, girls have been welcome since the late 1970s.

Sea Scouts range in age from 14 to 20 and belong to units called ships -- similar to troops in regular scouting. There are about 550 Sea Scout ships in the United States, with more than 12,000 scouts participating. In our area there are 18 Sea Scout ships, including units in Bowie, Springfield, Arlington and Occoquan.

You don't need a boat to join this lively band of mariners. All you need is a love of all things nautical (related to boating) and a desire to learn about seamanship, teamwork and leadership.

It also helps if you like meeting people. One recent weekend, more than 100 Sea Scouts from local ships as well as from Georgia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia gathered in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains for winter training.

What did they learn?

They practiced using compasses, Global Positioning System devices and stars to find their way on water. And they learned about navigational aids that show boaters the safe route to take.

What are all those knots for?

Whether hoisting a sail, tossing a lifeline or tying up at the dock, you have to know which knots to use and how to tie them properly and quickly. One of the scouts' favorite knots is the "monkey's fist" -- a wrapping that gives the end of the rope some weight so that it can be easily thrown to someone on a dock or another boat.

How do you cook on a boat being tossed by wind and waves?

The scouts practiced using cooking utensils with one hand, because you often have to hold onto the boat with the other. They learned terms such as "crash bar," "gimbaling" and "galley belt" -- all designed to help those working in the boat's kitchen (the galley) keep themselves and the cooking equipment upright.

The scouts also practiced team-building. On the water, everyone's safety depends on working together. And they worked on boating safety and first aid, of course.

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