When I was hired as a full-time, professional Scouter at the Florida Sea Base, I was the program director for scuba and sailing programs.  Later the job was split and I remained as the scuba guru and Captain Rich Beliveau became our first full-time sailing director.  Captain Luke Knuttel is the current sailing director.  Many crew leaders call Captain Luke wanting suggestions on how they can best prepare their crew for their FSB High Adventure.  This is an update to an article posted several years ago.  Things change.  Read on:

The Florida National High Adventure Sea Base has four campuses; Sea Base (Islamorada, FL), Brinton Environmental Center (Summerland Key, FL), Marsh Harbour (Abacos, Bahamas) and St. Thomas (USVI).  The Bahamas and St. Thomas programs are all sailing.  The Bahamas offers two sailing programs, Bahamas Adventure and Bahamas Tall Ship.  One of the programs offered at the BEC is the Keys Adventure which includes a day of sailing.  Sea Base offers the majority of our sailing programs; Coral Reef Sailing, Sea Exploring and STEM Eco Adventure, plus our Scuba Liveaboard Adventure is currently conducted aboard sailboats.  (Details on each Adventure is available at www.bsaseabase.org, then click on High Adventures.)  

Here are some suggestions for preparing for any of the sailing adventures offered at any of the FSB campuses:

First, READ THE FLORIDA SEA BASE PARTICIPANT’S GUIDE.  Then, read it again, highlight, take notes and ask questions.

The FSB Participant’s Guide used to contain information on the Captain’s Club Award and a section called the Guide to High Adventure Sailing.  These can still be found at http://bluetoad.com/publication/?i=178672 on page 49 and pages 52-60.  It is a WEALTH of information in a very concise package.

Review the Small Boat Sailing merit badge pamphlet.  Most of the info is in the Guide to High Adventure Sailing info mentioned above, but the pamphlet is still worth reviewing.

Contact your local US Power Squadron or Coast Guard Auxiliary.  They can provide a volunteer instructor to meet with you crew and teach them how to read charts and understand basic navigation.

Practice sailing if possible.

Knots are critical.  Each member of your crew needs to know how to tie a bowline, cleat hitch, clove hitch, and 2 half hitches proficiently, in the dark, and from differing angles of attack (around a horizontal pole, around a vertical pole, through a ring, etc.)  This information is also available in the Guide to High Adventure Sailing.

Practice swimming.  You must be able to perform the BSA Swimmer’s Test in a STRONG manner.  A swim review will be held on your arrival day so you can again demonstrate your skills.  A good way to have the Scouts improve their swimming ability is through completion of the Swimming merit badge.

Use a local pool to complete the Snorkel BSA Award.  Strong swimming and snorkeling skills are critical for the adults’ and participants’ safety and enjoyment.

Pack light.  Most people bring too much “stuff”.

Electric power is very limited on most of our boats.  Recharging batteries is a “maybe” and you should not count on it.  With that in mind, electronics like cell phones and video games should not be brought on board.  This is an opportunity to be real people and talk to each other.  CPAP machines requiring 115 volt service can be used on base but will not have power availability on the boats.

It’s a boat.  If you aren’t comfortable with something getting doused in salt water, don’t bring it on the boat.  Lockers are provided on base for these items.

Do NOT bring big towels.  We do not have beaches so you do not need a beach towel.  The bigger the towel the more water they hold.  The more water they hold they longer they take to dry.  You will likely be in and out of the water frequently and the towel will never dry.  What good is a wet towel?  And where will you stow your wet towel?  Instead, bring a chamois or backpacker style towel.  You will be much happier in the long run.

Bring a first aid kit and pack it in a water tight container.  Use a garbage bag if nothing else is available.

Be positive.  This is an outdoor program and the weather dictates the schedule and specific activities.  Don’t allow inclement weather to get you down.  It is part of the adventure.

I hope this helps.

Capt. Steve Willis
FSB Scuba Director – RETIRED
Aboard S/V Escape

Leave a Reply