By Tony Angel
On April 23, Sea Scouts from Florida, Georgia and Alabama met in Apollo Beach to compete as sailors. They brought with them the ancient skills of those who harness the wind to move 9,000-pound vessels across the water.
When these teens joined Sea Scouts at 13 or 14, most of them were new to boating. Within six months all of them learned how to confidently sail 16-foot sloops. Within the first year, most of them learn to command a 30-foot yacht – which is how the Gulfport club got across the bay to Apollo Beach.
Competition started early Saturday when each team (or “Ship”) headed out to race on their large boats. With a forecast of 20 to 25 mph winds, the small boat races were canceled. The 12 teams also competed in a verbal test on weather, knots, boat rigging and marine “rules of the road.” The Gulfport Scouts placed first in this event.
Next was a difficult navigation test. Scouts had to calculate the course to four points around Tampa Bay and to predict the time they would take to sail each leg of the journey, sailing on a Nor-eastern wind from 30 degrees and compensating for a southernly current of 2 knots and a compass deviation of 2.5 degrees. Again, the Gulfport Sea Scouts took top honors.
Sunday started with a relay race, and finished with “Run-what-you-brung”: Teams launched a boat they constructed from non-nautical materials that they sailed until they crossed the finish line – or sank.
In the end, Gulfport Sea Scouts placed second overall.
Sea Scouts is a high adventure co-ed BSA activity designed to build leadership skills for teens. When two shy young kids shove off in a sailboat, the boat will just float downwind until the one at the helm tells the other what to do with the sails. Soon, they both learn to take command when necessary!
The Gulfport group meets Wednesday evenings and Sundays. For more info, call 727-459-7900.