BY TERRYL ASLA
Brownsville — As darkness falls March 18, seven Sea Scout ships tie up on the east breakwater at the Port of Brownsville for their annual rendezvous.
There’s the 28-foot sailboat, Sea Scout Ship Hurricane (Port Orchard); SSS Argo (Bellevue); SSS Propeller and SSS Yankee Clipper (Seattle); SSS Kelsema (Edmonds); SSS Phantom (Everett); and SSS Falcon (Port Townsend). They are joined by Venture Post Scuba out of Bothell.
Aboard are about 80 teenage Sea Scouts and their leaders, most of whom are Navy and Coast Guard veterans.
There’s the commodore of the Sea Scouts, retired USCG Lt. Cmdr. Al Bruce; USN veteran Diana Baird, administrative officer, SSS Phantom; USCG veteran Matthew Kelly, mate, SSS Phantom; USN veteran Mark Peverley, mate, SSS Hurricane; USAF veteran Harvey Smith, crew adviser, SSS Venture; USN veteran Chris Wojahn, SSS Phantom; and retired USCG Cmdr. Dale Shepardson, mate, SSS Argo.
The only active duty personnel is Cmdr. Joseph Goldbach, USNR, who is mate on the SSS Hurricane.
Saturday morning begins with breakfast and registration in the Brownsville Yacht Club’s clubhouse. Following that, the teens, many in sweatshirts and jeans, are chivied into ranks by the veterans for welcoming remarks by Sea Scout Commodore Karin Leach and the flag-raising ceremony. Then, it’s off for a day of training in nautical skills, such as piloting, knot-tying, compass card, line tossing, drilling, bos’n chair, taking out a line, sailmaking, slicing and flotilla drill.
At 5 p.m., they have uniform inspection, eat, and then line up smartly in their uniforms for evening colors. Then it’s time for elections and socializing.
By 10 p.m., it’s lights out and the volunteers have time to visit and discuss why they do what they do. To a woman and a man, the first reason they give is that it affords them the opportunity to return to the sea. They quote Water Rat’s words from “Wind in the Willows”: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
But, as the night wears on, the conversation becomes more thoughtful and introspective. A few, like Cmdr. Joseph Goldbach, USNR, mate on the Hurricane, do it to spend more time with their children who are in Sea Scouts. Others talk about the life lessons they learned in the service. They say that working with youth helps the young people develop leadership skills and independence in a safe environment and that it is a good way to expose them to water safety.
Sunday, it’s breakfast and colors again. Then it’s time to clean up the Yacht Club clubhouse and grounds. By 1 p.m., they all depart for home and another day of “messing about in boats.”
The Sea Scouts are anxious to establish a second “ship” (they don’t use the term “troop”) in Kitsap County. At present, there is only SSS Hurricane, 1661, in Port Orchard.
If you live in Kitsap County and want to learn more, contact Cmdr. Joseph Goldbach, USNR, at 360-473-6307 or go to www.beascout.org.