By Mike De Felice
Special to Kitsap Daily News
PORT ORCHARD – Enabling young people to learn boating skills and traverse local waterways is what the Sea Scouts is all about. However, the Port Orchard chapter of the seafaring group is essentially high and dry these days.
The organization is without a suitable place to moor its centerpiece vessel, a Laguna 22-foot sloop sailboat.
“Our biggest holdback is finding a place to moor our [main boat],” said Bob Hancock, mate of the Sea Scouts and second-in-command of the adults who oversee the young seafarers as they tackle tasks in waters off Port Orchard.
“We have talked to just about all the marinas in Sinclair Inlet from Bremerton to Port Orchard, and they are full,” he said.
The group has considered other options to store its main sailboat, but none have proven feasible.
Anchoring the vessel in the bay presents untenable safety issues, including getting youths on and off the floating boat. Launching the sailboat at a boat launch involves so much preparation, including setting up the rig and mast, that the work would eat up most of the day, Hancock explained.
“We are looking for at least seasonal moorage anywhere in the Port Orchard-Sinclair Inlet area,” Hancock said.
Hancock, a Port Orchard resident, is vice flotilla commander of the Coast Guard auxiliary out of Bremerton and teaches public safety and boating education. He owns the Laguna sailboat, which he makes available for Sea Scout outings. Skipper Wilson Davenport, also of Port Orchard, is the top-ranked adult in the maritime program.
The Sea Scouts, a program within the Boy Scouts, is open to boys and girls who are 14 to 21 years old. Members wear a casual uniform of dark trousers and a navy-blue work shirt that sports Boy Scout badges.
“Getting wet is all part of the program,” Hancock said, which is the reason members must pass a basic swimming test before climbing aboard.
Sea Scouts is a way for youngsters to learn skills such as working the lines, tying knots and gaining knowledge about navigation by charts, radar and GPS, Hancock said. Being a part of the nonprofit group can open the door to future employment in the maritime industry or joining the Coast Guard or Navy, he added.
In addition to the 22-foot sailboat, the group also has access to a pair of 20-foot sloop day sailor sailboats, a 12-foot sloop, peddle craft, an assortment of dinghies and kayaks.
Each sea scout chapter — called a “ship” — has its own focus, Hancock noted.
“Ours is sailing and small-boat handling,” he said. “Our kids learn nautical skills such as navigation, rules of the road, understanding weather and sea conditions.”
Working in tandem on a boat, often in tight quarters, requires members to work as a team.
“It’s a youth-led organization. It’s not where adults lead everything. They have been told what to do … and then make their own decisions. Some are wrong, but they get better. This helps expand their horizons,” he said.
Currently, the local wave-faring group is recruiting.
“We are looking for 15 to 20 new members,” Hancock said.
The group meets every Monday in the nautical library in Hancock’s Port Orchard home to plan future adventures.
Anyone interested in providing moorage space for the Sea Scouts is asked to contact Hancock. Parents interested in learning more about the Port Orchard chapter of the Sea Scouts can visit the group’s Facebook page, contact Hancock at 253-858-4008 or email email@example.com.