GALVESTON — Sea Scouting has been a formative part of growing up for generations of youth since it was incorporated into the Boy Scouts of America in 1912.
Today, Sea Scouting is cruising in Galveston, up and running amid final construction of the ambitious new multiuse site, Sea Scout Base Galveston, which is seen rising above the approach to the Galveston Causeway.
“We believe that water is a pathway to independence,” said Ed Carrette, executive director of Sea Scout Base Galveston. “Our goal is to provide youth with pathways to skills, leadership abilities and options in life that might not otherwise be open to them.”
This year’s series of one-week sessions for youth, the first to be held in its new facilities at 7509 Broadway, began at the end of June and will continue through the summer. Participation is open to troops, or “ships,” of scouts from around the region and well beyond.
In addition to a true saltwater boating experience, the program provides the opportunity to complete requirements for the kayaking and small-boat handling merit badges that are needed for advancement in the ranks of scouting. A swimming pool is under construction, which will add scuba diving to the merit badges that can be earned at the campus.
The 24 scouts in this week’s session live at the base and spend much of each day on the waters of Offatts Bayou, after training in boating safety.
Morning and afternoon sessions on Wednesdays, for example, are held on the base’s fleet of single and tandem kayaks.
After dinner and a flag ceremony, campers rig the sails and set out on the fleet of 18 two-person F-J racing sloops.
On Thursdays, they go for longer sails in Galveston Bay in one of the base’s three two-masted schooners.
“Sea Scout Base Galveston is not owned or operated by the Boy Scouts of America,” Carrette said. “Though BSA and the Bay Area Council are its primary client, it is a 501c3 private nonprofit organization of its own.”
Land for the base and the costs of building the dormitories, docks, breakwaters, offices, repair facilities and chapel, as well as the boats, were donated by Charles and Rosemary Doolin, whose fortune derives from the success of Frito-Lay, the giant snack-food company founded by Charles Doolin’s father.
On completion of construction, a limited endowment will subsidize operations of the base for a few years, after which it plans to be self-sustaining. An important element in that sustainability will be to make the base available during the offseason for conferences and sailing events, offering attractive if somewhat Spartan accommodations, dining facilities, meeting and breakout rooms, all with views of the bayou and bay, and only a few minutes from Galveston’s beaches and historic districts.
“Sea Scout Base Galveston is about a lot more than Sea Scouting,” Carrette said.
The programs encompassed within the mission of the base are wide-ranging and complex, encompassing a number of subsidiary organizations. Carrette groups these programs into three categories.
Scouting High Adventure will provide programs for scouting across the United States in partnership with the Bay Area Council, Sea Scouts, BSA, including the resident-camp program underway now, and a variety of scout events. Officials hope to host the 2016 biennial race for the William I. Koch Sea Scout Cup, which attracts teams from all across the world to race in the same FJ sloops that are used here.
Galveston Community Youth Sailing Center will provide safe, enriching and affordable sailing opportunities to local youth and the disabled for the benefit of the entire community and field teams for competition in national U.S. Sailing-sponsored events.
Membership is open to the community and features regular Wednesday night races on the bayou, weekend sailing lessons and hosting the 2014 U. S. Sailing National Disabled Championship.
The BaySmart program will partner with a number of schools and colleges in the area for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs of marine and maritime education, featuring trips on the donated 100-foot BaySmart Express, a former crew boat now undergoing conversion into a floating classroom.