Getout boatingSea Scout group is up and running beforethe wind

Published on Thu, Apr 27, 2006 by arol Hogan

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Get out boating
Sea Scout group is up and running before the wind

By Carol Hogan

With nine active members and only two and a half years of participation under their keel the Blaine Sea Scouts – in scouting terms, referred to as The Blaine Sea Scout Ship Boundary (Unit 4096) – have already participated in dozens of community activities and won the National Quality Award, an honor usually reserved for Sea Scout Ships with longer histories.

The group received its charter through its sponsoring organization, Grace Lutheran Church in Blaine, in November 2003, and is led by church members Angus Pratt, skipper and first mate Yvette Reed, Pratt’s fiancé.
Since then, they have restored a donated 32-foot wood sloop named Charee and are currently refurbishing a 26-foot Erickson sailboat, named Luna Sea, at Colony Wharf in Bellingham. Community activities include parades, helping to clean and plant Terrell Creek, hot dog sales last spring at a boating safety check, participation aboard Charee with Semiahmoo Yacht Club in the “Light Up the Bay” boat parade in White Rock and Blaine last December, and last week they helped boaters dispose of old flares at West Marine’s flare shoot off in Marine Park.

With summer just over the horizon and opening day ceremonies scheduled by both International Yacht Club and Semiahmoo Yacht Club, the Sea Scouts will help serve the pancake breakfast for IYCs Semiahmoo Bay International Regatta this weekend. On May 6 they will act as Color Guard during the flag ceremony at SYCs opening day ceremonies, and then lead the offshore boat parade in Charee.
How did such a novice group of young sailors get involved in all this nautical activity?

“The Coast Guard Auxiliary felt there was a need to involve youth in safe boating activities so they came up with the idea,” Pratt said of the international co-educational program for kids from 14-19 years old. “They put out a call and found that Grace Lutheran Church had a number of former Sea Scout members and a strong connection to scouting, so the church agreed to be the charter organization.”

For the first six months David Swartos was the skipper and worked to get a boat donated. Then Pratt, owner of Pratt Web Services and former Saskatchewan Fireball racer was looking for more opportunities to sail and became skipper. The co-ed group requires a female leader and Reed, who teaches Sunday school and third grade at Lummi Nation School in Bellingham, was asked to volunteer.

“I love the water,” Pratt said. “Yvette’s vast sailing experience was as a Girl Scout when they took a day trip to Catalina Island, California. But she knows a lot about swimming and is very comfortable around the water.”

Together with the Scout members they are all learning about boat maintenance and sailing together.

“It’s about the kids, about leadership and developing leadership,” Pratt said. “That’s the basis of the scouting program and marine/nautical activities is just a way of doing that. There’s a group of kids this appeals to and personally, I think its great high adventure. In this location, it’s wonderful and it surprised me when I learned Blaine didn’t have a group of Sea Scouts.”

Five groups – Blaine, Bellingham, La Conner, Everett and Edmonds – make up the Mt. Baker Council. Of the nine members in the Blaine ship only one is from Blaine, the rest are from Birch Bay, Nooksack and Maple Falls.

“My folks own a power boat so I’d been on motor boats before but not done much sailing,” said Tyson Gorsuch, 15, from Lynden. “My favorite thing about Sea Scouts is sailing and learning how to tie knots, light off flares and safety.” The program is year-round with activities such as canoeing, community events, hiking and summer sailing.

“It’s not just about boating,” Reed added. “Much of it is about leadership and teamwork. Sea Scouts is a subdivision of the Venturing Crews (a subdivision of Boy Scouts of America and the only ones allowed to do certain high-adventure events), but because our group is so unique – we’re way up here sort of out in the middle of nowhere – a lot of what we’ve participated in has been venturing events so the kids have really had a lot of fun and established wonderful friendships primarily with land-based venturing crews.”

The goal is fellowship; getting teenagers together for fun, healthy, safe activities and, with adult support, the kids design the program.

“It’s intended to be young-person run with adults as supporters,” Reed said. “Obviously with a new unit that doesn’t have a 50-year history, we’re creating our own destinies. We also hope to invite community members to come in and teach us things.”

Gorsuch thinks “It’s all really fun.”

In late May or early June the group will host a nautical event in the area for Venturing and Sea Scout crews within the Mt. Baker Council. It will include kayaking and paddling opportunities, land-based activities, safety training and a barbecue.

But the fun really begins this summer when they launch Luna Sea and depart on their second annual long cruise – a 10-day, nine night sail around the San Juan Islands. Cost to participate is $5 per month, not including the cruise. For more Blaine Sea Scout information and history go to www.ssship4096.info. To get involved, call Grace Lutheran Church: 360/332-6589.