What is Sea Scouts?
Sea Scouts is an organization that is affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America. The Sea Scouting program has several chapters nationwide, and there are several chapters operating in the Chicago area. Our chapter happens to be chartered by the Chicago Yacht Club; we have use of the Chicago Yacht Club meeting facilities (meeting room, utility item storage, trainer dinghies, etc.), and they also help select adult leadership.
What is the objective of the program?
The program promotes many of the values of Scouting but has a real emphasis on teaching young people how to sail. Much of the learning occurs via hands-on sailing experiences, while some of the learning occurs via discussions or "chalk talks" during the sailing season or during the winter meetings. Knowledgeable adults cover a variety of topics that include boat safety, sailing fundamentals, navigation techniques, racing tactics, boat maintenance, etc.
So what kind of boats are we talking about?
Sea Scouts work on the basis of boat donations. Currently we have been sailing on a Tartan 10, a 34-foot racer/cruiser combination. Beyond this type of big boat experience, we also have access to sailing dinghies, and these are great learning/fun experiences. We may sail the dinghies during the late fall or early spring and on an occasional summer Saturday or evening.
What is the cost?
Surprisingly reasonable. There is a $15 annual registration fee. To date, the boat has been funded by contributions and, as such, there have not been any additional fees. In addition, there are occasional fund-raising efforts lead by the scouts. You will want to anticipate costs for food and sailing gear such as deck shoes, safety harness, foul weather gear, gloves, etc. But more on these items a bit later.
What are the implications for Chicago Yacht Club sponsorship?
Will I need to join the club? The Chicago Yacht Club is the sponsoring organization and we do have some use of their facilities. However, beyond that we are really a separate organization of Chicago Yacht Club and membership is not required. Chicago Yacht Club has been very generous to accommodate our organization, and we are placing a special emphasis on respecting the privileges they have granted us.
So, what are the other costs?
Beyond the registration fees, you will need to make certain that there is adequate clothing and safety equipment. For most practices and local cruising/racing conditions, scouts will only need deck shoes ($25 - $75), pants, shorts and a jacket; we typically have a team polo shirt ($15 ea.), and it is requested that these be worn to all boating events. As the weather may change suddenly, and in particular for extended distance cruises/races, it would be advisable to purchase foul weather gear ($50 - 200+); it may be possible to locate outgrown gear via another scout. Life vests are available on the boat. Meals/drinks are BYO. So, that's a summary of the cost. It is always possible to spend more, but this represents the basics.
Who can get involved in the program?
The program is open to young men and women 14 years of age, or 13 years of age and have completed the eighth grade, through 20 years of age. Membership in the Chicago Yacht Club is not required. Parents and adults are always welcome to volunteer.
The safety of all crew members is of highest importance. The boat must comply with all Coast Guard regulations, and we place very high value on the use of good judgment. Equipment is checked regularly, and we keep a close eye on the weather; if we feel uncomfortable with the conditions, the boat does not sail.
What attention is paid to safety?
Chicago Yacht Club Safety Position Statement on safety at sea.
What is the typical schedule?
Beginning in February, we typically begin meeting on a regular basis on Saturdays. We usually participate in the Strictly Sailing boat show, attend a variety of classes that focus on such topics as navigation, sail techniques and recruiting. In the spring (as the weather permits), we spend many Saturdays and Sundays in the boat yard doing hands-on maintenance work on the boat and preparing for the upcoming season. During the sailing season (May 15 - October 15), the boat typically sails on Saturdays and/or Sundays. We do enter a fair number of races, but we also get together for non-race oriented cruising. We typically get together at the club 30 minutes prior to sailing to teach techniques, tactics and share information. In general, races require that we are ready to leave the harbor by 9:30 a.m. and we will generally return by approximately 2 or 3 p.m. Early in the sailing season, we will typically spend time going over the fundamentals of sailing the boat and give crew members an opportunity to learn how to work the various positions on the boat. It's pretty chaotic at first, but crewmembers learn quickly and their improvement in confidence is quick. Once the big boat get put away for the season, we'll continue to sail using loaner dinghies from the Chicago Yacht Club - this will be on an occasional Saturday from October - December (cold, but some real fun!).