Sea Scouts Sailing Back

The High Adventure Sailing Program

by Gail Tilsner

"...a sailing experience of a liftime."

A first time for sailing and a sailing experience of a lifetime. That is what several young adults talked about as a great sailing and lifetime opportunity, one they universally hope to do again. The High Adventure Sailing program of the boy scouts is about boys and girls learning and having fun in an ocean adventure. They sail a large sailboat up and down the Florida Keys.

Marina Yoder, a Minnesota based sea scout had been on a catamaran but never a large sailboat before the sea scouts.According to Marina, she saw everything. She remembers how every scout on the boat had individual duties that taught them the basics of sailing and how their tasks were based on teamwork. She said everyone cooperated and had fun at their jobs. When the lessons were over the scouts were able to enjoy the sights and beauty of the ocean like flying fish and beautiful blue waters. Everything they did had a element of fun to it. She talked about the boats’ skipper, Captain Chris, who she says, was funny, nice and a very good storyteller.

Kevin Schwartz, another Minnesota based Sea Scout, liked everything he did. He learned a lot about sailing because he got to do "everything" that needed to be done on the ship. He and his friends gained a lot of satisfaction from steering the boat. "Some got it going pretty fast", he recalls with laughter. Snorkeling in ocean water and seeing coral and fish of all different kinds was definitely a highlight of his trip.

James Banholzer, a St. Paul scout was also aboard a "high adventure sea boat." He said, "I had a great time, the whole thing was fun, I’d recommend it to anyone." Cooking the fish they caught on the boat was a highlight for James especially when he saw and learned how good the captain was at teaching the scouts to prepare great tasting, freshly caught ocean fish.

The sea scouting programs’ purpose is to teach young adults enough sailing skills, and give them enough hands on experience to become competent at sailing. Each boat that goes out to sea has adult chaperones on board as well as the captain and the scouts. The adults explained that this program gets the kids to do all the work because that is how they learn. The captain, they said, teaches the scouts the basics of sailing and managing a boat while at sea and then its up to the kids to make everything work.

Every day the scouts had experience trimming and hoisting sails, reading compasses, steering a course, learning the importance of anchor watches as well as keeping the boat in tip top shape. Ron Schwartz, an adult leader, says the kids had many different experiences that would develop skills of teamwork and leadership. When finished with their sailing duties, scouts went swimming and snorkeling in the ocean. They earned scouting patches for all their water activities. Dave Siebenhaler, from St. Paul’s Indianhead Council, remembers his son Adam’s catch. The fish Adam was reeling in . . . a five foot dolphin. . . was bit in half by a barracuda before it ever got in the boat.

According to John Hogg, district director in Grand Rapids, Michigan the Luddington Sea Explorers have been active for several years. They are supported by the Luddington Optimist Club and Luddington Yacht Club.The Luddington Yacht Club provides sailing expertise. The Sea Explorer Ship has had several members achieve the Quartermaster award, which is the highest award in the Sea Scouting program. It is equal to the Eagle Rank in the Boy Scout program. Membership in the crew is male and female.

Wally Heinichen, formerly a US Coast Guard, now skipper of the Armada Sea Scout ship in Chicago, has seen scouts use their achievement of Quartermaster rank to become the skippers of boats as far off as the British Virgin Islands. Molly Fosnaucht, a top scout in Chicago and the US recently earned the right to skipper a 52 foot boat in the Caribbean.

The Sea Scouting Life


Chuck Modlin made it in the business world the old-fashioned way, by hard work and half-hitches. And bowlines and sun sights and varnishing brightwork. Sure, a formal education helped but so did the marlinespike seamanship, celestial navigation and heavy weather sailing skills he gained as a teenage Sea Scout in Southern California.

Like most adults with Sea Scouting in their blood, Modlin credits the program he joined in 1936 as a 15 year-old to have fun on the water with giving him valuable self-confidence and lifetime skills. And like many, he has stayed involved as an adult volunteer. He’s been "skipper" of a Sea Scout ship for over 45 years. As a stockbroker in Los Angeles today, Modlin will tell you the value of Sea Scouting hasn’t changed much in all that time. Its contribution to the individual and to society, he believes, lie not so much in the mastery of maritime skills as in the management abilities and leadership qualities Sea Scouts take with them into adulthood. The boats, he says, are a bonus.

"Sure, I love being out on the water and that’s what draws the kids, but that’s not the main reason I’ve stayed involved," says Modlin, who served in the Navy following his Sea Scout days and came back as an adult leader in 1953. "There are few programs that teach responsibility\ y the way Sea Scouting does."

At 78, Modlin ‘s kids have to work hard just to keep up with him. He takes his teenage crew to sea as many as 60 days a year in a retired, World War IL-vintage, 40-foot U.S. Coast Guard fireboat. The SSS Volunteer with her Sea Scout crew sails frequently to Catalina Island and the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara, and has ranged as far as San Francisco, Puget Sound and even to southeastern Alaska.

According to Jimmie Homberg, first female commodore of the Sea Scout National Committee, it’s a sense of responsibility and accountability that parents seem to want for their kids today, more so than at any time of sea scouting. Sea Scouting . . . and other youth programs that put kids in uniforms . . . went into a slump during the Vietnam era, Homberg says, and it didn’t help that only boys could join. That changed in 1970 when the program went co-ed.

"Today the parents of a 14-year old barely remember Vietnam and their kids are excited by the uniforms, says Homberg. "Now parents want their teenagers involved in solid, structured programs like Sea Scouting.

But vessels like the SSSVolunteer or the 120-foot ex-Coast Guard cutter Reliance that Sea Scouts operate in the San Francisco area are the exception, not the rule. Most Sea Scout ships, which usually are sponsored by businesses, service clubs, churches and other local organizations own small boats . . . typically a 25 foot cruising sailboat . . . that have been donated to the group, Homberg says.

The ship she skippered for six years in Bryan, Texas, had several small boats for lake sailing. The scouts in Ship 428, like most local units, raised their own money for adventures that can range from simple canoe-camping trips to ambitious bare-boat charters out of exotic ports in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas and other Carribean ports.

Generating support can become a learning experience as valuable as navigation and piloting, Homberg says. But the key to a successful ship . . . and to the future of Sea Scouting . . . is committed adult volunteers.

"Adults don’t have to sign on to be skippers," she says. "We just need competent boaters who are willing to teach specific skills or to serve as judges at Sea Scout rendezvous and regattas or to help the scouts to plan a long cruise.

"We need boaters who are willing to take kids out on the water, too." Homberg adds. "

These kids already know about boats and rules of the road.They know how to act aboard a vessel and they take boating safety seriously."

Positive adult mentoring often turns Sea Scouts into lifelong boaters. And as adults, Sea Scouts bring with them the kind of seamanship skills, safe boating expertise and respect for the water that will serve recreational sailing well in the next century.

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