Sea Scouts BSA

The History of Sea Scouting in the United States

1910- Lord Baden-Powell’s older brother, Warington, wrote a book called Sea Scouting and Seamanship for Boys. It was enthusiastically received by the young men of Britain and soon found its way to the United States.

1912- Sea Scouting in America was founded when Arthur A. Carey of Waltham, Massachusetts, had Sea Scouts using the schooner Pioneer and was appointed Chairman of the National Council Committee on Sea Scouting. That summer, Charles T. Longstreth organized a Sea Scout patrol on his yacht in Philadelphia. Both of these men prepared pamphlets on Sea Scouting and Carey’s Cruising for Sea Scouts was the first literature related to Sea Scouting.

1915- A booklet that preceded the first Sea Scout manual published. It gave some direction to Sea Scouting. It was entitled Nautical Scouting and was compiled by Charles Longstreth. In a report to the National Executive Board, Mr. Carey recommended that Sea Scouting be recognized as a special department of the Boy Scouts of America. He suggested that the pamphlet Cruising for Sea Scouts be accepted as a supplement to the Handbook for Boys until a more complete Sea Scout manual could be written.

February 1913- G. V. L. Meyer, Secretary of the Navy, encouraged the development of Sea Scouting and extended the cooperation of the Navy Department. This was the beginning of a fruitful period of cooperation for Sea Scouting with the nation’s armed services.

October 1917- James Austin Wilder (a veteran sailor, global traveler, artist, and devoted Boy Scout volunteer) was secured as Director of the Department of Sea Scouting of the Boy Scouts of America. For several years, as a volunteer, Mr. Wilder worked full time for Sea Scouting with the title of Chief Sea Scout.

1919- Mr. Wilder supervised the preparation of the first Sea Scout Manual. In those days, Sea Scouting followed a pattern of action that was very similar to that of a Boy Scout troop; for example: boys wore khaki uniforms. In order to register, they had to subscribe to the Scout Oath and law and pass the Tenderfoot requirements. Membership required that a boy be 15 years of age and weigh at least 112 pounds.

July 15, 1920- The well-illustrated fourth edition of the Sea Scout Manual was printed and sold in large quantities. Then came a period of 2 or 3 years in which Sea Scouting struggled to be recognized and understood. Although membership fell off, the program proved healthy enough to withstand this period of adjustment. Finally it began to grow as more councils gave it enthusiastic support.

1922- Commander Thomas J. Keane revised the Sea Scout program. He wrote the new requirements for advancement and changed the Boy Scout nature of Sea Scout uniforms into the seagoing uniform. As a result of his fine leadership, the Sea Scout Manual was almost completely revised. Under his direction, it was published in 1924.

1927- Commander Keane was appointed the national director of Sea Scouting, its first full-time professional director. One of T.J. Keane’s earliest project was organizing the first Antarctic expedition to include a Scout.

1928/1929- Eagle Scout and Able Sea Scout Paul Siple of Erie Pennsylvania participated in Admiral Robert Byrd’s expedition.


1930- Membership had reached 8,043 young men. In the 1930’s, with the cooperation of other departments in the national office of the Boy Scouts of America, Keane developed training courses for leaders, new registration procedures, and more acceptable Sea Scout equipment and uniforms.

1939- A major revision of the manual was made by the national committee. The new version was written by Carl D. Lane, an outstanding skipper and author of many books and articles about small ships and the sea.

1940’s With a membership of more than 27,000, Sea Scouting served its country well in World War II. Commander Keane was recalled to active service in the Navy and resigned his position as national director of Sea Scouting. Thousands upon thousands of former and active Sea Scouts joined the Navy and made a tremendous impression on Admiral Chester Nimitz, who sincerely believed that Sea Scouts were better trained and better equipped to help the Navy win out over the enemy and the elements.

September 1, 1949- Sea Scouts officially became Sea Explorers. This was primarily a change in terminology since the old Sea Scout program continued much the same is it had in the past.

1954- The National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America authorized the Research Institute for Social Service of the University of Michigan to make a national study of adolescent boys. This survey revealed the needs, desires, and concerns of 14- to 16- year old boys across the nation. As a result, a completely new Explorer program was developed and put into effect on January 1, 1959.

May 1964- The Exploring Division put the revised Sea Exploring program into effect with a new edition titled Sea Exploring Manual, written by Arthur N. Lindgren.

1968- A new Exploring Division was organized and established under the direction of John M. Claerhout, who placed a new emphasis on Sea Exploring by naming William J. Lidderdale as the first time director of Sea Scouting since 1935.

1968- A new National Sea Exploring Committee was formed with Morgan F. Fitch, Jr., as Chair, to give new national volunteer emphasis to the promotion and support of Sea Exploring.

1971- The new Handbook for Skipper, written by Arthur Lindgren, was published for Skippers, mates, ship committee members, and other related adult leaders.

1972-Sea Exploring (along with all other phases of Exploring) officially became coed.

1974- The U.S. Navy assigned a liaison officer to work in the BSA national office. A series of officers served in this capacity through 1983. Their work further enriched and expanded Sea Exploring.

1984-Sea Scouts across America were saddened by the death of Commander Thomas J. Keane. His pioneering efforts on behalf of Sea Scouting extended over sixty years. The rich tradition and long tenure of many Sea Scout Ships are a tribute to his career.

1980’s- Technological improvements in seamanship, extensive changes in aids to navigation, and program improvements created the need for a new Sea Exploring Manual. Long-time Sea Exploring leader, Bill Minto of Houston, Texas, did most of the text revision with the help of Don Callenius and Bob Maxfield, former national directors of Exploring, and Mike Strain of San Francisco. A number of BSA Skippers, U.S. Coast Guard personnel, and maritime experts contributed to this revision.

1998- The Boy Scouts of America reorganized the Exploring program into the Learning for Life Exploring program and the new Venturing Division. Sea Exploring was placed in the Venturing Division and was renamed Sea Scouts.

2000- The 10th edition of the Sea Scout Manual, edited by Bruce Johnson and Jimmie Homburg which extensively revised the content and organization of the handbook, as well as updating advancement and uniforming standards was released.

2002- The Sea Scout Support Committee re-initiated the national Sea Scout sailing championships. The new competition, called the William I. Koch International Sea Scout Cup, is named for William Koch, famous yachtsman and National Committee member, whose generous support has made the competition possible.

2010-The 11th edition of the Sea Scout Manual was published. It which extensively revised the content and organization of the handbook, as well as updating advancement standards.

2012- Sea Scouting celebrated 100 years of seamanship, scouting, service, and social with over 40 events across the United States.

2012- The National Sea Scout Committee introduced the New Century Uniform, now known as the Official Sea Scout Uniform. This was the first major change to the Sea Scout uniform since Thomas Keane standardized them in the 1920’s.

February 2016- The National Executive Board of the BSA established Sea Scouting as a full-fledged program of the BSA just like Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and Venturing.

2016- The 12th edition of the Sea Scout Manual, featuring a major overhaul in advancement requirements was released. A paddlesports program was added and the format that Scouts attain elective requirements changed.

2017- The Sea Scout Leadership Award was established to recognize worth leaders at the Council, Area, Regional, and National level.

May 2018- Keith Christopher, who served as the National Sea Scout Director since 2008, retired. Christopher set a new course for Sea Scouting in its second century. He oversaw three editions of the Sea Scout Manual, a new uniform, the creation of Sea Scouts as a full program, and brought Sea Scouting to the forefront of the maritime industry in the United States.

August 2018- Sea Scouting is named the official youth program of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary.

A Complete Chronology of Sea Scouting in the United States

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