There’s a lot going on this fall – here are a few notes to bring you all up to date.
As we approach the fall equinox, school has started in most places and we are all struggling to figure out how our program is going to work this fall and winter. This has certainly been a difficult summer for most of us, but we have to find ways to persevere. I would like to share a few things that may help.
First, some of the Skippers I hear from seem to be under the impression that we are not allowed to do anything at all – no meetings, no outings, no nothing. I don’t think there is any place in the country where that is strictly true, but unfortunately, there is a lot of variation in what you can actually do depending on where you live. To help, BSA has published this Restart Scouting checklist – if you haven’t seen it, please review it and then work with your council and charter organization to find ways to get out on the water, or at least, try to hold some sort of outdoor activities before it gets too cold outside. I suspect that in many places, putting a dozen people onto a boat together is not going to work. But I also suspect that there are few places where that dozen people could not maintain social distancing and go kayaking or canoeing. If you are a big boat ship, try something new. Variety in your program is almost always a win, and right now, it is a necessity!
Second, revisit your meetings. A lot of people complain about Zoom fatigue but I think a lot of that is rooted in the fact that Zoom makes a poor quality meeting seem even poorer. Meetings that move along briskly, have engaging content, and that actually accomplish things are not nearly as fatiguing and certainly will seem more fun than most of the virtual school out there. I have seen some truly great online meetings – and most were run entirely by the youth. So turn your Quarterdeck loose and ask them to question all the assumptions and reinvent your meetings! (and by the way, that would be a good idea for your in-person meetings too).
Third, look beyond your local area for content. There is a lot of great innovation in online events going on right now, from the Central Region Open Fishing Tournament to the online Rendezvous effort in Southern Region Area 3 to the East and West online Safety at Sea events. There are also things like the Coast Guard Tech Talks – the upcoming talk on September 22 is on radar.
Fourth, take a look at all those boring requirements like Ordinary 6a: Name the various materials used to manufacture rope, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and the characteristics of laid and braided rope. Discuss the meaning of lay, thread, strand, and hawser. Explain how rope is sized and measured. There will never be a better time to get that done than now. This is one of many requirements that can completely be done virtually. Some ships have been systematically working through these requirements in times when they cannot meet, and report enormous advancement progress this year as a result.
Recruiting and Rechartering
Back to school is usually a good time to recruit, and there is no reason it can’t be this year as well. Interestingly, at least a dozen Skippers have told me that 2020 has been their best recruiting year ever. When I ask how, every one of them has said that peer recruiting – having the youth in the ship invite a friend – works even with virtual meetings. One of them signed up 4 new youth (taking advantage of online applications) even during a time they weren’t meeting in person!
The National Quarterdeck has been promoting peer recruiting (last week was Sea Scout Recruiting Week – where they asked each Scout to bring one new person to a ship meeting or activity), and you’ll see more from them about this in the near future. Our youth helped save our program by telling the story of what Sea Scouts means to them, now it’s time for them to tell that story to prospective new Sea Scouts!
Recharter time is almost here, and it is time to start getting things together. Remember that anyone who turned 18 this year will need to fill out the background check form and complete youth protection training before you can re-register them. We are trying to identify ships who need help as soon as we can, so please let your Commodore know ASAP if your ship is good for rechartering, or if you need some assistance!
Most of the district roundtables around the country have gone virtual, which is actually probably an improvement in that it makes them easier to attend. Please attend your local roundtable, find out what’s going on (like, the recharter schedule and process for your council), and more importantly, take the opportunity to be a visible representative for Sea Scouts and let everyone know what’s going on in their district!
Several of you have mentioned that lack of ability to conduct swimming events is holding some youth back from advancement. We are offering a deferment of those swimming requirements by a rank to help our youth along – see the BSA COVID-19 FAQ for the details.
Remember that Scoutbook is the recommended way to track advancement (we are no longer maintaining the SPARs since most units have stopped using them), but you’ll need to track the Swimming deferment off books – since it is temporary we didn’t ask for them to change that.
Also, in case you didn’t notice, Scoutbook now allows you to take online payments using Paypal. It (along with my.scouting) now also allows you to link a Google or Apple account and login that way. Maybe online payments will help recharters easier this year.
A few of you have pointed out that a couple of advancement requirements were lost in the last edit of the Sea Scout manual. That’s being fixed and should be up shortly, but meanwhile, refer to Advancement Central for the latest requirements.
It seems that there is a huge pent-up demand for virtual Seabadge courses – all those being offered have filled nearly instantly. We’re trying to add one more before the end of the year, and more in early 2021. If you haven’t yet attended, keep an eye out and prepare to act quickly. Reviews so far have been excellent, and since the fee is much less (no lodging or meals to pay for) and you do not have to travel, maybe now is the time to attend Seabadge!
Many of us have ordered genuine US Navy boatswain’s pipes from Jim McCurdy over at The Ship in a Bottle through the years. He is now offering a Sea Scout discount, so if you need a pipe visit this page and if you are too busy to make your own lanyard, he be happy to make one of those for you too, but he’ll also sell you the proper line to make your own! Making your own is another great program opportunity that can be done individually at home. If you don’t know how, you are in luck – the classic reference with everything you need to know, the Ashley Book of Knots, is now available as a PDF you can download for free right here.
Soon it will be time to apply for National Flagship. If you think you might like to do that, now would be a good time to make sure you have your Journey to Excellence (JTE) requirements covered. You can also start assembling materials for your application. Reviewing last year’s winning presentation would be a good start, you can find it here. Hosting a watch party for those videos might be a good use of an online meeting sometime soon.
Most Council Sea Scout Leadership Award nominations are due soon. Remember that anyone can send in a nomination – if you see a worthy youth or adult, send in a nomination! The form and instructions can be found here. Council award nominations must be sent to your council, not to national. National, Regional and Area award nominations are due starting in March, so please think ahead to those as well.
That’s all for now.
Fair winds! – T.W. Cook, National Commodore