Ben Feril, National Commodore

Welcome to my inaugural National Commodore’s column, The BowspritI selected “bowsprit” as the title of my monthly chats with you because of what this spar does for a sailing vessel.  A bowsprit is the most forward-most spar projecting from the bow sailing vessel, which is tilted upwards from the deck of a ship to prevent it from being submerged in water during rough seas.  The bowsprit acts as securing points for lines attached to the forward sails, known as jibs, which is a triangular sail that sets ahead of the foremast of a sailing vessel. Its tack is fixed to the bowsprit,  and the foremost mast. So,  when properly raised, the jib enables the ship to add speed and facilitates for quick maneuverability. 

During the last few years, Scouting has been sailing through the “rough seas” of the BSA financial reorganization and Covid-19 and to move forward, we in the Sea Scout program will need to add more sails to quicken our pace and be agile in promoting our program.   Throughout my term, I will be going fast and be highly maneuverable (and think/act out of the box) for I intend to grow our program – and I need all hands to join me and Jewell Norris, our National Boatswain, in this endeavor!  So, for starters as we’re in the summertime fun season,  I want everyone to focus on the following three interrelated areas: 

First, have fun!  During this summer, many of you are participating in your Ship’s super summer activities such as Long Cruises, treks, working at summer Scout camp, and the like.  While having fun make it a point to successfully achieve some advancement requirements and take a ton of pictures and post them to your Ship’s social media sites.  Share your adventures with your friends and invite them to join the Sea Scout program.  Our goal is to increase our membership to 5,000 youth members and the more you have fun, the more others will join you! Be ready for fall time recruiting!  A fun program = great memories and personal growth that empowers members to stay with Sea Scouting and to grow the program. 

Secondly, but related to everything we do, is to have fun safely!  Live and breathe BSA Youth Protection Guidelines;  and as our Sea Scout Promise states,  know the location and proper use of the lifesaving devices on every boat I board.” In planning your Ship activities make sure that safety, safety equipment safety training, and BSA Youth Protection are major components of your fun activities. Make safety a part of our Scouting DNA!  Most of all Be Prepared for any contingencies.  In recent days, we all read and heard stories of members of Scout Troop 73, from Appleton, Wisconsin, who while returning home from Philmont Scout Ranch provided aid to passengers on the Amtrak train they were riding home  derailed. While afloat and ashore, you’ll never know when you’ll encounter an emergency – so be ready and Be Prepared! A safe program = fun and memorable activities that motivates members to stay with your Ship and to grow your Ship.  

Finally, get some leadership training!  Sea Scouting is an awesome youth led program and as we grow,  we’ll need youth and adult leaders to develop and improve their servant leadership abilities for your Ships to continue thriving.  I encourage all registered adult leaders to sign up for Seabadge and Wood Badge.  If you have a Council Commodore, “ping” him about planning a virtual or in person Seabadge Course and check with your local Council about Wood Badge.   For youth members, you’re encouraged to participate in your Council’s National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT) and for NYLT graduates, consider attending the National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience (NAYLE) at the Philmont Scout Ranch or at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.  There is also our very own Sea Scout Advanced Leadership (SEAL) training which trains Sea Scouts leadership skills while underway. Leadership training = A super fun youth led program planned and facilitated in a safe and fun environment that makes for memorable activities, personal leadership, and character development, and contributes to member retention and growth. 

Founded in 1912, Sea Scouting in the United States is entering its second century of leadership and character development for our youth members.  Throughout its history, the Sea Scout program has endured many challenges that included questions regarding our worth and purpose to our nation’s youth.  Our purpose is simple and as stated in the “Welcome Aboard” statement of the Sea Scout Manual, “to provide our youth members with leadership skills learned in Sea Scouts” that will “ last a lifetime.” 

We owe it to our predecessors, our current youth members, and those who will join us in the future to grow our program now!  So, let’s raise our sails, or add some additional revolutions per minute to our main engines, or be more forceful in our paddle strokes!  We need to add speed and urgency to what we want to accomplish – that is to continue having fun, to grow as leaders, and to promote our high adventure program!  Let’s go!