Sea Scouts BSA

Hi all – there’s a lot going on and I’m overdue getting a Commodore’s Corner out, so here we go…

National Sea Scout Director Owen McCulloch – photo by Richard Lipham

In case you missed the earlier announcement, the biggest news is that we have a new National Director of Sea Scouts. As part of the reorganization at National, Janice Downey has moved over to the Marketing department, and Owen McCulloch has taken over as our National Sea Scout director. Owen says:

I am excited to be working with our Sea Scouting programs which have such a rich and strong history. I’ve got some experience on the water, and much of my Scouting career has been in supporting programs.

Starting as an Exploring Executive in Portland, Oregon in 1993 (which also supported Sea Exploring – that was the name at the time), I moved to Longs Peak Council/Boulder, Colorado Area in 1999 and supported “The Colorado Anhydrous Fleet” (they even had a shirt). In 2002 I became the Director of Program at the Florida Sea Base overseeing the program operations at the two facilities in the Florida Keys and the program base in the Bahamas. While in the Keys I was an active member of USCGAUX Flotilla 13-8 (boat crew certified). I was DFS in Jacksonville, FL 2006, and moved to Philmont in 2009-2013 where I managed Base Camp operations and all the Seasonal Personnel (1,100+ summer staff). In 2014 I moved to the National Service Center as part of the Corporate Engagement team, representing BSA programs and properties to the corporate and outdoor industry markets. I became the National Venturing Director following the 2017 Jamboree.

My three kids are all in Scouting (two daughters in a Crew, one of the daughters multiple in a troop, son in a troop) and I’m a registered leader (Crew Advisor, ASM for girl troop and ASM for boy troop). Also LNT Master Educator, NRA instructor (multiple very)/RSO, Scuba Rescue cert, etc. I grew up in the program and basically never left. In my “spare time” I’m a competitive bagpiper with a pipe band in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area.

I’m looking forward to supporting the Sea Scouting program as we move forward together.

Owen is already on the job – on the day of the official transition he was at Minto Rendezvous meeting Sea Scouts and adult leaders – so look for him soon at Sea Scouts events near you. We’ll really miss Janice, who has done a great deal for the program, but, she’s not really gone because now we have a Sea Scout friend in Marketing!

The AUXSCOUT program. As most of you know, the new Coast Guard Auxiliary relationship allowing the Auxiliary to charter ships and youth Sea Scouts to join the Auxiliary has been in a pilot in two Coast Guard Auxiliary districts. That pilot has gone very well, and we expect the program to roll out nationwide soon, but we don’t yet have a firm date. While you are waiting, this would be a great time to seek out your local Auxiliary flotilla and schedule a boater safety class for your youth. That is a good way to get the relationship going! Meanwhile, we have a webinar coming up to talk about this on October 22 (tonight!) at 2000 central time – it’s aimed at Council and Area Commodores, but anyone interested is welcome to attend. Register here. If you miss it, don’t worry, we’ll be posting a recording. [Update: the webinar is over and the recording is here]

SEAL Re-Launch. Under the leadership of new national SEAL coordinator Rob Freas, SEAL is undergoing a significant update and an expansion – in past years we’ve had to turn Scouts away but this year will see the addition of new locations and some new adventures (paddlecraft SEAL anyone?) so there should be room for everyone. I want to dispel one myth about SEAL – some youth don’t sign up for SEAL because they’re afraid they’ll fail. But the reality is that the only way to fail is to show up not willing to try. If you show up willing to join the team and engage, you’ll do fine! So please get the word out to everyone to plan to come to the new and improved SEAL training this summer – with a lot more options for locations! For a youth perspective on SEAL watch this or this.

Seabadge. In the past, Seabadge opportunities have been too rare. We are working to make Seabadge available a lot more often in a lot more locations. Just this past weekend we had Seabadge courses underway in Atlanta and at Lake Tahoe; last week was Illinois, and next week is Pennsylvania – I think courses in all four regions in the same month is a first! 2020 is the 50th anniversary of Seabadge and you will be seeing a lot of courses across the country, including one back at the original location in Monterey. If you haven’t yet been to Seabadge, keep an eye on the upcoming course listings for upcoming courses and make a point to join us for one of them! And remember, your friends from other branches of Scouting are welcome too – it isn’t required that you be a Sea Scout leader to attend.

OA Unit Rep. Now that we are officially part of the Order of the Arrow, they’ve decided (with the concurrence of the National Program Development Committee which includes Sea Scouts) to rename the Order of the Arrow Troop Representative Position to Order of the Arrow Unit Representative and to allow that position in Sea Scout Ships and Venturing Crews as well as Scouts BSA troops. Once the stock of OA Troop Rep patches is used up, there will be a single patch for all 3 programs, but since it will be a while before that happens, if your Ship is in a hurry to get started, just use the Specialist patch for now. Duties will be similar to those of a Troop Rep, but will include promoting our equivalent of a long term camp, the long cruise. You can find more details here.

Hidden Treasures from There is a lot of great material just waiting to be discovered on the Sea Scout website. Someone was recently looking for a lesson plan to teach navigation to their ship and I pointed them at this excellent work by Vice Commodore Douglas Love – this is designed to get you through teaching all the navigation requirements up to Quartermaster and is based on public domain sources like Bowditch:

While we’re speaking about navigation, this looks like a fun winter project: Celestial Navigation on a budget.

Paddlecraft! Now that we have got an increased focus on paddlecraft in Sea Scouts, I want to remind you that BSA’s national aquatics committee has developed some pretty good paddlecraft safety training – in many councils, the Council Aquatics Committee offers that training, or if yours doesn’t, perhaps a neighboring council does. You can learn more about what is out there at the aquatics resources site but check with your local council to see what is offered.

Skipper Club. The National Safe Boating Council has developed a training called Skipper Club, adapted from the NSBC’s Open Water and Close-Quarters Boat Control curriculum and aimed at young people ages 13-19. Working with them, we’ve been awarded a grant from the Coast Guard to train as many as 80 adult instructors for this class – all we have to do is provide the volunteer instructor-candidates and appropriate powerboats, the instructors and their travel are covered by the grant. Adults who are trained as instructors will be able to deliver the training to Sea Scouts at no charge (other than actual costs for things like fuel etc). We ran a pilot of this program last year with Sea Scouts in a couple of locations and it was well received – the youth who participated found it both fun and useful. If you are interested in hosting this training, please contact your Area or Regional Commodore – the Regional Commodores will be responsible for determining which locations we schedule. See more info on the Skipper Club program at

What are you doing next summer? Our National Quarterdeck decided that they really wanted a National Sea Scout event that everyone can attend. Koch Cup is great, but not many Scouts can attend and they wanted someone for everyone! In searching for a way to do that, they spoke to their counterparts in the Venturing program and decided that the most efficient way to proceed would be to join forces with them to establish a Sea Scout ‘subcamp’ at VenturingFest next summer. Join us for a fun and exciting event in the company of Sea Scouts from all over the country! Learn more and get yourself registered at the Summit site.

I’d love to hear from you about what’s going on out there, or any questions or concerns you may have. Drop me a line at twcook at!

T.W. Cook – National Commodore

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