“I’m tough as a pine knot because I am a member of Aquatic School ’16!” These words, a bar from the Aquatic School song, represent how you feel at the end of a week at Aquatic School; unbreakable and fiercely proud of everything you’ve accomplished. This camp pushes you to your limits and then gives you another shove into your full potential. That is the true Aquatic School spirit at work.
The week, for me, started off with me shaking at the thought of being there for an entire week without a shipmate for moral support I felt there was an expectation, a need to prove that Skipper Wright hadn’t wasted his time on Ship 1 or on me.
Before June of 2016, I had never heard of Aquatic School or Worth Ranch. My ship wasn’t involved in that area of Texas, but after hearing about it through an adult leader in my ship, my interests were immediately peaked. I researched and found out what I would need to do to succeed. I arrived at Worth Ranch and checked in, still terrified at the week ahead but ready for the challenge. Waiting in line, I overheard some other scouts talking about their experiences from previous Aquatic Schools and realized some of these scouts were veterans of this place.
During check in, I received my ship (main group), my watch (sub group), my code name (which will come in later), and made a few friends who luckily made it into my ship, The Good Ship Blue Ship. The four girls of the camp, myself included, went to our campsite and picked tents as well as dropped off our bags. After heading to the boy’s campsite and then to the flag poles, we officially began the week after lunch.
My time at Aquatic School was never my own; I always had something to work on. As a member of the flag decorating committee and the chairman of the paddle committee. Along with many other activities, staff made sure scouts were never bored. If I wasn’t in class, I was eating, working on my binder, working on the paddle, walking to class, or asleep. I was always exhausted but not in a way that I wanted to stop- more of a kind of exhausted that you feel after a good days work.
And the work is so much fun! By the end of the week you are a certified life guard, qualified in rowing and canoeing, and you have many new friends.
Aquatic School is, if nothing else, heavily influenced by tradition and camp spirit. I lost my voice for a solid week after camp ended, and a friend of mine lost his voice on the third day by how much yelling there is. Even if you’re a newbie, like I was, you can easily immerse yourself in the world of Aquatic School. Aquatic School is big on many principles but none as heavily as respect. You refer to everyone, everyone, respectfully. That means “Aye sir/ma’am” and “Negative sir/ma’am”. You are on time, and that means early, to everything. You clean all messes you make. And, most importantly, you never leave someone behind or get left behind.
Aquatic School truly is an unforgettable experience. At the end of every day, they place a chart called a Star Chart. On this chart, all scouts are listed by watch. Instead of your name, there is your code name which you receive at the beginning of the week. Beside your code name, there are four stars of varying color depicting your performance in the classes that day. Blue stars are the highest, meaning you did really well. By the end of the week, I had a day of all blue stars.
In Aquatic School, there’s graduating: meeting the standards of Aquatic School which include many objectives, making simply graduating a feat of itself. Then there’s Anchoring: which is graduating with honors. This means you showed proficiency in all the requirements, you were a strong leader, and you had a great attitude during the week. Anchoring at Aquatic School is a great honor, one some scouts go back year after year to accomplish. If you Anchor, you cannot attend Aquatic School as a normal scout any more. The bittersweet result of first year Anchoring is knowing that you can never go back unless it is as staff. For some of us, the week was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.
There were 82 scouts at AS last year. Twenty six anchored. I’m proud to say that all four of the girls – all Sea Scouts – who attended Anchored!!! Girls have only been eligible to attend for the last few years, but they have all done so well that Skipper Wright is looking for many more.
This camp honestly changed my perspective on almost everything. It taught me what my responsibilities were as a scout and as a certified lifeguard. It taught me how to be a leader and speak up. It taught me that I can go out of my comfort zone and, not only succeed, but flourish. It taught me the four goals that I since have tried to apply to everything I do: Skill Proficiency, Instructor Training, Time Management, and Leadership Development. Attending Aquatic School was the best decision I’ve made in a long, long time and I would recommend it to any Sea Scout. Here is a link if you are looking for a fun way to build your skills and have a great summer: http://www.aquaticschool.org/
Katie Stone, Boatswains Mate Ship 1 (Aquatic School Anchorman 2016)