Delaware Valley Flotilla

President's Weekend Sea Scout Training

Pine Tree Training & Environmental Centre

Burlington County Council, BSA

Tabernacle, New Jersey

15 - 17 February 2013

The Delaware Valley Flotilla of BSA's Northeast Region held its 7th annual President's Weekend Sea Scout Training session during the weekend of 15 through 17 February 2013 at the Pine Tree Training and Environmental Center located near Tabernacle, New Jersey.  Our host was the Burlington County Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the training program was provided by the Delaware Valley Flotilla.  The Delaware Valley Flotilla is made up of Sea Scout Ships in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Southern New Jersey and a portion of Maryland.  During this training weekend, however, Sea Scout Ships from Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia were represented.   

We arrived at Pine Tree shortly after 1930 hours on Friday, 15 February 2013, and were assigned our quarters.  We were pleasantly surprised at the accommodations, heated cabins with a kitchen, fireplace, bathroom with a shower.  Each cabin was equipped with six (6) bunk beds with mattresses and two (2) folding tables with chairs.  We shared our cabin with some Sea Scouts from a Ship located in New Haven, Connecticut.  The photo at right shows our Sea Scouts exercising some of their Boy Scout skills in building a fire under the watchful eye of Mate Cowles.

Saturday got underway early with colors at 0645 hours and breakfast commencing at 0700 hours.  There was a regular cooking crew and our meals were taken in the training centre dining hall.  The photo at right show our group finishing up Saturday breakfast and preparing to attend their first class.


Our training day commenced at 0815 with a course on basis watercraft safety.  Each of the courses offered at Pine Tree was designed to fulfill a particular Sea Scout advancement requirement from the Apprentice Rank all of the way up to Quartermaster.  The classes did not cover every requirement but did cover those that are most difficult to perform or accomplish at a Ship meeting.  Quite a few requirements for the Ordinary and Able ranks were covered and the more difficult requirements for the Apprentice rank were available.  Since we are a relatively new Ship, our Sea Scouts took all of the Apprentice and a number of Ordinary courses that were offered.  The watercraft safety course went over the basics of safety on the water as well as the types of personal flotation devices (PFDs), or lifejackets, that are available and the proper use for each.  The photo at left shows Andy Cowles modeling one of the types of lifejackets while Randy van der Kleut simply covers his face.  The part of the safety course that our Scouts enjoyed the most was the demonstration with various types of flares, both smoke and light flares.  The photo below at right shows Andy Cowles with our Sea Scouts with the lighted flares, which can be used either during the day or at night.  It was important to keep the flares pointed away from one's person as the burning flares did drip hot material that could cause severe burns if it came into contact with one's skin or clothing.  While the lighted flares were fun, the Sea Scouts appeared to be more interested in the smoke flares, which were demonstrated after the lighted flares.  The smoke flares gave off a bright orange smoke and are used for day-time emergencies.  The photo at right depicts Andy Cowles and our instructor with the orange smoke flares while the Sea Scouts look on. 

From basic watercraft safety, our group went onto a class on the use and history of the boatswain's pipe.  The boatswain's pipe is an instrument that is intimately connected with sailors and the sea and is still used aboard ships and in nautical ceremonies on land.  Possession of the pipe is also a symbol of the office of boatswain.  The photo at right was taken at our boatswain's pipe training class.  The instructor is a retired lieutenant commander and currently works for the Department of Homeland Security.  The young lady sitting between Skipper Wile and the instructor is an active Sea Scout and is the boatswain of her Ship, which is located in Maryland.  The Sea Scouts were taught how to tune their boatswain's pipes, what to look for in a good, serviceable pipe, and then several basic calls on the pipe.  Obviously, one cannot master the boatswain's pipe in a single 50-minute class and much more practice will be required before our Sea Scouts can be considered as being anything close to proficient with their boatswain's pipes.  

Following the boatswain's pipe class, our Sea Scouts attended a class on leadership, which is an important subject not only in Scouting, but in everyday life.  That class went over the duties and responsibilities of the various officers and petty officers in a Sea Scout ship as well as the various styles of leadership.  Also covered was the basis organization of a typical Sea Scout Ship and the various areas of responsibility for the Skipper, Mates, Committee Members and the Petty Officers of the Ship, with emphasis being on the duties of the Ship's boatswain.

The final period of instruction before lunch was on basic knots.  Knowledge of various types of knots is required because of their common usage on boats, especially sailboats.  The basic knots required for the Apprentice rank are similar to those required for a Boy Scout to learn up to the First Class rank with some additional knots used exclusively in connection with boats and watercraft. Those common knots include the overhand, square, clove hitch, half hitch, two half hitches, and bowline.  

After lunch, we started off with a class on the various types of engines found on watercraft, from large steam engines and turbines, to the smaller one and two-cycle outboard motors one will more often encounter on a local lake, river, or bay.  They also learned the basic operation of both two and four-stroke internal combustion engines.  Unfortunately, we had to shove off to our next class before we could get to some hands-on instruction with the various outboard motors that were present.

The photo at left and below right shows our crew members at their basic drill class.  Unlike the Boy Scouts, the Sea Scouts place emphasis on drill and ceremonies.  Bridges of Honor, landships, Ship admission ceremonies, are all held with a higher degree of ceremony than Boy Scout Troops or Cub Scout Packs hold their various courts of honor or pack meetings.  As a result it is important for Sea Scouts to master some very basis drill commands used in ceremonies.  Our instructor, who is one of the council sea scout committee people for the Burlington County Council, is a former US Army drill instructor.  In addition to teaching the commands and techniques of basic drill, the instructor also explained to our crew members why such commands are important and why it is important that a Ship's boatswain, who will ultimately be giving those commands, master the movements and commands.  It was impressive that during a 50-minute period our crew members were able to master some of the basic drill commands and their corresponding movements.

Following basic drill, our crew members attended a class on Sea Scout customs and ceremonies.  There they learned that many Sea Scout customs and courtesies are drawn from nautical tradition that has developed over the centuries.  In particular, the crew members learned some basic requirements for holding a proper land ship ceremony for Bridges of Honor and other ceremonies.

Following drill and customs and courtesies, the Sea Scouts attended a workshop on ornamental rope work.  During this workshop the crew members were instructed on how to make some useful ornamental knots, such as a turk's head and a monkey fist, and their use aboard vessels was explained.  For each of the ornamental knots, there was a practical use on board a vessel. 

Evening colors were held at 1745 and dinner commenced at 1800.  Saturday night dinner was scheduled to be an affair where the Sea Scouts wore their dress whites or blues, whichever their particular ship voted to use.  The photo at right shows Ship 461 crew members in their dress whites ready for the evening meal.

Sunday was a rather relaxed day.  Morning colors were held at 0800 and a non-denominational chapel service was held in the dining hall at 0815.  Breakfast was at 0830 after which the Ship's officers attended a workshop and discussion on recruiting  while the crew members packed their gear and ensured that our cabin was ready for departing inspection.

We departed Pine Tree Training and Environmental Centre around 1100 and returned home by 1300.  During the weekend, our crew members were able to complete a number of requirements towards their Apprentice and Ordinary ranks and also became better acquainted with the Sea Scout program in the northeastern United States.  One of the themes that was driven into participants during the weekend training session was that Sea Scouting is a youth-led program that is managed and led by the Ship's petty officers, with the mentoring of the Ship's officers and committee.

The final set of photos shows our crew members securing the state flags of the various states represented at the training weekend along with the signal flags that were used at various times of the day to spell out various messages.  Our crew members agreed that the training weekend was a most worthwhile event and that they learned a considerable amount regarding water safety and basic seamanship.  Our crew members also received a taste of the special bond that joins Sea Scouts around the country in a unique brotherhood of water-bound scouting.       






















Preliminary plans are already in the works to attend next year's President's Weekend Training Workshop at Pine Tree.  Hopefully, our crew members will be ready for some of the more advanced course that are planned to be offered in 2014.


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This page last updated on Tuesday, 19 February 2013.