Ellwood City Scouts Sailing the Caribbean
ELLWOOD CITY – Five members of the Boy Scout Troop 806 recently experienced a week of high seas sailing adventure.
The group with three adult leaders circled St. Thomas on a 40-foot sailboat while studying the plants, animals and habitats of the Caribbean Sea.
In June, the eight-day exploration began when they traveled to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, where they hiked US Virgin Islands National Park and snorkeled the US Virgin Islands. Caribbean in collaboration with the University of the Virgin Islands to collect data. to help preserve coral reefs and endangered sea turtles while learning to protect marine ecosystems.
Grady Smith, Hunter Rock and Hayden Slade, both 16 and entering their first year at Lincoln High School, and Luke Bleakney and Quinton Smith, both 13, entering seventh grade at the school, said they had had incredible adventures on a sailboat.
Boy Scout Chiefs Doug Smith, Boy Scout Chief and Father of Grady and Quinton; Doug Slade, father of Hayden; and Jamie Bleakney, Luke’s father, accompanied the group and shared the unique activities.
Doug Slade said it was amazing to see the boys being exposed to so many new and exciting experiences. For Jamie, the best part was for everyone to learn together, and Doug Smith said seeing sea turtles was a highlight for him. He had many opportunities as the group participated in the study and enumeration of sea turtles in protected and unprotected habitats. As part of the Caribbean Conservation Project, they also conducted an investigation into the deadly hard coral disease prevalent in the region and after the practical work received a detailed presentation of the problem. Grady was the scribe of their discoveries.
The group lived on the boat with Captain Bob, his dog, Leo, and the mate. Luke said he was seasick but quickly recovered and enjoyed the whole adventure.
Hayden, who was the leader of the group, said they rose with the sun and were sailing at 8 a.m.
“There was no downtime and we went to bed when the sun went down,” he said.
The group learned the basics of sailing and all about mainsails and jib sails and how to zigzag and steer the boat using the sails.
“We went 8.5 knots one time and it was amazing until a wave grabbed us,” said Hunter.
Sleep was restricted, and Grady said some would try to sleep on the deck and get rained on and go under the deck.
They ate lots of cold meals and took turns cooking, mostly American food, on the two burner stove, but one time they had hot and spicy Caribbean jerk chicken. About half of them enjoyed the heat, but others less. Quinton said at first it wasn’t bad, but when they ran out of pineapples to go with it, it was hot. Hayden found a lobster, but couldn’t catch it, so they had spaghetti instead. Hunter said their last breakfast was the best because Captain Bob gave them his bacon and they made pancakes with bacon and blueberries. Hunter declared them the best pancakes he has ever eaten.
One night the group took an hour-long tour to the Anchor Lookout, who sits there under the stars to make sure the anchor doesn’t come back up and allows them to drift down the path of the ships. They spent their hour reflecting on their adventure and what they were learning.
With Hunter as their chaplain, they said grace before their meals, and each evening they had a devotion based on their time spent together and reflecting on the day.
The group would swim from the boat to the shore to snorkel and survey or hike and swim to the boat when they were done. Often lunch was a picnic on the beach.
During a hike, they discovered native animals, birds and vegetation and tasted the flower and berries of the barrel cactus which they described as sour and bitter. They also tasted quinep, a fruit popular in the Caribbean, eaten by removing the outer skin to suck the gel fruit inside.
Jamie said they hiked six miles in the valley and for the last three miles they walked in the pouring rain.
“I thought we were going to die, but when it rained the rain cooled us off,” he said.
Doug Smith said the boys’ exemplary demeanor and dedication to Scout values were rewarded when they received the Captain’s Award, which is given at the captain’s sole discretion for groups he believes get along well. , worked well together and exhibited the qualities of the Scout Oath and Law.
The captain and his wife, who are from the United States, live on the boat year round, but while the boys were there she was in command of another scout boat.
Their hike was part of the Boy Scout Sea Base, one of Scout High Adventure’s unique programs.
“It was a very intense adventure. The opportunities are limited, so as soon as we could check in. I was very proud of your group. I hope we paved the way for other Scout troops to get started in adventure, ”said Doug Smith.