Do you know what the hardest thing about growing up on a boat is?
As someone who has been piloting a 90 foot vessel since the age of 15, getting my drivers permit was a steep learning curve. Think about it. I was at the helm of Odyssey for a little over a year before I ever sat in the driver’s seat of a car. I had 14 months of skippers constantly reminding me to turn the wheel slowly, let up before you reach the heading you want, and for heaven’s sake – no more than three spokes at a time unless it is an emergency!
My poor parents had no idea what to do with me when I tried to pilot our minivan live a hundred ton vessel down the treacherous straight which was our driveway. I tremble to think how it would have ended it I had grown up on a tiller. In fact, when my friend’s dad was teaching us all how to parallel park we insisted that he give us instructions in boat terms. Once he started using phrases like “right rudder” and “left rudder” we all parked the car no problem. But if that’s the price to pay for high school memories of wind in our hair and ocean spray on our faces, I know there’s not a single one of us who wouldn’t pay it.
And where am I to go me Johnnies?
Where am I to go –
For I am young and a sailing lad and where am I to go?
My crew and I all pretty much have the same problem: we are very bad at being inconspicuous. Perhaps it’s the bright red t-shirts, perhaps it’s the huge duffle bags and random pieces of drift wood. More than likely it’s our loud voices and boisterous attitudes, whatever it is it draws attention. No matter where we go we will almost inevitably get the question “So, what are Sea Scouts?”
This question is more complicated than it might seem, and each crew members has a different answer. We rattle off these five sentence summaries so often that most of us have them memorized. Mine goes something like this:
“We’re a training program for youth sailors, basically Boy Scouts on a boat, but co-ed. So yes, I am a card carrying Boy Scout.” (Short pause for them to realize I’m a girl and then laugh or stare confusedly at me) “See that ship out there? No, not that one, the one with the tallest mast. Yes, that’s Odyssey, we’re currently sailing her for (insert amount of days) to (insert destination), you’re more than welcome to come aboard and tour her.” Short conversation about the ship’s history, how she was built for the Vanderbilt’s in 1938, then commandeered by the navy during World War II, then bought by the Boy Scouts for only a dollar in the 70’s. A few questions about the program, where do you meet, what do you do, how old do you have to be to join, and so on. Then the conversation will almost always end with them saying “You are so lucky to be in a program like that.” We always smile and say “We know.”
And we mean it. It’s the chance of a lifetime and not one of us takes it for granted, because, Sea Scouts is about so much more than we can say in a five minute conversation on a dock. It is about teamwork and perseverance and leadership and friendship, but most of all it is about being young on the sea. We're the kind of kids who know sea shanties better than the hottest new song, who learned to dance on a dock to a live fiddle, whose first time going through customs was in a harbor instead of an airport. Growing up on the sea means that you know things which few other teenagers have ever even been exposed to.
We can navigate with nothing more than a paper chart and a compass by using dead reckoning and running fixes. We understand day markers and navigation buoys and keep the official log book of SSS Odyssey.
We frequently cook for 20 people in a kitchen smaller than a walk-in closet, which involves starting and keeping our diesel stove running, powering three different appliances off of one outlet, and heating water for dish washing in an electric tea kettle.
We are responsible for almost all of the maintenance aboard Odyssey. From varnishing to sail repair, to engine maintenance, and deck swabbing, the skippers make sure that we keep our ship in tiptop shape both above decks and below.
But if that’s the price you pay for being a Sea Scout then there’s not a one of us who wouldn’t pay it. Because these are days we will always remember, nights we will never forget. I'm sure that even the coldest shift of anchor watch will have a strange loving glow about it twenty years from now, and the days of dead calm will forever be burned in our mind.
We are young - we rule the ocean and we live every day to its fullest. And that is what Sea Scouts really is.
- Kesia Lee
This winter the crew of the SSS Odyssey found their way up to Fremont Maritime Services on a rainy Saturday morning with eager hopes of participating in the first day of two India Tango shipboard firefighting and safety training sessions. The first day dozens of excited Sea Scouts and adult skippers from Port, Starboard and Topmen Crews spent the morning in class receiving training on shipboard firefighting. The crew was introduced to a professional grade fire science course material. The crew learned not just about the equipment used to fight fires but how firefighting on a ship varies from land based fire safety. After lunch the excitement was ratcheted up a few notches when the scouts and skippers moved from the classroom to the simulator area and donned firefighting bunker gear.
There were so many scouts standing in the covered outdoor training muster area at the Fremont Maritime India Tango training center that it was soon apparent that there was not enough room in the changing room for everyone to suit up at once. The mounting excitement was palpable as scouts and skippers waited patiently watching as groups of sea scouts walked into a large storage container on one end and emerged from the other looking like firefighters wearing full firefighting bunker gear. There were audible gasps from those waiting as the first Sea Scouts stepped out of the changing room wearing their bunker gear. The transformation from Sea Scout to shipboard firefighter was just beginning.
After suiting up and admiring each other for a few minutes they were separated into two groups. The newly formed fire teams walked through the rain toward a massive shipboard fire simulator, the bow of the simulator sports a massive fire breathing dragon. The simulator itself resembles the top of a large commercial vessel that has somehow been sunk into the concrete; the structure itself has been rigged with propane gas lines terminating in designated areas designed that flame up to brilliant effect. Walking past the walls and hallways of the simulator sooty from endless hours of fire training, it is easy to imagine the intensity soon to come for the scouts and skippers.
The first stage of the fire simulator was an exploration of hand held fire extinguishers. The fire instructor spent a few minutes demonstrating how to operate the Type K wet foam extinguisher and then called for two volunteers. As the volunteer walked up the instructor picked up a gallon container of Coleman white gas and poured it into an industrial looking concrete tub with various pipes water rising out of standing water. A murmur of anticipation began to flow through the crowd as the instructor struck a hand held flare and tossed it into the fuel water mixture. The crews gasped as the fuel ignited and the instructor called the extinguisher wielding volunteers forward. They activated their extinguishers and bounced the wet chemical agent off the back of the wall as trained and let the agent spread over the water fuel mixture cutting the flame off from its source of oxygen and cooling the fuel below the flame point.
The next evolution of shipboard fire training utilized the propane fire simulator, the fire crew walked through the ship towards an engine room where they found a large fire spewing violently from below what appeared to be an electrical engine. The crew advanced towards the fire under direct supervision of the watchful instructor holding CO2 fire extinguishers. The crew was instructed to get low and extinguish the base of the fire. Both groups worked through this evolution and found out what it was like to extinguish a fire with CO2 extinguishers.
The final evolutions of the day had the Sea Scout crews handling fully charged 2 ½ inch fire hoses. The crews worked their way to the top of the superstructure and were taught the basics of how to hold and advance towards a live shipboard fire. Half of the crew worked on an evolution designed to simulate internal fires and the other half worked on extinguishing external fires with their fire hoses. The crews rotated through both evolutions with each Sea Scout taking a turn at working the nozzle.
By the end of the day the crews had worked through multiple evolutions and looked exhausted. Watching the Scouts return their gear and walk to their waiting cars it was easy to see a little swagger in their step. They had each worked hard and earned a bit of pride for having succeeding at something that few adults would ever attempt. The Sea Scouts of the SSS Odyssey are posed and eagerly awaiting the second day of India Tango training!
The start of 2015 finds the SSS Odyssey resting comfortably in dry dock. She was sailed up to the Foss Shipyard in Seattle on December 14th, and she waited patiently for a spot in dry dock. After a berth was found to accommodate our rather large keel, the Foss shipyard crew built cribbing to secure the ship safely so work could begin. At this point a committed group of adult volunteers began the daily process of tracking of her shipyard progress and working on projects best suited to being out of the water. This has been a fantastic opportunity for our Sea Scout crew members to get a look at our beautiful ship bellow the waterline. This is a very busy time and there has been plenty of work to do as we comb through the ship from stem to stern! Our volunteers have been hard at work in the bilge updating an assortment of components. Working in concert with the wonderful Foss team our volunteers have replaced thru hulls, updated plumbing, replaced planks, painted the hull and been working long and hard to ensure a successful and efficient dry docking!
“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea..."
- Antoine de Saint Exupery
Merry Christmas from the SSS Odyssey! The weekend of December 6th was the special peoples cruise, and it was a huge success. The Odyssey made transit to Seattle on the 5th and spent the weekend enjoying the Holiday season! The crew had an amazing time sharing their love of sailing with our guests! We decked out the SSS Odyssey in Christmas lights and blasted holiday music from a set of massive speakers as Santa Clause waved to the crowds. We were part of a huge parade of ships made its way around Lake Union spreading Christmas cheer!
“I can't control the wind but I can adjust the sail.”