Tag Archives: Sea Base

Smooth Sailing- Headed Home

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It has been an interesting project recording the adventures of Rusty’s scout troop and their Sea Base adventure. This blog series has led to lively discussion as everyone’s perception of events varied just a bit, affected all the more by my attempt to share memories of experiences that I wasn’t actually privy to. While the trip was shared by 8 individuals each person’s experiences varied slightly based on where they were and what they were doing at any given moment. Some saw wildlife others didn’t and had experiences their sea mates missed because of where they were at and what they were doing moment to moment. The result is 8 slightly different recollections of the same stories. I would love to have each of them pen their own synopsis for the sake of comparison and to get each scout’s point of view but know the likelihood of getting these guys to sit and journal for me is a long shot. 😊 I did, however, have Keith reach out and share with me his personal journal entries of the week, something that was a real treat to read as it gave me a more comprehensive peek into the time Rusty and Toby enjoyed in Florida. With his permission I thought I’d wrap up this blog series with his first-person synopsis of their last two days in Florida rather than struggling to piece together the stories from what I heard secondhand.

Thanks, Keith, for sharing your memories of the last two days of this once in a lifetime adventure!

 

“On Thursday we got up early and were packed before breakfast.  We had an 11:30 airboat appointment and had plenty of time to get there.  After breakfast, we said goodbye to Sea Base and started our journey home.  While still on Islamorada, we stopped at a souvenir place because they had a huge lobster out front.

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  After quick pictures, we continued on until we got to the Krispy Kreme shop – which had their hot donut sign on.  This time the donuts were hot and soft and sweet and good!  Two dozen donuts disappeared in 3 minutes.  Traffic on this morning was awful.  The GPS, when we started out, said we would arrive about a ½ hour before our appointment.  The traffic was bad because of construction.  We missed our appointment by 10 minutes.  Our spot was given to others.  However, the next time we could get a boat was at 1:00PM.

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 Now we had over an hour to kill with the boys.  There was Miccosukee tourist village up the road about 10 miles and so we went there for a few minutes to hang out in air conditioning in their souvenir shop. 

The Miccosukee are a branch of the Seminole Indians. 

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The airboat ride would take place on their reservation in the Everglades.  Our boat driver was named Fabian.  He was dressed in a bright yellow shirt and had a long braid down his back.  The ride was scheduled to take 45 minutes.

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 We all put earplugs in to muffle the noise of the motor.

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 We stopped at four spots where alligators were spotted, one of them being a small island where a few families used to live.  Dry land is hard to come by in the swamp.   

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At one point in the tour, we saw a big male alligator, about 8 to 9 feet in length. 

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Fabian stopped the boat and climbed to the front.  He started making noises that got the interest of the gator, which then came over to the boat.

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 The gator kept rising up out of the water as if to jump in the boat, but Fabian kept pushing the gator back down into the water with his hands. 

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All the time he was lecturing us on the habits of alligators in the Everglades.  It was fun to watch.

After the boat ride, we piled into the car.  Toby continued driving until we gassed up, when I took over.  We got off the interstate just after dark and stopped at the Metro Diner in St. Augustine for dinner.  They had some huge burgers and sandwiches.  The food was excellent and then we drove on to a Days Inn where we all crammed into one room to spend the night.  The trip down taught us it was almost impossible to get any rest while driving in the van. 

On Friday morning we ate breakfast at the Village Inn and then we went to the Visitor’s Center. 

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From there we walked past some of the old buildings of St. Augustine and a cemetery, seeing the sites along the way.

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 We spent most of our time at the Castillo de San Marcos.

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 This is the old fort that protected the city through the ages.

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They had cannons from the 1700s on display.

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 The workers there had a re-enactment of firing a cannon.

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   Rusty, Nate G. and Thomas all earned a certificate and patch associated with the Historical Site by filling out an educational workbook.

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A little after noon, we returned to the van where Toby, Pete and finally Nate A. completed the drive home.  Again, Nate had to use the cruise control as we traveled through West Virginia, making it an exciting ride.  We arrived home at 1:45 AM Saturday morning to Pete’s house.  Toby was kind enough to drop everyone off.  I was happy to sleep in my bed again.”

 

Smooth Sailing- Back on Land

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On Wednesday Rusty and his Boy Scout troop headed in from the open sea back to Sea Base, marking the end of their adventure on the water…

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 But not the end of their Florida fun.

They still had a few days left of their Scouting high adventure and there was much fun to still be had. It was just going to take place on solid ground for the next 3 days, instead of the high seas.

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On Wednesday morning the scouts were up early and began cooking breakfast as the sailboat made its way toward land. They arrived at port and proceeded to get their assignments from the captain. Some headed onto shore to get the carts needed for transporting their personal belongings and other gear from the boat to the Sea Base dorm.

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The tasks for unloading, cleaning and prepping the boat for the next week’s crew were split between the members of the troop, with some cleaning and returning the snorkel gear, while others began the task of washing down the boat.

Using special soap that was environmentally safe they scrubbed the outside of the boat washing away the signs that eight scouts/leaders had occupied it for a week.

While engaged in this chore some local wildlife stopped by to say hello. A large sea cow arrived boat side, lured in by the activity occurring around the boat. Evidently manatees are drawn to the splash of fresh water, a treat that must be limited because of the negative affect it has on their buoyancy if they consume too much of it.

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The boys and leaders had a wonderful time meeting and greeting this large lady up close and snapping some awesome photos.

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After they were done cleaning up and clearing out everyone had some free time to shower, rest, and do a little shopping at the Sea Base store.

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After lunch there was paddle boarding and kayaking for the scouts and their leaders in the bay. After some instruction they headed out to a small mangrove island ¼ mile away from the beach.

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The wind was blowing hard which made the trip out to the island easy but the trip back extra tough. Fighting the wind and waves led some to abandon their standing positions and lay down on their bellies to paddle back in.

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At 5:00 pm they congregated at the flag pole with two other troops that had just arrived, where they went over announcements and recited the Sea Base Grace:

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Bless the creatures of the sea.

Bless this person I call me.

Bless the Keys, you make so grand.

Bless the sun that warms the land.

Bless the Fellowship we feel,

As we gather for this meal.

Amen

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The two other troops headed to dinner while our troop walked over to the volleyball court for some Sea Base planned activities.

They played volleyball,

Polynesian tug of war,

And Poison Barrel.

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A limbo competition opened the door to the luau themed dinner that was their final meal at Sea Base.

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This special luau dinner on the beach is the traditional conclusion to every Sea Base adventure and a perfect way to end a magical week.

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The setting was spectacular, and the meal was too.

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My boys raved about their feast of Mahi Mahi, rice, Hawaiian rolls, crab cakes, corn, chicken wings, and key lime pie.

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With stomachs full and eyelids heavy the troops headed back to the dorms for a good night sleep before the following day’s adventure with alligators.

Stay tuned!

Smooth Sailing- Part 2

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It has been a week now since the boys rolled back into town after their road trip/ sea trip adventure. As the days pass more and more stories of heroism, shenanigans, and the thrill of everyday chores when living on the high seas are shared. I continue to relish in the stories that are being revealed as time passes and have been jotting down notes so as to try and do a decent job retelling their story of adventure…a tough task when the writer wasn’t there to experience it herself.

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Their time on the high seas quickly settled into a routine of sorts. Their days typically began around 6 or 7 am, when everyone rolled from their sleeping bags to begin their day.

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Just like at home their day was filled with trivial tasks like teeth brushing:

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And food preparation:123_1519962637018

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Typical tasks that take on an atypical slant when done in the unusual confines of a sailboat.

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Breakfast varied day to day but was typically a hot meal of some sort, prepared by the scouts with the assistance of Keith who graciously pitched in as sous chef.

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Lunch occurred during the busier part of their day and as a result was usually a grab and go meal like sandwiches or snacks.

Dinner was another hot meal, prepared after the events of the day. As the sun set and the cabin darkened the addition of head lamps helped the scouts get dinner on the table.

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Their meals were largely built around the pantry items they stocked at the start of the trip with the addition of seafood caught through the day.

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Much fishing occurred each day and the troop was able to enjoy the fruits of their labor, feasting on meals of Jack Crevalle, Grunt, and lobster.

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Yes, you read that right.

While we were home eating spaghetti and grilled cheese the scouts were feasting on fresh lobster.

Their captain explained that scattered through the waters of the Florida Keys are hundreds of lobster traps, many of which are ghost traps. Ghost traps are lobster traps that  have lost their distinctive buoy that brands that trap as belonging to a particular fisherman. After the most recent hurricane many lobster traps lost their markers and are now considered ghost traps; unclaimed by any fisherman, sitting on the ocean floor, catching and not releasing the lobsters within. The boys found a few of these ghost traps during their sailing adventure.

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If ghost traps couldn’t be found in the waters nearby there was always the means of catching lobster with nets and a tickle stick. The boys would snorkel down to a hole in the rocks and prod the hole with a stick while positioning a net at the entrance of the hole. If it was the hiding place of a lobster they would come scuttling out, right into the net.

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The caught lobster then had to be measured to ensure its maturity and if it was big enough it would end up in the supper pot.

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Only on a Sea Base adventure do teenage boys add fresh lobster to their Kraft macaroni and cheese and call it dinner.

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I was a tad jealous when I saw the pictures!

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It seemed their days revolved around meals and sailing. The task of sailing their 44-foot sailboat fell mainly on the Boy Scout’s shoulders. They had an experienced captain to teach them the ropes and guide them along, but aside from the guidance they received from the captain 90% of the tasks were performed by the boys while the men sat back and enjoyed the ride.

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As Crew Chief Rusty was given the responsibility of managing and assigning tasks, something far outside his comfort zone. He later confessed that he found himself often choosing to do the necessary tasks rather than assign jobs to others because it was more within his comfort zone. I see this is an area where we could use some work, but I can’t blame him. I am much the same way. I would rather be a hard-working Indian than a chief any day of the week.

Luckily, he was blessed with an awesome crew of guys who were more than willing to take on any task assigned to them. It was really a great group of boys and leaders.

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Following a predetermined route, troop 558 made their way from Sea Base out into the ocean and onto Marathon Keys, their stop halfway through the trip. To leave the bay they had to pass under a drawbridge. With a mast reaching 40 feet in the air their boat didn’t fit under the bridge, so they had to wait for the scheduled hourly draw that lifted the bridge up into the sky and allowed the tall sailboats to pass underneath.

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As they sailed they had the opportunity to stop and snorkel at reefs along the way. The experience was neat and they saw some awesome sea life. Their only regret was that they sailed during a week of high winds which resulted in big waves and silty water. Which made swimming and snorkeling a bit of a challenge.

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On Monday they arrived at Marathon Keys. They were scheduled to dock there for the night, fill the water tank, shower, restock supplies, and perform the service project that they were assigned by Sea Base, which was cleaning the restrooms and bath house.

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Tuesday morning, they were back on the water and on the second leg of the trip taking them back toward Sea Base.

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During the day, while they sailed from snorkel sight to snorkel sight,

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most of the troop congregated in the cockpit around the scout who was at the wheel. This became the “living room” of their home away from home as they sat and chatted while sailing along.

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Some would use the travel time to troll for fish.

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While on the water they were privy to many wondrous sights including dolphin, barracuda, eel, puffer fish, sea turtles, and one shark sighting…

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Not to mention the spectacular sunrises and sunsets that would bookend their days.

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 Each night the sun would start sinking beneath the horizon around 6:00 pm and by 8:00 pm these weary scouts and their leaders were tucked in sleeping bags and falling asleep to the rocking of the waves.

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Now that’s the life!

 

Smooth Sailing- Part 1

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FB_IMG_1519869021196Last Saturday Toby and Rusty returned home from a week of sailing the open seas with their fellow sea dogs. It was an adventure of a lifetime and I was so glad Rusty got to experience it with his Dad.

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Their crew was comprised of three other young men from Rusty’s scout troop and three other leaders, making it a solid crew of eight.

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This adventure came about as a result of an awesome Scoutmaster who time after time pulls out all the stops and goes far beyond the call of duty to offer these boys incredible, skill building, character developing, life changing challenges. This was, however, an opportunity that went beyond their normal adventures. This was a once in a lifetime experience offered through The Boy Scout’s Sea Base in southern Florida.

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A year ago they secured a spot for the season and Toby and Rusty signed up to go with the troop, giving Rusty a year to work and earn the money needed to fund this fun. Those twelve months flew by and before we knew it the time had arrived for them to pack their bags and hit the road.

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The troop decided to drive down to Sea Base in our 12 passenger van, a spacious and dependable vessel that they soon discovered was built for high capacity not high comfort. They left on their road trip early Thursday morning and drove for 22 hours straight, allowing a few quick stops along the way, including an emergency 2:30 am stop at a Krispy Kreme Donuts.

One of the passengers in the van who was not sleeping at the time spotted the “Hot Donuts Now” sign lit up like a beacon of refuge to weary travelers. With a shout of “STOP!” those sleeping were jolted awake and this van full of scouts pulled in to claim their hot donuts from the drive-thru window…Donuts which ended up being merely warm, much to their disappointment.

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By the time they pulled into the Sea Base parking lot everyone was worn and weary and ready to catch some ZZZZZs… wherever they could find them.

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They were informed that they could check into the dorms at noon, so while they waited they headed over to Robbie’s, a local dumpy but delicious dive on the water. There they enjoyed a yummy breakfast on the docks. Toby said it wasn’t much to look at inside with the exception the notable décor that papered the walls. Evidently the inside of the diner was wallpapered in dollar bills that had been stapled up onto the walls over the years. Toby estimated their was a few thousand dollars worth of Mr. Washington’s papering the walls, money that he thought would have been better put to use fixing up the place.

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He did say that despite the wear and tear of the building, the view was incredible.

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At noon they were allowed to check into the Sea Base dorms where they, as the first crew out for the season, found they had the dormitory of 50 beds all to themselves for the night.

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They were not scheduled to set sail until the following day so Friday was spent napping a little, exploring the Sea Base compound, doing their snorkeling test in the pool, and prepping their sailboat with supplies.

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After a restful night sleep in the dorms they set sail on Saturday morning. Their vessel for the week was a 44 foot sailboat that would become their home away from home.

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Below deck was the Captain’s sleeping quarters (which were off limits to the crew)

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Capt. Hajo

The galley where the boys prepared meals three times a day:

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The dining room table (which converted and became Keith’s bed at night):

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The head (bathroom), and a storage area for the single bag of gear each crew member was allotted:

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As well as a few beds:

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Toby’s bed for the week.

Some slept below deck while others spent the week sleeping out under the stars:

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Others caught Zzzzs whenever and wherever they could:

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Once on the boat they set sail for an adventure on the high seas.

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Under the leadership and guidance of their faithful captain, Hajo, they began their training to become proficiant sailors. As they headed out of the marina they caught their first glimpse of the magical sights that awaited them. It came in the form of a sunrise that set the tone for the week and gave this crew a preview of the awesome experiences that awaited them.

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Stay tuned as we look back on their week of adventure and I attempt to do justice to the stories they have shared and the pictures they captured as they sailed around the Florida Keys.

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