It’s never too early to start discussing summer camp options with the kids. Luckily, on the Gulf Coast a great camp option offers boating adventures to kids that make their parents green with envy. The Sea Scouts, a maritime version of the Boy Scouts, have a major facility on the Gulf Coast in Galveston, Texas. Known as Sea bases, these scouting programs are major hands-on educational boating programs for the next generations.
Originally conceived as a camp and high-adventure facility for the Sea Scouts, the Sea Base Galveston on Offatts Bayou has fresh programs and a new facility that was completed in early 2015 with an endowment reported to approach $100 million. The scope of the original project broadened to include a Community Youth Sailing Center and a maritime education facility for merchant mariner students and others. Financed almost entirely by a donation from a private donor who is very active in the Sea Scouting programs, the 60,000-square-foot facility includes lodging, offices, classrooms, and a cafeteria. The structure is adjacent to floating docks and piers and can host 200-300 scouts on a weekly basis.
Home to a fleet of Sonar and FJ sailboats and an 82′ Coast Guard cutter converted to a functioning on-the-water classroom, the Sea base also holds a variety of vessels ranging from kayaks to schooners with the goals of emphasizing sailing instruction, seamanship, navigation, and high adventure. The program draws more than 20,000 scouts a year from throughout the country.
Quite similar to the Sea Base in Galveston, a Sea Scouts’ facility in Islamorada in the Florida Keys also offers high adventure maritime camps with everything from snorkeling and scuba diving to sailing expeditions to exploring a deserted island owned by the organization—all in sunny South Florida.
With many different programs, the Out Island Adventure in the Keys is one of the most irresistible. Sea Scouts are taken to the rustic and undeveloped Big Munson Island for a week of snorkeling and kayaking on coral reefs, all while camping on the beaches. Described as a Survivor for kids but fully supervised, the program urges scouts to carry their own gear and provisions before being led on mini-expeditions to fish the reefs and forage on the island.
Both of the programs in Galveston and the Keys are designed to foster a sense of self-reliance on the water and build lasting memories for these future boaters in a safe and supervised environment. It’s one thing to hear adventure stories from your child as they return from tennis or space camp, but imagine their smiles and tales of courage from living on an island, sailing through a formidable squall line or reeling in dinner that was enjoyed by a campfire. Adventure and freedom is what draws boaters to the water, and the Sea Scouts are an incredible way to ignite or cultivate that passion in your children.
By Troy Gilbert, Southern Boating Magazine March 2016