All Aboard: Teens Form First Sea Scouts Chapter in Ocean County

Ship 117 Meets at Tuckerton Seaport
By MONIQUE M. DEMOPOULOS | Jul 03, 2019
Photo by: Monique M. Demopoulos

Tuckerton — Eagle Scout Bill Murphey has been involved with the Boy Scouts of America since the 1970s. He is also assistant scoutmaster of BSA Troop 570 for Girls. Growing up on the Jersey Shore, Murphey has also put in more than 40 years on the water, sailing and racing on the Barnegat Bay. He always wondered why there had never been a Sea Scouts chapter established on the South Jersey shore.

Recently, Murphey found a prophesy in a box of his grandfather’s memorabilia, where he discovered photos of his great uncle, John Wood, a sea scout in North Jersey. The photographs were of a cruise Wood took with Sea Scout Ship 117 in the year 1914. Coincidentally, Murphey’s junior sailing group at the Island Heights Yacht Club is group 117. So, when Capt. Pat Geiger reached out to recruit him to a Sea Scouts ship in Little Egg Harbor, Murphey climbed aboard with enthusiasm, suggesting they take on the augural ship number.

“I thought, someone’s going to lead this ship, and it might as well be me,” Murphey chuckled. Just like that, he became skipper of Sea Scout Ship 117, which comprises about a dozen male and female scouts and, according to Geiger, will be chartered by the Eagleswood Township Volunteer Fire Co.

Geiger stated that Eagle Scouts Todd and Paul Lund had done most of the work, and were already holding meetings before recruiting any adults. “Pretty impressive for our local Eagle Scouts,” Geiger praised. The scouts elected Geiger as their executive officer, Todd Lund Sr. as committee chairman, Virginia Lund as treasurer, and named several mates including Lou Foster and Capt. Robert Meseck.

The Sea Scouts organization was developed in England in 1910, and established in the U.S. in 1912, making Murphey’s aforementioned great-uncle one of the original sea scouts. Until 2016, Sea Scouts was part of the Venturing program of Boy Scouts of America. Today, Sea Scouts operates as its own independent program, which nurtures the development of nautical skills. Such skills include boat and water safety, boat maintenance and repair, mast rigging, knot tying, sail handling, engine operation, anchor setting, navigation and weather spotting.

The “ship” is the fundamental unit of Sea Scouts, such as a “troop” is in the general BSA. Like all scouts of BSA, Sea Scouts conform to the Scout Oath and the 12-point Scout Law, which can be found at scouting.org. Additionally, directly following the Pledge of Allegiance, sea scouts recite the Sea Promise at the beginning of every meeting:

As a Sea Scout, I promise to do my best

To guard against water accidents;

To know the location and proper use of every boat I board;

To be prepared to render aid to those in need and;

To seek to preserve the motto of the sea, ‘Women and children first.’

Some may find “women first” to be an antiquated principle. However, Executive Officer Geiger assuredly claims that Sea Scouts has been a coed program since 1969, with females having equal rank opportunity to males.

Trina Kinnevy, 16, of West Creek, is a beaming example of what strong female leadership looks like within a growing team. Kinnevy describes herself as “very outgoing and adventurous.” She is the yeoman of the ship, meaning she organizes and schedules ship meetings. “I take attendance and also set up new ideas that the ship can bounce around during a meeting,” she said.

Becoming a sea scout was a natural step in her social and career path. “I was always interested in marine life and being on the water. I grew up with the group of kids [in Ship 117]. I joined when our chapter first started, about four months ago.” She hopes to become an environmental scientist, and trusts that her experience in Sea Scouts will help her achieve that goal. “[Sea Scouts] is such an interesting way to get in tune with nature,” she enthused.

Kinnevy is eager to get out on the water. “My favorite part is learning how to navigate different waters, and I love how many different trips we can do.” She also looks forward to welcoming new friends aboard Ship 117. “We all work as a team. We believe in our Sea Scout Law and Promise. We really do love what we’re doing, and look forward to meeting people with the same interests.”

Sea scouts develop individual skills as well as team building skills through hands-on experience aboard their vessel. According to Geiger, a Sea Scout ship is entirely youth-led by a full crew under the guidance of an adult committee chair. “Most of what we [adults] do is paperwork,” he said, referring to registration, recruitment, finances and bookkeeping. The crew consists of a boatswain, boatswain’s mate, crew leader, assistant crew leader, yeoman, purser and storekeeper. The adult skipper (Murphey) and mate (Foster) oversee the ship and provide mentorship to ensure safety, but the ship is otherwise self-governed.

According to Murphey, every four months scouts are acknowledged and awarded in a Bridge of Honor ceremony. They are recognized for rank advancement and/or mastering skills that will lead to rank advancement.

Depending on the goals of a ship or individual scouts, they may pursue certifications specific to a desired trade or skillset. For example, a scout may choose to become a certified SCUBA diver. Upper-ranking sea scouts are regarded highly in the maritime industry and the Coast Guard and Navy, said Geiger. Additionally, various scholarships are awarded each year to scouts with qualifying credentials who have goals of pursuing a maritime degree, such as oceanography or marine engineering. According to seascout.org, scouts often stay involved with the program, as advanced experience generally provides them with career opportunities.

Geiger has been instrumental in acquiring resources and support for the local scouts as they begin to establish themselves. Donations of supplies and funding have come from local and non-local entities, as well as national companies. Geiger said Maritime Marina, of Tuckerton, has agreed to overhaul the scouts’ 26-foot sailboat for free. USCG Flotilla 72 has offered to train the scouts with boating safety classes.

Geiger’s biggest donation received to date is his recent acquisition of a 1951 40-foot Coast Guard utility boat from a donor in Staten Island. A major goal of Ship 117 is to have this boat seaworthy by autumn, and by next year, for it to become the flagship. They will store it at Stewart’s, which provided a slip at a fraction of the ordinary cost.

In the meantime, the scouts will take to the sea in two cruising sailboats, also donated. Each week, Murphey said, they will learn a different set of skills pertaining to the essentials of seamanship during their meetings at the Tuckerton Seaport. Murphey will not hesitate to allow his crew to put those skills to practice on the water. “We don’t want these kids to spend their whole summer painting boats and doing drills on land. We want them to be excited to get out on the water. That motivation keeps them committed. We want them to have fun,” he said.

According to First Mate Foster, the ship is responsible for organizing and executing a long cruise. Their first goal is a 14-mile cruise to Atlantic City on Independence Day. If they achieve this goal, they will sail out to Atlantic City, tie up to watch the fireworks, and sail back. Murphey said he expects overnight trips by this August.

Like all BSA scouts, Sea Scouts are dedicated to acts of service. This obviously means that they are committed to providing aid to those in need. Their training will grant them the preparedness to respond and lend a helping hand in the event of potential water accidents. Moreover, Sea Scouts are known to organize volunteer charity efforts, such as beach cleanups and other conservation efforts.

Sea Scouts meet the second and fourth Wednesday of every month inside the Hunting Shanty at the Tuckerton Seaport, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Anyone from age 14 to 21 is eligible to join, although Murphey encourages interested adults to consider volunteering as a committee member. For further information, email Geiger at pgeiger2@comcast.net.

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