Ship Numbers & Names
Bruce Chr. Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sat, 08 Feb 1997 17:51:56 -0800
Fellow Sea Scouters:
Wow! Two great questions right in a row. Let me try to deal with them
both at once.
All BSA units are numbered (and have been since the earliest days of
the organization). Up until 1960, unit numbering was only unit within
type of unit (i.e., Pack, Ship) and community. For example, the Boy
Scout Troop I grew up in was Bala Troop One (Bala-Cynwyd, Pennsylvania),
it being the first troop in Bala. At one time there were six troops in
Bala, plus several Cub Packs and four Explorer Scout Posts.
Then about 1960 BSA decided that unit numbering would be unique within
a council. My council (the old Valley Forge Council) probably had fifty
or so "Troop Ones" and every one of them were forced to change their
numbers. For those that had had the "Troop One" designation for
decades, we were permitted to continue to be Troop One as a "local"
number, but all got other "national" unit numbers. Bala One was Bala 16
nationally. All of this was pretty meaningless, except when it came
time to do paperwork that went to council or national. (For example, my
Eagle Scout certificate says Troop 16, Bala, Pennsylvania.) Everyone
knows the troops by their local numbers.
From the earliest days, all Sea Scout Ships (as well as some Boy Scout
Troops ... Bala One was "The Bucktails") were known by names. There has
never been a national prescribed naming convention, though there used to
be a procedure for registering your Ship name. Up until the early 50s,
every Ship had to register the Ship name with the (then twelve)
regions. It wasn't unusual for some names to be used in several
regions. An example that comes to mind quickly is the name "S.S.S.
Ranger." There still is a "Ranger" in West New York, New Jersey (Ship
39, Hudson-Liberty Council), and there is (or at was until recently) a
"Ranger" in Oak Brook, Illinois. Both Ships date from the '20s, and
both have a long and proud tradition of Sea Scouting.
When Sea Scouting was assimilated into the Exploring program in 1949,
the program was renamed "Sea Exploring." Newly formed Ships were named
"Sea Explorer Ships," or "S.E.S." from then on. Most in Sea Exploring
have never been happy or comfortable with the name "Sea Exploring," and
the movement in recent years has been back to using the name "Sea
Scouting." The current National Commodore, Capt. James Umburger, signs
his letters as "National Commodore, Sea Scouts, BSA." The new "Handbook
for Skippers" when it is available in a couple of years will use "Sea
Scouts" and "Sea Explorers" interchangably. Most Ships have numbers is
the five thousand series, but only use that "national" numbers for
special instances. My Ship's local number is 361; national is 5361.
Having grown up in a Boy Scout troop that used its name (the Bucktails)
at least as much as its name, and having started my involvement in Sea
Exploring in an area where Ship numbers were almost never referred to
(the Chicago area), I much prefer Ship names. I strongly encourage all
Ships to pick a name that is meaningful to them and use it.
My Ship is S.E.S. Columbia Ranger. The name has at least three
different origins (all of which were from my mind). Among the earliest
vessels in the U.S. Navy were the U.S.S. Columbia (after "Columbia" i.e.
the new world, and more distantly Christopher Columbus, long considered
(inaccurately) the "discoverer" of the Americas) and the U.S.S. Ranger
(Capt. John Paul Jones' vessel). More immediately, "Columbia Ranger" is
home "ported" in Columbia, Maryland, a community so named because it was
a "planned new" town in the 1960's. The "Ranger" part of the name comes
from the fact that I greatly admired the espirit de corp in the S.S.S.
Ranger (Oak Brook, Illinois) of the '70s. I combined the structure and
disciplin of S.E.S. Privateer (Chicago) with the spirit and atmospher of
S.S.S. Ranger, both ships over 50 years old. How could I go wrong?
(We're 13 years old now, just produced our sixth Eagle, and have also
had two Quartermasters.)
Now aren't you glad you asked? Great questions guys. Now, for those
of you in Ships with numbers and no names, go out and get a name.
Skipper, S.E.S. Columbia Ranger