The REAL problems aboard ship
Wed Jun 17 01:25:18 1998
You have stumbled upon one of the GREAT TRUTHS of Sea Scouts: Being a Skipper
IS a seven- day-a-week, 24-hour a day job! The salary is lousy, but the
fringe benefits are unbeatable, as long as you can keep from burning out!
The following musings have been gleaned from trial and error over about 200
(combined!) years of Sea Scouting with a unit that has survived the 35-year
mark. We don't claim to have all the answers, but the following has worked for
1. FORGET that democracy stuff! Sea Scouting has and always should be a
benevolent dictatorship! Now, having said that, let me immediately qualify it.
A Ship MUST have one ultimate authority, and that has to be the Skipper.
Whether you're paddling around a pond or deep water cruising, we human beings
are in a foreign element, one in which we cannot long survive in the case of a
disaster. When you're at sea in the middle of the night and pop a hull plank,
you have no time to call a meeting and ask the crew what they want to do about
it! It's better and, in the long run, a lot less painful to establish your
authority at the beginning.
So how do you do it without having everybody mutiny? It's not as hard as it
sounds. You just have to lead them in such a way that they do not know they
are being led! An example:
Let's say you have been asked to provide a color guard for the local yacht
club. You think this is a pretty good deal, exposure to the public, a nice
donation to the treasury-in other words, you really want them to do it. But
wait. In the past, they have refused to even consider doing stuff like this
every time you ask them. So don't ask them. Say something like, "We have a
color guard coming up this Saturday at the yacht club; who wants to be in
charge?" Nine times out of ten, they won't even think to question you. The
Boy Scouts have lofty goals of having the youth plan and conduct their own
programs, etc, etc, but the reality is that kids have to be taught to lead, or
they will lead themselves around in circles and you will end up with a bunch
that don't want to do anything that is not familiar and/or safe, like going
out sailing, or cruising, or�is this beginning to sound familiar?
2. Meetings: We have found weekly meetings to be a must! Some ships don't like
them, but we find it's easier to maintain program when we see their smiling
faces weekly. We try to maintain a schedule like the following:
1st week: Dress uniforms, with a landship ceremony and something "Clean", like
drill. We also organize activities for the month.
2nd week: Harbor cruise, with some training like docking practice, line
handling or just fun.
3rd week: Lecture, business meeting with "Book Stuff"- Rules of the Road,
Compass & Relative Bearings, etc. or advancement.
4th week: Lecture/Business meeting with something more physical- Scuttlebutt,
Rope climb, etc. (We try to teach Rendezvous events all year, by the way.
5th week (When there is one!) A "fun" activity- Movie, bowling, etc.
AS far a quarterdeck meetings go, quarterly is fine. Monthly is too much;
gives them too much chance to veto upcoming events they might not like to do.
And just as a personal note: PLEEEASE! Support your Council's program events!
They are there to give you cornerstone events to shape your year around, and
provide a necessary consistency, no matter how much the kids may bitch about
going to Bridge of Honor, or working on advancements, or studying for
The one single factor that will bring in kids when nothing else will is
PROGRAM! If the kids are happy and having a good time, they will bring their
friends. You can go to round tables and pass out fliers until the cows come
home, but word-of-mouth will always be the best tool you have!
One other note-just a personal experience we had with our unit:
You have already stumbled upon the biggest drawback to having a coed ship.
Teenage relationships are as stable as quicksilver! And when two break up,
they will likely both quit!
The typical scenario goes something like this: He's in love, she's in love. He
brings her in so they can "be together". Then, Capt. Bligh insists on
chaperoning (Bummer!). Inevitably, they fight and both quit. How do we get
around this? We stopped being co-ed.
This doesn't mean you have to give up the girls. It sounds like you have
enough equipment to enable you to run a girl's ship and a guy's ship. Sure,
this is just a psychological change, because the kids will still have meetings
and activities together, but you will be providing the guys with a "guy"
identity and the girls with a "girl" identity. And, your council will love you
for giving them another ship in their books.
It's just a little change, but sometimes the simplest solution is the most
effective. Sure, you will probably get screams of outrage at first, but
reassure them that this just a way of dividing up the work.
Speaking of screams of outrage, LOSE THEM. Don't allow negativity to eat away
your ship, because it spreads like cancer! Don't let your 19-year-old and his
mother intimidate you! Be sympathetic, hear them out but don't let people like
this bully you! You may be pleasantly surprised to find that you have more in
common with your crew than you thought.
These are just a some of the tricks we've learned over the years. You're
welcome to try any or all. Hope they help.
The Officers of
Long Beach, California.