Sea Scouting

Sea Scouting (Boy Scouts of America)

Sea Scouting is a part of the Venturing program that the Boy Scouts of America offers for young men and women. Along with Cub Scouting for younger boys and Boy Scouting for older boys, Venturing and Sea Scouting provide a program for religious, fraternal, educational, and other community organizations to use for effective character, citizenship, and mental and personal fitness training for youth. As part of this training, Sea Scouts are expected to develop personal religious values, learn the principles of American heritage and government, and acquire skills that will prepare them to become successful adults.

Sea Scouting is the BSA's implementation of the Sea Scout program, initially developed in 1910 by Warington Baden-Powell in England. The founders of Sea Scouting in the United States are Arthur A. Carey of Waltham, Massachusetts and Charles T. Longstreth of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both leaders independently established Sea Scout groups in the summer of 1912. This accomplishment was recorded in the inaugural issue of Scouting.

The advancement scheme for Sea Scouts places an initial emphasis on nautical skills before encouraging the youth to take a major role in planning activities in the unit. Young men and women ages fourteen through twenty-one who are willing to abide by the requirements of BSA membership, including agreeing to live by the ideals expressed in the Sea Promise, Scout Oath, and Scout Law are eligible to join a Sea Scouting ship. Ships are administered by volunteers with the assistance and support of some paid professional staff.

Aims and principles

Sea Promise
As a Sea Scout, I promise to do my best

To guard against water accidents;
To know the location and proper use of the lifesaving devices on 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."

In addition to the Sea Promise, Sea Scouts also learn and subscribe to the Scout Oath, Scout Law, and Venturing Code.


In Sea Scouting, youth are called Sea Scouts, and units are ships. Many ships have adopted names in addition to their ship numbers (ex: Sea Scout Ship Eagle, S.S.S. Liberty). The ship's adult leaders are the Skipper (analogous to the Advisor in Venturing) and Mates (associate Advisors). Each ship also has a ship's committee, composed of several adults who are, typically, parents of the youth in the ship. At least one of the committee must be a representative of the ship's chartered organization. Sea Scouting emphasizes leadership; thus the youth in the ship hold the offices of boatswain (president) (pronounced "bō-sun"), boatswain's mate (vice president), crew leader (akin to a patrol leader in a Boy Scout troop), assistant crew leader, yeoman (secretary), purser (treasurer), and storekeeper (akin to a quartermaster in a troop).

Sea Scouting has a series of committees which are organized to support the program. Each level also has its own terminology:

  • Squadron (Council)
  • Task Force (Area)
  • Flotilla (Region)
  • Fleet (National)

Uniform and insignia

Petty officers: Boatswain, boatswain mate, crew leader, assistant crew leader, yeoman, purser, specialist, storekeeper, bugler
Ship officers: Skipper, mate, ship committee chair, ship committee member
Squadron officers: squadron director, squadron commodore, squadron committee member
Flotilla officers: flotilla director, flotilla commodore, flotilla committee member
Fleet officers: Fleet director, Fleet commodore, Fleet committee member
Individual Ships have traditionally worn US Navy or US Coast Guard uniforms, or a polo-style shirt or T-shirt worn with regular clothes.

The current edition of the Sea Scout Manual (#33239C, 2002), lists and illustrates the current, approved Sea Scout uniforms. The use of these traditional Sea Scout Uniforms (based on modified US Navy uniforms) are mandated for Regional and National events. These uniforms were standardized by Commander Thomas J. Keane, a U.S. Naval Officer, who revamped Sea Scouts in the mid-1920s. Because of a recent (2006) decision made by the U.S. Navy to replace their coverall and work uniforms (the so-called "dungaree" uniforms for enlisted members and "working khaki" for Officers and CPOs) with a non-tactical MARPAT-style camouflage uniform, the non-dress uniforms worn by Sea Scouts and their leaders will eventually take on an "antiquated" appearance.

Youth members wear US Navy enlisted-style uniforms: the so-called "Cracker Jack" uniforms in white or navy blue for formal and semi-formal occasions, and for all other activities, the "dungaree" style work uniform, which is a chambray blue shirt worn with dark blue trousers with a baseball-style cap. To avoid confusion with Naval personnel, changes are made to these uniforms. The center stripe on the cuffs and "tar flap" (the square collar) on the navy "Cracker Jack" uniform is removed and tar flap ornaments, known as "bugs," are sewn on over the stars on both uniforms. In addition, Sea Scout strips are worn over the right breast on all uniforms in a manner similar to the "Boy Scouts of America" or "Venturing BSA" strips worn on the Scouting tan and Venturing green shirts respectively. The 'dixie cup' hat is also worn, sometimes with the dungaree uniform in place of the baseball cap when worn away from Ship functions, with older (pre-2002) covers having a "bug" stitched in the center.

Adults wear US Navy officer-style uniforms: the dress blue, khaki summer work uniform, and summer whites (similar to the US Navy's "tropical white-long" uniform--a short-sleeve white shirt with detachable soft epaulet loops with the adults position embroidered on them, with white trousers, belt and shoes). A white combination cap is worn with blues and whites, with a baseball cap (or the combination cap with a khaki cover) being worn with khakis. The wearing of adult uniforms is optional for those with the Quartermaster rank, but only at the local council and unit level, as the National and Regional officers must wear the "Cracker Jack" uniform. If worn, the uniform is worn in the same manner as that of a Navy Chief Petty Officer.

Insignia are as follows:

  • All badges are white on blue for navy blues, adult khaki and dungarees, and blue on white for whites. One does not wear contrasting insignia on the uniforms.
  • a patch for the local council the Ship belongs to is worn on the left sleeve,. This is the same patch worn on the Boy Scout and Venturing uniforms.
  • Below the local council patch, the Ship numerals are either white or blue. Use of ship's numerals is no longer part of the 'official' uniforms, but many ships continue to wear them for tradition, then the badge of office is worn. Adults in dress blues, and Quartermasters who opt for wearing the adult uniform wear their badge of office 2 inches from the cuff of the sleeve. Below this is worn the Long Cruise patch, with segments in white and red for addition cruises (white=1 additional award, red=5 additional awards).
  • On the right sleeve the U.S. Flag patch is worn.
  • Below the flag patch, the Ship's identification "crest" is worn. This crest, special to each unit, has the ship's name, number, and location (city & state) on it. This replaces the unit numeral patch on the left sleeve, which was worn prior to 2003, but ship crests have been around since the 1920s. If the Ship has no crest, or the individual works above the Ship level, the generic Sea Scout emblem is worn. Leaders at the flotilla and regional levels (except for the BSA Western Region — they are divided into areas with an Area Sea Scout Committee) wear the Regional emblem of the region they are working in.
  • The "Standard Sea Scout Unit" patch, a red and blue patch with white letters, is worn underneath the crest. This is the Sea Scouts equivalent to the Quality Unit.
  • Above the left breast pocket, Sea Scouts and leaders can wear up to six square knots or five pin-on medals on the dress blue or white uniforms, with the badge of rank being worn on the pocket itself. No knots are supposed to be worn on the summer tan uniform, though many do. Quartermasters wearing the "Cracker Jack" uniform wear the Quartermaster square knot, a dark blue knot on white background, in place of the rank insignia. The Sea Scout Advanced Leader Trained (SEAL) "double dolphins" pin is worn above the knots.
  • Above the right breast "pocket," the distinctive "SEA SCOUTS B.S.A." strip is worn. This strip is available on white, navy blue, khaki, and chambray blue. The nametag being worn above it. The adult Seabadge pin is worn above the nametag.
  • On the collar of the adult's khaki uniform, the adult wear "collar marks," showing position of office, in the same manner as that of US Navy officers.
  • On the shoulders of adult summer white uniform, black soft shoulder epaulet covers are worn on the shirt's epaulets. These have the position of office embroidered (or use the metal collar marks).

Other notes

  • Wearing of Wood Badge beads is not allowed on Sea Scout uniforms. This is due to safety reasons.
  • Wearing of campaign ribbons is not allowed on Sea Scout uniforms. This is due to avoiding looking like U.S. Navy personnel. This means the Venturing Bronze and Gold ribbons may not be worn on the uniform.
  • Wearing of OA Lodge flaps is not allowed on Sea Scout uniforms (though some do wear them).
  • Those that attend National Scout Jamboree, especially those staffing the Sea Scout exhibit, will wear the Jamboree patch on their uniforms above the right pocket, at least during the Jamboree.

Adult insignia

Many are confused by the insignia used by adult Sea Scout leaders. The position of the adult is indicated by insignia that uses the Sea Scout Badge (Boy Scout First Class badge superimposed on an anchor), and then a combination of ropes and stars to indicate the position and level.

The level of a Scouter is indicated by the stars.
1 star (* ) is ship level
2 stars (** ) is council level (squadron in Sea Scout terminology)
3 stars (*** ) is area or region level (task force and flotilla respectively)
4 stars (**** ) is National level (Fleet)

The position of the Scouter at these levels are indicated by either the presence or absence of a rope diamond or rope oval around the Sea Scout emblem. A rope diamond indicates the person is the ship committee chairman (rope diamond with 1 star) or squadron, flotilla, or Fleet commodore (rope diamond with 2, 3, or 4 stars). A rope oval indicates the person is a ship committee member (rope oval with 1 star) or squadron, flotilla, or Fleet vice-commodore/committee member (rope oval with 2, 3, or 4 stars). At the squadron, flotilla, and Fleet levels, the absence of the rope oval or diamond indicates a professional Scouter working at those levels. At the ship level, the Skipper is indicated by a star and bar (*|) below the Sea Scout badge, while the mate (Skipper's assistant leaders), have just a star (*).


Sea Scout ranks: Apprentice, Able, Ordinary, Quartermaster
Quartermaster Award
medal, badge and knot

The Sea Scout rank system consists of Apprentice, Ordinary, Able and Quartermaster. The first rank of Apprentice shows basic marlinspike seamanship skills and water knowledge. To earn Ordinary, the Sea Scout must know how to box a compass, must demonstrate leadership qualities, complete requirements relating to drill, sailing, and engines and complete a tenure of one year in Sea Scouting. For the Able rank, the Sea Scout must demonstrate a complete knowledge of the water, earn the Lifesaving merit badge and must and be able to command fellow Sea Scouts.

Quartermaster is the highest rank attainable by a Sea Scout can earn and is equivalent to Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts of America). The Sea Scout must attend at least two thirds of all Ship meetings over eighteen months, demonstrate marlinspike seamanship and leadership skills, demonstrate the ability to teach Sea Scouting, complete a community service project and pass a council level board of review. The Quartermaster emblem is a medal consisting of the Sea Scout emblem on a ship's wheel that is suspended from a solid dark blue ribbon that is in turn suspended from a bar bearing the design of a double carrick bend knot.

Sea Scouts who earn this rank are entitled to wear a uniform similar to that of a United States Navy Chief Petty Officer (CPO), and can earn advance rank upon enlistment into the U.S. Navy or United States Coast Guard.

Although not an actual rank, pre-Apprentice members are sometimes referred to as "cabin-boys" or "cabin-girls".

Other awards and recognitions

Sea Scout qualifications: Small Boat Handler, Qualified Seaman, Long Cruise Badge
In addition to the traditional seamanship skills required for rank advancement, Sea Scouts currently may earn two seamanship knowledge and skill qualification recognitions: the "Qualified Seaman" and "Small Boat Handler" badges.

In addition to obtaining the boating licenses or safe boating training certifications that may be required by many States, Sea Scouts are also encouraged to qualify in the programs offered by organizations such as the Red Cross (first aid, CPR and lifesaving), the United States Sailing Association (any US Sailing qualifications), SCUBA certifications, and to become apprentice (youth) members of their local U.S. Power Squadrons. Sea Scout Ships are encouraged to affiliate with a local Power Squadron and the adult leaders join also as full members. This program enables both youth and adults in the Sea Scout Ship to obtain the excellent member training offered by the USPS, and the USPS gets new members.

There is also the "Long Cruise Badge." It's earned by Ordinary rank Sea Scouts or above and adults who complete a two week cruise, or a series of weekend or longer cruises adding up to 14 days.

ONLY youth who are members of Sea Scout Ships may earn Sea Scout advancement. Venturers not in Sea Scout Ships can not earn these awards. However, all Sea Scouts may earn any Venturing Awards. Those who entered Sea Scouts as a First Class Scout in the Boy Scouts can work on requirements and merit badges for the rank of Eagle Scout, provided that the youth is under the age of 18 at the time of the completion of requirements.


As a nautical program, most ships engage in several activities in this area, such as sailing trips, scuba dives, and other boating activities. Ships also have to work on maintain their boats and equipment.

If there is a Squadron structure in their council, there may be Sea Scout Regattas and Rendezvous organized among local Ships, usually with sailing competitions.

There are also many local Sailing Cups, Regattas, and Rendezvous organized that bring Ships from surrounding councils.

Several areas and regions also organize annual regattas and rendezvous as well.

At present, there is no National Sea Scout event.

There is also the biannual William I. Koch International Sea Scout Cup, which is the only international Sea Scout event. Participants crews must place at one of the regional qualifying events. This event is held at different locations around the US.


Training in Sea Scouts largely makes use of the existing Venturing Training. However, there are some Sea Scout-specific training for youth and adults.

Youth Training

Sea Scout SEAL
There is a specific training for youth called SEAL (Sea Scout Advanced Leadership) Training. This is a week-long training event held aboard ship around the country during the summer. About 4-5 courses are held annually. Once completed, the youth are awarded the SEAL training pin – a "double-dolphin" badge similar in design to the U.S. Navy's enlisted submariner badge, but with the submarine replaced with the Sea Scout emblem on a disc. It is one of only two Sea Scout badges (the other being the Seabadge trident pin) that can be worn on the adult uniform if the adult completed the training as a Sea Scout youth, or has qualified to be a Course Director or Assistant Course Director.

Adult Training

Sea Scout adults take the same training as Venturing adults, but also the Sea Scout Leader Specialized Training to be considered "Basic Trained" and have Seabadge available to them, which is considered the top-level leadership training for Sea Scout leaders.

See also


External links

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