2019 Sea Base Sailing Adventure

The scouts from Troop 1159 on Sea Base Coral Reef Sailing Adventure CR072919E and F met early Sunday morning at National Airport, picked up an additional Scout who would be joining us, Zack, from a troop In Pennsylvania, and flew to Fort Lauderdale, where we were met by a bus from Blue Sky Adventures to take us to our hotel. Once there we checked in, and headed off for lunch. Then the boys explored the beach, swam in the pool, and hung out. The next morning we had breakfast and boarded a bus to Sea Base. Along the way, we stopped at an alligator farm, where we saw a snake show, alligator show, and rode through the Everglades on air boats which were LOUD, and wet. We then had a box lunch, and continued our travels, stopping off for 15 minutes to feed tarpon at a roadside attraction - these large fish wait for the food (smaller fish) to be thrown, and would dash to be the first to reach it when it hit the water. It was a fun diversion.


We arrived at Sea Base, checked in with all our paperwork, had group photos taken, then checked out snorkel gear and did a snorkel check. Then we met our captains and loaded gear aboard our two vessels. Our captains were a couple. The Crusty Crabbers patrol, with [Zach, Tyler H, Calvin H (PL), Aiden C, Jonathan S, Dan G, with Mrs Heisy and Hunter] under the care of Captain Steve on the Island Rose while the Coconutty Patrol [Alexander S, Joshua C (PL), Brendan C and Tyler K with Mr Stern and Kraatz] were assigned to Captain Feather on Bahama Rogue. The two boats are similar in size but different layout and configuration. IR is a sloop configuration (mainsail and jib) while BR is a ketch (mizzen, main and jib), which makes it a little slower under sail, but more stable; BR has a larger engine so it can motor faster.


We left Sea Base and motored a couple hours to another boat, Tail Feather, which is also owned by Captains Feather and Steve. They keep her anchored firmly in a safe spot near Sea Base so they can check on it every week to make sure everything is okay, and also use it for storage.  Island Rose rafted with Tail Feather, and Bahama Rogue then tied lines to IR to join  Island Rose for a few hours. Storm hit during first watch and we had to break apart and anchor individually, which meant no more shared watch. It was an uncomfortable night - after only an hour and a half of sleep The adults werrwas woken up for my 2 hour watch. We woke up late to fairly calm waters. The boys sliced tomatoes and lettuce, and fired up the grill to toast bagels and heat up ham with pineapple and veggie sausages. We all snacked on fresh pineapple until breakfast was ready. While we waited for Island Rose to get ready we set in to working on the boat - we wired in a speaker to have tunes, and worked on installing several fans to cool off the lower deck. We got one speaker installed and one fan wired in at which point we discovered the fans were 5v, not 12v. Still, we could power them from USB, not directly wired though.


Island Rose left us behind while we were finishing up our projects, so we set out after them. They had a sizable lead but Bahama Rogue has a more powerful motor so we were faster. We crossed from the gulf side of the keys to the Atlantic side; we had to cross under the bridge, and also pass the old bridge, where a span was removed to allow the crossing. Bahama Rogue caught up with Island Rose just as they were arriving at Sombrero Reef, located next to an old decommissioned lighthouse which rises out of the water on skeletal metal legs. There was only one mooring ball available and Captain Feather played a game of chicken with a motorboat that was angling for the same spot, but we prevailed and the boys fished up the rope connected to the mooring buoy and hooked us on. The Island Rose dropped anchor just outside the reef and the Crusty Crabbers swam over. We snorkeled the reef for about 45 minutes then headed to a small inland cove amongst mansions next to a golf course for the night.


BR arrived at the cove first but we had to wait for IR since it has the better anchor that can hold both boats. We rafted together and the scouts made up a taco bar and we had dinner and hung out for a short bit but it was very late and everyone turned in, save the anchor watch. The inland cove made for a very calm night, and would offer protection if a storm hit (our captains were monitoring a tropical depression but it broke up over the Dominican Republic). Next morning we had breakfast on the IR, then we set out for Looe Key. Both vessels were able to secure mooring balls and we snorkeled the amazing sanctuary with beautiful coral reefs, where we saw sharks and giant grouper. After snorkeling for a while, we returned to the boat for a rest. Captain Feather showed us how the fish go nuts when you toss a cracker in the water. We went back out for another swim and saw amazing groups of fish swimming all around us - turns out the IR was tossing bits of bread out towards us and attracting all the fish, which gave us a spectacular show.


Afterwards, we set sail for newfound harbor. We raised the mizzen and jib but not the mainsail; still, we were able to kill the motor and made pretty good time. The IR would have to pass us anyway, so we could share their anchor again. On the way we sailed past Big Munsen island, where there is a Boy Scout camp; the “out island adventure”, where a crew of scouts canoes several hours to the island, and just as they get unloaded, the previous week’s scouts loads up the canoes and heads back to the base, leaving the scouts “stranded” for the week. We rafted together again and the boys had to figure out what to make for dinner - spaghetti or stir fry. They settled on stir fry over spaghetti noodles. After a nice dinner we all headed below deck for the night, as it was going to be another stormy night.


The next morning the boys made breakfast burritos and we were on our way again. The tail end of the storm gave us pretty good wind in our sails, but on Bahama Rogue, our mainsail’s top grommet was broken and we couldn’t raise the main, but the jib and mizzen pushed us pretty good and we had an exhilarating ride, with plenty of spray. The scouts manned the sails with minimal direction, and did a great job. We sailed through the old rail bridge by Bahia Honda, right past the beach, and the boys had to quickly lower the sails so we could motor in to the harbor and dock for the night. After offloading the garbage, we headed for the snack bar which served us obnoxiously huge portions of ice cream for very reasonable prices and the scouts took full advantage. We the heard that the Island Rose had lost her steering while sailing behind us, and would be a little delayed while Captain Steve fixed her up.


The boys went to enjoy the beach and after a little while the Island Rose made her appearance. After enjoying he beach and trails, including one that went to the top of the old railroad bridge, we gathers at the picnic tables by the docks for dinner, which we retrieved from the snack bar (orders had been placed earlier). After dinner we all rotated through the showers, which were located in the campground a short hike away; the plan HAD been to watch a movie and make baked apples on the grill but things had pushed so late we settled in for the night, with the cabins sealed up and AC cranking out cold air on shore power. The next morning we had a small pre-breakfast of pop tarts, then a park ranger showed up on a golf cart laden with buckets and grabbers, and announced our conservation project - clean up. We spent the next hour or so picking up trash from all over the park. Afterwards, the adults made pancakes for the scouts, and after a last trip to the gift shop, we were on our way, trying to ride the tide.


As soon as we made it out into the Atlantic, the waves hit us - we had a wild ride heading directly into the rollers. After a while, we deployed the sails and turned, which gave us a much smoother ride. We drove for a few hours, and after we crossed to the gulf side the ride was much smoother. We made lunch underway, with hot dogs grilled on the back of the boat and Mac and cheese made in the galley. We then motored to Old Dan Bank, where the Island Rose set her anchor and Bahama Rogue again rafted with her; it’s a protected anchorage within sight of Tail Feather, a couple hours from Sea Base. The scouts had started marinading steaks earlier and there was an announced competition between the boats for the best marinade. We all assembled our apples to bake on the grills, and Captain Steve set up the movie screen - a spinnaker strung between the boats, and the boys made their steaks.


Then, as we were preparing to eat our dinner, the skies opened up and lightning sent us all scurrying belowdecks to get out of the rain and close all the hatches. We served the food on the Bahama Rogue, with the crew from Island Rose braving the weather to grab their plate and dash back to their vessel. By all accounts, Joshua did an excellent job on the Bahama Rose’s steaks, though our captains were split on who had the best marinade. With the hatches closed, the cabin quickly turned into a sauna, humid and hot. Captain Feather gave us a heads up that there would be a break in the storm and we’d want to be ready to open the hatches, and that we could lower the temperature quickly by fanning the cool outside air into the cabin. It helped, but only a short time later the rain once again had us closed in and miserably hot and sweaty. This continued for a while as we prepared for bed - if the lightning continued, our captains would do the anchor watch.


The lightning did not continue, and anchor watch started around 11:00. We woke to a beautiful morning and set about cleaning the cabin - all the boys sponged down every surface inside with a bleach solution, and we put everything back in order for the next crew. We then motored back to Sea Base, prepared to get BR docked in her slip. Captain Feather has a rough time getting the boat lined up, as the wind pushed us out of position, a couple times, but we did get the boat docked, which required a slightly different arrangement of lines from our previous docking/rafting. The boys all did a great job handling the lines. Then we offloaded all our gear and washed down the deck. We returned the snorkel equipment, then gathered in he chapel for Roses and Thorns. Our captains then showed the boys how to read charts, and we mapped out the journey we had taken, marking notable moments on the charts. We put our equipment into the bunk house, and we all had a few hours to visit the Ship’s Store, or go kayaking and paddle boarding.We gathered for a discussion to finish up our Duty to God requirements, then headed to Luau where scouts played gaga and and other games, then ate a dinner featuring mahi mahi, crab cakes, shrimp, and key lime pie.



Our bunk house was shared with another troop, out of California who were to head out on a live-aboard scuba adventure the next day. Unfortunately the air conditioning in the bunkhouse had broken down and it was hot and sticky. We managed to get airflow with many fans in the windows, which didn’t help as much as we had hoped, but at least it was better than belowdecks on the boats with the hatches closed. We woke up early, had breakfast and took a bus to the airport, where a storm caused our flight to be delayed about six hours. Weary, but satisfied with our adventure, we were finally headed home.   ASM Stern