Local Sea Scouts Learn The Ropes About Boating And Safety

The Young America crew includes Skipper Bill Murphey, far left, and Boatswain Grant Los, center. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  LITTLE EGG HARBOR – Members of one of Ocean County’s three Sea Scouts units arrived at the Great Bay Marina last week eager to set sail on their 26-foot MacGregor.

  More than likely, the crew’s anticipation turned to disappointment when their Skipper Bill Murphey deemed conditions too windy to chance going out into the water.

  Murphey’s decision served as one of the many lessons he passes on to young people interested in taking scouting to the seas. The Sea Scouts are a co-ed program of the Boy Scouts of America, and its youth members range in age from 14 to 20.

  The Little Egg Harbor area unit, also known as Sea Scout Ship 117, Young America, began in 2019. Their members include teens and young adults from as far away as Toms River and Hammonton.

  Fifteen-year-old Boatswain Grant Los, the youth officer in charge, takes his cues from the skipper. Scouting’s not new to Grant – he made Eagle Scout at just 14.

  Grant explained that in place of the crew’s evening sail, they would be working on requirements.

  “Everyone needs to work on the requirements to rank up,” shared Grant. “The first rank is apprentice, and you do a review with the skipper to get to all the ranks. Then, when you’re higher ranking than the other kids, you have more authority.”

  Sea Scout Ship 117’s fleet consists of three boats, including the 26-foot MacGregor named Flying Squirrel, and the Sea Queen, a 27-foot Buccaneer. Young America, the third ship, presents an interesting challenge for the skipper and his crew.

  At the end of 2019, the late Frank Moran donated his vessel to the Little Egg Harbor Area Sea Scouts unit. The 1951 former Coast Guard patrol boat is classified as a UTB, a utility boat. It needs some work and money to make it seaworthy.

The Young America needs some work before it’s on the water. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  Murphey says he’s looking into grants to pay for the ship’s restoration. The crew already did some work but needs approximately $10,000 more to complete everything. Once funding is in place, the Young America could be in service in less than two months.

  Meanwhile, Great Bay Marina’s owners, Tom and Anna Paxton, demonstrated their support for the Sea Scouts by allowing them to drydock the Young America at no cost.

  “Tom was in the Coast Guard,” said Murphey. “He sees the value of the program for the kids.”

  While Sea Scout Ship 117 only became operational in 2019, other units have been in existence for decades. The boats are not just confined to beach areas as is evidenced by the longstanding programs offered by Sea Scout Ship 228 in Linden and Ship 243 in Rahway.

  A couple of weeks ago, Murphey accompanied a couple of members of his crew on Ship 228’s Sea Dart II as it headed up to Bear Mountain for an overnight. The 65-foot former Army ship started its journey from the Linden Sea Base.

  “I went on the trip to Bear Mountain,” said fifteen-year-old-year-old Edith Mantone. “The Sea Dart was originally a military transport boat. We had a lot of fun.”

  Sleeping arrangements might seem like a challenge for some co-ed scouting events, but the Sea Horse made it a non-issue. The captain and skipper had quarters of their own according to Edith.

Photo by Stephanie Faughnan

  “There were three girls with us on the trip,” Edith said. “The girls cabin had five or six beds in it and was separated by a watertight door from the other room (where boys slept).”

  Sea Scout Young America is one of three Ocean County units of the Jersey Shore Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

  “Ship 129 in Toms River primarily does canoes and paddle craft,” Murphy detailed. “Ship 6 in Point Pleasant has a 30-foot sailboat that their skipper owns.”

  According to Murphey, Ship 6’s crew is in the process of restoring the sailboat. Ship 6 Sea Scouts also have the opportunity to double up on three two-man 16-foot sailboats on Sundays.

  “Our focus here is on big boat sailing and crew work,” Murphey summed up. “We also cover seamanship, navigation, Coast Guard requirements, water safety, and both engine and boat maintenance.”

The Young America and the Flying Squirrel at dock at the Great Bay Marina. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  Murphey, who’s been involved in boating his entire life, provides a real-life learning experience for the kids he skippers. He acknowledges that most of the teens are nautical novices, and Murphey enjoys working with them and the adults who sign up as well.

  “I didn’t know anything about boating before my mom found the Sea Scouts,” admitted Edith. “I now know at least a little bit more.”