Mechanics of Advancement: In Sea Scouts

Although a special-interest program carried on as part of Venturing, Sea Scouts has its own distinct language, customs, and advancement track. It combines traditions of the past with technology of the future, and whether one looks to the sea as a career or life long hobby, it is worth exploring. Sea Scout units, called "ships," use a variety of power boats and sailing vessels of all sizes, and promote service to others and advancement that rewards individual pursuits of excellence. Each level marks progressive growth as a seaman and leader, culminating in the prestigious Quartermaster rank.

4.4.1.0 Sea Scout Ranks and Awards

The 11th printing of the Sea Scout Manual, No. 33239,was published in fall 2010. At that time, Sea Scout advancement requirements were revised. Those working on a rank when this occurred had one year to complete it under the previous edition. Then the new requirements must be used. The ship committee should regularly update its library to reflect changes to Boy Scout requirements, and also other references not in the manual, such as U.S. CoastGuard navigation rules, International Sailing Federation Rules, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, many of which change frequently.

The awards and four ranks in Sea Scouts are described below. All requirements must be completed before the 21st birthday, and the ranks are available to registered Sea Scouts only.

Note that a Sea Scout who earned the First Class rank as a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout in a troop or team may continue work through the Boy Scouting advancement program. See "Boy Scout Advancement in Venturing and Sea Scouts," 4.3.1.4.

4.4.1.1 Apprentice Rank

Striving for Apprentice rank, active Sea Scouts learn ideals, courtesies, procedures, and responsibilities, and how members of a ship are organized and uniformed. Basic swimming and beginning seamanship skills are required, as is knowledge of safety, emergency procedures, and Safe Swim Defense. Sixteen hours of service in ship projects, activities, or equipment maintenance fill out the requirements.



4.4.1.2 Ordinary Rank

Active Sea Scouts attain Ordinary rank through additional service, knowledge of the Sea Scout emblem, U.S. flag etiquette, and land and sea protocols. Successful candidates will participate in strengthening ship membership, serve as an event chair, complete quarterdeck training, pass the Swimming merit badge requirements, and qualify on various safety and emergency procedures, drills, communication methods, and Safety Afloat. They learn about the galley, build on seamanship and boat handling skills, and learn about anchoring, piloting and navigation, and related regulations. Overnight cruise planning and participation provides for skills application, and completing three electives broadens horizons.

4.4.1.3 Able Rank

To achieve Able rank, Sea Scouts master ceremony presentation and demonstrate knowledge of maritime history. They also teach others—perhaps Boy Scouts and Venturers—about the program and fulfill leadership responsibilities. They must pass the Life saving merit badge requirements and develop further expertise in safety and first aid. There is a continued progression in seamanship, boat-handling skills, anchoring, and piloting and navigation, as well as a deeper understanding of maritime environmental issues. The Sea Scout Long Cruise badge is required for Able, as is completion of three electives.

4.4.1.4 Quartermaster Rank

The highest award for Sea Scouts presents a challenge that, when met, will affect a young person lifelong. The Quartermaster candidate must think analytically about how the program is delivered and supported, while developing a deeper understanding of Scouting ideals. Most requirements represent intensification of what was learned for previous ranks, but with significant additions in the Quartermaster service project, cruise, and study of weather and forecasting. The cruise involves taking long-term command of a vessel and crew and conducting critical drills.

Note: Sea Scouts must use the Quartermaster Service Project Workbook, available at www.seascout.org, and secure approval from the Skipper, ship committee, project beneficiary, and the council or district advancement committee. A youth's Quartermaster service project and Eagle service project must not be the same project; these projects must be separate and distinct from each other.

4.4.1.4.1 Time Extensions for Earning Quartermaster Rank.

If a Sea Scout foresees that, due to no fault of his or her own, the requirements to complete the Quartermaster rank are not achievable before age 21, he or she may apply for a limited time extension. These are rarely granted, and reserved only for work on Quartermaster.The tests that apply and the procedures to follow are the same as those outlined for an extension to earn the Eagle Scout rank (see "Time Extensions," 9.0.4.0). Note that references to age 18 in the Eagle Scout procedure would relate to age 21 in Sea Scouts, and that extension requests are sent to, and approved by, the national Sea Scout director. Quartermaster time extensions are not granted through the national Advancement Team.

The local council does not grant or deny Quartermaster time extensions.These are granted only by the national Sea Scout director after consideration of local council recommendations.

4.4.1.4.2 Submitting the Quartermaster Application.

Once approved by the Skipper, the ship committee,and the bridge of review, the Quartermaster application must be approved by the district or council advancement committee. It must then be sent to the national Sea Scout director. A certificate is returned to the local council service center.

4.4.1.5 The Skipper Conference

Skippers hold a conference with youth who indicate they are ready to advance to the next Sea Scout rank. Once the conference has taken place and the other requirements for the rank are fulfilled, the application for rank is  forwarded to the ship's bridge of review. Its members come from the ship quarterdeck and committee. The process is similar to that for a Scoutmaster conference. (See "Unit Leader [Scoutmaster] Conference," 4.2.3.5.)

Sea Scouts working on the Eagle Scout rank follow the procedures listed in"The Eagle Scout Rank," 9.0.0.0.

4.4.1.6 Sea Scout Bronze Award

Any Venturer may earn the Sea Scout Bronze Award. Study materials and the requirements can be found in the Sea Scout Manual, No. 33239. They are the same as those for the Sea Scout Ordinary rank.

Sea Scouts are qualified to earn any of the Venturing awards. See "The Venturing Awards," 4.3.1.1.

4.4.1.7 Other Sea Scout Awards

Other awards Sea Scouts may earn include the Small-Boat Handler bar, the Qualified Seaman bar, and the Long Cruise badge and arcs. The requirements are detailed in the Sea Scout Manual, No. 33239. All Venturing awards are also available, as are any BSA recognitions that are not limited to Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, or Varsity Scouts. Examples that may interest Sea Scouts include BSA Lifeguard, Boardsailing BSA, Snorkeling BSA, Paddle craft Safety, Kayaking BSA, Mile Swim BSA, and many more.

4.4.1.8 Bridges of Honor

A bridge of honor, like a court of honor in Boy Scouting, is the forum where awards are presented. It should be impressive and well planned. It is often held in connection with a social affair. As in any other BSA program, it is important Sea Scouts receive prompt recognition; thus it may be a good idea to present awards informally first at a ship meeting and then again (more formally) at the next bridge of honor.

4.4.2.0 The Sea Scout Bridge of Review

Sections 4.4.2.1 through 4.4.2.3 below cover bridge of review procedures that apply to all Sea Scout ranks. These are followed by "Particulars for Apprentice Through Able Ranks," 4.4.2.4; sections 4.4.2.5 through 4.4.2.8 pertain only to the Quartermaster rank.

4.4.2.1 Purpose and Timeliness of Bridges of Review

After completing the requirements for any Sea Scout rank, the Sea Scout appears before a bridge of review. He or she cannot be denied this opportunity. The purpose of the review is to determine the quality of the candidate's experience and decide whether the youth is qualified to advance. The bridge of review date becomes the effective advancement date.

4.4.2.2 Composition of the Bridge of Review

A bridge of review must consist of no fewer than three members and no more than six. For further specifications, see "Particulars for Apprentice Through Able Ranks,"4.4.2.4, and "Particulars for the Quartermaster Rank," 4.4.2.5. Skippers and mates may not serve on a bridge of review for a Sea Scout in their own ship. Parents or guardians may not serve on a bridge for their son or daughter. The candidate or his or her parent(s) or guardian(s) shall have no part in selecting any bridge of review members.

4.4.2.3 Conducting the Bridge of Review

Procedures for conducting Sea Scout bridges of review are very similar to those for Boy Scout rank boards of review. The applicable references, with exceptions noted for Sea Scouts, are listed below. Where there are references to "unit leader" or "Scoutmaster," to "troop"or "unit," or to "Scout," these can be read as "Skipper," "ship," and "Sea Scout."

4.4.2.4 Particulars for Apprentice Through Able Ranks

The preceding applies to bridges of review for all Sea Scout ranks, but there are a few differences for those leading up to Quartermaster. See "Particulars for the Quartermaster Rank," 4.4.2.5, below, to learn about the differences for Quartermaster.

  1. After a Skipper conference, the youth advancing meets with the bridge of review made up of three to six members of the quarterdeck or ship committee.
  2. The boatswain serves as bridge of review chair, conducts the review according the BSA procedures, and reports results to the ship advancement coordinator.
  3. The location should be comfortable, such as the unit meeting place or a leader's home.
  4. The review should take approximately 15 minutes, but no longer than 30 minutes.
  5. Ranks may not be presented until the advancement is reported to the local council through the BSA's Internet Advancement or on the official Advancement Report form.

4.4.2.5 Particulars for the Quartermaster Rank

With the few exceptions listed below, the particulars for handling bridges of review for Quartermaster rank are identical to those for Eagle Scout boards of review. See Particulars for the Eagle Scout Rank," 8.0.3.0.

4.4.2.6 Quartermaster Bridge of Review Beyond the 21st Birthday

See "Eagle Scout Board of Review Beyond the 18th Birthday," 8.0.3.1; the procedures are the same, with a few exceptions:

  • References to the 18th birthday are replaced with the 21st birthday for Sea Scouts.
  • Where petitions, etc., are indicated to be sent to the national Advancement Team, for Sea Scouts they are sent to the national Sea Scout director.
  • Procedures for awarding the Quartermaster rank to someone who completed the requirements as a youth but never received the recognition, are the same as outlined for those in the same circumstances who are seeking the Eagle Scout rank. The required documentation, however, would relate to proving  Quartermaster requirements were met.

4.4.2.7 Initiating Quartermaster Bridge of Review Under Disputed Circumstances

A Quartermaster bridge of review under disputed circumstances can be requested if:

  • A Skipper or ship committee chair does not sign the Quartermaster application
  • A Skipper conference is denied
  • It is thought a ship will not provide a fair hearing
  • If the Skipper or Quartermaster service project beneficiary refuses to sign final approval for what might be considered a satisfactory project

The procedures are the same as those outlined in "Initiating Eagle Scout Board of Review Under Disputed Circumstances," 8.0.3.2.

4.4.2.8 Appealing a Quartermaster Bridge of Review Decision

If a bridge of review does not recommend a candidate for Quartermaster rank, only the Sea Scout or his or her parent or guardian may appeal the decision to the local council. The procedures are the same as those for advancement in Boy Scouting (see "Appealing a Decision," 8.0.4.0, "Filing and Processing an Appeal," 8.0.4.1, and "Appeal Board Must Research the Case,"8.0.4.2); simply replace the Boy Scouting references with those relating to Sea Scouts. Note that only Quartermaster rank may be appealed beyond the ship, and appeals to the national level are sent to the national Sea Scout director, not to the national Advancement Team.