An Introduction to the Adventure of a Lifetime ...
In the heart of the fabulous Florida Keys, on a sub-tropical island, 75 miles south of Miami, you will find Sea Base, home of the Florida National High Adventure program. The Florida Sea Base is Scouting's most complete aquatic facility offering sailing, sea kayaking, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, lobstering, and beach combing. You can explore the vast ecosystem of the Florida Keys and get a fish-eye view of marine biology.
The Sea Base facilities include a large, fully equipped "galley". The elevated dormitories overlook Florida Bay and one of the major bridges that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico. Our harbor has a 300 foot dock for the larger sailing yachts, as well as many shorter docks for our smaller vessels. The swim "review" area is complete with a step down deck and marker buoys. The Ship's Store, our Trading Post, sells many items that you may have forgotten, or that you would like to take home as a reminder of your exciting adventures.
Just a few miles offshore is the only living coral reef in North America, forming a protective barrier around the islands. Here, among the pillars of living coral, you come face to face with thousands of multi-hued tropical fish.
The area abounds with legends and tales of unequaled adventure. To this day, the lure of discovering a buried treasure burns in the heart of all true adventurers.
A History of the Base
The Florida Sea Base is an ocean of adventure among the islands of the Florida Keys. Each year the Base serves over 11,000 Scouts and their leaders. Currently there are eleven different programs with one basic characteristic: high adventure! The programs are Sea Exploring, Eco Adventure, Out Island Adventure, Keys Adventure, Coral Reef Sailing, Scuba Certification, Scuba Adventure, Scuba Live-Aboard Adventure, Bahamas Adventure, Bahamas Tall Ship Adventure, and Florida Fishing Adventure.
The Sea Base program has not always been so large; it has not always been Sea Base either. In 1974, several volunteers from Miami and Atlanta offered aquatic programs to young people from throughout the country, utilizing leased and borrowed equipment. Seventy to eighty young people in two consecutive summers were certified in scuba diving and the idea caught on. In 1975, the program was extended to include sailing, using leased vessels. The program developed was appropriately named the Florida Gateway to High Adventure: a gateway to the underwater world through sailboats, snorkeling and scuba diving.
During 1977 and 1978, it became apparent as the program and its popularity grew that the organization must have its own facilities. Consequently, in 1979, a proposal to the Fleishman Foundation produced a grant in the amount of $1,352,000 to establish a land base for the Florida Gateway somewhere in the Keys. The following year, with the Fleishman funds, the committee selected the Toll Gate Inn and Marina, a run-down motel, marina, and restaurant on Lower Matecumbe Key. The buildings were renovated, dormitories were built, and the program was renamed: The Florida National High Adventure Sea Base. Since then, growth has been tremendous: from one staff person, a budget of $19,000, and 160 participants in 1976 to a staff of 130 during the summer and over a $9 million operating budget with more than $16 million in capital assets. Today, Sea Base serves Scouts and conference participants from every state and from countries around the world.
The old toll gate of Lower Matecumbe was where the road used to stop in the early 1900's before the railroad was completed down the Keys in 1912. From here, travelers would have to pay their tolls to continue traveling down to Key West and Havana, Cuba by boat. The Inn and Marina were a perfect site for building the Base. The old Inn rooms became what are known as the Annex, staff housing. The old office to the Marina was at first the director's home and is now the site of the Program Office. The present day galley, or dining hall, was the first office for Sea Base and had been the bar and restaurant to the old Marina.
The quarterdeck and equipment loft next to the Galley were added in 1981. The small building next to the quarterdeck was once the gas station and grocery store of the old marina. For the Sea Base, it was the old Ship's Store, the shop, and now is the Commissary. The new Ship's Store was built in 1988. Along the water, or Florida Bay, the T-dock and sea wall accommodate dozens of sail and motor vessels. The T-dock, nicknamed "the diving board to high adventure", teems with activity during the summer when Coral Reef Sailing vessels come and go every day. Walking along the sea wall you will find the marine habitat full of fish common to the area. Lobster and eel can be seen if you look carefully. At the side of the sea wall and docks is the beautiful Sea Base Chapel built through the efforts of Scouting's National Religious Committee. With a waterfall and pond, it is a beautiful setting for any meeting.
The largest building at Sea Base is the dorm and bunkhouse building. The wings are the bunkhouses, built in 1982, where each room is named for famous ship wrecks located in the Keys. The center is the scuba dorms, added in 1996, where the participants for scuba programs stay all week for classes and dives in the custom made dive tanks before heading out to open water. Below the rooms are classrooms, showers, and a laundry room. In 1992 the Thomas building was built to house conference participants and staff. This was through the contributions of John Thomas and his Eagle Scout sons. The new administration and conference center, the Adams Building, was built in 1994 through generous contributions from Bill Adams and Union Pacific Corporation.
The Sea Base also owns Big Munson Island, a 110 acre island off of Big Pine Key. This is the home to the Out Island program. Scouts experience the Keys Robinson Crusoe style. In 1984 it was donated to the Boy Scouts by then-owner Homer Formby of Formby Furniture polish. It takes a tremendous amount of energy, organization, and planning for the continuing development of Sea Base and its programs. This is dependent on help from the dedicated enthusiasts of Sea Base. Their giving is rewarded in the building of character and lives of thousands who visit the Florida Sea Base each year.
The Brinton Environmental Center
The Brinton Environmental Center is our newest facility, having opened in 2001. BEC is about the same size as Sea Base and has its own galley, ships store, staff and participant housing, chapel and full size marina. It is the home of the Out Island Adventure, Keys Adventure and Florida Fishing Adventure programs. J. Porter Brinton Jr., was a chemical products executive, and founder and president of Hydrocarbon Products from 1928 – 1961. Later, he was on the board of directors for Witco Chemical Co., board of directors for the Putnam Trust Co., trustee and advisor for the Greenwich Hospital, and president of the Greenwich Country Club from 1954 – 1961. He was always a gentlemen, gracious, courteous, and friendly in meeting others. He kept a promise to himself by retiring early. He kept active by becoming one of the top senior golfers in the country. He also was an avid fisherman, hunter, and outdoorsman. Mr.. Brinton had a long association with Scouting, which began as a result of his friendship with Earnest Thompson Seton. In 1911, Mr. Seton was one of the five originators of the Boy Scouts of America. The Brinton Trust was responsible for the acquisition and development of the Brinton Environmental Center.