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 lifelong hobby, it is worth exploring. Sea Scout units, called “ships,” use a variety of paddle craft, power boats, and sailing vessels, 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.
Sea Scouts who earned First Class rank when registered in Scouts BSA are qualified until their 18th birthday to continue with Scouts BSA advancement. If desired, they may maintain multiple (dual) registration in a troop or ship, and work on ranks in either unit.
Wherever the youth member is registered, the Scoutmaster and ship’s Skipper decide, with the member, who will oversee the Scouts BSA advancement. If the Skipper does so but is unfamiliar with Scouts BSA, the district advancement committee should identify an experienced Scouter to assist. It is important for Sea Scout leaders to understand that Scouts BSA advancement procedures must be followed.
With the exception of the Eagle and Quartermaster service projects, any work done while a Sea Scout can count toward both Scouts BSA and Sea Scout advancement at the same time. The Eagle and Quartermaster service projects must be separate and distinct from each other. Position of responsibility requirements for Scouts BSA ranks may be met by the Sea Scout serving in ship positions as outlined in the Scouts BSA Requirements book.
If the Skipper is overseeing the Scout’s advancement, then the ship committee conducts Star and Life boards of review. Otherwise the troop committee conducts these boards of review. Eagle Scout boards follow the local council’s established procedure.
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.
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.
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 application of skills, and completing additional electives broadens horizons.
To achieve Able rank, Sea Scouts master ceremony presentation and demonstrate knowledge of maritime history. They also teach others—perhaps Scouts and Venturers—about the program and fulfill leadership responsibilities. They must pass the Lifesaving 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 additional electives.
The highest award for Sea Scouts presents a challenge that, when met, has lifelong benefits. 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, study of weather and forecasting, and completion of additional electives. The cruise involves taking long-term command of a vessel and crew and conducting critical drills.
Note: Sea Scouts must use the Quartermaster Leadership Service Project Workbook, No. 420-011, 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, Eagle, or Venturing Summit Award service project must not be the same project; these projects must be separate and distinct from each other.
If a Sea Scout foresees that, due to no fault or choice 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. When a time extension is requested, the Sea Scout should continue working on the requirements as processing occurs. 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,” 188.8.131.52 , and “Process for Submitting and Evaluating an Extension Request,” 184.108.40.206). 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 Advancement Program Team.
The local council does not grant or deny Quartermaster time extensions. These are granted only by the National Advancement Program Team.
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. The Scout executive signs the bridge of review-approved application. The Quartermaster Application is submitted via email to the National Service Center at [email protected] where the certificate is produced and returned to the local council service center. The Quartermaster rank is then reported through the BSA system by the local council. The Quartermaster medal may be purchased from the local Scout shop.
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. The process is similar to that for a Scoutmaster conference. (See “Unit Leader [Scoutmaster] Conference,” 220.127.116.11.)
Sea Scouts working on the Eagle Scout rank follow the procedures listed in “The Eagle Scout Rank,” 18.104.22.168.
Other awards Sea Scouts may earn include the Small- Boat Handler bar, the Qualified Seaman bar, Sea Scout Marksmanship Awards, and the Long Cruise badge and arcs. The requirements are detailed in the Sea Scout Manual. Also available are any BSA recognitions that are not limited to Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA, or Venturers. Examples that may interest Sea Scouts include BSA Lifeguard, Boardsailing BSA, Snorkeling BSA, Paddlecraft Safety, Kayaking BSA, Mile Swim BSA, and many more.
A bridge of honor, like a court of honor in Scouts BSA, 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 that 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.
Topics 22.214.171.124 through 126.96.36.199 below cover bridge of review procedures that apply to all Sea Scout ranks. These are followed by “Particulars for Apprentice Through Able Ranks,” 188.8.131.52; topics 184.108.40.206 through 220.127.116.11 pertain only to the Quartermaster rank.
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.
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,” 18.104.22.168, and “Particulars for the Quartermaster Rank,” 22.214.171.124. 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.
Procedures for conducting Sea Scout bridges of review are very similar to those for rank boards of review in Scouts BSA. 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.”
- 126.96.36.199 Wearing the Uniform—or Neat in Appearance. The same limitations on requiring a uniform for a Scouts BSA board of review apply to Sea Scouts, with the exception that the Sea Scout dress uniform is preferred for a bridge of review.
- 188.8.131.52 Conducting the Board of Review. Note the same exception that parents or guardians who insist on being present at a board of review applies to bridges of review.
- 184.108.40.206 Not a Retest or “Examination.” Identical for Sea Scouts.
- 220.127.116.11 What Should Be Discussed. With the exception that the primary reference is the Sea Scout Manual, and that the Sea Scout must also keep the Sea Promise.
- 18.104.22.168 Board Members Must Agree Unanimously on Decisions to Approve. Identical for Sea Scouts.
- 22.214.171.124 After the Review. With the exception that if it is thought that a Sea Scout, before his or her 21st birthday, can benefit from an opportunity to properly complete the requirements, the bridge of review may adjourn and reconvene at a later date.
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,” 126.96.36.199, below, to learn about the differences for Quartermaster.
- 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.
- The boatswain serves as bridge of review chair, conducts the review according the BSA procedures, and reports results to the ship advancement coordinator.
- The location should be comfortable, such as the unit meeting place or another familiar location.
- The review should take approximately 15 minutes, but no longer than 30 minutes.
- Ranks must not be presented until the advancement is reported to the local council through the BSA’s internet portal for reporting advancement or on the official Advancement Report form.
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,” 188.8.131.52.
For information about a Quartermaster bridge of review after a Sea Scout’s 21st birthday, see “Eagle Scout Board of Review Beyond the 18th Birthday,” 184.108.40.206. The procedures are the same, with the following exceptions:
- References to the 18th birthday are replaced with the 21st birthday for Sea Scouts.
- 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.
A Quartermaster bridge of review under disputed circumstances may 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.
- 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,” 220.127.116.11.
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 Scouts BSA (see “Appealing a Decision,” 18.104.22.168, “Filing and Processing an Appeal,” 22.214.171.124, and “Appeal Board Must Research the Case,” 126.96.36.199); simply replace the Scouts BSA references with those relating to Sea Scouts. Note that only Quartermaster rank may be appealed beyond the ship, and appeals are sent to the National Advancement Program Team at [email protected].