All-female Venturing crew heads to Sea Base St. Thomas for trip of a lifetime

It was the kind of once-in-a-lifetime trip you’ll only find in Scouting.

Five Venturers from Crew 999 of Plano, Texas, spent a week in the U.S. Virgin Islands earlier this summer.

The five young women, joined by three female adult leaders, sailed to beautiful beaches where they hiked, swam, snorkeled and toured historic sites.

As the week progressed, the young women coalesced into a tight-knit team, coexisting in the tight quarters of their ship, named the Classy Lady.

“I believe my favorite part of the trip was the fellowship around the boat,” said Venturer Taylor Nobles. “I loved the way we got to bond not only with just the Scouts but the moms as well.”

An adventure to remember

The trip was one of many Caribbean adventures offered by the Florida Sea Base, one of the BSA’s four national high-adventure bases. Officially called the Sea Base St. Thomas Adventure, the trip is a seven-day, six-night journey around the islands of St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

It’s a ton of fun, but it’s no pleasure cruise. Scouts and Venturers who participate in a Sea Base program are expected to work — same as any Scout camp. That means they prepare meals, clean the boat, watch the anchor 24/7 and do whatever else is required to keep the boat in ship shape.

Here’s a day-by-day look at the trip:

  • Day 1: The young women arrived in St. Thomas, grabbed lunch at a local burger place, and met their captain, Nathan, and first mate, Paula. They boarded the boat and left for their first stop: Christmas Cove. It’s there the crew members completed their swim test. Crew leader Callie Nunan then assigned crew duties for the week and outlined the crew’s goals, which included earning a religious emblem and the Snorkeling BSA award.
  • Day 2: Crew 999 sailed to Honeymoon Beach for swimming and snorkeling. Captain Nathan and First Mate Paula showed the crew how to search for lobster and crab along the shore. They spent the night moored in Virgin Islands National Park.
  • Day 3: The crew sailed to Waterlemon Cay and hiked the Leinster Bay trail to the ruins of the Annaberg Sugar Plantation. Charles, a National Park Service volunteer, gave the group samples of sugar cane, mango and coconut and told them about the history of the sugar mill and how it operated in the 1700s and 1800s. Day 3’s sail to Round Bay was the longest and most exciting of the trip. With crew member Madison Doran at the wheel, the Classy Lady reached 6.9 knots.
  • Day 4: At Hurricane Hole, the young women snorkeled among mangrove trees. They then sailed to Salt Pond Bay, a scenic white-sand beach. There they hiked to an eco-resort for ice cream and cold soft drinks. The afternoon was spent swimming, snorkeling and hiking the mile-long Ram’s Head Trail.
  • Day 5: Next was Reef Bay, where the crew hiked the 2.7-mile L’Esperance Trail. After that morning hike, they sailed for Cruz Bay, St. John’s main town.
  • Day 6: After some morning snorkeling in Christmas Cove, the young women got pizza from a place called Pizza Pi. You’ve heard of food trucks, but this was a food boat, serving piping hot pizza from a floating kitchen. The crew members cleaned the Classy Lady that afternoon before dinner at a restaurant overlooking Sapphire Bay.

‘A+. Would sail again.’

The trip got positive reviews from each member of Crew 999.

Callie Nunan, the trip’s youth leader, enjoyed it all — swimming, sailing and exploring the shoreline hunting for crabs and lobster. She also loved meeting Charles, the park volunteer.

“It was great to talk to him because he was an island native so he knew much more about the place than anyone else there,” she said.

Beth Kokal liked how the trip combined so many activities into one epic week.

“We got to experience the islands of St. Thomas and St. John is a way that very few people ever get to do,” she said.

Madison Doran agreed, saying the Sea Base program “exposed me and my crewmates to opportunities we never would’ve had.”

For Laura Worthen, the trip offered a chance to get to know the other young women in her crew.

“We got to learn all about each other through sailing, snorkeling and getting only slightly lost while hiking,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world.”

Taylor Nobles felt the same way, saying the five young women are forever linked by this experience.

“Being able to experience the beauty of the islands created a special connection between us all that we will never forget,” she said.

What they’d do differently

Crew 999’s trip went off without a hitch — mostly. The young women said they’d bring the following items if they ever went back.

  • Small dry bags to carry gear when swimming from the boat to shore during excursions.
  • Swim goggles for the same swim to shore — easier for swims where bulky snorkeling equipment isn’t wanted or required.
  • Neoprene socks to wear on the boat, where shoes aren’t allowed.

25 Comments

  1. Seems to me that it is time to rename the national organization from Boy Scouts of America to something more inclusive like Scouts of America or American Scouting. My three girls go with their brother to many Cub Scout events and I can imagine that they’ll end up in a Venture crew when they’re older. I enjoyed my time in a co-ed Explorer Post when I was a youth. It would be nice if the name of the national organization welcomed girls.

    • Name changes do nothing but alienate your base, I have ‘Scouting/USA” bumper stickers from the late 70s. We were about as welcoming then as we are now. Within a year or two BSA returned to its original trademark.

      Worldwide, rebranding shows mixed effects, the typical pattern is one of membership decline in male membership with gains in female membership not offsetting losses for decades. Trading boys for girls still seems self-defeating.

      On the other hand, I’ve had many girls proudly shake my hand as I handed them their Venturing membership card and said, “Welcome to the Boy Scouts of America.”

      This year I had an exchange student join our crew, and the shoulder patch on her uniform read “Boy Scouts Italia”. Neither the opposite sex nor the foreign language in he title deterred her and her brother scouts from feeling welcome in the world’s largest youth movement since Cubs. She would proudly declare “I’m a scout, not a Girl Scout.”

      The real work ahead is making sure we welcome in spirit every girl who wants to be part of what they know and love as the Boy Scout program into the life of the pack and troop. If we can’t provide that, we have a long way to go.

      • Awesome that the ladies of Crew 999 took advantage of the adventures that Venturing offers. You’ll have lots of great memories from this.

        My facetious response to jheiss and Q:

        It is wrong to allow a boy (with girl parts) into all levels of scouts and not let a girl (with girl parts) in. Not very logical. My youngest son is 7, and I think I just might go enroll him in Brownies instead of Tigers. Maybe the BSA name should be changed to “Gang of Kids Club” (GOKC).

        I shudder to think what BP would say about all of this.

        • Shudder no more. There’s this:
          https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/OAM19140826.2.30

          “We want more young men and young women to become Scoutmasters.”

          While not necessarily progressive, he was more open-minded about the concept than many of us would give him credit. His thinking was that young men and young women would undergo similar training. That they would teach their constituencies similar skills. And, that if there was an adventure that a patrol of boys would take up, a patrol of girls would also take up that same adventure.

    • The first, maybe small, step was renaming the Boy Scout National Jamboree to the National Scout Jamboree when it went co-ed in 2013. It will take a lot of small steps to get where it is truly co-ed.

    • Venturing is a great Program…But id also suggest having your girls check out Sea Scouts if they want more of a skill based advancement program they have seen their brothers go through.

  2. Scouting has a ways to go to get to the point where it is co-ed. Many old-timers, plus some chartering orgs, are dead-set against it. My daughter made the leap from Girl Scouts to Venturing on her 14tth birthday and 12 days later, was on her first Philmont trek. The three girls from that trek were all eventual camp staff members at our local camp, and ended up over the years holding camp leadership positions that previously were always male, including program director. Had they been able, I have no doubt all three would be Eagle scouts today. It’s all about the opportunities. Not every girl will take advantage of them, but some most certainly will. And while my daughter had more nights camping, more high adventure, more volunteer hours and more leadership than 90% of Order of the Arrow Ordeal candidates in our Council, she had to wait until she was 21 to be called out. OA as the BSA Honor Society needs to take the lead in going co-ed, rather than lagging behind.

  3. It was mentioned at a St Louis area summer camp this year from the STL area director. Cub scouting is looking into going to Family scouting and discussion of lowering the venturing age to 12 to allow co-ed. Boy scouts will remain boy only.

    I have no daughters,but friends who do. Their daughters go right along on most campouts that are not district events. They too would earn their way to Eagle the same as the boys. I don’t see what the holdback is.

    It’s all political. From some understanding from Girl scout leaders. The resistance is coming from both directions, BSA and GSA. A local Girl scout camp refused to accept a boy scout eagle project to complete trail work at one of their camps.

    • I think lowering the age for Venturing is a mistake. But I also think it is a mistake to not expand the program in ways to allow girls. I think they should follow the same design as for Venturing where the unit decides on the makeup. There are crews that are exclusively male, exclusively female, and integrated. Let the same happen for cubs and boy scouts.And I would push that the units should decide how integrated if they go that route. As in, allow the unit to designate a den/patrol as integrated or not.

      all too often they don’t allow the local group to actually deal with the local situation.

    • i participated in the Scouts Canada Transition to COED . i was elated to see a young lady come up to me at a Gillwell Reunion some years later and say she was a Chief Scout . i feel that both genders should have the same opportunities . it is a great program throughout . After 63 yrs . i have seen very positive . Youth in large numbers . lets make it available . Old scouters like me are old . lets concentrate on how to mentor youth positively ,

    • Sea Scouts have had “cabin _boy_” programs for youth under age fourteen. Sort of an informal transition status. With the coed option in Sea Scout ships, this would appear to be available to boys and girls, if we are allowed use such old fashion terms. ;-).
      Also, the Air Scouts had an award program for Boy Scouts in troops, who were not yet eligible (explorer age/high school), and still primarily working in their troop on Scout rank advancement, in the 1940s.

    • It doesn’t need to be political. Instead of the whole “Family scouting” doublespeak, BSA could simply officially welcome what few interested girls there may be to participate in any Pack or Troop that feels prepared to incorporate them. Chartered partners who would rather their units be unisex are welcome to do so.

      It doesn’t need to happen now. It can wait until after North America welcomes World Jamboree in 2019. That will expose the results of every variety of co-ed scouting (as well as the unisex Saudi model) to 10,000 BSA youth and volunteers. They can then return home to their districts and share what they liked and didn’t like. This will give our nation’s scouts and scouters the most informed perspective it will ever have of the good and bad about relaxing membership rules.

  4. I have participated in the Coral Reef Sailing Adventure in Sea Base twice (2010 with my oldest, last month with his younger brother). We sailed out of Sea Base into the Florida Bay (2010) and the Atlantic (2017). Both were outstanding adventures, and just as described above: we worked as crew on the boat, we snorkeled (gorgeous!), and we enjoyed some serious sailing (topped 7 knots this year). I hope I can convince at least one of my 2 youngest sons to join Scouts so I have an opportunity to do this St. Thomas adventure described here. Sounds amazing.

  5. My daughter quit Girl Scouts at age 12 because she was interested in learning/doing more outdoor, boy scout like things, but her troop just wasn’t willing to go along. She tried to join a Venture crew at age 14 but the group had older scouts in it that were quite clicky and did not really make her or her girlfriend feel welcome. I also have a Webelos scout and first year Boy Scout and I don’t see why BSA could not open up the Boy Scout program to girls. It would be amazing to allow girls to take advantage of the wonderful program and get recognition for those rank accomplishments, including Eagle. I don’t see what the big deal would be allow this. In addition, OA should not be closed to Venture scouts if they have attained the same accomplishments within the same time as a BS. It shouldn’t be about the club that you are allowed to join, but about recognizing all scouts’ accomplishments, especially when they have gone above and beyond.

    • You just pointed out why Venturing, by lowering it’s joining age won’t work for most girls. The club method of venturing can be rather cliquish. It takes a lot of work on an advisor’s part to get older venturers to reach out to younger ones. Some years I succeeded, others I failed. Clearly your crew’s advisor was failing to guide the older youth to be mentors.

      The troop model and patrol method in boy scouts breaks those walls down a little. But, without girls coming up through cubs, a lot of scouters are nervous about making them feel welcome in that context.

  6. I have been Scoutmaster of Troop 48, BSA for 43 years in Kingsport, Tennessee. We have, during most of my service, welcomed mothers of Scouts as adult leaders and have enjoyed having the moms and sisters of our Boy Scouts participate in backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, go snow skiing with us, spend a week at summer camp as our guests, do wild caving, river rafting, canoeing (also Northern Tier as members of our brother/sister Venture Crew 48), and spend a week on Cumberland Island National Seashore backpacking, fishing, and swimming (we have been every 3 years since 1980).

    They have helped with lifeguarding, trip planning, fundraising, finances, meal planning, cooking, uniforming — you name it — they have enjoyed being an unofficial part of Troop 48. As my two granddaughters have said, “Granddad, why can’t we join your troop? In our Girl Scout troop, we don’t do all the neat stuff you get to do!!”

    We have, de facto, made the Scouts’ moms and sisters part of a Boy Scout Troop when they are willing and interested in our very active program. I have read the comments concerning the hypothetical name of a national boy scout/girl scout organization. That can be worked out; there are several reasonable choices. The challenge is to accept the fact that in many situations, having mothers and sisters participate along with the men and boys is a natural thing to do.

  7. As a former GSA camp staff member – 13 years up the ranks, I am dismayed at the declining numbers of Girl Scout now attending summer camp. Back in the day we typically fed about 125 girls for 2 week stints throughout July and August… Now the council is “lucky” to get 40 girls at a time and is only open 3-4 weeks per season… and the BSA camp just down the road closed down and was sold to a housing developer. Both sites are beautiful and those who went absorbed so much from their camping experiences.

    There are at least three more camps within a 50 mile radius that have a “full house” all summer and many weekend groups throughout the rest of the year… two are church camps and the other is run by the FFA. Their solution is simple… They have a co-ed program and a co-ed staff!

    I shuttered when I first learned of this! How in the world would they be able to “control” teenagers living in such close quarters? It was explained that these kids already knew how to “properly” react with each other from their schools, farms, churches, etc. – Yes, guidance is necessary – and expected. Run a good program and they will come, learn and behave! Perhaps it is time for the “Ladies” to let down their hair and the “Gentlemen” to cease bragging about their strength and get down and dirty together!!!

    Now retired, I find my most memorable moments have come from camping… and I now wonder how much more I would have learned were it to have been a co-ed experience…. JOIN FORCES GSA and BSA – Alone you are missing the boat and kids and parents are obviously joining and supporting co-ed groups!

  8. Why is there such a push to make the BSA Coed across all ages, not just Exploring and Venturing? But no push to make the GIRL Scouts COED? I have never seen lawsuits to allow boys into Girl Scouts, and no bad publicity because the Girl Scouts are not Co-ed and not opening up their camps and activities to boys and Young Men.

    • I hate to say this, but the current Girls Scouts program today is so bad, that boys are not interested in it, and girls are leaving in droves.

      Kinda sad when an organization doesn’t listen to its base.

      Also kinda sad when an organization is being pressured to change because another organization is not meeting the needs of its constituents.

    • The girls don’t want to be in girl scouts either. The girl scout program is awful. The only way we stayed in it for several years was running them in conjunction with Cub/Boy Scouts. Eventually though we have had to do our own thing until the girls could join Ventures as I was tired of helping raise funds for executives who did nothing for the girls or their own program.

  9. Scouting offers a wonderful program for the whole family. By that, I mean the Boy Scouts of America offers what is needed for every gender. There is nothing in the “Boy” Scouts which is gender specific. Girls Scouts in contrast, while once a comparable program is now only about selling cookies (and the GS name on anything they can put it) to pay for executives retirement. As a father of four girls and two boys, our Girl Scout Troops joined our Cub and Boy Scouts to do the Cub/Boy Scout activities all up to but excluding summer camp.
    While my boys learned pioneering, first aid, lifesaving, riding and the care of horses, my girls summer camp activities including riding ponies around a circle, and some arts and crafts. They went twice to camp and had enough of Girl Scouts. They used the small percentage they received from cookie sales to do more fun activities. Little wonder my older daughters were excited to join Ventures a few months ago and they had a great time at camp doing the “boy” things.

    What I have no good answer for though is why girls can’t earn Eagle.

    How is it girls can be a part of Scouting at an age of 14 when there are more concerns on having both sexes together?

    The only response I hear is that, “It is for boys.” No response as to why. I heard that same argument for women adult leaders and Scouts with handicaps.

    Scouting is not about creating testosterone filled super atheltic men. Scouting is to create our future leaders, to be physically fit, mentally awake and morally straight. That includes the entire family.

  10. Including the “entire family” is untried. Traditional scouting has included only the most capable adults in the community since its inception. It has exclude adults from the advancement method for 5 decades.

    Put simply: there are good scouters who will not stay in the program if girls are welcome further. The good scouters who will replace them if BSA fields a co-Ed program are few.

    One need only look to the rapidly declining numbers in venturing to see that going co-Ed Is unpopular.

    The reason, accept it or not, rests in a firm belief in unisex programming as voiced by our chief scout executive on many occasions, including most recently here https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Fk6LL7LHZng&feature=youtu.be

    Unless there is a sea change in this country where parents in large majority are willing to send boys and their girlfriends scouting together, opening BSA to girls will continue to be a niche market. That sea change might come through encounters at World Jamboree. It might come through tens of thousands of families joining Campfire USA, or an independent scouting organization. But, until America can convince thousands of scouters that the boys the want to reach are only accessible if they welcome girls, I’m afraid we’re deadlocked.

Join the conversation