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.