This summer, five members and three adult leaders of Shirley Boy Scout Troop 7 visited the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base in Islamorada, Fla. The trip was planned two years in advance by father-and-son team Jim and Shawn McGrath.
The other four Scout adventurers were Matt Dean, Dan Henderson, Ben Rocco and Parker Suscavage. Their leaders were Assistant Scoutmasters McGrath and Dave Henderson, and committee member Mike Suscavage.
The group left Logan Airport on July 4 and landed in Miami. They rented two cars and visited Key West, Fla., for an afternoon before checking in at Sea Base the following day.
The Florida National High Adventure Sea Base is owned and operated by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America to offer unique educational aquatic programs to Scouts. Of the many different adventures to choose from at Sea Base, the boys chose the Coral Reef Sailing Adventure, which involved living on a 40-foot sailboat for six days and nights at Lower Matecumbe Key.
The boat came with Captain (Allen), who taught the boys about sailing, navigation, knot tying, and more.
As the trip was a Scout adventure and not a pleasure cruise, the Scouts and their adult leaders were expected to work aboard the vessel. The boys had multiple duties, including raising and lowering the anchor, sailing, bringing the boat in and out of the dock, cooking and cleaning.
The group slept on deck under the stars at night. Typically the boat was anchored around 600 yards offshore in coves, out of the travel lanes. The boys took turns taking "anchor watch" in shifts during the night, looking for bad weather or a loss of position.
The days consisted of sailing, fishing and lots of snorkeling at different coral reefs. The boys saw nurse sharks, large sea turtles, barracudas, spiny lobsters and a large variety of fish.
The trip included one day at the base where the boys took sailing lessons on small boats, went "tubing" on the ocean pulled by a motorboat, paddle-boarded, and went ocean kayaking through the mangroves.
Although the boys were told that there were manatees and saltwater crocodiles in the mangroves, leader Dave Henderson reported that none were sighted. "I think we made too much noise," he said.
Before they left, Troop 7 had the honor of performing in color guard for the base and, according to Henderson, did an outstanding job.
On the last day on the way to the airport, the group stopped and toured Everglades National Park. Henderson said "the trip was an overall awesome learning experience for the boys."