Last summer my Sea Scout Ship (Ship 1886) sailed to Catalina Island. The plan was to leave on the first of August and come back on the sixth, with three boats and twenty-one scouts and adult leaders, sailing to Emerald Bay Scout Camp, where we were to stay for the third through the fifth. We decided to take my dad’s thirty-four foot sailboat, and another thirty-three foot sailboat that had been rented because the council boat we previously planned on using was not ready to make the voyage, as well as another adult leader’s thirty-seven foot power boat. I went with my dad on his boat, along with three other scouts and one other adult leader. The other sailboat took two adult leaders and five scouts, and the power boat took another three adults and five scouts.
We got underway and left the dock at San Diego Yacht Club at noon, a little behind schedule. A few hours into the trip the rental boat had engine problems and had to sail into Mission Bay for repairs, and the other two boats continued on. By nightfall we had worked up the coast to Oceanside. From there we headed out to sea, to cross the channel between the island and the mainland. It was a cool night with an eleven knot breeze; we kept the sails up and the engine at running three thousand revolutions per minute to make a constant headway of seven knots. The trip to Catalina takes eighteen hours. The watch schedule I had made for my boat had groups of four crew members on duty, while the other four rested and they would switch every four hours. I left the decision of watches for the other boats up to the youth leaders on board. By my watch schedule I was pulling the first night shift from eight o’clock at night until midnight. Though it was far from dull, it wasn’t a difficult watch. I had to navigate around a few other vessels and stay in contact with our sister ship using a VHF radio. Having my friends with me on watch helped too. When my shift was over for the night I collapsed in my bunk without even taking off my foul weather gear. When I woke up again at four o’clock in the morning for my next shift we were approaching the island. My dad stayed up with me to help anchor the boat, safely ending that leg of the trip.
The crew that was on the rental boat found out that the problems with the engine were severe, and decided to take the ferry to the island. In the morning they drove up to Long Beach and took the ferry across to Two Harbors, a town near Emerald Bay where we picked them up and took them to Emerald Bay. We stayed in the camp instead of on the boats because the boats did not have bunks enough for everyone to sleep at the same time. Once there we enjoyed the many opportunities available to us at the scout camp. Some of the daytime activities included shooting, hiking, small boat sailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. We also completed several service projects around camp, including making fences to protect recovering native plant habitats.
At the end of our three days in camp we all got back on the boats.
Accommodations were cramped because of the crew that had to come across on the ferry, but we managed. Then we headed over to Two Harbors to quickly take on fuel and stores. After provisioning, we sailed farther down the island to its main city, Avalon. Once at Avalon, we anchored and went ashore sightseeing. We had dinner in the city and then went back to the boats and set sail for home. On the return journey, we encountered significant Navy fleet activity. It seemed like we encountered every Navy ship in Southern California, and they were all running dark on exercises! We made sure to be extra alert on watch, especially lookout. We arrived back in San Diego early in the morning, washed the boats and headed home happy but exhausted.
SDIC Council Boatswain
Ship 1886 Assistant Boatswain’s Mate of Program