Safety: The First Thing a New Sea Scout Needs to Learn


The first responsibility of every Sea Scout and Sea Scout Leader is to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure everyone who goes out on our ships…comes back…intact. This issue is so important it is the complete focus of the Sea Promise.

Sea Promise

Why the focus on Safety? Well, a quarter of all boating injuries in the US every year happen to teens.  The largest danger is drowning. The Children’s Safety Network has a great infographic that explains who is getting hurt on the water and how.

Boating injury by age

Link to info graphic

It’s fair to say that, especially for new Sea Scouts, the very first thing they should look at is signing off the Safety requirements for Apprentice.  What are they?  Here’s a quick review….but you’ll find them on Page 49 of the current BSA Sea Scout manual.


  • Explain the uses, advantages, and disadvantages of the five types of Coast Guardapproved life jackets. Demonstrate the proper use and care of life jackets used by your ship.  
  • Identify visual day and night marine distress signals, and know their location and the proper use for your ship’s vessel(s).  
  • Use the Distress Communications Form to demonstrate the procedure to send the following VHF emergency messages: Mayday, Pan Pan, and Security.  
  • Know the safety rules that apply to vessels and equipment used by your ship, and safety standards in the use of power tools, machinery, lifting heavy objects, and other safety devices used by your ship.

Ok, so that’s what new Sea Scouts need to know for Apprentice. How do you go about teaching them on your ship?

Let’s not beat around the bush and make you wait until the end. Thanks to the SSS Makai from the East Bay area in California here’s a Lesson Plan to Teach Apprentice Safety, Here’s a quiz sheet, and here’s a set of References. These tools can get anyone going, at your next meeting. Go ahead, take them, modify them for your situation, and have at it.

  1.  Apprentice Safety Lesson Plan
  2.  Apprentice Safety Quiz
  3.  Apprentice Safety References

Now that we got the basics out of the way, let’s talk more about other ways to approach teaching safety to our crews.


First, it’s important to point out that everyone is watching, learning from and copying the leaders of the ship. If the Skippers and Mates don’t take safety seriously…and make it job one…then why would we expect the crew to?

When you go aboard, do you check the safety gear on your boat? More importantly, are your youth leading this safety check? All ships need a regular boarding routine  that the youth are trained to follow every time they step aboard.


Some new Sea Scout leaders don’t feel they know enough about boat safety to teach it. Fair point. The good news is, you don’t need to. We have great partners on the water and in the class room when it comes to safety on the water. The US Coast Guard Auxiliary and the US Power Squadron both work with Sea Scout units across the country to partner in teaching boating safety. They are waiting to help you.

Here’s a link to the US Power Squadron’s boating safety education program   And here’s another link that will let you find the US Power Squadron nearest to your unit.

The US Coast Guard Auxiliary is also to find at this web site.   You’ll find that the Auxiliary has a wealth of classes, some designed specifically for teens. More details can be found on their website at


If you’re a small ship, or new ship, some of this may seem daunting. You need to ask for help, and your local council Sea Scout Leadership may be able to give it.

karin leachThis is Seattle’s Sea Scout Commodore, Karin Leach. She wanted to make sure youth from all her ships were getting safety instruction, so she teamed up with Tony Ford of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary to make the Washington State Boater Education class available to Sea Scouts, Mates and even Parents, brothers and sisters, for just $15.   They put on the class this summer in Seattle.



When teaching the crew about safety, don’t forget your boat.  If you check page 77 in the Sea Scout Manual, you’ll see that every Sea Scout boat should be getting a yearly Vessel Safety Check.  That’s the inspection that the US Coast Guard Auxiliary spends a lot of time and effort making available across the country.  And as Kathy Weydig, the Skipper of the Sea Scout Ship Heatwave in Lake Havasu, Arizona points out, the Auxiliary is usually more than happy to have Sea Scouts volunteer and help them conduct those inspections.  What better way to learn what they need to have aboard that to inspect for it.   Kathy even passes along the inspection form for everyone to use as the basis for a vessel safety discussion.  Click the link below.

uscg inspection sheet  


For older established large ships it’s probably second nature, and established practice, that it is the youth members of the ship’s quarterdeck who should be taking the lead to introduce the ship’s safety training and teach the safety rules and ropes to new Sea Scouts as soon as they step aboard. But ships come in all shapes and sizes, so we need to be flexible and remember that safety training is the most important thing that has to happen.   If youth aren’t advanced enough to take the lead in teaching and enforcing the safety procedures adult leaders must step in and make sure it happens, and then remember to get out of the way and allow youth to step up to the role when they are ready.

There are lots of other great sources of information about boating safety. Here are just a few that you can use to help build safety into everything you do.

Additional Resources

United States Coast Guard, Information to keep boaters safe on the water.

United States Coast Guard, Boating Safety Resource Center. How to Choose the Right Life Jacket. Retrieved from: (link is external)

BoatUS Safety on the water.

BoatUS Foundation, Map of Life Jacket Loaner Programs. Retrieved from: (link is external).

Safe Kids Worldwide. (2015). Swimming and Boating Safety Fact Sheet. Retrieved from: (link is external)

American Boating Association, Boating Safety – It Could Mean Your Life

Fair winds!

Dan Leach
Committee Chair, S.S.S. Yankee Clipper, Seattle
WR Program Task Force Member


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