In many youth sailing programs, participants use one-person sailboats to learn basic skills. At the local Sea Scouts group, which operates out of the Concord Yacht Club at 11600 S. Northshore Drive, teens learn to sail together on vessels called thistles, which use a three-person crew. Volunteer and local chapter founder George Hubbell says this is a deliberate choice.
As a young man in the U.S. Navy, and as a “suit” in the business world, Hubbell says, “Most of my day was spent working in small groups. I thought, why don’t we get them started learning teamwork early?”
Hubbell founded Sea Scouts Ship Freedom 300, as the local chapter is called, in 2002. The co-ed group is open to youth ages 14 to 21, and teens pay a nominal fee to enroll. Meeting once a week at the yacht club headquarters on Fort Loudoun Lake, teens learn the basics of sailing, including learning how to adjust a mainsail, a jib sail and a spinnaker. They also learn some lifesaving skills, engine repair, knot tying, boat repair and much more.
Besides the 515-pound thistles, the organization has a Helms 27 sailboat, which has an auxiliary diesel engine and can sleep five to six, for longer trips. There’s also a Catalina 22 that can be trailered to places like Watts Bar Lake, where the scouts might participate in regattas or other gatherings.
Across the United States, Sea Scouts take to whatever waters are near them: gulfs, bays, lakes, inlets. Hubbell says the conditions at Fort Loudoun Lake are perfect for learning.
“We get them out on the water right away,” Hubbell says. “We have shifty winds here, which is great for training. They have to pay attention. If they don’t pay attention, they get wet.”
As a teenager, Hubbell built his first boat, an 18.5-foot vessel, from plans he found in Boys’ Life, the Boy Scouts magazine. In college, he once crewed on the “Lord Jim,” a legendary sailing boat owned by the commodore of the Boston Yacht Club.
Sea Scouts is an independent arm of the Boy Scouts of America, but teens don’t have to belong to Boy or Girl Scouts to become involved. Hubbell, who was an Eagle Scout, says the values he learned in scouting are the same ones he and the other adult advisers teach these teens: “Be prepared,” “Communicate with manners and respect,” “Think” and “Dare yourself.”
“As adults, it’s our job to help these kids prepare for life,” Hubbell says.
One young man who started with the group as soon as he was able climbed steadily through the ranks of the organization until he left for the Great Lakes Maritime Academy last year. Other teens have chosen careers in the U.S. Navy or, if going to college locally, they have stayed with the program until they aged out at 21 and then returned as volunteers.
Hubbell is always looking for adults to volunteer with the kids – no experience necessary. Currently the group meets at 2 p.m. Saturdays. If interested in helping out or in getting your teen involved, email Hubbell.