Reuben L. from Sea Scout Ship 212 and the National Capital Area Council Yeoman, attended the 2015 Chesapeake Flotilla Winter Training at Catoctin Mountain National Park, just a few hundred meters from the Presidential Retreat: Camp David. Despite 5-degree temperatures and the biggest winter storm of the year (which dumped 12″ of snow on New England the night before the event) Sea Scouts from Virginia to New York made the trek up the mountain for a weekend of training and fun, filling every cabin on the sprawling compound. Courses included over 70 different topics including Engine Maintenance (with actual engines), Celestial Navigation, and a “Wilderness First Aid Afloat” course (No actual tracheotomies were performed.) The weekend closed with a DJ-hosted dance, basketball tournament in the gym, “butt-sledding” and a showing of Star Trek: Into Darkness in the hastily-constructed theater.
The annual Chesapeake Flotilla Winter Training weekend, known as “Catoctin”, is probably one of the most rewarding Sea Scout events in the Region. If I was to describe it in one word, it would be memorable. This weekend is more than just a training weekend, it is a time where individual ships spanning over multiple states come together as a flotilla and take part in something special. I have been a Sea Scout for over three years, have attended Catoctin each year, and have had the chance to see just how unique this event is. My first year, I came in with no rank, little knowledge about Sea Scouting and sailing, and knowing only the four other members of my ship. By the time I had reached my third class, I was finding myself having made many new friends and, I found myself learning new skills that I still use to this day.
Classes are taught by experienced youth and adults, providing a relaxed atmosphere through which it is possible to focus on the skills being taught while not feeling like you are in a lecture hall. Having attended for three years, I have observed the many methods through which the classes are taught. This year I attended the Splicing class, which covered one of the Able Rank requirements. The class was taught by three brothers, all quartermasters, who really knew what they were talking about. The instructors did not just lecture, they all had a piece of line and did the splicing with the Sea Scouts, walking them through every step. They engaged the class, ensuring everyone understood what was being taught and spent one on one time with those who didn’t. In the class, I was able to learn all the splices for able, including back splice and eye splice, which I had been having trouble with learning from the book.
This weekend training is not just about learning new skills. It is also about making friends and learning about different ships and what they are all about. At Catoctin, I have made some lifelong friends. Even though I may only see them at these events, it makes the time there that much more meaningful. The ability to travel from class to class with your friends and have fun and learn seamanship and piloting skills in an educational yet unconventional and fun environment is what makes this event so much fun. During the free time, you are able to catch up, and just hang out and relax with friends. This past year the camp was at capacity, which just gives you the opportunity to make even more friends. The friends I made were are all from different ships,and I have been invited to join them on activities. Because of this, I was able to see how different ships approach advancement and training, and what types of activities they do. While my time as a Sea Scout may only temporary, the friends I have made, dare I say, will last a lifetime.
This is an event unlike any other I have ever seen. The instruction, socialization, accommodations, the people, and really every aspect of it is held to the highest standard possible. By coming together as a ship for this weekend you truly become a member of the Chesapeake Bay Flotilla.
Pictures courtesy of Todd Skiles, more available at the Chesapeake Flotilla Facebook Page