Boy Scout Troop 125 Duck Hatch Camping and Sailing

This last weekend, Boy Scout Troop 125 put the ducks we've been building in the water for the first time. We had a campout at the Alatoona Aquatic Center on Lake Alatoona (the site of the 2009 Puddle Duck Racer World Championships), and sailed the ducks on Saturday afternoon.

Troop 125 had three patrols there, the Red Wolves, the Blue Beavers, and the Black Dragons. Each patrol had a boat. The Black Dragons' boat was #501, the Sea Dragon, the Blue Beavers' boat is #545, the Little Blue Peep, and the Red Wolves have #544, the Red Hot Pringle.

The Black Dragons' boat, #501, had an unfortunate start. It was the first boat in the water, but upon putting up the sail had an unfortunate failure of the lower bracket the held the mast in place. This was no fault of the boys in the Black Dragons, there was inferior material involved. The boat was repaired on-site, after a trip to the hardware store for wood and brackets, but not in time for the afternoon winds. We will have pictures of it sailing posted later.

The Red Hot Pringle and the Little Blue Peep, along with my own boat, #388, went on to sail around with all of the Scouts present for several hours. No official racing happened, as this was just a "first splash" and familiarization sail.

Because the activity was held on Mother's day, we didn't get all of the participation that we wanted - only about a dozen Scouts came. That's about a third of our total group. Normally, we'd have about two thirds show up to any given function.

After having said that, all of the boys that did show had a great time. We camped out Friday and Saturday night, using the official Boy Scout patrol method, meaning that the boys chose their campsites, set up their own tents by patrol, used their patrol chuck boxes to cook their own meals, and had their own campfire separate from the adults. It's the total experience we go after, not just a single activity.

The boys ran around like lunatics Friday night, playing flashlight tag and other games until late in the evening, then up early for breakfast on Saturday morning. I believe they cooked Mountain Man breakfasts, which is hash-browns, sausage, scrambled eggs, and cheese baked in a Dutch Oven. I also saw someone with French Toast, so there may have been one patrol that went with that.

Because of the weather forecast, we decided that we'd canoe in the morning, then sail after lunch. There was no breeze forecast until about 1:00 pm. At nine o'clock all of the boys (and a few adults) went to the Aquatic Space canoe launch and got canoes, life-jackets and paddles and headed out onto the lake. They paddled around in canoes, learning the basics of how to maneuver, paddle in sync, and generally not fall out, until lunchtime.

While the boys were canoeing, a few leaders and myself put the finishing touches on the boats (such as attaching the rudders, tying the spars to the sails, etc. We finished in time to have the boats ready to move to the water's edge by noon. The boys carried the boats to the water, and launched them around 1:00.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the boats had a failure of the mast step (that was my fault). Getting the masts raised and rudders down, dagger boards down, and boys sorted into boats took way, way longer than I expected. I was about to admit failure of the whole project when things started to come together all at the same time. We got first one, the two, then three boats out onto the water and moving under sail all at the same time.

The boys were were not in the boats were all lined up on the shore, jumping up and down for their chance to get into one. The two inflatable kayaks were constantly rotating boys wanting to try their hand at paddling them, and they flitted from one end of the sailing area to the other. Under the power of two paddlers, the kayaks were about as fast at the Puddle Ducks, and had the advantage of being able to disregard the wind direction.

In the end, I'd say the activity was hugely successful. I had no complaints from any of the boys or the adults. One of our new scouts came up to tell me this was the best Scouting activity he'd ever been to. He'd been a Cub scout for five years and a Boy Scout for about 4 months. I took it as a great compliment; I hope the experience helps to keep him interested in Scouting and in Sailing for years to come.