Any former boy scouts out there? Let's link up!


March 11, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink
2:00 p.m. March 11, 2010

Cold waters greeted Boy Scouts from Troop No. 609 on Jan. 26.

Submerging up to 60 feet underwater, 20 of the 39 troop members completed their final dive off Alki Beach for their Professional Association of Diver Instructors certification for scuba diving and their Boy Scout merit badge.

“I’ve been scuba diving before in Maui and it was one of the most fun experiences of my life,” said Scout Sean Fite, 14, who goes to Eastside Catholic High School. “This opportunity came up and I thought I should take it to get my full certification.”

“It was cold,” said Scout Will Dodeward, 15, who goes to Mount Si High School. “I know 46 degrees doesn’t sound cold, but it’s cold.”

These boys seem to be the first ones in the nation to complete the required courses and training for the new Boy Scout merit badge added this year by the national offices, said parent volunteer Judy Co. The troop is the first to place an order for the merit badge, but there is no national database to confirm it for sure, she added.

Troop 609 is one of the largest troops in the area, with members ranging in age from 11-18 and attending schools in Issaquah, North Bend, Sammamish and Renton.

Beneath the water’s surface — once the shock of the cold water wore off — the boys saw a world full of marine diversity.

“We saw rat fish, artist crab, red rock crabs, sea slugs and feather coral,” Sean said.

The boys said they also found other interesting things, like toilets, water bottles and plates from Salty’s Restaurant, which weren’t altogether great for the environment, but provided new shelter for marine life.

Before the boys could enter the frigid water of Puget Sound, they spent weeks training in a pool, learning about regulators, dive gauges and safety with Seattle Scuba Schools.

“We had to practice removing our masks and clearing and putting them back on under water,” Sean said. “That was the scary part. You kind of panicked, but it’s good to know.”

The boys didn’t just take the classes to claim bragging rights, Scout Master David Marsh said. Seven of the boys are in the process of training for an upcoming diving adventure to Florida.

In August, the boys and five parent volunteers are headed to The Florida National High Adventure Sea Base.

Sea Base — as it’s commonly referred to by the boys — is a High Adventure camp that offers unique educational aquatic programs, according to its Web site. The Boy Scouts’ High Adventure camps are often longer in duration and allow boys in-depth learning opportunities about a single subject, like aquatic environments or mountainous regions.

“Scuba diving is a really cool experience and it is a great skill to have,” said Scout Andrew Marsh, 15, a freshman at the Pacific Cascade Freshman Campus.

Sea Base is owned and operated by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. It is based in the Florida Keys, with many smaller base destinations the boys will travel to by ship, like Islamorada, Summerland Key Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco Island and the Bahamas.

There, the boys will find crystal-clear waters to explore marine life in the offshore coral reefs.

“I really want to see octopus and tropical fish,” said Scout Nick Co, a Pacific Cascade student. “Something more eye pleasing.”

During the adventure, the boys will put their new scuba skills to use and learn to sail the 57-foot schooner they will live on.

During the trip, they’ll complete 15 dives, including three night dives.

The boys will learn about corals and reef ecosystems, as well as reef conservation and methods being used to help preserve them, Marsh said.

They will also have the opportunity to earn additional Professional Association of Diver Instructors certifications.

“This is something he is really interested in doing,” said Will’s mother, Angela Dodeward. “It is a great learning experience.”

But more than that, their Scout master hopes it’s a new skill, like many Boy Scouting skills, that the boys will take with them throughout their lives.

“Anything active these guys are involved in that gets them outside and away from the screen is a good thing,” Marsh said. “We really try to encourage them to push themselves and try new things, like hiking, climbing mountains and scuba diving. These are all things they can do for a lifetime and Boy Scouts encourages that.”