On Tuesday nights this summer at the Boat Yard in Marina del Rey, a group of adults has volunteered its time to help prepare local Boy Scouts for skillful jobs by restoring a piece of history.
The Sea Scouts, a vocational branch of the Boy Scouts, is an organization that works to help youths aged 14 to 21 develop skills in the fields of engineering, seafaring, and mechanics by fixing up old boats. The youngsters then have the chance to sail the restored vessel and even compete against other groups.
The local Sea Scout group, also known as the Islanders, started in 1930 and is currently working out of the Boat Yard in Marina del Rey on Fiji Way. Its 14 active members, who are boys from all over the Los Angeles area and of varying ages, have been working on the Manta since May 24.
The ship itself has a significant history as a World War II-era U.S. Navy air rescue boat. This entirely wooden boat, which is even equipped with an infirmary, was purchased by the Sea Scouts from the Navy Surplus in 1946. For 30 years the Manta was used to transport supplies to the Boy Scout camp on Catalina Island.
Today the Islanders work on everything from fixing up the boat to steering and navigating. While the Manta still transports items over to Catalina, it is too small to be the main supply ship, according to the Sea Scouts.
Two of the adults in charge of the group are David Moore, the “mate” and a father of two Sea Scouts, who served with the California Maritime Academy, and Justin Howland, the “skipper” and a lifelong member of the Sea Scouts. Like half of the members of the group, Moore and Howland are Eagle Scouts as well.
Moore says the program is about leadership.
“We have the older kids mentor the younger ones. Sometimes we let them fail, as long as it isn’t a safety issue, so they can learn from their mistakes,” he says. “Ultimately it’s to help them find career paths and to build character, so that is why it is a passion for myself and the other adults involved.”
Howland said he oversees the youths by giving them structure, ensuring safety and making sure that “everyone is having fun.”
Within the Sea Scouts, there is a hierarchy so that older boys can teach the younger ones, the group leaders note. The top position is the boatswain, which is currently held by Ben Castillo.
“I organize what the crew has to do, and right now we are working mainly on the interior, painting and cleaning and major maintenance,” Castillo explains.
Castillo and other crewmembers said they work to compete against other groups in events that demonstrate their seafaring skills. The next competition is scheduled in November and called Rendezvous.
Moore insists that none of the Sea Scouts’ accomplishments would be possible without the Boat Yard and its staff, particularly Greg Schem, the owner and operator of the Boat Yard.
Schem, who says he has been involved with the Boy Scouts his whole life, has worked with the Emerald Bay Boy Scouts in Catalina and has even built them a pier. Schem adds that he tries to help out the Islanders during these challenging economic times by “keeping fees as low as possible and donating as much as we can.”
Other people who have assisted the Islanders are Victor Espino, the Boat Yard supervisor, and the Boat Yard painters for painting the entire exterior of the Manta.
The Islanders say they rely on donations for their work, such as donated cars and boats. Moore says these donations support what he believes is the most important goal of the Sea Scouts: “to build youths for tomorrow.”
The Islanders meet every Tuesday at 7 p.m., with very few exceptions. Anyone between 14 and 21 is welcome to participate, at Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey (where the Manta is normally docked). Information, David Moore at (310) 505-8285.