In my youth I was a Sea Scout in Scarborough. We sailed Albacores out of Frenchman’s Bay. That was almost the last time I sailed before joining QCYC. When we took on the Kirby 23, I had visions of taking our own Sea Scouts out on her and even camp cruising with them. With that hope in mind, I went looking for a suitable name.
In 1869, at the age of 22, after a childhood of sailing small craft and a young adulthood at sea, Warington Baden-Powell set out to cross the Baltic Sea in a sailing canoe of his own design. The book he published two years later inspired a combined sport of canoe-sailing that grew in popularity for many years and was included as one of the three named watercraft—yachts, skiffs and canoes—in the Queen City founding charter of 1889.
In 1872, Warington took his brothers, including his then 15 year old brother Robert, on a canoe-sailing expedition up the Thames river to its source. That trip and others in which Warington included him, had an enormous effect on Robert.
Robert reflected on these adventures as he held the first Boy Scout camp and wrote the book Scouting for Boys in 1907-1908. When Robert felt that Scouting and Scouts could benefit from a more time on the water, he naturally thought of the brother who introduced him to the sea and rivers of England, and asked Warington to write the first Sea Scout manual.
Many years have passed, and while Scouting no longer directly uses those books, Scouts and Scouters still find inspiration in the history and goals of Scouting. Having made this discovery of the origins of Sea Scouting, the name choice seemed obvious.
For a number of years before the floods and before my illness, I had recruited skippers here at the club to take Scouts sailing as crew on their boats. Though it was more experiential than ongoing instruction, it was popular both with Scouts and Skippers. The members of this club are generous and eager to share their love of sailing with others and so it was a great, if informal, relationship. Dave Robinson, Brian Taylor and Andy Oakes were particularly helpful in this program, though many members have been encouraging and supportive.
In the second flood year of 2019 our Sea Scouts and Venturers came and helped with yard work and sandbagging on a number of occasions though you may not have noticed as a uniform is not the best dress for hard work. One of the key principles of Scouting is service and duty to the community.
I knew that the Royal Hamilton YC and Sea Scouts in Hamilton had worked together to teach dinghy sailing. As the floods receded and we got our new dinghy docks and renewed our commitment to the teaching of sailing, it seemed like the time had come to bring QCYC and Sea Scouts closer together. With the support of Yves Florack, our Learn to Sail chair, and Ellen from the LTS instructor team, we got our Sea Scouts out in dinghies on Thursday evenings in June and for a few weeks in September. You may have seen them, or seen our flag flying on the yard mast.
It has been a great experience for our Scouts. Our group, the 403rd Toronto, serves the downtown area and has drawn its members from St. Jamestown, Cabbagetown, Regent Park, St. Lawrence and even the islands. We have always been a group of very mixed backgrounds and means. Thanks to the tremendous effort of Beth Baskin, we are glad to be able to provide an integrated program to every young person who joins us, whatever their background.
The Scouts have learned a lot this year and a number of them also joined in on the regular LTS program at the club this summer. We hope that this contingent will grow with time. Maybe in a year or two, some of them will start to join crews for race night or we can even have a Sea Scout skippered Warington back on the start line Wednesdays. It has been fantastic for young people to have these opportunities again after the difficult early years of the pandemic.
I hope next season that we’ll be able to do a little cruising as Scouts. Maybe to an anchorage off a campsite, or to another club where there are Sea Scouts. As part of building those skills, the Scouts will be sleeping on Warington at our September camp on Snake Island. They’re already getting excited at the prospect of sleeping on the water. Hopefully the weather will be good enough for some sailing too!
Thank you to all those who have helped to build this relationship over the years and to the whole club for wanting to share the delight that is sailing with another generation. I look forward to deepening this relationship in the coming years. Maybe we’ll even be able to bring back some canoe-sailing. If you’d like to support Scouts on the water at QCYC in even a small way, I would love to talk to you about it.
This article was originally published in The Clipper, the magazine of the Queen City Yacht Club (QCYC). Keith has been a QCYC member since 2013 and Skipper of the 403TO Sea Scouts off and on since 2010.