For winter break this year, I joined a group of scouts from Rye Troop 2 for a week of scuba diving in the Florida Keys. It was an awesome way to earn a merit badge.

b9 scouting report
Published April 3, 2013 6:07 PM
4 min read


b9 scouting reportFor winter break this year, I joined a group of scouts from Rye Troop 2 for a week of scuba diving in the Florida Keys. It was an awesome way to earn a merit badge.


By Christopher Tobin


b9 scouting reportFor winter break this year, I joined a group of scouts from Rye Troop 2 for a week of scuba diving in the Florida Keys. It was an awesome way to earn a merit badge.


The Boy Scouts of America runs three different National High Adventure Bases: Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, Northern Tier in Minnesota, and Sea Base on Islamorada in the Keys. Philmont and Northern Tier are the oldest, both started in the 1940s, while Sea Base is the newest, started in 1980. In addition to scuba, Sea Base also offers sailing, fishing, and eco-adventure programs.


This was Rye Troop 2’s first visit to Sea Base. Our crew consisted of scouts Chris and Will Courtney, Grant Sundstrom, and me. Leading us were my dad, John Tobin, along with Mr. Jim Sundstrom, and Mr. Peter Haigney, the older brother of our Scoutmaster, Mr. Bill Haigney — and a former scout with Rye Troop 1.


When the Troop began to plan this trip last year, we knew that our first step was to get certified. That led us to Mr. Bradley Geiser and his Aquavisions Scuba shop in Mamaroneck. A retired firefighter, Mr. Geiser is an Eagle Scout and scuba merit badge counselor. After three weeks of classroom work and time in the Rye YMCA pool, we headed for Dutch Springs, Pennsylvania, for our open water test.  That was a beautiful October weekend, sunny and about 55 degrees. We stayed warm in our 7-millimeter wet suits and had a great time — even though the wet suit skins were a pain to put on. Ask anyone around here who scuba dives and chances are they know Bradley— in fact, chances are, he taught them how to dive.


We arrived at Sea Base on Sunday, February 17. The weather was sunny, windy, and cold. As we unloaded our gear from the rental van, our Dive Masters, Tyler and Brenda, greeted us. They gave us on a tour of the wonderful facility and issued us some essential gear we did not own ourselves. They then led us to the dormitory where we would spend the rest of the week.


Monday started with a review of scuba skills in the pool. Then, after lunch, we were on the boat and headed for Alligator Reef. Captain Christie was at the helm of our Newton 46-foot dive boat, along with Boat Mate Dave, and the Assistant, Sargon.


Tuesday was really windy and rough, and a few of us were starting to get seasick. Even with a seasickness-relieving drug, called Bonine, a couple of us succumbed and ended up at the “vomit station.”


Wednesday was calmer and warmer. Two dives during the day, then a night dive! This day was one of my favorites. The sea was calm and the underwater visibility was great so we were able to see so many fish. Later in the evening, we geared up and made our way back to Alligator Reef. We hopped into the water as the sun set over the horizon and went on our first night dive. While we were underwater with our flashlights, the crewmembers in the boat started playing “Under the Sea” through the boat’s underwater speaker for us. I was not fortunate enough to hear the song, but my fellow scouts did and everyone had a laugh about it.


By Thursday and Friday, we had settled into the routine and were beginning to act like a group of experienced divers. We no longer had to be told what to do; we knew the drill and were ready to dive as soon as the boat dropped anchor near the reef.


Saturday was our final dive, and the wind and waves were once again tossing the boat around like earlier in the week. Luckily, no one had seasickness. By now, we confidently strapped into our BCDs, put on our fins (not flippers!), lined up and hopped off the back of the boat. At the bottom, Tyler and Brenda presented us with our Sea Base patches.


Saturday night ended with a luau with skits and songs, and then our adventure was over.


I know all of us were sorry to ‘sea’ it go! We had an excellent week at Sea Base scuba diving with the Boy Scouts. It was one of the best things I have ever done and I hope to do it again soon.


In future issues of the paper, we’ll keep you posted on more awesome things that Boy Scouts do! Our troop will be taking a trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico in July to have a great time backpacking and enjoying activities under the western sun.


Thanks for reading, BSA Rye Troop 2.


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