August 6, 2018
Every Friday morning this summer, a troop of slightly weary but content boy scouts arrive at the Virgin Islands National Park Visitor Center, led by Captain Bryan Barnes. This is the concluding day of the scouts’ weeklong sailing trip around St. John, and the last stop before they return to St. Thomas for their flight home.
Barnes and his partner Margaret Pokorny are in their third season of leading sailing trips through Sea Base St. Thomas. For 13 weeks, nine local sailboat captains each spend a week with boy scout troops visiting from all corners of the country. Sea Base St. Thomas is part of the larger Sea Base organization based in the Florida Keys, with the mission of providing high-adventure experiences for the troops. Sea Base participants are selected through a lottery held each year.
The Virgin Islands program has a varied scope: “Snorkeling, hiking, history, conservation content, we incorporate all that into our week,” Barnes says. For the scouts, this is a week of firsts as they circumnavigate St. John and explore Virgin Islands National Park: “Most have no background in sailing and have never been on a sailboat”. Trip highlights for the boy scouts include snorkeling the mangroves and hiking to the Reef Bay petroglyphs.
The Sea Base St. Thomas program has a goal of adding more boats in the coming years. Program expansions in the near future also include scuba diving, collaborating with the University of the Virgin Islands researchers, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) components.