Making waves in Texas: A new base for seafaring Scouts

Sea Scout Base-Galveston Sailboats

Welcome to Sea Scout Base-Galveston, a new home for adventurous Scouts searching to learn more about seamanship, sailing and much more. Learn how the new site is changing Scouting’s course.


Take a look at Sea Scout Base-Galveston in this exclusive video:


Sea Scout Base-Galveston Aerial

Features at the base include a five-story, 60,000-square-foot environmentally friendly building with lodging, classrooms, offices and a cafeteria ready this summer.

ONE DAY IN 2007, Bay Area Council Scout Executive Chuck Herrera’s office called him to say a man had come by to talk about Sea Base Galveston. At that point, the base was little more than a vision Herrera had for facilities and programs to put Scouts in boats on the waters in and around Galveston Bay. It took Herrera most of an hour to get back to the office, but the visitor, Charles Doolin, waited, and the two struck up a conversation that lasted three hours.

From that beginning sprang Sea Scout Base-Galveston, a complex anchored by a five-story, 60,000-square-foot building with lodging, a cafeteria, classrooms and offices now rising on the shores of Offatts Bayou on Galveston’s landward side. When complete this year, it will include an outdoor chapel shaped like a ship, a pool big enough for swimming tests and scuba certification, dock spaces for a sizable fleet of sail and powerboats, and other needs for hosting 200 to 300 Scouts on seaborne adventures up to a week or longer.

Among the features of Sea Scout Base-Galveston is an environmentally friendly design that aims to earn the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification, the highest for green buildings. Programs include kayaking, small- and large-boat sailing and powerboating for Boy Scouts, Venturers and Sea Scouts, plus maritime education for mature Scouts and interns presented in a 110-foot, two-story floating classroom ship called the BaySmart Express.

With an estimated total financial investment, including construction, boats and operating endowment, approaching $100 million, Sea Scout Base-Galveston rivals almost any Scout facility. “It is a tremendous project, and it is going to make a big splash in the high-adventure community,” Herrera says.

ONE OF THE BASE’S most striking features is the extent to which it is the product of the vision and resources of one couple. Charles and Rosemary Doolin became involved in Scouting in 2002 when their son joined a Sea Scout ship near their Dallas home. Charles soon became deeply immersed in boating, ultimately earning a master’s license from the U.S. Coast Guard for vessels up to 100 tons or around 90 feet long.

Sea Scout Base-Galveston Point Glass

The Point Glass (examined by executive director Ed Carrette) is the base’s 82-foot former U.S. Coast Guard cutter, and it’ll soon be shipshape and ready, too.

With their Sea Scout Ship 77 leaders and youth, the Doolins began acquiring a number of boats and hosting Sea Scouts on a variety of sailing expeditions. In 2006, they bought an 82-foot former Coast Guard cutter, the Point Glass, in Galveston. After purchasing the vessel, the Doolins searched for a deep-water base from which to launch adventure trips aboard Point Glass. A dock launch was purchased in Offatts Bayou, but Hurricane Ike thwarted construction of a pier. Not long after, Charles contacted Herrera, and plans for what would become the Sea Scout base began to take shape.

First, however, Herrera and the Bay Area Council had to expand the notion of what the facility could be. The initial idea for a sea base amounted to little more than a dock, a metal boat-storage building and an open space for tents. At one of the first meetings, however, Charles pulled out concept drawings for a much larger, three-story building beside Offatts Bayou. “I said, ‘Holy smokes! This is beyond what I’m thinking,’ ” Herrera says.

During dozens of subsequent design meetings, they realized the pool had to be bigger to accommodate swimming tests. The main building expanded to house more Scouts and staff. Parking was a recurring problem, thanks to municipal regulations on minimum numbers of spaces.

But luck and the Doolins’ unwavering support remained on their side. They acquired a secondhand fleet of small Sonar sailboats — perfect for Scouts and even disabled sailors. A fleet of small racing boats, FJs, was also added to the base. Doolin then purchased the BaySmart Express, which was already being used as a seagoing classroom by a Houston nonprofit. The capacity to educate and engage youth in maritime activities grew with the resources acquired by the Doolins. Even Hurricane Ike, which devastated Galveston in 2008, couldn’t derail it.

THIS IS NOT TO SAY the course to the sea base was traveled hastily or without many direction changes. Early plans, for instance, called for a walkway over the nearby interstate highway connecting to parking. That became unnecessary when a better land parcel was acquired.

Sea Scout Base-Galveston Rigging Sails

On land, Scouts and leaders break into teams for hands-on learning about rigging sails and boat handling.

The ultimate vision has never wavered: to provide a place where Scouts and leaders can learn about the sea and boats and, in particular, to provide a home for Sea Scouts. The Sea Scout connection was critical for the Doolins. It was more important for Charles to name it Sea Scout Base-Galveston — not Galveston Sea Base, for instance — than for his name to appear anywhere on the property. Charles and Rosemary want to support Sea Scouts, but they don’t want it to be called “Doolin Sea Base.” The Doolins want the base’s name to emphasize the marine nature of the facility for Scouts and future seafarers.

Sea Scout Base-Galveston Sailing

The novice sailors explore Offatt’s Bayou with the help on on-board instructors.

Despite the close Sea Scout connection, the facility will actually host at least three different programs, only one of them Scout-oriented and supported. The BaySmart program will provide educational programs for schoolkids as well as Cub Scouts, and the floating classroom will serve as a training platform for maritime students working toward their Merchant Mariner credentials. And the Galveston Community Youth Sailing Center, a franchise of US Sailing, will use the facility to teach sailing to the public with a special emphasis on adaptive programs for the disabled.

The memory of the recent hurricane was a key consideration during the construction of the base. The floating docks attach to 18-foot pylons, well above the surge experienced during the last big storm. Residents in Galveston have a strong respect for the forces of nature.

It’s that respect for nature that drove Doolin to construct a large warehouse, boat storage and maintenance facility several miles inland in the town of Hitchcock. It’s here that the base can repair, maintain and, should bad weather require it, relocate boats to safety. The Hitchcock facility includes a spacious sail loft, complete with bolts of fabric and six sewing machines. And who operates the sewing machines, fixing and fabricating sails, as well as refurbishing tillers? None other than Capt. Doolin.

If the idea that the primary financial benefactor of a massive project like Sea Scout Base-Galveston would also labor long hours patching sails seems strange, that’s because there aren’t many like the Doolins. Charles is a man of exceptionally few words, but Rosemary provides any missing verbalization required. Both are deeply religious, committed to Scouting, especially Sea Scouting, and absolutely unafraid of getting their hands dirty.

Eric Steele, program development and properties director for the council, estimates the Doolins are at the Sea Scout base 60 hours a week, and they are there to work. Until recently, Rosemary did the cooking and delivered the many bags of ice required to keep food fresh in the fleet’s onboard coolers. Charles is usually on a boat with Scouts, although he will tackle any task at hand, up to and including cleaning oily engine rooms. “There’s a different level of commitment,” Steele says.

THE OUTCOME OF THEIR commitment made its tangible presence felt for the first time in the summer of 2011, when the initial Scouts arrived for weeklong summer programs. Crews of six Scouts participated in kayaking, small- and large-boat sailing, and power boating on the waters of Offatts Bayou and portions of the nearby Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

Sea Scout Base-Galveston Raising Jib

Robbie Frazee of Troop 325 sets the jib as his small crew learns to sail a racing boat.

The $3,000-per-crew cost of the program hasn’t been a problem, Steele says. They’ve drawn Scouts from Louisiana and Dallas in addition to Galveston and Houston for the first set of weeklong adventures. And they’ve received inquiries from as far as St. Louis. For the moment, however, most potential visitors are waiting until the facility fully opens this summer.

In spite of the potentially national draw, Steele says he doesn’t see Sea Scout Base-Galveston competing with Florida Sea Base. He says they complement each other, with the blue Florida water providing matchless snorkeling and diving, while Galveston emphasizes sailing instruction, seamanship and navigation skills, as well as an array of vessels from kayaks to 40-plus-foot schooners.

In the future, Scouts may sail on the bigger vessels from Galveston to as far as the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, 70 miles off the Texas coast, where the Gulf of Mexico’s shallow bottom allows coral reefs to flourish.

Meanwhile, Steele says he’s working to build Sea Scout traditions in a brand-new place that, to every appearance, will be around more than long enough to develop its own traditions organically. And watching over it all are the Doolins, working, providing support and energizing the vision of a world-class sea base.

The mission and vision of the Doolins continues to be that Sea Scout Base-Galveston serves as a high-adventure marine and maritime destination — with aquatic programs aimed at educating and fostering independence of body, mind and spirit, while instilling lifetime leadership and team-building skills. Herrera adds, “The bottom line is to serve youth, and the tool we’ll use is Sea Scout Base-Galveston.”


JOIN SEA SCOUTS
Visit seascout.org to join a ship near you.


FIND A SEA BASE NEAR YOU
If you can’t make it to Texas (or Florida), check out this list of bases suitable for your Scouts. Don’t see your favorite base on the list? Let us know, and we’ll add.

Sea Scout Base-Galveston
409-744-5206; ssbgalveston.org

Florida Sea Base
305-664-4173; bsaseabase.org

Chief Seattle Council: Sea Scout Fleet Base
206-920-7685; seattlebsa.org/Main-Website-Content/Sea-Scouts

Bayport Scout Reservation, Jamaica, Va.
Chesapeake Bay High Adventure Sailing Experience
757-595-3356; bayportsr.org

Great Lakes Sailing Adventure,
Mackinaw City, Mich.
Michigan Crossroads Council
michiganscouting.org/camping/greatlakessailingadventure

Pamlico Sea Base, East Carolina Council
252-495-3908; pamlicoseabase.org

Tacoma Sea Scout Base,
Tacoma, Wash.
253-572-2666; youthmarinefoundation.org

3 thoughts on “Making waves in Texas: A new base for seafaring Scouts

  1. This is absolutely fantastic! Thanks to the Doolins for their vision and generosity toward growing young sailors.
    Tom Hubbell
    Quartermaster Rank, Ship 90 – St. Louis (a while ago)
    President of US Sailing

  2. This is AWESOME! I can’t wait to take the tour. When I come there I’m bringing some Super Rope Cinches to show our support for this great venue…

  3. The Texas A&M Galveston sailing team hosted a regatta just off the docks of this facility back in January. The weather and location is ideal for scouts and the facilities look like they are going to be second to none.

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