Sea Scouting is a program that the Boy Scouts of America offers for young men and women, ages 14 (or 13 years of age and completed eighth grade) through 20. Along with Cub Scouts for younger boys and Boy Scouts for older boys, Venturers and Sea Scouts provide a program for religious, fraternal, educational and other community organizations to use for effective character, citizenship, and mental and personal fitness training for youth.
The advancement scheme for Sea Scouts places an initial emphasis on nautical skills before encouraging the youth to take a major role in planning activities in the unit. Young men and women ages 14 through 20 who are willing to abide by the requirements of BSA membership, including agreeing to live by the ideals expressed in the Sea Promise, Scout Oath and Scout Law, are eligible to join a Sea Scouting ship. Ships are administered by volunteers with the assistance and support of some paid professional staff.
The ship is the fundamental unit of Sea Scouting, consisting of five or more Sea Scouts and the adult leaders. Ships are numbered and may adopt a name.
Each ship is sponsored by a community organization such as a business, service organization, private school, labor group or religious institution. The chartered organization is responsible for providing a meeting place and promoting a good program. A chartered organization representative manages the relationship between the ship, the chartered organization and the BSA.
The ship committee is a group of adults, led by the ship committee chair, who guide the ship program and activities and manage record keeping, finance, leadership recruitment and registration. The ship is led by youths who are elected to the positions of boatswain, boatswain's mate, crew leader, assistant crew leader, yeoman, purser and storekeeper. Skipper and mate provide guidance while allowing the youth to lead the ship.
Above the ship level, committees which are organized to support the program. Each level also has its own terminology:
To earn Ordinary, the Sea Scout must know the Ideals of Sea Scouting, be an active member for six months, learn specials skills relating to boats, marlinspike seamanship, piloting, communicating, swimming, safety, and cooking. In addition three of seven electives need to be completed such as, close order drill, signaling in semaphore, boxing a compass, yacht racing, sailing, ornamental ropework, and engine maintenance.
For the Able rank, the Sea Scout must be able to explain and demonstrate a complete knowledge seamanship skills, earn the Lifesaving merit badge, complete a long cruise, and must and be a petty officer in his or her ship.
Quartermaster is the highest rank attainable by a Sea Scout can earn and is equivalent to Eagle Scout. The Sea Scout must attend at least three-quarters of all Ship meetings and special activities over eighteen months, demonstrate marlinspike seamanship and leadership skills, demonstrate the ability to teach Sea Scouting skills, complete a Quartermaster Leadership Service Project (community service project) and pass a council level bridge of review.
The Quartermaster emblem is a medal consisting of the Sea Scout emblem on a ship's wheel that is suspended from a solid dark blue ribbon that is in turn suspended from a bar bearing the design of a double carrick bend knot. Sea Scouts who reach this rank can earn advanced rates upon enlistment into the U.S. Navy or U.S. Coast Guard.
Sea Scouts may also obtain the boating licenses and safe boating training certifications offered at the state and local levels, and are encouraged to qualify in first aid, CPR, lifesaving, SCUBA and US Sailing certifications. The Long Cruise Badge may be earned by Ordinary rank and above Sea Scouts and adults who complete a two week cruise, or a series of weekend or overnight cruises adding up to 14 days. Segments indicate subsequent awards – red for one additional award and white for five additional awards.
Sea Scouts may earn all Venturing awards, but only registered Sea Scouts may earn Sea Scouting awards. Sea Scouts who have earned the First Class rank in Boy Scouts can work on requirements and merit badges for the rank of Eagle Scout until age 18.
Councils with a squadron structure may hold Sea Scout regattas or rendezvous organized among local ships, often with sailing competitions that may include ships from other councils. Several areas and regions organize similar events. Some areas and regional also organize training events like Safety at Sea Weekends and Winter Training Weekends. There is no national Sea Scout event, but the biannual William I. Koch International Sea Scout Cup is an international Sea Scouting event.
Sea Scouts take part in Venturing training with specific Sea Scouting training for youth and adults. Sea Scouts may attend the week-long Sea Scout Advanced Leadership Training (SEAL). Upon completion, the double-dolphin SEAL training pin may be worn. Adults who completed SEAL training as a youth or who have qualified to be a SEAL course director or assistant course director may also wear the badge.
Sea Scout adults complete the same training as Venturing adults, as well as Sea Scout Adult Leader Basic Training. Seabadge is the advanced leadership and management course for adults.