Yes, Madison Wiley has learned all the knot-tying, sail-raising and boat-steering techniques you’d expect a Sea Scout to know.

But the 18-year-old from Sea Scout Ship 16 of Suffolk, Va., part of the Colonial Virginia Council, says Sea Scouting has taught her a lot more than those on-the-water skills.

“I learned how a group of teenagers and adults with all different backgrounds and interests becomes a united family,” she says. “Because that is the magic of Ship 16. We don’t have groups, and everyone knows each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

That “united family” was rewarded this month with the 2019 Sea Scouts BSA National Flagship Award — an honor presented to the country’s top Sea Scout ship.

The National Flagship Award, presented by the Boat Owners Association of the United States and Sea Scouts BSA, recognizes a ship that boasts exceptional programming, top-class youth achievement and dedicated adult volunteers. The ship receives a trophy and has its name permanently inscribed on a separate trophy that remains at BSA headquarters.

Here are six reasons why Ship 16, also known as Confluence, earned the honor.

1. The ship was among the first to elect members into the OA.

Earlier this year, Ship 16 became one of the country’s first Sea Scout ships to elect members into the Order of the Arrow.

Beginning Feb. 1, 2019, Scouting’s national honor society opened unit elections to members of Scouts BSA troops, Venturing crews and Sea Scout ships. Previously, elections were for only Boy Scout troops.

2. They’re incredibly active.

The best parts of Sea Scouting happen on the water. So it shouldn’t surprise you that the best Sea Scout ship of 2019 spends a lot of time there.

Over the past year, they sailed every week during the summer, enjoyed a combined 11 days of cruising on four separate weekends and participated in a summer racing series.

For Ship 16’s 10-day summer cruise, the Sea Scouts joined Ship 37 on the lower Chesapeake Bay. Their ports of call included Cape Charles, Onancock, Crisfield, Tangier, Kilmarnock, Urbanna, Deltaville and Salt Ponds.

David Green, 18, says all that time in a boat together helped everyone sharpen their social skills.

“I enjoy the friendship that we have in our ship and the ships around us,” he says. “Being in the Sea Scouts has definitely helped build up our skills with communication and teamwork.”

3. They give back to Scouting.

Members of Ship 16 have volunteered at the Colonial Virginia Council’s Klondike Derby, hosted a Raingutter Regatta for area Cub Scouts and completed service projects with Scouts BSA Troop 16.

They also mentored a new Sea Scout ship, helping members of Ship 64 Be Prepared for their first-ever sailing trip.

Members of Ship 16 participate in a flag retirement ceremony.

4. They give back to their community.

Over the past year, Ship 16 took part in 12 community service projects — an average of one per month.

They helped at church cleanup events, hosted a “trunk or treat” on Halloween, beautified their community and volunteered at an Eagle Scout service project.

5. They learn valuable skills.

Last year, 80 percent of the Sea Scouts in Ship 16 advanced in rank. That shows the Sea Scouts’ commitment to learning more about the science and craft of maritime exploration.

While advancing in their Sea Scout ranks, the young people earned certifications in first aid, CPR, lifeguarding and safe boating.

Brendan Old, 16, says these skills will have practical applications for him in the future.

“I enjoy Sea Scouts because it presents me with opportunities to be on the water,” he says. “Belonging to Sea Scouts also helps me plan for my future career in either the maritime or military field.”

6. They’re always recruiting.

Ship 16 is constantly growing.

Members recruited seven new Sea Scouts in 2018.

In addition to establishing a presence at local sailing events, members found new recruits through a smart-but-subtle strategy: they started a “wear your Sea Scout sweatshirt to school” day.

The 2019 National Flagship Fleet

Ship 16 was named 2019’s top ship, but congratulations also are in order for the entire 2019 National Flagship Fleet.

These ships offer some great programs for young people:

Ship 911 Response, Capitol Area Council, Georgetown, Texas
Ship 1701 Enterprise, Sam Houston Area Council, Houston, Texas
Ship 1942 Dragon Lady, National Capital Area Council, Arlington, Va.

Thanks to Michael Kiser for the photos and additional info.

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