I had the pleasure of spending the last week at Camp Emerald Bay on Catalina Island with about 35 members of my son’s scout troop. It has taken time away from the office and my family, and it’s certainly made things more hectic, but it was worth it.
Over the course of the week, our kids earned over 100 merit badges in activities ranging from oceanography, environmental sciences, and mammal studies, to more traditional badges, such as archery, lifesaving, and wilderness survival.
Our boys could earn these merit badges here at home, but the long trip also offered our boys a more hands-on experience. For example, most of the kids explored the marine life in the area through snorkeling or even scuba diving. The boys also had the opportunity to go salt water fishing from a fishing boat, to watch sea lions frolic, and watch dolphins follow our ferry to and from the island.
The camp’s marine science center was also a top attraction. There, our boys were able to touch and feed leopard sharks, horn sharks, bat rays and more. And many of the boys were enamored with the mantis shrimp. These shrimp can grow up to a foot in length, and they are often difficult to keep in aquariums because they are strong enough to break the glass. Indeed, the boys were fascinated by the fact that if humans could accelerate their arms at one-tenth the speed at which a mantis shrimp attacks its prey, we’d be able to launch a baseball into orbit.
One of the favorite parts of the week was “war canoes”, where we made an hour-plus canoe trip to a secluded beach on the island. Once there, the kids could go hiking, snorkeling or play on the beach. The day was capped off with dutch oven dinners, and then we all spent the night on the beach. Around 4:45 the next morning, we had our wake-up call, we loaded up, and we canoed back to the main camp.
Of course, no boy scout camp would be complete without the opportunity to serve others, and one of our opportunities was a bit unexpected. As we returned to camp with our fishing charter, we encountered a small boat with three passengers waving feverishly. As our captain approached the boat, the boaters let us know that they had run out of gas and were stranded. We radioed to Harbor Patrol, and soon our stranded friends were being towed back in to safety. The lesson was not lost on our boys as one unnamed scout (okay, it was my son), took the opportunity to suggest to the boaters that they should “Be Prepared” for those types of situations.
Needless to say, we were are all tired, but it was a great experience for all of the kids.