My best teacher on our long cruise was a scout from another ship that couldn’t have a long cruise of its own. This youth had met two of the my scouts on a training weekend earlier in the summer, and came with such recommendations and credentials that I thought he would be an experienced model of an older, more advanced/trained leader–someone to whom my scouts could look up. Recommendations included those of a parent in our ship, plus a skipper I know and whose word I believed. The youth needed the long cruise as the last requirement for advancement to Able rank, so, it seemed he had a great deal of incentive to adhere to rules, perform well, participate, and make a good all around showing. Unfortunately, the young man had personal priorities that ranked higher than these.
Looking back, there were little red flags to which I should have paid better attention. For instance, I only heard from the dad, not the scout, regarding his interest in the cruise. Had I met him, or at least spoken to him on the phone, I may have been able to detect his reluctance. But, being he was on the go all summer, even cell phone contact was limited, so that smoothed over the young man’s silence.
Another red flag I should have noticed was the friendship between this scout and two of mine. The dynamic between the 3 of them made the first half of the cruise much more difficult than it would have been had my scouts and the guest scout not been already bonded. They formed a clique and my scouts did not like it when I broke that up.
Something else I learned from the cruise challenge was to pay better attention to what a scout is saying about his or her intention through their behavior. One of the scouts involved in the triad on the cruise had never been engaged, was always aloof, and I realized that he didn’t really want to be a Sea Scout; the program was not a good fit for him. The cruise brought that to the forefront, and he decided he is going on to other things now. I have no hard feelings about that, and am supporting his mother in finding a Venturing crew that might better meet his needs.
With hindsight, I see that I should have had very firm rules in place, ones that would have excluded such an unknown factor, particularly that this was our first long cruise, and we all, especially the Skipper, had a great deal to learn. One of the lessons I learned is that when it comes to the good of the ship, I simply cannot necessarily take the word of other people, even people to whose word I normally give weight. Maybe the boy was all they said…previously, in other situations, but in practicality he was not the same scout I saw on paper.
Ah, well, the best thing to do with a mistake is to learn from it and not let it happen again, and that is my intention. I figure I was actually lucky that this lesson came early, as it could thwart potentially worse outcomes in future situations. I will certainly uphold my shiny new requirement that all scouts going on overnights have shown with their behavior that they understand and agree to the rules of conduct.