The building of the clubhouse of the Charlottetown Yacht Club in 1937 gave it the scope to engage in many activities promoting sailing and the use of Charlottetown Harbour. One of the contributions that has been forgotten was as sponsor and host of the short-lived Charlottetown Sea Scouts (12th Troop).
The sea scouts were formed in England shortly after the establishment of the Boy Scouts just before the First World War. Headed by Robert Baden-Powell’s older brother, Warington Baden-Powell, this branch of the boy scout movement has suffered the same decline in interest as it faced competition from other organizations such as the Navy League Cadets and the Sea Cadets as well as the general difficulty in adapting to changing youth interests.
There had been a unit of the senior scouting organization, the Rovers, since 1935 when a Sea Rover crew was established at St. James Church as the 3rd Charlottetown Sea Rovers. The Rovers generally were for boys aged 17 and over. The group was under the direction of Charlottetown lawyer K.M. Martin. Mac Irwin, who seems to have been involved with almost every nautical initiative in the City, was part of the equipment and advisory committee along with J.L. Curran and Instructor Ross of the naval volunteer reserve.
The boys had use of the reserve’s whaler during the summer months but by 1937 had built their own boat – a Snipe sailboat. The boat was built in the basement of the church but on completion was found to be too big to be extracted through the cellar hatch and a portion of the foundation had to be removed to get the boat out. Their snipe, the Four Bells, competed in regattas at Pictou and Georgetown as well as in Charlottetown. At the time the Rover Crew had about 20 members so there must have been fierce competition for the two places in the boat.
The Rovers also had access to a 32 foot auxiliary two-masted schooner called the Boundy owned by Crew First Mate Saunders. It was used for excursions as well as carrying the Rovers to distant regattas. In August 1939 they set out for the Shediac Regatta but owing to storm conditions had to be taken off the schooner by the Canadian Government Steamer Brant and returned to Charlottetown.
The group was active until well into WWII by which time most of its members had joined the military. An attempt was made to re-start the group in 1950 when Scout Master Avon Andrew brought together a number of older boys. Although they spent some time clearing up an area to be used as a workshop where it was proposed a small boat would be built it appears that the club did not continue.
Avon Andrew seems to have inherited the Four Bells, now more than ten years old and successfully sailed her in 1951 in the competitions for the T.A. Campbell Cup and the Commodore Morris Cup having as crew Vera Andrew, David Andrew or Alan MacLeod.
In November 1937 a notice appeared in the Scouting column of the Charlottetown Guardian. The proponents named were all leading members of the Charlottetown Yacht Club. Fred E. Morris was to serve as Commodore of the Club until 1943 and is still the longest-serving head of the organization.
The Yacht Club Sea Scouts held their first meeting within two weeks and after the meeting the group adjourned to Mac Irwin’s workshop, located at the rear of the Irwin Printing building on Richmond Street where the committee was building a sailboat for the troop. The Guardian noted “The boys are anxiously awaiting the completion of this boat and their instruction in sailing.”
Sadly no further information has been found with regard to the activities of the Sea Scout troop (or of the boat being built for them) and they have been forgotten. The history of Boy Scouts on P.E.I. written several years ago has no mention of the troop.
Today the youth activities of the Charlottetown Yacht Club consist primarily of an active Junior Sailing Program. It thrives while most activities of the Boy Scouts struggle.