A voyage that’s lasted 100 years — so far

Hearing Lynwood Smith’s seagoing stories, I could only think how much our world has changed. Would parents today sign permission slips for trips like those Smith recalls from his Snohomish Sea Scout days?

“The boat was based in Everett, but we went just about everywhere,” said Smith, a 1947 graduate of Snohomish High School.

“Usually we went north, all through the San Juan Islands, the Canadian Gulf Islands, up the east shore of Vancouver Island to Nanaimo, or up the Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver to Jervis Inlet and Princess Louisa Inlet,” the 84-year-old Smith said.

The boat was the S.S.S. (Sea Scout Ship) Whitfield, a 40-foot World War I-era vessel the Navy had used as a torpedo retriever. With Snohomish Lions Club sponsorship, the boat was acquired by the newly formed Snohomish Sea Scouts in 1942. The national Sea Scouts organization, part of Boy Scouts of America, marks its 100th anniversary this year.

Wednesday, the Snohomish Historical Society celebrates the centennial with a 7 p.m. event at the Waltz Building. Log books from Snohomish Sea Scouts journeys will be on display.

Smith remembers voyages lasting a week or more. The Whitfield carried life vests, but he doesn’t recall ever wearing one. Boys brought along their .22 rifles.

“We’d have target practices out in the open water, saving up all our cans and bottles. The only person who didn’t bring a .22 rifle would have to throw out all these cans,” Smith said Monday.

While Everett and Edmonds still have active Sea Scouts chapters, the Snohomish group died out in the 1950s. That’s when its second vessel, the Ranger, fell into disrepair. “The Ranger had a rather sad ending,” Smith said. “It had extensive dry rot, and the Coast Guard declared it unseaworthy. Nobody had enough money to fix it.”

The Snohomish Sea Scouts’ glory days come to life in old photographs and detailed entries filling log books. Bound in leather and wood, the handmade books are treasures from another time. Pictures show kids working on the boats, showing off fish they caught, sailing in a dinghy, and landing at rustic docks in British Columbia.

“I don’t think people know how fantastic these log books are. People are in for a treat,” said Middy Ruthruff, a Snohomish Historical Society member who helped organize Wednesday night’s event.

Max Weed, 85, wasn’t a Sea Scout, but he traveled on one of their boats to Victoria, B.C., as part of his Snohomish High School biology class. Sea Scouts handled the boat on trips that sometimes carried passengers from the Boy Scouts, science classes and church groups.

Girls were often on those cruises, and Weed remembers his twin sister, Maxine, once falling overboard and being rescued.

The Snohomish Sea Scout skipper was Steve Smith, Lynwood’s father, who taught biology, woodshop and photography at Snohomish High. Like the school’s football or baseball players, the Sea Scouts were featured in uniform — sailor hats and middy shirts — in the Kla-Ta-Wa yearbook.

Smith remembers one trip when rapids at the mouth of Sechelt Inlet, north of Vancouver, B.C., nearly got the best of their vessel. “We ran that one day when we shouldn’t have,” he said, describing a whirlpool 6 feet deep. “We smashed that whirlpool and climbed out the other end.

“We occasionally got into problems, but we never lost a boat and we never lost a Sea Scout,” Smith said. “My dad insisted kids demonstrate they could swim in the Everett YMCA pool.”

The gorgeous photos in the log books were taken by Smith’s father. “My dad was quite a photographer,” said Smith, who went on to become a fish physiologist at the University of Washington.

“Sea Scouts from those times sometimes say those were the best days of their lives,” Smith said. “In those days, guys were eager for adventure. Sea Scouting gave it to them.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Sea Scouts program Wednesday

The Snohomish Historical Society hosts a free event at 7 p.m. marking the 100th anniversary of Sea Scouts, a Boy Scouts of America organization, and remembering the Snohomish Sea Scouts. The Snohomish chapter was active in the 1940s and 1950s. The group’s log books will be on display at the event in the Waltz Building, 116 Ave. B, Snohomish. Former Sea Scouts are encouraged to share stories at the event. Coffee and dessert will be served.

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