For the Love of Ca­noes— and Kayaks

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - DEPARTMENT­S - Ja­cob Ogles is a free­lance writer and fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia.

When there comes a choice be­tween the team­minded row­ing in a long ca­noe and the in­di­vid­ual mo­tions of a small kayak, Bonita Springs Boy Scout Alex Ce­cil, 11, holds a def­i­nite pref­er­ence. “I’ve been in a kayak about 11 times,” he says. “You don’t have to turn the pad­dle so much. I also like that when you are mov­ing through the wa­ter it’s not so hard to go through the waves.”

These sen­ti­ments surely fuel the grow­ing role of kayak­ing in scouting to­day. Boy Scouts of Amer­ica in­tro­duced a kayak­ing merit badge in 2012. And as in­ter­est in the water­craft grows, the Boy Scouts’ South­west Flor­ida Coun­cil has ad­justed its fa­cil­i­ties to wel­come the ves­sels. It’s still only ca­noes at Camp Flam­ing Ar­row in Braden­ton, but Punta Gorda-based Camp Miles now boasts launch points for kayaks as well, ac­cord­ing to Bruce Hassy, coun­cil di­rec­tor of camp and ac­tiv­i­ties.

For Troop 109 of Bonita Springs, where Alex’s fa­ther, Mark Ce­cil, serves as scout­mas­ter, ca­noe­ing re­mained a camp­ing pri­or­ity for years. How­ever, kayak­ing grows in sig­nif­i­cance each day. “I’ve al­ways gone around with a kayak while the boys were in ca­noes, ba­si­cally so I could serve as a tug­boat for the ca­noes. But be­cause I am the leader, every­one wants to be in a kayak,” Mark ex­plains. The troop has its own set of ca­noes and is em­bark­ing on the con­struc­tion of kayaks. The el­der Ce­cil flips through pic­tures on his com­puter of trips the troop has taken to wa­ter­ways from South Flor­ida to Canada. The troop went to Canada last year to con­quer rivers there as part of its High Ad­ven­ture North­ern Tier Ex­pe­di­tion. Such a trip en­riches the scouting ex­pe­ri­ence for troop mem­bers. Ste­fan Hus­trilid, now se­nior pa­trol leader for the troop, says go­ing to Canada was mem­o­rable. “The rou­tine of wak­ing up and head­ing out ev­ery day into the wa­ter—it was a fun ad­ven­ture.” And while that trip was spe­cial, the wa­ter rou­tinely calls to this group of Scouts. Troop 109 makes an an­nual so­journ into the Ten Thou­sands Is­lands to ca­noe or kayak the South Flor­ida site. And the next time mem­bers go, they may be rid­ing in­side

home­made kayaks that they built them­selves.

Up in the sec­ond story of a Bonita Springs of­fice com­plex, Max Seixas, a 17-year-old Life Scout, works on a pro­to­type kayak. He uses spec­i­fi­ca­tions that he re­searched. He’s also re­ceived as­sis­tance from Scout­mas­ter Ce­cil and an Aus­tralian Scout leader, Don Nicholson, who built such ves­sels Down Un­der for years.

Seixas, who served as se­nior pa­trol leader for his troop for two years, would like to hone the craft so that even Scouts just fin­ish­ing el­e­men­tary school will be able to build their own boats. It’s ex­cit­ing to take younger co­horts into the wa­ter­ways where he fell in love with the pad­dle. “I’ve grown up in scouting,” he says. “I’ve pro­gressed in nav­i­gat­ing, which feels nice and makes you think you can do any­thing you want on the open seas.”

Seixas, for his part, still con­sid­ers him­self pri­mar­ily a ca­noe en­thu­si­ast. And talk­ing with troop mem­bers, it’s clear both ac­tiv­i­ties of­fer dif­fer­ing fla­vors of ap­peal. Ca­noe­ing de­pends on each per­son work­ing in con­sort, lest they lag be­hind the rest of the group. In a kayak, you can more quickly spin and pro­pel the ves­sel across the wa­ter and feel like you are part of the waves.

How­ever, troop mem­ber Colton Kataras, 14, notes that rid­ing solo makes for a more tiring trip. “Kayak­ing is more fun,” he says, “but it’s also more chal­leng­ing than ca­noe­ing.”

To Mark Ce­cil, the great ben­e­fit of hit­ting the wa­ter isn’t based on the choice of boat but on the de­vel­op­ment of lead­er­ship. Now that the boys will start build­ing their own kayaks, that just im­proves the level of own­er­ship over the jour­neys they will en­joy. “To be able to build some­thing with your own hands and then to take it on an ex­pe­di­tion, that’s just ex­cit­ing.”

And even when the boys grad­u­ate from scouting, many say the wa­ter will re­main a part of their life. Both Seixas and Hus­trilid plan this year to par­tic­i­pate in the 300-mile Ever­glades Chal­lenge. “It’s grue­some, but I’ll be pre­pared for the race,” Seixas says. “The trip we made to Canada was tough, but the mem­o­ries we made there were be­yond any­thing I could have hoped for.

“Plus, there’s just the brag­ging rights.”

The troop has its own set of ca­noes and is em­bark­ing on the con­struc­tion of kayaks.

Two mem­bers of Bonita Springs Troop 109 head out in a kayak. In 2012, the Boy Scouts of Amer­ica in­tro­duced a kayak­ing merit badge.

Area wa­ters (top) rou­tinely call to these Scouts. Life Scout Max Seixas, 17, works on a kayak with as­sis­tance from Scout­mas­ter Mark Ce­cil.

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