Sea Scout Universal Emblem, SS-04Sea Scouts (1924-49)

In 1922, Commander Thomas Keane took over the position of acting director of the Sea Scout department.  Over the next few years, he would revamp the whole Sea Scout program.  A new Sea Scout Manual was produced in 1925.  The uniforms and insignia became the familiar seagoing uniform we know today.  The four stage advancement program was put into place.  In 1927, Keene was appointed National Director of Sea Scouting, its first full-time professional director.  During World War II, Keene would be called to active service in the Navy in 1941 and stepped down as the national director of Senior Scouting.  By about the mid-1940s, the program that most people know of as the Sea Scout program was in place and had more or less remained so until today.

In 1949, with the rest of the Senior Scouting program, Sea Scouts became Sea Explorers.  However, for the most part the program has remained essentially the same.  There have been minor changes over the years, however.

The program was a naval style nautical program.  Sea Scouts learned about the sea and other nautical matters and traditions.  Sea Scout Ships were to build their program around 4 "S's": Scouting, Seamanship, Service, and Social.

The Sea Promise(started in 1920)
As a Sea Scout I promise to do my best--
1. To guard against water accidents.
2. To know the location and proper use of the life saving devices on every boat I board.
3. To be prepared to render aid to those in need.
4. To seek to preserve the Motto of the Sea, "Women and Children First."

Under the new program, Sea Scouts had uniforms similar to that worn by the Navy: Navy blue “crackerjacks” for winter months, white “crackerjacks” for summer, and adult leaders would wear a navy blue double-breasted coat with navy trousers (white during summer).  Youth wore uniforms similar to enlisted naval personnel, and adult wore uniforms similar to officers.  However, changes were made in the uniforms so that they would not be mistaken for Navy personnel.  For instance, the "Sea Scouts, BSA" strip would be worn, on the blue jumper, the middle of the three collar strips would be removed, etc. Insignia was thus developed on both navy blue and white.  For a brief time, a ‘fatigue’ uniform was also available, same as for Senior Scouts.

Sea Scouts shirt strip, SS-01Sea Scouts shirt strip, SS-02

Sea Scout Navy Blue uniform, 1925-49

To save space, only insignia on blue will be shown.  In almost all cases, the same insignia is available on white.

Advancement Program
The new Sea Scout advancement program consisted of four ranks: Apprentice, Ordinary, Able, Quartermaster.  Requirements from the 1940s are HERE.

Originally, the sea scouts would only wear the bars of rank by themselves on the sleeve.  Only if they were First Class Scouts were they allowed to wear the Sea Scout emblem above the bars.  This practice was dropped around 1930 or so.

A special set of rules were put in place that allowed a Sea Scout new to scouting to earn Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class Scout, and from there progress toward Star, Life, and Eagle Scout.  Basically the idea was they had to complete the 'missing' requirements for those ranks they had not completed in getting their Sea Scout ranks.  Thus an Ordinary Sea Scout who completes the additional requirements of Second Class First Aid, Second Class Tracking, Scout's Pace, and Thrift would earn Second Class Scout, and an Able Sea Scout who completes the additional requirements of First Class First Aid, First Class Judging, and First Class Nature would earn First Class Scout.  Now that they where First Class Scouts, they could then earn merit badges, and earn Star, Life, and Eagle.  This changed in 1949 when new rules were put in place.

Sea Scouts could also earn Senior Scout titles, and the title patches were made on navy blue for them.  Requirements for them may be found HERE.

Sea Scout Advancement (1924-49)

Sea Scout Apprentice, SS-19

Sea Scout Ordinary, SS-20

Sea Scout Able, SS-21

Sea Scout Quartermaster

Quartermaster Medal, c.1938, SS-22

Quartermaster Lapel pin, SE-34

Quartermaster Ribbon bar, 1934-1946, SS-26

Quartermaster Knot on blue, 1946

Sea Scout Senior Titles around Sea Scout medallion

Unit Organization
During this time period, Sea Scout Ships would be organized into Crews, similar to Patrols in Boy Scout Troops.  The Ship equivalent to Senior Patrol Leader was the position of "Officer of the Deck". The OD was an appointed position, and may change from meeting to meeting (it was recommended the position shift between senior Sea Scouts), and so no insignia was created for it.  Crew Leaders may be elected by the crew or appointed by the ship's officers (adult leaders). The "positions" of Coxswain, Boatswain's Mate, and Boatswain were actually applied to Crew Leaders who held the rank of Apprentice, Ordinary, and Able.  The idea was that the chevrons of those positions replaced the bars of the rank.

Boy Scout and Sea Scout Unit Comparison

Boy Scout Troop

Sea Scout Ship



Assistant Scoutmaster


Senior Patrol Leader

Officer of the Deck (non-permanent)

Assistant Senior Patrol Leader


Patrol Leader

Boatswain (Able rank Crew Leader)

Patrol Leader

Boatswain's Mate (Ordinary rank Crew Leader)

Patrol Leader

Coxswain (Apprentice rank Crew Leader)




Sea Scout Ship Office Insignia

Ship Committee Chair patch, SS-14 plus SS-16

Ship Committee patch, SS-15 plus SS-16

Skipper, SS-10

Mate, SS-11

Boatswain, SS-09

Boatswain's Mate, SS-08

Coxswain, SS-07

Yeoman, SS-12

Bugler, SS-13




Council/Regional/National Organization
A structure of committees was developed at the Council, Regional, and National Levels.  These positions were given distinctive insignia.  In many ways, it was this strong committee structure that has probably saved the basic Sea Scout program over the years from some of the radical changes that has occurred in the various Senior Scouting programs.  Also, in most cases different terminology was used, both for the positions and for the levels.  Chairman from the National to Districts were called Commodores.  Portmaster was the local District Executive for Sea Scouting, Local Pilot was the Council Scout Executive, Chief Pilot was the Chief Scout Executive.

Sea Scout Council/Regional/National Levels






Task Force





From 1925 until 1929, the insignia consisted of silver braid under the Sea Scout emblem at the bottom of the sleeve.  As I have no scans of the strips based insignia, here is how it looked:

  • Mate- 1 narrow strip (quarter inch wide)
  • Skipper- 1 wide strip (half inch wide)
  • Portmaster- 1 narrow & 1 wide strip
  • Pilot- 2 wide strips
  • Commodore- 3 wide strips
  • National Director- 1 broad strip (inch wide)
  • National Committee- 1 wide & 1 broad strip
  • Chief Pilot- 2 wide & 1 broad strip

In 1930, they added the Sea Scout emblem surrounded by ropes to designate certain officers.  Skippers, Mates, and Professional Scouters have no ropes.  Committee Members had a Rope Oval, and Chairman (Commodores) had a Rope Diamond.   Strips designed the level of the officer.

  • Mate- 1 wide strip
  • Skipper- 1 narrow & 1 wide strip
  • Ship Committee- 1 narrow & 1 wide strip
  • Ship Committee Chairman- 1 narrow & 1 wide strip
  • District (Division) level positions- 2 wide strips
  • Council (Squadron) level positions- 3 wide strips
  • Regional (Flotilla) level positions- 1 broad strip
  • National (Fleet) level positions- 1, 2, or 3 wide & 1 broad strip
  • Exceptions: Local Sea Scout Director- 2 wide with 1 narrow in between
  •                   National Staff- 2 very wide silver strips with 1 wide maroon strip in between.

As the use of braid was too confusing with Naval insignia, the stars would replace the strips in 1942.  But the standard of Commodores, Committee Members and Professionals would continue. And does so to this day.

Council/Regional National Sea Scout Officer Insignia (1942-on)

Squadron Commodore

Council Sea Scout Committee

Council Sea Scout Director

Regional Commodore

Regional Committee

Regional Sea Scout Director

National Commodore Patch

National Committee Patch

National Sea Scout Director

In 1929, the idea of flagship competitions was begun.  In this way Sea Scout ships would try to meet certain criteria to be judges as flagships at the National, Regional, and Local levels.  This would later be picked up in 1947 for the whole Senior Scouting program and would become first the Standard Senior Scout Unit program starting in 1948, and later the Standard Explorer Unit program.  The design of the patches matches that of Sea Scout flags.  In 1940/41, these flags switched to being half red/half blue, and the patches then matched as well.

Flagship/Standard Sea Scout Ship

1929 Council Flagship

1929 Regional Flagship

1929 National Flagship

1930 Council Flagship

1930 Regional Flagship

1930 National Flagship

1931 Council Flagship

1931 Regional Flagship

1931 National Flagship

1932 Regional Flagship

1932 National Flagship

1933 Council Flagship

1933 Regional Flagship

1933 National Flagship

1934 Council Flagship

1934 Regional Flagship

1934 National Flagship

1935 Council Flagship

1935 Regional Flagship

1935 National Flagship

1936 Council Flagship

1936 Regional Flagship

1936 National Flagship

1937 Council Flagship

1937 Regional Flagship

1937 National Flagship

1938 Council Flagship

1938 Regional Flagship

1938 National Flagship

1939 Council Flagship

1939 Regional Flagship

1939 National Flagship

1940 Council Flagship

National/Fleet Flagship, 1940

Squadron (Council) Flagship, 1941

1941 Flotilla Flagship

1942 Fleet Flagship

1943 Squadron Flagship

1943 Fleet Flagship

1944 Squadron Flagship

1944 Fleet Flagship

1945 Squadron Flagship

Flotilla (Region) Flagship, 1945

1945 Fleet Flagship

1946 Flotilla Flagship

Fleet (National) Flagship, 1946

1947 Squadron Flagship

1947 Flotilla Flagship

Fleet (National) Flagship, 1947

Local Standard Senior Scout Unit, 1948

Regional Standard Senior Scout Unit, 1948

National Standard Senior Scout Unit, 1948

Another idea of Sea Scouts was that of the "Long Cruise".  This was for a shipboard trip of at least a week in duration.  Special patches were issued, along with arcs for additional Long Cruises.  Red arcs for additional cruises, white for 5 additional cruises.

Long Cruise Insignia

Long Cruise on blue, SS-37Long Cruise on white, SS-38

Special Long Cruise, SS-39

In 1938, a special training award for Skippers, equivalent to the Scoutmaster's Key, was created.  This award was discontinued in 1948, after which Skipper's would receive the Scouter's Key (the now renamed Scoutmaster's Key).  Mates could earn the Scouter's Training Award.  They would use the Scouter's Key and Scouter's Training Award knots, which would be produced on white and navy blue up until the 1970s, and receive the standard Scouter's Key and Scouter's Training Award medals.  To indicate that the awards were earned as Sea Scout leaders, the knots and medals would have the small Sea Scout knot device on them.

Skipper's Key

Skipper's Key, solid blue ribbon version, SS-49

Skipper's Key, blue/white ribbon version, SS-50

Skipper's Key Knot, 1947, SS-51

The new Sea Scout program created by Thomas Keene resulted in a new edition of the Sea Scout Manual.  This would be later revised in 1939.

A Skipper's Handbook was written by Dr. William Menninger, based on his "S.S.S. Kansan Skipper's Aide", and went thru two editions.  Not sure how much was taken from the old Aids for Sea Scout Leaders booklet.  Later a Crew Leader's Handbook would also be produced.

Several volumes in National's Service Library were written for Sea Scouting, as were a wide range of other booklets, available from the Sea Scouting Division.  No booklets for any other senior scouting program were produced, though.

A short lived National Sea Scout newsletter was started.  National ended it around 1943 and expected all adult leaders to using Scouting magazine, and not develop program-specific magazines.


The Seascout Manual (5th Edition) (#3229)
 1st     1925
 2nd     1926
 3rd     1927
 4th     1928
 5th     1929
 6th     1929
 7th     1932,Apr    506p   10000
 8th     1932
 9th     1933,Nov              10000
 10th    1934,Sep   506p   10000
 11th    1935,Jun               10000
 12th    1936,Jul     506p   10000
 13th    1937,Apr   506p   10000
 14th    1938,Apr   506p   10000

Capt Felix Riesenberg, editor

Sea Scout Manual (6th Edition) (#3229)
 1st     1939,May     50000
 2nd    1941,May     25000
 3rd     1942,May    25000
 4th     1943,Oct     25000
 5th     1944,Mar     25000
 6th     1945,Feb     16000
 7th     1945,May    16000
 8th     1945,Nov    25000
 9th     1947,Apr     25000
 10th    1949,Apr    10000

Carl D. Lane, author; Carl Langenbacher, editor

paperback, 698pg

Handbook for Skippers
1st Edition
 1st     1934            280p
 2nd    1938,Apr     280p    3000
 3rd    1936
2nd Edition   (has skipper’s strips on cover)
 1st     1939,May    431p   5000
 2nd     1940,Oct    436p   4000
 3rd     1942,May   440p             (cover design change- star & bar)
 4th     1945,Apr    400p   2500
 5th     1947,Sep    314p   5000

Dr. William Menninger, author

Handbook for Skippers, 1st editionHandbook for Skippers, 2nd editionHandbook for Skippers, 2nd edition, 3rd printing

Handbook for Crew Leaders
1st Edition
 1st      1941,Nov
 2nd     1942,Mar
2nd Edition
 1st     1946,Apr

Service Library, Series E
3118 Sea Scouts Afloat, 1931

Series E #2, Aids for Sea Scout Leaders, 1928
3179 Aids for Sea Scout Leaders, 1931

Series E #1, How to Organize a Sea Scout Ship, 1928
3189 How to Organize a Sea Scout Ship, 1931
3190 What Sea Scouts Do, 1930
3728 The Sea Scout Patrol, 1930
3728A The Sea Scout Patrol and How it Holds Scouts in the Troop, 1931
3728A The Sea Scout Patrol in a Troop- A Scoutmaster's Opportunity, 1939

Sea Scouts Afloat, 1931Aids for Sea Scout Leaders, 1928Aids for Sea Scout Leaders, 1931How to Organize a Sea Scout Ship, 1931
What Sea Scouts Do, 1930The Sea Scout Patrol, 1931The Sea Scout Patrol, 1939

National Sea Scout Log
V1, #1 April 1936 first issue
V8, #? September 1943 last issue







Quartermaster Award









































































































Statistics taken from BSA Annual Reports to Congress

Updated: 12/09/2008mrb