SSS Odyssey dead in the water

Photo courtesy of Tacoma Sea Scouts

The Sea Scout Ship Odyssey is in trouble.

A combination of two unfortunate events has left the Tacoma jewel dead in the water this winter, and threaten to sideline her for the coming summer sailing season as well.

In December, the mainsail was blown out in heavy winds, crippling her primary means of propulsion. Less than a week later, the auxiliary engine, an old Detroit Diesel 6-71, coughed its last. With neither primary nor auxiliary propulsion, the vessel is unlikely to leave the dock anytime soon.

Odyssey, a 90-foot Sparkman & Stephens-designed yawl (for more on the fascinating design and history of the vessel, read our excellent write-up on Odyssey by Melissa White, from happier days last fall), has been with the Sea Scouts since 1978. Owned by the Tacoma Youth Marine Foundation, the vessel has helped train a generation of Tacoma sailors, as well as Scouts from around the region who have taken part in one of her week-long summer sailing expeditions to the San Juan Islands.

The Foundation needs to raise $20,000 to replace the mainsail, and another $23,000 to purchase a new engine. In both cases, the Sea Scouts have already received assurances of substantial discounts from the vendors involved — the sailmaker is cutting their costs by a third, and the engine is being offered at cost by Cascade Engine. But even after the discounts, the numbers are still big numbers.

The engine gearbox had been on the way out even before the catastrophic failure and the organization had been planning to replace the engine and putting away money toward that end already.

Odyssey’s troubles demonstrate the difficulty that even well-found older vessels have staying above water. Absent benefactors with exceptionally deep pockets — of whom there are too few to go around for the number of deserving historic vessels — old boats have to work for their living, earning enough money to pay for operations and maintenance. Odyssey has been an exemplary model of this method, run by the Tacoma Sea Scouts as a charter each summer to pull in enough money to earn her keep.

But when things go wrong in such situations, they can spiral down quickly — without the money to get back in operation, Odyssey has no way to raise the money to keep operating and address future maintenance needs. Although the Scouts have been diligent in managing their funds and keeping up with regular maintenance, all it takes is a couple of serious problems at the same time to overwhelm all plans.

It’s in moments like those that communities have to step up to fill the gaps, and that’s exactly what the Scouts are hoping will happen now.

You can contact the Youth Marine Foundation at 253-572-2666 or contribute directly online via a Fundly fundraising drive here.

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4 Responses to SSS Odyssey dead in the water

  1. Pete March 15, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    My check is in the mail. I am glad to be able to help the Sea Scouts!

  2. Richard Rodriguez March 15, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    Brian, The issue here is that you are punishing the members and leaders who operate that boat. They have nothing to do with the policies of the national organization. Having been away from the BSA for 16 years, I believe the BSA really miss stepped. Again, $ drives the organization and I feel that the BSA didn’t see a change in the public perception of the gay issue, they only worried about a loss of corporate funding.

  3. Richard Rodriguez March 15, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    As a licensed mariner, the real difficulity will be keeping the COI current.

    As a former BSA Coucil Executive, I can tell you that BSA leadership views issues like these as pure liablilities: fund raising conflicts for capital vs operating expenses, the fact that something esle will go wrong. An operation like SSS Odyssey realley needs an endowment to keep it viable.

  4. Brian March 12, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    I’d gladly donate, if the Sea Scouts (and Boy Scouts) were to allow openly homosexual leaders amongst their ranks.

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