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.