Sea Base 2009 – Sharks, Barracuda…and Cobbler?

Troop 353’s last full day on Big Munson Island could hardly have packed more in, beginning in the water and ending amid the glow of a fire in a strange and mysterious forest clearing.

After breakfast, all four of the crews on the island (including some Scouts from Pennsylvania) walked over to the “backyard” section of the beach and waded out a few hundred yards to Sea Base’s 55-foot dive boat, for the trip out to Looe Key, a prime Florida Keys dive spot that is one of the most visited sites in the world. We spent hours floating above the coral, spotting a wide variety of sea life – including a couple of sinister-looking barracuda and at least one good-sized reef shark.

While the visibility wasn’t perfect – the winds from that pesky tropical storm were still stirring things up – the snorkeling was a lot of fun, and Looe Key offered a huge area of picturesque viewing. After lunch, the Scouts took part in several spirited aquatic contests, most of them featuring various leaps and jumps from the boat into the warm blue waters. The day was beautiful, with high clouds and light winds (that kept the bugs at bay during virtually all of our stay on the out island).

Back on Munson, it was time for a service project: general clean-up and litter removal on one end of the island, as well as servicing one of the high-tech (really!) latrines. The clean-up was pretty interesting, mainly  because of some of the debris we found washed ashore, some of it from Cuba and Jamaica. One find was particularly intriguing: Simon R. found a sealed bottle with a 20-dollar Cuban note, some coins and the photograph of a young man? A spiritual offering before a journey by sea? Or a memorial? We don’t know, but the bottle made its way into the museum shelves back at the Brinson Center.

During the week, the crews also used some of the stuff they found washed up along the shore to decorate the entrance to each campsite, which generally featured a kind of primitive “front porch” to greet visitors. And it was on one of those porches that the big pot-luck supper and cobbler contest unfolded. The premise was simple: cook pretty much everything you had left and bring it for a huge group meal for everyone on the island – and then compete in a dessert-oriented cook-off. And Troop 353’s young chefs didn’t let down the side – we finished first and second, wowing the judges and pleasing their sweet tooths.

Now, the night wasn’t over – but much of what transpired on that last evening is generally kept…well…confidential. Suffice to say, there’s a gathering with song and dance and incredible hilarity. No one will forget it. A conch shell was involved. Fiddler crabs took a leading role. A hand rose from the sand…but I’m afraid I’ve already gone too far. The details of that last night must be kept only for those who paddle those 5.5 nautical miles and float among sharks and jellyfish in the dark of night.

Next: Farewell to Munson

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