John Carper and Cameron Dennehy figure they have known each other for seven years, but the Cornelius natives never claimed to be friends until recent years. It was the Lake Norman waters surrounding their Peninsula neighborhood that eventually brought them together.
Carper and Dennehy, both Hough High students, are charter members of Sea Scouts of Lake Norman, a year-and-a-half old organization whose mission is to teach and promote nautical skills to teens.
The Lake Norman chapter is commanded by Capt.Howard Kaplan, an experienced leader in the watercraft rescue industry. Sea Scouts meets every Thursday afternoon at The Peninsula Yacht Club.
At the weekly gatherings, members socialize through basic water activities such as kayaking and paddle boarding, learn boating skills, and plan group outings on Lake Norman and other area freshwater bodies and also more involved trips to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
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“What I like about the group is that it is youth-directed,” said Kaplan.
Sea Scouts currently has about 10 active members but everyone involved would like for the group to grow significantly. Though it is not required, what the current members have in common is at least a minimal background in water activities and a zest for learning more about them.
Kaplan recruited the first Sea Scouts by posting an ad in a local newspaper. He got interest from youth living towns from Mooresville to Denver along Lake Norman’s southern peninsulas. The eligible age range is 14-20 years old.
“I was interested in learning about maritime law and tying knots and expanding my knowledge in aquatics,” said Carper, the group’s boatswain, its elected youth leader. “When we got it started (in fall 2014) we really didn’t know the direction we wanted to take it. We started going to Sea Scout events and planning out the years ahead.”
Dennehy says her two older brothers acclimated her to water activities such as tubing, jet skiing and wake boarding. But it was friend Blythe Gilroy who got her interested in Sea Scouts.
“I joined because my friend joined,” said Dennehy. “But to be honest, I kind of laughed about it. She told me what she was doing. She got me to go to one meeting. Once I got there, I loved all the people there and that’s what got me to stick around.”
Carper and Dennehy were among the original Lake Norman members who attended a regional Sea Scouts gathering called Winterfest in 2015. Boy Scouts of America is Sea Scouts’ parent organization. Carper and Dennehy learned about the organization’s structure including how merit badges can be earned and how members can achieve ranks. For example, the highest rank for a Sea Scout is Quartermaster, comparable to what an Eagle Scout is to Boy Scouts.
The boatswain’s mate, who takes on administrative duties, is Autumn Koehler of Denver. She, too, was a bit skeptical about joining over a year ago when her mother talked her in to trying it.
Koehler was one of eight Sea Scouts who traveled to the Chesapeake Bay last summer. There they spent five days on a yacht named the Bears’ Den, learning everything possible about captaining a boat. All of them also shared an experience they wish they could forget: sea sickness.
The trip was momentous to 14-year old Chase Shanafelt, a Cornelius resident. Having grown up in Grand Rapids, Mich., before moving to the Lake Norman area, Shanafelt had never experienced the deep sea before.
More importantly, Sea Scouts helped Shanafelt transition to his new home after his family’s 750-mile move. Keri Shanafelt, his mother, along with Tanya Koehler and Lori Owens, whose son Tyler is a first-year member, are parents instrumental in directing the Sea Scouts program when Kaplan is not able to attend meetings.
The Sea Scouts are planning their 2016 summer agenda. Among the ventures they plan to take are a return to Surf City and a scuba diving trip to St. Petersburg, Fla.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: email@example.com.
For information, contact Keri Shanafelt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 269-804-9013.