Oct. 27, 2002 – Fast ferry service, more campers and a new kind of scout all made this weekend's annual Boy Scout jamboree on St. John a different event from those of years gone by.
Nearly a hundred scouts from St. John, St. Thomas, St. Croix and the British Virgin Islands made camp in the field of Emmaus Moravian Church in Coral Bay for the get-together.
Scoutmaster Wayne Dawson said this jamboree had more than twice the participation of campouts held in recent years, thanks in part to greater transportation options. Operation of the Mermaid fast ferry between St. Thomas and St. Croix made it possible for St. Croix scouts to join in the Coral Bay jamboree for the first time, he said. Chartered buses provided with the help of the Legislature and the Public Works Department made it easier for scouts to get to the field.
Dawson also credited the efforts under way to increase recruitment and the introduction of a new program from the U.S. mainland that allows girls to join the Boy Scouts as "Ventures." St. Thomas's Troop 20 is one of the first in the territory to expand its membership to include Ventures.
Ventures are not Girl Scouts; they are female affiliates of the Boy Scouts. Angellita Newton, 15, is the first president of the Troop 20 Ventures. She said she spent her time at the jamboree "learning the ropes," and she meant it literally. Knot tying is a skill that leads to a merit badge, a symbol of achievement. It's also handy when pitching tents, as the campers had to do in order to have a place to sleep.
The Ventures even have their own salute, distinct from the traditional three-fingered version of the Boy Scouts. It's a raised palm salute with split fingers.
Asked if the Boy Scouts give her a hard time, Angellita said, "No. I give them a hard time."
When the time came to break camp on Sunday, it was the scoutmaster's turn to give everybody a hard time, barking orders to teams of campers, including one struggling to wrestle a wind-blown tent to the ground. With some personal intervention and a demonstration of technique, Dawson helped the youngsters lay the tent on the ground, smooth it out on their hands and knees, and neatly roll it up and pack it away.
They broke camp early enough to allow members of St. Croix's Troop 112 from St. Ann's Church to take a side trip to Coral Word before heading home. "It was the farthest trip, but it was the most worth while," the troop's scoutmaster, Conrad Hoover, said.
Hoover said the weekend trip was the first visit to St. John and/or St. Thomas for some of the 25 campers he brought from St. Croix, but he hopes it won't be the last. "We plan to come back more often and visit some of the other campsites," he said, and also travel to a camp in Puerto Rico.
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