A Girl Scout troop in Englewood is the first in the 10-county area of Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida to become a Mariner Girl Scout Troop.

Troop 608 held its inaugural meeting at the backyard pool of their leader, Kathy Van Note, with participants following CDC guidelines of keeping 6 feet from one another.

Lynn Wilson serves as troop co-leader, and Bailey Chamberlain is troop assistant leader and lifeguard, supervising swimming activities and helping to ensure safety procedures are followed. All three troop adult volunteers are Girl Scout alumnae.

“We are honored to have dedicated volunteers like Kathy, Lynn and Bailey to lead Girl Scout Mariners,” said Gina Sauer, program manager at Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida. “To have a successful Mariner program, we will be looking for resources, including subject matter experts from local businesses and community organizations with a focus on water, and potential sponsors to help locate basic equipment as well as provide expertise.”

Anyone wishing to provide assistance is encouraged to call 941-921-5358 or email ginas@gsgcf.org.”

The Mariner program been part of Girl Scouts’ history since 1934, and the current program is designed for Girl Scouts in grades eight through 12 who are looking for an opportunity to engage deeply in water-focused activities.

As Mariners, girls develop skills in swimming, safety and rescue, boating, and weather and navigation. To earn their Girl Scout Mariner pin, girls must know and recite the Girl Scout Promise and Law, swim 50 yards, and tread water fully clothed for three minutes.

As with all Girl Scout troops, Mariners provide an all-girl environment, an emotionally and physically safe space, consistent, supportive adults, and active family engagement throughout the troop year.

The local Mariner troop will meet regularly throughout the year. Mariners are encouraged to participate in the full Girl Scout program, including earning badges and the Girl Scouts Silver and Gold Awards and taking part in Leadership Journeys, community service projects, and the Girl Scout Cookie Program. Four of the girls, Ayva, Destiny, Sophia and Kenzie, have already earned the Silver Award, the highest award for Girl Scout Cadettes, and the Girl Scout Summit Award for completing three Cadette-level Leadership Journeys.

For their first meeting, each girl was challenged to build a model boat from found objects, and the girls held a ceremonial launch in the pool amidst cheers and laughter.

“The Mariner Program is all about progression,” Van Note, who was a Mariner Girl Scout growing up in New Jersey, explained to the girls. “It wouldn’t be fair to give a swim test during our first meeting, especially since most of you have been at home for the past several weeks (due to COVID-19).”

Swim tests will be held later this summer, and girls will begin learning to sail Intex Mariner 4 inflatable boats with sail rigs. At almost 11 feet long and almost 5 feet wide, the Mariner 4 features a solid roll-up floor and an inflatable spine running the length of the boat, giving the hull a “V” shape under the water and making it a stable boat ideal in moderate winds for beginner sailors or in strong winds up to 20 mph for more-skilled sailors. The sail kit folds to about the size of a set of golf clubs so it can be easily put it in the trunk of a car and stored it in a closet when not in use.

Destiny, a Girl Scout Cadette who recently finished seventh grade through remote learning, was excited to be at the first Mariner troop meeting. “I want to gain knowledge about boating and marine life, and become stronger,” she shared.

“I liked swimming today, and I’m looking forward to going on the boat because I like seeing water, and it will be a fun experience,” added Sophia, a Girl Scout Senior who will be starting her freshman year at Lemon Bay High School in the fall.

Niki LeVasseur is volunteer service unit manager for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida. For more information, visit www.gsgcf.org, call 941-921-5358 or email ginas@gsgcf.org.


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