Patrol boat rides in Altavista parade

Coast Guard sponsoring program at SML

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 8-11, District 5 Southern Region, is sponsoring the creation of a new Sea Scout unit in Smith Mountain Lake. The Flotilla will serve as the chartering organization and in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

“Instead being call troops, like a boy scout troop, they’re called ‘ships’,” Sea Scout Ship Skipper Larry Ruffin said. “So it would be called a sea scout ship.”

Ruffin is in charge of the sea scout program at Smith Mountain Lake along with help from his wife Joan Ruffin.

According to a press release from the Coast Guard, in the past year, an agreement between the Coast Guard Auxiliary and BSA made the Sea Scouts the official youth program of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. The Sea Scout unit will work and train alongside the experienced Coast Guard Auxiliary members and learn from them. A Sea Scout unit is called a Sea Scout Ship – they will give the ship a name once they have completed its initial formation.

“It’s a cool program,” Ruffin said. “Normally to be an auxiliarist they’d have to be 17. They don’t have to become an auxiliarist but since the Coast Guard is sponsoring the program, they have the opportunity to become an auxiliarist right at the age of 14 as well.”

According to the press release, the program is co-ed, meaning that young men and women of ages 14-20 may join (or age 13 and having completed the eighth grade and age 21 being the oldest a member can be before their membership expires.) Additionally, the sea scout ship needs volunteer scouters (adults with the desire and interest to help guide the sea scouts and to help administer the program for this new unit).

“This basically means that kids can participate in all of our missions and training,” Ruffin said. “We don’t have tents and hiking like boy scouts, we have boats, paddle crafts, sailing crafts and power crafts.”

The boat that Ruffin said would be the primary boat for the program is a former Navy patrol boat.

“A lot of auxiliarists have personal craft as well that we’ll be working with,” Ruffin said. “I have the Boy Scouts ready to ship me about a dozen sail boats. Basically the kids will be looking at learning sea skills, safety skills and we looking at leveraging other groups like the Smith Mountain Lake Association.”

Ruffin said his wife volunteers with the SMLA on their environmental program where they monitor water quality as well.

“Anything related to water, we’re looking at training the kids on,” Ruffin said. “We want to expose them to career opportunities.”

Anyone interested in knowing more about the program can contact Ruffin at 703-887-7313 or send an email to“We’re looking to charter right away,” Ruffin said. “As soon as I get five youth signed up, I can submit the chartering paperwork.”