Rising late to catch the 12:00 ferry, we catch a quick breakfast at McDonald’s and talk about our summer camp plans for the week. Emerald Bay is widely considered one of the premier camps in California and is a favorite of several local Troops. This is our first visit and only the Venture Crew is invited.
A short drive to the San Pedro Terminal, and we join a line of more than 450 Scouts in uniform, snaking around the building, waiting to board the ferry. The group moves forward slowly. We feel like refuges, pushing our duffel bags in front of us, pulling our backpacks, and trying to keep track of lunches, water bottles, hats, and sleeping pads as we move across the terminal and eventually onto the ship. Finally the gang blanks are raised and engines start to vibrate as the ship eases out into the channel for our one-hour passage to Emerald Bay, near Two Harbors on the island of Catalina.
The captain makes the obligatory safety announcement, but warns us that the ship will soon be picking up speed and all unsecured items, especially hats, will be blown overboard. Walking past our group, I remind them to protect their headgear, especially Bologna, who is wearing an oversize hat to protect his freckled skin from the sun. He is on his way up the stairs to the top deck to catch the view. Five minutes later, we see the first hat sail off the upper deck, and to a man, we know that Bologna is not happy! Despite several dire warnings from “more experienced” travelers, none of our Scouts has gotten sea sick, not even close.
Our arrival at Emerald Bay is uneventful, aided by an experienced and friendly staff of 120, a huge number by Boy Scout standards. The harbor is small, but the beach is large and filled with boats, canoes, scuba and snorkeling gear, and other waterfront equipment for fun and advancement. Our packs and duffel bags are efficiently passed hand-to-hand over to a silver barge, and then floated to the dock where everything is sorted and eventually delivered to poles bearing our Troop number, scattered around the parade grounds. Troop leaders are led off to be oriented, and we learn about the camp AND the areas that have the best cell phone coverage, internet access at the “Helm,” recharging outlets in lockers, and other modern conveniences. Very nice (for some).
Eventually, in the late afternoon, we are reunited with our Troop, who were waiting patiently in the sun near our gear. Then everyone is marched by our assigned Ranger (Zen) to our assigned campsite: Oceanside. He remind us that evening Flags are at 6:00 pm, Dinner is at 6:30, and the opening campfire starts at 8:30. We are the farthest campsite from the Dining Hall, which means miles of walking, but we are close to the showers, Nature and other merit badges. Scouts scramble to claim the best tent cabins, and in this case the cleanest mattresses. The whirlwind that is Scout summer camp is just beginning.