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WASTING LITTLE TIME the next morning, the group gathers at the camp’s wooden, T-shaped dock after breakfast. Half of the crew will use Sunfish-style sailboats while the remaining Venturers start their intro- ductory lesson in PWC safety. That’s right: safety. “We’re all about

everyone having a good time, enjoying themselves on the jet skis—it’s a cool thing to do,” Cahoon explains. “But these are powerful machines we’re talking about. We start the Scouts off slow and gradually work up to higher speeds.” The Venturers will only reach speeds of about 35 miles per hour, thanks to a special safety key that restricts the speed of each watercraft. Before the trip to Pamlico, Crew 615 completed an online boater’s safety course, and each attendee passed a swim check. But a large element of the camp’s PWC safety plan rests on the Pamlico staff’s shoulders; these leaders will instruct each group on how to operate the watercraft, as well as supervise the Sea-Doos during each outing. Today, it’s up to Byrum and Williams to keep the drivers in line. When it’s time for the lesson to

begin, the teens and leaders circle around a red Sea-Doo pulled up onto the sandy shore. The group listens closely as the camp staff points out parts of the watercraft: the seat, engine, jet propellers, start and stop push-buttons, and a wrist lanyard that fastens to the machine and cuts the engine if a driver falls off. “These boats aren’t like a car. You’ve got no brakes and no power steering,” says Byrum, who pulls a Sea-Doo up on shore to demonstrate. Byrum sits atop the boat and

moves the steering wheel, pointing back to the rear jets. “You wanna cruise up next to your friend or pull up to a dock? Well, you’ve got another thing coming if you cut the engine and forget that you can’t steer anymore.”


Adds Williams, who stands at the center of the attentive teens and leaders: “The jet ski propels itself forward by sucking up water from the bottom of the boat and shooting the water out these jets at the rear. So if you decide to run over a patch of seaweed, or a bunch of fishing line, or worse, like a rope, the engine will suck it up into the motor, and we’ve got a huge problem.”

The lesson continues on the shore

as crewmembers swat away mos- quitoes. A critical rule: no horseplay. This includes things like jumping the wakes of boats (something PWC drivers have a reputation for) or zigzag steering. If a camp staffer or one of the adult crew leaders sees any horseplay, the driver will immediately lose his or her privileges. After the serious part is finished,

it’s time for some fun. Life jackets snap together, and the teens split into buddies. Each team of two picks a boat, and the pair must wade out to the end of the dock with their watercraft—the shore is simply too shallow to start the jet engines near the beach. With a push of the green “start” button, they’re off, with Byrum leading the way. Two hours later, it’s not hard to

spot the smiles on the drivers’ faces as they follow behind staff leader Byrum and retreat toward the shore- line. Back on the gritty beach, it’s time for lunch. Crew 615’s leaders walk slowly up the boat ramp, their

A trip to Pamlico offers more than driving a Sea-Doo. Small-boat sailing, stand-up paddle- boarding, fishing, kayaking—these are just a few of the activities on Crew 615’s itinerary. When they weren’t exploring the sound or sitting back in a chair for a late-afternoon nap, Crew 615 chose to make a short drive to the coast and then sea kayak to Shackleford Banks, an island in the Outer Banks. The group spent a night camping on the sand (at right), just a short walk from the lapping waves of the Atlantic. In the morning, the group was greeted by a pair of wild ponies that live on the island year-round (above right).

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