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Sailing through Youth Protection (YPT)

Youth Protection is described on a per “activity” basis. So, what is an “activity?”
The term “activity” is not directly defined by BSA that I can find and the application of Youth Protection varies significantly depending on which of the below cases is observed:

  • Case 1: the group (Ship) event of sailing multiple vessels is "the activity.”
  • Case 2: sailing on an independent vessel as part of the group event is considered "an activity.” Merriam-Webster defines an activity as to include a natural or normal function potentially involving mental function specifically; an educational procedure designed to stimulate learning by firsthand experience. This would push the “activity” definition towards case 2. Participation in a group is not the goal of the sailing opportunity, acquiring sailing skills is the goal.
    Sailing by its nature segregates the scouts onto separate vessels. The vessels will most certainly be out of voice range and are often at the limit of visual range. Each vessel can easily find itself an isolated entity connected to the group (other vessel) only by radio or phone. This is uniquely different than hiking, biking, or other BSA situations.
    I would very much like to know where to find BSA documentation supporting an answer to the above question.
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How many people on each vessel? Basically no 1:1 contact seems like is going to be key. Describe who is where in your scenario.

To clarify some things in Scouting (and ignoring “activities” for the moment.

Youth protection and YPT

In BSA health and safety, youth protection and youth protection training (YPT) are different things or points of view. The focus of youth protection is preventing sexual abuse and more recently, bullying. So how does your ship unit look when taking this point of view?

Types of vessels

To simplify the view of things, BSA ship units can have:

  • no vessel
  • a ship
  • a ship and small craft
  • small craft only

A boat is a vessel that is small enough to be carried on a ship.

Vessels can be:

  • human powered
  • wind powered (sailing vessels)
  • motor powered.

People on a vessel

How many people that can be carried on an vessel is going to vary by size and type of vessel. The smallest being one person.

A few units have a vessel that can carry the whole unit, or multiple units, at the same time.

Youth protection on the water

Ship units and water-based activities face some of the same planning challenges as land-based camps with small craft and waterfronts on lakes, rivers and coastal waters.

Guide to Safe Scouting

Uses the term “official Scouting activity”.

All participants in official Scouting activities should become familiar with the Guide to Safe Scouting , applicable program literature or manuals, and be aware of state or local government regulations that supersede Boy Scouts of America practices, policies, and guidelines. The Guide to Safe Scouting is an overview of Scouting policies and procedures gleaned from a variety of sources. …

In situations not specifically covered in this guide, activity planners should evaluate the risk or potential risk of harm, and respond with action plans based on common sense, community standards, the Boy Scout motto, and safety policies and practices commonly prescribed for the activity by experienced providers and practitioners.

Youth Protection - BSA

Primary tools that I can find are:

  • Adult background checks
  • Buddy system
  • Single gender vessel operation
  • Adult training

Youth Protection - Health & Safety

Sea Scout program resources

Youth Protection Training - The BSA requires Youth Protection training for all registered volunteers. It is not optional training but a joining requirement. To take the training online, leaders must go to my.scouting.org and establish a my.Scouting account.

National Camp Accreditation Committee resourses

PS 291 - Aquatics - General: If provided, swimming pools, waterfront facilities, and aquatics equipment (including watercraft) are safe, neat, clean, and operated in compliance with the policies of the Boy Scouts of America, U.S. Coast Guard, and other governing jurisdiction regulations.

More on page 97 and following.

Venturing program resources

We have two ~30’ sailboats. Each has a cabin and a head. One can carry 6, the other 8.
Let’s say we have a Ship Sailing event:

  1. Can an adult on boat #1 supervise scouts on boat #2? I think the answer is “no.” This one seems clear: “Adult leaders are responsible for monitoring behavior and intervening when necessary” (from Youth Protection and Adult Leadership).
  2. If there is an adult female leader on boat #1, can she be credited for supervising a female scout on boat #2? I think the answer is “no,” but I can make an argument for “yes.” I’ve heard the “activity” is what is being supervised, not the boat, and the activity is both boats sailing.
  3. If there is only one adult on a boat with 5 scouts of mixed gender, is that considered 1:1 contact? I think the answer is “no” as long as the adult is never alone (in the cabin) with just one scout. But again, I can make an argument for “yes” because of the wording in the guidelines: “Adults should never be alone with youth who are not their children” (from Youth Protection and Barriers to Abuse FAQs).
    Appreciate the response. I suspect I’m not the only one with these questions…

Please see my reply to [Matt.Johnson]Leader. I clarify the situation and questions.

My first question is are we talking overnight or just day cruise? If over night I think in all situations you need 2 registered leaders on each vessel. If day cruise I think it is less complex, but if female Scout there must be registered female Scouter. If you have TW’s contact you might send an email to him for clarity.

Just a day cruise. Overnight is a completely different situation and the guidelines are much clearer.

It took some time, but I went through the resources you referenced. I may have missed the answer.
Could you help me by being more specific as to which reference was directed towards answering my question: “What is an activity” and where is this documented?

I’d suggest asking your Council Scout Executive. They are highly trained in youth protection policies.


There is no documentation clarifying what an “activity” is that has been published by the BSA, and given the number of questions, I suspect this is deliberate. Likely because they know that any answer their attorneys would approve of would leave most troops unable to function.

The only I see to look at this is to consider the purpose of the “2 Deep” rule. This rule is NOT so the adults can constantly watch each other or constantly monitor the youth; it is about Emergency Response. The rule is to ensure that there is an adult and a backup adult available to handle problems/emergencies that may crop up.

In most cases, the “2-deep Activity” (note the capital A) is going to be the over-arching event. (camp-out, meeting, boat trip) From there, everything else is a side “activity” and a situational evaluation is required. If all the risks involved in a “side activity” are primarily behavioral, I think having 2 adults available within 10-15 minutes (say a patrol decides to take a short 2-3 mile hike during a camp-out) is fine. If you are talking about something where there is a risk of minor injury (say a trail bike ride) I’d want 2 adults either available within 5-10 minutes at camp or I’d expect 2 adults to be on the bike ride. And if you are talking about activities with a risk of significant injury or death, I’d always want 2 adults reachable almost immediately. (like shooting sports)

So in the case you’ve described, if there are 2 sailing vessels within shouting (or horn) range of each other and either heading someplace together or working on skills in a fairly fixed area, I wouldn’t think it’s necessary to have 2 adults on each boat/ship. But if you are talking about 2 30’ ships operating totally independently and out of audible range of each other I’d either expect 2 adults per ship or maybe 1 adult per ship and a 3rd adult in a speedboat keeping an eye on both ships and capable of responding as needed.

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Thank you for your reply. Your reasoning is good. I’ll pursue the emergency response thread.
An attorney would also say that any rule with undefinable terms is no rule at all.
I have this question out to my district executive as well. I’ll post any answer I get from the BSA chain here. Thanks again.

Answered 07/12/2021.
Sean Fogle, Connecticut Rivers Council Field Director, sent me the following. I bolded same.

"This is what I received from Ben Feril who sits on the National Sea Scout Committee.
Yes, any Sea Scout event involving one or more vessels is an “activity” like camping, hiking, etc. If the Scouter is asking about youth protection, then his unit needs to comply with BSA YPT that calls for all leaders to be trained, two deep leadership in any event or activity, etc. For Sea Scouts, this means two adults per vessel and if the unit is co-ed, then one of the adults needs to be a woman. As for Sea Scout Ships going on sail or motor boating activities, as taught in Seabadge and in the Sea Scout website, Sea Scout ships are to:

  1. Prepare a “float plan” and provide copies to responsible adults not participating in the trip. USCG Float Plan (cgaux.org)
  2. Sea Scouts and leaders are trained to follow the nautical “rules of the road.”
  3. ” Sailing by its nature segregates the scouts onto separate vessels.” We have Sea Scout Ships who conduct multi-vessel activities all the time and the youth and adult leaders make sure that the group are not separated. In addition, their trip planning involves opportunities for advancement, etc."

The first part of the answer reiterates the question’s basis. And, as soon as a scout steps onto the 2nd vessel, the group is separated, but the bolded statement is clear enough.
I conclude that an individual vessel is the “activity” and multiple vessels sailing is an event.
Now that “activity” is defined, YPT is easy to apply correctly…
Thank you to all contributors.
YIS, Matt.

Float Plan Central

Official site of the Float Plan, US Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary

Website Menu (2021-07-12):

USCG Float Plan

Current version (3 pages, downloaded 2021-07-12) is version 10.2

Float Plan Central periodically updates the USCG Float Plan to reflect the latest improvements in both boating safety and search and rescue practices and technology. Consequently, every time you download a copy of the USCG Float Plan, you are assured of getting the most up-to-date lifesaving device available.

Yep, that sounds like a pretty standard answer. As as per the standard for BSA, they make it sound like a simple, absolute rule while including additional information that makes it clear the rule isn’t actually clear-cut. (and of course completely ignoring all the situations where their answer can’t possibly be applied)

He starts out by saying “This means two adults per vessel…” Then goes on to mention that “Sailing by its nature segregates the scouts onto separate vessels. We have Sea Scout Ships who conduct multi-vessel activities all the time and the youth and adult leaders make sure the group are not separated”.

Of course, if the requirement is “two adults per vessel” there isn’t any reason to even talk about making sure the group is not separated since 2-Deep would be present on each vessel. So I have to assume that line about staying together is there because the assumption is that there may not always be 2 adults per vessel.

For example, what if a Ship is doing a Hobie regatta? Do they need 2 adults on every Hobie-cat? That would be hard since they are 2-3 person boats. So if small sailboats don’t require 2-Deep leadership on every vessel, then what are the spacing requirements that make it ok to only have 2 adults for a larger number of boats? And if it’s ok to have zero adults on a small sailboat because they are close together, why would it not be okay to have 2 larger vessels keep close together and only have 1 adult per vessel?

This whole thing is why my general advice to people asking about rules is “The only BSA rules are the ones written down in a publication”. Regardless of who it’s from at the BSA, it’s just personal opinion if it’s not a publication. And further, if the publication doesn’t include clarification, it must be assumed that we are supposed to use our own judgement.

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I agree and am employing the following: if the BSA position is not clear in a publication, like this topic, then the email clarification by a BSA official becomes the published clarification. In this case I now have some written words by an official source and am no longer hanging on my own interpretations of the policy. And, I’ve heard other interpretations from more local official sources. That’s what started this string.

I agree the answer included a contradictory example, but “2 deep per vessel” came through.
BTW, we are using YP to substitute the father of the single female scout onboard for the required female adult.

This isn’t an acceptable substitute.

then the email clarification by a BSA official becomes the published clarification

Well, if you are only looking to CYA, I suppose that strategy will work, just don’t ever ask two different officials the same question or you are likely to end up with opposing information and you’ll be right back where you started.

I agree the answer included a contradictory example, but “2 deep per vessel” came through .

Sure, because “2 deep per anything” is the only answer you are likely to get from a BSA official if you try and pin them down since I’m sure they don’t ever want someone to be able to say “Mr. X from the BSA said I only needed 1 adult for this situation”. And as long as you have sufficient adults you can roll with this. But eventually you’ll be stuck having to cancel things because you only have 4 adults and you have enough youth to require 3 vessels (or something similar) Not to mention that you would basically eliminate your ability to do any small-boat activities.

BTW, we are using YP to substitute the father of the single female scout onboard for the required female adult.

That seems reasonable to me, but just understand that you are no longer complying with YP since the only circumstances where they’ve said an unregistered parent is an acceptable substitute is on a fund-raiser or merit badge session.

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I disagree that we are not complying with YP. From the FAQ page:

“Adult Supervision
Q: The Barriers to Abuse say that there must be two registered adults present for all Scouting activities and meetings. Does that include merit badge counseling? Fund-raising events?
A. Yes. However, the parent or legal guardian of the Scout may serve as the second adult. This parent or legal guardian does not have to be a registered leader.”

While it could have been written better to make the point:

  • “Merit badge counseling” & “fund-raising events” are only two specific examples of “all Scouting activities and meetings”
  • The continuing explanation including “the” parent is not specifically directed towards these 2 examples and on my read is generic enough to be applied to "all Scouting activities and meetings.

We are going to continue to apply this logic in our YP practices.

Yes, it is. What is your reasoning?