The Ancient Mariner Regatta: The First 60 Years

1971 Ancient Mariner Regatta. Photo from the BSA Museum Archives.

The Ancient Mariner Regatta is one of the largest Sea Scout Regattas in the United States with over 450 Sea Scouts participating annually.

The AMR was first held in 1952 at Coast Guard Island, which was then a Coast Guard boot camp.

In 1952, Sea Scouts were celebrating their 40th Anniversary and Harry Truman was President of the United States. The USS Hornet, today home of the AMR, was being “modernized” and was reclassified as an attack aircraft carrier.

Sea Scouting in Northern California was growing in the post-World War II Era, with many Ships having very different vessels than today.  Since the ’63 AVR’s were just beginning to be used by Sea Scout Ships, one of the largest vessels at the AMR was a ’50 converted liberty launch. Many Ships had sailing whaleboats and landing craft.

"AVR Row" at Coast Guard Island, 1972 Ancient Mariner Regatta (Photo from Commodore Jon Sargent).

The Alameda, Mount Diablo and San Francisco Councils originally organized the Ancient Mariner Regatta. Some of the individuals who organized the AMR included Bill Nations of the Barclay Stevens, San Francisco Commodore Jack Hayden, Jack Feller of San Francisco, Pete Saugman of the Northland and Herb Foster of the Farallon.

The 1994 AMR Awards Ceremony at Coast Guard Island.

The Regatta was instituted as a Regional Regatta, Region 12, and drew a large attendance, probably over 50 units, with an estimated 750 Sea Scouts in 1952. In the 1960s, the Regatta regularly had 2000 Sea Scouts.

Whaleboat Race alongside the USS Hornet.

There have been many changes over the last 60 years. In the first years of the AMR, there were no class awards, only place awards.  Awards in the early years included pennants, plaques and even marine products for first place teams.

Extremely happy Sea Scouts at the 2010 Ancient Mariner Regatta Awards Ceremony.

Most of the Regatta events from 1952 are very similar to the events of 2012. There were pulling boat races, an aggressive obstacle course, signaling, and extensive drill with Coast Guard Drill Instructors.

The AMR Events listed in the 1955 Boarding Guide.

Commodore Hayden would conduct intense uniform inspections using calipers to ascertain correct insignia placement. There was a formal ball, with the girls wearing formals and only dress blues allowed for Sea Scouts. There was an eight-piece orchestra playing big band dance music.

As the Regatta evolved over the years, so did the Regatta bulletin and events. The “Ancient Mariner” pictured on the today’s boarding guide first appeared in 1962 for the tenth AMR.  The late Lyle Galloway of the Navigator created the artwork, in addition to the “Old Salt” for the Old Salt’s Regatta.

The first nine AMR boarding guides and “sea letters” artwork included a moored clipper and a sailing ship underway.

One of the events from the 1950s and 60s was “Taking Out A Line.” The event required two crews of two, where the crews rowed out in a skiff to a buoy with a tow line. One crew had to take the line out, tie a bowline to the buoy, untie it, and row back for the other team to repeat the drill. Blinker and Semaphore Signaling were also events in the Regatta’s history.

The Ancient Mariner Regatta also sponsored a Holiday Dance at Coast Guard Island and a Cruise-In for many years.

The AMR Awards Ceremony is rich in traditions, from the presentation of Colors to a Sea Scout the singing of the National Anthem to the Boatswains Trooping the Line and the Pass in Review.

Color Guard preparing to lead the Pass In Review at the 2011 Ancient Mariner Regatta on the USS Hornet.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the AMR moved from Coast Guard Island to the Stockton Sea Scout Base.

2005 Ancient Mariner Regatta.

The USS Hornet in Alameda became the home of the Ancient Mariner Regatta in 2006. The Hornet has added a sense of grandeur to the Regatta, thanks to the noble history of the USS Hornet.

Moment of Silence at the AMR Award Ceremony, 2006, Flight Deck of the USS Hornet.

The 9th Ancient Mariner Regatta boat dock. Photo from the BSA Museum Archives.

In preparation for the 9th AMR in 1961, United States Coast Guard Captain J.E. Richey wrote the following to the Sea Scout Ships in the Region:

The President, in his Inauguration Address, which has been acclaimed a great speech and meaningful message to the world, stated in part, “…My Fellow Citizens of the world: Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country…” We might say that this philosophy and this principle is the very essence of scouting. No one can measure the importance to the future of our nation the impact that scouting has upon our youth.

These words written 51 years ago are as meaningful today as they were then.

The Ancient Mariner Regatta has a proud history of providing service to youth for the last 60 years. Sea Scouts who compete in the Regatta as youth have gone on to continue their service in Sea Scouting. Many have served in the military. As we look back over the last 60 years and onto our future, we must recognize the hard work of the past and press on into tomorrow.

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