Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Why I Quit SSCA

Marathon, FL

As a long time boater and cruiser, I feel that it should be my civic duty to support things of general interest to boaters and cruisers.  I help support the BoatUS foundation, and I also joined SSCA (the Seven Seas Cruising Association)

I was attracted to those organizations because of the part they played in the Florida anchoring rights laws.  Their actions seemed very public service oriented, and that was what I wanted.

But the more I learned about SSCA, the more I learned that they are not at all public-service oriented.  They are member-service oriented.  They support public service efforts only when they can't figure out how to do it as a member-only benefit.

They have a bulletin (i.e. newsletter) for members.  It uses an ancient approach suited to the paper-snail mail days. I never submitted an article to that because I saw no logic in following their style and content guidelines to write for an audience limited to SSCA members, when I could write for this blog to serve anyone and everyone.   SSCA members are a proper subset of everyone.  You can view this blog when convenient to you, you can use Google to search the archives, you do not need to archive back issues yourself, you can write comments, and if you view it on a phone, it will be formatted for the small screen.

The have a committee of concerned boaters for public issues.  I thought of joining that, but when I looked at their web pages (sometime in the past 5-6 years), all the things posted there were 3 or more years old.  I figured the committee was inactive.

They made a SSCA equipment survey, but it was done with an extremely old fashioned approach, that IMO was designed to exercise the 1980s database technology skills of some member. Viewing the survey results is limited to SSCA members.  A modern and public approach, would be to make a wiki (analogous to Wikipedia), where all boaters could contribute in their own words and all boaters could view.   Articles in the wiki would resemble review articles in Practical Sailor, rather than just fields and tuples of a table.

SSCA runs an online forum. It's pretty good, but it is members-only.

SSCA runs a system of local hosts (I forget what they call it). They volunteer to help visiting cruisers, but again members-only.

The last straw came when I learned of a travel oriented version of Wikipedia that was starting.  I thought that would be a great place for boaters such as myself, to post local knowledge of use to all other boaters.  I tried to promote that within SSCA.  I got some emails from the president.  He was nice, and polite, but he explained that SSCA was starting their own project.  It would be like the survey rather than a wiki, and it would be a member-only benefit.

I want to belong to a boating service organization, analogous to Rotary International, Kiwanis, Lions, or  Optimists. I even enjoy the local Boot Key Harbor Cruisers net, when one often hears the motto, "boaters helping boaters."    SSCA is very unlike those organizations.  SSCA does not seem likely to want to change its spots. So I let my membership lapse a few years ago.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Dick,

    I would like to take exception to a number of your points.

    > But the more I learned about SSCA, the more I learned that they are not at all public-
    > service oriented. They are member-service oriented.

    SSCA believes that like many organizations we balance member service with public service. BoatUS, AGLCA, MTOA, and all but one other boating organization I can think of do the same.

    Member services provide an incentive to people to join SSCA. Our experience is that support of public service is simply not enough to motivate people to join an organization and to support it financially.

    We do have a number of benefits unique to members. Those include the Commodores' Bulletin and the Equipment Survey; both are very early examples of crowd-sourced information sharing - real information from real people. Our member locator is a member benefit. Access to SSCA cruising stations who provide local knowledge and often significant support is a member benefit. A large number of marine businesses offer discounts to SSCA members.

    SSCA has other services and benefits that are available to all with a discount to members. Seven Seas U webinars and SSCA Gams are examples. Members help support those activities with their dues and deserve recognition--through discounts--of their contribution.

    SSCA provides a number of public services without regard to membership. Our leadership in Florida to protect anchoring rights may be the most significant of those. Make no mistake - SSCA led the fight, recruiting support, lobbying hard, and bringing other parties including BoatUS, AGLCA, MTOA, and NMMA into the effort. Less well publicized are successful SSCA efforts to protect anchoring rights in other jurisdictions including Maryland and California. We also supported efforts to ease liveaboard restrictions in Georgia.

    SSCA HF station KPK provides support over marine SSB to cruisers throughout the US East Coast, the Bahamas, and Caribbean. We have early plans to expand the radio safety net to the US West Coast and South Pacific.

    The SSCA Forum and the SSCA Facebook page continue to be centers for information sharing that are open to all.

    sail fast and eat well, dave
    Dave Skolnick S/V Auspicious
    SSCA Past President

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