Organizational Restructuring

Ad Hoc Reorganization Committee


Our current organizational structure of squadrons, districts, and national leadership was created decades ago when we were a much larger organization and needed a hierarchical configuration for communication and coordination. Today, however, total membership is much smaller, there are fewer squadrons, clubs and districts, and telecommunications is far more advanced. Some districts are no larger than squadrons, districts are consolidating, and too many squadrons and clubs dissolve each year. Commensurately, the number of educational courses completed continues to erode. A contributing factor is that our modus operandi has not kept pace with how today’s boater learns, interacts with others, and depends on technology. As a result, we are challenged to recruit and retain members.

The Board of Directors has created a geographically diverse ad hoc group* under the leadership of National Executive Officer Craig Fraser, including David Allen, Allan Bombard, John Crawford, Bob David, Dave Fine, Myles Gee, Paul Mermelstein, Tracy Simpson and Ralph Ziegler. This committee presented ideas for restructuring America’s Boating Club at the 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting, the 2021 Governing Board meeting, the District Executive Officer’s online meeting, and at various District conferences this fall. As this is a work in progress, the ad hoc committee solicited feedback, which continues to roll in.

Predictably, there is some concern from members who enjoy participating in district or national activities and worry that we will lose that social interaction. Committee members understand; we have the same experiences and have made friends in our own districts and at national events. It pains us to contemplate major organizational change, but we also recognize the following facts:

  • Over 90% of our members have no relationship with, or interest in, district or national activities. They are served by their squadrons and club and want localized education, boating activities, and social interaction. 
  • It is from this 90%-plus that we continue to lose most members. In fact, over half of all new squadron and club members leave within two years of joining.
  • Every district has seen significant declines in both membership and courses taught. 
  • Very few districts have the resources to help squadrons and clubs stem the losses.
  • Over 25% of squadrons and clubs have less than 25 members and do not have robust programs.

We are carefully considering a range of major organizational and functional changes to improve the delivery of services to attract and keep members. We recognize that changing the organizational structure alone will not suffice. We also need to increase the volume, efficiency, quality, and communication of educational, boating, and social programs that we provide to our members. Our goals are to

  • Increase the attraction of America’s Boating Club for both member recruitment and retention.
  • Meet the needs of members to keep them satisfied and engaged.
  • Preserve and strengthen squadron and club capabilities to serve members.
  • Bolster the capabilities of local squadrons and clubs to market and teach boating education.
  • Where necessary, directly provide education to individual members such as cyber-members and squadron and club members who do not get adequate education locally.
  • Increase opportunities for members to participate in boating events and social activities.
  • Reduce red-tape and bureaucracy to streamline services, administration, and coordination.
  • Improve communication to squadrons and clubs and to all members.

We recognize that, by definition, boating events and social activities must be localized. Active squadrons and clubs should be free to offer what they and their members want. However, many squadrons and clubs do not boat much anymore, and social activities are often limited to dinners and other gatherings. From our market research, member exit surveys, and common sense, we know that we need to have a much higher level of boating events and social activities to attract and keep members satisfied. Consequently, any organizational change must supplement local squadron and club event planning and the conduct of boating and social activities in locales that conveniently interest participants.

There is a range of options for addressing reorganization potentials, each with pros and cons:

  • Do nothing.
  • Rely on districts but allow more freedom.
  • Eliminate districts and provide services directly from national to local squadrons and clubs and to individual members.
  • Consolidate districts into about a half dozen regions with new systems and procedures that will integrate and synergize both national resources and local squadron and club leadership.
  • Some combination of the above.

The ad hoc Reorganization Committee continues to work on this challenge and evaluate options. We have prepared a needs assessment survey that will be sent to all members in order to obtain direct input and better evaluate where we need to improve and what we need to change. We will incorporate this data along with feedback and suggestions, which continue to arrive. Additionally, we will examine how we do business, current processes and systems, resources, and organizational functionality. Subsequently, we will determine and recommend the most appropriate course of action for review by the Board of Directors and appropriate committees before presenting to the Governing Board for approval. The work continues; stay tuned.

*Edited 3/22/2022 to include Dave Fine and Tracy Simpson as committee members.

Ad Hoc Reorganization Committee

Created by the Board of Directors, the ad hoc Reorganization Committee is led by Craig Fraser and includes David Allen, Allan Bombard, John Crawford, Bob David, Dave Fine, Myles Gee, Paul Mermelstein, Tracy Simpson, and Ralph Ziegler.

United States Power Squadrons, America's Boating Club logo

The Ensign magazine is an official channel of United States Power Squadrons, America’s Boating Club, a volunteer organization whose members teach boating skills and best practices to help improve the safety of our nation’s waterways. Learn more.

70 thoughts on “Organizational Restructuring”

  1. I was Commander for Lake Murray last year. I reached out to as many members as possible that had left the squadron. Covid was an issue but not as much as they didn’t feel part of the organization…too many cliques. It was hard for people to become assimilated. My wife and I also had a similar concern when we joined 4 years ago but immediately volunteered to be on the Bridge and host parties. That is not for everyone. Unfortunately many members have been here for many years, attended many events together, and have many war stories to reflect back on.
    Therein is the problem. Unless existing members make a concerted effort to reach out to new members this situation will continue. Our new Commander has proposed putting a yellow dot on new member’s badges so existing members will recognize the newbees and hopefully reach out. Very simple solution, to what appears to be a large problem. Any other ideas?

    • Ed, you point to a familiar problem in lots of small (under 75, maybe? Not sure …) organizations including ethnic societies, service clubs and churches. People feel most comfortable with their friends. There’s a problem with identifying or “marking” the newbies that needs special attention, though. It’s this: visitors and new members don’t like doing anything they don’t see the old members doing. After all, your goal is to help them feel more like real members, not less.

    • I agree with the reason for issue of new members, I do not like the “tagging” with a marker on new members,
      I will recommend a tight personal connection from long time members to embrace the new members and that way bild tight relations.

    • Ed, good idea about the yellow dot, I have seen it used elsewhere.

      I teach ABC3 and tell students who are thinking of joining that they will get out of the organization what they put into it. Don’t wait for someone to reach out to you find to activities you want to be part of and jump in.

  2. Some of us are not happy with the name change to America’s Boating Club and the reduction of our original logo (the ship’s wheel with the Ensign) to a barely visible part of name. We feel that it makes us simply a social club and our founding principles of education, fraternity and civic service are lost.

    At a time when civic service is a much lower priority in many people’s lives this is not helpful.

    • Anna, it is a shame civic service has become a low priority. We once talked about giving back, then it became paying it forward.

      Personally I pay my dues for one reason, that is so I can give back to the boating community by teaching. I tell my students that in the hopes they too will consider doing the same as part of our many different civic minded projects.

  3. I’m a member of America’s Boating Club of Seattle. As someone who works full-time, belongs to both this club and a yacht club, has home and family obligations, etc. I’m among that 90% that simply has no time to participate in District or National activities. If I were retired, it might be different, but that is many years off. I can’t justify using precious vacation time from work to attend conferences when I could be traveling with family. I think many younger members likely feel the same. I therefore support the dissolution of all Districts in favor of simplified support from a National organization. I also suggest the National conference rotate regional locations each year so more of us could attend, if only over the weekend. Traveling to Florida every year is not a reasonable expectation for those of us not living on the east coast.

    Education should be simplified as well. Instead of twelve week courses, which I am never going to be able to commit to, hold two hour evening or weekend seminars offering both virtual and in-person options; these could be done in a series over a year or two so there is no expectation to free up time each and every week. Micro learning is what younger adults respond best to.

    • Adrienne brings up some good points about commitment, busy lifestyles, and how most people today prefer to get their information/education. It is entirely consistent with our market research and even an exit survey we conducted a couple of years ago. If we want to regrow the organization and serve ALL members, we need to adapt and evolve.

      We need to keep our committed retirees (I’m one) because they are the ones that do much of the work of the organization. But we also need to meet the needs of today’s boater, much like Adrienne describes. Thanks.

  4. Adrienne’s comment regarding education makes a good point. It could be taken further by focusing the content online and teaching the practical skills in person. Approach in-person learning from a coaching approach. This would allow access to content on the learner’s schedule and shorter commitments to in-person learning. It may also create a stronger experience for both the instructor and learner, which may lead to retaining members and encouraging more members to become instructors.

  5. Greetings to all, I am a member of the Arecibo Power Squadron (D-33) in Puerto Rico. The reality of the pandemic, the limited time of those who work and the little interest of the people make our work more difficult. Our squad prepares activities at sea and on land all the time or as it was done before the pandemic. I see that our members are inclined to their own activities and are not attracted to those that are district and national. I agree with Adrienne Dahlin with the idea of ​​changing from district to national. Our education program is two and a half weeks long and is well accepted by the public. We note that face-to-face classes are preferred to virtual ones. (in our area). I want our USPS / ABC to continue to grow and to overcome the decline that exists in the vast majority of organizations.
    Happy Holidays

  6. Our Squardron (Lake Murray) has several very knowledgeable instructors. We are focused on training and have invested heavily in Audio Visual Equipment and site upgrades to improve our Classes. In fact our last ABC Course had to be relocated because of the overwhelming demand. This effort was due in part that we have been able to retain our SEO Mike Zafoot and the outreach to other organizations by Mike Kirk. I am currently taking a Marine Electronics Class instructed by Jim Rakes. What an amazing teacher with many hands on examples and exercises. Truly one of the best classes I’ve taken. With that being said I have to agree with Adrienne. Many of these courses need to be shortened and simplified for the average person and Trainers alike. The exams need to be more in line with today’s teachings with a focus on researching various topics and retention.

    Thankfully our Squadron is vibrant and maintaining if not growing our membership. Ed Garbe’ stressed that we need to be more all inclusive including Boating Events and Activities. This is very true. However, sometimes the newer members need to raise their hand as well and get involved. If the key to growth is simplification while maintaining our core values.

    • A definition of the root problem is we are not offering the type of educational course or activities new and existing members want. No one myself included want to commit to two or more months of once a week one hour classes. Why can’t our courses be an all day Saturday or over a shorter time period. Additionally, many of the instructors I have seen, think that they have to do an eight hour class in eight ours. The material is not hard, if you can go through it and the class is responsive, you can do it in less time.

      Squadrons should consider doing in-house courses for their members. An example would be a course on DIY boat maintenance. This would appeal to many members. National is unresponsive to courses like this.

    • Ray like you we have invested in new equipment. Our ABC3 classroom have 2 70″ TV’s and a 55″ in the back of the room for the instructors.

      Doing this we have had update the PowerPoints to widescreen format so they look professional. It makes a real difference from using 15 year old projectors.

  7. How about weekly or biweekly evening “video chats” with squadron brig personnel presenting/exchanging ideas for programs and activities. Need better “educational/operational” communications to motivate squadrons to do more.

    We also need a mainstream national publicity program to let more people know we exist and. We need more name recognition.

  8. I am curious to know what the difference is between these two options:
    3 – Eliminate districts and provide services directly from national to local squadrons and clubs and to individual members.
    4 – Consolidate districts into about a half dozen regions with new systems and procedures that will integrate and synergize both national resources and local squadron and club leadership.
    Option 3 seems to be structurally the same as 4 but does not address “integrate and synergize both national resources and local squadron and club leadership.” (What does synergize mean other than integrate?)
    These two options as stated seem to be identical.

  9. I joined the Squadron in 1981, have 39 Merit Marks, and am a certified instructor and Past Commander. I never owned a USPS uniform. Our Virginia Beach Squadron once had over 200 active members and supported an active boating season including multiple navigation contests and cruises, pig pickings and get togethers. Those were the days of old. Like most volunteer fraternal organizations, we must evolve or disappear. I believe the promised social and educational aspects still attract most new members. I like our new brand, but I still like our old brand.

    Consider our market for potential new members: non boaters; small boaters including power and sail; cruising capable boat owners including power and sail; live-aboard boat owners including power and sail. Social and educational aspects still attract most new members.

    Regarding our educational offerings, America’s Boating Channel produces award winning topical videos that attract viewers, lots of viewers. Our Channel also is an effective recruiting tool for new members, some who then transfer from our Cyber Squadron to established local clubs/squadrons. Our core advanced educational courses: S, P, AP, JN and N promote in-depth practical knowledge, but do require a significant time and energy commitment from both instructors and students. Our Advanced Grade courses represent the crown jewels in civilian maritime education, they must be maintained and universally promoted and recognized for their real value like they were by previous generations of boaters.

    Since the number of students taking Advanced Grade courses diminished greatly during the pandemic, maybe we can produce some introductory mini-course training videos on America’s Boating Channel. Affordable fee based mini-courses could cover seminar level aspects/examples of each Advanced Grade course. Member and non-member graduates would receive a certificate and be offered an optional direct path for National Instructor on-line full courses or locally scheduled in-person full courses. Mini-course graduates would be database registered and would receive a designation for partial course work, and they would have mastered the material in the segments completed. The database of mini-course attendees could provide the kind of information we need to transition into a more robust and growing organization once again.

    • William we use many of the Boating Channel videos as part of our ABC3 class. I am hoping to use more snippets in the future as part of the class as they help illustrate many of the points we try to make.

      I too hate uniforms and will never own one either!

  10. Our Squadron, Friday Harbor, WA has grown with virtual teaching, as we can now include people outside our area (we are on one of the San Juan Islands). Now we can have classes and seminars with people on other islands, as well as through out the US. Our monthly SEO meetings with our DEO have facilitated a sharing of classes & seminars within our District and all have benefitted from that. This, for me has been the primary benefit of our District.

    If the District were dissolved, there should be a way to share/invite other Squadrons to participate in virtual classes. I realize that the Seminars are available on-line from National, but you don’t get the personal interaction with them, that you get from our Squadron’s Seminars.

    I believe that eliminating proctored exams would be beneficial. It’s a totally unnecessary burden on all. If an exam is given, it should be graded and reviewed locally. We have many students who take the classes, but are totally uninterested in an exam or a “Grade”. They just want the knowledge.

  11. I am one of those who think the rename to America’s Boating Club was a mistake. In my eyes (1) the name is presumptuous (2) it is demonstrably not true and (3) tosses the USPS organization’s long and storied history out the window. Reorganizing from districts to regions seems like reorganizing the deck chairs in the Titanic.

    In my opinion, It also does not help the image of the organization for The Ensign to show pictures of officers in military style uniforms. Nor does it help that many of our educational materials appear very old even if they have not lost relevance.

    We should, I think be making better use of commercially available educational materials and stop trying to publish our own. Where (if) there are not appropriate materials available we should partner with folk (like the USCGA and BoatUS) to produce them and not try to go it alone.

    And I agree heartily that we need better publicity to get the word out as to who and what USPS IS.

    • James, I agree on using commercially available material. Most states use a commercially produced and NASBLA approved book for basic boating education. The book is about 80 pages, our ABC3 book is 270.

  12. As a “newer” member of a struggling squadron I have experienced vitality that District 20 brings to our squadron. Other cases and contexts may be different but the thought that our D-20 would or could be diminished (or yipes, even replaced) by a region is disheartening.

    Does that mean I am against restructuring? No, not at all. But let’s make sure that we guard what is valuable even as we move into some new patterns.

  13. I have been a member for 28 years and have seen the member ship decline before covid, we
    need the district to provide our squadrons with input and geographical information that will make our squadrons grow. I feel that at disrict meetings we meet and develop friendship that will be lost by elimination. To save money i feel the comanders messages can be done on zoom to eliminate costs. We started the American Boating club, advertising ,and other new ideas, and were advised that we would get report on how effective this was. We NEVER saw them.
    On the squadron level we need to have more mentering like we had years ago make our meetings more interesting and educational to retain members. Many other ideas but common sense tells me , our members pay dues and feel trhey should get something in return.

  14. I have been a member for 28 years and have seen the member ship decline before covid, we
    need the district to provide our squadrons with input and geographical information that will make our squadrons grow. I feel that at disrict meetings we meet and develop friendship that will be lost by elimination. To save money i feel the comanders messages can be done on zoom to eliminate costs. We started the American Boating club, advertising ,and other new ideas, and were advised that we would get report on how effective this was. We NEVER saw them.
    On the squadron level we need to have more mentering like we had years ago make our meetings more interesting and educational to retain members. Many other ideas but common sense tells me , our members pay dues and feel they should get something in return.

  15. I am going to give this org. a few more years, but the name change has degraded this prestigious group. We need fliers and posters to put up at the marinas and boat launches so that people will see what we are and do. maybe that will encourage more people get involved . Here on White Lake,Whitehall MI. have no idea what USPS stands for except the post office and that’s not right

  16. My wife and I have been members for almost 15 years, and have a bunch of merit marks between us. Golden Corner Lakes membership seems to have been fairly static for the past few years inspite of the Pandemic. New people come in, some folks “age” out, and some folks’ interest changes. We usually get 40-50% of our members to come to events. We have a very active PRO and Excom, and many of our members are new to this booming area.

    America’s Boating Club is a great external and internal re-orientation of our organization. We call ourselves a Squadron and a Boating Club at the same time, because we respect our heritage, and look to the future. It’s a tough pill for some, but in our squadron, we respect everyone regardless of their position on this issue.

    What makes thing tough, is the constant headache of searching for bridge officers. This year we don’t have an AO, but the functions under the AO have enthusastic leaders. Signing up to be AO connotates a typical commitment of at least 4 years, if not more, (AO, XO, Cdr, P/C and possibly Nominations for 3 years more). Folks are not willing to sign up for such a headache. Looking at the OPS manual, there’s way too much to be done. We joined because we like being on the water, and we like to socialize. We have folks who like to do Co-op Charting, do Vessal Safety Checks, teach ABC classes, have interesting lunch/dinner meetings, go on beach-ups, cruise to nearby lakes, and serve the community. Not everyone does everything, so we find folks are more willing to coordinate a smaller function.

    So if it were up to me, I’d make the AO a one year job, optional to move up, and the XO a one year job, optional to move up. If someone likes being AO, why not let them serve another year?

    As SEO of an inland squadron, our newer members are less interested in courses and seminars that are mostly relavent to Coastal Boaters, so we focus our available courses to Boat Handling and the Weather Elective. One of our enthusiastic Certified Instructors recently took both courses online (not via Zoom, but at their own pace), and praises those offerings. For our younger working folks, this is a great way to move forward with their boating education.

    We returned to in-person instruction for ABC classes this past Fall, which has improved attendance! We do have an “in-person” BH class scheduled for January, but folks are still worried about Omicron and Delta. Our last elective class was held in early 2020, just as the pandemic began. We know most folks in our squadron aren’t interested in grades or titles anymore.

    Now, let’s return to the question of Districts/Regions. Usually, District meetings are attended by squadron and district officers, former and current, with the exception of the hosting Squadron which has to do a lot of work to pull it off. In my District 26, we have had several virtual meetings and CoWs. If it were up to me, I would keep those Virtual. It saves everyone a lot of money and headache, even if you split the host responsibilities amongst several squadrons.

    Likewise, I would cut out most of the District org chart and keep the budget to a minimum. Key District officers can provide a layer of support for Squadron leadership. We don’t need Regions – they would just be replicating which constantly reorganizing failing companies do.

    Back to Districts, I would vote to continue to have a Cruise & Rendezvous. These are usually well attended, especially with Coastal squadrons. Yes, we have had 3 or 4 boaters from the coast bring their boats 250 miles to inland C&R’s. We are always hosting folks on our boats from other places and it is a great way to make new friends and rekindle friendships.

    I do tend to be verbose and have likely “overflowed everyone’s buffer”. I hope it helps.

  17. My two cents…
    I’m PDC Reinaldo Román, JN, ADRD, A-N/BOC, SEO for my Squadron. My only concern is that you may cause a critical number of struggling squadrons to shut down and accelerate the gap in the graphic shown.
    My Squadron holds the distinction of having a Chapman awardee, the only one in our District. We also give the most number of advanced courses for our District, teach the Instructor Development course for our District, teach BOC and On the Water courses, proudly posses the Prince Henry Award (for many years)..
    Please don’t shoot on the foot of the few that are still standing, holding the edifice upright. Please talk to us, know your squadrons…

  18. PDC Charles Scott, SN
    You changed the name, throwing out a century of tradition, then you did whatever you could to reduce the honors we have earned. Am I happy? NO. If you go to regions, then along with hundreds of other members, I am out of here.

  19. After reading the Ad Hoc committee report, my first conclusion is that you need to “blow-up” the current organization and start from scratch…we need an organization focused primarily on the 90% of members who could care less about district or national, not reorganizing a structure that the 90% don’t care about. As an aside, how many of the committee members came from that 90%? While the 10% play a vital role, the majority of the 90% won’t dedicate themselves to an organization designed by and for the 10%.

    We also need to define our target market. Although we try to sell ourselves as all inclusive, the main focus of activities, publications, etc. is directed toward the more serious boater, not the casual boater. If we want both, then we have to expand our focus. You have to make each type of boater feel important or they will go elsewhere.

    Our focus on “scorekeeping” is also a concern. No matter what the measure, quantity seems to be more important than quality. Membership is an example. I have been a member for several years and it appears that anyone who applies is accepted. Organizations that are strong don’t accept members willy nilly…they look for people who are committed to the organization’s goals and principles and, at the same time, who can benefit from membership. If you are hiring someone, you don’t just take anybody who comes along. You try to find someone who can help you and that you can make happy. If you want to measure good membership practices, evaluate retention after 3 or 4 years, not how many people were willing to write you a check this year!

    Finally, training. Covid 19 has magnified the fact that people learn differently and a combination of online and in-person training is essential. Also, beyond ABC and possibly Boat Handling, who is participating in our training classes…are they the 10% or the 90%?

    In my experience the Power Squadron (I detest name change) is a difficult organization to belong to. If you are part of the 10% (or maybe 20%), it is probably a great thing since the organization is focused on you. However, the remaining 80 or 90% take advantage of the aspects that meet their needs, disregard everything else, and never really commit.

  20. I have watched the membership grow and also now declining. When I joined USPS in 1958 there were less than 75.000 members and doing very well. We have grown into a large corporation and costly to keep up with the times. We have grown out of new members by the cost of expanding. Dues too high for just being a member. Let’s look at the cost of running this corporation and think about downsize to reduce it. I have been a member for 62 years a Squadron Commander for two years 1964- 1966, District Commander 1977-1979 and Govering Board Emneritus Status since 23 February 2008 DON’T LOSE OUR ID USPS

  21. Thank-you commentors I have to say I agree with what most of you have said. I would like to add just a couple of points of clarification by harking back to what Roger Upton said back in 1913:

    “To my mind the organization can be of use to yachtsmen for three major reasons: first, improvement in navigating ability of power-boat owners; second, promotion of acquaintance and social intercourse by the powerboat owners; third, the fitting of power-boat owners to be of possible use to the Navy in time of war so that they might be received as volunteers should they so desire.”

    When I speak to potential new members in our community, I always explain our organization in terms of these three pillars. Education, fraternal activities, and community service. Under each I then discuss activities that the new members can engage in. I remind these people that if they elect to join they will only get out of our organization what they put into it.

    Our strength comes from members who engage not just with each other but with the community at large. Giving back to the recreational boating community is what makes us relevant. Sharing our time, knowledge, skills earn us recognition in our community.

    It is incumbent on our local clubs to carry out the mission statement in a way that fits the local needs and engage in the activities that fit locally. Our success or failure as an organization depends on the success or failure of local leadership.

    District or National leadership should only have a supporting role, not a leading role. They should be asking the clubs what they can do to better serve their needs, not tell the individual clubs what they should be doing. Let the mission statement serve as the guideposts and focus on making sure the local clubs have the tools to carry out the mission.

    Good things are happening around the country at many of the local clubs. The lessons learned there should be shared. Our local club has tried to share success stories at District meeting so other clubs can learn from our successes, only to be told to sit down and shut up. The District meeting is being held to pass down the latest messages from National.

    So, we come back home or don’t bother to attend these meetings and continue on our merry way waiting for the day the national organization goes belly up.

    In other words, the change that is most needed in not necessarily in the structure but in how the structure relates to and supports the local club. This includes getting back to the basics of what we are and who we serve.

    Nationally to to be the face of the organization, and on the District level to make sure local communication and sharing of ideas is taking place.

    The leadership Nationally and at the District level needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves if what they are doing today supports our mission statement. They need to identify the activities they are involved in that stray away from the mission and then abandon them.

    Further they need to ask is every role needed in the current support structure. Perhaps its time to eliminate redundant and unnecessary roles.

    If I were King of the castle, I would make 2022 the year we focus on three items at a National level.

    1. Streamlining our support structure,
    2. Identify and focus on those activities that support our core competencies,
    3. Collecting, share, and celebrating the success stories from around the country

    And yes, we need to relegate America’s Boating Club to a tagline, not our name, own who we are, embrace the fact that our organization, the United States Power Squadrons, has a 108-year history of supporting the recreational boating community. Let’s celebrate and promote what got us here.

  22. Americas boating club? What a colossal waste of time and money. Are we a social club or are we boating organization that teaches and promotes boating safety. I think we have lost our way and need to get back to the basics.Spends some money on tv ads promoting safety and education.

    • John, yes getting back to basics is key.

      A number of folk mention TV ads, the “clubs” are local and need a local spin on the message to get people to look at us. Since 2019 I have written over 100 short pieces on boating safety that have appeared in the local daily paper and monthly publications.

      It is the local spin on the issue that gets people to read and respond. Many of our ABC3 students tell us they found out about the course through those articles.

      Despite what some folks think “boating safety” are not words to avoid. In fact I have started taking about knowing the risks you face on the water. Students identify with that as they have worn their masks and got their shots to avoid the risk of catching COVID.

  23. I have been a member of USPS / ABC since the early 1970’s and have been a member of 4 different squadrons due to relocation or consolidation. I believe that we need to take advantage of the virtual meeting tools to serve members, the public and the squadrons directly from a national organization. If there are in person events, they should be a single day rather than multiple day events that require significant time and expense.

  24. I have been a USPS member for over 30 years and in that time have served as Squadron Treasurer, XO, SEO and Commander. I’ve served as District Assistant Sec’y, Sec’y, AO, XO and Commander. At the National level, I’ve served on multiple committees and have served as Stf/C and R/C.

    I have always thought that an individual member’s affinity lies more with their local Squadron rather than with the National organization. The Districts serve to bring their Squadrons together while islittle that is done at the National level to make individuals feel that this is, “their home!” Additionally, there is camarderie between members within a District as well as at the Squadron level. I have concerns that we are taking folks further from “grass roots” membership by regionalization. When I moved from D/3 to D/8, I transferred my membership to a local Squadron. However, I still feel a great deal of affinity to my D/3 Squadron and to that District!

    Our efforts should be directed towards making our members feel that they have a home with USPS. That home will be most achieved at local levels.

    I recognize that one goal of any reorganization will be to cut costs. I believe that there are more effective ways to accomplish this.

  25. Cost of courses is to expensive. $67.50 for on line? Under $30 or even less. I can find international courses on line for $9.99 at times. These include subjects like COLREGS, use of radar, marine electronics, etc. We are not competative in the market place.

  26. Priscilla Travis, AO, Annapolis Sail and Power Squadron

    I was a “spousal member” in the 1970s, taking courses through AP with the Cincinnati Squadron. A career and extensive cruising took me out of membership organizations until I retired from sailing. I’m back in USPS trying to give back to the organization that gave me the education to get a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license without taking a licensing course – AP did that.

    1. Changing the name to ABC was a mistake and the implementation seems poorly planned. USPS was an established brand for more than 100 years and now we have confusion. Also, a number of squadrons recognize sail in their names, so we have “Sail and Power Squadron.” We should have gone from USPS to USSPS, not to something totally different. As someone recommended, put “America’s Boating Club” as the subhead: “United States Sail and Power Squadron – America’s Boating Club” and “USPS/ABC.” The name change has made USPS secondary to ABC.

    2. To further the confusion, when someone goes to the USPS website and clicks on this link “View the new United States Power Squadrons public website” they get the ABC website, which for prospective members and some existing members can be confusing. There is NO word of explanation that ABC replaced USPS. Further, this statement is not accurate: “For 107 years, America’s Boating Club® has helped make boating better through boating education and safety programs.” This completely ignores the importance of USPS that is the foundation of the newly named boating club. So much for Founder’s Day.

    2. The education program is what USPS does best. It attracts and retains members. The ABC website does a good job of explaining the courses and seminars. On the water activities and social programs are also important but a strong education program is essential.

    3. We could do a better job of attracting women boaters with women-only classes, family classes, and by promoting other classes in a way that makes them less off-putting for women. The words used in course descriptions are important. Partner in Command/Crew at the Helm is a start. Get some USPS women to teach the courses and seminars, including engine maintenance, marine electrical systems, and electronic navigation. They are out there – you just have to find them. There are still too many men saying “my wife/partner/girlfriend doesn’t really like boating.” Seeing women doing and teaching is important.

    4. Online education is essential now for local squadrons and for USPS/ABC courses and seminars. The online offerings I’ve seen look good and are well-designed for self-guided learning. Few, if any, local squadrons can field a comprehensive educational program. The trick will be to not make everything into cybersquadron material. Emphasize and support the hands-on value of local squadron instruction in the classroom or on the water.

    5. Agree that long courses should be available in shorter packages, and ABC seems to recognize this. Achieving a USPS grade doesn’t matter to many people. They want the education. Develop online and classroom modules that allow for at most six classroom/online sessions for a topic.

    6. ”Reduce red-tape and bureaucracy to streamline services, administration, and coordination.” Amen. Support local squadron control. The USPS “manuals” for squadron officers, websites, etc. make for soporific reading even if some of the information is important. Rewrite, revise, simplify. These read like government specification manuals.

    7. It is expensive and time-consuming to rise in USPS/ABC leadership. Attendance at district and national conferences, travel, etc. may discourage people from continuing past local involvement. While personal contact has value, it may not be as important as it once was. Combine in-person district and national meetings with online access so more people can participate.

    • Priscilla your points about getting more women involved is an excellent one. We are fortunate in that we get a lot of couples in our ABC3 class. We stress the importance of having a partner in command. We introduce the idea early and repeat it often.

      You might be surprised at the responce, we always get one of two who come in the second or third night and tell us how they now know where all the equipment is stored and they plan on doing the passenger briefing.

      When it comes to test time most of the women out score their spouses!

  27. I’d say restructuring to align with the coast guard and it’s auxiliary is vital to the mission objectives as an organization.

    • Louis, as a ten year member of the USCGA I found that too many Auxiliarists see us as the competition. I don’t see from our view point as the basic missions are different. Plus the USCGA is struggling juts like us as they have become way too structured is their organization driven by changes from the USCG leadership.

      The USCAG used to be a valuable part of the USCG especially in supporting the stations, much of that changed after 9/11 when the USCG became part of the Department of Homeland Security and with the advent of the commercial towing services from the likes of Sea Tow and Tow Boat US.

      That said we need to do a better job of outreach to local USCGA units to find more common ground. We have a few active Auxiliarists in our “club” and are finding the join us for the social activities we offer and their instructors prefer to teach our courses as they are able to reach more students with us.

  28. My wife and I have been members of the Shrewsbury Power Squadron since the 70’s. I have read all the excellent comments provided and must say, Tom Dawson’s hits virtually all of my hot buttons. I did not like the name change as I feel it “cheapens” the organization. 108 years ago, we were established not as a casual club, but fundamentally an educational organization focused on the boating skills and sciences. I further feel we need the distinction of uniforms. Without this, we lose our identity, and it should be part of our mission to educate the public, as well as prospective members, as to the benefits we provide, not just our members.
    In my boating area in NJ, I have seen the change of who is on the water and why. From my observation, the majority of boaters are casual fisherman. Nothing wrong with this, but I have seen many of these people lack the skills to operate their boat safely especially under adverse conditions. There was a time when Sandy Hook Bay was dense with boats of weekends, but no longer.
    When I started boating in the early 70’s, many boaters repaired their boats, maintained their engines, and had a true appreciation for the skills of boating. Over the decades, I have seen this change. Our squadron has lost members, and although I was asked, I declined bridge positions fundamentally due to other obligations that increased over the years. As indicated in a previous comment, other organizations have experienced this. It seems that in the past, people had more time to literally enjoy themselves, and expand their minds, but of all things, financial demands, loss of the 40-hour week, and increasing family obligations, have intruded on any classic free time people have had.
    Regarding the comments above and my opinions–I feel we need to cease being identified as a club and return our former name and retain our current structure. We need to invest in some TV time, to provide 30 informational clips on what we are and then develop an informational to expand on this. Members will come if we can show what we offer and what do we offer. Boating dealers should be encouraged to literally guide prospective customers in our direction. Yes, for socialization, but more important instructions on skills that can be beneficial beyond boating, i.e. critical thinking and problem solving. The water can be dangerous as well as fun, but part of the danger is in ignorance. I have stories how skills learned from Power Squadorn course helped me navigate in pea soup fog, without Radar, and handle sudden rough seas. Our courses can be modernized but should not be made less informative.

    • Thomas, you make a good point about boat dealers and I would go further and give them coupons to give to new boat buyers for the local ABC3 class. I have been trying to convince our local “club” to do that.

  29. I joined the Charles River Power Squadron in 1968, and transferred to the Cape Cod Sail and Power Squadron upon retirement in 2005. I took all the courses in the ’60s and ’70s, enjoying the greater challenge they had then, largely by virtue of being a computer and spacecraft engineer. In 2005, I became active in CCSPS, doing the whole Bridge thing from AO thru CDR to NomCom, and got back into teaching, becoming a Life Member just last year. In my CDR year, I began thinking about organizational reforms.

    First and foremost, drop all the pseudo-Navy stuff. Upton was right for his time but wrong for the century from Chapman to now. Ditch the uniforms, ditch the ranks, ditch the Merit Marks.
    Drop the Bridge, and the ritual of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at meetings.

    Regarding the name change, I’m looking for a middle way–something like United States Recreational Boating Squadrons. We all know the problems with USPS, and I sympathize with calling ABC both presumptuous and demonstrably not true. USRBS avoids the Post Office problem, states the national scope, correctly identifies the target market, and keeps the term Squadron which distinguishes us from the plethora of clubs.

    I teach mostly the navigation courses, from the 2-week add-on to ABC3 to N. One thing I have to say in them is “We don’t expect you to do all these detailed steps in your everyday boating; what we’re trying to do is prove to you what you can achieve whenever you’re in a situation that needs the details.” That’s the process that takes 12 weeks, and don’t forget that AP used to be about 20 weeks. On the other hand, seminars are best suited to teaching the techniques used in relatively normal conditions. Maybe we should start people with seminars and offer the courses as follow-ons for those who want to dig deeper. And the courses should also drop the navy-style requirements like “Report to the captain at 0800, 1200, and 2000” and signing every page of the deck log. I would also drop the system of National Owls and do all grading locally.

    I have been urged to climb the District bridge and seek to become a national officer, but I don’t want to dilute my teaching that way. I don’t think districts are necessary at all. What used to be district conferences, in New England anyway, have become multi-district conferences, indistinguishable in my view from multi-squadron conferences. At the national level, I’d ask if the Governing Board can cover most topics, reducing the rest of the national organization to a leader (“National Commodore” perhaps?), a database manager, and a panel to set educational standards. Each squadron needs a recognized leader with some not-too-naval title, like Commodore. At each of the two levels, the leader can gather assistants and form committees as needed without following any prescribed set of portfolios.

    The other ritual I’ve thought about is the invocation. We do them at membership meetings, where practically nothing is decided. We don’t do them at ExCom meetings, where things do get decided but without reliance on divine intervention. And we don’t do them at NomCom meetings, where we could really use the help. I tried to skip it in membership meetings, and I don’t recall being reproached for that, but I did discover a useful property of an invocation: announcing it makes everybody stop their yakking and do something together. becoming ready for the agenda. So maybe it’s OK.

    I think a good starting point for this kind of thinking is the Triangle, only I’d simplify the names of its legs to Social Club, Boating School, and Civic Service. Keep whatever supports those goals, and drop the rest.

  30. I have been a member of the Power Squadron since 2011. I have been boating all my life, first as a kid on my relatives boats, and then owning my own at 25. After purchasing a boat here in Florida, and taking it out for the first time on our local waters I realized that I had better get my wife and I into a boating safety class.
    We took the ABC course. It was a wealth of information for local knowledge. Our squadron offered a half price six month membership for graduates. Our first squadron event was an on the water event we call the “weekenders”. It is a group of from ten to fifteen boats that go as a group, once a month, to a local restaurant that has adequate docking. From those meetups we have made close friends, friendships that go well beyond the squadron. And that is what those these clubs offer the most. Yes, the courses and education are important, but the social interaction is what keeps our members coming back.
    Here in Cape Coral we are lucky, we own our building. We have classrooms and a meeting room with an adjacent kitchen. We have monthly member meetings as well as special event parties and dinners. But the most satisfying social events are the on the water events. In addition to the “weekenders” we have a monthly cruise and rendezvous for the larger boats. Another popular on the water event is our coop charting group. A volunteer crew of five or six members surveys the ATONs in our local area. Since we have over a thousand ATONs in our area, there are 26 survey runs per year. Crews usually end the survey with lunch at an on the water restaurant. Results of the survey are reported to the Coast Guard and appear in the next notice to mariners. Members who participate in this program feel they are contributing to the safety and maintenance of our waterways. (see my article in the Ensign a few years ago) And that leads to the next factor in retaining members……..involvement.
    I am a vessel safety evaluator, and I feel that is one the most rewarding parts of my membership. I believe that I can speak for the other VSEs who would say the same. So how do we get members involved in programs like these…….personal outreach. I ask new members if they would like to join my crew on a coop charting run, or ride on my boat on the next “weekenders” trip. If a new member is reluctant to get a vessel safety check, I assure them that I am not there to issue a citation but to prevent them from getting a citation. When performing a safety check on a non members boat I use it a recruiting opportunity for the ABC course. Vessel safety checks are as much a social interaction as a technical event. (yea, as a retired Navy officer I probably bore the owner to death with “sea stories”.)
    I cannot offer a solution to the membership drain the clubs are experiencing nationally. I can only tell you what appears to work at my parent squadron. We have the benefit of having a large organization with a variety of activities. Cape Coral is my winter residence, with the rest of the year residing in Maine. When I looked for Power Squadron involvement in Maine I found it almost non existent.
    So the question really is: Do we want to stop the loss of members? Or do we want to regain what has been lost, including reestablishing decommissioned squadrons?
    We cannot recruit members to something that does not exist.
    If the district organization is retained, give them the job of local MARKETING and ADVERTISING. (and funds) Of the boaters I come in contact with in Maine, none know what the Power Squadrons are about. (Let alone “America’s Boating Club”) How about flyers and signs at marinas and ramps advertising Vessel Safety Checks with the point of contact being the local squadron? Perhaps public service ads on local TV stations and papers championing the ABC course. If the local squadron does not have an instructor or manpower to teach the course, send out an instructor from the district. No longer a local squadron? We know who the last members were, reach out to them with this questionnaire. Better still an email, or phone call.

  31. I have taken several classes over 4 years of membership starting with ABC and have currently taken the usual stepped path through Advanced Navigator. I also have taken the Weather Class and several seminars. I have participated as an instructor in several On The Water training situations including a local Boy Scout merit badge, Partner In Command, and ABC class extra. This hands on experience has by far been the most satisfying educational experience I have had in our squadron. That and presenting part of a seminar on ATONs as a Local Knowledge proponent (I was billed as an ‘expert’ but dislike and distrust that status).

    Every class I’ve taken without exception has been helpful BUT limited by outdated information and reference to outdated equipment ie GPS, Plotting software. If I go on to Celestial Navigation it will be purely for historical curiosity.

    I served as squadron treasurer for 3 years and was responsible for our squadron’s transition from a massive, unmanageable Excel spreadsheet to QuickBooks for record-keeping. I believe modern software needs to be used for record keeping and communication.

    Every class text I’ve used has shown evidence of creation-by-committee without a strong overview for consistency. The worst offender was the weather text with some chapters giving conflicting information and not matching data presented in the pictures, illustrations, and slides.

    I believe the strong remnants of military structure and protocol is a hindrance to membership satisfaction and retention, and to the approach to learning in the classes.

    I believe we need to always keep an eye on and teach our history as an organization, but we have to offer a usable service to our communities. Our ‘recent’ name change is example of owning up to the service we provide. If the new name gets people in the door, the very next thing they need to learn about us should be our education offerings.

  32. My wife and I are both past commanders as well as past SEO and most other officers of our Gainesville Sail and Power Squadron. We recently moved from sailing to power boating with the purchase of a 42′ Grand Banks trawler to spend a year on the Great Loop. I applaud your efforts to reorganize, and note with sadness the decline in membership. But, and I do mean but, we have only our selves to blame. We recently joined America’s Great Loop Cruiser’s Association. These people are desperate for boating education, yet there is no mention of the US Power Squadron. We also joined the Marine Trawler Owners Association, with the same situation for education (no place to go). The St. Pete Boat Show is scheduled for January 20 – 23, 2022, the TrawlerFest will by March 1 – 5 in Stewart, FL, and the 2022 National Trawler Owner’s Associon will be in Fernandina Beach April 11-14. Will we be there telling boat owner’s our story? I would spend and expand our efforts to make a known presence on the web as well as boat shows across the county. Maybe offer a free ABC class to anyone who buys a boat from Bass Pro.

    • Jib,

      Yes, we should be reaching out to places like Bass Pro, the have facilities we could use to teach ABC. It would be a value add for their customers.

  33. I am old and have been a member a very long time. The Uniforms are obsolete and off putting. The classes need to be shorter not weeks. Our society doesn’t work for several weeks. Smaller bites and I have taught! The demographic eg OLD MEN and Women doesn’t attract young people. they get set in their ways and don’t get the modern world This has existed for a long time. Need to streamline. Less worthless structure and meetings at multiple levels. It is 2022!
    Carole Heller SN

  34. This year I will become a “life” member. I have been involved in this organization since 1989, before we bought our first boat. I have enjoyed participating in all the courses offered and I am SN. I am also a 100 ton licensed USCG captain, which our courses were a big part of attaining this goal. I enjoy teaching the ABC course as a certified instructor. I participate in VSEs and our Jump Start program. I also work part time at West Marine and interact with boaters with all levels of interests and education. That experience confirms that many need our courses!
    I have had the privilege of being an active member of our squadron (CDR 3x) and our D7 bridge (PDC). I have been involved in changing the name of our squadron to better reflect our membership reach, which after several years, is beginning to see some growth. As DC I was involved in the dissolution of two of our squadrons in our district: one was established 75 years ago (members aged out & taught no classes) and the parent squadron of 2 other squadrons still functioning, and the other just did not have enough members to continue. With the exception on one squadron in our district, all the other squadron memberships are at or below 100 members (approximately 14 to 177).
    I believe that the changes that are being made, while not all perfect, should have been made 10 to 15 years ago. This organization has had an “old guard” that is extremely resistant to looking forward. That same “old guard”, while sticking to the past has seen our organization’s membership decrease every year. The reality is that many yacht club traditions of the past (highly structured organization, tons of rules, military style uniforms) simply do not work now in the present or for the future. That is true today in actual yacht clubs as well.
    We need to change. In our clubs the 80/20 rule is more like, 95/5 rule. 5% of the members do 95% of the work to keep the club functioning. Just ask anyone who has been on a nominating committee.
    People are willing to belong to organizations. Look at Boat/US, with about 300000 members. “Members” with no commitment except writing a check of $25 and MAINLY joining for the water towing package. For America’s Boating Club to continue we obviously can not have 100% no commitment members. Who would teach the courses? Who would have the social events and community events?
    I do not think making districts larger really serves a purpose and OMG wonder if they are even needed. The geographic make up of our district is so disjointed. Most of our squadrons are in or near northern OHIO, but also have PA and WVA as part of our district. However we have 3 or 4 squadrons in the western part of the state who also boat on Lake Erie in a different district? WHY?
    I think strong local squadrons, with good activities for all age levels, offering multiple educational courses and seminars are the way to proceed. Do this with a strong support group in national to inform, guide and strengthen these local squadrons. We also need to offer a significant number of real benefits, ie water towing, etc.!
    Restructuring is hard. Very, very hard! We should be doing this not for us….we are already here…but for those who we want to attract to this wonderful and once very vibrant club. To those who say, “well if you do that I am out of here”, just remember the “church rolls on” with or without you. However, we would rather have you with us as we continue to adjust and evolve for the future of our organization. Those of us who want change for the better, love this organization as much as you do. However, it cannot continue to be thought of as “what was”, but what it “can be”. I am a proud, but concerned, member of America’s Boating Club!
    Happy New Year to all!!!

  35. I read with interest the goals being sought by the Reorganization Committee and some of the posted replies. First, let me commend the National Staff on a willingness to address this serious problem. Second, to achieve the Reorganization Committee’s goals the National Staff needs to look inward at itself first. Sometimes we are more petrified to ask the right questions because fear the answers.

    A little research results in data related questions that need to be addressed. Additionally, for any solution to be worthwhile the primary/ / basic problem must be clearly defined.

    Research shows that boat ownership is up and growing, even with Covid. New boat sales reached a 13 year high. In 2021 new boat sales were 30% ahead of 2021 boat sales. Socioeconomic data indicates that 65% of boat owners earn less that $75,000 a year. They are middle class with young families. The first question to ask is, why are they not joining the Power Squadron? The obvious answer is that we do not offer them a reason to join !

    One look at our Education program reveals some answers. Many of our courses are out of date in both content and presentation. Here are some examples:

    1. The average new boat owner with a young family and most people do not want to commit to an eight week initial boating course. They have other things to do and family concerns. They are use to using technology. Where was it carved in stone that the Basic Boating course had to be presented in eight sessions over eight weeks?

    2. We do not offer a course for the new boater. A course that handles basic maintenance they can do themselves, basic safety concerns and things to watch out for. A course that would introduce them to the Power Squadron.

    3. The bureaucracy throughout the Power Squadron hinds and does not promote change. For also most two years, I have been proposing a new course in small boat engine and general maintenance. This course would instruct the average boat owner on DIY boat maintenance. The response I got back was an insight into the Problem facing the organization. I was told:

    First, that there was already an engine maintenance course (I already knew that).
    Second, many of the Staff at the higher levels did not want change. One did agree that the course was out of date and did not meet the needs of a new boat owner.
    Third, I was directed from one education staff individual to another at bar levels of the organization. These were at all levels and NONE provided needed direction. The one individual who did show some interest requested I send him a a outline, which I did. I have not heard from him in months.

    Suggestion. Start a section in the Ensign for comments and suggestions. Add a feature each month on a basic education topic. Keep it short and to the point. Direct it to the average boater, who is not considered doing an engine or outboard overhaul or planning on doing a trip to distant lands.

    Create an education office without all the layers of bureaucracy. A streamlined group that can get new and relative courses created and presented using today’s technology. Keep the courses in bite size segments, not many weeks in duration. Our it’s oblivious our targeted audience do not want to spend weeks in a classroom. Remember the KISS principle.

    I hope this helps. With over thirty years training experience and course development and management consulting, I can offer some insight. I would be will to help, just let me know.

    • John you are spot on about too many layers in the Education Department. There is no focus on creating a curriculum that address the needs of the younger family. Feeding them information as they are ready for it, instead of trying to cram it into one of two courses.

      NASBLA’s new requirements for the basic education course provides a good starting place. Adding focused modules like you mention could make an attractive package.

  36. I understand that our organization is experiencing a significant reduction in membership and that we need to address this trend. Failure to respond to this challenge is not an option. That said, creating an intermediate geographical division such as the proposed regions to replace the current District structure needs to consider the effect on individual members. I will use as an example my Squadron and District. I am a member of the Catawba Sail and Power Squadron in District 27. I am currently the Squadron Educational Officer, and my wife will become the Commander later this month. I am also currently the Chair of the National Educational Department Publishing Committee and have been nominated to be the D27 Executive Officer. My wife is currently the D27 Treasurer. We have been attending District meetings since we joined in 2012 and National Meetings since 2014. To place the squadrons in District 27 into a region that would extend from Northeast North Carolina to the Rio Grande River in Texas (a travel distance of 1,500 miles) would likely prevent us from attending any “Regional” meeting but we would continue to attend National Meetings. Rather than replacing Districts with Regions, I believe a better approach would be to combine existing Districts geographically such as combining District 27 with District 26 into a Carolina-Georgia District. Similar combinations could be done in the Northeast and Midwest.
    Also, how many current District and National officers submit travel reimbursement? Is this expense really necessary for a volunteer organization? I have been a volunteer leader in the Boy Scouts since I turned 21 and so has my wife since we were married. My wife and I have attended their regional and national meetings and never received reimbursement. I have not and never will ask USPS for reimbursement for our travel to attend meetings. I am a VOLUNTEER and travel to do what I love doing will never be a burden for me.
    Having larger combined districts will also achieve many of the objectives outlined in the committee’s proposal such as broader pool of resources for educational offerings and ability to hold super events and on the water activities that attract members.

  37. Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback on the “Organizational Restructuring” initiative. I would like to elaborate on William J Schwieder III’s comment “Our Channel also is an effective recruiting tool for new members, some who then transfer from our Cyber Squadron to established local clubs/squadrons”.
    I am a new USPS/ABC member (I joined the organization on 4/24/21), a member of the Cyber Squadron as well as a member of OMCom. Shortly after joining USPS/ABC, I tried to contact 2 local physical squadrons to no avail. Another attempt last October was also unsuccessful. Since I wanted to get more involved, I updated and submitted my resume to NomCom several times (in addition to passing the VSC exam and adding my name to the Cooperative Charting DB), and finally was very lucky to be accepted as a member of OMCom on 11/2, thanks to R/C Anna Morris and R/C Kay Simkins.
    The Cyber Squadron currently has 1386 members, but only 5 of those have national jobs. We all know that engagement is critical for retention, and I’m not sure what level of engagement the other 1381 members have, since none of the Cyber Squadron members have either District or Squadron jobs. The Cyber Squadron does not follow any of the processes described in the OM Ch5, and District 50 (the “umbrella” for the Cyber Squadron) does not follow the processes described in OM Ch4. As a result, there is very little (if any) communication between Cyber Squadron members, between members and the district, and no opportunities for member involvement within the squadron or the district. Education is perhaps the most important function of USPS/ABC, but since there is no education officer within the squadron or the district, finding courses is a challenge, especially since very few advanced courses are offered virtually by physical squadrons (another big issue given the ongoing COVID situation).
    I realize that the Cyber Squadron was created to provide individuals a means to immediately join USPS/ABC online, and was probably not meant to become a longer-term “home” for those members, but some of us may not be able or may not want to join a physical squadron in the near future, and retention may be at risk due to lack of involvement. Potential solutions could involve adding some of the roles and processes described in OM Ch4 and Ch5 to District 50 and to the Cyber Squadron, or perhaps simply “attaching” the Cyber Squadron members to the District (or Region) of their choice, therefore enabling them to get more involved without having to join a physical squadron.
    Please note that these comments reflect my views based on my very limited experience with the organization, and others may differ in their views.
    Very best wishes for 2022!

  38. I joined USPS in 1972. I have 50 years membership and 49 MM’s. I helped form my squadron 45 years ago. I will attend it’s last meeting this month. It’s on a lake with over 30K boaters. What went wrong? In my option it started in the 1990’s . The national bridge/opcom./directors decided that the membership/Governing Board was not able to make good quality decisions so they should be made by the Operating Committee/Directors. Just pay your dues and keep quiet. The dues went up and membership went down. Dues to support the squadron No! Dues to support an ever growing district and a national organization. National spent money like there was no tomorrow. Well there was! Our squadron dues have not changed over the years, yet a new member is asked to pay $140 the first year. My squadron has held 3 or 4 quality ABC classes with 40 to 60 students every year, yet 1-2 new members join. After a year or two they are gone. We provided follow up classes and many social and civic activities, most all had to be self sporting or live on donations. I could go on, but why? I’ll never get a chance to get that 50th MM.

    • Albert thank you for 50 years, it is a wonderful accomplishment. It unfortunate it had to end this way for you

  39. Maybe some of your policies were great when you started this organization, but uniforms and military time really need to be gone, if you want to attract the younger generation, If you did not serve in the military, uniforms and military time is of no interest. The whole program regarding Merit Marks should be reevaluated. We have members that put in hundreds of hours and they get one Merit Mark, while other members do ten hours and they get the same, one Merit Mark.
    To address the financial problems, maybe you need more volunteers at the National level. Our squadron operates with all volunteers. Maybe by downsizing, eliminating the Districts and having National work directly with the squadrons, would be the answer. National then would know when a squadron is celebrating 65 years of belonging to the United States Power Squadron and would recognize that squadron. It was our squadron and our District Commander did not even respond to our invitation to attend our 65th Anniversary Party and apparently National did not even know. Many of our members were a little upset.
    Our by-laws should be our by-laws and not dictated by you. We are working hard to get education classes back to in-person learning but the materials do really need to be updated. We need to keep as much money from our members dues as possible as we have a building to maintain.
    The plus side is that the United States Power Squadron is a great organization for educating boaters. Ever consider having a program setup with local courts, when law enforcement gives out a ticket on the water, that the violator is fined and that they must take a boating class. Someone explained to me that Indian River County did this years ago and that the classroom was packed. Just a thought.

    • Andrea your point on the education material is spot on, in trying to work with the Boat Ed committee I feel like I’m pushing a boulder up hill. The ABC3 material In need of serious updating but some on the team is reluctant to streamline it. The book is 270 pages, all our competitors use books with less than 100 pages.

      In Florida, we get BUI violators sent to bus to take ABC3 occasionally but I think some judges let them take it online these days.

  40. I am a relatively new member of the Power Squadron, joining in early 2018. We joined because my wife and I wanted to do local power boating in our retirement. We are both new to boating, having purchased our first boat in the summer of 2021. The purpose of our joining USPS was to learn the boating laws and rules; how our boat works; how to appropriately work the VHF radio; and how to use a chart plotter to navigate our local Intercoastal Waterways.
    What we found was that the USPS is a slowly shrinking and fading organization that is more steeped in history, than adapting to today’s generation of boaters and boating electronics, which have become the new norm. I have no issue with renaming the organization to America’s Boating Club, as many long-term members do. And I always like to see bureaucracy streamlined. I am for either consolidating the Districts into National or visa versa.
    Regarding education and teaching, for example: our ABC course is a 2-day, 12-hour in-person session. The Coast Guard Auxiliary covers the same materials in a one day, and online there is a 3-hour virtual session on the internet, all covering the same information. My 10-year-old nephew listened to the 3-hour course, took the test, and passed. So, if I am a person new to boating, a 3-hour online course is more appealing to me than two days covering 12 hours of more detailed information. I know that our club’s stance is that you will get more out over a longer course. But is it the same as taking 5 or 6 years to complete a 4-year college education? Back then I couldn’t afford the time to take those extra years. And many others may feel the same about a 3 hour vs. 12-hour course resulting in obtaining the same boating license.
    I took Marine Communications to better understand how to use my VHF radio. I learned a lot. But the course took a lot of tangents on extraneous systems that the common boater would never use and even some systems that are obsolete. Far too much detail for my limited local boating needs. I felt like I was being taught slide rule theory before I could use my calculator. Or how VHS movie recorder works in minute detail to record data and movies, when the world has moved on to virtual files on the internet and no longer uses tape devices.
    Overall, our course and books of information seem very dated to me. The immense detail is appropriate for the very few members who want to obtain their Captain’s License, seems overboard for most of us casual boaters. And with an organization of mostly retired boating volunteers wanting to do the best job they can, they need to evolve to 2022 for the current generation of boaters and boating electronics.
    There is an immense amount of data on the internet, from Boat US, Raymarine, Garmin, tidal, weather, winds, and many other websites. We could become the Google-like site that boaters could navigate to and then get linked to these other sites. Or we can remain a shrinking organization with immense levels of detail appropriate for a Captain’s license. It is the decision of this slide rule, Blackberry, and VHS generation to make that determination to evolve. Good Luck!

    • Donald you are right about what ABC3 book tries to cover, it goes way beyond what NASBLA requires. We get 250 students a year, and do the course in 5 two hour sessions. But we focus on the basics and how they apply to the boaters on our local waters. We have added relevant material that helps the student comprehend why they need to know what we are presenting.

      If you boat in coastal Florida you need to understand how to read navigation aids we have over 1,600 lateral aids in your county and another 1,400 non lateral aids. Plus a large percent are Intracoastal aids.

      There are 50,000 registered recreational vessels in our county so the waterways are packed so spending extra time on Navigation Rules becomes important.

      Instructors need to cover the basics but focus on what is going to be important for their boaters. We do that here and most of our students come because they have heard from others that they actually learn more from the class than from trying to read our book.

  41. I am 70 years old and have been involved with USPS since I was a kid, joining as soon as women were allowed to in 1983. We need to scrap the tons of jobs listed in the Operations Manual and organizational charts. For example, a squadron Educational department has an SEO, ASEO, Chairman – Boating, Advanced Grades, and Electives, and individual Chairmen of every course offered. I’m glad some squadrons can fill all those positions, but most can’t and the resulting feeling is failure. Also, there are inefficiencies – Advanced Grades cannot order an elective exam, etc. All titles and positions should be eliminated and replaced with an SEO and as many ASEO’s as the Squadron needs – all having permissions to do everything related to education – ordering exams, texts, etc.

    Committees should be eliminated. There should be a Commander, SEO, and Secretary/Treasurer. These positions could be separate if squadron size permits. With only 4 or 5 officers and no need to fill 20 or 30 chairs and committee positions, some of the smaller squadrons could remain viable. The dread of office would be reduced. I remember calling every member with AP or better in order to get a Chairman Advance Grades and being turned down by everyone except the former SEO who took pity on me even though he had medical problems. Our XO has 11 committee chairs to fill and our Admin Officer has 14. Many people refuse an officer position because of the number of positions they are expected to fill. GET RID OF ALL OF THEM!

    As long as we are streamlining and getting rid of things, let’s eliminate merit marks. I became a life member in 2011 and the free dues have been a nice ride, but we cannot afford it any more. I don’t even support grandfathering in those who are life members. We need the dues money and we also need to stop inventing jobs so folks can get a merit mark. Removing the merit mark burden from officers might result in more members being willing to take on an office – something we desperately need.

    I am also going to comment on uniforms. I spent 3 years on active duty in the US Navy and have 28 additional years of qualifying reserve duty. USPS does not do uniforms well. Members wear uniforms that are not straight, with shoes and other accessories of their choosing, and they just do not look right. One P/C liked his uniform shirt, but wore it with kakhi pants – not OK. Since the butchering is being done to navy uniforms, I take it personally. That’s just me.

    I don’t know if a reorganization will be successful. I will be sad to see USPS go if it is not.

  42. Thank you for allowing comments and feedback. My concerns and suggestions are related below.
    A powerpoint that was circulated recently from the Reorganization Committee identifying our organization’s issues as: declining membership, reduction in revenues, and lack of seminars/courses taught.

    These problems are not going to be fixed by adding an expansive and unwieldy structure such as regionalization. Fix these problems at the source. Below are some thoughts and recommendations we would like to be considered before any further action towards Regionalization is taken:

    1. Keep the District structure and provide districts with assistance and support from National based on their particular needs. You appear to be approaching the problems with a one-size-fits-all solution. Fix these problems at the source.
    2. Develop a “Problem Solving Task Force” (PSTF) that could individually best define the problems of the declining district/squadron and recommend suggestions.
    3. You site limitations in filling District positions. Ask districts/squadrons why? Maybe we have positions or requirements that are not necessary.
    4. If you find a District filled with complaints from its Squadrons about the autocracy of its District leadership, apply National resources and support to guide those District leadership teams.
    5. Encourage Districts to share educational resources with Squadrons within the district and with contiguous Districts/Squadrons.
    6. Demonstrate to Districts/Squadrons how to use technology for better communication. Most of the aging members are still “digital immigrants”.
    7. District/squadron membership showing steady decline over a number years? Suggest consolidation with neighboring districts/squadrons. There must be a good number of examples of where this can be done without subjecting the entire organization to Regionalization.
    8. “Travel expenses are too high”. Stop the meetings. Virtual: it works. Creating a Regional expanse with even greater travel requirements makes no sense. And, do we really need two national conferences a year? Also, only about half of the membership pay dues? Hmmm!
    9. “Too many squadrons are at risk of collapse, and districts are doing nothing to help them”. How is this problem solved by creating an even bigger, more geographically diverse areas. Could District consolidations help? Could Squadron consolidations help? Why are these Squadrons failing? We would guess that most often it is a case of problems with membership attraction and retention. We see nothing solving that by eliminating Districts. Fix these problems at the source. Promotion of National’s own online seminars/courses, and Boat US’s online classes do little to get people to join local squadrons. Suggestion: Offer online courses/seminars at a price point where a proportional amount would go to National, District, and Squadrons. Included in the cost of the online course/seminar a person would get a six month membership in their local squadron. National would immediately notify the local squadron who could then start their own personal recruiting process. Everybody wins, we’re all working together.
    10. With more people than ever buying boats as a result of the pandemic you would think that membership and revenues would be increasing. Leadership, creativity, and enthusiasm is missing. Creating a larger layer of the organization will not solve declining revenues and membership. Citing all the ways you indicated regionalization would help, clubs could be better served by focusing those same tactics towards the existing 36 Districts. Building better RELATIONSHIPS between districts and squadrons will help increase and maintain membership. You indicated that “focusing directly on clubs and members” will improve our organization. We agree. But it seems counter-intuitive to create an even larger, more remote, minimally staffed regional organization to accomplish that idea. How is that “focusing” on our Clubs/ Squadrons and members? Helping districts/squadrons with targeted support or encouraging them to consolidate with nearby districts/squadrons seems to be a much more reasonable approach.

    Here’s a few examples of our ongoing initiatives that have proven to be very successful for us: Our leadership team emphasizes “It’s all about relationships.” Current members encourage membership through word-of-mouth. We assign “Ambassadors” to all new members. The new Boat Handling course replacing Seamanship is up-to-date and very good, finally!! We HIGHLY encourage the six seminars…with good results. We have about 6-8 “casual dress” (no uniforms) dinner meetings throughout the year. Our numerous “day cruises” have become very popular. This year we have 25 cruises planned including two overnight cruises. I’m sure the cruises have helped with our reputation of not only providing education, but also providing on-the-water activities as well. Our cruises are narrated by the captain that organized the cruise. We emphasize that we are a “boating club and not a dinner club.” The editor of our club’s monthly newsletter, Ocean Breeze, includes bios of new members with pictures. Included in the OB are pictures of each event on the water, dinner meeting guest speakers, and the calendar of upcoming cruises and events. Our ABC courses are our major pathway to new members. Therefore, at least two all-day ABCs are conducted throughout the year. Sometimes we conduct another ABC based on request. Our education focus leads members through courses/seminars that lead them to BOC certifications. Our new renovated website is easy to use and makes it easy for the public to join our Squadron. And lastly, our two major Community Service projects are very well received.

    Finally, we are committed to focusing on increasing and maintaining membership through building relationships. Thank you for spending time to read my comments and recommendations.

    Peter Dion, SN-IN
    America’s Boating Club Hilton Head

  43. Having been a member for 20 years, I can say the districts have become totally irrelevant and useless as far as supporting the squadrons. Withing our district they function as an arm of a couple of the larger squadrons. Having the districts merge into regions is an interesting concept which should produce interesting political struggles and internacine battles among the current district leaders. The implosion will be impressive if not tightly controlled and considered. Positions to the qualified with proven documented track records. As to the meetings, why do we still have in person national meetings no one is attending that we lose money on. Tripping on dollars to pick up dimes is a fools errand. The virtual meeting we held had better attendance and committee meetins were better attended than in recent years and we came away without the huge financial loss. Having the meeting in Ponte Verde is reckless and irresponsible given current events. We don’t really need to be endangering our members by having these group meetings where nothing is accomplished that can’t be done online. Lets not literally kill off our membership.

    • I totally agree with your recommendation on meetings, Scott. If moving meetings (including national meetings) to a pure virtual model is too much of a change for the organization, then moving to a hybrid model could be considered as a first step. Hybrid meetings reduce costs, and do not prevent in-person attendance for those who really want to be there in person (see for more information on virtual meetings). Having hybrid meetings at the national, district and squadron levels would reduce operating costs and increase engagement (a key driver of retention) – and hybrid meetings are not that hard to set up using current technology.

  44. I have two thoughts about our organization as they pertain to our name and our purpose. I joined a boating organization that offered education on boating skills. It happened to be called “United States Power Squadrons.” It wouldn’t have stopped me from taking classes or joining something called anything else – as long as I could learn about boating. The most important aspect to me was learning from a boater that know the waters upon which I would be boating. With that in mind, I feel that education, in-person or remote, is a squadron responsibility. National should continue to develop material and market education, to be taught locally. Districts can coordinate among the squadrons (like our SEO is doing now); National should help with education in those districts and squadrons where delivering educational classes is a struggle. I think National should not get into education for the general public via a direct, on-line format. Seminars for members would be acceptable, but any course available to the public on-line directly competes with squadrons.

  45. Stanley, you nailed a key point, “The most important aspect to me was learning from a boater that know the waters upon which I would be boating.”

    We get 250 students a year in ABC3, 67% of them have more than 6 years boating experience. They take the class to learn why boaters are so crazy on our waters and we spend time talking about how what we cover applies to their boating on our waters.

  46. My wife & I have been members of the Anna Maria Sail & Power Squadron for 10 years and both of us have held quite a few positions in the squadron. I’ll admit I haven’t read all of the above comments so hopefully I’m not repeating something already said.
    I’d like to point out that being in the Sarasota/Bradenton area, the issues in Florida are somewhat different for more northern states. Here I only know of 1 member who isn’t retired. The vast majority have been boaters for a long time. We’re all pretty affluent. What we what from our squadron is social & boating activities. The classes, the safety issues & community involvement are all well respected but we’re here to have fun. Period.
    Personally, I think there is way too much emphasis on boating safety & education. Either you get it or you don’t and no amount of book learning or ‘hands on’ training is going to make a competent boater. Only lots boating will do it. When my local boating friends heard we were joining the squadron, their comments were that squadron people were the worst boaters. After 10 years of boating with them, I have to agree. Over emphasis on ‘safety’ has made them timid, fair-weather boaters. They love to put their ranks next to their names but they can’t handle a boat to save their lives.
    You can study how to dock a boat with the wind and currents from different directions but you can’t analyze a situation like that while it’s occurring – it must become intuitive and you must have a total feel for your particular boat. I designed my own 34′ power trimaran and had it built. I incorporated full 360 degree sight lines into it, easy access fore & aft for line handling, only 22″ max for draft with the engines fully down, etc. I can handle this boat by myself in any situation I will ever be exposed to, because I can, not because I took courses.
    And in Florida, and especially on the west coast with no islands far off-shore, our boating (except for pelagic fishing) is all on the ICW. No one needs piloting or navigation skills or even radar. All you need is a GPS and good old mark 1 eyeballs. Yes, the GPS can & has gone down. That is usually fixed by turning it off & on to reacquire the satilites. If it’s a power loss, I have charts & a compass, plus the good old mark 1 eyeballs. If there’s a terrible storm and/or fog so that I can’t see, I just pull over and anchor in a safe spot. Of course, no one else out in it anyway.
    Finally, I do agree with the comments above about members being focused on their own squadron and not dictrict or national. Face it, as far as retirees in Florida, this is 90% a social club.

  47. If the members of the ad hoc group running this endeavor, National Executive Officer Craig Fraser, including David Allen, Allan Bombard, John Crawford, Bob David, Myles Gee, Paul Mermelstein and Ralph Ziegler haven’t read this last year’s and this year’s Finance Committee Report they need to do so now.

    In this year’s Executive Summary they state:
    “Key facts and conclusions of this Report are:
    • USPS membership numbers continue to decline.
    • USPS revenues continue to decline.
    • USPS would have sustained a deficit last fiscal year without cancellation of the in-person
    Annual Meeting, imposition of the Board of Directors-adopted dues increase (“processing
    fee”), and other cost savings Squadron health continues to decline.
    • USPS leaders refuse to participate in identifying and implementing cost-saving measures
    or engage with the Committee.
    • No organizational strategic plan is being prepared or implemented.
    • The budget is unsustainable going forward, but the Committee’s revenue projections are
    proven accurate.
    • Fiscal Bylaw compliance has broken down, raising concerns.
    • The Committee is under attack simply for fulfilling its duties to the Governing Board, and
    Bylaws procedures for filling Committee vacancies are not being followed or respected.
    • The Board of Directors wants a multi-year dues increase and/or a uniform dues structure.
    • The Board of Directors will not allow the Governing Board to consider coupling cost
    reductions with a dues increase proposal.
    • No financial and organization planning collaboration is taking place, and leadership will
    not discuss financial issues with the Committee.
    • The overall financial condition of USPS is threatened and getting worse, but there is an
    opportunity to right the ship.
    • We need a collaborative action plan to save our organization.”

    Everyone who commented above should seek out a copy of this report and read it. The report is not just full of dire warnings, but has some very sound suggestions, including one or two about seeking professional help to provide an outside look at ways to right our sinking ship.

    One can only hope that this ad hoc group will take to heart the messages contained in this report.

Comments are closed.