In March 2017, Sea Scout Ship 564 needed help.
The troop had spent months working to repair the drydocked and damaged Conquest. Despite various fund-raising efforts, money was completely exhausted and extensive paint work still had to be done.
Then a Grunion Gazette article about their plight caught the eye of Larry Felix, president and executive director of Cardinal Paint. Cardinal was founded in 1952 by Marvin Ekstrom, who lived in Long Beach and supported the community until his death. Marvin Ekstrom’s son Stanley became the president of Cardinal in 1988. Like his father, Stanley Ekstrom loved philanthropy and the water. Given the Ekstrom family history, Felix said it seemed fitting for Cardinal Paint to support the Long Beach Sea Scouts.
“Long Beach has a long maritime history,” Felix said, “and these Scouts are the people who are carrying it forward.”
Felix contacted Johnny Bradford, Skipper of the S.S.S. Conquest Ship 564, with an offer to supply paint and cover the ship’s remaining expenses.
As Felix got to know the Sea Scouts, his appreciation grew. In April 2018, he attended the group’s annual squadron review. Felix said he was particularly impressed by the crew's boat handling maneuvers. After he watched 16-year-old boatswain Kaitlyn Madland dock the 50-foot Conquest in a 60-foot space, he commented that she had more skill than many adults.
“Kaitlyn is a phenomenal sailor,” Felix said. “I just can’t say enough about the great job these Scouts are doing.”
In 2002, Stanley Ekstrom spent $1.6 million to purchase a 55-foot Fleming yacht, named the Emma E in honor of his mother. After Stanley’s death, the Emma E became the property of the Stanley W. Ekstrom Foundation, an organization devoted to “furthering the reach of a philanthropic heart.”
Felix, an executive with the Foundation, decided that Sea Scout Ship 564 would be a worthy new owner for the luxurious vessel. In May 2018, Felix called Bradford to discuss the possibility of transferring the yacht to the Sea Scouts.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Bradford said.
Neither could Tony Fleming, the founder of Fleming Yachts.
“I am as surprised as anyone,” Fleming said. “But I’m delighted that this beautiful boat has been bequeathed to such a worthwhile cause.”
Fleming was among the dignitaries in attendance at the Sea Scouts’ Sept. 8 Commissioning Ceremony for the Emma E. Felix also was present, along with Danielle Ekstrom Tiano, Stanley Ekstrom’s niece. Tiano said she was moved by the way the ceremony honored her uncle Stanley.
Madland and fellow 16-year-old Thomas Giesie led the Sea Scouts during Saturday’s event. Madland, who said she wants to become a Sea Scout Quartermaster and attend the Maritime Academy, said she loves the way the Emma E handles.
“Even though the Emma E is five feet longer than the Conquest, it’s easier to maneuver,” Madland said. “It’s amazing that we have the opportunity to learn to use and care for something this nice.”
Bradford said he is excited about the journeys his young crew will be able to make with the Emma E. He is already planning a two-week Scout cruise to Mexico; and said his long-term goal is having the Scouts sail to Alaska.
Felix shares Bradford’s enthusiasm.
“We are just thrilled to support this program,” Felix said. “I had many wonderful adventures with Mr. Ekstrom aboard this boat, but giving it to these Sea Scouts is the best adventure of all.”