Sea Scouting in America was founded in 1912 by Arthur A. Carey. Carey's pamphlet Cruising for Sea Scouts was the first program literature and the program was the first older boy option offered American Scouts.

Sea Scout troops were similar to Boy Scout troops. They wore khaki uniforms, subscribed to the Scout Oath and law and passed the Tenderfoot requirements. Sea Scouts had to be at least 15 years old and weigh at least 112 pounds. Gradually the program took on a more nautical character. Units were called ships. The age-old organization of skippers, mates, boatswains, coxswains and crews began to be used.

In May 1949, the National Executive Board made sweeping changes in the older-boy program. This revision of Senior Scouting recognized as Explorers all young men who were 14 years of age or older and registered with the Boy Scouts of America. So, on September 1, 1949, the Sea Scouts officially became Sea Explorers. This was primarily a change in terminology since the old Sea Scout program continued much the same is it had in the past. In 1972, Sea Exploring (along with all other phases of Exploring) officially became coed.

In 1998, the Boy Scouts of America split up the Exploring program and Sea Exploring was placed in the Venturing Division and renamed Sea Scouts.