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Lorraine Wilde | 08/17/2020 | Insider Blogs, Water Adventures |   

Get on the Water with the Community Boating Center

When the weather cooperates, that means getting outside to stretch your legs and soak up the sunshine. Thankfully, Bellingham’s Community Boating Center (CBC) recognizes the benefits of getting out of the house to and being in nature. Instead of cancelling their season, they have taken extra precautions to ensure the community continues to have access to safe and fun education, recreation and marine stewardship on glorious Bellingham Bay. 



I recently spoke with the Boating Center’s new Executive Director, Bryan Rust, who spent 10 years as the Director of Programs at Sail Sand Point in Seattle. There he pioneered an award-winning therapeutic recreation program, offering people with physical, emotional and cognitive disabilities the opportunity to experience the profound benefits of being on the water. 


Community Boating Center Bellingham Washington

Youth Programs: Looking Ahead to the Fall

The CBC offered a number of summer camps for students age 9 to 14 in June, July and August that encouraged kids to gain experience in sailing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. A group of teens age 14 to 18 also explored beginning and intermediate keelboat sailing. 



The After School Program will cover sailing, kayaking and paddle boarding while integrating the themes of marine stewardship, Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and leave-no-trace.

To participate, students in 3rd grade and up must know how to swim and be able to pass a basic skills swim check. “Shorty” wetsuits are provided to keep kids warm as the water gets colder. Parents can feel safe knowing that all CBC staff have CPR/First Aid/AED certifications as well as extensive boating and youth leadership experience.

Don’t let the price tag slow you down. Thanks to grants from the Whatcom Community Foundation, the Corinthian Yacht Club and individual donors, the CBC offers a limited number of partial and full scholarships to help get kids in need on the water.


Ongoing Adult Programs

If sailing is your vice, you can try a 2-hour age 21+ evening sail on Bellingham Bay. This sail includes a tour of the sights, some natural history and even a token for a free beer during a post-sail visit to the lively Stones Throw Brewery in Fairhaven. No prior experience is needed on this trip that will help you get your bearings in the bay.

You can also perfect your skills through beginning and intermediate keelboat and dinghy sailing and even keelboat racing classes. Learn all the basics and everything you need to feel safe on your own, including docking and mooring, the intricacies of sail trim, and person overboard procedures.



Bellingham Bay is also an excellent location for sea kayaking. The basics are covered in an affordable 3-hour beginner class, or build greater confidence and dive deeper in a rescue and recovery class. There is also the Coastal Explorer sea kayak experience, an inclusive 3-hour paddle in the Bellingham Bay area. The tour route varies based on weather but will always include local wildlife and some of the fascinating history of Fairhaven and Bellingham Bay.  



My favorite guided tour is the 3-hour evening Bioluminescent Paddle that usually happens each Friday and Saturday night. This fun nighttime paddle takes you to nearby locations known for their bioluminescent bacteria that glow blue and green when the water is agitated. Patrons are provided with tandem sea kayaks for optimal stability and safety so although friends are not required, you will have a boat partner. Because this popular paddle fills quickly, you should book early to reserve your spot.

If you’re looking for some more Zen in your life, you might like the new Relaxation Float. Scheduled for the calmest times on the water—in the mornings and evenings—you can choose a paddleboard, or tandem or sit-on-top kayaks. Rather than focusing on skills, this paddle starts on land with a sun salutation stretch followed by guided relaxation practice and breathing techniques on the water.

Watch their website for fun special event paddles as well, including upcoming LBGTQ+ paddles and upcoming classes.


Rentals for Those with Experience

The CBC offers season passes and hourly rates for rentals for a variety of keelboat and dinghy sailing, kayaks, paddle boards and rowboats. A discount of 50% is offered to people with disabilities, Veterans, students and active-duty military with valid I.D., except on hourly rental and family passes. Family passes include up to four people living in the same household, regardless of relation. 

Insider Trip: Sailboat rentals require a 45- to 60-minute skills test for a fee, or successful completion of a dinghy or keelboat sailing class or refresher training. Sea kayak rentals require an acknowledgement that you’ve successfully practiced a wet exit and recovery in the past.



Private Lessons & Custom Youth & Community Enrichment Programming

Private lessons are often the most efficient way to gain the skills you need to safely enjoy the coastal waters of Bellingham Bay and beyond. The CBC offers private lessons in all of their watercraft for all levels of experience. The CBC is also dedicated to offering quality boating education and access to the youth groups of Whatcom County. The CBC looks forward to deepening their community outreach and collaboration with groups like the Vamos Outdoor Project and Veterans on the Water. Custom Youth Enrichment Programs are available by contacting the CBC via the Programs Manager, or by calling 360-714-8891.



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