Saturday, May 24th, 2014
Access Bellingham Bay with the Community Boating Center
Todd Elsworth

The Community Boating Center in Bellingham’s Fairhaven Historic District offers direct access to Bellingham Bay. Located next to the Port of Bellingham Cruise Terminal, the facility is a great launching point for beginning boaters and visitors to the area. The Boating Center offers rentals, classes and guided trips from their Fairhaven location. The purpose of the organization is to provide access for people to get out on the water in small boats with the knowledge and equipment necessary in the Pacific Northwest marine environment.


The Rental Fleet
The fleet of boats that they have on-site to choose from is impressive. There are plenty to choose from in the first-come first-served rotation. You may reserve boats if you have a group of 4 or more. If you know you’re going to be coming to the Boating Center more than once, you should consider a Season’s Pass.

Paddle: 6 tandem sea kayaks, 22 single sea kayaks, 12 sit-on-tops and 8 SUPs. Brands include Delta, Necky, Ocean Kayak and Eddyline kayaks.

Sail: 2 keelboats, 7 dinghies, a modest fleet of sailboats including 14′ & 16′ Sunfish

Row: 4 rowboats, 6 single sculls


Boating Classes
The foundation of the Boating Center is their empowering people through positive experience to get safely on the water through fundamental education. Their introductory classes are for people new to boating and beginning to make it part of their lifestyle (which is a great lifestyle, BTW). Their syllabus of classes are geared for Boating 101 students that need the introduction to the sport.

Off Season, aka Indoor classes, are offered in the fall and winter to cover the basics of Navigation, Tides & Currents and Boat building. These programs and the upkeep of the fleet and the facility are supported by an involved community of volunteers who share their time to teach and support staff and care for the public.

Check out the full calendar of classes.


Youth Camps
There are a couple camps to choose from but the favorite is the Youth Sail and Paddlesport Camp- a sampler of many of the activities offered at the Community Boating Center: sailing, kayaking, stand-up-paddleboarding, and occasionally outrigger canoeing and rowing. Youth Camps start in June.


Guided Trips
Choose from a monthly Full moon paddle, a see a show with tiny phytoplankton on a Bioluminescence Paddle, or cruise the bay on a Sunset Paddle. The guided evening paddles are a mix of fun on the water, socializing, and basic skills instruction. You’ll use tandem sea kayaks, which are incredibly stable boats for the new or novice paddler. If you’ve taken their Sea Kayak 101 class, ask about joining in a single kayak. They’ll provide instruction on entering/exiting, fitting, and maneuvering the boat, but the focus is the on-water experience. Our guides are experienced kayakers with knowledge of the local area, the skills to keep you safe, and plenty of experiences to learn from. If you’ve never been on Bellingham Bay or in a kayak, this is a great introduction to both!  Each guided evening paddle is three hours from start to finish with a break sometime in the middle.

The evening paddles occur as weather permits and pre-registration is required. These trips fill up quickly, so register early!

Insider Info
I spoke with Education Coordinator, Mike McKenzie about what he is most excited about for the year ahead and with a proud smile shared that he was, “excited to be able to attend to the little details- whether it’s improving an aspect of the facility or making the customer experience better”. It is evident that the culture at the Community Boating Center is one of support and a welcoming staff. If you’re new to boating or new to the area, head to Fairhaven and get out on the water ASAP!

Partners and Resources
The Port of Bellingham is a key partnership to enable the existence of the center. Other key resources include Yeager’s Sporting Goods, Whatcom Association for Kayak Enthusiasts (WAKE), Bellingham Power Squadron, Corinthean Yacht Club, REI Bellingham and Kite, Paddle & Surf. 

For more about things to do and where to stay in Bellingham visit our home page.

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About the Author:

As the co-Executive Director of Recreation Northwest and the founder of the Bellingham Traverse, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. He enjoys biking, hiking, paddling, skiing and will try anything twice. Get connected at

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