Community Boating Center — Safe, Accessible Boating on Bellingham Bay

Community Boating Center
Community Boating Center programs supported by fundraising activities include fun, educational youth camps and classes. Photo courtesy: Community Boating Center.

We’re coming into one of the most beautiful times of the year in Whatcom County and thousands will soon flock to appreciate the incredible resource encompassed along the shores of Bellingham Bay. The Community Boating Center, a Fairhaven-based educational non-profit focused on safe, small-boat recreation in Bellingham Bay, is a valuable resource for those looking to make a splash, whether they have a watercraft or not.

“Bellingham Bay is the largest bay in the Salish Sea and the majority of Whatcom County lives within a few miles of its shore,” says Community Boating Center Executive Director, Steve Walker. “Yet a large percentage of the community doesn’t participate in boating. Part of what we do as a non-profit is to foster people’s access to maritime experiences.”

Community Boating Center
Boating Center Executive Director Steve Walker works hard to prepare for the upcoming boating season. Photo courtesy: Community Boating Center.

Thanks to the Community Boating Center’s shared economy model and emphasis on conservation of resources, individuals without access to boats, kayaks and other watercrafts can still have fun on the water.

“Our shared economy model allows people who might not otherwise have the resources — like those living in small urban housing where storage or transport of a kayak or rowing shell isn’t an easy proposition — to incorporate this wonderful resource into their lives,” explains Walker.

And while the Community Boating Center is not an environmental organization, Walker is proud that people can reach the center using green transportation options. Conveniently located on the Whatcom Transit Authority 401 Route and just off the pedestrian and bicycle trails, Walker says, “We support boating powered by nature and calories — not petroleum.”

As a non-profit organization serving Whatcom County, the Community Boating Center is funded through competitive grants as well as tuition for youth programs and classes, direct public support, and fees from their dry moorage marina. Use by non-motorized watercraft up to 26 feet in length is supported at their location on the Fairhaven waterfront near the Fairhaven Transportation Station.

Community Boating Center
Boating Center programs supported by fundraising activities include fun, educational youth camps and classes. Photo courtesy: Community Boating Center.

The Community Boating Center has also recently received grant funding that will expand their youth programs, allowing the center to bring on a Youth Outreach Coordinator that will work with local agencies that support at-risk children.

In addition to the many resources and workshops the Community Boating Center offers the community, the center is most recently excited about the new publicly-available live web camera off Post Point that allows for real-time and archived video and weather condition information that can be used to assess and ensure the safety of boaters. Funded in part by the Whatcom Community Foundation, the camera will be managed by the City of Bellingham and will live stream on the Boating Center’s website. “We are in the lee right here at the Boating Center, but if we just go around the corner, the conditions can be windier. There have been some fatalities in that body of water and it’s long been a desire of the community to have more information. There is live wind speed data already available, but a picture is worth a thousand words,” explains Walker of the value the new webcam will add to the boating community.

Being the invigorating activity that it is, the Community Boating Center is eager to inspire community members to embrace the nearby waters and experience the joys of being on the water. “Boating is a transformational activity on both a micro and macro scale,” says Walker. “There is just something magical about floating.”

Community Boating Center
Dry moorage of small water craft is offered affordably at Community Boating Center to enable everyone to appreciate Bellingham Bay natural resources. Photo courtesy: Community Boating Center.

To further inspire the community and raise funds for the busy boating season ahead, the Community Boating Center is claiming the night before opening day for supporters of non-motorized watercrafts. “Boater’s Eve [Boogie] is our attempt to institutionalize a new holiday in Whatcom County,” says Walker. “We’d love the mayor or council to declare it officially someday,” notes Walker of his enthusiasm for the new occasion.

Boater’s Eve Boogie will take place on Friday, May 6 at 6:00 p.m. at the Squalicum Boat House. The “boogie” part of the event will be provided by local Jasmine Greene who will bring rock, soul, rockabilly, blues and pop-influenced vocals from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Yummies will include salmon sliders and craft beer by Bellingham-area breweries.

Tickets are available on the Community Boating Center’s website and at the door. “In keeping with our inclusive practices, tickets are available at multiple price levels beginning at $10 for those without many resources on up to the $30-plus ticket for those who can afford it for whom boating has changed their life and they want to spread the joy.”

The proceeds of the party will support all the exciting boating-related activities the Community Boating Center has planned for this season. In addition to renting paddle boards, kayaks and small sailboats to the public, and dry storage to local small craft owners, the center offers ongoing educational classes and youth camps that focus on fun, proper use, and safety.

Community Boating Center
Located on the shores of Bellingham Bay, the Community Boating Center offers resources for boaters of all skill level to get on the water — even if they don’t have a watercraft. Photo courtesy: Community Boating Center.

From the quiet breath of the seal that watches you float by without a single pull of the paddle to the swirl of the wake left by competitive surf ski racers that skim by in an instant, barely touching the water’s surface, the Community Boating Center is proud to support broad, non-motorized use of this valuable shared natural resource that is perched on our doorsteps — beautiful Bellingham Bay.



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