Our Sports, Your Story: Learning by Sailing on the Lake

In order to comply with state orders, the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center had to choose to either open up their rental services to the community, or to continue their tradition of educating kids on sailing.


Since the first Olympics in 1896, athletes from around the globe have competed in sailing. However, at the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center this summer, the word competition is not even on the deck.

“Sailing camp helps focus on what thing I actually need to focus on,” camper Uli Amelia Dougherty-Mase said.

“Sailing is just one of the best things that I’ve been doing,” Benjamin Edwards said.

“I like going by ourselves,” 8-year-old camper Olivia Challenger said.

“Just like having fun and being out on the lake,” fellow 8-year-old camper Lina Wissedietrich said.

In order to comply with state orders, the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center had to choose to either open up their rental services to the community, or to continue their tradition of educating kids on sailing. They chose the future of the sport.

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Sail With Purpose: Vt. Nonprofit Has New Way to Raise Awareness of ‘Hitchhikers’

Advocates for Lake Champlain hope an eye-catching new message reminds boaters to take steps to block invasive plants or animals from spreading between waterways

By Jack Thurston • Published August 25, 2020 • Updated on August 25, 2020 at 11:30 pm


With the COVID-19 pandemic creating rises in both staycations and in physically distanced outdoor activities like boating, environmental advocates are renewing a call to protect lakes, ponds and other waterways in Vermont and the rest of New England from potential threats.

Boaters, whether launching into Lake Champlain or pulling back to land, have long been mindful of “hitchhikers.” Those include invasive plants, like the curly-leaf pondweed, or tiny animals, like the banded mystery snail, the vessels could’ve unintentionally picked up, putting the next waterway they visit at risk of infestation.

“Caring about where you live is a big part of it,” Colchester resident Taylor Bean said of boating. “The lake, the environment — you want to take care of it.”

The Lake Champlain Basin Program wants to keep awareness high by raising a new sail on a boat that’ll be in heavy use for the remainder of the season and in future years. It has a message on it: “Stop aquatic hitchhikers.”

The sail will head onto the lake from the Community Sailing Center in Burlington, which expects the eye-catching design by local artist Nikki Laxar to really spark curiosity in that message.

“Asking questions is the first step to learning more and caring more, and that’s the hope,” said Bianca Roa of the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center.

The Lake Champlain Basin Program said that, based on its tallies at inspection stations around the lake, use appears up this summer. The theory is that staycationers or short-drive visitors are embracing boating as a way to have fun while staying physically distant during the pandemic.

The program said that, this season, it has inspected roughly 15,000 boats at inspection stations looking for aquatic hitchhikers, compared to approximately 10,000 in most summers.

The group wants those folks to remember to always clean, drain, and dry their boats and equipment before going between any waterways, and to also check things like their dogs’ life vests.

Additionally, the nonprofit wants people to never dump the contents of their home aquariums into the lake or water sources that feed into it.

Following these recommendations could well keep pests out of local ecosystems, and protect recreation-based economies as well.

“I think that it is really important, even if you’re not from Vermont, to understand and respect all the bodies of water that you encounter during your travels,” Laxar told NECN and NBC10 Boston.

“We do care deeply about all water across the northeast, and the country and the world, for that matter,” added Meg Modley of the Lake Champlain Basin Program. “And we really want to prevent the spread and the introduction of invasive species.”

Modley is optimistic the eye-catching sail will help remind boaters to take simple steps to protect waterways they visit.

A Commitment to Change

Over the last few weeks, our staff has watched individuals nationwide stand up and speak out against the racial injustice impacting communities of color. Their words have encouraged reflection and highlighted the work ahead of us at the Community Sailing Center. We stand with those in our community who experience repression at the hands of others, and we strongly denounce any actions of violence, discrimination and hate.

We recognize that the Community Sailing Center has work to do to ensure that our staff, board and daily participants are a reflection of the diverse communities we serve. The journey towards diversity and inclusion will be long and achieved through short and long term changes. Lasting change in the sport of sailing, on-water recreation, and among our community of participants can only be achieved by incorporating different voices and perspectives. We know this growth is a legacy meant for more than just one person, partnership, or program.  

As we move forward, the Community Sailing Center commits to the following action steps in order to bridge the gap:

  1. Conduct an internal diversity & inclusion audit of our organization, practices, and participants to be completed by 2021.
  2. Develop key performance indicators based off of those findings and report on how we realized these goals.
  3. Institutionalize cultural competency as part of our annual staff training. 
  4. Work towards a minimum of 20% BIPOC participation on the board & 20% BIPOC hired for seasonal and full time staff.

There are always more conversations to be had and more things that can be done. We see them as way points, not destinations. There is no end of this journey and no point where we get to declare victory for having more diverse participation. These successes could have been accomplished many years ago. As an organization, we will take time to understand the barriers we are aware of, and those we are not. It is only then that we can make our center truly inclusive for all. 

As we continue to dig deeper into how we can better serve our community, we welcome your feedback. 

-The Community Sailing Center Team

Community Sailing Center Unveils the Nation’s First Free Sailing Program

Free Sailboat Rentals This Fall Thanks to the WaterWheel Foundation

Burlington, VT — The Community Sailing Center (CSC) is excited to announce their Free Sailing Program which will offer free sailboat rentals to all sailors in our community from September 7 to October 14. In line with their mission of creating lake access and life lessons for all, the program is designed to eliminate financial barriers to recreation on Lake Champlain and to the sport of sailing. The Free Sailing Program is the first of its kind in the United States.

“This opportunity came to light during our New Horizon Summit in June, where we collected our supporters, campers, parents, and staff to envision the future for the Community Sailing Center. There was tremendous energy and interest toward exploring this simple idea.” said Executive Director Owen Milne. “With a generous gift from The WaterWheel Foundation, we are eager to live our mission and further break down barriers to accessing Lake Champlain.”

The WaterWheel Foundation is a Vermont based non-profit organization created by the rock band Phish. “When the Community Sailing Center approached us about the idea for free access to boating on Lake Champlain, we immediately saw this as a big benefit to the greater Burlington community and also to the lake,” remarks Beth Montouri Rowles, General Manager of Phish. “Access to the lake is essential to the mission of protecting its environmental well-being.  We are happy to be able to help provide this opportunity.” 

All renters who partake in this program will be required to pass a written sailing assessment and submit a short survey prior to their sail. Sailing will be available during regular fall hours on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm. The boats included in the program include 23’ Sonars and 19’ Rhodes keelboats or dinghies such as the 420s, and Lasers.


Call 802.864.2499 for more information or to reserve a keelboat rental. All other boats are first come first serve.


About the WaterWheel Foundation: The WaterWheel Foundation was created by Phish in 1997 to oversee the band’s various charitable activities with a mission of supporting Vermont-based non-profits and others in need. The WaterWheel Foundation chooses non-profits from a large sphere of needs including social services, primarily those benefiting women and children; environmental, with a focus on clean water and land conservation with public access; as well as food banks, urban gardening and the like. Thanks to the generosity of the fans, since its creation WaterWheel’s Touring Division has donated over $1,000,000 to more than 425 groups.

VPR – Community Sailing Center Puts Kids At The Helm

August 20, 2018 | Ari Snider

In Burlington, one of the surest signs of summer are the small white sailboats messing around on Lake Champlain. The boats belong to the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center, which offers lessons, youth camps, and special programs all summer.

On a humid afternoon last week, dozens of kids in bathing suits and bright life jackets were hanging out on the dock at the Sailing Center, which just moved into a new building on the Burlington waterfront…

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Adventure Sports Network – Cheap and Deep: The Best of Burlington, Vermont On a Budget

July 9, 2018 | By Kade Krichko

Tucked in between picturesque Lake Champlain, the Green Mountains and the Canadian border, Vermont’s cultural hub of Burlington sets the standard for quintessential New England beauty.

Aside from its easy access to mountain biking, hiking, climbing and water sports in the summer, Burlington is also home to the University of Vermont and a vibrant artistic community, adding a healthy dose of culture to its natural surroundings… The best way to see the beauty of Lake Champlain is from the water, but instead of ponying up for a pricey sailboat or motorboat rental, hit the Community Sailing Center

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NBC5 – Kayaking safety tips from Community Sailing Center

by Renee Wunderlich

Staying safe out on the water starts with wearing a life jacket and making sure all your gear is in good shape.

“(For) a good paddle, you’re looking for something really solid, one that has no breaks in it,” said Mary Dowd at the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center.

She said kayaking is fun for all ages, but there are some key safety measures to keep in mind.

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Sailing Anarchy: Change is Good

Sailing is not just an elitist sport but also a platform for education, access, and a conduit for change. By Charlotte Longley and Jen Guimaraes

For years, sailing has been viewed as simply a recreational sport reserved for the upper echelons of society – those people with the means and access to join their local yacht club or boathouse. And yet, the opportunities that sailing can provide can have a far greater impact on society than simply leisure. Whether it’s used as an educational tool, a means to create access, or a platform to instill valuable life skills, the world of sailing shouldn’t be reserved for the elite – it should be open to everyone.

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Observer.com: Who Knew There Was So Much to Do in Burlington, Vermont?

Bernie’s adopted hometown is a total fun-fest for a summer weekend

Downtown Burlington, where you'll find bars, restaurants, shops and Ben & Jerry's.

Downtown Burlington, where you’ll find bars, restaurants, shops and Ben & Jerry’s. (Photo: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

The secret to survival all New Yorkers eventually learn is that, every once in awhile, you need to get the hell out of this place and breathe in some fresh air. As summer has us all itching to escape, places that feel simple and eclectic as well as reminiscent of coveted fictional towns, like Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow, are calling our names. If you want a perfect destination for this craving, head to Burlington, Vt., a town that mixes chic city luxuries, good food and boutique accommodation with proximity to nature. Only a one-hour flight, it’s the perfect weekend retreat.

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Students Get Stem Lessons on The Waters of Lake Champlain

Report By: Amy Ash Nixon, VTDIGGER.COM

BURLINGTON – Students from local schools are learning the ropes through a new science, math, engineering and technology program on Lake Champlain.

The Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center has offered on-craft courses since 2008, and recently created a new program, Floating Classrooms, that gives more than 900 students a year an opportunity to apply their science and math knowledge as they sail across the lake.
Read more here!