Getting Access to the Water
Community Boating, Inc.,
members have unlimited use of the club's sailboats, kayaks, and
windsurfers. A relatively small membership fee gives area residents
access to the water and supports a program that gives youth the
opportunity to sail all summer for just a dollar.
In Burlington, Vt., the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center
offers a welcoming and accessible place for affordable sailing,
kayak and canoe lessons and rentals, as well as boat storage for
the community and visitors.
There are publicly accessible boating facilities and programs
in New Bedford and Lawrence, Mass., Baltimore, New York City and
Philadelphia. Similar operations are cropping up in waterfront
communities around the nation.
Why is there no such program here in Annapolis? It is the self-proclaimed
sailing capital of the world, where the Chesapeake Bay has been
the center of life for centuries but where, today, relatively
few people have any access, let alone affordable access, to the
water or to boating.
A group of local residents with diverse boating interests and
experiences is addressing that question and hoping to fill the
void by establishing a community boating center. The group intends
to create a center for non-motorized boating that provides public
access to the water, boats and boating instruction for all people
living in or visiting the Annapolis area. Along the way, they
know a stronger appreciation will grow for the body of water that
has sustained this city and the region for generations.
The effort began when Sue Buyaskas, a competitive rower, heard
friends complain that there was no place to keep and launch their
kayaks. Even to launch a mile away on any one of the creeks, one
must load up the car, drive to an access point, find legal and
neighborhood-friendly parking, unload, and do it all over again
next time. "They wished that there was a place to keep and launch
a boat locally that didn't cost an arm and a leg," says Buyaskas.
She also knew that some members of the Annapolis Rowing Club would
like a boat house to call their own.
Buyaskas began inquiring with friends to see if water access was
an issue to them, and the momentum began to grow. Sailors, paddlers,
rowers, even board sailors shared the same frustration and desire
to remedy the situation. "I am passionate about the water and
see a huge opportunity to expand access to everyone, not just
the privileged," says Julie Winters, an Annapolis resident and
The group began to take stock of public boating access in the
city and the county. They found that while the city does have
many public access points for individuals to launch small boats,
parking can be difficult, boats cannot be stored, and running
any kind of public program would be difficult. Sandy Point State
Park has a boat ramp. The county makes kayak rentals available
at Quiet Waters Park and is improving Jonas Green Park at the
foot of the Naval Academy Bridge to make human- and wind-powered
boating more accessible. But, "unless you compete, there is no
small boat access with facilities," says Winters. "They are all
geared toward racing."
The group concluded that unless one owns waterfront property,
has community water privileges, can afford to belong to a yacht
club or owns a vessel, there are few ways to get out on the water.
Because of these financial and physical barriers, many people
living at the edge of the county's 500-plus miles of waterfront
have never been exposed to the beauty of the Bay or the fitness
benefits and simple pleasures of boating. A community boating
facility could "open up a whole new world to a lot of people,"
says Chris Hughes, a rower with the Annapolis Rowing Club. His
wife Sarah remembers growing up in Alexandria where a boat house
was available to students through the school system. She would
like to see more students have the same opportunity to row as
While there are many models for public boating programs around
the nation, the Annapolis group does not know exactly what form
the Annapolis Community Boating Center will take. Buyaskas says
the center could begin by simply providing access to secure racks
or boat storage in a number of locations. Ultimately, the group
envisions that the center will be a welcoming community focal
point where anyone can learn about boating, go sailing, rowing
or paddling and be part of an all-inclusive "water-privileged"
community. It would target non-profit boating organizations, underprivileged
kids and people who don't otherwise have access to the water.
The center can be home to competitive rowing and sailing teams
as well as non-profit boating and maritime education programs.
It can be a place for experienced boaters to launch at the same
time that it is a place for first-timers to learn. The center
will complement and likely be a stepping stone to the many sailing
schools, kayaking outfitters and environmental programs offered
in the region. But first and foremost, "it is what people make
of it," says Buyaskas. "It will become what the community wants
"There is a real need for public launch sites and boat storage
for kayakers," says Brian Blankinship, coordinator of the Chesapeake
Paddlers Association. "A boating center like this could address
these issues, offer classroom space for safety training and make
paddling more accessible in Anne Arundel County."
Anne Harrington, a founder of Box of Rain, a program that teaches
sailing, boating, water safety, environmental and cultural studies,
and trade skills to area youth, is helping to get the boating
center up and running. Her program works to inspire youth to use
their experiences on the water to gain self-esteem and develop
life skills that lead to positive contributions to the community.
"We need a home, and a place like this would be perfect," says
Last summer during its first season of operation, 27 kids went
through the Box of Rain program, and this year 30 signed up. Harrington
says the program was so successful that there is more demand than
the program can handle right now. "I can't tell you the satisfaction
[we feel] after one year of working with these kids," she says.
"We could handle more, but our facilities and equipment are limited."
"The Board of Directors of the Annapolis Maritime Museum strongly
believes that a community boating center would bring a lot to
the community and are very supportive of the concept," says Buck
Buchanan, chairman of the museum's board. "We are great believers
in the potential for programs like this. Part of our mission is
to educate and inspire people with the values that are found in
our maritime heritage. One way to do that is to get them out on
the water. We see the connection between community boating and
Connections with people, with sport and with the water is what
it's all about for Joel Sachs, an Annapolis resident who has been
involved with community boating programs in Boston and the San
Francisco Bay area. "It's not about being in a boat, it's way
more than that," says Sachs. "The sense of community is really
strong. At community boating everyone within the program teaches
people who come along after them so the newer people get to know
the older people. Within a season a participant can get a real
sense of accomplishment."
The Annapolis Community Boating Center organizers are in the process
of developing informational materials, articles of incorporation,
a board of directors, and a business plan. The group is spreading
the word to generate enthusiasm and support for such a center.
At the same time they are looking for a site or sites and boats
with which to get started. "It's summer now, and we'd like to
get started this season if possible," says Buyaskas. "There is
no real reason that we should not be able to do some minimal activities
this year and build up over time."
"I am very passionate about what is possible," says Sachs. "One
of the biggest lessons I learned is the importance of having a
diverse set of programs. It is the combination of programs that
gives it vitality and longevity. Within a few short years you
can go from nothing to having a national level program, and that
experience is shared by all the participants. Community boating
is now such an integral part of the skyline, you wouldn't think
of Boston without it."
"It's quite a legacy to leave the community," says Julie Winters.
Anyone who is interested learning more, volunteering, donating
a boat or knows of potential locations can contact Sue Buyaskas