PLATTSBURGH - The North Country has one of the most important resources for a thriving community, says Chris Duley, but it's one he considers greatly underutilized.
"I think that Lake Champlain, especially Cumberland Bay and the western shore of the lake, is probably the best-kept secrets going," said Duley, who serves as head of the Cumberland Bay Community Boating Center. "It is, by far, the best sailing and boating venue that there is in the Northeast."
Duley has been trying to promote an increased use of nonmotorized watercraft Lake Champlain for the past six years. Through coordination with the City of Plattsburgh Recreation Department, Duley has continued to offer the Learn to Sail program to do just that.
"Learn to Sail is a week-long program we offer twice in the summer for both kids 12 and up and for adults," explained Duley.
The concept behind the program is to get people of all skill levels acclimated to sailing under the direction of certified instructors teaching land- and water-based activities. Participants learn the basics of concepts such as "rigging, points of sail, sailing maneuvers, safety and recovery." However, that's just the beginning of what Duley said he'd like to see offered by the Cumberland Bay Community Boating Center, which currently has no official home.
"We are in the process of trying to offer a much larger program," said Duley. "We're trying to coordinate with the city to get a permanent place on the waterfront that would allow us to eventually host something longer than one-week sessions."
Extended sailing camps and incorporating canoeing and kayaking clinics are among some of the ideas, said Duley.
"The biggest thing for us before we proceed is to have a permanent, physical presence on the lake," said Duley, who noted the center is only visible when the program operates off Wilcox Dock.
Having a permanent building would allow for secure boat storage as well, he added. Currently, the program's 10 boats are left outdoors during the winter months and are subject to the elements.
"We demast the boats and put those away for the winter, but the boats are left outside," said Duley.
The center relies on volunteers to help prepare the boats for use each summer, he said, adding the Adirondack Young Professionals are organizing a clean up day this Saturday, July 17, at Wilcox Dock. The nonprofit civic organization is recruiting volunteers to help with the effort from 7-10 p.m.
"It's a lot of manual labor to bring them down to beach clean them up and put the masts up, explained Duley, who encouraged people to volunteer their help this weekend. "Many hands make light work."
Those interested in volunteering this Saturday or in participating in the Learn to Sail program may contact Duley at 572-9477 or by visiting www.boatthebay.com. The program will be held Tuesday, July 27, through Saturday, July 31, and Tuesday, Aug. 3, through Saturday, Aug. 7. Sessions for youths will be held from 1-4 p.m. and sessions for adults will be from 5-8 p.m.
Participants will receive a U.S. Sailing certification book upon completion of the program.
The cost is $175 per program with registration also available by contacting the City of Plattsburgh Recreation Department at 324-7709.