Learn to Sail' helping more enjoy Lake Champlain

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.

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