Staff

Bryan Rust
Executive Director

The Community Boating Center’s Board of Directors is excited to welcome  Bryan Rust as the organization’s new Executive Director.  He takes the helm as we kick off our 2020 season, and has been dedicated to creating ways for our community to get on the water.

Bryan brings over 10 years of experience developing skill and passion for watersports in communities around the world. Most recently, Bryan served as Director of Programs at Sail Sand Point in Seattle, where he worked toward  a vision of inclusion and access.  During his tenure, he was responsible for pioneering an award-winning therapeutic recreation program, offering people with physical, emotional and cognitive disabilities the opportunity to experience the profound benefits of being on the water. 

“Using wind and water to affect personal change in people has been the highlight of my career; the water consistently proves itself to be a remarkable therapist.”

Bryan originally learned to sail as a student at Western.  He joined the WWU Sailing team as a freshman and by the time he graduated, he was the captain of the team and competing around the country. After college Bryan spent extensive time traveling Central and South America, perfecting his Spanish and teaching kiteboarding, windsurfing, sailing and surfing. He lived in Puerto Rico for three years before making his way back to the PNW. 

Bryan returns to Bellingham with his 1957 wooden boat, and first mate Hobie (the cat) and is very excited to, once again, call Bellingham home.  

“I am honored to be able to work toward such an incredible mission in such an incredible community. The legacy of CBC is visible and I’m very proud to be part of the important work that takes place here. Now more than ever, our communities need to feel connected and inspired by the experiences we offer. ”

Sara Welsh
Director of Education & Outreach

Sara first stepped on a sailboat for a PE class at Western, and was hooked. She loved the new perspective of sailing, and the ability it gave her to connect with nature and her community. Throughout college she spent her evenings practicing on Lake Whatcom & her weekends on road trips up and down the coast competing with the Western Sailing Team. After graduation Sara continued her oceanic exploration by teaching SCUBA in Cabo San Lucas, leading a coral rehabilitation program in the Maldives and developing marine education programs for the Ritz-Carlton under the guidance of world renowned explorer, Jean-Michel Cousteau. Sara looks forward to bringing her passion and knowledge to the CBC and is working to develop a marine science curriculum for all of our programs.

Izzy Saylor
Operations Manager & Volunteer Coordinator

Izzy grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where at a young age she fell in love with the Great Lakes, specifically Lake Michigan, where she found her love for and connection to water. Three years ago she moved many miles to live near another beautiful body of water, the Salish Sea. She recently graduated from Fairhaven College at Western Washington University. She is passionate about water rights and forestry policy/activism. She looks to reduce her footprint on our watershed everyday and hopes to instill the same urgency to do so in our community. She loves anything that gets her out on the water from kayaking and rafting to swimming and floating on a sunny day!

Amber Crabb
Programs Intern & Volunteer Coordinator

Amber is studying Environmental Policy with a minor in Political Science at Western Washington University. In her free time she enjoys biking, swimming, cooking, her big orange cat Mory, and of course sailing

Anna Smith
2020 Summer Intern

Anna born and raised in Washington and Alaska both places giving her a love for the ocean. Three years ago she moved to Bellingham to attend Western Washington University. Now as a senior, she will graduate with a degree in Recreation and Leadership Management! Anna is passionate about non-profit work and recreating outside! Anna loves sharing her passions of the outdoors with others and is always ready to paddle! In her off-time you can find her most likely biking, paddling, skiing and swimming!

Chai Spelchake
Youth Camp Instructor

Chai was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and fell in love with watersports at a young age. He lives by Lake Whatcom, where he enjoys sailing and kayaking. Chai recently graduated from High School. Ever since taking his first sailing lesson in 2008(ish) he has been committed to the sport. Chai began his involvement with the Community Boating Center when he attended a youth summer camp several years ago. He not only returned to the following year's summer camp, but went on to become a Youth Camp Assistant Instructor in later years. When not helping out at the CBC, sailing or kayaking, Chai enjoys spending his time hiking with his dog, biking on Galbraith, or playing hockey or guitar.

Emily Hammond
Youth Camp Instructor & Waterfront Operations

Emily is a graduate of WWU. She is going for a masters in audiology. She sailed on the WWU team and has a passion for the water and making it accessible for all!

Sandy Rost
Sail Instructor & Waterfront Operations

Sandy has been a dedicated steward of the water for many years. Sandy grew up on Orcas Island surrounded by sea life and the wonderful Salish Sea. Sailing is the equivalent to walking for Sandy. She sailed on the WWU sailing team and is study marine biology to continue her passion of the sea!

Nick Dresel
Sail Instructor & Waterfront Operations

Nick was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, growing up sailing and enjoying marine wildlife within the coves of West Port Madison. Nick has always had a passion for and connection with sailing ever since he started at a young age. When off the water Nick enjoys other sports such as roller hockey and snowboarding on Mount Baker. He is currently a student at Western Washington University, focusing on Environmental Studies and marine stewardship within the Pacific Northwest. Nick is thankful to be a part of the Community Boating Center - being able to share his passion and knowledge of sailing while also promoting safe watercraft education.

Christine McCormick
Kayak Instructor

Growing up on the shores of Lake Superior in Northern Wisconsin, Christine spent her early summers camping in sailboats, kayaking through the sea caves of the Apostle Islands, and canoeing through the multitude of lakes and rivers in the area. This instilled an early love for the natural world around us. After high school she moved to Utah in pursuit of water in the frozen form. She graduated from Utah State University with a Psychology major, Art minor and an unofficial degree in ski bumming. In the winter Christine works as an adaptive ski instructor in the Wasatch Range in Utah. Seeing people fall in love with outdoor recreation is what drives Christine to instruct skiing and kayaking, and she feels grateful to be able to pursue her own passions while helping people explore in an environmentally conscious way. Christine also enjoys climbing, camping, backpacking, traveling, art, woodwork and learning new skills and hobbies!

Katy Coleman
Kayak Instructor

Katy was born and raised in Jackson, Wyoming. Growing up in the mountains was the foundation for her love of the outdoors. She valued her time spent in nature and the connections created through those experiences. Katy moved to Bellingham in 2016 to attend Western Washington University where she now pursues a degree in Energy Science and Technology. As Katy explored the Pacific Northwest, she became fond of the beauty and uniqueness of the Salish Sea ecosystem. She especially enjoys paddling along our local coastlines in search of sea stars, harbor seals, and other curious aquatic creatures. Katy is currently a Trip Leader for WWU’s Outdoor Center and is a kayak instructor at WWU’s Lakewood boathouse facilities. She is passionate about teaching kayaking as well as supporting community development and inclusion in the outdoors. When she is not on the water, she enjoys jumping in Bellingham bay, trail running, skiing at Mt. Baker and romping around the San Juan Islands.

The Board

Todd Shuster

Captain Todd has worked on the water for over 30 years and started serving on the CBC board in 2017. For the last 19 years, he has been the owner and operator of Gato Verde Adventure Sailing in Bellingham www.gatoverde.com . Todd holds a 100-ton US Coast Guard license. He is a former US SAILING instructor and instructor trainer. He has taught wilderness sailing courses in Baja, Mexico for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and has run several sailing programs for universities, yacht clubs, and summer camps. His additional experiences include work in the sport and commercial fishing fleets of Alaska, offshore yacht delivery, and five years live-aboard cruising.

Deborah Dempsey

Capt. Debbie Dempsey comes from community sailing programs on the mouth of the Connecticut River. She's a lifelong professional mariner whose non-traditional career has been documented in film, books, many articles and is the recipient of numerous awards. She recently retired as a pilot on the notorious Columbia River Bar. Deb's recreational sailing spans racing Blue Jays to Whitbread contenders. Her passion lies in teaching others how to recreate safely on the water leading her to help start the Community Boating Center on Bellingham Bay and presently serves the board of directors as treasurer. It's been said she has salt water in her veins and is definitely more comfortable afloat than ashore.

Lisa Brennan

The CBC offered Lisa's first big welcome to Bellingham when arriving a few years ago with a kayak and a bike but no car. It offered a place to launch and store her kayak, to connect with new neighbors, and to explore the astonishing beauty in our front yard. As she became more involved with the center as a volunteer and frequent visitor, Lisa discovered it offered so much more. She joined the board in the spring of 2017 to support the CBC mission more fully, helping to maintain access to the waterfront, preserve its extraordinary beauty and vitality, and teach practical and problem-solving skills that build confidence and connection with the natural world. After previous incarnations as an academic, a small businessperson, and a wanderer, Lisa now works in communications at Western Washington University, still wandering when she has the opportunity.

Jim Johannessen

Jim has been a lifelong boater, starting with incessantly capsizing a sunfish at age 9 or so and moving through racing many small sailboats. He raced for URI and ran a junior sailing program a few summers, led a field a program collecting oceanographic data in the Arctic, and for many years has mapped shorelines of the Salish Sea through his consulting business, Coastal Geologic Services in Bellingham. Jim designed the local beach restoration (and water access) projects at Marine Park, Boulevard Park, and Waypoint Park and others in the region. He has co-owned or owned a series of larger sailboats for cruising and racing and has worked to share boating experiences with others through the CBC.

Dirk Vermeeren

Dirk's exposure to water based activities started as a child growing up in Holland where he and his friends would fish the myriad of canals lining the countryside and jump across the narrow canals draining the farm pastures. After his parents immigrated to the US settling in Indianapolis, IN his teen years continued to evolve around the water, fly-fishing the tail waters of local reservoir dams. Over the years Dirk owned both power boats and a Thistle sailboat while enjoying the warm waters of south Florida. He became more seriously involved in sailing over the 11 years while working and living in Saudi Arabia. His understanding of sailing started with a Sunfish and progressed to racing a Laser with other expats, primarily British, Kiwis and the Saudi Coast Guard cadets. He has grown to appreciate the life lessons of sailing; increasing self confidence, increased awareness of the winds and water. Upon retiring in Bellingham his desire to introduce others to sailing and be part of a likeminded community/family is what encouraged him to become an ASA instructor and be an active member of the Community Boating Center.

Mike Passo

Mike is the Executive Director of American Trails. Mike has also served as the Executive Director of the Professional TrailBuilders Association and the owner and operator of a sea kayak outfitter out of Bellingham, WA called Elakah Expeditions. Mike has led groups of all backgrounds, ages and abilities on sea kayak expeditions in the San Juan Islands of Washington, Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and in Glacier Bay Alaska. Mike worked with Wilderness Inquiry to conduct an extensive study of outdoor developed areas nationwide to determine the cost implications of construction according to proposed American's with Disabilities Act standards, and a Congressional study on improving access to outdoor recreational activities on federal land. He has a B.S. in Recreation Resource Management from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, including three years coursework in Landscape Architecture and Civil Engineering. He has presented on Universal Design and Programming at several national conferences and served on the Board of Directors of American Trails since 2000. His love of the outdoors and his own paraplegia has given him a great interest in the creation of an accessible outdoor environment that does not ruin the characteristics and value of that environment.

Bri Snell

Bri is an avid sailor, paddler, and community member. Her nearly life-long residence in Bellingham has created deep and lasting roots which she is grateful for everyday. After many years of working in the marine industry with various trades and professions, she now brings skills from the tech world to her membership on the board. Growing up kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, being on the water has always been in her blood. After learning how to sail on a Nor’Sea 27, she knew this was her life’s passion. She now lives on her 40’ sailboat Madrona with her dog Luna. You can find her sailing most weekends, playing cribbage, and drinking a gin and tonic.

Dan Stone

Dan grew up sailing and fishing with his dad and brothers in Buzzards Bay, MA and has a close relationship to the water ever since. In college, he attended Sea Education Association where his love of the oceans grew to the point where he soon returned to education-at-sea for work. That career is what first brought him to the waters of the Salish Sea. After a small hiatus for grad school and career shift to marketing, he moved to Bellingham at the end of 2018. He’s very happy to have connected with CBC to find a way to get back to helping connect people to the water!

Greg Zimmerman

Greg started his relationship with the CBC when he was pointed to the Fairhaven location in 2013 when he asked around for local sailboat rentals. He also helped as a volunteer that season, and made the most of his season pass on the J/24s. Two kids, a number of job changes, and half a dozen boats and years later, he's excited to once again be participating with the CBC, but now as a board member! He is passionate about working with the Advancement Committee to enhance programming and secure the CBC's future. He tries to be out on the water as much as possible, and you can find him racing with the Thursday night cruising fleet or out in the San Juans.

Craig Cooper

Craig has called Bellingham home since 1996 having moved here from the East side of Seattle to attend WWU. He had a college friend get him into sailing and another friend take him kayaking and he has been hooked ever since. He now has a young family that he gets out on the water in the same way. Water access for all has always been a passion for Craig. Giving back to the CBC by serving on both the board and the advancement committee allows him to combine volunteering and helping others have affordable and safe access to Bellingham Bay.