Bryan Rust
Executive Director

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. ”

You can reach Bryan at Bryan@boatingcenter.org

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.

You can contact Sara at sara@boatingcenter.org.

Amber Crabb
Program Manager

Amber is a recent graduate of WWU where she studied Environmental Policy, Political Science, and Environmental Justice. Amber fell in love with sailing and racing small boats as a member of the WWU Sailing Team and has been a staff member here at the CBC since 2019. This season, as the Program Manager, Amber is stoked to revamp curriculum, especially that of our youth programs, to be more accessible, equitable, and focused on climate justice principles. Overall, Amber is “excited to reconnect with community members and have a great summer by / on the water!”

You can contact Amber at programs@boatingcenter.org

Christine McCormick
Lead 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!


You can contact Christine at paddle@boatingcenter.org

Yukiko Saburi

Yukiko is currently a student athlete at Western Washington University, studying for a major in Kinesiology and minor in Japanese. She grew up swimming, kayaking, doing CrossFit and is currently on the rowing team at Western. Yukiko loves being outdoors and is super energetic, and summer is her favorite season!

Gretchen Quinlan

Gretchen moved to Bellingham from Colorado following her love for the ocean. She is currently pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies at Western Washington University. She’s an avid paddle boarder and is excited to share her passion for marine science.

Anna Wohnoutka

Anna is pursuing an International Studies degree from Western Washington University. She has worked as a sailing and kayaking instructor in Seattle, and is excited to bring her experience to the Community Boating Center. In her free time, Anna enjoys hiking, photography, and spending time on the Bay with friends.

Cece Nieldsen

Cece is a junior at Western Washington University, majoring in Physics and Geology with an Astronomy minor. She learned to sail on the WWU sailing team as a freshman, and is now co-captain of the team. She loves being on the water sailing, kayaking or paddle boarding, and is grateful to pay those experiences forward at the CBC! Off the water Cece enjoys roller skating, baking and star gazing.

Maxwell Dodd

Max was raised on Whidbey Island where he fly fished, gear fished, shrimped, crabbed and clammed with his family. After high school he moved to Bellingham to pursue a degree in Computer Science at Western Washington University and joined their sailing team. He also enjoys backpacking along Washington’s coast and by alpine lakes with friends.

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!

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.

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.