The mission of Community Boating, Inc. is to enable “Sailing for All”. We offer sailing and other water sports to people of all ages, abilities, and means in the greater Boston area. We promote an accessible and welcoming environment that encourages learning, volunteerism, and community spirit.
Located on the Charles River Esplanade between the Hatch Memorial Shell and the Longfellow Bridge, Community Boating is the oldest public sailing organization in the United States. We have inspired community sailing programs around the country, and the image of dinghies floating on the Charles has become a classic symbol of Boston. Still, our founding mission of offering affordable, accessible Sailing For All is starkly unchanged.
CBI was founded by Joe Lee, an affluent Bostonian with an eye for social justice and a penchant for rebellion. He realized that sailing could enrich the lives of children who lived in Boston’s working-class West End neighborhood. Starting in the 1930s, his “Lee Boys” began venturing onto the Charles with plywood sailboats and makeshift canvas sails, dodging conflicts with skeptical state officials and well-heeled nearby boat clubs.
Lee’s program gradually grew less mischievous and more formal, but his kids insisted that the city needed a permanent place for cheap public sailing. They were ultimately successful: CBI was officially incorporated in 1946, and it earned 501(c)3 status by 1951.
Since then, CBI has built up a massive and diversified fleet, added scores of new classes and programs, and introduced countless adults and kids to the joy of sailing. In 2007, we founded the Universal Access Program, which offers adaptive sailing to hundreds of people with a range of physical and cognitive abilities. And over the last few years, Community Boating has won national-level awards for teaching and inclusion.
Amid these changes, CBI has maintained its core mission. We aim to break down the physical, social and financial hurdles that sailing frequently presents, allowing people of all backgrounds and abilities to join us on the water.