Heidi Schalberg, 15, and her younger cousin Katherine O'Donnell are spending some of their summer vacation on the water, learning the ropes at Sail Buffalo on the Buffalo River.
- Sail Buffalo could be forced to move from its current location
- The U.S. Coast Guard owns the property and plans capital improvements and more public access in the area
- Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling on the Coast Guard to let Sail Buffalo stay
"We've learned the parts of the boats," Schalberg said. "We were taught this is called the boom because that's the sound it makes when it swings and hits your head."
They're part of crew of more than 400 kids who are part of the program this summer. Heidi's older brother was a sailing student for four years here.
Sail Buffalo offers sailing camps for kids, as well as training and certifications for adults too.
"We have happy parents who continue to send their kids here for years and years. We have counselors who've been with us for over seven years already. We're doing well," said Pierre Wallinder, Sail Buffalo's director of operations.
The school’s been in its current spot along the harbor across from Canalside and the Naval & Military Park for more than six years through a deal with the U.S. Coast Guard, which owns the property.
"We were given the license because a similar mission as the Coast Guard. We have sailing and boating and safety, and access to the water,'' Wallinder said.
Sail Buffalo, however, might need to find a new place to drop anchor. The Coast Guard is planning upgrades to the station, and wants to use the space for better public access to the nearby 1833 Lighthouse. A spokesman said the Coast Guard has already given the school a two-year extension on its lease after informing Sail Buffalo of its plans in 2017. Sail Buffalo has until the end of next year to move, but Wallinder says this is the perfect location because of the smooth water and shelter from the weather along Lake Erie.
"We have nine buildings and 25 boats and thousands of participants. That's not something you pack up in five minutes and leave," Wallinder said.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, is calling on the Coast Guard to reverse course, and find a way to let Sail Buffalo stay put.
"Sail Buffalo has been a very good neighbor to the Coast Guard. They have no complaints," Schumer said. "The land is small. The impact is large. The Coast Guard is being thick-headed."
Students like Schalberg say the calm water here is the perfect place to learn a skill that could last a lifetime. She's hopeful Sail Buffalo remains where it is.
"If you really, really enjoy sailing, someday I might buy a boat and sail because I just love the water that much," she said.