top of page

Setting Sail

Buffalo Community Boathouse Offers Opportunities for Veterans and Underserved Youth

Diana Augspurger is the kind of person you can share what’s on your mind with over a cup of coffee.  You immediately develop a sense of trust in her as you talk. She speaks with simple truthfulness that inspires trust, and it starts with statements like this:

“There is something magical about figuring out how to make that boat move through the water just by using the wind.”

“What can I do for kids that is going to be transformational? This is it - it just happens to be wrapped up in fun!”

 “That is why this sport is so fantastic for relaxation because you literally cannot think of anything else while you are in the midst of it; it completely unchecks your brain.”

Here, Diana describes her passion for sailing. With experiences as a nurse, holding a captain’s license, and previously serving as a Commodore, Diana is now Program Director of the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club. She is part of a six-person Board of Directors that helps provide sailing programs for underserved groups: youth ages 11-15 and veterans. The Buffalo Community Boathouse is a non-profit organization that fills the void for sailing in Buffalo. Diana is the “people connector” of the group. Other volunteers provide a range of services, from sailing instruction to boat repair and ground maintenance to coordinating donations and logistics. 

Although Diana always had an interest in sailing, with a brief exposure at age seventeen, she is a late bloomer. When her kids were young, she thought it would be fun to take classes together and learn, but she was the only one bitten by the bug! Years later, in 2013, she started a program through the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club called Discover Buffalo Sailing, an introductory sailing course to develop comfort aboard a sailing boat. Through this program, and her eventual path to instructing, Diana saw the impact sailing has on people, with conversational stories of adventure after long weekends on the water as well as the sense of pride and accomplishment. For such reasons, Diana decided to help establish the community boathouse. 

The Buffalo Community Boathouse is in its third year of operation. Finding suitable property where the docks could withstand weather was a challenge. But after years of determination, the Buffalo Community Boathouse found its home a little beyond Gallagher Beach at 1515 Fuhrmann Blvd, at the Seven Seas South End Marina.

Through donations and grants, the Boathouse provides free sailing programs to youth and veterans. The youth program, ‘Say Yes, It's Sailing,’ has provided instruction to 30-40 students from July through mid-August. The program focuses on youth who would otherwise not be exposed to sailing. After a “comfort test” to help gauge a student’s sensitivity around water, students go out with instructors (many of whom are U.S. Sailing certified) to learn about sailing as well as local geography.

Many youth are unaware that they even live beside a lake! Buffalo is located at the eastern end of Lake Erie, the shallowest and warmest of the Great Lakes. Diana says, “Situational awareness, physics, accountability, leadership, resilience – it’s all built into this little sailing program.” The Boathouse works with local partners such as Ladders to the Outdoors, which provides transportation from community facilities to the Boathouse, as well as the local YMCA that offers the comfort test. This test requires students to swim 20 yards in a life jacket so they know they won't sink if a boat flips. 

Sailing is not as popular as other publicized sports, and most kids’ sports are team sports. But as Diana points out, you aren’t fighting against Mother Nature in those team sports. The challenge in sailing is that spectators can’t fully watch the race unfold. Yet it’s an immersive sport; in order to get from Point A to Point B, a person needs to make thousands of decisions within seconds while the water, the boat, and the wind all move.

Focusing on the task at hand provides organic healing that is especially beneficial to veterans. Studies have shown that activity-based therapies such as sailing provide individuals—specifically service members—the opportunity to exercise, socialize, and engage with the natural environment while attaining relief from their psychological symptoms.

Of all the hats Diana has worn, she may be most proud to be an ex-military wife. She has a special place in her heart for her ‘vets.’ Being able to deliver the 'Veterans Afloat' program and a place for veterans to convene is important. Registration for the sailing program is free, and veterans can go out on the six person sails (plus one skipper and crew member) as many times as they’d like. Special equipment is not required and life jackets are available. All that is needed is proof of service and for the individual to be nimble enough to be on a boat. An Adaptive Water Sports program is also available for veterans with access challenges. Boats launch beginning the week of May 20th and the season runs through the second week of September.

For more information, to donate, and/or to get involved with the Buffalo Community Boathouse, visit




bottom of page