Doug Merrill: Helping youngsters get out on the lake

July 28 NN Doug Merrill 1 SC

Doug Merrill started sailing as a boy on Chesapeake Bay and now considers it his mission to introduce other boys and girls to the sport. The Charlotte resident enjoys the Lake Champlain racing scene in the summer and then expands his horizons by racing ice boats in the winter.

Merrill spent two terms on the 13-person board of governors of the Lake Champlain Yacht Club (LCYC), first as director of the youth program and then as Commodore, and he continues to volunteer with the club. He joined the board because of his interest in their junior racing program. “The program has three goals,” Merrill said. “Safety, fun, and creating a life-long passion for sailing and watersports.”

The program is geared for kids aged eight through 17 and runs for eight weeks with full-day and half-day sessions of one or two weeks. Merrill said students run the gamut from those who have never sailed to those who are learning racing tactics.

“I grew up cruising with my family and then I started racing in a program similar to our junior program,” Merrill said. “I raced in college and when I moved to Vermont I started racing again.”

The LCYC has ten single-person Optimist boats that are eight feet long and easy to master. Merrill noted that the boats are not particularly fast, but they are great for providing kids with self-confidence and independence. There are also six larger two-person boats (Flying Juniors) for older kids. There are five certified instructors, some of whom are graduates of the program.

Merrill and his wife Lisa also have a pair of kayaks and a motorboat for knee boarding and waterskiing on low wind days, but even cold weather doesn’t deter him from getting out on the lake. “Ice boating is actually my favorite activity,” he said. “You can get up to 60 mph, and it just magnifies the speed and beauty of being out on the lake.”

Merrill recently began to augment his roster of sports to include skating. “I started skating on the lake to scout plates for ice boating,” he said. “I started out with hockey skates but quickly switched to Nordic skates which I enjoy almost as much as boating. It’s another sport that’s easy to do after work.”

Merrill has a background in operations management. When he moved to Shelburne eleven years ago, he worked for Husky Injection Molding and followed that with stints at Sunward Systems and Dynapower. He currently works for Semiprobe, a small Winooski company that makes testing equipment for the semi-conductor industry.

Aside from its proximity to the lake, one thing that drew Merrill to Shelburne was the fact that it has its own village. “It feels like a small town,” he said “and it’s close to Burlington.” Merrill, whose two sons are now at CVU, also praised the school system.

In addition to his volunteer work with the LCYC, Merrill spent a number of years on the Shelburne Bike and Pedestrian Paths Committee where he worked mostly on primitive, or non-paved, paths. He has also been involved with the local Cub Scots and Boy Scouts. “We’re fortunate to have a strong scouting culture in our town with terrific leaders,” he said.