Clear sailing ahead: water culture restored to The Citadel campus

The Citadel Photo

Photo: An undated photo of cadets with a sailboat on campus (Courtesy: The Citadel Archives and Museum)

New Swain Boating Center at The Citadel is open for cadets and the campus community to enjoy

Built along the Ashley River, bordered by a tidal basin, and located around the corner from Charleston Harbor means The Citadel has not only sublime views, but great access for marine activities. A number of complications over the past few years forced the closure of the college’s boating center and related activities as improvements were made. Now, there’s clear sailing ahead.

The docks and construction of the Swain Boating Center in August 2020

Sailing on the open “Cs” – The Citadel, Charleston, cadets, canoes and more

The Swain Boating Center at The Citadel is restoring the campus water culture with some major upgrades, thanks to a generous donation from Dr. and Mrs. Christopher C. Swain, Class of 1981. New docks, a picnic pavilion and new equipment including kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and fishing gear are ready to be used by cadets, students, faculty, staff and alumni.

A state-of-the-art boathouse will be completed at the end of October for use by cadet clubs and other members of the campus community. It will also function as a premier event space on campus, similar to what The Citadel Beach Club offers on Isle of Palms.

The front of the Swain Boating Center in August 2020

In addition to the new gathering spaces, the center features a boat rental service that is available to all Citadel students, faculty, staff and alumni. The center was designed primarily for cadet use, and they will receive priority in rentals, but all members of The Citadel family are also welcome to reserve the boats.

Dale Tallent, the Swain Boating Center supervisor, says the Carolina Skiff, which holds seven people, is the most popular choice this fall; a Boston Whaler is another option. Tallent also hopes to add to the collection of sailboats that are currently being used by the newly reestablished Sailing Club, which has been heavily supported by alumni. The club, which disbanded in 2016, hasn’t sailed from campus in nearly two decades — but that’s about to change.

The Citadel currently has five sail boats that have been refurbished and is waiting to receive twelve new boats that will be used to race and compete. The hope is that the five refurbished boats will then be added to the collection of available rental boats. The college is also looking for additional boat donations to add to the current fleet.

Cadets with sailboats, ahead of the club’s upcoming tryouts in October (Courtesy: The Citadel Sailing Club)

On the way to the water

A boating license is required to rent any watercraft from the Boating Center. However, anyone without a license can get one in a two-step process that involves an online course followed by an on-water test, provided by The Citadel at no cost. The online course is $34.99 and will take approximately three hours to complete, while the on-water test is run out of the boating center. This on-water test will consist of four to five people going out at a time to spend about 45 minutes on the water, completing various tasks. The on-water test can be taken as many times as needed in order to pass. While the tests are weather-dependent, they will usually to take place on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday while the boats are available for use. More information on testing days and times can be found via DogNews and also by checking in at the rental center by the docks.

Once boaters have a license, the rental process is relatively simple. Members of The Citadel community can reserve boats online, up to two weeks in advance; rentals are $20 for cadets and $40 for faculty, staff, and alumni. That fee includes the rental for the day, as well as all necessary safety equipment, which the renter is responsible for returning upon their return to the boating center. Rental fees, however, do not include fuel.

A point of distinction

The boating center is a unique facility for The Citadel, and makes the Military College of South Carolina one of a select few academic institutions that have open-water access, along with a multi-million-dollar facility and event space overlooking it.

An additional feature of the Swain Boating Center, the Class of 1981 Pavilion, opened during Homecoming 2019 weekend and provides a space for cadets and other groups to socialize, featuring a gas log fireplace, picnic tables and two charcoal grills. Though the maximum capacity is currently set at 25 people, to accommodate social distancing restrictions, groups are allowed to schedule a time to use the pavilion.

The return to the river and its connected waterways is made possible through the leadership of Dr. Chris Swain, ’81, and the help of numerous alumni donors, all with the continued goal of enhancing the cadet experience on campus. The new boating center and pavilion bring a new and unique element to The Citadel experience, providing cadets with a unique place to relax and exercise while taking advantage of The Citadel’s location along the banks of the Ashley River.

Images and captions courtesy of The Citadel Archives and Museum