Skip to main content

Community draws kids to the water

Stonington Harbor Sailing Foundation scholarships encourage local youth to discover and explore sailing

Stonington Harbor Sailing Foundation scholarships encourage local youth to discover and explore sailing

In October 2006, Stonington, Conn., resident Taylor Samuel, 13, lived in a different town, went to a different school and had no interest in boarding a boat. Her life had been transient as long as she could remember and after a bad experience with a reckless powerboat driver, she had completely sworn off boating.

“Since I was eight, I had never finished a grade at the same school I started,” Samuel says, “and I told everyone, there was no way you’d get me back in a boat.” 

But by mid-summer of 2007, she was hopping into boats four times a week. With a practiced eye, watching JY 15s flit about the harbor.

“I walked in the first day, looked at [the fleet], and when they said, ‘Hi,’ I knew I was in the right place,” she says.

Samuel learned to sail through a scholarship offered by the local yacht club. It was the first summer that Stonington Harbor Yacht Club offered scholarships through its Sailing Foundation. The scholarships are worth more than $300 for two weeks of lessons, and not restricted by a person’s age or experience.

“Many people would love on-water experience, but they’re without the resources. That’s where the Sailing Foundation comes in,” said Spike Lobdell, sail-racer, cruiser and past Commodore of the club. Lobdell funded the Foundation to launch the scholarship program.

It was Samuel’s grandmother, Marie Samuel, who registered her to volunteer at Mystic Seaport’s boathouse. After a few days on the water, Samuel says she was hooked. She sourced foundation scholarship information, wrote a letter to the committee, and won a series of lessons.

“She had a passion to try something new,” says Lobdell.

Both club and foundation stay active in the wider community all year. In September, the foundation hosted a weekend of Connecticut Special Olympics sailing trials, and regularly hosts two Connecticut Hospice Regattas. The club announced last fall that StoningtonHigh School’s sailing team will operate from the foundation’s floating docks. Previously, sailors had to motor over to a small floating dock on the far side of the harbor where the dinghies were kept.

Last fall, as the breeze freshened and boats hummed fast inside Stonington harbor, Samuel stole a glance at students working hard to level their JY15s.

“Next year I want to sail for Stonington High,” she said.

Grandmother Marie reflected on Taylor’s summer with Stonington Harbor Sailing Foundation.

“When she hit the water, I was delighted at how she connected with everything. After lessons, she’s pleased with herself and she’s exhausted,” she says.

For more information, call (860) 705-3458 or visit .