Kids Set Sail

Allison Park PhotoSophia Messina maneuvered a sailboat by herself in the harbor Friday. Two weeks earlier, she would have been too scared.

Friday afternoon marked the end of the week for Sophia, who’s 11, and other students at the Schooner Camp, which is run by The New Haven Land Trust.

Since its inaugural launch last year, the revived program has doubled in size and allows curious students in the area to explore and learn about the fundamentals of sailing.

Though the program includes students as young as 4 years old, only those 9 and over went out on the water.

In addition to getting experience out on the water, the older students spent the other half of the day in the New Haven Land Trust Preserve following a science-based curriculum and learning about the Long Island Sound from land. The students 4 through 8 spent the day in the nearby park doing educational activities related to the curriculum.

New Haven Land Trust Executive Director Justin Elicker said the goal is to “get [students] out on the water.” In the last year, he said the camp became “very popular” and “very quickly expanded” to 350 total students this summer.

The program is also “empowering for young children,” said Elicker. He explained that within only one week, many students grow from an initial fear of water to maneuvering an entire sailboat in the middle of the New Haven Harbor.

With the support from several New Haven based organizations and the New Haven Board of Education, the Schooner Camp was able to raise $80,000, allowing 53 percent of the students to receive financial aid as well as free lunches (courtesy of the public schools) for the duration of the program.

While the students sailed in groups of three to four per boat, sailing instructors taught the students skills both in the water and in the classroom. In his second summer as an instructor, Noah Nyhart, 19,taught various topics ranging from parts of the boat, to how to steer in a straight line down the sound.

Nyhart taught the mechanics of sailing in the classroom first, so that the students could “mentally understand” the procedures before putting them into practice. By the end of the week, students knew how to prepare the boat for sailing and and the techniques to steer the boat around courses shaped in figure 8s and triangles. Even when a boat capsized from too sharp a turn, the group of students banded together and used the skills they acquired in the classroom to flip the boat back upright.

By the fourth day of camp, the students were already going out for longer sails that last about an hour. Nyhart said going on these long sails was the most fun part of the camp and that the students had “a blast sailing.”

“The instructors are really nice,” said Sophia Messina’s friend, Libby Grant.

Grant, 11, has had more experience sailing than Messina, But she didn’t know how to steer a sailboat by herself. But by the end of her time at the Schooner Camp, she said, she felt “definitely more comfortable in big boats.” The two made “a lot of friends” at the camp and learned important life lessons about teamwork and communication.

“I’m definitely going to want to sail more,” said Messina.

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posted by: Mikelive on July 23, 2018  8:12am

This is awesome in many ways. Hopefully in the future we will see sailing camps at the new boathouse as well as lighthouse point.

posted by: 1644 on July 23, 2018  3:48pm

FYI, Yale’s sailing club in Short Beach is open to all, for a moderate fee.  Dinghy sailing is more fun and a lot cheaper than keel boats.

posted by: Patricia Kane on July 23, 2018  4:05pm

New Haven is surrounded by water and is finally using it for recreation. Wonderful.
  While City officials cast around for new businesses, there is huge untapped potential in our rivers and harbors.
  Everyone is looking forward to the new Boat House.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on July 23, 2018  8:19pm

Picking up on Patricia’s point, there is a real value to accessible waterfronts.  I’m from Chicago, where virtually all of lakefront is parkland and where the city has made substantial progress in cleaning up the Chicago River. The waterfront there is treated as an asset, which is reflected in real estate values. In contrast, New Haven (and many other Northeastern cities) have placed little value on their waterfronts.

I also am looking forward to the new boathouse.

posted by: 1644 on July 23, 2018  8:51pm

PK:  The Fusco’s had planned on a marina with their Maritime Center, but were blocked by environmental concerns.  A marina would have brought a lot of money to the site.  Much of the waterfront is still industrial, the port really being New Haven’s only major industry besides Yale & Yale-related companies.  New Haven also has marinas in Fair haven,  although their value has been degraded by the halt, largely city engineered, to Fair Haven’s gentrification in the 1980’s, plus, of course, there is City Point marina.  With the exception of the Fair Haven’s south shore, where Patriot Marine will go,  most of the waterfront is used, as it should be, for water-dependent uses.

posted by: robn on July 24, 2018  5:14am


I though the real estate crash of 89 halted the Fuscos harbor project?

posted by: 1644 on July 24, 2018  8:53am

robn:  That may have been the final nail in the coffin, but my recollection is that the marina required dredging, which would disturb heavy metals which were buried in the silt.  Since there are few problems that cannot be solved by throwing money at them,  I suppose there may have been an engineering solution, but not a profitable one.  About this time,  oystering was making a comeback, too, heightening concerns about disturbing beds.  In addition to the marina, I recall a residential component, but the allure of the residences was that one could get a slip.  According to this link,  the marina was to have had 600 slips, which would have meant a lot of money coming into the area.
The Rusty Scupper/Leons/Lenny’s & Joe’s building was meant to be temporary.

BTW: A latter proposal for the mall:

posted by: robn on July 24, 2018  10:22am


Don’t have time to read the whole paper now but the analysis seems to paint a rosy picture of the “economic miracle” that the mall might have been, lamenting that it wasn’t put to its “most productive use.” Surprising, being that the paper was written in 2012, when it was clearly evident that online shopping was murdering brick and mortar stores, especially malls.

posted by: 1644 on July 24, 2018  11:28am

A 1985 article on the Fusco project.

posted by: 1644 on July 24, 2018  12:20pm

Robn:  The paper was written in 2012, but as a history piece about an idea that begin, sort of, in 1995, when malls were still viable. In hindsight, we are lucky it never got built.  At least Macy’s, Malley’s and Chapel Square Mall had several decades of service before Milford and Meriden took their trade.  The original concept for Long Wharf, of course, was industry, with green fields that could compete with he suburbs.  We had Gant, Sargent, Blakeslee, Armstrong Rubber, as well as the food terminal.

posted by: Patricia Kane on July 25, 2018  9:33am

Oystering has returned to the Quinnipiac River on the Fair Haven Heights side. Boats “seed” shells and then harvest them to be taken to Norwalk where they grow in saltier water.
  With the picturesque Dragon Bridge and now oyster boats working at high tide, a sense of history and purpose is returning to this historic village.

posted by: 1644 on July 25, 2018  10:15am

PK:  When the oystering first restarted,  New Haven harbor was considered ideal for seeding, but while still young, the oysters were relocated to cleaner waters off of Long Island.  I know that there are oysters now harvested directly off of Indian Neck: I had some at Lenny’s a few weeks ago.