Record number of Northport sailing students

By Brian Freiberger, Leelanau Enterprise, [email protected]. August 19, 2021

The Northport Youth Sailing School (NYSS) returned this summer to a record number of students after not having the program in 2020.

Donna Chapman, director of NYSS, didn’t know what to expect this summer in terms of student participation.

“We thought it would be low in numbers, but as it turned out we didn’t have a problem at all in terms of population,” she said.

Over 165 students participated in this year’s program compared to 137 in 2019.

NYSS, a non-profit organization, founded in 2009 provides young people the opportunity to experience the lifelong sport of sailing. Classes range from Little Puff, beginner, intermediate, advanced double handed and advanced single-handed. Three types of boats are used, classes called “Opti, Laser and Laser Pico.”

“There were a lot of beginners this year, and it was an awesome summer,” Chapman said.

Young sailors can begin to learn the sport as soon as eight or nine years old with the “Little Puff” program. Beginner classes start with a partner and intermediate classes learn how to sail solo.

“Incoming families need to watch our website for the dates when registration will be opening,” Chapman said.

Head Instructor and Waterfront Director, Mackenzie Goodling, celebrated her last summer instructing at NYSS as she graduates from Grand Valley State University with a degree in nursing. Goodling who is Chapman’s granddaughter, has been instructing for over 10 years. She started like all others. After three years in the Opti program she was hired as the program grew before eventually becoming a counselor and senior counselor. She eventually got a Level 1 USCG certification allowing Goodling to be an instructor. After eight years in the program, she was hired as the head instructor and waterfront director.

“It was always a family thing, and it was tough to leave,” she said.

Throughout the years, NYSS has taught her a lot of different life lessons.

“Leadership is the biggest one. Being able to connect with children is a big deal for me,” Goodling said.

Besides Leadership, she developed teaching skills as well that led her to pursue nursing. She thanks her friends and co-workers for all the memories and relationships made.

“NYSS helped me find that passion,” she said.

The sport of sailing teaches young people many different life skills including personal responsibility of a sailboat.

“I want them to learn it’s a character trait that they need to have. They learn to respect it,” she said.

Although Goodling’s’ time may have ended at NYSS she will always carry the passion for sailing and the lessons learned off the coast of Northport.

NYSS has a deep pipeline of instructors and staff ready to continue forward without the current head instructor.

“Mackenzie has earned her place in our program, and she did an amazing job. If it hadn’t been for the flexibility of our instructors’ fitting kids in classes, we wouldn’t have been able to move things around to meet the needs of people, which was great,” Chapman said.

NYSS will return next summer thanks to donations and sponsorship from Northport Bay Boatyard and Leelanau Township Foundation among others. Registration opens around May of 2022 and is subject to change. For more information visit NYSS on all social media platforms and at