ABOUT

History

For nearly 60 years, Little Traverse Sailors has offered a learn to sail program for youth from ages eight to eighteen on the waterfront in Harbor Springs, Michigan. Our widely- known program is designed to build skills and a lifelong interest in the sport of sailing in a fun, safe, and supportive environment. Everything we do at LTS is geared towards making our learn to sail program a place where high-quality teaching, personal achievement, individual satisfaction, and boundless enjoyment make memories that will last a lifetime.

Mission

The mission of Little Traverse Sailors is to build lifelong sailors, by providing a safe and fun learning environment for youth and adults.

 

  • We strive to provide the highest quality instruction at all levels of ability and interest in sailing.
  • We are committed to improving access to our programs to all regardless of ability to pay.
  • We conduct ourselves with transparency, openness, and fiscal responsibility, especially by wisely using the resources so generously donated to us.
  • We work closely with our community partners to enhance the sport of sailing in the Little Traverse Bay area.
  • We are stewards of the environment, helping to protect and preserve the beautiful venue in which we sail every day.

Leadership

The LTS Board of Directors

The LTS Board of Directors is composed of seven members, each of whom serve up to two three-year terms. Service on the LTS Board is entirely voluntary, and involves monthly board meetings, dozens of phone calls and emails per month, and many hours of on and off-the-water work to support the program. The LTS Board oversees and directs the LTS program, including:

 

  • Selecting and managing the senior staff
  • Long and short-term planning
  • Setting pricing and policies
  • Budgeting and financial oversight
  • Running the scholarship program
  • Evaluating and approving capital purchases
  • Fundraising
  • And more

Current Board of Directors

Merritt Palm Keffer

President (term ends 10/2025)

Merritt grew up sailing on Lake St. Clair and and participated in the Junior Sailing Program at Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. Her family has been summering on Burt Lake since the early 1900s and more recently in Harbor Springs. Her love of sailing has taken her all over the world in dinghies and keel boats. Merritt was a member of the 1995 America3 Women’s America’s Cup team. She is passionate about coaching sailing and has directed sailing programs in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Ram Island, CT, and Detroit MI. Merritt and her husband Chris enjoy sailing their J70 with their two children who love the LTS sailing program.

Matt Breckenfeld

Vice-President (term ends 10/2021)

Matt is an avid boater and father of two young sailors in the LTS program. Matt most recently worked for Irish Boat Shop, and is currently cruising with his family on their sailboat Little Tern. During summer evenings you’ll find him on the water — often racing Lasers with one or both of his sons on board.

Owen Beckley

Treasurer (term ends 10/2025)

Owen has been sailing on Little Traverse Bay and the Great Lakes since childhood and is an active crew in the various LTYC fleets. Owen has experienced LTS as an instructor during his college years, as parent, and currently as parent of an instructor. Owen, and his wife Tracy, have recently become year-round residents of Harbor Springs.

Beth Kost

Secretary (term ends 10/2025)

Beth is a summer resident of Harbor Springs. She lives in Nashville the rest of the year and brings a variety of volunteer experiences with nonprofit organizations to our board. Beth is a huge fan of the LTS program and has one son who has been part of the LTS program for the past eight years. Though Beth is admittedly not an avid sailor herself, she has seen first-hand how sailing has brought joy to her son and husband and how sailing enriches their lives. On many summer days, you can find Beth on the

LTYC porch watching the LTS activity and seeing the older instructors mentoring the youngest sailors.

Martin Grin

Member (term ends 10/2024)

Martin’s love of sailing started as an 8-year old at LTS and grew to be a participant in numerous fleets in Little Traverse Bay and the Great Lakes. His association with LTS continued as an instructor throughout college and currently as a parent of four LTS sailing daughters. Any of Martin’s sailing accomplishments pale in comparison to his lifetime total of over 1,000 Gurney’s sandwiches consumed and swims off the LTS dock that are too numerous to count…

Mara Lowry

Member (term ends 10/2026)

Mara Lowry is a life-long sailor who has had the privilege of teaching and racing on Little Traverse Bay since 1995. As a child Mara’s interest in boating was driven by a desire for a great tan, but she quickly learned to love dinghy racing after meeting her skipper (now husband) on the Stanford Sailing Team. Mara currently sails on NM 6 and any other boat that will have her. She brings her professional background in marketing and entrepreneurship, as well as experience on the boards of the Bay Area Discovery Museum and local PTA. Mara, her husband, Adam, and their two daughters are summer residents of Harbor Springs and live in Mill Valley, California the rest of the year. Her girls, Kenning & Ryan, are LTS students.

Sarah O’Brien

Member (term ends 10/2026)

Bio Coming Soon!

Fleet

LTS is proud of our growing fleet of well maintained boats. All boats are checked prior to each season and maintained to the highest safety standards. This fleet is made possible by many generous donations over the years.

Collegiate 420s (6 in the LTS Fleet)

These two to three person boats are used by the Learn-to-Sail Program, Race Team, Adult and Private Lessons, and Thursday night Dinghy Racing.

420s are the scaled-down version of the 470 which is used in the Olympics. 420s are fast, stable, responsive, and versatile.  They are the most used double-handed training boat in the world, and are the core of virtually all junior sailing programs in the United States. 420s are also the most-used boat in High School and Collegiate sailing.

Club 420s (14 in the LTS fleet)

Used by the Junior Race Team and Race Team. We take these boats when the Race Team travels to away regattas.

Club 420s are identical to the Collegiate 420 except that they are lighter, have spinnaker and trapeze setups, and are designed to race.

Lasers (5 in the LTS fleet)

One-person boat used by the Race Team and Red Fleet.

Lasers are the biggest one-design sailboat class in the world (over 200,000 Lasers have been built!), and are used everywhere from beginning sailing programs to the Olympics.  Our Lasers have a variety of rig/sail sizes so that sailors from about 100 lbs and up can sail them successfully.  There is also a very active Laser fleet in Harbor Springs, racing in the Monday night Dinghy Races.

World Wide Sailor (10 in the LTS fleet)

One-person boat (sometimes two very small people!) used by the Learn-to-Sail Program and for Pram Racing on Wednesday nights.

World Wide Sailors are an 8′ singlehanded dingy intended for smaller sailors and beginners. Though many programs have Optimists as their entry-level training boat, we think the stability, higher performance, and self-bailing features of the World Wide Sailors make them better for our purposes.

Bug (10 in the LTS fleet)

Bugs are an 8′ singlehanded dingy intended for smaller sailors and beginners.  With the recent addition of the World Wide Sailor Prams, the smaller sailors in Blue Fleet have been able to utilize the Bug in order to perfect maneuvers and sail more comfortably in heavier winds.

29er (1 in the LTS fleet)

High-performance two person skiff used by race team.

Ideal for youth sailors, the 29er combines a hydrodynamic hull and an incredibly light overall weight to maximize speed. The 29er is highly responsive and often times exceeds the wind speed while planing. At 14 feet, this boat offers a great introduction into modern skiff sailing.

J/70 (1 in the LTS fleet)

Four to six person boat used by the Race Team, Adult and Private Lessons, Thursday Night Learn-to-Race Program

The J/70 is a modern (introduced in 2013) high-performance keelboat, typically sailed by four to six sailors. The J/70 is fast and responsive like a dinghy, and also features a lifting keel and large asymmetric spinnaker. The boat is easily trailerable, and J/70 regattas worldwide attract 50 or more entrants routinely.

8 Outboard power boats used for coaching

Our coaches and staff are well equiped to provide constant supervision and coaching to our sailors.