Oops. Over she goes. Another dinghy has capsized in a puff of wind in Tenants Harbor, but the young skipper isn’t fazed. She shifts her weight, swiftly rights her craft and is on her way again, tacking up and running down wind, none the worse for a capsize.

Up to 20 kids at a time, ages 9 to 15, learn basic sailing and seamanship skills each summer through the St. George [Maine] Community Sailing Foundation. The program was started in 2001 by summer resident Felix Kloman, who has a harborside home here and winters in Lyme, Connecticut.

A retired risk management consultant, Kloman likes kids, loves sailing and wants to provide some wholesome activity for both summertime and year-round youngsters. Last season, with five instructors, the program enrolled a record 74 girls and boys, and 44 of the young mariners were alumni of prior programs.

“It’s a great program. It’s a do-gooder thing,” said Chuck Paine, a yacht designer who lives in Tenants Harbor village. “My entire life was enhanced by getting into sailing,” he said, recalling that as a lower-income kid in Rhode Island, he was eligible for a youth sailing program at the East Greenwich Yacht Club. “It changed my life for the better,” he said, giving him a focus. He has taught sailing, enjoys sailing and also paints pictures of boats.

The kids attend one of three two-week sessions from July 7 to August 15. The tuition is $240 per child for summer residents, $120 for year-round students. The rationale, Kloman said, is that summer folk are more affluent, and his goal is 50 per cent local enrollment. “The main thing is, summer kids get to know the winter kids and vice versa,” he said.

Just over a third of enrollees are local kids.

So far, no one has complained about the rates, and this year a dozen full scholarship slots are available. Townspeople might have had their doubts about the program at first, but now it seems to have won their respect.

Deanna Smith, who lobsters with her husband, Pete, followed him onto the foundation’s board of directors. “It shouldn’t be just for the rich kids,” she said.

“It’s community, number one. It’s being a part of your community. It teaches children self-esteem at a young age. When a nine-year-old can go out and learn to sail a boat on his own, the confidence level goes through the roof,” she said.

“It teaches teamwork. It teaches them to think, make decisions, how to be prudent. They can apply what they learn to their lives,” Smith said.

Out on the water, students can opt for racing or “cruising,” which basically means free sailing to nearby Long Cove and around neighboring islands. “Competition teaches us how to sail much, much better. Racing is an important element in learning to sail, but racing to us should be fun,” said Kloman.

The curriculum at this summer school sounds pretty serious. Beginners learn safety, sailing terms, knots and lines, weather, tides, currents, rights-of-way plus some local history and ecology.

Starting with 15 kids and several borrowed boats, the program has grown to own ten Hunter 90 nine-foot sailing dinghies, four 14-foot 420s, a Rhodes 19 and a pair of 16-foot O’Day daysailers.

Last season, St. George sailors tied for second place in a Maine Midget Championship semi-final, and bagged a Maine Interclub Racing Circuit sportsmanship award – that made Kloman even prouder than the second place MIRC 420-class finish, he said.

For the first seven years, the Foundation has operated the program from Kloman’s own dock, but now his foundation is finding a home at Blueberry Cove, a venerable children’s camp with extensive harbor frontage, a dock and two beaches.

The Foundation nets a third of its operating expenses from about 100 donors, a few of them high rollers. The rest of the income is from fees. Total expenses last year ran close to $32,000; income was just over $34,000. 

The public is invited to join the foundation’s sailors in any sailboat less than 20 feet for a regatta this Aug. 3, on St. George Maritime Day.

The Foundation’s website is: www.StGeorgeSail.org