Year-Round Staff

Spike Lobdell, President

Spike founded NESS in 2002 and now serves as its President (2008 - present). He established NESS with a vision of enabling everyone to get out on the water learning and having fun regardless of financial needs. The core value of inclusiveness along with experiential learning, self-discovery and stewardship remain his passion in leading NESS today. NESS teaches over 6,000 students annually; many of whom are on scholarship. Spike works as a full time volunteer for the Foundation. He recently received the National Recreation Foundation's Robert W. Crawford Achievement Prize in 2016 naming the individual that has done the most to advance the lives of inner city youth through recreation. This came with a $50,000 grant to NESS in Spike’s honor. He was also recognized by US Sailing as the outstanding organizational leader of a sailing organization in 2016. Formerly CEO of XL Capital’s non-insurance operations, Spike worked at JP Morgan for 27 years in various senior management capacities. Spike is a past Commodore of the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club where he was one of the Founding Members. Former Trustee of Westminster School (Simsbury CT), where was Vice Chairman of the Board for 9 years. Spike sails a Hinckley Sou’wester 42, Legacy, and races J-24s locally.

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Cindy Nickerson, Executive Director

As the Executive Director of NESS since 2010, Cindy has overseen NESS’s evolution into a year-round ocean adventure program engaging students in experiential learning that builds confidence, teamwork, and leadership skills. She is past junior sailing chair, past trustee, and past commodore of Ram Island Yacht Club in Noank, CT, plus she has spent many hours volunteering for the FAST Sailing Foundation. With a B.S. Chemical Engineering (University of Pittsburgh) and an M.S. Industrial Administration (Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business), she enjoys bringing STEM concepts to life through NESS’s diverse on-the-water and classroom curriculum. With over 20 years of industry and management experience, she brings a business focus to NESS’s operations.

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Kelley Dupree, New London Program Director

Kelley graduated from Eckerd College with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science. While in College, she studied the effects of ecotourism on local dolphin populations in Kaikoura, New Zealand and traveled from Boston to the USVI aboard the tall ship, Spirit of Massachusetts. She has extensive experience teaching students from 5-18 years old in both marine and terrestrial environments. Past experiences include teaching marine science and island ecology at the Catalina Island Marine Institute in California, Sound to Sea in North Carolina, the Acadia Institute of Oceanography in Maine as well as at MarineLab in Key Largo, Florida. Kelley has also spent time working at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and at the New England Aquarium in Boston. Most recently, Kelley worked as a Lego Engineering Instructor, teaching basic engineering concepts to students using a wide variety of Lego materials. Kelley is a USCG OUPV Captain, NAUI SCUBA Rescue Diver, American Red Cross Lifeguard, and ACA Coastal Kayak Level II Instructor.

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Mary Ann Horrigan, Stonington Program Director

Mary graduated from Providence College with a Bachelor of Science in Humanities. During this time it became apparent that sailing was the activity that began her intense connection with the ocean and the life in it. She has experience teaching marine science and sailing at the Block Island Maritime Institute, was a naturalist aboard whale watching vessels in Hawaii, taught surfing in Hawaii, taught marine science at Catalina Island Marine Institute, researched for The Nature Conservancy, was a Captain and Education Specialist for Save The Bay, Narragansett Bay, RI and serves on the Board of the Alewife Cove Conservancy, New London, CT. Mary is a certified American Red Cross Lifeguard, NAUI Divemaster, ACA Coastal Kayak Level II Instructor, NSSIA SUP/Surf Instructor, US Sailing Level 1 Trainer, US Sailing REACH Trainer, USCG Master 50GT Captain and has served on the US Sailing Small Boat National Faculty.

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Kellyanne Randall, Finance Director

Kelly graduated from Villanova University in 2001 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting, and from New York University with an M.B.A. in 2010. Prior to joining NESS, she spent 4 years in public accounting and 12 years in the finance and tax department of 21st Century Fox in New York. Kelly grew up spending summer by the water in York Beach, Maine, and she has spent most of her adult life enjoying summer in Weekapaug, RI. While living in New York, she competed in marathons and triathlons, and was a coach for both the Team in Training marathon program for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society, as well as the Determination marathon program for the American Cancer society. In 2013 her and her husband Doug moved back to Rhode Island full time and now live in Charlestown with their two young daughters, Grace and Claire.

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Marggie Slichter, Director of Advancement

Marggie is a graduate of Wellesley College, with a BA in American Studies, and former Girls Scout leader, and 4 H Leader. Marggie began at NESS in 2017 as Director of Advancement, with 15 years of fundraising and alumni relations experience at an independent school. Now living in Stonington, Marggie grew swimming, sailing, and canoeing on Lake Mendota in Madison, WI. Marggie sails with her partner Ben on his J160 Atlantic and they enjoy cruising from Fishers Island Sound to Maine, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, and the Magdalen Islands. When not on the water, you will find Marggie in her garden.

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Ben Yanni, Director of Operations

Ben graduated from Trinity College where he spent a SEA semester sailing in the Caribbean aboard the 134’ Brigantine Corwith Cramer learning the fundamentals of marine science and offshore sailing. This ocean based adventure inspired a love for marine education and the start of a maritime career. After college, Ben worked for a variety of inspected vessels, attained his 100 TON USCG Master License and completed a yearlong marine systems program at the Landing School in Kennebunkport, ME. Quite familiar with the marine based non-profit world, Ben enjoys the combination of maintenance, marine education, and community outreach that can be found at a facility like New England Science & Sailing. Ben is an ABYC “master technician”, US Sailing Level 1 Instructor, US Powerboating Instructor, and Wilderness First Responder. In the summer, he can be found teaching boating or fixing boats.

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Mark Zagol, Sailing Program Director

Mark grew up and learned to sail on the waters of Plymouth Harbor in Massachusetts. A graduate of Old Dominion University with a degree in Business Management, Mark was a two-time Collegiate All-American sailor. While at ODU, Mark helped capture both the ICSA Team Race National Championship as well as the Coed Dinghy National Championships winning B-division. Mark joined the NESS team after a 12 year career as a Collegiate Coach which included coaching at the United States Coast Guard Academy, the United States Merchant Marine Academy, and ODU. Over the past 3 years Mark has worked to expand program offerings at NESS for Sailing and Powerboating for both Youth and Adult students. Mark was also an integral part of Piloting US Sailing’s REACH program and continues to create ways to implement STEM education through the sport of sailing. In 2013 Mark was part of a team at NESS that accepted US Sailing’s Outstanding Community Sailing Center Award. Mark remains very active in the sailing community, sailing all types of boats. He was the US Team Racing Champion in 2005 as well as the 2013 505 North American Champion. In 2015, Mark received US Sailing's Outstanding Program Director Award. Mark is a US Sailing Level 3 Coach, Level 1 Instructor Trainer, ARC Waterfront lifeguard and holds a USCG Master’s Captain License. Mark lives with his wife Heather and three daughters Mason, Ainslie, and Callan in Pawcatuck CT.

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Patrick Austin, Assistant Operations Director

Patrick attended the University of New Hampshire’s Thomson School of Applied Science and has been working in the marine construction industry for twenty years. Patrick has worked up and down the east coast on several large marine construction projects. He is an advanced PADI scuba diver, holds his unlimited Heavy Equipment License in Rhode Island and Connecticut, USCG 100gt Captains license, and is an American Red Cross Certified Lifeguard. Now living in North Stonington with his wife and their three children, Patrick enjoys hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, hunting in Central Pennsylvania, and fishing in Block Island Sound, Florida, and the Carolinas. You can usually find Patrick and his family working on their small family farm.

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Angela Connolly, Camp Director & Safety Coordinator

Angela attended Western Connecticut State University where she studied Sports Management and played lacrosse. Angela has spent the last 10 years working for the Mystic YMCA, where she shared her love for water and safety through teaching. Angela grew up on the water in boats and spent most of her summers on Sandy Point exploring the ocean. She is a certified American Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor, NAUI Advanced Scuba Diver, Small Craft Safety Canoeing and Kayaking, CT CIAV coaching, and holds a Safe Boaters certificate. In her free time, she enjoys watching the Green Bay Packers, paddle boarding, kayaking, coaching lacrosse, skiing, and hiking with her husband Graham and dog Tucker.

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Nick Ewenson, Assistant Sailing Director

Nick grew up in Newport, RI and graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a BA in English. While at St. Mary’s, Nick competed on the college’s sailing team and won the ICSA Team Racing National Championship in 2004. Prior to joining NESS, Ewenson was an employee at LaserPerformance. He was also a sailing coach for the College of Charleston and University of Rhode Island, where he helped lead the teams to five national championships. Still an active racer today, Nick can be found frostbiting lasers, team racing keelboats, and racing in the C&C 30 class. Away from racing, Nick loves kiteboarding when the wind is up and snorkeling and swimming when it’s not. Nick is a US Sailing Level 3 Coach and ARC Waterfront Lifeguard and holds a US Coast Guard OUPV Captain’s License.

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Pam Gibbs, Business Development Officer

Pam grew up in Noank where she learned to sail and spend time enjoying the local waters. She graduated from UCONN with a BS degree in Environmental Horticulture and after many years of retail management, design, and sales in the Horticulture industry, she began working at NESS in 2011. As Business Development Officer, Pam brings her varied experience to the NESS administrative office cultivating and managing relationships with NESS’s customers in the school and organization segments, including corporate groups. Pam currently lives in Mystic with her husband Jim and son Adam, who has enjoyed many years at NESS as a student. Pam enjoys gardening, sailing, skiing, biking, and hiking.

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Caroline Knowles, Marketing Coordinator

Caroline graduated from Bates College in 2012 with a BA in Women and Gender Studies. She is originally from Massachusetts and grew up sailing in Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound. She joined the NESS team as Marketing Coordinator in May 2015. When she is not exploring Long Island Sound by boat, Caroline can be found training and racing in triathlons everywhere from Mystic, CT to Beijing, China.

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Jodie Kubachka, Human Resources Manager

Jodie graduated from Lynchburg College in 1997 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology. In 1999 Jodie moved to Southern Pines, North Carolina to manage International 3-Day Evening farms and eventually worked at an equine veterinary practice and surgery center as the lead equine surgical technician. In 2006, after briefly managing the local Humane Society, Jodie began working at FirstHealth of the Carolinas first as an administrator in the Oncology Department and then in the Laboratory; developing a system-wide Laboratory Quality Initiative while managing a variety of special projects. When an opportunity came about to manage the hospital system’s three dental clinics Jodie accepted the challenge, improving the clinics’ workflow and bottom line. In June of 2013 Jodie, her 2 dogs and cat moved back to Connecticut and in December 2013 Jodie began her career at NESS, bringing a strong background in administrative and project management. During her free time Jodie enjoys riding her horse, boating and hiking with her dogs.

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Lauren W. Lyons, Development Officer

Lauren graduated from Quinnipiac University in 2007 with a BA in Public Relations. Lauren began at NESS as a volunteer and officially began in her role as Development Officer in July of 2013. She has coordinated NESS’s fundraising events, including the Annual Benefit Gala, works on the Annual Fund Campaign, and Grant Funding. Originally from Bedford, NH, Lauren spent her summers on the ocean in Weekapaug, RI, where she learned to sail. A Stonington resident for the past seven years, Lauren enjoys sailing, skiing, golf, fishing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and tennis.

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Evan McOmber, Education Specialist

Evan grew up in Wethersfield Connecticut and graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Maritime Studies from Avery Point. During college, Evan held an internship with the Stonington police department, worked at a bait and tackle shop in Hartford, and was a seasonal employee for CT DEEP in the marine fisheries division in Old Lyme. In 2007 Evan moved to Virginia and worked for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, becoming chief of field operations for two trawl surveys and a shark longline survey. These programs surveyed the waters from Hatteras North Carolina to Martha’s Vineyard Massachusetts and throughout the Chesapeake Bay. Evan’s work also took him to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and Newfoundland. Evan moved back to CT in 2015 and worked as a seasonal educator for NESS until being hired full time in October of 2016. Evan is a USCG OUPV Captain and an American Red Cross Lifeguard. When not at NESS teaching Marine Science and Adventure Sports, Evan spending time with his wife and two children in Newington, CT.

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Meg Patrick, Human Resources Administrative Coordinator

Meg Patrick graduated from The University of Vermont in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Community Entrepreneurship. She grew up in Vermont, spending her summers with her family on the shores of Lake Champlain. Meg and her puppy Sparrow moved to Westerly, RI in May of 2017. She joins the NESS family with an extensive background in HR administration and business management. If Meg isn’t running, you can find her soaking up the sun at the beach or practicing yoga.

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Caleb Rose, Educator

Caleb Rose has been a first mate on the charter fishing boat Mataura of Noank for the past four seasons. He has taught city children how to fish for 2 years, has a degree in environmental science focusing on marine science and over 30 years of fishing experience. He has worked as a lab Tech with UConn Avery Pt and an instructional specialist with East Lyme High School working with students of special needs.

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Jordan Slocum, Registrar

Jordan grew up in Stonington and discovered a love for the ocean and water sports at a young age. In 2010 she moved to Chicago to attend Columbia College, where she realized the importance of experiential learning and community outreach. She also learned that a life away from the ocean is no life at all. After returning to Connecticut, Jordan started at NESS in 2014 as a part-time camp assistant and soon worked up to her role as Registrar. In her spare time she can be found reading, shopping, playing trivia, or writing and filming comedy videos.

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Megan Strand, Education Specialist

Megan has been living in Connecticut since 1987 where she moved with her family from Lakenheath, England. While living in the Groton/Mystic area she became very interested in Long Island Sound and found a love of power boating and water sports. Megan received her bachelor’s degree in Coastal Studies (marine science) from the University of Connecticut; she then went on to get her masters in Environmental Education from Southern Connecticut State University. During college Megan got a chance to work in some interesting places including Hawaii working with Hawksbill Sea Turtles, and on the Algarve Coast in Portugal working with seals and sea lions. She also has her 100 Ton Captains License, an ACA Coastal Kayak Level II Instructor, and is a Connecticut certified school teacher in Biology for 7-12th grade. Megan loves to cheer on the Red Sox, kayak, geocache, and train her dog. Megan currently lives with her husband, son Silas, two cats, a dog, many fish and thousands of honey bees in Mystic.

Contact Megan Strand