For these healing patients, the ocean has become a kind of medicine. Sailing Heals, a nonprofit founded by Trisha Gallagher Boisvert, recently offered Martha’s Vineyard Hospital patients a chance to cruise the sea with licensed captains on volunteered sailboats docked at Edgartown Harbor. The event was held on Wednesday, August 16, with lunch followed by a launch.
The nonprofit is entirely volunteer- and donor-based, and has sister networks with ports around the United States to organize sailing cruises for patients. The patients eligible, called “VIPs,” though mostly battling cancer, include any person facing a serious health setback. The goal of the program is to get the patients out of the hospital and into the outdoors.
The voyages are luxurious. Caretakers help the patients onto yachts as long as 60 feet, and those with masts as high as flagpoles. On the stern are names Edgartown residents might recognize, such as Moneypenny and Tigress, the catboat with a memorable American flag sail. The routes vary based on weather patterns, but generally the guests are taken out for two to three hours along the Island, and sometimes around Cape Poge.
The sailing voyages have taken place here for the past six years, and VIPs are able to participate multiple times. Some were return guests, such as Carla Furtaw, who has sailed several times during her battle with ovarian cancer. “It’s a time you just lose yourself in,” she said. Ms. Furtaw, a third-generation Islander, was one of 16 VIPs traveling that day, a group of Islanders and summer residents alike.
Most patients, such as Janis Langley, who was also battling ovarian cancer, were new to the experience. Ms. Langley was asked on one of many visits to the hospital to be a part of Wednesday’s voyage.
Capt. Bob Snyder, who hosted the lunch and the afternoon at the Edgartown Yacht Club, gives the organization a connection to captains around the Island, many of them having experienced cancer themselves. Ms. Boisvert, the founder, has two parents who have had cancer, which gave her cause to start the project.
Sailing Heals does 30 to 32 voyages per year across the country, giving participants cost-free rides, and a priceless adventure.