At 53 feet, 44 tons, and at 7.8 knots, the polished wooden sailing yacht cut through gentle waves and a steady wind before tacking. “Ready about!” The distant words from a crew member could be heard followed by “Lee to helm!” The bow of the boat passed through the wind, sails flapping until they filled with air, heeling the boat over on its new course.
“Are you comfortable?” Captain Bob Snyder asked Ted Morgan, a VIP guest aboard the Resolute. “I’m sailing,” he responded — enough said.
There’s something about the elements, and the 25 guests cruising down-Island waters last Wednesday know that. Trisha Boisvert and her team of volunteers at Sailing Heals especially know that. Sailing Heals is a Boston-based nonprofit organization that partners with boat owners to get the people on the water who most need its natural remedies.
Along with the rest of Population Earth, Ms. Boisvert’s life has been deeply affected by cancer.
Whether the patient or caregiver, these high-stress, choiceless, full-time positions present
themselves to families with little to no space for breaks. With this in mind, Ms. Boisvert and her twin sister thought up an idea to create that space. With the help of founding corporate sponsor Panerai, an Italian luxury-watch company, Sailing Heals was officially launched during Nantucket Race Week in August 2011.
“Today, we forget the cares on land,” Ms. Boisvert said to a group of honored patients, caregivers, captains, and crew members gathered around tables at Edgartown Yacht Club. Guests were brought in through word of mouth, doctors’ suggestions, and local ads. “Whatever you’re going through, we’re here for you.”
The afternoon kicked off with a complimentary lunch among old and new friends. Guests exchanged stories over gazpacho, vegetable frittata, pasta salad, fruit, and an assortment of desserts. One thing cancer does not lack is company. Everyone has a story.
For Casey Bell, it was a celebration sail.
“I rang the end-of-treatment bell last Tuesday,” Ms. Bell said, “The car was already packed. We headed straight for the Vineyard.”
Caregiver and certified nursing assistant Linda Morgan lost her sister and mother to cancer, but came aboard the sail to bring her father-in-law out for the afternoon.
“The profession chose me,” Ms. Morgan said, “But I’m so thankful. I was born a caregiver.”
Some illnesses weren’t cancer-specific. Lily Godek and her two daughters attended the sail to break their daily routine.
“My mother is legally blind, and we’re her caregivers,” Gretchen Godek said. “It’ll be so nice for us to get out on a boat for the day. So different.”
After lunch, attendees were sent to their prospective boats. Resolute was one of the five out of Edgartown Harbor carrying passengers. Others were Money Penny, Gadget, and Catboat Charters’ Nantucket. The host captains and crew members are another reason why these events work so well. All guests have to do is climb aboard and enjoy.
“We have over 200 registered host captains,” Ms. Boisvert said, “We’re in nine states, 25 different ports, and we’re getting close to reaching 2,400 VIPs.”
All guests are VIPs at Sailing Heals. According to longtime volunteer Kelly Diamond, sails run two to three times a week at locations all over the U.S. Wednesday was their fourth time out of Edgartown Harbor. The healing season continues through September, with trips along the East Coast down to Maryland.
“We mainly host sail lunches, but we’ve also done fundraisers, cocktail parties, and auctions,” Ms. Diamond said, “It’s been a busy summer, but it’s been so great.”
For some, it was a celebration. For others, it was a distraction. But for everyone, it was an opportunity to feel weightless.
Ms. Morgan summed it up perfectly: “I’m in heaven.”
If you’re an individual looking to attend, volunteer, or donate, visit sailingheals.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.