My first visit to Cape Cod was in 1955 when I was eight years old. For two weeks in August, my family rented an older three-story “cottage” in the village of Old Craigville within walking distance of Craigville Beach in Centerville. The house was right across the street from tiny Lake Elizabeth, with a small dock where my brother Mike and I would go fishing. Of course, we were not allowed to go on the dock without my parents’ permission. My younger brother John went without permission and I reported this to my mother. John was angry with me and told me I didn’t have to do that. I told him that just because I had a lot of freckles he didn’t have to call me “a speckled hen.”
Old Craigville was magical. On the village green, there were organized volleyball games in the evening. There was also a penny candy store, a tiny post office, and a gracious old multistory inn. My grandmother and great aunts stayed at the inn part of the time we were there, and they would take us kids out to breakfast at the inn. All of this was only a short walk from Craigville Beach where we spent most days. A wonderful, tree-canopied walking path ran between the cottage connecting the village green to a huge bluff overlooking the beach. At night, this walkway was lit by the glowing lamps of bordering cottages, alive with laughter and music.
As the family grew, we spent more time on the Cape and the older children, of whom I am one, got summer jobs at Craigville Beach. We were lifeguards, short-order cooks, waitresses, and parking lot attendants. Evenings were busy with ping-pong in the game room, touch football on the beach, and visits to the 1856 Country Story in Centerville and Four Seas Ice Cream parlor. I learned to sail, won some races, and started a business teaching sailing and renting out small sailboats. In 1964, I was being paid five dollars an hour to go sailing. Maybe I should have stuck with that.
During my college years, I learned how to chart a course and handle a sloop large enough for cruising. A few friends and I chartered a boat out of Mattapoisett and sailed to Nantucket, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, Menemsha, and Cuttyhunk. I knew then that eventually I would have to have my own boat and that the Cape and Islands would always be a very important part of my life. Of course, the first cruise was not without incident. The only crew member that could not swim fell overboard when we were moving at a pretty good clip coming out of Vineyard Haven Harbor. Fortunately, he was wearing a life jacket, and we did get him back aboard.
Right after college, I bought a Hobie Cat Catamaran sailboat. It was only 14 feet long and had a trampoline for a deck, connecting two pontoons. Heavens to Murgatroyd was that thing fast! We would trailer to Town Cove in Orleans and sail out of the channel to the ocean facing Nauset Beach. We would sail in close to the beach, and then with the southwest wind at our backs, we would turn out and head into the oncoming waves. The best part was when the entire boat would fly off of a wave and completely leave the surface of the water. We wore wetsuits because it was a wet ride, and thankfully by that time the same crew member had learned to swim.
In 1976, I became a year-round Cape Codder and in 1979 founded Cape Cod Life magazine in hopes of sharing my love of the Cape and Islands with many readers. During the 80s, I met my wife, Judy, with whom I have been most fortunate to share my love of the Cape and Islands ever since. We were married on our beloved island of Cuttyhunk in June 1990. Our boys Josh and Max were born in ’94 and ’97, and we built a new home in ’99. The boys have grown up on the water and I just love to see them both handling boats so well. They sail, they motor boat, and they navigate, in and out of the fog. And, they can both swim.
“The memories we collect and give Brighten our lives as long as we live.”
Brian Shortsleeve, President and Publisher