Catch the wind, commune with nature | Cape Cod LIFE July 2016

Photograph courtesy of Outer Cape Sailing

Cape Cod enthusiasts say sailing nurtures the mind, body, and soul

Cape Cod is a boater’s paradise. With its charming harbors and inlets, the strong breezes of Buzzards Bay, and miles of shoreline to explore, this area has long sounded a siren’s call for sailors and yachtsmen.

Whether as a competitive sport or a leisure activity, sailing is an endeavor that many make a lifelong pursuit or pastime; others enjoy it as a once-a-year hobby. On Cape Cod, a number of organizations and businesses provide opportunities for individuals to learn to sail, or simply to get out on the water and feel the breeze. In recent weeks Cape Cod LIFE spoke with two local sailing enthusiasts to get an understanding of the benefits—mind, body, and soul—of catching the wind and feeling nature’s pull.

In more than a decade of teaching sailing lessons, Gary Flomenhoft says he has taught the basics of sailing to scores of individuals, both youths and adults. “That,” he says, “tells you that anyone can learn to sail—and that I’m a great teacher.”

A resident of North Eastham, Flomenhoft sails his completely restored 19-foot O’Day Mariner in Wellfleet Harbor, where he offers sailing lessons and cruises during the summer through Outer Cape Sailing. With his small, retractable-keel boat, he can maneuver within the shallow harbor at any tide and can bring the boat right up to the beach during excursions. He says one of his favorite spots to visit is Jeremy Point, the southernmost point of Wellfleet’s Great Island; it’s a secluded area—and one of the hardest to reach locations (by land) within the Cape Cod National Seashore.

“Sailing can be as active or as passive as you would like,” Flomenhoft says. “I have people who come on the boat and they simply want to enjoy the scenery, and then there are others who want to tend to the sails and take the tiller. Either way, they’re sailing and having a great time on the water.”

Opportunities exist for all

Mike Trovato, president of Sail Cape Cod in Hyannis, says there are a number of misconceptions about sailing, particularly regarding the sport’s inclusiveness. “Many people think sailing is elitist or exclusive,” Trovato says, “but it’s just the opposite. It’s not just yacht clubs and big boats, there is plenty of opportunity for anyone to get out on the water and enjoy the experience.”

A community sailing program begun in 2013, Sail Cape Cod’s mission is to make sailing accessible to all. “We started this organization because we understood the therapeutic and recreational benefits of sailing,” Trovato says. The program has been well received by the community, and Trovato expects to teach about 200 youths and adults to sail this summer.

The organization’s outreach program serves disadvantaged youth as well as those with disabilities. According to Trovato, Sail Cape Cod is the first organization on the Cape to operate an adaptive boat, specially designed to enable individuals with physical, developmental, and other disabilities to experience the joys of sailing.

Trovato says when Sail Cape Cod brings an individual out on the adaptive boat for the first time, he or she is often nervous or apprehensive about the experience. “But once they get out and are actually sailing, their whole demeanor changes,” Trovato says. “Joy overcomes them—I think even with seasoned sailors that joyful feeling never goes away.”

Enjoy nature—and each other’s company

At its most basic level, sailing is connected with nature. The very mechanics of moving through the water rely on natural forces: A sailboat glides along, propelled solely by wind and tide. “Sailing is communing with nature,” Trovato says. “You’re one with the water; the wind is moving you along; it sounds a little hokey, but it’s true. It’s a freeing experience.”

Flomenhoft agrees. “When you’re sailing you’re out there with the wind, sun, and spray,” he says. “It’s a great way to get in touch with nature.” He adds that the activity’s relatively slow pace provides those on board the opportunity to observe wildlife—seals, dolphins, jellyfish, seabirds, et cetera—in their natural habitat. Trovato says sailing often involves connecting with others as well. After all, there’s little to do when the wind dies down, he says, than to talk to each other, and those conversations and shared experiences can create lasting memories. “The sport teaches teamwork and builds camaraderie,” Trovato says, “and creates lasting friendships.”

For more information on Sail Cape Cod, visit sailcapecod.org; and to learn more about Outer Cape Sailing, visit outercapesailing.com.

A resident of Hull, Nancy White is a regular contributor to Cape Cod LIFE.