May 2018 Gunkholing: Craigville Beach

Cape Cod Life  /  May 2018 / ,

Writer: Brian Shortsleeve

Centerville Harbor, Craigville Beach

Centerville Harbor, Craigville Beach. Photo by Paul Rifkin

“The memories we collect and give brighten our lives for as long as we live.”

When my father was in college in 1938, he first visited Cape Cod and Craigville Beach. He and his family lived in Elmira, New York. In 1955 he and my mother, my brothers and sisters and I experienced our first vacation on the Cape. My sister, Mary, the fifth child in a family that would grow to eight children, was less than a year old at the time.

The cottage we rented was in the village of Old Craigville overlooking Lake Elizabeth, on the far side of which sat the Trade Winds Inn. The cottage colony included a footpath from Craigville Beach up to the village green, where one would find a combination post office and penny candy store. Also facing the green, to this day, sits the Craigville Inn. During our first Craigville vacation, my mother’s mother, the original “Lady Carline,” and two of her sisters, Aunt Helen and Aunt Mary, stayed in the inn. My brother Mike and I would join them for pancakes on the back porch dining room. The footpath led from the village green out to a high bluff overlooking all of Craigville Beach from Osterville to Hyannis Port.

In 1962 our family moved from Elmira, New York to the Greater Boston area. I believe proximity to Cape Cod was a major consideration. My parents had a cottage built in West Hyannis Port. Mike, my sister Cathy, my brother John and I were just old enough to get our first summer jobs at Craigville Beach. At CBA, the Craigville Beach Association beach club, families returned summers for generations, and still do.

Mike got a job as a lifeguard; Cathy, John and I all worked for Charlie Howes at the snack bar. Charlie was not only a great first boss, he and his whole family treated me like family. Each morning the lifeguards would put many families’ umbrellas and beach chairs in locations on the beach where each family preferred to sit. Family names were printed on the backs of most chairs. CBA organized games, swimming races, sailing races, and offered a game room that also served for Record Hops. When the wind was making for good-size waves, late in the day, with the sun low in the sky, my dad would come to the beach and he and I would go for a swim together.

My dad was not a sailor, not really a boater of any type. However, he had Mike and me take a few sailing lessons at Kalmus Beach in Hyannis and then he rented a “sunfish” (small sailboat) for us to use. First day out the wind was strong and the waves big. Mike and I were unable to “come about” (turn around) against the weather. We washed up on Long Beach, over a mile down the Craigville Beach shore. We lowered the sail and embarrassingly walked the boat back in the waves just off the beach, all the way to CBA. My father took us back to Kalmus Beach and told the instructor, “My boys need a turn around and go-the-other-way lesson.”  After that, all was fine.

I went on to be undefeated in the annual sailing races at CBA.  Then I started teaching sailing, and in time had my own “sunfish” sailboat rental business on Craigville Beach, down the shore from CBA. I liked having my own business while in school.  After college I worked in publishing for most of 10 years, toward the end of which I started dreaming about starting Cape Cod Life.

My friends and family heard about the dream over and over.  One day in the summer of 1978, my sister, Mary, who was 24 years old by then, was listening patiently and suddenly said, “Oh, Bry, let’s do it!”  We happened to be having a glass of wine, sitting out on the patio at the Trade Winds Inn, overlooking Lake Elizabeth. The next day I wrote the mission statement. In May of ’79, the first issue was published.

Gunkholing is the art of getting a boat into any small shallow cove, forbidden to boats of deeper draft and out again, without running aground much over a dozen times. – J.Benjamin

P.S. I applaud my niece Cassie and her husband, Christo, for their memorable wedding on Craigville Beach.

Brian Shortsleeve

Brian Shortsleeve is the owner, publisher, and founder of Cape Cod Life Publications. His personal column, “Gunkholing,” has appeared in all issues of Cape Cod LIFE since the very first issue in 1979.