Provincetown’s Sailing Moment

Cape Cod Life  /  August 2020 / ,

Writer: Chris White

From the dugout mishoon canoes of the Wampanoag, to the whaling schooners of the 19th century, to the pleasure yachts and cruisers, the traditional one-design sailboat classes, and the diminutive Optimist dinghies of today, essential elements of Cape Cod’s culture arise from its history of seafaring and sailing. Yet, despite the fact that the Mayflower itself made its first landfall at Provincetown, most of the sailing-related fanfare in this area has centered around Nantucket Sound and the Islands, the south side of the Cape. The Figawi race from Hyannis to Nantucket kicks off the regular summer sailing calendar, and the largest annual regattas take place in Hyannis and Edgartown. The marquee one-design sailboat of the Cape, the Wianno Senior, was designed and built in Osterville, and the fleet races in the prestigious Scudder Cup, hosted exclusively by yacht clubs that race on Nantucket Sound. When Camelot was in full swing, photos of President John F. Kennedy sailing with the First Lady and their children upon Victura helped to cement the more modern concept of day sailing into not only the Cape’s iconography but into the cultural consciousness of the entire country. None of this renown is meant to diminish the sailing communities in other harbors around the Cape, of course; locations on Pleasant Bay, Buzzards Bay, and Cape Cod Bay all have storied traditions. Rather, this context is meant only to suggest that it’s less predictable to discover an incredible sailing opportunity in Provincetown than it would be in Vineyard Haven or Hyannis. After all, in the 21st century anyway, the most famous boating activity in Provincetown is whale watching. While one charter company is unlikely to demagnetize the compass of common perception, one morning or afternoon sailing from the Cape’s northernmost harbor on the 47’ cutter-rigged Moment can erase preconceived notions, and do so in an instant.  

For make no mistake: Moment Sailing Adventures provides fantastic experiences on the water, in a setting that is even more special precisely because it is less common. That Robert Frost poem about roads in a wood? Well, in some respects, one of the most endearing qualities of Moment Sailing Adventures is that Captain Chris Bartick chose to operate out of Provincetown Harbor, and in so doing, he is able to chart courses for his guests that are a bit “less traveled”—which, as Frost put it, “has made all the difference.” To a first time Cape visitor, perhaps the orientation of Provincetown is unworthy of note, but to anyone who has sailed, raced, or gunkholed around the southern and southwestern shores of the Cape, these waters are exotic. The world feels upside down to beat upwind while moving back along the inner “forearm” of the Cape, towards Truro and Wellfleet, and it feels expansive to run back towards Long Point, before the wind, with the entirety of the Bay off the port side, the open Atlantic just beyond this final spit of sand. In a prevailing southwesterly breeze, the waters that Moment typically covers are generally protected, yet they are open enough that the wind is steady. Under such conditions, Cape Cod Bay is relatively calm, especially in contrast to parts of Nantucket Sound, which can whip up into some serious chop. There’s no guarantee, of course, that the wind will cooperate completely or that the seas will remain serene on every charter, but the setting does help increase the probability of a fine day on the water. 

While weather can be fickle, Moment herself is a sailing vessel that is as solid and dependable as they come. Designed by Rod Stephens of the legendary naval architecture and yacht brokerage firm Sparkman & Stephens, Moment is 47 feet long and built for the open ocean. Queen Long Marine of Taiwan constructed the boats, but they called the class the Stevens 47, for Bill Stevens, a charter operator in the Caribbean who purchased a fleet of them. 56 of the boats were built and sold under this class name, then another 82 were sold as Hylas 47s. According to the online encyclopedia, Bluewater Boats, “The Stevens 47 is arguably the most well respected bluewater, three stateroom sailboat produced and is apparently highly prized on the brokerage market. Her soft motion in a seaway, swift 200 nautical mile per day passages, and luxurious accommodations are unrivaled by yachts of a comparable vintage.” Moment has the distinction of being the first Stevens 47 ever built, and it was her mold that Queen Long Marine used for the remaining 137 boats. In her nearly 40 years afloat, she has completed numerous passages, including a circumnavigation of the globe. Although she was first launched in 1981, Moment appears both classical and new, as the result of an extensive refit in 2013 and 2014, and she’s nothing if not stately. Her fiberglass hull is navy blue with a yellow cove stripe that evokes the Blue Angels jets. Her bottom is painted red, and her bootstripe white; overall, the color combination suggests speed and stability, and it complements the American flag flying from her transom. 

Captain Chris Bartick’s family is originally from New England, but he grew up in Virginia; he was working full time as a graphic designer in New York City in 2013 when he decided to “go after the boat dream.” He purchased Moment and spent the next year working on her restoration with a yard in Annapolis, MD. A new engine, updated electrical wiring and systems, and a range of carpentry, including a new toerail, were installed. Bartick recalls, “I went from having a hammer and screwdriver in New York to owning an arsenal of tools. As I worked with the tradesmen, I learned, and now I can complete projects on my own.” Moment’s name alludes to Captain Bartick’s previous sailing experience, on a 22-foot sailboat that he had in New York. As he was sailing, he developed a system for creating a series of paintings by setting up a pendulum below deck that would effectively record, in paint, the movements of his boat under sail. Each tack and gybe, each bounce in a ferry’s wake, each heel from every puff of wind would literally shape the final painting. He called this series “Moment of Sailing,” and he signed each piece along with the latitude and longitude of its exact location at completion. 

Following the refit, Bartick sailed back up to the city, then decided to sail to Provincetown. “I called up, had a mooring dropped, and spent the summer here,” he says. He soon realized that while there are opportunities for Provincetown visitors to get out on the water aboard vessels such as the schooners Hindu and Bay Lady II, there was room in the market for a different type of experience. He decided to offer high end, intimate sailing charters. “I saw the niche,” he says, “and I wanted to be here.” Moment Sailing Adventures can accommodate up to six guests per charter, and Captain Chris, who maintains a USCG 50 Ton Masters license along with an American Sailing Association instructor certification, offers a variety of options from the most popular two-hour excursions to those of four or six hours. Guests can choose to sail in the morning or afternoon, at sunset, or for an entire day. Despite the size of the vessel and its ample sail area under a main, staysail, and genny, the Stevens 47 has been set up for single handed operation; everything is smooth, automated, and there’s none of the thrashing about that can sometimes characterize sailing adventures. Sometimes Bartick will sail with another crew member, and sometimes other certified and trusted captains will operate the vessel, but for most sails, Captain Chris is at the helm. On the two-hour trip, Moment leaves her mooring near Provincetown’s West End and sails out and around the harbor and Long Point. Views include the Truro shoreline, the Long Point Lighthouse, the remains of Long Point Fishing Village, a community that thrived from about 1818 to 1870, and of course, Provincetown itself, where the monument is an ubiquitous sight from anywhere on the water. Unlike Nantucket Sound, with its shifting sandbars, the depths in Cape Cod Bay are pretty set. “It drops off to 85 feet just off the point,” says Bartick, “so we’re able to do a nice buzz of the shoreline.” On the longer 4-hour and 6-hour sails, Captain Chris may anchor off Herring Cove Beach or Long Point Beach so that guests may go for a swim. Guests are welcome to bring their own sustenance—with the exception of red wine and other “staining beverages”—and/or may order items such as charcuterie plates from Perry’s Fine Wines and Liquors, with which Bartick has established a consistent working partnership. Moment Sailing will even pick up and plate the charcuterie and chill the wine for guests.

Most years, Captain Chris also offers two-day cruises for up to four guests. These sails frequently include visits to the harbors of Wellfleet and Plymouth, where guests dine at local restaurants. Extended trips to destinations such as Marblehead and Nantucket are also possible under normal operating conditions. This year, however, due to safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bartick has suspended the overnight trips. Moment was able to open for business on May 25th this year, and Captain Chris has been paying close attention to the guidelines set forth by the CDC and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for safe operation during the pandemic. “Masks are required per state mandate,” he says, “and I’m always wearing one.” He notes that finding “boat-safe” cleaning products that actually sanitize has been a bit of a challenge, but that isopropyl alcohol-based products are generally the best. When day sailing, people tend to spend nearly all of their time on deck or in the cockpit of a sailboat; Captain Chris has discouraged guests from hanging out down in the cabin. With all of these safety measures in place, Moment Sailing Adventures has been operating day trips, and Bartick says, “June was actually busier than usual, with people wanting to escape.” Fortunately sailing, with the movement of the boat and the breeze, is one of the outdoor activities that allows people to have fun and socialize, even if at a limited capacity. Captain Chris is looking forward to the remainder of the summer, which he plans to extend through October this year. “We have a short window of time,” he says, “so I’m trying to help guests safely enjoy it while we can have a little escape, when the weather is nice.” 

 Chris White, a frequent contributor, teaches English at Tabor Academy.

Chris White

Chris White is a frequent writer for Cape Cod Life Publications and has written on topics ranging from the history of Smith’s Tavern on Wellfleet Island to the sinking of the SS Andrea Doria off Nantucket. Chris also teaches English at Tabor Academy in Marion.