Days at Sea with Pleasant Bay Community Boating

Pleasant Bay Community Boating believes everyone should share in the joy of being out on the water.

Written by Lisa Cavanaugh | Photography by William H. Hayes

If you follow Route 28 out of Chatham, hugging the shores of Pleasant Bay until you reach the spot where Brewster, Harwich and Orleans meet, you will arrive at a sprawling campus of wooden buildings perched on a hill above the ocean. Here, at the 3-1/2 acre former McClennen estate, Pleasant Bay Community Boating is ready to welcome you to experience the pleasures of a day on the water.

The 15-year-old organization, whose mission is to make boating affordable and accessible to all, moved to their new site in 2014 after a dozen years of offering sailing lessons at Jack Knife Cove in Chatham. PBCB offers youth and adult lessons, adaptive sailing programs, informal boat races, marine education, environmental stewardship and a residential program on campus.

The group formed in 2003 when John Dickson, a local teacher, and several volunteers began looking for ways to provide recreational opportunities for young people in the Pleasant Bay communities. They believed the joy of boating shouldn’t be reserved only for the privileged. With donations of sailboats from area residents, the fledging organization began offering community lessons.

“We recognized that access to the water was difficult for a variety of reasons—prohibitive cost, lack of time and physical or cognitive limitations,” says Ted Baylis, chairman of the PBCB board. “PBCB was created as a community boating experience that could give access to the water to everybody.”

More generosity followed from the Southern Massachusetts Sailing Association in the form of seven Flying Scots, easy-to-handle day sailing boats, and soon PBCB began offering programs free of charge for students with intellectual and developmental challenges.

Greg Kelly, PBCB’s sailing director and a founding member of the organization, recalls how they started to get interest from special needs kids attending the former Chatham High (where he was sailing coach). The organization eventually launched an annual boating program in conjunction with Special Olympics for cognitively impaired youth and adults, to which local organizations, such as Cape Abilities, send participants every summer. Plans are currently in the works to build an adaptive dock to accommodate physically challenged boaters.

Another program that Kelly spearheaded is First Sail, which enables every third grader in Harwich, Chatham, Brewster and Orleans to learn how to sail. Kelly, who has always shared his love and extensive knowledge of sailing with young people, says his motivation for the project came from his experiences as Chatham and now Monomoy High School’s sailing coach. “Third grade is the right age to get kids hooked on boating,” says Kelly, “so I came up with the idea and one of our volunteers wrote to the US Sailing Foundation, who sponsored our first year.”

The Friends of Pleasant Bay have also financially supported First Sail, a program that Baylis says brings tears to his eyes whenever he talks about it. He himself was fortunate enough to come from a sailing family and he wants to spread that joy. “It’s a great way for us to introduce sailing and the bay to these kids, most of whom have never been on a boat before.”

Having a permanent home is allowing the organization to broaden their reach. “When we had the opportunity to purchase this property, we saw the chance to offer more than just boating,” says Baylis.

To that end, PBCB brought on science director, Sarah Griscom, who has created programs aimed at adults and children. “I feel strongly the kids aren’t going to think about the environment unless they are connected to it,” says Griscom, who has a Ph.D. in oceanography.

PBCB’s STEM to Stern uses sailing as a way to understand physics, engineering, geometry, chemistry, ocean science and mathematics, while their Muddy Creek Explorers project takes kids 11 to 17 into the Muddy Creek wetlands to explore, conduct water quality analysis, observe shellfish and plant life populations, and work with scientists and engineers.

Ultimately, the main goal of the PBCB staff and board is to continue living up to their mission. “The original group had a great vision,” says Kelly. “Sailing is a way of life that we can share with everyone.”

2287 Route 28, Harwich; 508-945-7245