Land, Air and Sea: Tours through Chatham

Written by Lisa Cavanaugh | Photography by Julia Cumes

Ride in an airplane, hop on a boat or experience stand-up paddle boarding. Learn about the town’s history and architecture by walking down Main Street. No matter which you choose, you’ll see Chatham from a different perspective through the eyes of a tour guide.

Kyle Takakjian

Airplane Tour Pilot, Stick’n Rudder Aero Tours

When Kyle Takakjian was a child, his family would travel from their New York home to spend their summer vacations in Brewster. He distinctly remembers sitting with his parents and watching Airforce planes bomb the target ship in Cape Cod Bay. “It was like fireworks!” he says, and the sight helped plant the aviation bug in him.

He first got to know Chatham as a Coast Guardsman in 1984 and remained in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve for nearly 30 years, with a concurrent career as the Truro police chief, retiring in 2017. But his desire to fly never left him. “I learned right here in Chatham in 1996, from a wonderful local instructor, Red Beach,” says Takakjian.

When airport manager Tim Howard took over the Stick’n Rudder aerial sightseeing company in 2014, Takakjian took to the skies as one of his pilots, flying a replica of a 1930s design for mail planes and crop dusters. “Over the years, I obtained different flying licenses,” he says, “and since I had a lot of experience flying tail wheel aircraft, I got the bi-plane.”

Stick’n Rudder Aero Tours offer 15-, 30- and 60-minute sightseeing rides, and Takakjian is up in the air three or four days a week, sometimes operating eight flights a day. He likes to talk to his passengers about the natural history of Cape Cod as well as tidbits about aviation, marine biology, the local fishing industry, tidal flows and Marconi and his transcontinental wireless signals to Europe.

But what he most relishes sharing are the unbelievable views. “We start out over Chatham, and then head toward Monomoy or up the coast, crossing over Nickerson State Park to Nauset Beach,” he says. “And people are absolutely amazed. It is so breathtaking up there and they are seeing things they’ve never seen before.”

Mike Anderson

Chatham Fish Pier Host

Over the past eight years, veteran fisherman Mike Anderson has told fish tales to thousands of people. As one of the knowledgeable hosts of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance’s Pier Host Program, Anderson has become a well-known presence on the observation deck above the Chatham Fish Pier. On Fridays through Mondays between Memorial Day and Columbus Day, he and other seasoned fishermen are on hand to share the experience of working on the water and offer insight into the Cape’s commercial fishing industry to interested visitors.

“I’ve been a ground fisherman since the ’60s, so I have a unique perspective,” says Anderson, who helped form what is now the Fishermen’s Alliance. “I tell them how it was, how it is now and about the differences in fishing, then and now.”

The Pier Host program is a satisfying way to share his years of knowledge with people who don’t know much about Cape Cod’s fishing industry, and he isn’t surprised that most of them are unfamiliar with the local species—like skate and monkfish—that Cape fishermen catch now. “People tell me it’s quite enlightening,” he says, although British tourists, to their surprise, sometimes recognize Chatham dogfish as the ingredient in the fish ’n’ chips back home.

Anderson grew up in Wakefield and knew early on that a staid life behind a desk was not for him. “I wanted to have an adventure and I thought if you only live once, you should do something you like.”

Tim Wood

Chatham Walks

A few years ago, Cape Cod Chronicle editor Tim Wood was traveling in London with his wife and children, enjoying some informative historical walks through the city. “My wife suggested that I could do the same thing here,” says Wood, “and that’s how I started Chatham Walks.”

Wood has lived in Chatham since 1982, after a childhood in Connecticut that included trips to a family summer home in Eastham. After he graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in English and a desire to be a journalist, he moved full time to Cape Cod. His first job at the Chronicle was in production, and eventually he was hired as a reporter and worked his way up to editor, a job he has held for just over 12 years.

Now every Wednesday morning, June through Labor Day, Wood strolls Main Street followed by interested walkers and points out historic, cultural and architectural sights.

He has a keen interest in history, and his job helped him amass a trove of information about the town. “I’ve had to research the area and learn about historic incidents as part of my work, so I’ve built up quite a bit of knowledge and background history on Chatham,” says Wood. His favorite building is the Eldredge Public Library and he admires the story of the generous former resident, Marcellus Eldredge, who gifted it to the town in the late 1890s.

The 90-minute tours usually include five to a dozen walkers, depending on the weather, and they can be customized to a group’s interests. “In many ways, Chatham is a typical New England seaside town, but it also is very rich in its history and its people,” says Wood. “It’s a very vibrant community.”

Helaine & Tom Broderick

Chatham Boat Tours

When people comment that their ride on Chatham Boat Tours made for “the best day of their vacation,” Tom and Helaine Broderick are thrilled. “It doesn’t get much better than that,” says Tom. “When we see those reviews, we’re so happy,” says Helaine, “because we feel so lucky to show people Chatham by water.”

The Boston natives, who built their house in Chatham in 1982, have been boat owners since the mid-’90s. Once retirement loomed—he was a union carpenter and civil engineer, she worked as a teacher and in information technology—they decided to explore the charter boat business while living full time on Cape Cod. Tom got his USCG Charterboat Captain’s License, while Helaine began to man the phones. The experience has exceeded their expectations.

“Having a boat allows us to open up a new dimension of the Cape Cod experience for our customers,” says Tom. The Brodericks find that while some people just like to be out on the water looking at Chatham from a different perspective, others are more adventurous. “The tours with children are usually more hands-on,” says Tom. “They can see fish and crabs up close and pull lobster pots.” Their 22-foot Eastern Seacoast lobster boat named Nora Dora is outfitted with a three-step ladder that allows people to alight onto the shores of the beautiful beaches they visit.

The Brodericks have met a lot of interesting people from all over the country and the world, including admirals, marine biologists, professional athletes, world famous photographers and regular folks who have a keen interest in the marine environment.

Chatham Boat Tours typically operates from May to Thanksgiving, with their peak season falling between July 1 and Labor Day.

Justin Labdon

Adventure Chatham

Most people visiting Cape Cod in 2010 had never heard of stand-up paddle boarding, much less tried it, but Justin Labdon, founder of Adventure Chatham, had recently discovered the sport and decided to add it to his successful Cape Cod Beach Chair Company. “There were only three manufacturers of the boards then,” says Labdon, “and no one on the Cape was renting them yet.”

Growing up in Brewster, Labdon spent a lot of time on his parents’ boat in Stage Harbor and, after a career in marketing in Boston, returned to the Cape with his wife in 2002. He started making beach chairs in his garage, and by 2009 had purchased the building on Queen Anne Road where the workshop and retail store for both businesses is located.

Labdon was among the first on the Cape to offer SUP lessons. “When we started, we did lessons all day long, every day,” says Labdon, “but now everyone has seen them, tried them or have friends who own them, so we do more guided tours than lessons.”

His SUP tours go out in various locations in and around Chatham, such as Pleasant Bay, the Stage Harbor area and Oyster Pond. The more adventurous, seal-seeking guests will launch in Chatham Harbor.

One of their most popular offerings is Glow Tours, nighttime SUP adventures with high lumen LED lights attached to the bottom of the boards. As night falls, the lights begin to attract squid and little bait fish, as well as shore-bound people, who wander down to see the neon glow of stand-up paddle boarders as they glide by.