HARWICH — Charlie Sumner has traded in spreadsheets for mainsheets.
The former Brewster Town Administrator of 29 years—Cape Cod’s longest serving town administrator—is the first executive director of Pleasant Bay Community Boating (PBCB).
Founded in 2003, PBCB is dedicated to making boating, marine education, and environmental stewardship affordable and accessible to all—including residents and visitors to the Pleasant Bay region.
“PBCB is more than community sailing,” says Sumner from the desk he's occupied for three months. “It’s about making those innate connections between sailing these beautiful waters and preserving them. We want youngsters to develop a love of sailing and a love of, interest in, and curiosity about the rich marine environment around them.”
The range of programs offered by PBCB this year reflects its multifaceted mission. In addition to youth and adult sailing classes, the 2016 series includes science programs like Muddy Creek Explorers and Global Warming Express. In Muddy Creek Explorers, participants join an ongoing marine restoration project and help scientists conduct water quality analysis, and observe shellfish and plant life populations. The new Global Warming Express program combines climate science, arts, and adventure with field trips in the Pleasant Bay area. This year’s expanded First Sail program—made possible by a Friends of Pleasant Bay grant—gave local third graders from Brewster, Chatham, and Harwich a chance to sail around Pleasant Bay. Sumner hopes to include third graders from the Nauset communities next year.
“For many of these youngsters, First Sail was their first time out on Pleasant Bay,” says Sumner. “You have local children growing up next to this coastal treasure without ever having the opportunity to fully experience it.” Improving the Bay’s accessibility is a common denominator across PBCB’s diverse program offerings.
“With private homes now dotting much of Pleasant Bay’s shoreline, accessibility has diminished over the years,” says Sumner. “Community boating provides an affordable alternative to yacht clubs.”
Guaranteeing the affordability of PBCB’s programs is among Sumner’s priorities.
“As one of six children growing up in an industrial city west of Boston, there wasn’t extra money for things like sailing,” says Sumner, who is now an avid sailor. “What’s great about PBCB is that it makes sailing accessible. You can have a family membership for $75 a year, get out on the water, and learn how to sail.”
PBCB’s dedication to accessibility reaches beyond the attainable price tags of its programs. The expanded sailing series includes classes devoted to community members with physical, developmental, and cognitive disabilities as well as underserved families and at-risk youth. PBCB’s fleet features 10 Flying Scots, eight Sunfish, five support boats, three 14-foot catboats, one Laser, and six 420 sailboats on loan from the Monomoy Regional High School sailing team.
The expanded classes have been well-received. Sumner notes that new membership activity for 2016 is strong and is on trend with PBCB’s steady growth. From 2014 to 2015, memberships were up 95 percent (198 in 2014 to 387 in 2015) and student enrollment increased by 128 percent (368 in 2014 to 840 in 2015). Sumner says that the uptick may indeed correspond to PBCB’s new waterfront campus.
In December 2014 — after a decade of running community sailing lessons from Jackknife Cove Beach in Chatham — PBCB acquired the former McClennen estate. The purchase was made possible by a favorable loan from the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank and charitable donations by PBCB supporters. The 3.6-acre property includes 750 feet of shoreline, a small beach, a dock, a boathouse, and several dwellings which will be used for residential memberships. Built in 1889, the historic residence is the second oldest house on Pleasant Bay. Nicknamed “Three Towns,” the property sits at the point where Brewster, Orleans, and Harwich come together.
The poetry of this is not lost on Sumner. “PBCB is all about coming together—right down to its location,” he says as he walks across the grounds. “For us to realize the full potential of this waterfront property and bring our visions to fruition, we need to involve the community.”
In this spirit, PBCB has embarked on a full-scale, five-year capital campaign, “Charting our Course,” to raise $4.8 million for the acquisition, rehabilitation, renovation, and repurposing of the buildings, grounds and facilities. Grants, corporate support, foundation gifts and facility partnerships with major academic institutions are expected to generate additional revenue.
The fundraising task may daunt someone who doesn’t summit mountaintops as a hobby — Sumner is set to climb Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, later this year — or who doesn’t possess Sumner’s decades of experience navigating town budgets.
“As PBCB renovates its new campus, aligns its operations with the fresh vision made possible by this new acquisition, and raises funds to make it all possible, it will benefit greatly from having a leader of Sumner’s caliber at the helm,” stated PBCB President Ted Baylis in a press release.
Sumner is quick to note that the waters he now navigates were first charted by PBCB founder John Dickson in 2003. During the last five years of his Brewster tenure, Sumner worked closely with Dickson, who is a Brewster selectman. Said Dickson in a press release, “Charlie is the single best administrator I have ever had the pleasure to work with. He brings people together. He gets everyone on board and makes great projects happen. He is also a financial wizard who has found creative ways to fund dozens of town projects. I can’t imagine a better person to bring PBCB’s potential to fruition.”
Program offerings and additional information about PBCB—including its “Charting our Course” capital campaign—is available at www.PBCB.cc.