HARWICH – Pleasant Bay Community Boating wants to help folks of all ages and abilities get on the water, but with the pandemic it was uncertain how the summer would play out. Thanks to a carefully phased-in opening in June and strict adherence to safety-first protocol, however, PBCB is celebrating a successful summer season.
“We phased in opening and took baby steps, opening the last week of June,” said President Ted Baylis. “We had really small program sizes and gradually ramped it up.”
Baylis said the PBCB staff followed the state’s phased guidelines, working out issues as they arose, taking care with sign-in procedures, paperwork, keeping adult programs separate from kids’ programs, and limiting class sizes. The result was a stellar summer, with one key caveat.
“From the finance point of view, expenses are up due to COVID-related costs, but we feel like we’ve more than fulfilled our mission,” said Baylis. “We got a lot of really positive feedback over the summer.”
Associate Director Abigail Field said the prevailing sentiment was one of gratitude, especially with regard to the youth programs.
“People really needed what we had to offer this year,” said Field. “We were fortunate that outdoor recreation and education were reported to be one of the healthiest environments to be in. We felt that we had a responsibility to welcome people here.”
Field said the majority of PBCB programs boasted steady enrollment, with some necessitating long waitlists due to their popularity and because other summer camp programs were not operating.
“We did have to reduce our capacity to accommodate for social distancing,” Field said. “But we had a ton of demand.”
One of the most popular programs was the Science and Sail youth program, partly because of its subject matter and partly because of the hours. Both Baylis and Field said parents were especially thankful for the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. times, not to mention the skills the program imparted.
“We had great counselors that dive deep into the science and sailing side and marry the two,” said Baylis. “The whole thing about sailing is that it is athletic, especially in the small boats. It’s good exercise [and] it’s all experiential learning. We teach science on the sailboat, so kids who were behind computer screens all spring, it was great for them to get out and learn in a new way.”
Field said PBCB instructors saw marked skills progression among the program participants, helped by having to sail solo in keeping with social distancing protocol.
“That meant they had to do more work and learn more. It caused them to be more courageous and take on more responsibility,” Field said. “By the end of the summer there were young kids doing capsize drills with confidence. The skills progression was really cool to watch.”
At the end of August, PBCB held a virtual fundraiser to help defray some of the operating costs. Baylis said the event was also a success.
“We scaled back our expectations to about half of what we normally raise, [and] had some wonderful auction items in silent and live auctions,” said Baylis. “It was a lot of work, and probably not as fun as being at the Wequasset, but it was a success.”
The funds raised will go toward keeping the non-profit organization afloat and able to continue providing educational programs.
“Charging as little as possible for the programs we offer, that leaves us with a gap,” said Baylis. “We rely on various revenue streams to make up the difference.”
As this summer draws to a close, Baylis and Field said there is much to look forward to in 2021, including a new accessible dock that will allow people using wheelchairs to access PBCB boats, making adaptive sailing, paddling, and birding more available to everyone. To pay for the capital project, PBCB has turned to private fundraising, and has applied for Community Preservation Funds from the various communities it serves, including Harwich, Chatham, and Orleans. Final votes of approval are anticipated at local town meetings.
Ideally, the new dock, which might have to be built in phases, will include a lift to help people using wheelchairs get in and out of boats. It will also be wide enough to accommodate more foot traffic and multiple wheelchairs.
“On Cape Cod you can’t not honor that constituency,” said Field. “We’re able to provide that experience for them that they might not be able to have.”
Also anticipated in 2021 is the PBCB Floating Classroom, from which kids and adults will be able to observe marine life, check water quality, and learn more about the waters of Pleasant Bay and surrounding areas.
“It’s an easygoing way to meander out into the bay,” said Field. “It’s going to extend our fleet and fill a gap when sailing isn’t possible or we need to get from point A to point B.”
Meanwhile, since area schools aren’t opening until next week, PBCB has extended some of its programs, a win-win for college-age staff studying remotely and still in need of work, and for parents looking to keep their kids busy in the days before school starts.
“We still have a little bit of youth sailing going on with four students in the morning and four in the afternoon,” said Field. “Because instructors are still around, we’re able to do what we can accommodate.”
Along with the youth programs are adult and family sailing, primarily in Catboats or Flying Scots, and boat rentals.
“September is a great time to go sailing,” said Baylis. “The water’s still warm and the breezes are nice. Everybody knows that September is the greatest time on Cape Cod.”