Sailing Camps of Cape Cod

By: Camp Cod Sea Camps

The history of sailing camps on Cape Cod is long and storied. In the early 1900s a camping movement was sweeping the country and the Cape was a natural setting to capitalize on this new endeavor. Of course, at the time, land on the ocean was cheap and sailing was an historic endeavor for Cape Cod. Institutions like Camp Chequesset, Camp Namequoit, Camp Viking, Camp Quanset, Pleasant Bay Camp, Camp Avalon, Camp Tonset, Camp Monomoy and Camp Wono were vanguards in the field, and thrived between the 1920s and the1970s. Many were of small scale but offered the unique experience of spending summers camping and sailing on Pleasant Bay, Cape Cod Bay and Wellfleet Harbor. Early Advertisements appealed to the adventure of sailing which turned the area into a Mecca for such opportunities. The romance of sailing as a recreational pursuit had taken hold. Clearly the enjoyment that many campers experienced during their summers on Cape Cod translated into family vacations and summer homes in subsequent years.

In the early days, camping mimicked the pleasant summers that early Cape Codders experienced when the water was warm and life was simpler. Camp Viking campers enjoyed their cookouts and overnights on the outer beach after a row across in their famed whale boats. All camps looked forward to the Pleasant Bay Invitational Regattas (PBIRs) which were weekly sailing races to establish bragging rights in Mercs, BayBirds, 15s and Catboats. Most camps were single gender so dances and other opportunities to meet the opposite sex were eagerly anticipated, while counselors found their own ways to meet.. Monomoy campers will remember Capt Del, Skipper Dodd and Grant Koch espousing the merits of a disciplined camping experience. Other names that surely hold a spot in the hearts of campers are Melcher (still sailing!), Thayer, Hagenbuckle, Farnham, Hammett, Laffey and Lincoln to name a few.

Since these storied times, all but the Cape Cod Sea Camps, Monomoy/Wono have closed. By the late 1970s, the pressure of government regulation, real estate development and family members who were uninterested in continuing their legacy led to a slow decline and the ultimate development of the properties. By the late 1980s most camps had closed, leaving the next generation of Cape Cod campers with few choices. Still, past campers hold their summer memories dear and arrange reunions from time to time in the Cape Cod area. Memorabilia often shows up on EBay and a few blogs continue to get the occasional post by long lost campers hoping to reminisce.

Today, alumni from many of these camps carry on their sailing traditions through yacht clubs on Cape Cod or have merged their loyalties with the Cape Cod Sea Camps. For many years, Al Haddad from Camp Namequoit served as Assistant Director at the Monomoy Day Camp while his children finished their camping at CCSC. Long time Camp Viking camper, Brad Carpenter is now the 420 Race Coach at the Cape Cod Sea Camps where his son attends as a camper. Families wishing to carry on a sailing camp tradition continue to look toward CCSC as an option.

Located directly on Cape Cod Bay, the Cape Cod Sea Camps moors a fleet of 28 Cape Cod Mercuries in a natural channel just off its bay shore. It boasts one of the largest Mercury fleets in the country as they are well suited for tidal sailing in Brewster. In addition to bayside sailing opportunities, CCSC maintains a fleet of 18, Sunfish and 12, Collegiate 420s at their outpost camp on Long Pond. The 420s are used in the morning to introduce younger campers to these great racing boats. In the afternoon the CCSC race team trains for their races with local yacht clubs, this being the only outlet for competition since the other sailing camps have all closed. In 2008, CCSC camper Clerc Cooper took a 2nd place among the field of 45, 420s at the Chatham Regatta, hosted by the Chatham Yacht Club. The rest of the sailing team continues to grow and enjoy their racing as much as sharing their knowledge and skill with younger campers.

As more and more alumni of these famous sailing camps surface, there have been discussions of establishing a PBIR reunion event at the Courageous Sailing Center in Boston. Drop us a line if this seems interesting and stay tuned for future announcements.

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