One passenger said after the morning sailing trip that she had fretted that she wouldn’t be able to go.
She had feared something would arise with her cancer treatment and she would have to abandon the promise of hours of respite and relaxation at sea that is the Sailing Heals program.
As it turned out she and other cancer patients had a tranquil time Monday aboard Valiant, the 64-foot wooden sailing vessel skippered by Marblehead owner Gary Gregory and tended by his crew.
The guests were some of the most recent passengers among the hundreds of cancer patients and their caregivers on the East Coast who have ridden on classic sailboats as part of the nonprofit Sailing Heals organization founded by watchmaker Panerai.
On Monday, some fifteen passengers spread out on Valiant's deck under blue skies as seven crew members angled the sleek sailboat to the mouth of Marblehead Harbor bound for waters off Gloucester.
A few puffy clouds slipped overhead as the boat slid past Halfway Rock. Conversation turned to marine life and sailing, family and the past.
For one of the passengers the sailing was a trip down memory lane.
As a teenager, for three summers, she had sailed in the Boston Community Sailing program.
For $1 people learned to sail on the Charles River. She never missed a day.
The hours at sea on Monday were welcome, she said.
The past two months she has been in treatment for her cancer. Even though the nurses and doctors are wonderful caregivers the treatment experience is painfully isolating, she said.
That is what made Monday's trip so liberating.
Another passenger said years ago he owned a power boat. He would ride from Winthrop to Marblehead with friends. They might cast a line but it wasn’t about fishing, it was about being on the water and relaxing.
On Monday passengers relaxed, a light breeze tossing their hair and the gentle sun warming their faces as the Valiant, built in 1969, rocked like a cradle in water at seven knots or so.
Abbot Hall and the Salem power stacks receded on the way out and grew on the way in. Approaching commercial fishing boats grew larger.
Several passengers took turns on the boat’s table-sized wheel with crew member Rocky at their shoulders guiding them toward the wind.
Skipper Gary Gregory told of regatta racing and the love he and others have for classic, old-school wooden sailing yachts.
His affinity for sailboats stirred as a young man attending MIT in 1973. He and classmates raced on the Charles and sailing was a party.
The Marblehead resident has been sailing ever since.
His passengers on the Panerai sponsored Sailing Heals program showed their appreciation for his generosity in a few ways. One, thanking him, and two, with the relaxing looks on their faces.
They wanted to keep on sailing.
The day ended with lunch on the porch at the Corinthian Yacht Club, a day the crew and passengers will likely recall with pleasure and relaxation.
Officine Panerai’s founding sponsorship of the non-profit organization, Sailing Heals has taken hundreds of cancer patients and their caregivers on the East Coast (from Florida to MA) out for days of respite on the sea in beautiful classic sailboats. Officine Panerai and Sailing Heals are continuing the annual tradition to offer local cancer patients, survivors and their families the opportunity to experience a one-of-a-kind VIP sailing experience.