By Fran McClennen
It’s over! The season, I mean. It’s always sad when we have to put the boats away, pull the moorings and hunker down for winter. However, it’s also time to think back and enjoy the memories from the past summer. One of my favorite memories this year is the Cat Boat Regatta sponsored by Arey’s Pond Boat Yard.
This year was the 25th year that Tony Davis of Arey’s Pond Boat Yard has invited Cat Boats sailors from all over to join in an informal regatta starting in Little Pleasant Bay and heading south to the Big Bay and back. It has gained a reputation among Cat Boat lovers, and it’s a sight to behold by anyone looking out over the Bay. Usually, there are nearly 100 boats that come to Orleans for this event.
This is the perfect type of regatta for me. Even though I have sailed since childhood, I am not a confident sailor and certainly not a competitive racer. My joy is being out on the Bay, hearing the lap of water under the bow and feeling the pull on the tiller as the sail catches a breeze. I’m not eager to watch the sail every moment, as most racers do. I’d rather enjoy the views, the fabulous light over the marsh or the cloud formations in the sky.
That’s why Tony’s Cat Boat Regatta is the perfect race for me. It’s a social event. There are “Cats” of every stripe and size. The race is totally informal. Perhaps we follow sailing rules and perhaps, sometimes, we don’t. We are divided into classes to sail with boats most like our own. Graciously, Tony has created a Traditional Class – “non-cats” but older, wooden sailing boats. That’s the class my husband and I are in. I am crew; he is captain. We came in 2nd in our class.
After the regatta all the sailors and families are invited back to Arey’s Pond Boat Yard for drinks and food and music. Folks who have sailed are telling stories and reliving the events of the race. Tony gives out awards for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd winners in each class. There is much cheering.
This event is not just all about fun and games. There is a serious underpinning to Tony’s offering this regatta each year. It is his love of the Bay and his concern for its health and wellbeing. Each boat that enters the regatta pays an entrance fee, and Tony donates all proceeds to the Friends of Pleasant Bay, supporting their efforts to protect and preserve the Bay.
Tony also has an award for a person who has worked to care for or advocate for the Bay. It’s a coveted award, and this year he awarded it to me. That is why this year the Cat Boat Regatta is one of my favorite summer memories.
But the award is really not for me; it is for the Orleans Pond Coalition, which advocates for cleaning up our waters. It’s for the Pond Coalition’s Celebrate Our Waters festival, which, among many other things, takes folks, who may have never sailed before out to enjoy water lapping under the bow or feel the pull of the tiller as the sail catches a breeze.
Thank you, Tony, and thanks to the countless others who work to make all our waterways safe and healthy.
-Fran McClennen lives in South Orleans, has been an active member of the Orleans Pond Coalition and is currently on the board of the Community Development Partnership.