The Camden Yacht Club partnered with the national organization, Sailing Heals, to offer an enjoyable afternoon of sailing on Penobscot Bay to patients living with cancer and their caregivers on Aug. 1.

The morning of Aug. 1, Sailing Heals co-founder and executive director Trisha Boisvert welcomed the five boat owners and captains and 20 caregivers and patients who arrived at the Camden Yacht Club for a complimentary lunch of lobster, salmon and salads on the patio. The warm and overcast day was perfect for the relaxing sail from Camden Harbor after lunch. Thunderstorms that could have scuttled the afternoon plans fortunately held off.

Sailing Heals began in 2011 in Marblehead, Mass. Since then, the organization has hosted over 3,200 guests for private sails at beautiful yacht clubs, Boisvert said. The program depends on volunteer host captains, and has around 240 registered captains around the country in about 24 ports.

"It's grown really fast," she said. "We're so delighted to be in Camden, because we really wanted to have a program for cancer patients in central Maine."

The beauty of Sailing Heals is that you leave your cares on land, Boisvert said. "It's a chance for people to forget about their cancer, for at least an afternoon."

"Our hope and our mission is that they will use that source of joy when they really need it, when they are going to chemo or having a tough winter, that they look through their pictures and their memories of a day when people really cared and took them out, so they could enjoy a great day with their families," Boisvert said.

She pointed out that Sailing Heals celebrates the caregivers equally to the patients. "We feel that the caregivers role is so important, and they are often overlooked," she said. "We name both of those people VIPS, and we don't necessarily distinguish who is the patient guest," she explained.

Many of the captains are cancer survivors and volunteers themselves, Boisvert said. She finds that the host captains get as much, if not more, from the events as the patients. It gives them joy and it certainly benefits us, because we couldn't have the program without them, she said.

This is the first time the Camden Yacht Club has hosted a Sailing Heals event, and it is the only one to be held in Maine this year, according to Johanna Stinson, CYC member and director.

George Haselton, captain of Blue Moon, learned about Sailing Heals through a friend who participated in one of the organization's events, after a difficult year of cancer treatments, Boisvert said. Haselton called Boisvert to learn more, and approached Stinson about the idea of the Camden Yacht Club inviting Sailing Heals to Maine. Stinson, who is a long-time member of the yacht club and a nurse, lost both her husband and son to cancer.

Through Stinson's efforts, the CYC board agreed to partner with Sailing Heals, and three club members and captain/owners offered their boats for the event, Tom Babbit, Bravo, Carolyn Morong, Derek Norton and David Waston, Cache, and John Fitzgerald, Moondance. The fleet for the event was rounded out by Haselton's Blue Moon, and Maryann and Bill Roberts' Sialia.

Sailing Heals worked with the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care, which referred most of the guests who participated Aug. 1, and also worked with Live Strong, an organization that supports cancer patients and survivors. Most of the guests at the CYC were from Rockland, Rockport, Camden and other towns in the local area, with a few from other parts of Maine.

“The members of the CYC are very engaged in the community and are especially pleased to provide this memorable afternoon on the water, along with Sailing Heals, to provide so many cancer patients from the area, many of whom are our neighbors that we just haven’t met yet," Stinson said. She said all of the captain/owners who participated this year want to sign up for the event again next year.

Sailing Heals receives 85 percent of its funding through private donations. Invitations are by word-of-mouth through medical or cancer support personnel. The group sailing events are held throughout the year, including themed” sails, such as the “Pirates & Princesses Treasure Hunt Adventure” for kids going through serious health challenges, and the annual Wicked Strong Sail for Boston Marathon Bombing survivors in Marblehead, Mass.