This is an edited (updated) excerpt from a story in Standup Journal.
“A couple of dumb schmucks that had no idea what they were doing” That’s how my best friend and co-founder Mike Brown describes our idea for the 1st Cape Cod Bay Challenge in 2008. He’s right of course, we got very lucky. Our luck lives in the people that have embraced the cause and become members of the family. It’s the paddlers, volunteers, sponsors, and donors that have made the CCBC what it is. Since that 1st crossing of the bay the CCBC has raised more than $800,000 for Christopher’s Haven to provide housing and support for kids (and their families) who come from all over the country and world to Mass General Hospital in Boston. One of the few hospitals in the world that offers a proton beam for very targeted radiation of difficult to treat tumors. The treatment typically lasts 6-8 weeks and places an extraordinary financial burden on a family that already has enough to worry about.
Here are some stories and thoughts from a few of the CCBC family that have helped us help them..
Bill Babcock about year one and now
“At just after five in the morning on August 9th 2008, eight bleary-eyed guys met on a foggy cold beach in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Three of them had vicious hangovers from a “carbo-loading” dinner the previous night that had turned into a late-night of talking story, wine, and cigars. The crew on the beach? A moose with a tumor on his vestibular nerve, a real estate investor, a teacher/lifeguard, a geezer Marketing Exec, a TV star, a local surf/SUP shaper, a tattoo artist, and a massage therapist. The organizers were in particularly rough shape, my lumpy brother Bob was listing to the left well before we hit the water, the other, whose name will go unmentioned, but whose initials are Mike Brown, was actually pale green. Then they all got on their boards and paddled into a dense fog bank, hoping to find the boat that was out there somewhere to escort them on a 28 mile paddle to Provincetown.
7.5 hours later they landed, hugs and handshakes, a few family and friends cheering. A picture for posterity, they had a little dinner at a beachside restaurant, and headed home. From that rough beginning the CCBC has become three preeminent New England events and a family of SUP racers, paddlers and friends—a true ohana. Now the 34 mile crossing from Plymouth to Wellfleet is one of the longest SUP events on the East Coast. It attracts about 75 participants each year, most of them returning paddlers.
What makes the Crossing most unique is that it is not a race. Paddlers cross together, supporting each other along the way. It’s a sometimes grueling 34 miles across the Bay and the sense of friendship, family, and community at the finish line are simply remarkable—life changing for many participants.
Then there is the sense of why they do this. What this means to the kids and their families. Inspiring how this has touched so many.
And of course as with every CCBC event, the parties are legendary. “
Rick Weeks- on what it takes
“Orleans, Cape Cod:
2 AM, my eyes pop open before the alarm goes off… ok… let’s go!
1 hour later, I pull into the only driveway on the street alive with activity; the Babcock family is in high gear loading the vehicles with mountains of donated supplies necessary for today’s events.
I am loaded in the appropriate car and whisked off to Plymouth Harbor to meet up with the “on water” support team.
Similar scenarios are taking place all over New England, as family and friends, who have their own logistical challenges today, ferry about participants and gear. The CCBC is a one-way event, so everything dropped off in Plymouth, must be picked up 60 miles away in Wellfleet. Then there is the after party. It is a very long day, no participant does this by himself or herself, family and friends are crucial to the smooth operation of this event.
Check-in tables and all volunteers are ready when paddlers arrive. Organization and pre-start instructions are efficient, launch must take place in complete the darkness of 5 AM, to allow sufficient time to escort all paddlers safely ashore in Wellfleet before sunset. Immediately after launch, the registration team packs up and heads off to Wellfleet to set up the lavish “after party” at Mayo Beach. The paddlers aren’t the only ones facing a long day.
I arrive at Plymouth Harbor and meet the team of Captains, Doctors, Nurses and other volunteers who will accompany the paddlers safely across Cape Cod Bay in the many support boats. Today’s crossing will have its challenges; both the air and water are unseasonably cold and there is a chilling wind kicking up 1-2 foot chop.
The pre-dawn exit from Plymouth Harbor and the open water ahead, require a well-equipped vessel and knowledgeable crew. Each Captain and owner donates valuable equipment, skill and time, for this very worthy cause. We slip past Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II under the cloak of night, after an hour of navigating through darkness and fog, we meet the paddlers and smaller chase boats as the sun begins to rise on the horizon. “Paddle captains” are seasoned veterans of many CCBC crossings; they paddle through the group, making sure that everyone is doing ok. They communicate by radios with boats and other paddle captains, if any need arises, they direct support personal how to handle it, they are easily recognized by their bright green jerseys, the other paddlers have high visibility orange jerseys for easy tracking.
The largest support boat, a passenger ferry, takes its position outside as the flotilla surrounds the paddlers in a ring of safety. The Plymouth Harbor Patrol has escorted the group from the beach and the US Coast Guard shows up to say hello mid crossing. Cape Cod Bay is alive with private and commercial vessels that need to be diverted around the paddlers at a safe distance. Each boat has a specific purpose; the largest is a Medical center, which today will see muscle cramps and hypothermia arise as the early morning cold takes its toll. A RIB inflatable picks paddlers out of the water if necessary, and delivers them to a boat well stocked with bottled water, healthy snacks and a warm place to rest. After sufficient rest and a med staff OK, support personnel will off-load their board if they wish to complete the distance.
The group stretches out over a half mile as it makes its way across the wind tossed ocean. Rest stops are planned every few hours to allow the pack to regroup and refuel. The lead boat sets the proper pace as the paddlers’ brace and stroke though choppy seas; conversations fade away as 15 miles becomes 20. Everyone reaches deep into their resolve and churns out stroke after stoke, mile after mile, hour after hour. Morning turns into afternoon before the hills of Wellfleet appear in the distance, this really is a test of preparation, training and will.
Small groups form as the day progresses, new friends encourage and distract each other with stories and conversation; equipment and training are discussed as miles pass under the boards, each stroke is bringing them closer to the finish. Each person reaches for the strength to continue; a mantra has evolved over the years; “don’t get in the boat”. That goal is tested as muscles succumb to the cold and constant battle to stay in balance. Those that do need “the boat” are treated to a well-stocked refuge of comfort and good cheer.
The very nature of the CCBC is a perfect match for its designated charity. “Christopher’s Haven” is a home for kids and their families while they battle cancer. The home is more than a place to stay, it’s a support system to help with things large and small, and a community where families can be together, share a laugh, be comforted, and comfort others. Christopher’s Haven allows kids and families to focus their energies on beating the cancer that has attacked them all.
Each CCBC athlete relies on their own support team to deliver them to the start, then pick them and their gear up at the finish. Most have made arrangements to stay overnight, because everyone wants to enjoy the massive “after party” in Wellfleet. Each paddler has had a serious challenge today, arrival on warm Cape Cod sand sends waves of satisfaction into exhausted bodies, they are renewed with a sense of achievement that carries them through the night. And what a night it is; exquisite food and drink are plentiful, free massages for paddlers, live music, dancing and huge tables of raffle items. The energy that permeates the crowd is amazing, everyone is smiling ear to ear; it’s been a great day.
In the midst of all the revelry, the support teams have loaded up the gear, manned the raffle tables, and ensured the quiet efficiency that is the hallmark of every CCBC event. Family’s dance and laugh together, presentations of the coveted CCBC Hepi Maxwell Hei Matau are made to all paddlers and support personnel; then comes the highlight of the CCBC event season, when a young man comes to the stage. Simon and his family lived at Christopher’s Haven during his lengthy cancer treatment. He tells of how much it helped his recovery, to have his family by his side, right at the medical facility for his entire treatment. Made possible because of the CCBC fund raising success. Smiles and tears; and a realization that the CCBC means so much to so many people… Wow…. where do I sign up for next year?”
Don McDowell on 5 years
“I look forward to my 5th CCBC this coming August. It’s a labor of love and one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I really enjoy the months of training leading up to the crossing, and it’s a bit of a letdown after the marathon is over. It has been such a great experience getting to know and become one of the CCBC family. It’s a great, great cause and hits close to home with a nephew with pediatric cancer.
My four previous crossings have seen just about every condition you can imagine, both good and bad. From the early morning glassy conditions, to the 15-20 mph headwinds we faced a few years ago 12 miles from the finish , we have seen it all.
It can be an extremely grueling event both physically and mentally. 34 miles and 10 to 12 hours on the water is a very daunting challenge, but when compare to the battle the kids face every day, it doesn’t seem that bad.
When we round the bend into Wellfleet Harbor and you get the first sight of the beach, The feeling of accomplishment is indescribable. The scores of waving and cheering people on the beach welcoming us always gets my emotions flowing, and it never gets old. The first hug and kiss from my wife and that first cold Wachusett beer are also too good to be true.”
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the CCBC family for the incredible support you’ve shown and for making it the incredible success it has been. This is your story, looking forward to seeing you all this summer for the 10th Annual CCBC, August 2017. Particular thanks to Mike Chase who is the man, the CCBC board, and all the volunteers that make these events possible.
-Bob Babcock, Mike Brown