The Joys of Being on the Water with the Bay Lady II
Look out at the harbor any day around sunset and you’re likely to see the majestic schooner Bay Lady II sailing in the beautiful famous Provincetown light. If you’ve never been out on the water, you’re missing out on one of the best ways to enjoy Ptown!
Captain Bob Burns started sailing in high school… and has never stopped; 2023 marks his 60th year in commercial boating! He signed on to the Hindu as a deckhand in 1963, then bought his own boat—the schooler Olda—which he and his wife, first mate, Kate sailed until they found they needed something bigger… and bought the Bay Lady II.
“The secret of sailing,” says Captain Bob, “is the quiet and the solitude. What surprises people is what happens once we’re out on the water. They watch and listen to the preparation between me and the crew, and there’s ambient noise as we start out, the engine is running and the sails fluttering in the eye of the wind—there’s two thousand feet of sail. And then when I turn into the wind the fluttering stops, then the engine stops, and we go instantly into total silence. People don’t anticipate that at all. They all look back at the captain and say, this is it! That transition is a moment in time when people are astounded by the silence of moving through water.”
It’s not just that moment of breathless silence that’s alluring; it’s the fact that you never know what a trip will be like. “Every sail is different,” says Kate Burns. “People think you might get into it feeling like a bus run—but, no. You get out there, sometimes there’s no wind, sometimes there’s a lot of wind. It keeps changing throughout the day. Captain Bob agrees. “The only constant is change,” he says. “It can be calm and peaceful, then there are some thrilling trips with spray. You can go out twice in the same day and it’s a different experience.”
The couple’s seven children grew up around boats, but only one has chosen to go onboard professionally and is now fully licensed himself. “He’s the only one we’ve been able to bend to our will here!” laughs Kate Burns.
The Bay Lady II has a traditional gaff rig, reminiscent of the old fishing schooners that sailed the waters of Provincetown during the earlier part of the last century.
What’s a gaff rig? A gaff is a spar, or a strong pole. A gaff rig employs a spar on the top of the sail and typically other sails can be set in conjunction with that mainsail with the gaff. There is often a small triangular sail that fits between the main and the mast like a puzzle piece (the topsail).
The gaff rig was the standard manner of rigging a sailboat a century ago and before, primarily to manage sail area: sails weren’t made of today’s lightweight synthetics so the sail was divided so it could balance and reef in strong winds.
Depending on the wind direction, a two-hour sail will take you either across the Bay toward the bluffs of Corn Hill, or around Long Point Light at the tip of the Cape in the direction of Wood End Lighthouse. In any case, views will be spectacular… and your spirit will be revitalized.
So come and experience Cape Cod Bay as the Bay Lady II glides quietly across the water with grace and beauty only found on a sailing vessel! Each trip is as unique as the varied moods of the wind, sky, and sea combine to create an ever-changing panorama, accompanied by the sounds of wind in the rigging and the lapping of water against her hull.
The Bay Lady II
9 MacMillan Wharf
12:30 – 2:30pm
3:30 – 5:30pm
7:00pm – 9:00pm
After August 1:
August 1-14 from 6:30 to 8:30pm
August 15-31 from 6-8pm
September 1-14 from 5:30 to 7:30pm
Sept 15-30 from 5-7pm (no more 3:30 sail)
October 1-15 from 4:30 to 6:30pm