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Wind in their sails: Program puts cancer patients on Casco Bay

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Wind in their sails: Program puts cancer patients on Casco Bay

PORTLAND — Cancer patients and survivors and their families have the opportunity this week to cruise Casco Bay for free in chartered sailboats.

SailMaine, a Portland nonprofit that facilitates high school racing programs, summer camps and more, has partnered with the Cancer Community Cancer in South Portland and the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing in Lewiston to offer 20 trips throughout the week.

"We've been thinking about how we can give back to the community and what populations we don't serve currently," SailMaine Executive Director Janet Acker said. "And we'd like to have more adults come down and use our facility. So we're happy to provide a great opportunity for some people who've been through a lot. It's been a treat for us."

The two-hour cruises depart in the morning and afternoon from SailMaine's bustling Fore Street center, which it shares with Portland Yacht Services.

Volunteers like Chris Moore, a SailMaine board member and physics teacher at Falmouth High School, captains the boats.

"The best part has been that every day, when people call to make a reservation, you hear their back story," Acker said. "It's really cool to hear that and what they've been through."

On Monday afternoon, Hilary Hamilton and Darlene Junkins, Gorham natives and friends of 45 years, sailed with Moore to Portland Head Light and back in a J/22 boat.

Junkins, a retired employee of the Unum insurance company, beat breast cancer in 2007. Hamilton, a retired educator who spends her winters on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, has been receiving treatment for multiple myeloma since 2010.

"I'll probably be in treatment forever," said Hamilton, a quick-witted woman with a bright smile. "But I feel good. I'm lucky."

Junkins had never been on a sailboat. Hamilton once held a six-passenger captain's license, but she said she hadn't sailed in two decades, and had never before sailed in Maine. The two appeared to enjoy the experience immensely.

"I could just sit on a boat forever and sail, and sail, and sail," Hamilton said. "As long as the boom doesn't hit us in the head, we're good."

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.