Lou Vaccaro has been through a lot the past three years. Three battles, so far, with small-cell cancer. If test results come back as he expects later this week, there will be a fourth in a fourth location. He’s ready for it because he has many things to do and dying isn’t one. Sailing, though, has been added to his already-long list. A cold, blustery morning transformed into a warm, sun-swept early September afternoon. “It seemed like the whole world calmed down,” Vaccaro said. He took every chance he could to help a deckhand move the sails. He loved the peacefulness — “It was a beautiful, soothing experience,” he said
The air was brisk, the breeze gentle, the boat bobbing up and down at a steady tempo. The creak of wood, the clank of mechanical pulleys, and the dulcet melody of casual conversation filled the air. Sailing Heals, a nonprofit that offers free yachting excursions to cancer patients and their caregivers. Sailing Heals primarily serves people with cancer, but also those with traumatic injuries or other health problems. Typically, they’re referred to the program through their care providers. All guests are called “VIPs,” a label that intentionally avoids the caretaker/patient dynamic that often defines their lives.