Sitting quietly at the dock, the white O’Day 28.5 Jubilee, built more than three decades ago, doesn’t look like much of a game-changer. But that’s exactly what it’s been for more than 300 people who have been dealing with cancer — either in treatment or finished with it because there’s nothing else to be done.
One of their more memorable passengers was Helen, who along with her sister Kathy and several other family members enjoyed a late-August sail aboard Jubilee. Two months later, Kathy called Johnson to say that Helen had died that morning. “She said, ‘I want you to know that the entire family is here in our living room, and they’re all talking about what an amazing sail that was with you,'” Johnson says. “‘You provided something no one else was able to — memories that will be with us forever.'” Healing Winds takes passengers with all types of cancer and of all ages. “They show up with whomever they want to bring in tow,” says Findholt. “We help them down to the boat, make sure they’re comfortable, and then we’re off for a three-hour sail. By and large, most are not sailors, and some have never been on a sailboat before.” The boat is sailed by at least one licensed captain and a volunteer from the organization.