Deaf Business Spotlight: Cape Cod Deaf Sailing

July 7, 2017

ALEX: Hello today’s Deaf Business Spotlight is… Cape Cod Deaf Sailing in Rochester, New York. Two Deaf captains, Dave and Tom, and Deaf crew member Kathie take various groups on sailing trips in July. Check it out!



SARAH: Hi! This is Sarah Gordon, Community Curator here in Rochester. I’m ready to meet with Cape Cod Deaf Sailing. I’m thrilled!


DAVE: Hello! My name is Dave Staehle. And… go ahead, Tom.


TOM: My name’s Tom Meets. I’m the captain.


DAVE: Our business Cape Cod Deaf Sailing was founded in 2009. Tom and I first met in an interesting way back in 1975 at NTID. We both lived on the same floor, and somehow the topic about sailing was brought up and we’ve connected ever since. For about 42 years, wow!


TOM: That’s right, we both were really into that initial conversation. We both were passionate about sailing. I haven’t met anyone other than Dave who shares the same passion. We connected and stayed in touch.


DAVE: How we started this business in 2009 is pretty interesting. I’ll let Tom share about it.


TOM: I’ve had many people contact me, and they’ve found out about me through my friends that I take with me sailing every month and every year. They heard about me and reached out to go with me sailing, and I don’t even know those people. At that time, Dave was working at Camp Mark 7. So I waited until he left his position there…


DAVE: That’s right. As soon as I retired from Camp Mark 7, Tom sat down with me to talk about setting up a sailing business. I was definitely in! It was 2009.


TOM: The rest is history. We grew really big. Many people love to sail. They’ve never done it before, and they get to see that Deaf people can sail! We can do it!


DAVE: As we grew, we had Kathie join our crew.


KATHIE: Hello! I’m Kathie Holzwarth, a crew member for Cape Cod Deaf Sailing. We have two incredibly amazing Co-captains, and they’re Deaf and they sign. They show people the “ropes” of sailing.


As opposed to a hearing sailing experience, where they talk and talk and we’re left out. With our sailing crew, we understand and can communicate thoroughly with the Co-captains. It seems because of that we’re very successful. We’re all booked until 2020. Wow!


We typically do our sailing during all 4 weeks of July every year. We rent a sailboat.


We have different groups each week. Week 1, 2, 3, and 4. It goes from a Friday to next Friday. We depart from Newport, RI to Block Island. We stay there a while, and then we head to Vineyard Haven which is located in Martha’s Vineyard. After that we go to Nantucket, then Cuttyhunk Island, and then finally back to Newport, RI. That’s our tour route.


We cook and provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


We allow the passengers to eat out on their own three times a week. We don’t sail all day. We typically sail for about 4-5 hours in the mornings. When we arrive to our destination, we dock for the afternoon and evening. The passengers can tour and explore on their own.


DAVE: We travel in two groups, with me and Tom heading each one. Tom typically passes ahead of me. He’s very fast while I try to keep up. I often tell my groups that I wasn’t raised as a competitive sailor like Tom was. Look behind us for an example of competitive sailing.


TOM: Yes, it’s my favorite thing. I love racing. I can’t help it. It’s a part of me.


The names of our boats are perfect matches for us. Mine is named Summer Wind, and Tom’s is Summer Fun.


“Wind” is a proper name for me since I travel fast, and Dave’s sailing is more “fun” and play. It’s a great match for us!


DAVE: Yes! Exactly.


Many people were concerned about how we communicate with phones in cases of emergency, so I looked and found a solution. It’s one of the best devices for us because if anything were to happen to us while at sea, there’s a SOS button here. I just press the button and the Coast Guard will come to our location via GPS signal.


TOM: This step is too high. I can’t stretch my leg all the way up to it. No way.


DAVE: I’ll show you how this rope ladder works. I place the hooks around the boat handles and we climb up. That’s cool!


KATHIE: The bottom of these bowls are rubber. This is cool because when you're sailing, the boat rocks back and forth a normal bowl will slide across flat surfaces. With these bowls though, they stay in place!


Come join and sail away with us!


TOM: Go to Please join us.


KATHIE: Come in 2020! 2017 is sadly booked. 2018 is booked. 2019 is booked. We’re available in 2020!



ALEX: That’s a dream vacation, and with an all-Deaf team, you get full communication access, everything is in ASL. Nice! But you’ll have to wait until 2020 to go on a trip, grab your spot at or check out their Facebook page @Cape Cod Deaf Sailing.

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