Ken Debrowski gets right to the point about living on Cape Cod. “If you can’t ﬁnd something to do that interests you, it’s your own fault or you are an extremely dull person,” he says with a laugh.
He and his wife, Kathy, are prepping their Boston Whaler 315 Conquest at Little River Boat Yard in Mashpee, Massachusetts. The plan is to get in some early-morning fishing and then cruise around for a bit just enjoying the day.
That versatility is one of the primary reasons they chose the Conquest model. The cabin space and amenities make for great overnighting, and the overall size of the boat is perfect for their needs. “We are small enough that even in the summer at most destinations you can find a spot on short notice,” Ken says.
Kathy hangs close to her husband in the enclosed cockpit as he navigates down the short stretch of Little River and out onto Waquoit Bay. The bay is home to Washburn Island, a large, undeveloped swath of land that’s a favorite for campers, hikers and beach-goers. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation manages the island, which is only accessible by boat.
Ken heads across the bay and out of the cut toward Vineyard Sound. They stop at one of the shoals between Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard to see if any fish pop up on the sonar. For bottom fishing, Ken and Kathy typically use a five- to six-foot conventional setup with braided line. “The braid lets you hold the bottom with less sinker weight and is much better for feeling the ﬁsh hitting the baits,” Ken says. He and Kathy like soft plastic baits or squid strips. And they usually keep a six-foot spinner setup handy for when they spy surface ﬁsh.
“There’s water everywhere,” Ken says. “In addition to the bay, sound, ocean, there are freshwater ponds all over the Cape that are stocked with ﬁsh.” He hasn’t done any freshwater fishing himself, but rumor has it, he adds, the catching is pretty good.
The sun has just barely perched in the sky when Kathy hooks up with the morning’s first black sea bass. She pulls it over the gunnel for a couple of quick pictures and then tosses it back into its salty home. Ken and Kathy catch a few more bass and one fluke before calling it quits on the fishing and heading towards Oak Bluﬀs on Martha’s Vineyard for more leisurely sightseeing.
The Debrowskis enjoy Oak Bluﬀs because it has a very quaint feel. The town is famous for its stunning, colorful Carpenter Gothic architecture. These “gingerbread cottages,” as they’re often called, owe their history to a Methodist camp at Wesleyan Grove, which began as a tent community in the 1830s. As the camp grew each year, the beautiful cottages replaced the tents. A wrought-iron Tabernacle, built in 1879, provides the centerpiece of the community’s historical charm.
With places like Oak Bluffs a short ride from their house in Mashpee, it’s easy to see why the Debrowskis have made the Cape their full-time home. They moved in the spring of 2013 after Ken retired from Citibank, for which he used to commute to New York City from northeastern Monmouth County in New Jersey.
Ken’s only complaint about living on the Cape is that he’d heard one could golf year round, but he says with a laugh, “I’m still waiting for it.” He attributes that factor to two recent wild winters, and he’s sure that this year, he and Kathy will be on the green in January.
The Debrowskis are no strangers to inclement weather. They were living in New Jersey when Hurricane Sandy struck in October of 2012. At the time, they had a Boston Whaler 290 Outrage. Ken likes to tell the story of how his Whaler lived up to its unsinkable reputation: The marina had hauled all of the boats out before the storm and had removed the drain plugs, as per normal procedure.
After the storm, they found the boat on a salt marsh one mile west of the marina on the opposite bank of the Navesink River. Despite a 13.3-foot storm surge, the boat had very little damage. That strong Whaler reputation is what Ken remembers of boating as a kid after his parents bought a 13-footer to use at their summer home on Barnegat Bay in New Jersey.
“They were looking for something low-maintenance, unsinkable and safe that also had good performance,” Ken says. “That Whaler was a great boat for waterskiing and fishing.”
The Debrowskis bought a 23-foot Conquest in 1997, the first year they came out. That was back when their three children (now all in their 20s) were still little, and the cabin proved very useful for naptime. “It was a great day and fishing boat,” Ken says. “The head was essential for the female boaters in our house, and the hardtop was great if you wanted to get out of the sun for a while.” When the family started getting into fishing a bit more, they opted for a 290 Outrage, and then the move to the Cape prompted the switch to the 315 Conquest.
The Debrowskis purchased their Conquest from Nauset Marine in Orleans, which Ken calls a “class operation.” He adds, “If there is any problem, they will make it right. When you buy a boat from them it’s like joining their family.”
One of the best things about living on the Cape for Ken and Kathy is the easy access to so many great ports of call, including Newport, Block Island and Boston. They recently even took a trip up to Kittery, Maine.
Of course, places right on the Cape hold their interest, too, like Provincetown, at the tip of the peninsula’s famed hook. “P-town” is known for its arts and culture scene, with many galleries, theater companies and writers’ and artists’ colonies. Curiously, the hook is actually considered to be on the “Lower Cape” even though it is north of the rest of the peninsula, which is considered the “Upper Cape.” The terms are thought to do with prevailing winds, but Ken and Kathy laugh at how it took some time to adjust to the idea while first exploring.
After browsing around Oak Bluffs for a bit, the Debrowskis are ready to head back out across the sound for home. They note that Martha’s Vineyard is always a favorite for them, especially when their kids visit. Brian lives in Dallas, Lauren in New Jersey and Lisa in Boston. “Brian is still looking for his Cape Cod tuna…I think he may need a better captain,” Ken jokes.
Because of proximity, they see Lisa a bit more than the others, but Ken and Kathy are glad their kids have found their wings. “They are all single and sort of doing their own thing,” says Ken, “which is what they should be doing at this stage in their lives.”
Thanks to the Conquest, Ken and Kathy are excited to be out searching for their own fresh horizons.