sailing even before an automobile accident
put him in a wheelchair. Backe started
CRAB as an offshoot of the National Ocean
Access Program (NOAP) in Newport,
The most important thing CRAB
does is convince people with disabilities that they can achieve things beyond
their expectations. From the early days in
Newport to today, where CRAB operates
out of a marina in Sandy Point State Park in
the shadow of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge,
Backe has seen it all. From the competition
between nearby Annapolis, Maryland, and
Newport, to be “The Sailing Capital of The
World,” the two sailing communities also
“When people see me
at the helm, they wouldn’t
know I’m disabled”
Some of the CRAB fleet head out for a day sail
from Sandy Point State Park, Maryland.
Another sailor that Backe knows put it this
way, “When people see me at the helm
they don’t know I’m disabled.”
I had one disastrous “go nowhere”
experience sailing back in the early ’70s.
Then in 2003, the first time I went out in
my daysailer, I put the mainsail on upside
down. Nevertheless, after I corrected my
mistake, the sail caught the wind and
the boat started to move — I was totally
For anyone not sure if they’ll like
sailing, CRAB has an answer for that, too.
During the season, which runs from April
1 through October 31, CRAB sponsors
“Sail Free” days on the fourth Sunday of
every month. Anyone disabled is welcome
to learn to sail. Just stop by and CRAB’s
volunteers will take you out and teach you
the basics. After you feel the wind pulling
the boat along, with the bay breeze in your
face, you may be sailing the rest of your life.
For more information, visit CRAB’s web
Rhode Island, and Shake-A-Leg, another
sailing program for people with disabilities.
Sailing has proven to be very therapeutic
for injured U.S. soldiers returning from
Iraq and Afghanistan (see November 2009
BoatU.S. Magazine, page 14).
vie for prominence in the development
of boats specifically designed to make
sailing safe and enjoyable for people with
handicaps. When asked: “Why a program
for disabled sailors?” Backe simply replies,
“Because they can.”
For me, I was inspired by Jesse Martin,
an able-bodied 17-year-old who single-
handedly and unassisted by fossil fuels,
sailed around the world. I decided that if
he could sail around the world, I certainly
could sail around the Chesapeake Bay.
Barry Considine is a polio survivor who has
been sailing since 2003. He joined CRAB last
fall after his sailboat Casey’s Dream was damaged in a storm in 2008. He hopes to begin
racing with CRAB this summer.
PHOTO LEE D. WIELAND
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