Deceased , Modern

Donald E.



1936 - 2013

Don Backe is responsible for making sailing accessible to thousands of people who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to experience the joys of sailing.

From Don Backe’s nominator:
Don is the founder of Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB) and its Director of Strategic Planning. CRAB is a 501-3c non-profit which he founded in 1991. He is truly an inspiring person, who has touched the lives of the disabled and their families by bringing sailing to them and enabling challenged persons to sail for an hour, a day or for the rest of their lives. Don has given them the means to move on with their lives through sailing. His own disability, which has made him wheel chair bound for over 25 years, has not kept him from the tiller, demonstrating that the loss of use of one’s legs does not mean an inability to have fun through sailing.

Because of Don’s tenacity and will, CRAB has evolved into a 5 sailboat fleet, including specially adapted Freedom 20’s home ported at Sandy Point State Park, just outside of Annapolis, Md. A two hour sail, after his own hospitalization following an auto accident, which severed his spinal cord, convinced Don that anything was possible with adaptive devices and the help of others. He had been a sailor/racer for years and wanted to now bring sailing to the physically disabled, the blind and mentally challenged.

People throughout the region and the U.S. have had the opportunity to sail for pleasure and race, due to Don’s commitment and his recruitment of the marine industry, yacht/boating organizations and the many hundreds of volunteers he has recruited, including some of sailings most notable participants and contributors. His leadership and inspiration has made this all happen and truly makes him worthy of being inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame.

Sailing Related Accomplishments and Honors
• Founder of CRAB, Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating
• 2012 Old Pulteney Maritime Hero Award Recipient

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