Don Backe, CRAB Founder

CRAB was founded in 1991 by Don Backe.  He was paralyzed in a car wreck in 1989 when he was in his mid-50’s. A friend of his got him back into sailing and enthusiastic about bringing the thrill of sailing to others with disabilities.

With the generous assistance of many friends and volunteers, CRAB was launched. Don was successful in getting a fleet of four Freedom Independence 20’s donated.  These four sailboats are designed to accommodate all disabilities and are still in the CRAB fleet today. Don was an extraordinary man whose vision set the course for CRAB’s continued growth and service.

Don Backe was a consummate teacher. Not just on a sailboat, but everywhere this Annapolis man made a name for himself in recent years. Not just in the classroom, where he spent decades educating young students.

Backe taught people about perseverance, despite using a wheelchair since 1987, when a violent car crash robbed him of his ability to walk, friends and family said Saturday.

“He was an inspirational figure because he never stopped,” said Angus Phillips, who knew Backe for more than a decade. “He got in that terrible accident, and a lot of people would have curled up and gave up, but a lot of his achievements came after that. He was indefatigable.”

Donald E. Backe, the founder and the heart of CRAB, died peacefully on Friday, April 12, 2013, after a prolonged illness, among close friends and family. He was 77.

A memorial service was held on Sunday, June 23, at Port Annapolis Marina. A large number of Don’s family, friends, and colleagues gathered to celebrate his life and spirit.

Backe’s death saddened many in the boating community.