Our Story

Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating has been providing meaningful recreation for people with disabilities for more than 30 years.

Our History

Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB) was founded on the principle that people with disabilities can and should be able to live fulfilling and joyful lives and have equitable access to meaningful therapeutic recreation.

In 1989, Annapolis local Don Backe was in a serious car accident that left him paralyzed. After months of painful rehabilitation, Don realized he would not regain any more of his mobility.  Don began to believe he would no longer be able to sail, a sport he loved his entire life. Realizing that recovery meant more than mobility, Don’s friends and supporters sprang into action and devised a system to lower him with ropes onto his sailboat. Immediately, Don knew he would dedicate the rest of his life to helping other people get access to therapeutic sailing, and in 1991 CRAB was born.

From this simple beginning, 32 years ago, thousands of people with disabilities are now able to benefit from therapeutic sailing in a free and safe environment. Volunteers still play a vital role in delivering CRAB programs, and the Board has set its sights on increasing CRAB’s impact by developing the country’s first Adaptive Boating Center.  With this project, CRAB seeks to solve accessibility problems by removing obstacles, and creating lasting solutions for people with disabilities.

A Dream for the Future

CRAB’s vision of full inclusion is rooted in a deep commitment to increasing recreational opportunities for people with disabilities on the Chesapeake Bay. This effort is driven by the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to access the largest natural estuary in the nation and that personal growth and shared community experiences are essential to a higher quality of life for everyone within our community.

  • Adaptive Equipment
  • ADA – Compliant Facility
  • Accessible Program Design
Photo on CRAB dock of a guest being transferred to a CRAB sailboat using the Aqua lift, formerly called a Hoyer lift.
A photo of two volunteers and a guest in dock on a CRAB sailboat preparing to sail.
Photo of two guests enjoying a sail on the water in a CRAB sailboat.

How to get started with CRAB

CRAB understands that trying something new can be overwhelming even in the best of circumstances. That is why CRAB strives to be a leader in boating innovation and accessible program delivery.

A group photo of 5 individuals, both guests and CRAB volunteers, on the dock next to a CRAB sailboat.

Step 1: Plan your experience

  • Review our programs and consider what intrests you.
  • Review information about the Adaptive Boating Center, parking is limited.
  • Check out our calendar and see what is available.
Photo of a guest smiling onboard a CRAB sailboat.

Step 2: Consider your comfort level

Learn about CRAB programs and decide what activity you are most interested in participating in first.

Group photo of 7 CRAB guests on the dock after their sail.

Step 3: Sign up

Sign up for one of our classroom or boating programs. Be sure to submit all documentation, such as registration and waivers.

A family photo of CRAB guests who just enjoyed a family sail.

Step 4: Once you arrive

The new Adaptive Boating Center is a completely ADA compliant recreation space.

  • There are 8 available accessible parking spots for guest use.
  • Check in at the Ellen & Hank Lucas Welcome Area in front of the boathouse.
  • If you need to use a restroom, the boathouse offers 3 ADA-compliant gender neutral bathrooms.
  • See a volunteer to receive your Coast Guard approved personal floatation device.
A photo of a powerboat on a trailer.

A look at the Fleet.

The CRAB fleet encompasses six adapted Beneteau First 22A’s designed specifically for mobility-impaired sailors. Participants with mobility needs board the boats using a transfer slide or Hoyer Lift and are secured in race car bucket seats with 4-point harness seatbelts. CRAB’s fleet allows for up to 18 guests and caregivers per sailing session. CRAB also offers a Martin 16 “sip-puff” sailboat for people with quadriplegia. In 2023, CRAB will introduce a new Gemini Power Catamaran that can accommodate up to five wheelchairs for excursions and adaptive fishing opportunities.

Meet our Crew

Photo of CRAB's Executive Director, Paul "Bo" Bollinger.
Paul “Bo” Bollinger
Executive Director
A photo of CRAB's Director of Marketing and Development, Rebecca Gonser.
Rebecca Gonser
Director of Marketing & Development
A photo of CRAB's Director of Operations, Matthew Schaaf.
Matthew Schaaf
Director of Operations
A photo of CRAB's Manager of Programs, Shannon Rohrer.
Shannon Rohrer
Manager of Programs