By Noah Hale
On Tuesday morning, the nonprofit Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB) celebrated the start of construction on their new facility with the help of water-access advocates.
The sod-turning ceremony marks the latest step in CRAB’s mission to provide anyone with a disability, wounded warriors, and underserved communities the chance to experience the joy of sailing. Since its founding in 1991 by Don Backe, CRAB has operated from the public docks in Sandy Point State Park. While it currently provides instruction to more than 1,000 visitors every year, the new facility on Back Creek will enable the volunteer staff to serve even more people—almost double, in fact.
But that’s only one of the many features that the building will have to offer; in addition to the extra space and its outstanding view of the creek, the design calls for some eco-friendly amenities including solar panels and an electrical vehicle charging station.
“It’s a contemporary, modern, airy-type building,” said contractor Joseph Brown.
And it’s not just the building that will be so up-to-date. The newly-built floating docks will have something of their own to show off: a 45-foot steel bridge, designed to be wide enough to enable two wheelchairs to pass each other, gently slopes down to the ipe-wooden docks. There’s enough space for 16 boats, including a Martin 16 that has a state-of-the-art “sip and puff” steering system that allows a quadrapeligic skipper to adjust the sails and move the tiller. There will also be equipment that will assist passengers with disabilities to board the boat.
For many Annapolitans, the opportunity to go sailing has long been inaccessible to them, but CRAB recognizes the need for some way of getting them out on the water, and in their own inventive way, they do. They’re part of the future of sailing.
Mayor Gavin Buckley gave his own thoughts on this in a short speech at the groundbreaking: “In Annapolis, getting on the water is a human right. This [the new facility] is something we should all be proud of—this is a symbol of who we are.”
After a few more short speeches, the mayor and eight others dug their shovels into the site of the innovative boating center in celebration of the project’s movement forward.