Said Backe, "He's worked like a beaver and he's smart as a whip. He can do anything. We call him our Nautical McGyver."

One afternoon, Rutherford asked Backe if he might be able to use one of the CRAB boats on his next journey – this one starting in the middle of June last year.

"He was leaning against a boat and said, 'Wouldn't it be neat to take this through the Northwest Passage?'" Backe said. "One of our other members said that he would give Matt the boat he had bought from CRAB."

Said Rutherford, "I was half-joking, I didn't expect him to take me seriously, but he did."

With new rigging and new sails, Rutherford took off a few months later on St. Brendan, a boat named for the patron saint of travelers.

It has not only kept Backe and Guerra from thinking too much about their continued medical issues — Backe underwent back surgery and later spent three months in the hospital after complications set in, while Guerra, aside from having a stroke, suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and was diagnosed last year with a rare form of skin cancer — but it has energized their organization.

Guerra discovered CRAB after the stroke left him without the ability to speak for three years and needing to learn "how to read and even put thoughts together." Guerra said he spent six days a week, 10 hours a day, in rehabilitation. After losing his consulting business, and the family home, Guerra needed to work. CRAB seemed like the perfect situation when he signed on three years ago.

As impressed as the organization's leaders are with Rutherford, he is even more amazed by Backe and Guerra.

"They never complain, they never say, 'Woe is me,'" Rutherford said. "If I were in their situation I don't know if I would handle it as well as they do."

Knowing what it did for them, Backe and Guerra realize how important the access to sailing is for others with disabilities.

Backe has been there to witness autistic children calmed by the experience.

"I had one parent say to me, 'He's never been like that before,'" Backe recalled. "I said, 'He's never been sailing before.'"

don.markus@baltsun.com

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