Spring Boat Show in Essex Raises Money Toward a Good Cause

Sophia Muce, CT Examiner

Bob Davis leaving the marina office to rejoin the boat show (CT Examiner)

ESSEX – Local boaters and vendors overlooked weekend-long wind and rain at the Connecticut Spring Boat Show in hopes of raising $30,000 for Sails Up 4 Cancer.

Boaters from across New England traveled to Safe Harbor Essex Island last weekend for WindCheck Magazine’s seventh annual in-water boat show which, this year, featured local vendors, musicians and maritime and fishing talks.

But for Bob Davis, the founder of Sails Up 4 Cancer, the show was also an opportunity to reconnect with cancer patients and survivors.

Escaping the rain for a moment, he sat inside the marina office on Saturday and told CT Examiner about an old friend he ran into a few moments prior. About a year ago, Davis recalled, he received a call from his friend who told him that he had terminal prostate cancer.

“He told me he wanted to live long enough to see his daughter get married,” Davis said.. “And so I talked to him, gave him some advice about second opinions.”

Davis said he also reminded his friend, Chris, that his only job was to take care of himself, and suggested holistic approaches like meditation and yoga. When he saw Chris on Saturday, Davis said, they embraced and caught up.

“Basically, he just had his tests done two weeks ago, and the doctors say he’s a miracle. They can’t see any cancer,” Davis smiled. “And he said, ‘Bob, I can’t thank you enough.’”

A two-time cancer survivor himself, Davis founded Sails Up 4 Cancer in 2011 to help fund cancer education, prevention and care. He said the organization used to donate to cancer research, but recently shifted his focus to holistic solutions.

“We can only make a small dent in research, as opposed to what the billionaires do,” he said. “It’s really about education, prevention and cancer care.”

Davis said the organization holds sailing events to fundraise for programs like the Spinnaker Fund, which donates money to those with cancer who may be struggling to pay for their bills, groceries or medicine. 

A spinnaker, Davis explained, is a sail made to travel in the same direction as the wind.

“When the wind’s behind your back, you have to have all sails out or you’re gonna go nowhere,” Davis said. “The Spinnaker Fund metaphor is ‘we have your back when all else fails.’”

He said it is important that Sails Up 4 Cancer works to improve cancer patients’ quality of life, as he believes stress and uncertainty destroy immune systems.

In addition to the Spinnaker Fund, the organization also hosted an event for seven years with Sunshine Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to children with cancer. Davis chartered a sailboat for the children and traveled down the Mystic River to watch the Sails Up 4 Cancer Regatta, eat pizza and paint. Later in the day, the group would go out for ice cream and visit Mystic Aquarium.

“I’m talking about 40 kids,” Davis said. “…A lot of kids had to back out at the last minute because they became sick with their chemo. A lot of the kids, I found out later, didn’t make it.”

Davis teared up as he recounted his time with the children, which he said came to a halt because of the pandemic. Sarah Wadle, the owner of First Position Media, sat beside Davis. She asked him what the organization needed to restore the Sunshine Kids event. 

Volunteers and donations, Davis responded.

Wadle told CT Examiner that when the Connecticut Spring Boat Show first began, admission was free and a small percentage of the food sales went towards Sails Up 4 Cancer.

“We really wanted to double down on raising more money for Sails Up 4 Cancer… They do tremendous work,” Wadle explained. “So we implemented a charge, and now we donate 50 percent of the ticket sales.”

Wadle said she got involved in the event about six years ago, as Windcheck Magazine, a monthly editorial for Northeast sailors and boaters, was looking for a local agency to help promote the show.

“[The show] was really to bring together the boat industry in Connecticut,” Wadle said. “Instead of having boat brokers have their own individual mini shows, it was to get a group and really support the industry.”

She said the staff implemented the maritime talks and live performances to attract a variety of people to the show. Each year, the event generally brought in anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 people.

This year, Wadle said, the show was sponsored by businesses like Hoffman Audi of New London, Essex Boat Works, Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, The Griswold Inn and Avelo Airlines, who donated three pairs of round-trip tickets to raffle off. She also highlighted the many vendors that attended the event.

“We have some really unique vendors, too, this year,” Wadle said. “There’s just kind of a nice variety.”

One vendor, Melissa Kalicin, sat beside colorful bags and cushions. She told CT Examiner that her company, Oceanum Vela, launched only six months ago. It was her first time at the show. 

Kalicin repurposes authenticated race sails – akin to the spinnakers that inspired Davis’s successful fund – and lines to create the ocean-friendly bags.

“A percent of proceeds do go to ocean conservation,” she said. “I’m very mission driven.”

Displays ranged from Kalicin’s eco-friendly bags to wood-burnt signs to local, draft beer, and vendors sat beneath tents to avoid the rain. While attendance was lower than they’d hoped, they all said the same of the boat show – “it’s for a good cause.”

The Connecticut Spring Boat Show is raising funds for a good cause

ESSEX, Conn. (WTNH) — Poor weather won’t stop the Connecticut Spring Boat show from returning to Essex in the last weekend of April. 

The seventh annual Connecticut Spring Boat Show is happening this weekend at Safe Harbor Essex Island and they are partnering with Sails Up 4 Cancer (SU4C) to make this year’s boat show help more people than ever. 

SU4C is a non-profit founded by lifelong sailor and Leukemia survivor Bob Davis that supports cancer care, education, prevention and research. They’ve been partners in the boat show since its start and they hope to top last year’s $23,000 in donations. 

The event’s media representative, Sarah Wadle, says that the rain won’t stop any of the festivities that they have planned. The seminars from fishing experts and bands will be moved indoors or under tents. 

For those unable to attend the boat show but would still like to support, tickets are available online at https://www.windcheckmagazine.com/shop/. Everyone who purchases a ticket is entered into a raffle to receive a pair of free roundtrip tickets to a chosen destination with Avelo Airlines, according to Wadle. Half of all proceeds go to SU4C.


Watch the video:

CT Spring Boat Show Raises Over $10k for Sails Up 4 Cancer

The Connecticut Spring Boat Show welcomed over 60 boats, varying in size from 10-55 feet, to the third annual show.The show was a production of Windcheck Magazine and was sponsored by Brewer Essex Island Marina / Safe Harbor, Essex Boat Works, and the Yacht Brokers Association of America (YBAA).
Sails Up 4 Cancer, a Connecticut-based non-profit organization, was this year’s beneficiary. Working with the producers of the show, a $5 suggested donation was collected at the entrance of this year’s show. CT Spring Boat Show is in full support of SU4C, who are dedicated to supporting cancer care, education, prevention and research.
“We were honored to be chosen as the shows’ charity; we enjoy working with Anne Hannan and Ben Cesare, of Windcheck and are overwhelmed by the generosity of the 2018 show attendees,” said Bob Davis, two-time cancer survivor and president of SU4C. “We are just blown away by the palpable good will of the people coming to enjoy the show; not to mention the vendors and brokers who make this show a tremendous success.”
New this year was the addition of a special cocktail cruise aboard the Becky Thatcher, from Essex Steam Train and River Boat. Visitors could set sail on Friday evening for a beautiful CT River cruise with proceeds also going to SU4C.
“It was terrific to have Becky Thatcher at the show;” said Ben Cesare, publisher of Windcheck Magazine. “She added to the family-fun of the entire event.”
With the suggested $5.00 donation, Sails Up 4 Cancer will continue their mission of supporting cancer care, education, prevention and research along the Shoreline and Southeastern regions of Connecticut.
“We’re absolutely ecstatic about the donations that came in,” says Davis. “We will be able to provide direct financial relief to a significant number of families.”
With the creation of the financial, family-assistance program, the Spinnaker Fund, SU4C has been able to alleviate financial stress and give much-needed financial relief to many families. Additionally, SU4C gives significant donations to local Cancer Hospitals, Center for Hospice Care, and Visiting Nurses among others.
While SU4C recognizes the serious nature of their organization, they are also all about having fun! Join them for their weekend of events:
  • June 15, 6pm: BBQ & Cornhole Tournament with live music from Lone Wolf Trio
  • June 16, 10am: Regatta on Fishers Island Sound (PHRF rating)
  • June 16, 1-5pm: SU4C Wellness Expo with Be The Match on site followed by the post-regatta party
  • June 16, 5pm: Post Regatta Party with Rock N Soul Revue and Dark N Stormy Stations!
For more information please visit www.su4c.org or contact Rdavis@su4c.org