Solo sail from Newport a fund-raiser - Soundings Online

Solo sail from Newport a fund-raiser

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A longtime Rhode Island boater whose wife died of cancer two years ago is planning to sail his J/30 single-handed from Newport, R.I., to Bermuda and back to raise money for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

A longtime Rhode Island boater whose wife died of cancer two years ago is planning to sail his J/30 single-handed from Newport, R.I., to Bermuda and back to raise money for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

“My wife really struggled with cancer. She never had a good day,” Arthur Smith, of Portsmouth, says of his deceased wife, Sheila C. Smith. “When we’d go to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston I saw so many children suffering just like my wife. Now I want to see those children, who may not get to see another Christmas, enjoy the money I’m raising in my wife’s memory.”

Smith, who is 63, plans to set off on his fund-raising journey July 15. As of late spring he was still preparing the boat, which he named Sheila C. since he purchased it last year. “I ran all the lines aft so I can control her from the cockpit,” Smith explains. “I installed a roller furler, cut the sails, installed a new VHF and have been tuning up the engine (a 15-hp Yanmar). It’s been quite a process.”

Smith says he still needs, among a number of things, a new EPIRB, a watermaker and new foul weather gear. “I’m taking donations, if anyone is interested,” he says with a laugh.

Smith says he began raising money for children suffering with cancer not long after his wife died. At the Bristol County Agricultural High School in Dighton, Mass. — where Smith is a math and physics teacher — he started collecting bottles and cans to donate the deposit money to A Wish Come True, a Warwick, R.I.-based organization that helps grant the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. “I wanted to contribute to an organization that helps children — now,” Smith says. “I had read an article about A Wish Come True, about how they send children to Disneyland and things like that, and thought to myself, Now that organization sounds perfect. With all the bottles and cans we collected we donated $2,500. The students deserve a lot of credit for that.”

But collecting bottles and cans wasn’t enough. Smith decided to buy a boat and sail it to Bermuda and back to help raise even more money. “Why give a nickel or a dime at a time when you can raise thousands of dollars?” asks Smith. “I figured I could sell space on the boat and the sails for corporate logos and people’s names, to make some serious money for this charity.

“I’m not keeping any of this money. Not a dime,” Smith adds.

“We’re just thrilled that [Smith] chose to work with us,” says Rosemary Bowers, founder and executive director of A Wish Come True. “It is a little nerve wracking, though, thinking about him all alone, a little dot on the water. No one’s done anything like this for us before.

Smith hopes to raise between $15,000 and $20,000 for the charity, he says, and has collected about $7,000 so far. And his students continue to help, too. They decided to raise money for Smith if he agreed to shave his head. He did, and they raised $2,600. “It’s balding anyway,” he says.

Smith says he’s not too anxious about making his first solo bluewater passage. “It’s for an incredible cause,” he says. “I’m skilled at boat handling, so I’m not worried about that. The boat is seaworthy and will be in good hands.”

Smith says he will be receiving weather information from Tony Petrarca, WPRI-TV’s chief meteorologist, who will call Smith daily on his satellite phone.

“This is going to be a grueling trip, but overall I’m confident,” says Smith. “I think that once I pull into Newport again I will feel a great sense of accomplishment. That’s what I’m looking forward to most. That’s the best.”

For information about donations or sponsorship, call (401) 781-9199, or go to www.awish.org .