Dunbar Named 2015 RI Boater of the Year

Bart Dunbar receives the RIMTA Boater of the Year Award on the opening morning of the Providence Boat Show. Pictured (from left): Bart Dunbar, DEM Director Janet Coit, Governor Gina Raimondo, Representative Kenneth Marshall. Photo/Kate Mouligne
Bart Dunbar receives the RIMTA Boater of the Year Award on the opening morning of the Providence Boat Show. Pictured (from left): Bart Dunbar, DEM Director Janet Coit, Governor Gina Raimondo, Representative Kenneth Marshall. Photo/Kate Mouligne

Newport, Rhode Island’s Bart Dunbar, chair of the non-profit organization Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island (OHPRI) and president of Bowen’s Wharf Company, has been named the 2015 John H. Chafee Boater of the Year by the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA).

The John H. Chafee Boater of the Year award recognizes and honors an individual who has contributed to the success of the recreational boating industry in Rhode Island or championed the cause of bringing recreational boating to the public. Among the luminaries receiving the award are Ted Hood, Sr., Halsey Herreshoff, Ken Read and Rome Kirby. RIMTA President Dick Cromwell and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit, who was 2013 Boater of the Year, presented the award to Dunbar at a press conference held January 23 at the Providence Boat Show.

Coit applauded Dunbar’s “vision and tenacity to make things happen in the way no others do.” His contributions to helping more individuals gain access to sailing she described as “seminal and lasting.” They include his key roles in the development of Bowen’s Wharf and the incorporation of the American Sail Training Association (now Tall Ships America) in the early 1970s; the co-founding of Sail Newport after the loss of the America’s Cup in 1983; and last but certainly not least, bringing the 200-foot SSV Oliver Hazard Perry to life. The 3-masted, square-rigged Tall Ship has been written into legislature as Rhode Island’s Official Sailing Education Vessel and will begin its education-at-sea programs this spring in partnership with various educational institutions while additionally offering camp opportunities for teens and sailing adventures for adults.

Cromwell read a House Resolution that said, “Dunbar’s success hasn’t simply been a result of good fortune but is due, instead, to his immense talents, amazing determination and vast love of all that the sea offers and the true desire to share that joy with others.”

“This is deeply appreciated, and I’m very humbled,” said Dunbar, a Harvard graduate who taught steamship and sail training at the U.S. Naval Academy after having been exposed to the joys of sailing at an early age by a father, a yacht designer, and a family fully immersed in the boating world.  “This has been all about partnerships, and we’ve had a tremendous partnership with RIMTA and incredible support from its members and from the State. When SSV Oliver Hazard Perry is at her berth at Fort Adams this summer, the people of Rhode Island are going to be as proud of their Tall Ship as we have been in building her. As a symbol for our state, she has served and will continue serving local and regional economic interests, but specifically we will be bringing an education-at-sea to a variety of different groups, including kids who might not otherwise have such a chance to step outside their boundaries and challenge themselves in ways they could never even dream of.”