Sail for a Cure: Advancing Cancer Research

Bangor attorney Jeff Silverstein is best known for his passion inside the courtroom, but he’s also passionate about sailing Maine’s coastal waters. This past summer, he embarked on a journey to sail a 16-foot trimaran sailboat from Kittery to Lubec, to honor his late friend, Julio DeSanctis. “Julio championed the underdog all the time, and he was pro-rights, especially for those who didn’t have the power to advance their rights,” recalls Jeff.

I hope to advance the cause through this small monetary gesture or, more importantly, to inspire other people to take their challenge. -Jeff Silverstein

Like Jeff, Julio was a defense lawyer. They both cared deeply about navigating their clients through the criminal justice system. And they both enjoyed navigating Maine’s coast, until Julio became sick with cancer. “Jeff taught Julio about sailing,” says Joan DeSanctis, Julio’s widow, “Julio always loved being out on a sailboat, but Jeff introduced him to a different level of sailing.” Julio passed away in 2011 following a nine-year battle with cancer. As he prepared his end-of-life plan, he gave his sailboat to Jeff. “That was very generous of him. I’ve kept it over the years and conceived of this plan to sail his boat in tribute to him. Then I did a little research, and I learned his chosen charity was Northern Light Cancer Care,” explains Jeff.
And that’s how it began.

Jeff plotted a course and planned to sail Julio’s boat to raise money for cancer research. He started his journey at the boat launch at Odiorne Point State Park in New Hampshire on a sunny day in early July with a boatload of camping supplies, clothing, and food. He had a solar panel to help charge his battery, cellular phone, and electronics. In addition to sail power, he had a small electric trolling motor. He named the boat “Julio,” and had Julio’s name painted in blue across the side.  Joan and some of her family members drove to New Hampshire to see Jeff off. Jeff’s wife, Gayle, was also there. They waved to Jeff as he departed under calm winds and fair skies. “Julio is right on Jeff’s shoulder out there enjoying every single wave and being appreciative beyond words for what Jeff has done in his name,” commented Joan, as she fought tears.

Jeff’s journey wasn’t easy. Some days, he spent long hours in the sun waiting for the wind. On other days, he faced some treacherous landings. In addition to those hardships, Jeff also experienced tremendous inspiration and support in people he met along the voyage. “A good friend, Dale Canning, fixed my electrical problems. Craig, let me camp out in his yard on Matinicus (Island) and gave me coffee in the morning. Robert Johnson and Rebecca Beal hosted me on Great Wass Island, helped fix my boat, and towed me out in the morning. Bill and Julie Corbett from Cutler took me in for the night too.” He said there were many other unnamed boaters and fishermen from Saco to Cutler who helped him in some way. “Most importantly, my wife Gayle gave me the love, emotional, and shore support to do this. She met me three or four times and brought necessary supplies.”

When Jeff sailed into Lubec on July 16, Gayle was there, and so was Joan. Jeff had sailed 300 miles in 13 days and raised nearly $11,000 for Northern Light Cancer Care. “I am fortunate to have good health to be able to accomplish this. The struggles I had along the way pale in comparison to what people who are afflicted with cancer are dealing with. I hope to advance the cause through this small monetary gesture or, more importantly, to inspire other people to take their challenge.”

Joan, who is happy that her husband’s memory lives on through this cause, also sees the bigger picture. “We know that people are living longer healthier lives because of the research that has happened in the last eight years since he has passed. We’re going to beat it someday. I do not doubt that” she says. 

For more information visit:

Sail for the Cure is one of many events led by community members that support Champion the Cure Challenge, the region’s largest cancer fundraiser. Every dollar that Jeff raised stayed in Brewer to support treatment and research, including clinical trials that help bring the newest, next-generation cancer treatments to Maine.