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Captain Bill Zimmermann – The Connector

I’ve always found that there are certain key aspects to the growth of a city. There are the obvious ones, like developers, and community activists, but there are others that are less apparent. Over the years, I have come to realize the importance of ‘connectors’. Connectors are the people who rally others together, and by doing so they create some sort of energy that takes a life on of its own. Often times the relationships that are struck end up rippling throughout the community, taking shape in various forms. The forms could be projects, articles… one never knows until it happens.

I am fascinated by the connectors, and their ability to piece people together. One of the most influential connectors that I have ever come across is Captain Bill Zimmermann, operator of Seven Seas Sailing. Whenever I get a call from Bill, I know that I am in for some sort of adventure that involves meeting new people from all walks of life. Whether it’s a gathering on his front lawn during the Garden Walk, or for a cruise on one his Seven Seas boats. This past Sunday, I was invited to attend one of Bill’s outings, on the sailing club’s Carver 42 foot cruiser. 

Now, as much as it sounds like a fun adventure, there is always an ulterior motive. Bill loves to bring people together who typically would not cross paths. To him, this is a way to ignite sparks – to create relationships that ripple outwards. The reason that I find this so fascinating is that typically we are all very content traveling within our own circles. It’s always safe and familiar, but at the same time, it can be limiting. Sometimes, there’s nothing like walking into an environment where you just don’t know anyone. That’s what happened to me this past Sunday when I was introduced to Dr Mark Donnelly and wife Laura Donnelly (educators and publishers of books about Buffalo), Dr. Kumar Bahuleyan (neurosurgeon and-co-founder of Seven Seas Sailing of India) and wife Dr. Indira Bahuleyan, Kushal Bhola (engineer and new to Buffalo from Delhi, India), Joe Dinki (videographer from Buffalo), three members of a local film crew who are currently shooting in Buffalo (Eddie, Nathalie and Tricia), Seven Seas instructors (Captain Darren Patterson, Captain Tom Heath and Laurie Patterson), captain Captain Tom Nowak and his wife Gail Nowak, and Janet Abels and Yonina Foster.

By the end of the waterfront outing, my brain was swimming due to all of the introductions and respective stories. For example, I learned that the surgeon, Dr. Kumar Bahuleyan, had donated his personal fortune of $20 million to his native Kerala village in India. That was back in 2007. According to an article in, “…the money will be used to build a hospital, health clinic and other facilities in the backward village of Chemmanakary.” The article went on to quote Bahuleyan, who said, “I’m in a state of nirvana, eternal nirvana – I have nothing else to achieve in life. My goal was to help my people. Now I can die a happy man.” Later on, Bahuleyan came to Buffalo, where he hooked up with Zimmermann to create a sister program to Seven Seas called East India Seven Seas Sailing Company. He learned everything about the Buffalo sailing program before establishing the sister program. Soon after, he began to ship sailboats to the southwestern corner of India, near the Arabian Sea. The plan was to create a program called “Sailors Who Heal”, where couples could spend a few weeks in India, teaching others how to sail while volunteering in Bahuleyan’s hospital. The relationship between Zimmermann and Bahuleyan resulted in a lifelong friendship, and to this day Bahuleyan spends a great deal of time in Buffalo, upwards of half the year.

As we motored along on Loon-A-Sea, I didn’t initially know that I was in the company of greatness, but I cannot imagine any greater deed than building up vast wealth, only to donate it to such a worthy cause. The next person that comes to mind, who I sat next to for a great duration of the voyage, was Yonina Andrea Foster, Ph.D., who, I discovered, had recently returned to Buffalo after being away for over 40 years. I was so inspired by our discussion, that I asked her to be a guest writer on Buffalo Rising. Her collection of thoughts was posted earlier today, which unfortunately garnered a negative comment right off the bat. But that’s OK, because I believe that the story of her journey back to an unfamiliar Buffalo was portrayed in an absolutely magnificent way. I also believe that the story was meant as a grounding for the writer, who has been through a trying time as of late. To see someone go through so much, only to come through on the other side as a stronger person in so many ways, and willing to open up and tell the story in a manner that I could never match, is a wonder unto itself. 

Over the course of three hours, I came away with a new appreciation for life, in ways that I never would have comprehended had “Captain Bill” not wrangled us all together for a lake-faring trip. He’s a great “connector”, which is an incredible trait to possess. I consider myself a bit of a connector, by could never possibly hold a candle to this guy, who always wants to draw people together, so that they might come together to make Buffalo, and the world, a better place to live. Hopefully, I will have couple more posts to share in the future, pertaining to additional crew members that I met, including news of an aspiring artist, and another of a film that is currently being shot in Buffalo, whose crew has come to love this city and wants to share the tale… at some point.

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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