Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Ahhhhhhhh. Everything Is Better Now.

It's 6:30 am on Tuesday, April 17, and I'm feeling much, much better. Not that I was doing terrible before we landed in Jacksonville on Sunday. On the contrary, life has been sweet. Oh sure, Lisa and I have had some challenges, some of them quite sizable, but we're back on Why Knot and everything is good. Our universe is back in order.

To make everything even better is that a check of the boat's systems has all been a-okay. The engine started and ran smooth and strong. The air conditioning and heater have worked without flaw. That's been particularly a good thing since we've experienced some interesting weather mood swings, both in temperature and temperament. I load tested the batteries, and they checked out fine. (Thanks to Eric Weatherly for walking me through that procedure … again.) All the electrical stuff seems to be functioning optimally, though I still have to do a plugs-out test on the generator and inverter.

Today is going to be an interesting day. I'm seeing a doctor down here to get my medical exam for my captain's license. As I've described before, I was unable to find a doctor in Denver that would perform the test for me. And as I've had to describe several times to some readers, I tried four different doctors to get the test done while we were still there, and they all declined. Screw it. Lot's of 'em here in Jacksonville. We're going to see if we can get some pictures and a video or two about the experience.

So, we're doing great. The boat's in good shape. We feel terrific.

It's good to be back home.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


We've been on this most recent shore leave since late January 2017. I wasn't supposed to be this long. The way it was supposed to play out was that Lisa, an accountant, would, as she did every other year, work her ass off taking care of her tax clients during February and March, then get everything finished and submitted during the first week of April. We'd then dive head first into prepping things for us to head to the boat to start our season.

It didn't happen that way. As I've said already, perhaps ad nauseam, a hail storm hit our house just a few days before our departure date. In retrospect, it was better that it happened that way. We were able to shift gears and take care of our house's extensive repairs.

But, that was then; this is now. As I write this (4/11/2018) I'm sitting at my desk in our emergency backup home in St. Louis, not Denver. We flew out of the Mile High City to the Gateway City very early on the morning of 4/10, rented a car here, and were taking naps in our own bed by noon. It's good to be back in my hometown. The biggest reason we're here is to connect with son #1, Bryan, and son #2, Kevin. Son #1 is having some challenges these days but nothing that he won't overcome in time. Son #2 is doing fine.

These transition trips in and out of St. Louis are always odd things. Most of the time we are here going to or coming from the boat. Sometimes it feels like I'm cheating my relationship with my sons. But I hope they understand that what Lisa and I are doing on Why Knot is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something that is unique. While it does not singularly define us, it certainly is part of our life's definition.

I think when my time to go has come, I want people to remember me first as a man: flawed, hard-working, but hopefully wise and intelligent. Then I want to be remembered equally as a husband to Lisa and a father to Bryan and Kevin. They are the most important entities in my life, more than any accomplishment, past, present or future. Only after that do I want to be remembered for anything I've ever done.

I've accomplished some significant things in my work life, but nothing I've done compares to my boating life. I can honestly and sincerely say that I'm good at this. Being a skipper and shipmate suits me better than any executive or management thing. I love this.

What I love even more is to share this with Lisa. My god, she's amazing. From zero boating experience, she has grown and matured to phenomenal levels of achievement. She is a wonder to behold, and she does it all with earnestness, skill, aplomb, and just for fun, a dash of panache.

So, it's been fifteen months since we've been on board Why Knot. That's way too long a time, but it couldn't be helped. But all that's behind us.

I'm a romantic by nature, but I'm not going to heap any personifications on our boat. It hasn't missed us. It's a machine. It's our spirit that embodies what our on board life is. We've missed it. It's important to us. We want to be back on board. We want to get underway again. We need it.

We're on our way. Our 2018 cruise season has begun.  

Friday, April 6, 2018

Denise Boathook Has Returned In Triumph!

In the history of literature, one of the most popular and enduring genres is the classic “Boat Romance” books of the late 19th through the early 21st century. The names of the most popular authors flow off of one's tongue like sweet, thick pancake syrup: Duchene, Michelletti, Drummond, and Phlegm. But no author in this genre is more famous, more influential, or more popular than Denise Boathook. The author of no less than 140 novels, novellas, and short stories about romantic life on sailboats and trawlers, more than anyone else, she captured not only the lifestyle but also the romantic essence of the pastime.

Some called her works tawdry, pulp fiction, filled with soft-porn innuendos and double-entendres. One critic said, “There's enough cheese in her books to cover the world's largest plate of nachos.” Mildred Plankton of the New England Journal of Literature said, “Denise Boathook's stories are almost a parody of themselves and the entire romance genre.” Others called them light, escapist adventures with ample amounts of sex and danger mixed in to satisfy the tackiest tastes. There were even those who called them literary masterpieces. Whatever they were stylistically, they were immensely popular. Everyone enjoyed their romance and intrigue mixed with copious amounts of obvious first-hand knowledge of boating and cruising.

The first novel was published in 1991. Throw That Damn Line and Tie It Around My Heart, was a surprise smash hit. Boathook's most critically acclaimed work, published in 2006, Dinghy Fantasies was made into a major motion picture that starred Reese Witherspoon and George Clooney. No one was surprised when it won the best picture Oscar that year. Its source material was so great, so beautiful and so profoundly touching, it had to win.

To say Boathook was prolific is an understatement. New works appeared on bookseller shelves every other month or so, each one more entertaining and titillating than the one before. However, that all changed in 2015 with the release of Torrid Teak Turn-on. Critics panned it; one called it “a ponderous exercise of dribble, not fit for consumption by anyone with more than a third-grade education … not that a third grader should ever be allowed to read it.” After an initial surge in sales to her most devoted fans, online and shelf sales tanked. It was such a bust that the publisher, Sludge House, took back all the remaining hard copies, loaded them into seventeen tractor-trailer trucks, transported them to a deserted field in western Nebraska, and blew them up. It was a disaster. No new works from Boathook appeared after that.

And what about Denise Boathook? She disappeared. Her publisher never heard from her again. Rumors about her being a manufactured identity surfaced. One name, Margarette von Shnicklepussgeshitemeyer, a marina manager in Maryland, surfaced as the identity of the actual, real Denise Boathook. There was a frenzy to find her and discover the truth. Who doesn't remember when Wolf Blitzer tackled the dazed woman in the parking lot of a Giant Supermarket in Annapolis. Her vehement screeches of denial were heard all the way at a nearby West Marine store. Since then, nothing from Boathook, nor Shnicklepussgeshitemeyer for that matter, were ever heard from again.

That was until Ground Hog Day 2018. We here at the world headquarters of The On Board Life media empire received a small, plain, nondescript box. There was no return address, no identification of any kind on the package. Of course, we assumed it was a bomb; no surprise there. We have the ATF on speed-dial. After they declared an all-clear, we opened the package, and much to our surprise, it contained a manuscript from none other than … Denise Boathook. In our hands was the first chapter of a new work from the recluse author.

There was also a handwritten note. “Dear Darrell, I have been through a terrible time. Since the disaster of Torrid Teak Turn-on, I have been unable to pull myself together to produce any more literature. It has been a trial unlike anything I have ever experienced before. But I have to pull myself together. My heart has ached for my fans and I must, for them, persevere. I have also been deeply depressed by the inability to express myself in my chosen art form. Oh sure, I tried to set it aside and pretend I didn't care. But the yearning in my bosom to write more was too great for me. I had to write. And here it is, my new work entitled Hot On The Magenta Line. I have sent it to you to distribute free to the world. Because of your great integrity and artistic discernment, you are the only person in the world I can trust with my gem. Please, be kind. Through you and your facilities, my heart sings with billowy joy once again.” Then in larger, ostentatious calligraphy, she signed the letter, “Love, Denise Boathook.”

The package also contained a tentative piece of cover artwork that Denise cobbled together, as she did for many of her published works.

And so, we here at The On Board Life consider it not only an honor but also a solemn duty to present to you the first chapter of a new story from Denise Boathook, the greatest boat romance author of all time, in her triumphant return to top form.

Here is chapter 1 of … Hot On The Magenta Line.

Chapter 1 English Muffins, My Love?

The Magenta Line – the printed pink line on NOAA marine charts. Surrounded by mystery and mythology, it shows the preferred sailing line of the Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, all the way from mile marker zero in Norfolk, Virginia, down the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, around or through the peninsula of Florida, up to the north to the Panhandle of the state, then on around the coast to Texas, all the way to Brownsville. Fraught with danger and intrigue, a challenge of the greatest magnitude, sailors, and power boaters have endeavored to conquer it for generations. For those that succeeded, great acclaim was heaped upon them with songs and poems about their exploits composed and presented throughout the land. But for those that failed, doom and despair at the hands of Poseidon, the god of the seas, with his cavalier, intrinsically unjust rule, befell them. But yet, every day of every month of every year, more and more unwitting, unfortunate souls venture out of their safe marinas, anchorages, and mooring fields to challenge the ICW on The Magenta Line.
It was a perfect May morning. Clear, warm, with only a hint of a breeze, with a few, puffy-white fair-weather clouds in the sky, one could say the conditions were nearly idyllic. The Caterpillar diesel engine of the good ship La Donna Facile hummed happily, and the ship's wake flowed out from the transom in an uninterrupted ribbon of frothiness.
With the words and melody of “You Were Meant For Me” coming from her red lipsticked lips, Nancy Cosgrove bounced up the narrow stairs from the galley to the salon. La Donna Facile, her and her husband's forty foot long diesel powered trawler, was comfortable, if not slightly cramped. But Nancy was small, slim and spry, and the layout of the boat didn't impede her progress at all. But La Donna Facile was more than just a boat. It was a pleasure vessel, the venue for Nancy and her husband's sexual pleasure, with its large aft cabin and queen sized bed.
She had a tray in her hand with breakfast for them both. With little effort, she sprung out of the salon cabin door and walked aft on the main deck. The deck under her feet suddenly rolled due to the unexpected wake of a passing sport fisher that had ignored the many “idle speed zone” signs on that particular reach. A grape bounced off the sumptuous feast's plate, bounced on the rail, and plopped into the water below. Nancy gasped to herself, grateful that more of the tasty morsels weren't lost. It was a carefully planned and prepared treat, and she wanted to present it to her lover whole and complete. She corrected her balance and stepped up the three rungs to the sundeck, then climbed the last five rungs of another ladder to the flybridge deck. That was where Jack, her husband, her friend, and her most wonderful lover piloted the boat.
Just like she did almost every time they were separated even for a few moments, Nancy's heart jumped for joy when she saw Jack. He was very handsome. Sure, he had a few more years on him since they first met. He had a slight paunch that covered what used to be rock hard abs. His blonde hair had thinned a little, and he had to get a new pair of glasses every other year that seemed to get thicker and thicker. But she loved him with every molecule in her body, and every thought of him that she mustered was colored with joy, happiness, contentment, and admiration. But there was more to her feelings for him than those kinds of innocent attractions. She also lusted for him in ways that could only be categorized as hot, hotty-hotness of explosive proportions.
For just a moment, Nancy slid into her memory and recalled their first encounter. It was like it was yesterday. It was at an indoor boat show at the convention center in Indianapolis in the middle of the winter. She attended on a whim, looking for some new diversion to fill her dull life. Born Nancy Bluecker on a sorghum farm in southern Missouri, she had moved east of the Mississippi to escape the drudgery of Ozark life. She had grown tired of all the country music, pickup trucks, and rednecks. She had a bigger vision for her life than all that. She wanted adventure and excitement, so she moved to Indianapolis where she got a job as an attendant at a laundromat. She thought she had it made, but there was a void in her heart. She needed love, and she needed it badly.
Jack was an anchor salesman, the best in the country, and manned a booth there. His display amounted to a shallow trough filled with wet sand with two small replica anchors with light chains. His demonstration was to place the anchor on the sand and let the prospect pull the chain and let the anchor dig in. And he was very good at his job. He had charisma to spare, and their mutual attraction was instant. She thought he looked sophisticated in his khaki slacks and a logoed sport shirt. Nancy looked mega-sexy in a pair of cling-wrap-tight jeans and an Indianapolis Colts polyester/wool blend poncho she bought at Target.
She took the initiative and approached the booth. “Hi. So, you're an anchor salesman, huh?”
“Yes, ma'am. Jack Cosgrove, at your service. Are you a boater?”
“Except for being on a pontoon boat a couple of times, no, I'm not a boater. But these anchors look interesting.” She picked up one of the small demonstration anchors, wrapped her fingers around the shank and stroked it. “Well, it's certainly hard … and stiff … and solid. Does it come any larger than this?”
“Much, much larger,” he replied. “Would you like to see what I can do with it?”
Nancy licked her lips. “Oh, yes. I want to see all of it in action if you please.”
Jack took the small anchor and set it on the sand at the opposite end of the trough. He pulled the chain back to Nancy and handed it to her. He stood behind her and wrapped his arms around her while he gently held her hands in his. “Are you ready?” he asked.
“Oh, you bet I am, What do I do?”
He closed his hands around hers more tightly and said, “When I tell you, pull on it nice and firm.”
Nancy shuttered. “Oh. My. God. I'm ready.”
Jack breathed into her ear. “Good. Me too. One. Two. Three. Now!”
Nancy pulled on the chain and gasped with pleasure. The replica anchor dug into the sand, and she almost fainted from the excitement. She said, “Wow, that's a helluva demonstration you have there, Mr. Cosgrove. May I call you 'Jack'?”
He handed his business card to her. “You can call me Millard Fillmore, as long as you call me. The show closes at 8:00 pm. I'm staying at the downtown Sheraton. After dinner and drinks, I'll show what I can do with my own anchor. How does that sound?”
Nancy's knees felt weak. “Oh, please, please do. I want to know all about your anchor that you can show me. Everything.”
Their rendezvous that night was torrid, and they were never apart again. She quit her job at the laundromat, sold everything, and traveled all around the nation with Jack. Together they amassed an anchor-selling fortune. After a few years, they got married, quit touring the boat shows, sold everything, bought a boat themselves, and lived the life of cruising boaters. It was magical.
Nancy shook her head and snapped herself back into present time up on the flybridge. She slid onto the padded bench seat next to her beloved lover and spouse. “English muffin, my love?” she asked. “I brought some more coffee too. And there are grapes, except for one I lost over the rail. And there's apple slices and peanut butter – all your favorites.”
“Thanks, baby. That sounds great.” Jack turned to her and winked in appreciation. “Ya' know, I love it when you bring breakfast up to the helm. It always starts the day out perfectly.”
“Yes, I know. And I enjoy doing it for you. I enjoy doing anything for you to show you how much I love and adore you. Anything. I'll do anything. And I mean anything at all. Anything.”
Jack took one bite of the pastry. “Ummmm. Strawberry Rhubarb jam. You know exactly what I like.”
Nancy placed a small dab of the jam on her tongue. She then spread it all around her mouth. “But the jam is not as sweet as my lips, my love. And I guess you could say that you're my jam.”
He put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her to him. “I love you, Nancy.”
She buried her mouth onto his neck and kissed him. “Oh, darling, I love you too. Being with you has always been a dream come true, and it always will be. Tell me, where are we heading today? Some isolated anchorage, I hope. Someplace secluded and out of the way. You know how loud I can be. I have such a yearning for you. I want you. I need you.”
“Sorry, sweetheart. We're heading north to a marina. We need to do a pump out. Besides, there aren't too many places along this stretch on the magenta line where we can drop a hook.”
“That's okay,” she said. “What marina are we going to stop at then?”
Quite casually, Jack answered. “Barefoot.”
All of a sudden, Nancy's heart filled with dread. “Barefoot? You mean in Myrtle Beach?” She hoped it wasn't true.
“Mm-hm. Barefoot Marina in Myrtle Beach. I figure we'll stay a day or two, then we'll continue on north to Bald Head Island. You always like it when we go to Bald Head Island.”
Tears poured from her eyes. “But … darling, that means we'll have to go through … The Rockpile. Say it isn't so. It's so dangerous. The rocks and traffic. Oh, my love, you're joking with me. That's it. You're joking. Haha. You had me there for a moment.”
Jack tried to reassure her. “It will be fine. We only draft three feet and high tide is around 8:00 am for the next several days. Don't worry.”
Nancy tried her best to suppress her panic. She bit her knuckle. “Okay, my love. Whatever you say. I trust you.”

And that's it. That's all Denise Boathook sent to us here at The On Board Life. We don't know if there's more to come or not. I guess we'll have to just wait and see. The temperamental artist that she is, we may never hear from her again. But it's a great start, isn't it?

What do you think? Would you like to read more of Hot On The Magenta Line?

Let me know in the comments.

Darrell T. Grob

© 2018 Darrell T. Grob

Sunday, March 25, 2018


Fifty pounds – that's all we get. Southwest Airlines only gives us two free pieces of luggage that can't weigh any more than fifty pounds each. That's one-hundred pounds per person, and that's a lot if you think about it. But that's nowhere close to enough capacity to replenish all our various needs for a cruising season if we want to have any degree of comfort and convenience. Besides, those stupid suitcases are full of clothes. Who needs clothes anyhow?

But the reality is we need stuff, and we need new stuff every season.

There are always new supplies, necessities, and knick-knacks that have to go on board. Cookware, tools, supplies, shoes (there's always a box of shoes), decorations, books, dvds, technology-thingies, pillows, blankets, sheets, toiletries and every kind of sundries we can think of. We find them here in Denver or online, buy them, and have to get them to the boat. So, prior to every season, we pack'em and ship'em to wherever Why Knot is. But why buy them in our hometown, either at a store or online, accumulate them in one place, then ship it all in one, big, grandiose shipping orgasm?
One reason is that when you leave your boat for any length of time, some things need to be shipped home and be replenished for the next season. Things wear out or break and need to be replaced or updated. Things need to be repaired. One example we had was a quilt we use on board. It needed to be patched in several places, and Lisa couldn't do it on the boat. She bodged it together until she could get it home and refurbish it completely. It had to be shipped home and will be shipped back to the boat.

Another reason is that when you're out during a season, your buying options are not as good as when you are on shore leave. At home, you have the time and resources to find the right things for your on board life. Shipping certainly adds to the cost of each item, but sometimes having the right thing is a better choice. This is particularly true of food items.

But the main reason for this huge effort is purely logistical. It's a lot of work, but it's just plain easier to keep track of everything if you bring it all to one place then ship it all out from there.

Here are our packing practices.

Pretty much the moment we get home to Denver, we prepare to leave again. There is a designated shipping staging area. Lisa sets up an empty box and announces that it is box numero-uno to go back. It stays empty for a day or two, but only for that long. We both soon find little things that we say, “Hm, I'd sure like to have that on the boat,” and we drop it in. One box becomes two, then three, four, five, six, however many it takes.

As the time for us to depart to the boat gets nearer, thirty days or so, we move the boxes to a convenient little area in our home we call the piano room. This is where we empty all the boxes and repack them better. It's also where we have little quibbles about the merits of shipping certain things. For instance, this year Lisa wanted to ship a bottle of dish soap. I assured her that dish soap was readily available for purchase in Jacksonville, Florida, and I'd be glad to buy her not one, but two bottles if she so desired. (There is certainly the risk that there will be some massive dish soap shortage when we get there, but I think I'm safe.) The other thing we do during this repacking, and this is important, is to redistribute the weight of all the contents more evenly and into smaller boxes. I've learned my lesson on having boxes that are too big and heavy. A few years ago, moving big, heavy boxes onto the boat at a marina put me in the hospital. Never again.

Every season there are a handful of items to be shipped that are a little bit on the strange side. This season that award goes to my paint stirrer.
This crazy looking thing goes on a 3/8 inch drill and is used to stir paint. I'm going to stir up some shit with it … literally. The idea is that our holding tank has been emptied but just sitting for a year. I have to think that the poo/pee residue in there has settled some. This bleck needs to be cleaned out somehow, and this is where this stirrer comes into play. Ortega Landing marina has pump-out at each slip. What I intend to do is to fill the holding tank about a third the way with water. I'll then attach the stirrer to my drill, stir it up, hopefully getting all the excrement settlement re-emulsified with the water, then suck it all out. Sounds like a good idea to me, but we'll see how it goes in its execution. I may be a genius or full of shit. We'll see. (Sorry for the pun. There are some things I just can't resist.)

Another interesting item is this lantern.
Does it look familiar to you? If it does you might have seen it on an 'As-seen-on-TV' add. It's called the Tac Light and it was available on TV for a time near the end of 2017 – at least that's when I saw it advertised. I usually filter out those kinds of ads. They're usually pretty stupid, but for some reason, the Tac Light seemed like a good idea to me. My thinking was I could certainly use one or two on the boat, especially down in the engine room. I also could think of using it at our house. Against all my skepticism about buying an 'As-seen-on-TV' product, which was sizable, I picked up the phone and called the number. Purchasing the item itself was a bit of trial with their constant add-on and upgrade attempts. But with a little perseverance and stubbornness, I finally bought three Tac Lights. ($39.00 total with free shipping.)

And you know what? It's a damn fine little lantern. It is ruggedly made and bright as hell. One feature I particularly like is that you have to screw the bottom section of the lantern off to access the battery compartment rather than it having a lame, little flap to open. I'm taking two to the boat.

Ukuleles! Ah, music! 
I already have one on the boat. It's a Fluke Flea soprano ukulele, and it's certainly a sweet little thing. But if there is one truth with ukulele players, it's this: You never have enough ukuleles. I'm taking two more. The uke at the top of the picture is my Outdoors Ukulele outdoor ukulele. It's made of polycarbonate and is not susceptible to changes in atmospheric conditions like a wooden uke is. It's a very good all-purpose ukulele. The other is my Fluke banjo ukulele. Lisa particularly likes this one, and so it goes to the boat.

Now, the gun; what's up with that? 
It's a Bug-A-Salt bug shooter, and it's cool as all get out. It shoots a burst of table salt to zap a bug, and I can't wait to see how it does this summer. It was sort of an 'As-seen-on-TV' thing except I saw it on Facebook.

It's going to be a great boating season, and our Why Knot Great Lakes Grand Tour is one of the most exciting things we've done during our On Board Life. In the end, it's not the stuff that makes it exciting. It's the people and places we get to visit. And, of course, it's Lisa and I being together. That's the best. But you have to admit that a Bug-A-Salt insect zapper is worth the shipping charges to get it to the boat.   

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Social Media Update

Social Media is digital exhibitionism. But, at least, you don't have to lug around a heavy, smelly overcoat.” – Darrell T. Grob

Yes, it's a two-edged sword. Social media has opened channels of communication to degrees heretofore unseen in human history. We can reach out and touch every corner of the planet. Why just a week ago I had an interesting conversation with someone in New Zealand. Amazing!

For the most part, I believe social media is a good thing. We could all do without the crackpots and the screamers and the trolls, but if we use a good measure of common sense to filter them out, social media has benefits.

And that brings me to the reason for this post. I want to update you on my social media presence. I'd like it if you would follow me, send comments and questions to me, criticism me (politely, please), enjoy the content I create, and otherwise, interact with me. I have always been a creative sort. I'm a writer and musician, and I've done broadcasting work. Expressing myself, whether I have an audience or not, is one of my favorite pastimes. So, social media is very attractive to me. Let's take them one at a time.

The Blogs
The current blog about our upcoming adventures in the Great Lakes is at
Fyi, my blog about our Great Loop adventure is there also as past content. Click on the year links in the right column to access all that.
The blog for the On Board Life (liveaboard boating how-tos, news, and reviews) is here:
If you'd like to subscribe to my email list and receive notifications whenever I post something new to the blogs, in the right column is an opt-in button. Click it and fill in the short form.

Over the past couple of years, I have produced almost fifty different videos and posted them on YouTube. Some of them have been video records of where we've been, sort of a video scrapbook for our own enjoyment. Other people who stumbled on them seemed to like them too. That motivated me to create an entire channel of liveaboard boating how-to videos I call The On Board Life. They've been well received too, and I'm trying to build a bigger audience for them. But starting in 2018, as part of the Why Knot Great Lakes Grand Tour, I'm producing a series of videos just about that. It's still technically part of The On Board Life channel but will exist as a separate brand.
Here's the direct link to the channel:
If you need to search for the channel on YouTube enter 'The On Board Life Darrell Grob'.

And now, some of the basics:
Facebook - Skipper Darrell https://goo.gl/5D2cqu
Twitter - @skipperdarrell https://twitter.com/SkipperDarrell
Instagram - @skipper_darrell https://goo.gl/SqLsx7
A note about Instragram – if you need to search for my Instagram profile DO NOT search my name, Darrell Grob. That may take you to an old, obsolete Instagram profile that was hacked and turned into a porn sight. The new profile is skipper_darrell or @skipper_darrell.

Well, I can't think of any others.

Oh, if you find my phone number and want to call, fine, but don't leave a message on my voicemail. As I say in the outgoing message, I don't pay attention to voicemail at all, ever, under any condition. Don't do it. Texting is okay.

Thanks a bunch in advance for paying attention to me and my ramblings. I put a lot of work into the content I produce, and I hope you're edified and entertained by it all.

Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments.


Skipper Darrell

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Our Top 6 Favorite Marinas

This is an accompanying piece to my latest On Board Life YouTube channel video, Cruise Planning (part 2): How To Pick The Perfect Marina 2018

See it here!

In reverse order …

See the source image

#6 Charlevoix City Marina – Charlevoix, Michigan

Beautiful, modern, clean marina. Beautiful shoreside facility. Fixed docks. The town of Charlevoix is fun and interesting and right there! Grocery store is a block away. It's a great stop. The only downside is no pump out, but it is available at the marina next door.

See the source image

#5 Bald Head Island Marina – Bald Head Island, South Carolina

Nice, first class marina. Pump out at fuel dock. Big slips. Plenty of easy ins and outs. But the main attraction is the island. Gorgeous.

#4 Vero Beach Municipal Marina – Vero Beach, Florida

Like a lot of municipal marinas, it's rustic in need of a facelift. The big selling point is its accessibility to the city of Vero Beach. They have a FREE city bus system that will take you almost anywhere, including a Publix and West Marine. It also takes you to the beach.

See the source image

#3 Annapolis Landing Marina – Annapolis, Maryland

It's a great marina. It's in Annapolis! That's a winning combination. Clean, modern restrooms and showers. Pump out at fuel dock. Loaner car. Swimming pool. Water taxis to take you to downtown Annapolis. So much to see and do. Gotta love A.L.M.

See the source image

#2 Whitaker Point Marina – Orieintal, North Carolina

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Beautiful clubhouse with super-clean showers. Loaner car to get you into Oriental. No pump out. Very interesting fixed docks. First class all the way. Peaceful and restful.

See the source image

#1 Ortega Landing Marina – Jacksonville, Florida

Everything is perfect at Ortega Landing from the exquisite clubhouse and facilities, to big slips with wide thoroughfares, to nearby shopping (Publix, West Marine) to being in the cool city of Jacksonville. And the price is right too. Luxury amenities (pool) at a very reasonable price. The marina value meter is pinned all the way to 'awesome'.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Still Studying For My OUPV

Several weeks ago (and in the post directly preceding this one) I told you about my experience taking my OUPV Captain's license exam. To quickly recap, it went fine, all things considered. I passed three of the four module tests easily, but I missed the Rules of the Road module by one stinking question. Well, I'm retaking the Rules of the Road exam Tuesday, February 13th. I'm also taking the Master's license upgrade.

The Rules of the Road exam consists of 30 multiple choice questions that one must get a 90% grade on. That means you can only get three questions wrong. Fair enough. The Rules of the Road are very important and deserve having a high passing grade.

I am working my ass off to be ready for my re-exam. The system I'm using is the Mariner's Learning System, and according to their own information, the questions that are in the book quizzes and online quizzes are the questions that appear in the test, so I'm cramming on all the questions that appear in the Rules of the Road module in their book and online system. (They can make that claim because they create the tests that are used for the exam.)

And how many questions are there? 315 in the Rules of the Road sections. And I've answered and re-answered them damn near every day for the last month, just like yesterday (2/10/2018). And how did I do on those questions? What was my score? I missed only three. THREE out of 315. For those of you keeping score at home, that's a grade of 99.36%. On the Master's upgrade, I scored a 98.43% -- 251 correct out of 255 questions. But the score for the Rules of the Road is the one that's important to me.

I need to pass the Rules of the Road module to earn my OUPV (Six Pack) license this time. That's the bottom line. That's the key. If I somehow muff it again, I basically have to go back and start over again, and that would suck. If I passed the Rules of the Road exam and failed the Master's upgrade, that's not quite as bad because the Master's exam is strictly multiple choice questions. To have to redo the entire OUPV exam would require that I do the entire damn thing over again from the very beginning. Quizzes, module exams, chart plotting, then take the whole exam again. It would be a lot more work, and I'm not exactly sure I have the gumption to go that route again.

But getting a 99.36% score on 315 questions ... that's good, isn't it? That sounds awesome. I should be able to go into this exam on Tuesday with full confidence I'm going to murder the damn thing. But I don't. I'm as nervous about this as anything I've done in the last ten years. Seriously! So, I'm going to cram and cram and cram as much as I can until the moment I have to climb in the car and drive to Boulder to take the exam on Tuesday.

Monday, January 8, 2018

My First Shot At The USCG OUPV 6 Pack Captain's License Exam

Ever since we started our on board life, I've wanted to get my U.S. Coast Guard approved, bonafide Captain's license. I've never had any professional vessel operating aspirations, but I saw it as me earning a diploma of sorts. It would be a validation of the effort and diligence I always put into being the traditional, not-quite-so-bonafide captain of Why Knot.

Let me explain that last part. It's all about tradition and, I guess, a little bit of legalese.

At this moment (1/7/2018, after I took the OUPV exam) I am not a licensed Captain. I have to still pass the test. But I am a skipper; I've been the operator of a boat. I've also been a traditional captain; in my case, I've been the operator of my own vessel, Why Knot. I'm not sure if I were the operator of some other vessel not for hire if I'd be a traditional captain or not, but I'd still be a skipper. Regardless, I've been working towards getting my U.S. Coast Guard issued OUPV Captains License for most of 2017.

To do this I've used the study program by an outfit called Mariners Learning System. I was introduced to them at the Annapolis Powerboat Show a couple of years ago. It was mostly online study which is something that I do well with. It seemed like a good way to go. Now, I didn't have to start the course immediately. However, when I activated the account, I had twelve months to complete the curriculum and take the tests in their system. I could take each of the four license test modules up to three times for the original price. After that first twelve months, extensions can be purchased for a modest sum. But one could only take the module exams up to three times without having to start the whole process over again. I activated the system on March, 8, 2017 which meant I had until March 8, 2018 to do the curriculum and PASS the exam modules.

[Note: One of MLS's selling points is that they are the only U.S.C.G authorized testing company. This enables them to compose the tests and sanction exam dates and locations. In other words, they can do testing on behalf of the Coast Guard. MLS says they are the only organization like this. I guess other license schools prep you and then send you to take the Coast Guard proctored exams in one of their regional exam centers. But this is an important distinction.]

Before I go on further, let me ask the question everyone has – how hard is the exam? It's hard. There's a lot of material, it's very technical, and you have to be able to parse very nuanced choices to select the correct multiple choice answer. You can't go in there thinking that the correct answer will somehow stand out. The Coast Guard wants the exam to weed out pretenders more than validating winners. In other words, the exam is designed to get people to fail.

Anyway, my first test day came on January 7, 2018, in Denver. More precise, in my home community, Lakewood, Colorado. How convenient. I showed up and was surprised to see that there was only one other candidate there to take the test. So be it. The proctor is a local captain himself.

The exam itself is in four modules. They are Plotting [ten questions, actually working with a chart they supply.], Navigation [20 questions], Rules of the Road [30 questions], and Deck General [60 questions]. To pass the exam one has to get at least at 70% grade on Plotting, Navigation, and Deck General, which I did with some margin to spare. But on Rules of the Road, you have to get a score of 90% or better. That one was a challenge.

Shipmates, if you're thinking that any test on the Rules of the Road couldn't be more difficult than who the stand-on and give-way vessels are in a crossing situation, you would be sadly mistaken. You have to know all about the ships' lights [Are they a NUC, Constrained by Draft, or Pilot? What lights would different tows have according to their length?], you powerboaters need to know the rules for sailing vessels, and much more. It was hard.


The bottom line was that I did not pass that module the first time. I got an 80%.

I had two options what to do next. The next testing opportunity in Colorado is in February and that would be all there would be here for several months. I had only two more times to take the test for that last module before the March 8th expiration date. I did something MLS says is not such a good idea; I decided to take the test for that module a second time then and there. I figured if I failed I still had the test opportunity available to me in February. If I passed, all the better.

The second test had different questions than the first, but they seemed more familiar to me. It flowed better. But I did do something I know for sure I shouldn't have done. I second guessed myself on the answer to one question and changed my answer.

And guess what my score was? 86.6% I got one question wrong. Damn it! And remember that question I changed my answer on? I had it right the first time. Damn it! Damn it! One stinking question!

So, It'll my last shot at getting at least a 90% on the Rules of the Road module test in February in Boulder, Colorado.

One stinking question.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018 Is Going To Be a Great Year!

Yay! 2017 is over! The curse of the perpetual shore leave has been vanquished.

We are so happy to have flipped the calendar page to 2018. What a pain in the butt it has been. First, our house out here in Denver was heavily damaged by a freak hailstorm with baseball size hail. We had to go through contractor hell to get it fixed. (FYI, our insurance company, American Family, performed well. No problems with them. But those damn contractors...) Lisa then needed medical attention, and that glued us to Denver for the last quarter of the year. (Everything went well with her. And for those in the know, this had nothing to do with what she went through in 2015.) To finish up the year, we drove back to St. Louis to see sons Bryan and Kevin and their assorted broods. It was nice but cold, cold, cold.

As I write this on 1/3/2018, we are back in Denver so that Lisa can start her tax preparation work. She'll wrap that up at the end of March. We'll then put on a full court press to get down to the boat mid-April-ish to start our 2018 boating season. And just like we had planned last year, we are heading up the coast to start our Why Knot Great Lakes Grand Tour. It's a four or five-year mission to explore the Great Lakes that we're very excited about. More details coming soon.

But there's a new layer of interest for this season. That's a new endeavor I'm starting. It's an expansion of the On Board Life Youtube channel that I've been posting to for several years. I've been making videos seriously, but they've never really found an audience. Part of that is because I neglected the search engine optimization aspects of Youtube publishing. But another point is that I hadn't focused on what I was producing. They were, for all intents, a video library of our adventures; they were our record of our accomplishments. They were fun, and I kept them short so people wouldn't have to sit through endless scenes of waves and gulls, or images of what we ate. People who watched them liked them. But I thought I could do more.

I did.

The new The On Board Life Youtube channel is dedicated to newbie and wannabee boaters who dream of getting out on the water themselves. I think I have some things to say to them that will help them find their way onto the deck of their own boat and out onto the water. But the videos are going to be different than most of the videos on the subject. They're going to be shorter: four to five minutes max. And they're going to be formatted in a way that is popular and most effective on YouTube. You'll see what I mean as the videos come out. I know I can commit to publishing a video twice a month without breaking a sweat. I'll then publish more videos more frequently as we get underway.

I think they are going to be unique in the realm of liveaboard boating videos. And what kind of content will they have? Well, you're just going to have to subscribe to the channel to find out.

The first video, Liveaboard Boating – 5 Reasons Why Liveaboard Boating Is Awesome! is up and ready for you to watch. 
CLICK HERE TO GO TO YOUTUBE>>  https://goo.gl/k8EpQS

Thank you in advance for your support. Please, like, share, subscribe and comment.

Here are my contact links.
The On Board Life YouTube channel https://goo.gl/k8EpQS
Facebook – Skipper Darrell https://goo.gl/5D2cqu
The On Board Life Blog https://goo.gl/abkRx8

Twitter – @skipperdarrell