Monday, April 30, 2018

Marina Review - The Marina At Ortega Landing

Welcome to the first On Board Life Marina Review. In the months to come, I'll be publishing these reviews about all the marinas we will be staying at during the cruising season using my N D S, A A, P P marina analysis model. The views expressed are strictly my own.

Here's the On Board Life video Liveaboard Boating Cruise Planning: How to pick the perfect marina (Part 2) 2018   CLICK HERE

We're starting off with a good one, maybe the best, The Marina At Ortega Landing in Jacksonville, Florida. And if you've watched any of my On Board Life videos, you'll already know we think very highly of this place. But why?

We've called The Marina at Ortega Landing our home away from home for 2+ years.
Unfortunately, it's time for us to leave.
N: Navigability – Downtown Jacksonville itself is inland on the St. Johns River. The Ortega River, where the marina is located, is a short distance further west than downtown. It's 24 statute miles from where the ICW crosses the St. Johns River to the drawbridge that crosses the mouth of the Ortega River. The marina is just past the bridge on the north shore. There's plenty of depth the entire way from the mouth of the St. Johns River to the Ortega River, but the approach of the river off of the main channel of the St. Johns River can get shallow for the deepest draft vessels. Watch it. But for almost any other boat there's plenty of water. Watch out for Red 2 and go on around that, then back toward the drawbridge. Don't cut that corner. Once you're past the drawbridge, you're in the clear.

Plenty of room to maneuver.

D: Dockage No problem at all. The fairways between the concrete floating docks are wide, and the pilings are very substantial. The slips are of different sizes to accommodate different size boats. Our finger dock was 32' feet long. Security at the docks is very good.

Casual luxury
S: Services – There is no fuel. According to ActiveCaptain, there is fuel available at Lambs Yacht Center a bit further on in the Ortega River. There is pump out at the slips. Thursday seems to be the regular weekly scheduled pump-out day, but you can get a pump out anytime when you make an appointment. You get one free pump out a month. There's a fee other times. You have to sign up ahead of time. If you need technical support, there is not only a plethora of freelance technicians in the area but two full-service boatyards nearby as well.

A party on the patio.

A: Amenities – Let me describe Ortega Landing's amenities this way: In our opinion, they are the best. Period. The clubhouse is beautiful, the swimming pool is great, the staff is top-notch, the grounds are gorgeous, the bathrooms and showers are not only roomy and modern but cleaned every day, and the laundry is free. If there is to be any criticism at all it would be that the laundry room is cramped. Big fat hairy deal. There's also plenty of parking if you have a car.

Spacious and sophisticated.

A: Accessibility – Pretty much everything you need is within walking distance. There's a Publix Supermarket, a Chick Fil A, a Panera Bread, a UPS Store, a CVS drugstore, locally owned restaurants, and, get this, a West Marine, all within a hair more than a half a mile of the marina. And, by the way, that distance is confirmed on Google maps. It's usually a shorter distance than that, but there's a construction project blocking part of the way.

Everything you need is nearby, and you can walk to them.

P: Provisioning – See Accessibility.

P: Price – All this luxury and convenience is at a price point that you should like. Our monthly rate was $15 a foot. For our 45 foot boat, that came out to $675. Electricity is extra. We've stayed at marinas that cost twice as much but deliver half the value.

All in all, the Marina at Ortega Landing, an IGY property, is an incredible destination. Jacksonville is a great town with plenty to see and do. Add in all the conveniences that are all around the marina and you get what we think is the best marina experience in Florida. Yes, in the entire state.

The Marina at Ortega Landing gets five out of five stars.

Please, make sure you CONNECT WITH ME!
You can get more information about our On Board Life at these links:
Website and blog -
Facebook - Skipper Darrell
Twitter - @skipperdarrell
and you can subscribe to this content by clicking on the Opt-In link in the right column

tags: marina, liveaboard boat, liveaboard boating, liveaboard sailboat, boating as a couple, living aboard a trawler, liveaboard cruiser, liveaboard boater, trawler, liveaboard, the on board life, someday's here, boating adventures, boating websites

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