October 21, 2013

Claiborne Young Wins Skipper Bob Award

NOTE: Sadly, Claiborne Young passed on to a better cruising ground in June of 2014. He will be missed as a friend, a mentor, a colleague, and someone who made boating better for many thousands of people.

This article also appears on Claiborne Young's website. Check it out for the latest information on the ICW.

Claiborne Young first met the late Bob Reib,who most of us knew as Skipper Bob, at one of the first Trawler Fest events held on Solomon's Island, Maryland back in the '90s. Claiborne drove up there from North Carolina expecting to see 40 or 50 participants, but instead found himself speaking to a ballroom packed with more than 300 devoted cruisers. After his talk, Claiborne joined a roundtable discussion with other notable and knowledgeable cruising gurus, including Skipper Bob, the author of a series of guidebooks to America's inland waterways.

Now, some speculate there must be fierce competition between Waterway writers, but in reality most of us get along just great, and we often recommend each other's books and other products--after a customer has purchased ours! Claiborne told me that he and Bob got to share a booth at the fest, and it worked out great for both of them. Bob would sell one of his own books, and then when the customer wanted even greater detail on a particular area, he would recommend Claiborne's guides, conveniently being sold right next to each other. Needless to say, there was some friendly back and forth between those two sharing a booth. It's a wonder the customers could get a word in edgewise!

The reason they got along is that both shared what Claiborne describes as "a passion for getting accurate, on-site verified information for cruisers." They both believed in creating a quality product, based on professional research, on-location surveys, and careful writing and editing. And, these high-quality guides would sell well because they truly helped the recreational boating community.

The Skipper Bob Award is given annually to "ordinary people who make extraordinary efforts to assist the recreational boating community and who give selflessly of themselves for the good of others." Anyone who has used one of Claiborne's books in the past, or who now logs on to The SaltySoutheast Cruisers' Net, with its motto of "Cruisers Helping Cruisers," knows why Claiborne received this award. The amount of information available, all for free to anyone, is incredible: marina details, up-to-date charts, the latest shoaling information, bridge schedules, fuel prices (updated every week), and now detailed and recent soundings from the Argus system. Much of this information was simply unavailable at any price just a few years ago, and now it is available to all in order to make your Waterway journey safer, more enjoyable, and less expensive.

Most of you are not aware of the work that goes on behind the scenes in order to provide all of this accurate and up-to-date information. I, myself, have been involved in helping Claiborne to vet tips and new warnings provided by cruisers, and before any of this appears on the website every effort is made to research, confirm, and then properly describe the situation. The community often provides the lead, but then Claiborne applies the professional writer's touch to verify, clarify, and present it in a easy-to-understand format.

As many of you know, Claiborne's "first-rate, first-mate," Karen Ann, recently departed this world, and we must acknowledge her part in helping to create this amazing cruising resource. She not only helped create the Cruiser's Net, but she also made Claiborne promise to carry on with it, so we will all continue to benefit from her inspiration. Unfortunately, we must take the bad with the good, and my waistline will continue to expand as Claiborne updates his restaurant recommendations! But, hopefully I'll burn off a few of those calories pulling up the hook while exploring the new, secret anchorages he directs me to. I can't think of a more deserving winner of the 2013 Skipper Bob Award.