Author ‘Skipper Bob’ remembered

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Robert Reib, who wrote 12 cruising and planning guidebooks, has died

Robert Reib, who wrote 12 cruising and planning guidebooks, has died

Robert Reib, author of the “Skipper Bob” series of cruising guides, suffered an aortic aneurysm Dec. 11 and died at his home in Windsor, Penn. He was 66.

“Bob dreamed the dreams, and I followed,” says Reib’s widow, Elaine. The two had been married for nearly 28 years. “If I said I wanted to go to Canada, he’d say, ‘Let’s go.’ He really was the love of my life.”

Friends and family describe the longtime boater as determined, capable, confident, simple and humble. Leo Oxberger, a friend of Reib’s for 12 years, says he was “the man who all of us boaters, thousands of us, have looked up to for advice.”

For nearly a decade the Reibs cruised more than 40,000 miles aboard Snug, a Krogen 36 Manatee, exploring the Intracoastal Waterway, the Great Circle Route, the Ohio River and the New York Canal System, among other waterways. In 1996 Reib purchased the rights to the Wilmington, Del., Power Squadron’s 20-page cruising guide “Anchorages Along the Intracoastal Waterway.”

“Bob was first contacted about taking over the guide by the people at the Krogen Cruiser’s Club,” says Elaine Reib, who is 59. “They knew we’d been cruising all over and had gone farther than was reported in the guide. Bob, in addition to his skipper’s log, kept a detailed log of his observations at every anchorage we stopped at. Bob took that guide from a stapled-in-the-corner pamphlet to an honest-to-goodness book with more than 120 pages.”

Reib adopted the pen name “Skipper Bob,” and by word of mouth sales of the book took off. It provides information on free dockage, fuel and marina prices, and where to find the best anchorages. Over the years Reib wrote more books, including “Marinas Along the Intracoastal Waterway,” “Cruising the Rideau and RichelieuCanals,” and “Cruising Comfortably on a Budget.” Today there are 12 Skipper Bob cruising and planning guidebooks, with nearly 48,000 copies sold.

“We have used all of his books in our travels, whether on the ICW or the CanadianCanal,” says Dennis Gustafson in an e-mail to Soundings. Gustafson, 61, and his wife, Carol, live aboard a 43-foot Vista motoryacht, and in January made a stop on the Tennessee River while finishing the Great Circle Route. “His books are done almost mile by mile, listing all marinas, fuel stops, grocery stores, boating supply shops and other pertinent information in an easy-to-follow format. They help you along the way, letting you know what’s around the next bend, where to look for the next range marker or where it should be. I don’t know of a cruiser who doesn’t use his books. They are invaluable.”

Bill and Diane Stevens, who contributed twice to Skipper Bob books, corresponded with Reib many times over e-mail and say they will miss his sense of humor most of all. “When I first e-mailed [Bob] it was to ask him what ‘Bahamian-style’ anchoring meant, in reference to an anchorage in Beaufort, N.C.,” says Diane Stevens, who is 41. “He explained it, but I didn’t understand. He was patient and tried again, which was so helpful. I thought I must be a pain in the neck, but it didn’t seem so. In fact, you could hear his good humor in the e-mails.”

The first time Elaine Reib went cruising with Skipper Bob was in 1978, about six months after they met. Reib had been preparing to retire from his post as a chief warrant officer in the Army, she says, and had purchased a Coronado 35 center cockpit sailboat named Sundance. He was planning to cruise the ICW from the mid-Atlantic with his three children to spend the winter in the Bahamas.

“He’d been watching people sailing on the Chesapeake and was reading magazines about cruising,” says Elaine. “He started having a craving. Next thing you know he has me, his kids and my two kids on the boat, and we were off. It was such an adventure for me. I had never been on a big boat before. I had just gotten out of a tough marriage and divorce, and sailing was not in my plans. He took me into a whole new world.”

But Reib sold Sundance the following year, and the couple didn’t get the itch to travel again until 1990, when they purchased a travel trailer and hit the road. “We spent the next couple of years with a travel trailer beating down highways, exploring nearly every state in the country,” Elaine says. “But it became too expensive and Bob suggested cruising instead. He said, ‘On a boat I know we can do better. No matter where we go, we just drop anchor and stay for free.’ ”

In 1992 the couple purchased Snug and spent the next eight years cruising. They sold the trawler in 2000 so Reib could help his wife care for her father.

“Bob always said, ‘If you can read about it, you can do it,’” Elaine says. “That’s something he lived by and part of the reason why he did the guides. He wanted to pass along the information he had gathered so others could enjoy cruising, too.”

In addition to Elaine, Reib is survived by a daughter, Roberta Reib Munsell; his sons Glenn and Daniel; Elaine’s sons David and Erik Starcher; his brother, John; sister, Elizabeth Showalter; and eight grandchildren. For more information about Skipper Bob books, call (717) 244-0081 or visit www.skipperbob.home.att.net .