My parents, John and Veronica O’Malley, married after a brief courtship of 30 days. They were blessed with five wonderfully awesome boys. My pecking order is number four, and the name I answered to. Long after my parents are gone, my brothers and I remain very close.
Jack (John Joseph), or number one as my mother called him, is married to Chris and lives in Glenview, IL. Together they have three sons: John Joseph, Brian, and Peter.
Number two, also known as Tom (Thomas Francis), is married to Sue. They live in Coral Gables, FL on a canal. Thy have two children: Kim is married to Don and they live in Grafton, WI with their son Liam and a new baby on the way; Patrick is married to Kristen and they live in Kansas City, MO with their two girls Scarlett and Annabel. Patrick is a C130 pilot with the Air National Guard and also a Jet Blue pilot.
Number three son (and mom’s favorite), Jim (James Michael) is my business partner. He is married to Mary C and lives in Chicago. They have four children: Katie (Tim), Sara (Kalman), Matt (Jenny), and Jamie (Katie)—and are blessed with 10 adorable grandchildren. From Singapore where Matt lives to Houston, TX where Jamie lives, they stay busy traveling and spending time with each grandchild.
Pat (Patrick Joseph) is number five son and is the smartest of the five brothers. Pat married Mary F. and they live in the Mt Prospect, IL area (Des Plaines) and have two children, Maura and Patrick.
And I am Number Four:
Also known as Mike, (Michael William) and I am married to Sharon A. (who the boat will be named after, “Sharona”). We live in Arlington Heights, IL. and have three children who are now adults.
Johnny (John Alexander) is our oldest child and lives in Denver where he works at Johnson and Wales University. His girlfriend Victoria is helping with this project and is in charge of social media.
Mikey (Michael Patrick) is the co-captain of this trip. He works for Penske Truck Rental in Waukegan, IL. His little sister claims that he is our favorite and refers to him as Prince Mikey.
And last but not least is my little princess, Elizabeth Aileen and she is called Elizabeth. Elizabeth graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and currently works at Chicago’s 100.3—a radio station in Chicago. She is the editor or this project.
Back at the turn of the century, Jim had a friend by the name of Rich who was dying of colon cancer. Jim asked him what is the one thing he would like to do before he died and Rich said he wanted to take a boat down the Mississippi. Rich died before the trip could happen but the idea lived on. Jim and I have a 24 foot pontoon boat made by Spectrum with a Force 90hp motor. Top speed is about 20mph with 2 people on board. Since we had a boat all we needed was a plan. So over the course of the winter Jim and I talked about the journey.
The plan was for Jim and his crew of five to take the boat to New Orleans. I would then take the boat from New Orleans to Coral Gables, FL and tie the boat up at Tom’s house (without him knowing).
So Jim started the trip and made it as far as Cape Girardeau , IL where he blew the lower unit on the outboard engine. It was only in December of 2013 that I found out what happened to the engine. The Mississippi was flooded during the first part of Jim’s trip and Jim was able to pull the boat up to the Arch in St Louis. What he did not think about was there could be a fire hydrant hiding under the water. As luck would have it, there was. At the end of the day the fire hydrant won and force outboard lost.
The boat was towed back to the Fox River and a new engine was put on. The average speed on the pontoon was about 12 mph with a 4 mph current. We decided it was best to keep the pontoon local from there on.
While the engine died the dream did not.
Since the breakdown, I have wanted to do this voyage. Knowing now from experience that the pontoon was not the right boat, I set out on a journey of finding a boat that would fit my needs. After reading many different magazines and traveling to different boat shows, I finally decided that a center console would be the best type of boat for me as I like to drive standing up, it has great site lines, and it is easy to move to the side rails during the locking process.
In January of 2012, I was at the Chicago Boat Show and I came across Pier 33 out of St. Joseph, Michigan. I met Tighe Curran. It was a slow afternoon and he spent about an hour talking to my wife and I about boating. He was representing a line of boats that I liked, but at that time could not afford as Elizabeth was still in college.
So I went to the 2013 boat show to buy my boat. Pier 33 and Tighe were there, but the boats weren’t. I came across another brand of center consoles made by a company called Robalo. At this point I was unsure and needed to do some more thinking. After careful research I decided that Robalo was the best boat for my needs and as coincidence would have it, Pier 33 now sold Robalo.
A year passed and Sharon and I attended the 2014 Chicago Boat show. We had kept in touch with Pier 33 over the years and met with Tighe. We discussed the Robalo and he spent over an hour talking to us about the journey and the boat. After three years of talking, we finally set a plan. I was to attend the South Bend Boat show to go over the options and FINALLY put the order in. But just like the pontoon boat on the first journey, we hit a “road block.” Mother nature sent in a snow storm and I developed bronchitis. So the plan is to visit Pier 33 and order My Sharona with the options I picked out.
18 Footer Compared to the 20 Footer
Robalo makes a center console in both an 18 foot model and a 20 foot model. After looking at both models I guess size does matter and the 20 footer is the way to go.
There are three different engine options and this will be discussed with Tighe at our meeting. Come Hell or high water…or fire hydrants…I am buying that boat!