Normally I would end this River Tale about here but there is a little more interesting information I wanted to add. A month after the trip when starting to put this story together, I decided to see if I could find a few more details about Star 7. As you can see from the photos she is a beautiful craft. I did several web searches but didn’t come up with much. But what I did find was a little background on her owner, Bill Cook of Bloomington, IN.
First, I must say it would be hard to find a more unassuming guy. Sure, because of the boat he owned I knew he was a man of influence and some wealth but sitting at the table with a State Park with a buffet dinner in front of us, he was just a normal guy enjoying talking about boats and rivers. I really didn’t give his status much thought which makes what I have discovered even more fascinating. He is the founder of the Cook Group, which is the masthead of numerous corporations that mainly deal in medical equipment and supplies. A section of the company's history on the web reads, “The story of Cook Group Incorporated began in 1963 with the founding of its flagship company, Cook Incorporated. Using the spare bedroom of Bill and Gayle Cook's apartment in Bloomington, Indiana, as its first "factory" to build wire guides, needles and catheters, the business grew quickly.”
Interested, I dug a little more and ran on to this information on another web site, “Cook himself is listed in the Forbes list of 400 richest people in the U.S. He is ranked 55 in the Forbes 400 in 2003 list with personal worth of $3.1 billion.” That stopped me mid paragraph! PERSONAL WORTH OF $3.1 BILLION!! I guess I am confessing to being somewhat shallow by admitting that this impresses me, but so be it – it does. A self-made billionaire is something a working stiff from rural Southern Illinois doesn’t run on to very often - not to mention share a relaxing dinner!
But that is the true magic of boating. It knows no bounds. Out on the water you find people of every description and position in life. From the retired couple plotting along in their trawler from river town to river town, to the middle aged anesthesiologist traveling thousands of miles in a mid 70’s open bow, outboard powered, tri-hull filled with 5 gallon plastic gas cans exploring rivers of the Midwest, to the 53 year old insurance agent escaping a little reality by running solo in an 18’ hand built wooden boat, to a self made 72 year old billionaire in his 100’ beauty searching for a new and unique view of America.
We are all drawn by a common aspiration. We are all out there not because we have to be but rather because we want to be. Call it wanderlust, call it escapism, call it a life crisis or call it what my wife does - a little bit of insanity. No matter, because the underlying desire to set sail is shared by all of us and is a potent equalizing factor that bridges all economic barriers. Out on the water true wealth is not measured in dollars but in the experience and joy it brings. And by that measure we are all billionaires.