Here is the link to my Loop article in the Power Squadron newsletter. The text portion is below.
I am your coach and I am going to give you a pep talk to convince you to cast off your dock lines and head out on the cruise of a lifetime. My wife Priscilla and I keep our boat in Waukegan, Illinois and have recently completed a one year, 6,500 mile cruise on America’s Great Loop. Our Loop adventure was exciting and rewarding resulting in making many new friends and great memories. America’s Great Loop is a cruise on the inland rivers and intercostal waterway around the eastern United States. We didn’t just wake up one day and start cruising the Great Loop. We worked our way up to it by cruising the North Channel of Lake Huron several times and cruising both sides of Lake Michigan. We eventually cruised all five Great Lakes. This provided experience in navigation, anchoring, booking marinas, cruise planning, provisioning, dealing with Canadian and US Customs and building our courage to take longer trips.
I will give a shout out to Georgian Bay and the North Channel. These are some of the best cruising grounds in the world. No salt, no sharks, no worries. Just pristine fresh water anchorages and cruising grounds. There are great harbors, many with marinas if you prefer not to anchor out. Many of you may have head about the North Channel and might even know someone who has cruised there. A great way to build your own cruising skills and courage is to cruise there yourself. Everyone has heard about the hidden rocks lying in wait for you. I can say with confidence that during my five trips to the North Channel my Navionics Gold GPS navigation was extremely accurate. In addition joining the Great Lakes Cruising Club gives access to their detailed charts of every anchorage and gunk hole.
I am not saying you have to go to the North Channel before you do America’s Great Loop, but it helps. America’s Great Loop can be thought of as a series of 30, 50 or 100 mile day trips from one marina or anchorage to the next. If you can cruise from Waukegan to Chicago or Milwaukee you probably have the skills to do the Loop. We planned out a rough schedule of where we wanted to be and when we wanted to be there, although the most dangerous thing to have on a boat is a schedule. A schedule will cause you to make a move in conditions that are not ideal. That is when the best stories are created. All of our cruise plans had several layover days built in to account for the unexpected such as bad weather, maintenance issues or the desire to spend another day sight-seeing.
Our timeline for planning and departing on our cruise of America’s Great Loop was five years. You can certainly do the planning in much less time. That timeline included retiring, buying our Loop boat, learning how to run her and dealing with all the details of living on a boat for a year.
After reading articles in boating magazines about the Loop we bought and read several books written by Looper’s about their Great Loop experiences. These books provide a real sense of what will be encountered along the way. Two of the better books we read were written by platinum Loopers (completed two or more Loops) George and Pat Hospodar – “Reflection on America’s Great Loop” and “The Great Loop Experience from Concept to Completion.” Reading those books helped us decide what we needed to have in our ideal Loop boat. We cruised the Loop with another couple so we needed a boat with two very equal staterooms. There are two types of Loopers – go fast Loopers and go slow Loopers. The go slow Loopers buy trawlers and sailboats to do the Loop at 6 – 8 kts. The go fast Loopers buy express cruisers and motor yachts. They can cruise at a fuel sipping 6 – 8 kts but have the option to cruise at 20 – 25 kts if they prefer. With the help of Chris Weber of Weber Yachts as our buyers broker, we bought a Cruisers 4450 motor yacht and were fast Loopers. We cruised 6,500 miles and burned 6,200 of diesel. When we bought our boat in the fall of 2013 the cost of marine diesel was $4.25 per gallon. When we departed on the Loop in September 2016 the cost of marine diesel was closer to $2.00. That really helped our budget.
During our twelve month Loop cruise the real highlights were the people we met. You will meet fellow Loopers all along the way. We met Loopers on the Illinois River that we met again the Bahamas. The Looper community is a great resource for new or would be Loopers. Even if you are merely in the Looper dreamer stage you should join the America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association. www.aglca.org
Having completed the Loop we often hear from people that were Loop dreamers or knew Loop dreamers. Most often they waited too long to cast off their dock lines and they became ill or their wife or husband became too ill to start the adventure. The adventure of America’s Great Loop awaits. What are you waiting for?
My second career is working as a broker for Weber Yachts. Upon completing the Loop Weber Yachts sold our Loop boat within two weeks. If I can be of assistance for you to find your ideal Loop boat, please do not hesitate to contact me.