Day 1 – 100 miles behind us and 6,400 more to go

Today was the first day of our Great Loop Adventure. We departed Waukegan at 8:25 am and cruised to Hammond, Indiana for fuel. For you “fuel-o-files, (sail boaters love this stuff) we took on 297 gallons of diesel at a cost of $834.00. The fuel in Hammond was $2.79 per gallon Vs Waukegan which was $3.89 per gallon. We saved $327 on our first tank of fuel. We entered the Cal Sag Canal at Calumet and traveled to the Illinois River. We transited two locks and had to wait for several bridges to open. Total distance traveled was 100 miles.

The river system is quite narrow at times and is only 100′ wide at some points. We had minimal barge traffic until we arrived at the Lockport lock and then had to wait 1.5 hours for commercial traffic to pass. Commercial traffic gets priority over pleasure craft. We are known to the bridge and lock tenders as the “down-bound PC.”

Sections of the river are highly industrialized with junk yards, oil refineries and barge docks. We are tied up to the wall at a park in Joliet just south of the Jefferson Street bridge. Free electricity! Harras Casino is across the river. The Jefferson Street bridge is undergoing renovations and the sound of abrasive blasting permeates the air. I wonder what brand of paint they are using?

We met two other Looper boat crews here, one from Staten Island and one from Michigan. I am sure we will see them again many times. Tomorrow we will cruise 50 miles to Starved Rock State Park

All is well on day one.
The alpha – departing Waukegan on September 21, 2015

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All the flotsam at the Lockport Lock

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Entering the  Cal Sag Canal at Calumet.

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Some scenery along the Cal Sag Canal and the Lockport image image image image

The omega – arrival at the park in Joliet at 6:00 pm

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The America’s Great Loop Adventure begins September 21

It is only a few weeks until we depart on a one or two year, 6,500+ mile boat cruise on America’s Great Loop. Our crew will be made up of John and Priscilla Simons and Dale and Andy Arnold. This adventure has been almost five years in the planning and the departure date of September 21 will soon be here. All we had to do was research and buy a motor yacht, learn to operate her, retire, and decide how we would handle our individual homes while on our adventure. Similarly, 41 years ago John had a large number of life changing events in a short time frame. In 1974 he graduated from Northeastern University, skipped graduation and took a 10 week road trip across the U.S., took his graduate school entry exam, got married, moved from Massachusetts to New Jersey and started working as a salesman for Rust-Oleum Corporation. That took place over a 15 week period of time. Dale and Andy also had a life changing, fast paced experience in 1970. Dale received his draft notice and had to “drop everything”, leave a promising job after only one year and help Andy move back home to live with her parents. All this after being married for two years. You never know what life “adventures” will pop up, but you learn to adapt.  The ability to adapt may turn out to be the best skill we all possess as we prepare to undertake this journey.

We know the Great Loop adventure will present us with new challenges as we cruise down the inland rivers from Chicago to Mobile, cross the Gulf of Mexico to Florida, spend time in Key West and the Bahamas and then cruise up the Inter Coastal Waterway to New York and Canada, then through the Great Lakes back home to Waukegan. This trip is made by 100’s of “Loopers” each year. There are so many of them that there is an America’s Great Loop Cruising Association (AGLCA) that conducts seminars to help Loopers prepare for the adventure. We even have our white Great Loop burgee on our boat to help identify us to other Loopers during out travels. We will attend a Looper rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park in Alabama in October. That will be a great opportunity meet fellow Loopers many of whom we will see again during our cruise, at times traveling together and sharing experiences and “sundowners” at the end of the day. We will also attend seminars to learn more about what to expect during our adventure, how to travel safely when experiencing many and varied conditions and get the most out of our trip.

Most Loopers cruise as a single couple and have friends and family join them along the way. The Simons’ and Arnold’s have known each other for over 20 years and cruised extensively together on the Simons’ Pearson 39 sailboat Blue Heaven. We have made several trips to the North Channel of Lake Huron and cruised southern Canada together. The reaction of many people when we tell them we plan to cruise on a boat for a year with another couple is shock and awe. They are further amazed that we would even attempt to spend that much time with another couple in such close quarters. One of our major considerations in selecting a boat was that it had staterooms as far apart as possible with one in the bow and one in the stern, each with its own bathroom.  We believe the experience will be enhanced by sharing it with good friends, and the work load lessened by sharing. We hope friends and family will join us along the way. Sam and Denise Sorrano have already signed up to join us for several days in Key West.

The blog we will maintain on this trip will include details of our adventures and the daily lives of the crew. We have had contrasting styles as we prepared for the trip. Dale and Andy decided to close up their house and installed a security alarm system and a gas operated electric generator in case of power outages while they are away. Priscilla and John opted to rent their home with a commitment for one year with an option for a second year.

Dale and Andy already have four grandchildren. Priscilla and John are happily looking forward to their first two grandchildren in November and December of this year. Their son JP and his wife Rachel are expecting a girl, Eleanor, on November 11. Their daughter Alison and her husband Oscar are expecting a son, Jackson, on December 12. The Simons’ have already booked flights from Tampa and Fort Meyers to visit their new grand babies. The Arnolds will fly home for 10 days at Christmas from Key West to spend the holidays with their daughter Monica and her family.

In preparation for our trip we recently cruised across Lake Michigan from Waukegan to Holland, MI. We had a great time at a raft up party with over one hundred boats and a Jimmy Buffett cover band. However, the winds shifted west and blew hard for four days, delaying our return home. We tied up in Saugatuck, MI waiting for a weather window to cross back to our home port of Waukegan. We learned that after two years of effort we still had not learned how to properly secure our dingy to the swim platform. This is a priority before we depart. You know how it goes, just when you think you have everything ready another surprise pops up.

Our planned departure date of September 21st will soon be here. You can follow us on our blog site www.captainfatherjohn.com. The blog for our trip is entitled “A Great Loop Adventure 2015 – 2017.” It is the top listing on the blog page so it is easy to find. The blog is sequenced oldest, at the bottom or end, to newest at the top of the page. If you want to follow us from the beginning of the cruise, start at the end or bottom. You will also be able to leave comments for us on the blog site. We look forward to hearing from you.

Dale and Andy Arnold and John and Priscilla Simons aboard our Cruisers 4450 Changing Latitudes.

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