Loop article – WSPS

Here is the link to my Loop article in the Power Squadron newsletter.  The text portion is below.

North Channel


Great Loop



Part 1


Part 2


Part 3


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.

Eddy’s Loop article

Written by Eddy Johnsen

We first heard about it years ago on one of those glorious, sun-filled summer days, when a fellow boater shared his dream of one day doing something called the Great Loop. Intrigued by the thought of having an extended adventure aboard our boat without having to battle sea monsters, pirates or gigantic rogue waves on the open ocean, we decided to research the subject. Little did we know that Ron and Eva Stob’s book, Honey, Let’s Get a Boat, would be the kindling for the passion we developed for the cruising lifestyle.

America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association (AGLCA), founded by the Stobs, is dedicated to guiding adventure- seeking boaters along a continuous 6,000-mile waterway journey through the eastern half of the United States and part of Canada. Loopers, the moniker for AGLCA members, cruise the Great Loop in such a manner as to ensure their year long odyssey is spent in warm inviting waters. You’ll find them in Florida during the winter and Canada during the summer. And if things go as planned they’ll always be able to wear shorts!

Our own trip began at the AGLCA Fall Rendezvous event at Joe Wheeler State Park, held every October along the shores of the Tennessee River in northern Alabama. During this four-day rendezvous, seminars are presented to ensure that Loopers are armed with knowledge about the waterways, anchorages, marinas and must-see sites that lie ahead. It’s a perfect time and place to get answers to the myriad questions that plagued all of us before embarking on this adventure of a lifetime.

Leaving Joe Wheeler, we chose to do a side trip up the Tennessee River to Chattanooga before heading down to the Gulf of Mexico. During our four-day journey up the river at the mind-numbing speed of eight miles an hour, we dropped the hook in some of the most picturesque and serene anchorages imaginable. During our weeklong stay in Chattanooga, we tried numerous restaurants, including Maple Street Biscuit Company and Big River Grille & Brewing Works, and none of them ever disappointed. It was very obvious that Chattanooga has spent a great deal of time and the fort making its beautiful, historic waterfront a first-class destination for cruisers.

We then cruised down the Tennessee River to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway at Pickwick Lake, Mississippi. Nicknamed the Tenn-Tom, this 450-milewaterway ends at the Gulf Coast and is actually comprised of two man-made river systems. Some Loopers think of the Tenn-Tom as the quiet segment of the Loop, with the exception of the excitement experienced while descending through Tenn-Tom’s twelve locks.

We stopped in Demopolis, Ala., and while strolling its well-groomed streets we found the sidewalks and yards strewn with pecans from the hundreds of beautiful pecan trees. A nearby antiques shop was nice enough to give us some plastic bags so we could gather up these unclaimed gems. An elderly gentleman who spotted us picking up pecans in front of his neighbor’s house insisted that the pecans from the trees in his yard were much better, and invited us to gather all we could carry! A parishioner came out of the local church and encouraged us to follow her to her backyard because her pecans were “the best in the city.”

Since the 218 miles below Demopolis are void of marinas, anchoring skills are a must. The floating dock along the shoreline at Bobby’s Fish Camp allows visitors the chance to stop and enjoy a fresh cat sh dinner and some genuine rustic charm. The restaurant is only open Thursday through Sunday, but many Loopers have been gratefully surprised when Bobby’s daughter, who lives a half-mile up the road, opens up the restaurant and cooks them a catfish meal with all the trimmings on the off days. Now that’s Southern hospitality!

The view of Mobile’s downtown skyline is a welcome sight after the long journey down the Tenn-Tom. With several boat yards in the area, it’s also an excellent place to get maintenance issues resolved. We docked at Dog River Marina, a full-service facility right at the mouth of the Tenn-Tom. Passing through Orange Beach after leaving Mobile you’ll find marinas loaded with local character and scenic, isolated anchorages. The 250 miles of Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) that traverse the coasts of Alabama and Northwest Florida are the least worrisome sections of the entire ICW system.

Pensacola, Florida, has also gone to great lengths to make its waterfront an attractive cruising destination and there are excellent restaurants downtown. During the tourist off-season, you’ll be able to walk along deserted beaches and watch the sun slowly melt into the Gulf.

After leaving Panama City, the ICW returns to river-like landscapes and placid waters as it continues eastward. Gold Loopers (those who have completed the Loop) know that the charming towns of Port St. Joe, Apalachicola and Carrabelle serve as staging points for the Loop’s greatest challenge: the Gulf Crossing. By now, the cooler air is signaling the arrival of fall’s final days and summoning a southbound change of course. Only a twenty-hour boat ride to Tarpon Springs separates you from temperatures that make it possible to continue wearing shorts!

I always try to remind Loopers that their “job” while on the Loop is to simply enjoy the journey. We made the mistake of planning to share anksgiving dinner with friends in Tarpon Springs. The stress of this commitment made us determined to cross the Gulf by mid-November. Gold Loopers preach to the neophytes that the most dangerous thing to have on the Loop is a schedule. However, we did have a wonderful Thanksgiving in Tarpon Springs and a marvelous Christmas in neighboring Dunedin.

America’s Great Loop FAQ’s

   Welcome to America’s Great Loop Cruisers’
Association™ Frequently Asked Questions.
 *Note: The following information was gleaned from various sources and may have changed since published. It is intended to be used for planning purposes only. AGLCA assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions. Prior to navigating these waterways, boaters are advised to contact the authorities, agencies or resources directly to verify the information and to not rely solely on this source. To correct, add to, or question any information, please contact us.


Click on the FAQ that interests you or scroll down to view all of the questions and answers.


1. Where is the lowest bridge that must be cleared with no alternate route around it?
2. Where can I get information on the water levels in the Chicago area?
3. Where are other low bridges that may affect the routes I take?
4. Where can I get my mast stepped or radar arch lowered if I can’t clear the bridges?
5. What are the channel depths on the various waterways?
6. How many locks will I go through?
7. How much does it cost to go through the locks?
8. Can we stay at the locks overnight?
9. Can my first mate and I handle the locks?
10. Are there posted speed limits on the waterways?
11. Where can I get information and publications?
12. Do I need a gun aboard for protection?
13. How long is the trip?
14. How long does it take to complete the Great Loop?
15. Why is the Great Loop usually done counter-clockwise?
16. Is there a general timeline for Looping? 
17. When traveling with pets, what sort of paperwork is necessary to cross Canadian or United States borders? 
18. What is “squat”? 
19. When cruising the Trent-Severn Waterway (TSW), are there any special considerations for vessels with a deeper draft (4 ft or more)? 
20. What is the best anchor to use on the the Loop?
21. Lake Michigan is Earth’s sixth largest body of water, is there a guide for this amazing waterway?
22. When guests cruise with you, is there a polite way to let them know the dos and don’ts?
23. What is the best boat for the Loop?
24. What is the greatest distance between gasoline stops on the Loop?
25. What limits exist to the beam, for a boat to successfully navigate the Loop?
26. What about getting prescriptions on the trip and especially in Canada?
27. What is the difference between the Triangle Loop and the Downeast Loop?


1. Where is the lowest bridge that must be cleared with no alternate route around it?

The lowest bridge that cannot be avoided on the Great Loop/Great Circle Route is 19.1 feet at mile 300.6 on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal after the Chicago River/Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Calumet Sag Channel join south-west of Chicago. This is the AT&S Railroad Bridge which is shown on the charts as a swing bridge. It is inoperable and no longer opens. THERE IS NO WATER ROUTE AROUND THIS FIXED BRIDGE FOR GREAT LOOP CRUISERS.

From Lake Michigan the Chicago River flows through downtown Chicago and becomes the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The lowest bridge through this route is 17 feet at mile 320.4, an inoperable bascule railroad bridge. The other route, the Cal Sag Channel, has a bridge height restriction of 20-something feet. Either way you must be able to clear the 19.1 feet fixed bridge mentioned above which is down river of both channels

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2. Where can I get information on the water levels in the Chicago area?

Some US Army Corps of Engineers’ phone numbers where you may be able find out about water levels:
Lockport Lock at mile 291.1 (the same pool level as the bridge) – 815/838-0536
O’Brien Lock on Cal Sag Channel at mile 326.4 (lock above the bridge) – 773/646-2183
Chicago Harbor Lock on Chicago River at mile 327.2 (lock above the bridge) – 312/787-4795
Lake Shore bridge desk – 312/744-4280
Randolph bridge desk – 312/744-4200
Website: www.mvr.usace.army.mil

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3. Where are other low bridges that may affect the routes I take?

  • New York State Canal System (Erie Canal, Oswego Canal, and Champlain Canal): If you can clear bridges at 15.5 feet, you can go anywhere on the New York State Canal System. If you can’t clear 15.5 feet but can clear 17 feet, you can take the Champlain Canal north to Lake Champlain, the Chambly Canal, Richelieu River, Saint-Ours Canal and the St. Lawrence River. If you can’t clear 17 feet but can clear 20.5 feet, you must take the Erie Canal to the Oswego Canal to Lake Ontario.
  • If you can’t clear 20.5 feet, you need to plan to leave New York Harbor and take the long way around Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to the St. Lawrence Seaway, but you can go only as far as Chicago on Lake Michigan. (See question above.)
  • Trent-Severn Waterway: The minimum overhead fixed bridge clearance is 22 feet in the main channel. On occasion exceptionally high water levels may reduce the actual clearance of the bridge at mile 87.34. The minimum charted overhead clearance in the Scugog area off the main channel is 10 feet at a bridge at Lindsay.
  • Murray Canal (near Trenton, Ontario): Two swing bridges with no height restrictions.
  • Rideau Canal: The minimum overhead fixed bridge clearance is 22 feet in the main channel. The Tay Canal leading into Perth off the main channel has a minimum vertical clearance of 7 feet.
  • Quebec Waterways: Chambly Canal, Saint-Ours Canal, and Ottawa River – all have a minimum clearance of 29 feet.
  • Welland Canal, St. Lawrence Seaway, and Sault St. Marie: All large commercial vessels pass with no height problems.
  • Tennessee River/Tenn-Tom Waterway: 52 feet vertical clearance.

Bridge heights are not guaranteed, so boaters must know their vessel dimensions and actual clearance before planning a trip. Operators should also be aware that the height of their boat, when fully loaded and underway, in various weather conditions, may differ considerably from the clearance listed in the manufacturer’s literature.

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4. Where can I get my mast stepped or radar arch lowered if I can’t clear the bridges?

There are marinas that will step masts and lower radar arches in the areas on either side of a low-clearance area.
(If anyone has more information for this section, please contact us.)

  • Turner Marine Supply, Marina, Yacht Brokerate, Full Yard Service, Mobile, AL, 251-476-1444.
  • Hammond Marina, Calumet/Hammond Harbor Basin, Hammond, IN, mile 326.5 Calumet River, 219-659-7678.
  • Pier 11 Marina, Chicago, at mile 323.2 Cal-Sag Channel, has a 60-ton travelift to 20′ wide, 773-468-9605.
  • Burnham Park Municipal Harbor (on Lake Michigan), 312-747-7009.
  • Hop-O-Nose Marine, Catskill, NY, 518-943-4640.
  • Wardell Boat Yard, North Tonawanda, NY, 716-692-9428.


“When we did the Loop we had the mast down from Catskill, NY, to Severn, Ontario and then from Chicago, IL, until Panama City, FL. We took our mast down at Hop-O-Nose Marina in Catskill, NY. We had a mast cradle stored at Hop-O-Nose from when we went down 2 years earlier. They have wood you can use to build your own cradle. Friends in Midland, Ontario, got us into their sail club for putting our stick back up. However, there are marinas in the area that do stepping. We took it down again at Waukegan, IL, at Larsen Marine. You can put your mast back up at Green Turtle Bay Marina in Grand River, KY, and go down the Tenn-Tom with the mast up.” –Don Kalen

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5. What are the channel depths on the various waterways?

  • Chicago area (the Chicago River/Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Calumet Sag Channel): Minimum channel depths are 9 feet. This may vary a bit depending on water levels at the time. If there is a lot of rain, the water levels may be higher. They could be lower in drought years. The areas between locks are pools so levels are maintained near pool levels for commercial traffic. Big boats and commercial traffic use both channels, but since the Cal Sag has higher bridges, it is used by more commercial traffic.
  • New York State Canals (Erie, Oswego, Champlain Canals): Channel depths are 12 to 14 feet but are subject to variation depending on rainfall, dam construction, etc.
  • Trent-Severn Waterway: Minimum depths are 6 feet under normal conditions. In a few places the water depth may be less than 6 feet. Any vessel drawing more than 5 feet must contact the Trent-Severn Waterway office in Peterborough (800/663-2628).
    “When we did the Trent-Severn they were maintaining the canal at their design depth of 6′. We went through with 5′ 6″ draft (probably about 5′ 10″ with everything on board), touched bottom twice but did not have any problems.” Don Kalen (on a sailboat with keel)
  • Murray Canal (near Trenton, Ontario): Water depth under normal conditions, is 9.5 feet.
  • Rideau Canal: Under normal conditions, there is approximately 5 feet of water in the navigation channel during the navigation season. This depth is only available in the center portion, which is a strip 33 feet wide in the center of the navigation channel. Any vessel drawing more than 4 feet should contact the Superintendent, Rideau Canal at 613/283-5170or 800/230-0016.
  • Quebec Waterways: Chambly Canal – 6.5 feet; Saint-Ours Canal – 8 feet; Ottawa River – 9 feet.
  • Welland Canal, St. Lawrence Seaway, and Sault St. Marie: All large commercial vessels pass with no depth problems.
  • Dismal Swamp (North Carolina/Virginia border): The target depth is 6 feet. It was dredged in1999 after the hurricane. Water depth may vary depending on recent rainfall. There was plenty of water for most boats in 2000.
  • Tennessee River/Tenn-Tom Waterway: Channel maintained at a depth of at least 9 feet.

Water depths are not guaranteed so boaters must know their vessel dimensions and actual draft before planning a trip. Operators should also be aware that the draft of their boat, when fully loaded and underway, in various weather conditions and in fresh (vs. salt) water, may differ considerably from its advertised draft.

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6. How many locks will I go through?

The route you take will determine which locks you encounter.

Eastern United States

  • Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway: Dismal Swamp – 2 locks. Or Albemarle/Chesapeake Canal – 1 lock.
  • New York State Canal System: Hudson River (Troy Lock) – 1 lock.
  • Eastern Erie Canal (Waterford to Three Rivers) – 22 locks.
  • Oswego Canal – 7 locks,
  • Western Erie Canal (Three Rivers to Tonawanda) – 12 locks,
  • Black Rock Canal (Buffalo) – 1 lock.
  • Champlain Canal – 11 locks.

Canadian Waterways

  • Chambly Canal – 9 locks.
  • Saint-Ours Canal – 1 lock.
  • Ottawa River – 2.
  • St. Lawrence River (Montreal to Lake Ontario) – 7 locks
  • Welland Canal (Between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie) – 8 locks
  • Rideau Canal (Main channel only): 45 locks.
  • Trent-Severn Waterway (Main Channel only): 43 locks.

Western United States

  • Illinois Waterway (Chicago to Mississippi River): 8 locks.
  • Mississippi River (Illinois River to Ohio River): 2 locks
  • Ohio River (Mississippi River to Cumberland or Tennessee Rivers): 2 locks.
  • Cumberland/Tennessee Rivers (Ohio to Tenn-Tom Junction): 2 locks.
  • Tenn-Tom Waterway: 10 locks.
  • Black Warrior/Tombigbee River (Demopolis to Mobile): 2 locks.
  • Okeechobee Waterway (Florida): 5 locks.

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7. How much does it cost to go through the locks?

Most lock systems do not charge recreational boaters. The following are exceptions:

New York State Canal System: All motorized boats passing through any lock or lift bridge on the Canal System must purchase a two-day pass or seasonal permit. Tolls for pleasure craft are based on vessel size and range from $5 to $20 for a two-day pass. Seasonal passes range from $25-100. 10. 10-day passes were added in 2002 for a fee of $12.50 to $100.00.

Canadian Waterways: Fees vary according to boat size and days of use. Permit types are single lockage/return, one-day, six-day, or seasonal. Permit valid on historic canals in Ontario and Quebec. All Quebec and Ontario Waterways (Includes Rideau, Trent-Severn, Chambly and Sault St. Marie, Excludes St. Lawrence Seaway Locks): 6-day pass for $4.00/ft; Seasonal – $7.00/foot. St. Lawrence Seaway – $20.00/lock; Welland Canal – $20.00/lock.

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8. Can we stay at the locks overnight?

Most locks in the New York State Canal System and the Canadian Heritage canals allow overnight dockage at the locks. Contact lockmaster or guidebooks for information.

New York State Canal System: PO Box 189, Albany, NY 12201-0189; phone: (800) 4CANAL4; Website: www.canals.state.ny.us. Information may be obtained on Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca Canals. They provide booklets, maps and information brochures covering toll and permit schedules, history of the canals, operating hours, depths, commercial operators, marinas, etc

Canadian Canals: Overnight mooring is limited to 1, 2 or 5 nights, depending on lock. Overnight mooring – $0.50/ft; Seasonal permit for overnight mooring – $7.00/ft.

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9. Can my first mate and I handle the locks?

Yes, it is possible to lock through with only two people on board. Many boats were staffed with only the captain and first mate. It may be more convenient to have three persons on board when moving through the fleets of locks at the entrance to the Erie Canal and the Tenn-Tom Waterway. A third person is required on the Welland Canal locks for upbound passage.

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10. Are there posted speed limits on the waterways?

New York State Canal System: 10 mph unless posted otherwise. Oneida Lake has no speed limit, but some areas are posted 5 or 6 mph.
Trent-Seven Waterway and Rideau Canal: The speed limit is normally 10 km/hr (6 mph) in posted speed limit zones.
Chambly Canal: 5.5 knot (6.3 mph) limit.
Tenn-Tom Waterway: Don’t rock the other guy’s boat. They can get pretty mad about that.

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11. How can I get information and publications from specific waterways?

Canadian Waterways:http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-obs-quick-quick_visitor-1610.htm

Dismal Swamp: To get information, contact the Norfolk District of the US Army Corps of Engineers. Phone number (757/ 441-7500), or from the website at: www.mvr.usace.army.mil. At this website you can get information on any of the District USACE offices. This is useful when checking on the river/locking systems in the United States.


Trent-Severn Wateway: Friends of the Trent-Severn Waterway, P.O. Box 572, Peterbnorough, Ont. K9J 6Z6, Canada; Phone: 800/663-2628; Fax: 705/750-4816; Website: parkscanada.pch.gc.ca/trent or ftws.com.

Rideau Canal: Friends of the Rideau, 1 Jasper Ave., Smiths Falls, Ont. K7A 4B5, Canada; Phone: 800/230-0016 or 613/283-5810; Website: parkscanada.pch.gc.ca/rideau

Quebec Waterways: 800/463-6769 or 450/446-4888; Chambly Canal – 450/658-6525; Saint-Ours Canal – 450/785-2212; Ottawa River: Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue – 514/457-5546, Carillon – 450/537-3534; St. Lawrence Seaway (Lachine Canal): 514/283-6054; Website: parcscanada.risq.qc.ca/canaux.

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12. Do I need to have a gun aboard for protection?

No, no one took a pot shot at us. It was necessary to reduce speed frequently to avoid sending too much wake at small fishing boats in the narrow waterways. This was especially true on weekends. You cannot take a gun into Canada. It will be confiscated and not returned. (founders Ron & Eva Stob)

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13. How long is the trip?

Because there are different routes and various side trips that may be taken, the trip may range from 5,000 to 7,500 miles.

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14. How long does it take to complete the Great Loop?

It is hard to put a timeframe around the Great Loop. The actual length of time it takes to complete will depend upon the individuals making the trip, what type of vessel is used, how many side trips are taken, the extent of site seeing done, etc. While there are many who do the entire Loop at one time, there are also those who break the trip into stages and Loop over multiple years. Regardless, whether Looping all at once or in phases, the most common advice give by those who have completed the voyage is to “go slow.” Allow sufficient time to see and experience all the Great Loop has to offer. Remember, Looping is not a race, it’s a journey.

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15. Why is the Great Loop usually done counter-clockwise?

By Looping counter-clockwise, cruisers “go with the flow” of river currents on the western portion of the trip.

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16. Is there a general timeline for Looping?

The following is a “rough calendar” provided by Rick Butler, Captain, US Navy (Retired), and AGLCA member since 2002. While each individual will (and should) find their own pace in Looping, Rick’s timeline is intended to provide information to be used as a guideline; and, perhaps be somewhat of a “reassurance about general progress around the Loop”.

Two critical windows:
~ ~ Don’t arrive at Waterford, NY, above Troy, NY, before the Erie Canal opens, generally around 1 May. (If possible, don’t arrive before 1 June!)
~ ~ Don’t travel the lower half of the Tenn-Tom or the Gulf Coast before the end of hurricane season–officially 1 December (really whatever your insurance man says!).

Ideal calendar, with rationale:

  • Late March/Early April — Begin moving Northward from Florida. (Bahamas is ideal in April/May, so later departure there is okay, too). AGLCA Spring Rendezvous is a good time to be in Charleston (April).
  • Bay in May — 1 May — Earliest arrival in Chesapeake Bay. Any earlier is subject to nasty spring gales/cold fronts. Wait for Spring! Mid-May is the ideal time to arrive in Chesapeake Bay.
  • 1 June — Earliest arrival at Waterford, NY (above Albany, start of Erie or Champlain Canals). Earlier arrivals are subject to lots of damaging floating “drift” (deadheads); and, in many years, such high water from spring runoff and snow-melt, that earlier arrivals often trap people in the canals due to high water/lock flooding – sometimes for a week or more. Intermittent canal closures/horror stories generally end by mid-June, as it is then late spring in this area.
  • Late June/Early July — Summer arriving in far upstate New York — ideal time to explore the Thousand Islands, Rideau Canal Loop to Ottawa, etc.
  • 1 July — Canada Day! — Be in any large Canadian city to celebrate with our neighbors. Kingston, Ontario is nearly ideal for this event.
  • Early-Mid July — Finish up Bay of Quinte and begin Trent-Severn transit. Take You Time! This is a top highlight of your Loop, why rush through it in 3-4 days? Take a slow week-to-10-days and savor the ambiance fully. Try anchoring in Stony Lake, for example. Try to plan your arrivals in the most popular stops (Bobcageon, Fenelon Falls, for example) for mid-week, not weekends! (Arrive before noon to get a spot on these popular walls).
  • Mid-July to Mid-August — Ideal time in the North Channel segment. Plenty of time to go as slow as you like here, it is the pinnacle of most Looper experiences. Remember the Summer AGLCA Rendezvous as a great springboard to this area.
  • Mid-August — About the latest for those who took the Rideau or the Champlain routes to enter the Trent Severn System.
  • Late August-Early September — About time to transit back into USA . Consider great detour to the Soo Locks. (Avoid Mackinaw Island around Labor Day crowds!)
  • Labor Day– Time to begin moving down Lake Michigan, leaving several weather days in your plans for this big open lake segment. No need to push yet, plenty of harbors to hop.
  • Latter September — Fine time to visit Chicago, leave the Lakes and enter the Illinois River system. Much earlier and you can have oppressive late summer heat waves…. much later and it may get chilly.
  • October — Working slowly South, cruising the Cumberland or Tennessee Rivers, AGLCA fall Rendezvous.
  • Early-Mid November — Lower Tenn-Tom (as insurance allows).
  • Thanksgiving through Mid-March — Winter anywhere South, as desired; or, Bahamas in February/March. South of Tampa Bay to Ft. Lauderdale will be noticeably milder than along the Gulf Coast.


As you can see, there is PLENTY of time for almost anyone to do a one-year Loop with these window-dates. Or, pick any good full service marina on the Northern half and leave your winterized boat along the way, taking even more time on a two-season Loop.”

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17. When traveling with pets, what sort of paperwork is necessary to cross Canadian or United States borders?

The best source of information will always be the specific agencies responsible for establishing/enforcing these particular requirements. The governing bodies and contact information for both the United States and Canada are as follows:

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18. What is “squat”?

There really is such a thing called “squat”! And, we’re using the words of Rick Butler, Captain, US Navy (Retired), and AGLCA member since 2002, to reply to this one!

“Squat is what happens when you add speed, and it is especially pronounced at shallower depths. Essentially, not only are your props pulling their normal volume of water from under your stern, but in shallower water that effect gets pronounced since there is not an unlimited body of water beneath you to draw from. Hence, you are literally pulling the water out from under your own boat, causing the stern to Squat several inches more–maybe a full foot?– than it might in deeper waters.
I suspect that some of the New Jersey ICW horror stories are from boats which didn’t consider their own squat at speed….if you idle back, squat disappears and you draw less.”

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19. When cruising the Trent-Severn Waterway (TSW), are there any special considerations for vessels with a deeper draft (4 ft or more)?

AGLCA Members Alice and Phil Priemer provided some great insight regarding this issue. The Priemer’s (having done the TSW in their boat with 4 ½ ft draft) combined their own experiences with information they collected and summarized from about 80 AGLCA Cruisers’ Email Group postings. They’ve capsulated all the info quite succinctly:

“The run from Fenelon Falls to Lake Simcoe is quite shallow and channels are very narrow in many places. (Remember the Dismal swamp?)

  • Run this section at dead idle, remembering that “squat” (see question # 18 above) increases your risk of contacting the bottom.
  • Run this section on a calm day unless you have proper side thrusters to be able to hold in mid-channel with engines in neutral.
  • STAY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CHANNEL! (This of course applies to the whole TSW and the whole Loop route for that matter.)
  • Run this section on a weekday to avoid local weekend traffic. Smaller boats run fast through this section kicking up debris from the bottom.
  • Stay far back from the boat ahead of you, especially if she is also a deep draft boat. Keep sharp lookout for debris in the water.
  • Broadcast a Security Warning when entering any of the narrow channels. Listen for and heed these warnings from eastbound boats.
  • Pass very close abeam to oncoming boats in narrow channels (those that ignore your Security Warnings). Hold your share of the center of the channel.
  • Ensure engine strainers are clean before staring this run.
  • Lake Balsam is so extremely weedy that your depth sounder will likely be rendered inoperative (beyond the “Arch” Bridge). When your props foul from weeds, run engines in reverse to clear them, then continue on.
  • Note that in Lake Balsam (as well as many other areas of the TSW) charted channel markers have been removed to save TSW maintenance expense. Except for the weeds, Lake Balsam carried plenty of depth. Last year there was much Looper outcry concerning removal of these markers. But our experience was that no markers were removed from “difficult” spots on the waterway. Safety on the waterway was in no way jeopardized by removal of these markers. Besides, the charts still show where the markers used to be and this helps captains stay within the channel.


In 2007 boats with 5 ft draft cruised the TSW successfully. … Enjoy the waterway.”

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20. What is the best anchor to use on the Loop?

To address this, we’ve pulled a posting from AGLCA’s Cruisers’ Email Group, where Rick Butler, Captain, US Navy (Retired), and AGLCA member since 2002, responded to just such a question posed by another member. Rick’s reply steers away from specific brands and speaks in general terms, based on his “ten years of liveaboard cruising” – his observations are:

“Having two anchors, of different types (say, one with largish flukes and one with a variant of the plow) is way better than trusting only one type –every type anchor works better in some bottom than another. With two types, you have a second shot if your favorite simply won’t grab for you.
“All chain beats a combination of chain and line every time. Chain is never going to chafe through on some hidden obstruction (or on your own prop!). A combination of, say 30-60 feet, of chain, and then some line rode beats a line rode with only a few token feet of chain. Any all-line rode on my boat is for stay-aboard lunch stops only, since it will sooner or later part on some sharp obstruction if allowed to be used at night.
“No matter what brands of anchors are selected, size and weight and strength generally beat lightweight clever engineering when the chips are really down. For me, ground tackle is my primary cruising insurance, and pays for itself regularly. That paper insurance policy is a merely the back up.
“Kellets and Clumps? Two names for the same thing — a simple technique for doubling the holding power of nearly any anchor under nearly any conditions. Both words refer to a heavy weight– about 15 pounds– of metal, which you can slide down your anchor rode, or attach to your anchor rode so that the Kellet / clump is riding on the rode just off the bottom. This extra weight lower down along the “catenary” or sag in your rode nearly doubles the horizontal pull required for weather or current to bring your rode up to exert a straight line pull on your anchor. “

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21. Lake Michigan is Earth’s sixth largest body of water, is there a guide for this amazing waterway?

Yes, Captain Bob Kunath, AGLCA member and Dozier’s Waterway Guide Editor, has compiled a brief guide to Lake Michigan. Simply click here to view Bob’s Lake Michigan guide!

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22. When guests cruise with you, is there a polite way to let them know the dos and don’ts?

Yes! We’ve heard this issue discussed in breakout sessions at several AGLCA Rendezvous. Quite a few members have found that sending an advance letter or email to folks who plan on traveling with them certainly helps to provide a glimpse of what to expect.

And – it’s a great way to touch on some of the ‘touchy’ subjects — like, when helping is helpful and when it’s not! But it also lets guests know what to anticipate – and what to bring (or not bring) onboard! Communicating is a good thing, and letting guests know what’s in store can truly help save angst for all!

Member Ann Levine has shared the communication she uses for guests aboard their boat – we think it covers just about everything a visiting cruiser may need to know. Obviously, the specifics will change for each host — but from what other members have described, Ann’s letter seems a good representation of what is used. Just click here to take a peek!

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23. What is the best boat for the Loop?

As we’ve outlined in our “Looping Tips” Free Email Series, we don’t think this question really has one right answer. Obviously there are height clearances, water depths and lock widths to consider, but other than that, identifying the best boat for the Loop is a very subjective process for each Looper.

In general, the best boat for Looping is the smallest boat on which you can spend extended periods of time and still live comfortably. BUT — what is comfort to one is luxury to another. So, determining the best boat for your Looping adventure will require carefully evaluating and identifying what livable comfort is to you.

AGLCA Members are encouraged to search our Email Group Archives, as there have been many exchanges about this very subject. But, we think most Loopers will agree – determining your ‘must-haves’ in terms of what will enable you to comfortably cruise for long periods of time will most certainly lead to finding the best Looping boat for YOU.

John and Sue Winter, AGLCA members, developed a spreadsheet while they were searching for their second Loop boat; and, they’ve graciously offered to share that, along with some search tips that worked for them (thanks John and Sue!). There are two options for accessing this document: clicking here will allow you to view / print the document in PDF formatOR, if you’d like to personalize this tool for your own use, simply click here and SAVE a copy to your computer – then modify as you wish!

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24. What is the greatest distance between gasoline stops on the Loop?

  • There is a run of 250 miles from Hoppies near St. Louis to Green Turtle Bay in Kentucky. You can get diesel at Cape Girardeau (Upper Mississippi Mile 52). Kidd River Fuel is no longer serving gasoline. Charlie Brown, the owner, says it just is not worth his while, he only had 15 boats stop by this year, and the mandate to add 10% ethanol causes additional problems for him.
  • A transient dock is in the works at Paducah (Ohio mile 934) which will reduce the leg to 200 miles. The start of that project is waiting environmental clearance.
  • The next longest stretch is 135 miles on the Black Warrior River from Bobbies Fish Camp (mile 119) to Dog River on Mobile Bay.
  • Crossing the Gulf of Mexico from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs is 170 miles but one can make an intermediate stop in Steinhatchee for fuel.

This information was provided by Alan Lloyd, Great Loop Navigation Notes, www.NavigationNotes.com

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 25What limits exist to the beam, for a boat to successfully navigate the Loop?

Lock 45 on the Trent-Severn Waterway has an operational width of 23 feet.
Big Chute Marina Railway has a limit of 24 feet.

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26. What about getting prescriptions on the trip and especially in Canada?

In response to questions about prescriptions on the loop and in Canada:
1. Take a 3 month supply of meds into Canada – your physician will write this upon request.
2. Have prescriptions filled at at least 1 “chain pharmacy” like CVS or even Wal Mart. Most other chains will refill based on the original filling. They share databases at least in US.
3. Carry a copy of your prescriptions – I recommend having it as a pdf on your personal computer so you can print out as many times as needed.
4. Have all prescriptions written just before leaving – they are “good” for one year.

For these and other medical tips please go to http://.cruisinghealth.net
Click on the “Preventive Care” tab.

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27. What is the difference between the Triangle Loop and the Downeast Loop?

The Triangle Loop and the Downeast Loop both start the same.  Both head west on the Erie Canal, cross over Lake Ontario and head down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal.  Shortly after Montreal, the Triangle Loopers turn right to head south on Lake Champlain and Champlain Canal to complete
the Triangle.   Downeast Loopers continue down the St. Lawrence River past Quebec City to the Atlantic Ocean then turn right to head south along the east coast of New England to complete the Downeast Loop.    

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