Cruising
America's Great Loop
When planning your voyage
i
t is important to simplify, not complicate.
        What I've learned in 24 years living and cruising on a boat is that "Loopers" indeed need to keep their boat
and everything on it as simple as possible. The bigger the boat, the more complicated things naturally get. When
you add amenities, you add complications. Almost every stop I make at a Marina, there is usually a boater trying
to fix something on his boat - and most of the time - it is something he doesn't need on his boat in the first place.
       Out here in this 12v Water World, boats live in a very harsh, damp environment. Not only is the moisture,
salt and brackish water floating your boat, it is in the air it breathes and inside every mechanical and electrical
component in and attached to your boat.
       The less stuff, the less stress and the less stuff breaks. Keep things simple!      
           There is no "one way" to cruise America's Great Loop.
     While some ways are better than others,  and I believe a Quarter or Half a Loop voyaged in segments is
better than no Loop at all, the very best and safest way is to take your good old easy time all along the way, and

cruise each area by its "preferred" boating season.
    Going in a counter-clockwise direction to save fuel is really the only "smart" way to go. Additionally,
cruising each geographic area in this manner during its preferred weather season will bless you with 95% good
weather for your entire voyage. Other than that, there is no 'perfect' Great Loop boat. Your choice of boat is up
to you. Some are better than others, some are faster than others, and some are more economical than others -
but you can bet the Loop has been done on just about every safe seaworthy type boat ever made and a few
others that are very questionable. There are no set rules that say you have to cruise the Loop in a particular
boat, or within a certain time frame. For example, I know
a few "Loopers" that did it in less than 90 days. On the
other hand, I take a full year and often two or three
years. Still, with eight trips around, I haven't seen near
enough of it yet.
I discover something new every voyage!
    We are all different.  We all have our own set of schedules, time frames, and financial budgets and life
situations. Yes, it all boils down to your own lifestyle, philosophy, and pocketbook. As a result, there is no one
'perfect boat' to cruise the Loop in. Likewise, there is no rule that says you have to do it a certain way or within a
certain time. While we like taking our time and cruising with the seasons, if you're into fast boats and jet skis, go
for it!
    If you desire is to cruise the Great Loop, you can do it. No matter what your work, retirement, income,
or situation is - where there is a will - there is a way - and it will be well worth the effort to figure out which way
suits you best. For sure, whatever your situation is, it is very likely that someone under similar circumstances
has done it already.
Yes! . . . You can do this!
Remember:  Your voyage around the Loop will be different from mine and unique to
everyone else
.  Rivers change their banks, tides wash away the sands, beaches erode, and the current
moves the muddy bottom just as effortlessly as the wind blows falling leaves.  In addition, silting occurs, sand
dunes form, bridges and wing dams are built, docks, piers, and marinas come and go and the weather can
cause droughts and bring on floods. . .
    So, while I encourage you to learn all you need and reasonably can before making this voyage; I caution you
about trying to learn 'everything' or too much. It is after all, not rocket science, and your own experience cruising
the Loop will prove to be not only different than mine, but your best teacher. If you are already a safe boater,
rest assured,
this voyage is far easier and safer to make than you can possibly imagine in advance. So don't
make it more complicated in your mind, than it is.


    Above all else. . .  Whether you are new to boating, a novice or an Old Salt, your choice of boat, the
amenities on board, your experience, your boating education; none of that will matter near as much as simply
being a safe boater. Don't let lack of experience or education become your excuse for not going. For sure long
before this voyage is over, you will think back and wonder; "What was it?" that you were so worried or concerned
about in the beginning. This voyage is a long one, but It is not the monster many imagine it can be in the
beginning!

1. Caution should be used when reading books and blogs, or any "dated material".  Don't 'blindly' expect
fuel stops, docks, piers, marinas, safe anchorages, or even water depths to be there when you are. If there is
one thing you can expect cruising the Great Loop, it is the unexpected.
2. Don't spend your cruising cash on paper charts.  (Yes, I've been getting heat over this suggestion
for years.) Paper charts are
dated material. If you buy today, they may be 6 months or a year old already. That
means before you start your voyage, they might be 2 years old and by the time you are half way around the
Loop they might be 3 years old. Your GPS will be much more accurate, because you can download updates as
soon as NOAA enters the change. Since NOAA is the original source of, and responsible for the production of
all
nautical charts, you get them instantly. This is why I have chosen to backup my GPS and battery power (in case
of equipment or electrical failure) instead of buying all those expensive paper charts.
FYI - the USCG has  
endorsed GPS and digital charts. They no longer even require 'paper charts' on commercial vessels.
3. Plan on taking your time. True, in a fast boat or a slow one, averaging 50 miles a day (which is what
most Loopers do) one could "conceivably" cruise the 5,600 miles of the Great Loop in 110 days. However, there
is good reason why most "Loopers" take a year or more to complete their voyage.
4. The Great Loop is not a race. For one thing, there is simply too much to see and do along the way.
In most areas your speed will be greatly limited by 10mph speed limits, no wake zones, tides, water conditions,
traffic and wait times for Bridge or Lock openings. Additionally, you will discover that in most cases a 40 to 60
mile day will put you in a perfect anchorage or Marina for the night.
    Your primary consideration in determining your day's cruising distance will very seldom be
based on how fast your boat
can go.  Instead, it will be determined by how far you need to go to reach a
particular Marina or safe anchorage during daylight
. For very few exceptions, it will not be safe or practical to
cruise at night. (My son and I never cruise at night except on portions of the Great Lakes.)  Your secondary
consideration is whether or not there are any stops, restaurants, or interesting sites along the way you want to
visit and there will be plenty of these.
    When it comes to cruising the Great Loop; at sundown the Tortoise and the Hare most often find themselves
at the same Marina or safe anchorage. Yes, that big "fast" boat that passes you during the day, will most likely
be at the same Marina or anchorage you are at night. So remember, regardless of your boat's speed capability,
you will do well to average much more than 50 miles a day. Besides, speed can be your very worst enemy.
5. Plan on days off and plenty of rest.  It sounds silly to plan on "days off" from boating when you are
used to planning days off work to go boating. However, the longer you cruise, the more often you will need (and
want) to take a day or two off from cruising. Plan on it!
I plan my days off around what I want to see and do on
land. Very seldom
do I cruise more than 4 or 5 days a week, and this works well. I have plenty of time to do
laundry, buy provisions, and see the local sights.
I am also off the water when all the weekend party goers are
out drinking
on there boats. After a day or two, I'm rested and eager to get going again - in safer less crowded
waterways.
The Great Loop routes - click NEXT
© 1993 - 2017 CaptainJohn.org
Dear Future Looper,
    My first voyage around the ‘Great Loop’ was in 1971. That was long before most anyone ever heard of a
"Great Loop". I vividly remember the Old Salts’ arguments about whether or not such a voyage was even
possible. . . But the rumor that someone had actually done it, made the idea irresistible. So together with a
friend, we pooled our money together, bought a used Chris Craft Cavalier and off we went.
    Back then, we didn’t have much information to go on. There were no books about it, no Internet, no Google,  
no GPS and no information at all about what to expect along the way. We had to piece together what we knew
and make a lot of assumptions about what we didn’t. Much of what we assumed came from gossip around the
boatyards and marinas.
    We made it of course, with great help and assistance from the Coast Guard, Corp of Engineers, Bridge &
Lock operators, and a whole bunch of local natives. Imagine if you can, pulling alongside other boats and over
to land, to ask for directions. . . They must have thought we were complete idiots!
    In the end, as fantastic and often miserable as that voyage was, it sparked an unquenchable fire in me to do
it again; and get it right the next time. Now, with eight Loops in six different boats, my quest for "getting it right" is
complete. In the process my boating philosophy has been "More Fun than Fuel" and that's worked out very well
for me.
    Now, my hope is that your very FIRST VOYAGE around the Loop is every bit as safe, comfortable, wonderful,
carefree, stress free and fun as my last few. No, this website is not meant to be about me. It is really meant to be
all about you and how far you can go cruising America's Great Loop. It is a voyage of discovery. You will not only
discover America, you will discover some amazing people and places. Most importantly, one simply cannot
complete this journey without discovering an awful lot about themselves.
  I highly recommend taking a Bible on this voyage. There is probably no better time or way to read it then when
anchored in some peaceful paradise cove!
Capt. John
Cruising
America's Great Loop
- Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
- Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -