America's Great Loop
|When planning your voyage
it is important to simplify, not complicate.
| What I've learned in 24 years living and cruising on a boat is that a key to success is to keeping your boat
and everything on it as simple as possible. The bigger the boat, the more complicated things get. When you add
unnecessary amenities, you add unnecessary complications. As you will see, almost every stop you make at a
Marina along the way, you will find a boater trying to fix something on his boat. Most of the time - it will be trying to
fix something he doesn't need on his boat in the first place.
Out here in this world of 12 volts and water, 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 that gets inside every mechanical
and electrical appliance & component in or 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 - and
you can bet, the Loop has been done on just about every type boat ever made. 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 have taken as much as three
years. Still, with eight trips around, I have not 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, 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 and no one perfect route. Likewise, there is no rule that says you have to do it a certain way or within
a certain time frame. While we like taking our time and cruising with the seasons, if you're into fast boats and jet
skis, go for it! Safety however is always the most important concern!
If you really desire is to cruise the Great Loop, you can do this. No matter what your work, retirement,
income, or situation is - I am a firm believer of "where there is a will, there is a way". 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.
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 advance.
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 20 years.) If you buy paper charts today, chances are they may be 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 easier and 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. I backup my GPS and battery power (in case of equipment or electrical
failure) instead of buying all those expensive paper charts that are outdated about as fast as a loaf of bread.
FYI - the USCG recently endorsed the commercial use of GPS digital charts. They no longer 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 in a row, 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
|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 had ever even
heard of a "Great Loop". I vividly remember the Old Salts’ arguments about whether or not such a voyage was
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 28' 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 know.
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, scary, miserable and wonderful as that voyage was, it sparked an unquenchable
fire in me to do it again. Knowing next time, I would get it right! Now, with eight Loops in six different boats, my
quest for "getting it right" (for me anyway) is complete. In the process my boating philosophy quickly became
"More Fun than Fuel" and that's worked out very well for me.
Now, my hope is that YOUR FIRST VOYAGE AROUND THE LOOP is every bit as safe, comfortable,
wonderful, carefree, stress free and fun as my last. No, this website is not meant to be about me. It is really
meant to be all about you and how far you can cruise America's Great Loop safely and comfortably. 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! This is a perfect time and journey for personal growth and
America's Great Loop
|- Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
|- Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
Fact is Captain, if you have a reluctant
spouse, you want to make sure you take those
'blinders' off. This voyage is much more than a
6,000 mile 'boat ride'.
For example: You can boat to Knoxville on
the Tennessee River. Once you get there,
Gatlinburg and the Smokey Mountain National
Park is just a 1 hour car rental away. A drive to
the highest peak in the Smokey Mountains is
the most visited National Park in the USA - and
for great reasons! Gatlinburg is also a great
place to visit with day & night wonderful things
to see and do. I promise, both you and the
spouse will love it!
Point is, there are dozens and dozens
more places like this that will make your 'on
shore' experiences absolutely as wonderful as
the voyage itself.
So make sure you don't go cruising the
Great Loop with your blinders on!