America's Great Loop
Don't forget your First Mate
cruising America's Great Loop
Life cruising America's Great Loop
© 1993 - 2017
I often hear something like this: "We really want to live on a boat and have a simpler lifestyle. We want a boat with all the
latest electronics. We want to take a hot shower every day, have plenty of ice for drinks, a large refrigerator, freezer, air
conditioner, multi-media TV, Sound system, and computers on board with Internet, All we need for accommodations are a master
stateroom with a Queen size berth. We also need a guest berth in a separate cabin so we can bring our friends, two heads, and
standing headroom throughout."
While all of the items on the above list are easily obtainable, the average person may be completely unaware that this
reasonable sounding list is only obtainable at great initial cost and great on going cost afloat - both in terms of money and
Your boat should be both small & large enough to be safe, in most all cases with a "live aboard size vessel" it will
automatically be large enough to safe. It must meet your comfort needs, but your comfort needs must be kept in check. I have
known couples (for example) that have cruised and lived aboard – and traded up to larger boats – just to end up trading back
down. On the other hand, If you don't plan on cruising far & long or some cases any where at all - go for the gusto and get the
bigger boat.
Indeed, most first time cruisers over estimate the size boat they need.  For instance, it is nice to have an extra ‘guest’
berth, but in reality you will probably never need it (except for storage). Course, another problem is, not any pleasure boat
manufacturers build a live aboard size cruising boat designed for only one or two people. They assume we are taking 4 to 6
friends everywhere we go. So that boat advertised it sleeps 8 - does well to sleep 2 comfortably. So most live aboard vessels you
look at are designing by people that have never lived on one for more than a weekend (if that). They sell the "bling-bling" which
(you will discover if you haven't already) which is the one thing you will never need on a cruising boat.
For now we will just summarize by saying that simplicity, economy, mobility, and a smaller than 42 foot boat = big freedom; the
likes of which is seldom experienced. If you have your priorities straight, you can achieve the ultimate freedom and happiness
living and cruising on your boat - on almost any budget.
It really is ALL about - Lifestyle, Philosophy & Pocketbook.
Your comfort is the key.
It is very true. . . The cost of living a-board and cruising boils down to your own lifestyle, philosophy, and pocketbook.
Comparing the vessels above, "my" choice is easy. In "my" world, I would rather have the money to spend on  myself ie: eating
out, entertainment, site seeing, souvenirs, etc., then have to put it in my fuel tank.
Others however, would rather have the more spacious and faster Trawler. It's not that one is right or wrong - it is more a question
of what is right for you. (Lifestyle, Philosophy, and Pocketbook)
Certainly, "lifestyle" is the answer here. Those with bigger budgets not planning on living aboard forever (as I am) would want
to take full advantage of all the comforts of a Trawler. It would only make sense to do so. Those who are wanting to cruise farther
and longer and those voyaging on a more frugal budget should seriously consider a sailboat.
If you plan to go cruising on a very frugal budget:
Cruising around the Loop in a sailboat is by far the very most frugal alternative. . .  But, it is just that - an alternative.
It has the added advantage of expanding your range into the beautiful Caribbean, and even on around the world.

Remember however. . . The most important issue  - is your comfort.  It takes a bit larger sailboat to give more
space & comfort than a Trawler. If you follow our recommendation and take a year to do the Loop - then you can
count on about 95% of your voyage being in good or great weather. This means about
95% of your time will be spent
on the deck or in the cockpit of your vessel - not in your cabin
. So don't neglect or overlook the size and comfort of
your cockpit.  Likewise, don't put too great an emphasis on the inside of your cabin. For long-distance, long-term
voyagers, most of us do little more than shower and sleep in our cabins. Most of us even keep our cooking while
voyaging to a minimum. A gas grill off the stern will be used a lot. It keeps your cabin from heating up.

     Cruising at 7 knots is cruising at a snails pace. In a sailboat, your going as fast and you can all the time and in
doing so, you will burn less than or very near 1 gallon an hour. In a "true" Trawler your "sweet spot" cruising speed
might be best at 9 knots and your top speed might be 12 knots. When more speed is available, you will use it -
believe me! I've been there and done that!  When you bump your speed up a couple, you've just doubled your fuel.
That's exactly what happens and why the "fuel specs" and economical fuel burn rate you read or hear about can be  
very misleading. Yes, you cruise the Loop in a 36' Trawler on 2 gph or a bit less, if you hold your speed down.
However, in a twin engine "fast or swift" trawler, maintaining 7 knots when you can go twice as fast is "almost"
impossible to do.

     Don't get me wrong. I love Trawlers! I've had three and there may be another in my future. When it comes to "long
term" long distance cruising however, even the most economical Trawler will burn almost twice as much as a  
sailboat (motored around) of the same size. For couples however, that's a nice trade off (in my opinion). It means the
difference of about $4,000 in fuel in the sailboat vs $7 or $8,000 in a "true" Trawler when both are in the 36' range.
The difference between $3 or $4,000 over a period of a year amounts to $10 a day or less and for many, that's a small
trade off for the additional space and comfort.
That K-I-S-S "Keep It Simple Sailor" -  Although it really isn't a secret at all, the
secret to being a happy voyager is keeping everything simple. Everything from your boat
to everything on it must be as simple as possible. The more complicated one's vessel -
the more problems and less fun you have. And believe me - this is so very true, even in a
brand new boat.
There is a good reason why most experienced long distance voyagers have traded
"down" not up when getting their 2nd boat.
Experience is our very best teacher. It is experience on the water that convinces every
long distance voyager to keep things absolutely as simple as possible. The bigger the
boat, the more you have on your boat, the more you will end up dealing with
2. Married to Ms Manicure?
How lucky you are. If I were married to Ms Manicure, and taking her around the Loop - knowing what I know today
- and knowing I had only one chance to get it right or she would abandon ship and go home to Momma. . . I would
take her in a 34' to 38' single engine, full displacement Trawler. This will give "her" maximum comfort. Additionally,
your fuel will be the most efficient you can get for this size power vessel.
     If however, you have dreams of possibly doing the Loop twice - or extending your Great Loop cruise out to the Bahamas or
down into the Caribbean? I would take her in a 36' to 38' sailboat. Sailboats are great - the only real downsize (in my opinion)
is that you need a larger sailboat to get the same comfort & space of a Trawler.
     Also - I would
NOT take her down the full length of the Lower Mississippi, there just isn't enough convenient stops. If she
wants to visit New Orleans - go the Tenn-Tom route and take a right on the Gulf ICW past Mobile.
3 Looping Suggestions:
1. Single Solo voyager - or younger 'backpacker' type couple:
Go with a sailboat! If you know or learn to sail - great, your options are virtually limitless as to where you can go. If you don't
know how to sail and don't want to learn - leave the mast at home and motor around the Loop, or where you want to go. Even
motoring your sailboat, it will be (by far) the cheapest  way to travel anywhere on the water.
3. Married to the Camp Out Queen:
How lucky you are. . . You can take her around the Great Loop, Island hop the Caribbean, or go just about anywhere in
anything. She will absolutely love it!  All you need is something economical 26 feet and over, and your good to go. Although - if
you choose a sailboat I suggest something near 32' LOA for more space & comfort. A Trawler in the 28' range would be about
perfect. She will also be comfortable cruising down the Mississippi as going 2 or 3 days without a shower won't bother her.
Whatever you do, be nice to her. . . Or she may leave the dock with out you!
The Cruising & Living aboard Life - click NEXT                                                                      - Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
affordable, fun, Bring Your Own Boat