Capt John at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island
Capt. John at Leland while cruising the Great Loop
The mighty Mississippi on America's Great Loop
Your 365 day itinerary on America's Great Loop
The Grand Hotel on America's Great Loop
Understandably, the young adventurers cruising the Great Loop have nothing more on their minds than completing this 5,600 mile boat
ride of an adventure. I know, that's all that was on my mind the first time I did it at age of 22. At that time, at that age, I had nothing on my mind but
proving to some disbelievers it could be done, and proving to myself that I could do it.
Today, for most of Baby Boomers, this year long adventure isn't long enough. Months pass as weeks and Days like hours. This adventure will take you
to, through and around a boat load of America's most famous and treasured places to visit with tons of sights to see, things to do, and places to go;
and "Once Around Is Not Enough". Before this voyage is half over, there will be discussions about "your next time around". So make sure you plan for
time off your boat for seeing and experiencing as much of it as you can.
With eight voyages around America's Great Loop, I have yet to see and do all the places I want to visit, revisit and explore some more. This voyage is a
voyage through America and America's history. Seeing it from the water presents you with an amazing opportunity that few people will ever have the
pleasure of experiencing. It is a journey that presents you with the very best of all that America and Canada have to offer. To make this voyage without
taking lots of time to linger at the many historic and famous attractions along the way, is missing out on half the fun as well as half the adventure.    
Some cruising couples you see along the way are quietly chatting away with their companions. Others might be visiting the Marina, Laundry Room or
Customs office. They are always happily waving at you. Their faces smiling in the glow of that slow pace of life, the result having experienced freedom at
it's fullest. This life of living aboard and cruising simply brings out the very best qualities in everyone you meet. You will find that people are very friendly
and sociable out here.
On the Loop it is mostly Americans and Canadians. However, you'll meet some Brits, some French, Australians, Scandinavians and for sure some
Italians. You will be told the wildest tales, some of which are totally unbelievable - but most often very true. You will encounter lifestyles at which you will
marvel, ponder, envy and even disapprove; but by each day's end, you will be touched more than a countless number of times you've been amazed by
what you've seen that day. You will broaden your vision at life in ways that will stay with you forever.
The daytime air will be balmy, the nighttime air will be velvety, and you will share with new or old friends the hazards of the latest leg of  your voyage as
you ponder about people, relationships, lifestyles, and the whole meaning of life itself. Then, as you turn in for the night, you´ll thank God as you feel
like the luckiest person on earth.
Relationships 'out here' are simply "make it or break it". That is the cruel truism for cruising couples and spouses on a long distance voyage.
Living on a boat and cruising puts every relationship to the test. I won't leave out or smooth over this. The factors that are usually involved are; giving
up a normal life, being vulnerable on unfamiliar places, and learning things about your spouse or mate you never knew or realized before. No doubt, it is
tougher on more women than men. Which (in my opinion) is why it is so important to spend time "off the boat", seeing the sights and even staying in a
motel now and then for some long hot showers and room service. Guys, it is serious. If you over look your 1st Mates needs, wants and desires, she will
be miserable on this voyage.
Keep in mind, all her friends at home are living in their big air-conditioned houses with unlimited hot water and visiting shopping malls and getting
manicures... The woman on a boat is cruising in sun bleached, salt crusted clothing. Her hair is stiff, her skin is harsh, her nails (what's left of them)
resemble oyster shells, and she can't even remember the last time she had a long hot bath or a professional manicure. It's important Captain, to keep
your 1st Mate happy! If you wait so long she has to say something. . . You've waited too long!
Most couples on this voyage will "bond" into full and complete trust with great renewed love for each other. They are virtually yet seriously tied
together - and having made it together - their lives together are now sealed stronger than boat epoxy. In fact, most cruising couples are tied to each
other by a love that Hollywood movies would envy. If you and your spouse are already happy together, and truly "share" this dream and one or the other
of you are not being pressured into it - then chances are, this wonderful fate will be yours.
On the Loop, there is cruising, there is also an abundance of wonderful historic and interesting sites to see and places to go. The Loop is also very
educational in an abundant number of ways. Opportunities to eat out at wonderful regional restaurants on or near the water exist all along the way. We
also will take in a Movie now & then. We try to Broadway Play every time we make landfall in the Big Apple. When we get in the mood for a "big hot soak
in the bathtub" we stay a night or two in a nice motel. Life out here is simple and great. It is most of all, freedom beyond which you have never
experienced. Out here, you are the Captain of your own ship. You go when and where you want to. You stay as long as you want. There are no fixed
schedules and your boat isn't going to sail without you. So, you can do what you want when you want and whenever you get there.  Everything you see
along the way is the bonus that makes it all worth seeing again. For sure you won't believe how much more pleasant "boating" around America is than
being on the highway. The things you see from the water are simply amazing and so different than what you see from the highways. This is an amazing
So the question becomes; "When your life has reached the final leg of your voyage, where will you be?"  In some silver haired assisted condo? Or
anchored in an enchanted harbor spending your days in the safe waters of Paradise? Your choice and that of your mate will determine your fate. But
once you have cruised the Loop - nothing in your life, or about your life, will ever be the same again. This voyage will stay with you for the rest of your
days; the waters will always beckon you back; and the sea will forever remember your name.
Here's hoping you and your Mate will make this voyage. It is for sure, a voyage that promises to be the most excitingly, talked about and cherished
adventure of your lifetime.
What is it really like - Living on a boat and cruising America's Great Loop?
     America's Great Loop is without doubt an "EPIC" boating adventure. My advice however, is don't even attempt to
cruise it like a horse running in the Kentucky Derby with blinders on. If you do, you will miss all the very best reasons
this voyage is so incredibly amazing. There is so much more to cruising America's Great Loop than you can possibly
imagine in advance. While the experience of the "boating adventure" itself is amazing; to think of this voyage as
simply a "boat ride" will be your single biggest mistake!
     Beyond doubt and beyond the banks of the rivers and waterways. . . This is where you will find and make your
most wonderful, amazing and unforgettable favorite memories. For sure, living aboard and cruising a distance 2,000
miles longer than the longest river in the world is an epic adventure, but exploring the destinations and meeting the
local natives along the way is what turns this epic adventure into the experience of a lifetime.
When this voyage is over, when you cross your wake, it will be your "on shore" experiences along with the people you
meet that make this voyage so unforgettable. One you will cherish and talk about for the rest of your days.
Yes, this is me. I'm having a great Pina Colada
cruising the Great Loop at the Grand Hotel on
Mackinac Island. This is just one of the reasons I
cruise on a boat that burns less than 2 gallons of fuel
an hour. It is so when I get to places like this, I can
spend all that money I saved on fuel and anchoring
The rooms here run $2,000 and up per night during
the peak season. If you arrive here in October (off
peak season) you can stay a night for $300. That
includes you meals and I guarantee it's worth it!
On the opposite end of the upscale Grand Hotel you will find places as pleasant and frugal as it gets. Here, at Leland, MI (also known as "Fish
Town"), is one of my favorite frugal (never miss) stops. This one will make up for the money you might just spent at the Grand. Pictured above on the
right is the Falling Water Lodge, a great place to stay a night or two. On the left is the The Cove Restaurant where you can dine (rather cheaply) on
delicious fresh caught Walleye and other regional favorites.
     In this entire area, Leland, Charlevoix and Traverse City, you will discover wonderful stops and great places to visit. Traverse City is one of those
quintessential 'Norman Rockwell' small towns where you can drop off the wife, give her your American Express Card, and pick her up on your next
voyage around the Loop. She will love window shopping this place, and fact is, you won't mind it that much either.
I admit, when you first start out on this voyage you will feel a bit anxious, a bit worried and possibly even a little bit afraid. We all are! Heading out into
unknown waters toward unfamiliar places and faces would make anyone's stomach a little bit queasy. Within a week, once you realize everything works
and you haven't forgotten anything important... You will lean back and this voyage will unnoticeable turn into a comfortable, totally relaxed, exciting and
enjoyable adventure. The incredible scenery will change with almost ever bend in the river as you rubber neck at all the incredible mansions,
interesting homes, waterfront shacks and other boats you cruise by. Eventually you will notice from the Florida Keys to the Great Lakes and the Inland
rivers, you have been boating from Fort to Fortress. It is a shocking realization of our Nation's history of warfare and how our predecessors had to
defend America from the Spanish, the French, the English, the Russians, the Japanese, Pancho Villa - and sadly, even each other (Civil War). It
makes you wonder . . . Why can't we all get along and stop killing each other?
You can expect America's Great Loop to be more than you expected.
- Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
Soon enough, you will realize this voyage is exactly what Capt John said it was: "safer than you ever imagined in advance". It is so close to land, family,
friends, and home - and at some point you will soon wonder "what in the world you were ever so worried about in the beginning?" As exciting as each
day is, you will always look forward what the next day brings. The Great Loop is so full of wonderful sites to see and places to visit; they will amaze you.
It offers something wonderful around every bend in the river, beyond every Lock you pass through, and beyond every Bay, Sound and Lake you cross.
When planning this voyage make sure you plan on spending lots of time for site seeing and on shore exploring and activities.
Believe me, the local natives are friendly and their food is fantastic!
The Grand Hotel features 390 rooms and no two rooms are alike. It has the World's largest Front Porch. You can only get there by boat, and there are
no cars. All transportation on the island is by horse drawn buggy or bicycle. Additionally, there are more famous Fudge & Souvenir shops than you can
shake your paddle at. Even if you don't stay in the Grand, (though every couple should) this is a must stop on the Great Loop. You can always stay on
your boat and save the money.   
There is something ashore for everybody - cruising America's Great Loop.
Different Boats for Different Folks. . .
Here we can see a typical anchorage of Loopers.
As you can see, all have a Dinghy in tow, anchored in a nice
protected anchorage. Restaurants and sights to see nearby.
One in a newer expensive boat, most in humble & frugal boats.
Loopers are very friendly. No, they are not stuffed shirts all geared up in white with golden brim captain hats. Instead, they are wearing weathered
T-shirts, worn shorts and salty old ball caps. They are comprised of singles, couples, and even a few families. You will also meet a few couples cruising
together. You will find them living and cruising on the Loop from Canada to the Florida Keys and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River.
Once you get to know a few, you realize they too are cruising on a budget. Oddly enough, those in the bigger more expensive fuel guzzling boats will
be the least likely to get off their boat to enjoy the sites, sounds and attractions ashore. Most don't go any farther away from their vessel than the
Marina, unless the Marina has a loaner or rental car. For some it may be that they are so proud and protective of their boat they simply don't want to
leave it. For others, no doubt their boat is eating up the bulk of their budget. Whatever the reason, the fact is the Loopers out here in the most humble
of boats are the ones having the most fun.
- Once Around Is Not Enough -
- Once Around Is Not Enough -
For sure, if you cruise the Great Loop while only focused on what's up ahead, you will miss out on at least half of what this journey is really all about.
One good example is Gatlinburg TN, and the Great Smoky Mountains. With over 11 million visitors in 2016, The Great Smoky Mountains and National
Park is ranked #1 in the Nation for most visited. They are also ranked #1 in the number of repeat visitors - and that should tell you something about
how great it is. In the space of less than 1 mile, Gatlinburg's "main street" has over 450 charming shops and boutiques. It also has a wonderfully
delicious assortment of Restaurants serving up some scrumptious regional favorites. It has over 40 Breweries, Distilleries and Wineries where you can
spend the day tasting their glorious delights for free - including the many wonderful tasting (and legal) varieties of Smoky Mountain Moonshine! - I for
one, never knew 'Moonshine' came in so many flavors or tasted so good.
But the point is, Gatlinburg is very entrance to the Center of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and its highest Peak, and it is less than an
hour's drive from Knoxville, TN. So for all of us cruising the Tennessee River to Knoxville - not renting a car and spending a weekend in Gatlinburg and
visiting the Smoky Mountains is one really big missed opportunity. It is one in which "NO DOUBT" will be a top ten experience when cruising America's
Great Loop; but for those that don't look beyond the shore line, it is a lost opportunity. Some will never in their lives be so close to this area ever again.
Ocracoke, Kitty Hawk, NYC & the Hudson River Valley, Montreal, Quebec City, the Blue Whales on the Saguenay, Mackinac Island, the Soo Locks,
Nashville, Chattanooga, the Pearl Farm at Birdsong Marina, and taking a turn to Starboard when you reach the Gulf ICW in Mobile Bay and visiting New
Orleans from the east (vs from the Mississippi) are all great examples of destination worth the visit that you may never be so close to again.
Furthermore, ask any Looper the best part of cruising the Loop, and many will have many different 'favorite' destinations or parts of the journey they
enjoyed most. The most common expressed 'favorite' however, almost always includes the wonderful friendly people they met along the way. Many of
whom are other Loopers, but many more are the friendly local natives in each area you cruise.
Places & Faces, Wonderful friendly people and destinations all along the way. . . In 24 years I've never had anyone say one rude or threatening word
to me. For example, I've heard Loopers complain about the Tennessee - Tombigbee being the most boring and dreadful portion of the entire voyage,
but I know that's because they made one long 250 mile voyage out of it. Had they stopped at Shiloh, they would have had a wonderful experience
there. Had they stopped in Demopolis, they could have had a fabulous steak and great time at the ole Red Barn Restaurant in Demopolis, It has been
in operation about 50 years and operated by the current owner for the past 30 years. (What an interesting history this place has!). It is a Bus or car
ride from the Yacht Basin but worth the trip. They came and got us last time, but there were about 10 Loopers that all wanted to go. Demopolis has a
lot of history along with a Golf Course and much to see and do.
That's just the way it is cruising the Loop. Some of us will find absolute treasures where others find boredom. Mostly, we all find what we are looking for.
. . So don't make this voyage with your blinders on! It is so much more than a 6,000 mile boat ride!
Capt John C Wright Author of the Year 2016
Mackinac Island
© 1993 - 2019
140-TRAVEL DAYS to 140- great destinations!