It is easy to get caught up in the “education” of things. Especially when it comes to something we are interested in.
Cruising America’s Geat Loop is one of those things we can certainly get ‘caught up’ in. Certainly we need and want to learn all about it. For sure we need to have a good handle on what we need and what to expect all along the way.
What we DON’T NEED is too much. The perfect example of which is, the USCG licensed Six Pack Captain, that has an adult lifetime of cruising up to about 10 miles from his home – but who believes still, at age 62 – he lacks the education & experience to make this journey.
It is a sad situation, yet I know several who have the dream, have the boat, have the time and money; who keep putting this voyage off for lack of what boils down to “confidence”.
Fact is, this voyage is the safest long distance voyage on the planet. If you are a safe boater in a safe suitable boat – you can cruise America’s Great Loop. It is not magic. It does not require a Captain’s license. It doesn’t even require an extraordinary amount of anything beyond that of knowing your boat, your anchoring system and how to make them do what you want.
Obviously you need to know the navigational rules of the waterways. You need to know all the USCG required boat and boat safety rules & regulations.
Possibly, the most important of all is knowing your boat and how to use it. Same goes with your anchor and anchoring system.
It is almost impossible to get lost while cruising the Loop. Not only are the waterways marked with “road signs”, but your Marine GPS shows you the route along with water depths all along the way.
If you have never taken your boat through a waterway Lock, look up one near you, drive there and get out of your car and watch as the boats go through. Introduce yourself to the Lock Master, and he will be happy to explain how everything works. Cruising the Loop you will pass through at least a 100 Locks. The first time, you’ll be a bit nervous. (We all are.) By your third Lock, you’ll be an old pro… It’s that easy!
If you browse through “Looper Blogs & Websites” you will find there are a lot of them. You will also discover “to each his own”. When it comes to boats & boating, we all have our likes, dislikes, opinions and preferences. And while I encourage this, I also discourage attaching yourself to any belief that there is only one ‘good’ way to cruise the Loop. Their are many ‘great’ ways to cruise the Loop just as there are many great boats to cruise it in. I should know, I’ve owned a dozen of them and cruised the Loop in five different ones.
If you have never spent more than a long weekend living on your boat, it may seem odd at first to associate ‘safely’ with ‘comfort’. However, beyond the ‘camping out on the boat’ fun for the weekend, long term, long distance cruising is a whole different ballgame.
Comfort is essential to a good nights sleep and a good nights sleep is critical to being a wide awake and alert boater.
Now if you are thinking of what you need in the cabin area to be comfortable, that’s great, but you need to think further out of the box than that.
Comfort in the cockpit is as critical as comfort in the cabin, and many first time cruisers totally overlook this fact. You will need a super large bimini top for protection against both sun and rain. Protection from the sun on this voyage is more important than rain. The noon sun is one thing, but that evening sun burning its way into your cockpit from the side and beneath your bimini top can be extremely hot and unforgiving.
Yes, there is lots to plan, lots to think about, and lots to buy. So regardless of the type, size, age, or price of your boat, you will have lots to buy before you toss those lines and free yourself to make this wonderfully incredible voyage. As amazing as it is, it will be even more amazing when you do it
YOUR MONEY & YOUR BUDGET:
Obviously I have no idea how much money you have or what your budget is. What I do know is the money I have (or maybe I should say “don’t have”) and I know what my budget is.
For me, my boating philosophy is simple: It is “MORE FUN THAN FUEL”. In otherwords, since I have limited funds and a limited budget, I choose to spend my money having more fun ashore, than I want to pour down my fuel tanks. That’s because I like to stop and see and experience as much as I can ashore, all along the Great Loop route.
If God (for example) laid $300,000 cash in your lap and told you to go forth and cruise America’s Great Loop. . . What would you do? How would you spend that money?
Would you spend $250,000 on the newest biggest nicest boat you could find, and use the rest for fuel, food and fun along the way? That’s what most would do.
Having cruised the Loop and experienced first hand all the many tempting and wonderful stops and things to do (not to mention the wonderful regional waterfront restaurants) along the way. . . I would spend about $50,000 on my boat, keep the rest for food, fun and fuel, and have plenty of money to make many more trips around the Loop.
See the difference? It is not that one is right and one is wrong. It is that one way suits my boating philosophy, lifestyle, comfort zone and the other would work best for someone else.
IF YOU ARE A “BACK PACKER’ TYPE:
You can make this voyage on a very frugal budget. My son & I did almost this in a 28 foot sailboat, and we spent a year cruising the Loop “motoring around” and only spent $1,300 in fuel. Yes, we motored around the entire Loop.
We also know a guy that cruised the Loop in a 16 sailboat with no mast. He used 2x 4hp outboard motors. His fuel was less than 0.04 gph. So his fuel cost was half what ours was.
Now of course, fuel cost is one thing and it can be, if you let it, be the most major thing. . . but for those on a budget, the less you spend on fuel, the more you have to spend ashore, eating out, visiting Tiki Bars, and seeing all the wonderful sites along the way.
IF YOU ARE A CRUISING COUPLE:
Get ready to make lots of stops. It’s just ‘one of those things’. It is hard for one to visualize or understand in advance, the numbers and magnatude of all the great places to eat, stop and visit when making this voyage. It is the number one reason I try to emphasize to everyone to plan to spend lots of money ashore.
The single biggest mistake first time cruising make on this voyage, it thinking it is a 5,600 (plus) mile boating adventure. Wrong! Cruising the Loop is so much more than a boat trip, the word ‘voyage’ fails miserably at describing it.
This is a journey that will take you to and through 22 States and Canada. Doing so, you will pass by over 1,000 popular tourist attractions, museums, and exciting famous places to stop and visit. From New Orleans’ French Quarter to Canada’s French Quebec, you’ll cruise by more exciting places than most will ever see in their lifetime – and that’s only the half of it.
Most cruising couples are cruising in good used Trawlers and Sailboats between 32 and 42 feet. You seldom see a “Looper” in anything over 42 feet.
For the most part ‘out here’ no one really cares or pays much attention to the size or age of your boat. Unlike cars, it is very hard (if not impossible) for anyone to tell the difference in a 1969 Trawler vs a 2009. As long as you are a good safe friendly boater in a good safe “well maintained” vessel, you’ll fit right in with the rest of us.
The great news about cruising long distance on a frugal budget, is whether you are a boat bum or a billionaire, we are all anchored out in the same paradise cove at night, often inviting to the same fresh caught shore lunch or beach barbeque.
With a lifetime of boating and 23 years of living aboard and cruising, I’ve learned that boaters (and especially Loopers) are some of the friendliest people on earth. I’ve never had anything stolen off my boat. I’ve never felt in danger or threatened in any way. There are simply, no pirates and no terrorists out here on the water.
Time & Money! How much do you have?
Time is without doubt our most precious asset. While we can always choose where and when we spend out last dime, we don’t have that luxury when it comes to spending our last moment. If cruising America’s Great Loop is on your Bucket List, it is time to stop dreaming and start planning your voyage now. Do it while you still have your good health. Do it while you still can.